Podcast

308 – Fanfiction

The Mythcreant Podcast
Due to a number of prejudices and misunderstandings, a lot of people don’t understand what fanfiction is or how it works. Today, we aim to fix that. We talk about what makes something fanfiction, why most of the negativity around it is unearned, and what the advantages of fanfiction are. Plus, the challenges authors face when turning a fanfic into an original fic. Also, why it’s good no one let Oren write a Star Trek TV show in college.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Sandwich Discourse

A Study in Emerald

BBC Sherlock

Spuffy

Beacon Hills

The Enterprise C

The Maqui

Bradley Fanfiction Controversy

Archive of Our Own

The Lower Decks

Omegaverse Lawsuit

Dante’s Inferno

The Aeneid

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Transcript

Generously transcribed by Olivia SB. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

[Opening theme]

Chris: You’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast, I’m Chris and with me is:

Oren: Oren

Chris: and

Wes: Wes.

Chris: And I have to confess, I wrote a story about us.

Wes: What?

Chris: It’s about how the three of us are all baristas in a coffee shop.

Wes: Yes!

Oren: Hmm.

Chris: And all the starving writers go there and talk to us about their stories and their struggles, and we end up giving them advice on their stories, but in a coffee shop where the pandemic doesn’t exist. Cause I’m saving the pandemic house that we all live in together for the next story after that.

Wes: Oh, okay.

Oren: Coffee plus croissant is my OTP, I’ll just say that upfront.

Wes: Oh man, I had to look up so many initialisms for this podcast. It’s just like, what am I getting into?

Chris: So yeah, we’re gonna talk about fanfic. And it’s interesting, cause there’s a big divide on this topic, where there’s a lot of people who are just writing fanfic and there’s a lot of people who still know nothing about fanfic other than the salacious things they’ve heard secondhand about it. So, I figured we would start with some fanfic 101, for the people who are not familiar with fanfic, and then we can go on into topics that are fresher for people who are already writing fanfic.

Oren: Yeah, so if you don’t know anything about fanfic, it stands for fantastic fiction.

Wes: (laughing) Yes!

Chris: Okay, so what is it? I think, Oren, did you want to do sandwich discourse?

Oren: I do, I want to do sandwich discourse. Okay, so, what is a fanfiction? Some fanfiction is not fanfiction. “What, how can this be?” Okay, so the legal, effectively, definition of fanfiction is fiction for which you do not own the rights. You do not have the rights to sell it, sometimes you don’t even technically have the right to post it online, although that’s a gray area, and that’s what legally defines fanfic. That’s why my Supergirl story is a fanfic or my Star Trek scripts are fanfic, but Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald, in which he uses a lot of Lovecraft stuff, is not fanfic. It’s just a legal distinction.

Chris: Or anybody retelling a public domain work.

Oren: Right. But, hilariously, some fanfic is not fanfic. For example, a lot of Sherlock fanfiction is not using anything that the BBC could claim as theirs, because Sherlock’s a public domain character, mostly, but it’s still culturally fanfic because it fulfills the common requirement, which is that it’s written for a specific group of people. Sometimes that’s just people who have watched the show it’s fanfiction of, sometimes it’s more involved, it’s people who have been part of the community and having evolving conversations and making tags that only they know what it means, so it goes deep, it goes deep, okay.

Chris: I just think that even if you were taking characters from a public domain work, you could definitely make something that looks very much like we would consider fanfiction if you’re relying on people to have read the original story in order to understand what you’re writing, as opposed to writing your own version of a public domain story where you don’t- people can come in without any previous knowledge of that story and just read what you wrote. Also if they’re baristas in a coffee shop together or-

(All laughing)

Chris: Okay, so that’s what fanfiction is. Why do people write fanfiction? Because it’s a question a lot of people who are not as familiar with fanfiction have, is why write fanfiction instead of original fiction?

Oren: There’s a whole lot of reasons.

