Good morning (or afternoon or evening, or whenever you're reading this) Dear Readers!
A few pieces of other business before we tackle today's blog topic. After my Pinterest related post last week there were some requests for me to make boards showcasing the images that inspired me when I was writing some of my published books, as well as the WIPs. Luckily I still had the files for Shadows on the Moon and FrostFire, so their boards are up there now if you're interested.
Also, a reminder that the Queen of Teen award nomination window is still open - but not for much longer! There's going to be a guest post and possibly a giveaway on the Undercover Reads Blog about this probably later this week, but please don't wait for that. Vote now!
And now onto the main point of this post: Fanfiction. My thoughts, let me show you them.
Lately there has been a big-bottom kerfuffle over a series of self-published books called 50 Shades of Grey (which I will not post a buy-link to, for reasons which will soon become clear). These books don't seem to be anything all that special - basically they're naughty romances with whips and chains and other titilating things. But they've become a huge success, to the extent that a publisher has paid between six and seven figures for the right to produce a hardcopy version, and high-profile production companies are battling it out to make a film. And most of that seems to be down to the fact that once upon a time, 50 Shades of Grey was a fanfic. More specifically, a Twilight fanfic.
There's been the usual misogynistic sneering over these silly bookeses that the silly wimminz read and all that, but the part of the debate which interests me is the one you see there on that link above, where people are asking: is this ethical? Is it right that a piece of fiction which originated from another author's work should now generate income for someone else? Is it OK to file off the serial numbers of a fanfic and sell it as original fiction?
A little over a month ago I would have shrugged my shoulders over this without thinking much about it either way (other than wondering if there's some sort of fairy glamour attached to Twilight which turns anything even tangenitally connected to it into a huge hit, and whose kidney I'd have to eat to get some of that for myself). I'd never written fanfic, never read it, and as far as I'm aware no one's ever written any for my books. So who cares, right?
But about a month ago I was checking out one of my favourite sites, Reasoning With Vampires, where a grammar-junkie dissects Twilight on a prose level and makes much pedantic hilarity of its awfulness, and she had a Q&A post where someone asked her, had she ever read any Twilight fanfic? She said that she didn't really enjoy fanfic much, so she'd only ever read one piece: The Movement of the Earth (don't click on that link if you're under the age of consent - there's language and adult stuff). This fanfic was, in her opinion, a rather brilliant piece of writing by a very talented author who attempted to re-write the story in a way that allowed for actual characterisation, plot, pacing and some degree of story logic while remaining within the 'Meyer Voice' (ie, making it look like she could barely string a coherent sentence together).
Fascinated, I hied hither and read The Movement of the Earth. And I found it good. So then I read all the author's other fics, which were dark and scary and beautiful and real, even though every single one of them was inspired by the work of other authors. And then I followed links from that writer's LJ to FanFiction.net where I found other authors writing Twilight fanfic and I, Twilight-hater-extraordinaire, FELL IN LOVE.
I read a million takes on Twilight. I read stories where authors took the characters and events of the story and remade them into something transcendent and wonderful which I could simply never have imagined. I read stories where characters I'd never imagined as a couple fell in love and I believed it. I read fics so diverse and brave and brilliant that, apart from the names, it would have been impossible for me to tell that there had ever been any connection to Stephenie Meyer's work in the first place. I read fics that made me giggle and snort like an otter with fish guts on its nose, and fics that made me snort and sob like an otter with fish guts on its nose.
I read a couple of pieces of writing so amazing that I desperately tried to figure out if it would be too presumptuous to email the authors, tell them I thought their work was grade-A, publication quality awesome, and beg them to do some serial number filing so they could submit to my agent (I haven't done this, by the way - I'm honestly not sure, given fanfic culture, if the writers would find that an insult).
Of course, I also waded through an awful lot of utter, complete, dreck. But how is that different from any visit to my local bookshop? Not at all, actually.
And as I was reading and laughing and crying and mentally composing (but not actually writing) begging emails to these fanfic writers, it occurred to me that actually, I *have* written fanfic in the past. I just never called it that, because I'd never heard the term when I was twelve. And I never had any kind of an outlet to share it; when I was a kid there was no online fandom and no FanFiction.net or anything of the sort.
I suddenly remembered filling a green school exercise book with my take on scenarios where Daine and Numair of Tamora Pierce's The Immortals Quartet finally admitted their feelings for each other and kissed for the first time. I re-wrote Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca with myself as the heroine (and I kicked Max DeWinter's butt, let me tell you). I wrote hundreds of poems that were directly inspired by situations I read about in other people's books.
And all this? Is the reason why I am the writer I am today.
Writing fanfiction is like...like a talented artist carefully imitating the work of Picasso or Monet or Leonardo deVinci in order to learn the skills that allowed those earlier artists to create such beauty. It's like me listening to a piece of music with a specific mood, over and over, to help me write a certain scene with that mood. It's taking a recipe which doesn't quite work for you and tweaking it, messing with it, taking certain ingredients out and putting new ones in until you've come up with something unique and different which has a little flavour of the original.
So my take on fanfiction is this: I'm all for it. I think it's a great testing ground for people who are often enormously talented in their own right to learn necessary skills in writing and taking and giving constructive criticism. If anyone ever wants to write any for my work I'll be astonished but pleased (although I'm not sure I'll be able to read it). And if someone offers you a publishing deal for a piece of work inspired by my writing, all you're going to need to do is make sure you file those serial numbers off really well, and I'll be delighted for you.
Have at it.