fan fic furor
I've seen out in bloggerland furor about the New York Times article this past Saturday on fan fiction writers landing big deals in NY. My husband, fearing I'd too be in an uproar, told me not to read the article (not knowing I'd already glanced through it). The article is posted on the NYT site, but I'm too lazy to look up the link to it. I imagine you can find it if you browse their site.
Fan fiction, if you've never heard of it, is a writer who enjoys a book or tv series or movie so much that they make up their own stories in that world with these characters. Nowadays those stories (which range from excellent to indecipherable) are posted on blogs and fan fic sites; decades ago they were photocopied or mimeographed and passed around at scifi cons.
Now fan fiction writers are attracting the attention of NY publishers who are offering them six-figure deals. Hence the furor.
When I saw the article I waited for the spark of resentment--how can a neophyte author who is not even building his/her own characters and worlds land a huge deal when excellent original works go undiscovered? (please, I'm not including myself in "excellent original work"-- I know my own skill level!)
No spark. No resentment. Nope, not a twinge. Why?
I dunno. Maybe because I don't care? This has nothing to do with me. My career is my career. If someone else gets their foot in the door writing fan fic, well, good for them.
Publishing is not fair. It never will be fair. It's a business, about making money for the company. Individuals within that company care about good books and good authors but the company is there to make money. That means they'll do it any way they can--looking for authors who already have an audience draw is one way.
Authors get into this business in many ways. There's no one golden gate, no right way, no guarantee that the way you try will work. I have a friend who was "discovered" through her e-published books. I have a friend who won a contest and got a contract. I know authors who were bought out of the slush pile. I know many who, like me, wrote books, queried agents, and kept on writing and querying no matter how many rejections we got, until finally we made it. I know authors who sold their very first book, I know authors who sold on some ridiculous number like ms. 50.
There's no use being po'd at someone who got in through writing fan fic. Maybe I'm experienced enough to realize that getting in even with a big advance doesn't make you a star, nor is it a guarantee that you'll have a career. These few people might end up huge stars, they might flop. Who knows?
I find it interesting that the books that are huge hits: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, Da Vinci Code, Stephen King's books, and Harry Potter, to name a few, seem to come out of nowhere. We don't hear about their big deals (unless you religiously read Publisher's Lunch, and maybe their deal wasn't even big enough to be posted there anyway). We hear nothing about these people until all the sudden their books are phenoms and everyone knows their name.
Why? Because the books are fantastic, entertaining, and appealling. That is what makes an author huge, not a discussion of their deals.
Anyway, rambling on here.
As to the anger that fan fic writers are plagiarizing, well, they are (if the characters and worlds are not in the public domain). I have no business making up Firefly stories in which Mal and Inarra get married. If I did write my own version of that story (because those two so need to go to bed), I'd likely do it for my own enjoyment. I'd let my husband read it, and that's it. It would not be posted or published in any way.
However--if you are contracted to write a media tie-in book (e.g., X-men books, Buffy books, Star Trek books, Star Wars books) and the like, that is perfectly legitimate. In that case you are writing with full permission of the copyright holder. You have to conform to the copyright holder's version of the world (there are stringent rules for Star Trek, and I hear the Star Wars "bible" is huge) and they have to approve your story.
Likewise, writing about a character/story in the public domain is fine. Examples: John Gardner's Grendel, the Pulitzer Prize book about Jo March's father (of Little Women), Laurie R. King's series featuring Sherlock Holmes, the "followups" to Pride and Prejudice and Rebecca and many more.
So anyway, there is fan fic an there's fan fic. And again, if it gets someone's foot in the door, who am I to crush their toes off? I'm excited enough about my own stuff not to worry about it. (And see #7 of my Career Time Wasters post below.)
My new website is almost done. Whew.