Wes: Lots of reasons, right?

Chris: Lots of reasons. So to go over some of the many reasons, one is to fix flaws in a story you like. If you’ve ever had that frustrating experience where there’s a story you really, really like, but there’s this big problem with it, and it’s just hard to get over it, it can be very cathartic to just write a fanfic fixing that problem. There is a name for it, they’re called fix-it fics.

Wes: Yeah. I mean, most of the things I like are bad, so that tracks.

Chris: So for instance, if you’re a Buffy fan, which means you ship Buffy and Spike, you can get rid of the whole attempted rape thing by writing a fix-it fic. That would be an example. A lot of fanfiction is to fulfill wishes that aren’t being met by the story. This can be representation of marginalized groups, like there’s no black people in the story, there’s no queer people in the story. Something called queering the narrative where you bring out the queer elements of the story, it can be, “I want to see these people hook up”, which is called shipping, short for relationships.

I also see a lot of fanfic that, you know, we have a show that is really focused on a lot of external conflict, and it’s high tension all the time, and fans are really attached to the characters and they just want to see the characters actually relax and have fun and enjoy themselves and have some low stress periods, and just hang out and have, you know-

Wes: I love it. I love that.

Chris: And so, just seeing them live their lives in a low stress way and just have some cute scenes, and it’s almost like this healing, a healing aspect to it, after all of the stress of the external conflict of the show. A lot of times, there is a lot of healing fic that’s about, includes them recovering or includes actually taking what is all of the conflicts that happened in the story and thinking about what their full ramifications would be on that person and acknowledging that and letting them heal from it. So those are the kinds of things that a lot of times our stories don’t meet when they’re so focused on being high tension all the time and racing from one thing the other, and they don’t have time to focus on those internal conflicts.

Another thing is just to have fun, to transpose it to a different setting. If it’s about vampires, you can switch it to zombies for instance, or there’s a lot of fics where they’re just put in a modern setting. It’s like, now they’re a rock band, now they’re baristas in a coffee shop. The characters instead of, you know, whatever, or you can, do crossovers and match up- a popular one is Teen Wolf and Buffy.

Oren: I’m partly convinced that those shows already take place in the same setting, if I’m being perfectly honest. It’s just the vampires all stay away from Beacon Hills because that’s where the werewolves live.

Chris: I’ve also seen a pretty good Buffy/Good Place crossover.

Wes: Ooh, really?

Chris: Yeah.

Oren: Yeah, I’d buy that.

Chris: So, you know, you can just have fun with it. And then the other thing is very social. Cause you have a huge community of people, and they will write fanfic for each other, they will make requests of each other. “Hey, can you write this for me?” And it’s just a way to connect with other fans. Anything else the two of you would like to add to that list?

Oren: I mean, sometimes you just want to explore an aspect of the setting that wasn’t particularly well explored. I mean, that was the reason why I wrote a bunch of Star Trek fan scripts and audio dramas is I felt the Enterprise-C was really cool, from The Next Generation, and we only get to see it once. And it seemed really neat, so I wrote some extremely edgelord fan scripts, which incidentally look weirdly like Discovery. And I don’t mean that in a good way. And also, just because it was fun, my friends and I would go to the rotunda at Evergreen and set up the chairs like it was the bridge of the Enterprise and read the scripts, and that was an excuse to hang out with some of my friends who were actors. And so that was just a fun thing to do. And for the audio dramas, I did it because I thought the Maquis were interesting, and they are kind of underplayed in Star Trek because they were invented specifically for Voyager, and then Voyager just ran off to the Delta quadrant and left Deep Space Nine holding the bag, and Deep Space Nine didn’t really know what to do with the Maquis, so they kind of just disappear from the show at one point. And I thought they were more interesting and I wanted to look at them, and also those scripts probably had some silly edgelordiness going on too. And that was why I did it, I was having fun.

Wes: I guess I’ve done it more in the role-playing sense than anything. Instead of putting pen to paper, more like just try to run a game, and the one that comes to mind most recently was a few years ago we did Last Airbender Avatar world theme, and I really wanted everybody to focus on- basically the avatar at that time in our world was from the Western Air Temple, and so I wanted to explore airbenders that were far more closely integrated with Fire Nation culture, because they just seem so, I mean they’re pretty opposed to in the main show, so I’m like, okay, well we know the Aang had friends and stuff in the Fire Nation, they didn’t use to all be like, wanting to burn everything down. So we got to role play a team of benders that got brought together by the avatar to go do a few other things. And that was fun, just the shared story elements of it, cause you know, I had a spell of rough plot, but seeing them get to fill it out themselves was pretty enjoyable.

Oren: Man, what system did you use for that? Just curious.

Wes: Oh, everybody was familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, so we- it was 3.5 and it was a mess. Basically everyone had to be sorcerers and they had to try to stick to specific elements that we had to say, “Okay, well there’s only two spells that are ice, so you guys can- we can just change these elements”, and it was, I don’t know, it actually was probably a really good one for us to learn to experiment with other things, cause we were like, “This isn’t working that well, we should probably look at other systems.”

Oren: Yeah, I mean, I’ve done a lot of RPG campaigns in various settings that I did not create. I’ve done two, no, yeah, two so far. I’m starting another one soon in the Avatar setting. I’ve done several in Star Trek, I did one in Steven Universe, there’s probably more that I’m not remembering off the top of my head. And you know, in that case, it’s just kind of fun because you can use a setting that everyone or most people at your table already know, and sometimes there’s a licensed RPG for it, I’ve used the Firefly- I’ve run Firefly games, both using the Firefly RPG and not, and in those cases it was just a fun way for us to all like, yeah, we all know the Firefly setting, we’ve seen the show, or we all know the Avatar setting or we mostly know Star Trek, etcetera, etcetera. I don’t usually bring in canon characters in my role-playing games because then people have expectations, but the setting is generally fair game.

Chris: I also think that if we’re covering basics of fanfic, especially to an outside audience of original fiction writers, we should talk about Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Oren: Hm, yeah. I was hoping you would tell us what happened with that.

Chris: So we’ll go over this a little bit.

Wes: That was like a legal dispute or something, right?

Chris: No, there was no legal dispute.

Wes: Shows you what I know!

Chris: Yeah, that’s the thing is that, if you don’t know much about it, what you hear about it from people, this is the way people talk about it, it sounds like, what I originally thought, is that a fan had sued Marion Zimmer Bradley because she used the fanfic writer’s ideas in one of her books, and that that fan had won a lawsuit. And the reason I thought that is because there are so many original fiction writers that are just scared of engaging with the fanfic writers of their work in any way or afraid of reading it or just looking at it because they might be sued for stealing their ideas. But that is a complete fiction, there was no lawsuit.

Wes: Wow, okay.

Chris: That did not happen. So, before I just get into this, because people are trying to piece together exactly what happened, so I’m going to speculate a little bit, and I’m going to try to be clear about where I’m speculating, the other thing to keep in mind- Marion Zimmer Bradley was a predator, of children. So, just to be clear, she’s not a victim in any way. I think in this instance it seems to me that she was being privileged and entitled and an asshole, as opposed to being deliberately predatory, but who knows, she’s obviously a predator in other aspects of her life, so, but basically what happened is she used to engage a lot with her fan community. And there was even a fanzine where fanfic writers of her Darkover novels would put out their stories and have them approved. So she was fostering this entire fanfic community, and she would, a number of times, if a fan writer wrote something and she liked that and she wanted to put it in one of her books, she would ask them permission and have them sign off on it. But it looks like one of those times when she did that with a fan, it went sour.

And, okay, so here’s my speculation part about exactly what happened. There is a statement I think from her and from one of her friends and maybe the fan said a few things, but what it seems to me that happened was, she asked permission to use a very specific thing, like an idea, a specific idea or something like that, and then she handed the fanfic writer a contract to sign that gave her much, much bigger leeway to use just about whatever she wanted without proper payment or credit or something like that. And the reason why I’m speculating this is I have personally been in these situations with tech clients where whoever has the most power and money is the person who always draws up the contract, but lawyers are really expensive. So they almost have a one-size-fits-all contract that was probably made from some template by the lawyer, and the lawyer is only thinking about their own interests and how they can protect them as much as possible, and not about trying to create something that works for both parties. And so, I’ve had multiple instances where a client has handed me a contract and I’ve been like, “So I read this contract and it says that it will allow you to just pay me on any timeline you want, which could potentially be never.”

And then the client will be like, “Oh, but don’t worry, we won’t do that.” It’s like, well, why do you need me to sign a contract saying, allowing you to do that? Like, “Oh, don’t worry, we won’t do that”, and insist that I sign this contract. Probably other people have had this experience too, lawyers are expensive, but this is a really easy thing to happen, where it’s like, you want me to sign this contract that gives you this, all of these things- to sign away my firstborn child- and you want me to sign it on your personal assistance that you won’t take my firstborn child, but you insist that you need the permission to do it. You need the legal capability to do it, to take the firstborn child, or something like that. And so I’m very much guessing that’s what happened in this situation, where she handed the contract, and then the fan was just like, okay, but this allows you to take my entire work, anything from my work, without any payment or attribution or whatever it was- I’m not entirely certain of the details- and was upset at that idea and was like, “Well, if you’re going to have permission to do that, I think I should get more.” And then, because there was a friend who was supposedly a friend of them both, but then was like, “Oh, this fanfic was, you know, a writer was being so irrational because she said Marion Zimmer Bradley would steal her work and she wouldn’t do that.” But like, you know, if you ask somebody to sign a contract- so that’s my speculation about how this went sour, but in any case, what came out of it is that, what Marion Zimmer Bradley says, and her publisher says something different, is that she told the publisher about the situation, where the fanfic writer was feeling like she was being asked to give up more rights to her work than she wanted without proper due, and then the publisher freaked out and was like, “We’re not going to publish your book.” Now, the publisher disputes that, it says something different now, it’s kind of unclear what happened there, but as a result, the book did not happen. And then after that happened Marion Zimmer Bradley basically just completely ditched her fanfic community, basically blamed everything on the fan, blacklisted the fan from all of the communities, and just honestly looked like a scorched-earth, tear this fan a new one type behavior to me.

Wes: Wow, oh my gosh.

Chris: Yeah, so honestly, frankly, to me that looks like it could be the abusive behavior of somebody who is entitled, and privileged and powerful. So it does not look like, it looks like the fan was not the person who was being aggressive in this situation, but again, there’s a lot of speculation here about what happened based on what people are trying to piece together. And again, just because the publisher says that they didn’t do that, it doesn’t mean they didn’t do that, they didn’t get scared about a lawsuit that the fan might bring forward about this book, so it’s not exactly clear what happened, but the point is that there was no aggressive fan behavior that would ever justify every single original fic writer being afraid of their fans, like there is today. That’s ridiculous.

Oren: Although I do want to point out that even though I agree with Chris in that I think a lot of these authors are being afraid of nothing, you still shouldn’t send unsolicited fanfic to authors, because regardless of their reasons for not wanting it, they have generally made it clear they don’t want it, and sending them a bunch of unsolicited stuff, which still happens, regardless, it just kind of makes you seem like a jerk. So, even though I agree that this is a fairly overblown reaction to what happened, that is still the norm, so I would ask that people respect it.

Chris: Yeah, and I will say that if you’re an original fic writer and you have some ideas for where your work’s going, if you have a big enough fan base, some fans are going to think about that, and if you have fans sending you unsolicited ideas for what they want you to do with the story, and some of them happen to be what you had already planned, which is very likely, because people have the same ideas all the time, that’s just going to feel not great because then you’re like, “Okay, this fan might think that I took the idea from them when I didn’t.” So, I mean, definitely original fic writers should have the ability to control what they’re exposed to and what they’re not for that reason, because, unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t understand how common the same ideas are and assume that there’s idea theft when it’s just a coincidence.

Oren: While we’re on the subject of busting fanfic myths, if it’s alright Chris, I would like to talk a little bit about why people think fanfic is bad. Okay so, first of all, there’s just a certain amount of cultural prejudice, because fanfic tends to be practiced more often by people who are more marginalized for various reasons, and so there’s a certain looking down on them for that. There’s also just a certain amount of, “Oh man, well, you’re not supposed to be doing that.” Even though in most cases you’re never going to get in trouble for it, there’s a certain like, “You know, you’re breaking the law, so respectable people wouldn’t do that.” So there’s that kind of cultural prejudice. But beyond that, there are two more understandable reasons why people tend to think that fanfic is bad, but they’re still wrong. First, people compare the random fanfic they found on AO3 to N.K. Jemisin or Neil Gaiman. And what people don’t understand is that those are like 0.5% of original fiction. Because original fiction actually has to make it through this very hard and ruthless gauntlet of gatekeeping before you actually get to read it. And so even the bad stuff that you’re reading is like the very top in most cases, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, even the bad stuff that you’re reading has had to pass through multiple layers of approval. And so you’re only seeing the best stuff. And if you happen to be, say a developmental or content editor of fiction, and you get to see all the stuff that isn’t being published, whoa boy, let me tell you, it’s not any better than the fanfic stuff. And I mean, even for that matter, just go and find a random Amazon book with zero reviews and give that a read and see how good it is. So that’s just a sampling bias.

And then the other part, and this has a little bit more legitimacy, but it’s still misunderstood, is that because fanfic is written for a specific community with a specific knowledge base, if you try to get in there without that knowledge base, it’s just going to be like, “What is this?” And sometimes it’s not even like, watch the show, like I’ve seen Teen Wolf twice, and I tried to read some Teen Wolf fic and I was like, “I don’t know what any of this is. What is Magic Styles? What does Magic Styles mean?” So that was a thing where I just could not penetrate the tropes that the Teen Wolf fanfic community had created over the years. And this also can happen in original fiction, not as often, because original fiction typically wants to sell to a wider audience, but try watching the Lower Decks and not knowing anything about Star Trek, it would not go well. So those are the reasons why people tend to think that fanfic is bad, and I hope now you have a better understanding of why that is not an accurate assessment.

Chris: No, it’s not.

Wes: You forgot the perception that fanfic is just to get a bunch of erotic scenes in there.

Oren: Oh boy, let me tell you about original erotica. I mean, that’s actually a thing, this actually came up in an argument that I had once on the internet where someone was trying to tell me how gross fanfic was, and it was like, “Man, but you can’t tell me Omegaverse stuff isn’t gross.” And it’s like, “Well, I agree with you that it is gross”- I’m not shaming anyone who likes it, just to me, it’s gross- but, also Omegaverse is a huge original fic business now, there have been lawsuits over it, it’s so profitable, and it just happened to start in fanfiction because the circumstances were right, and then someone was like, “Oh, it turns out people really like this stuff, let’s sell it for money”, and then they did, and so now it’s original fic and it’s by most counts even grosser now.

Chris: So, as I was saying, let’s transfer into talking about craft and how it’s different with fanfic. Mostly because you are referencing a work that everybody knows, and most often though, not always, you are reusing characters. If you’re doing prose fanfic as opposed to a role-playing game, someplace on AO3, usually everybody’s familiar with the same characters, and what that means is that attachment is already built in, and people know the world, if you’re using the canon world, otherwise, if it’s not the canon world most often it’s just the modern day, real world. That’s the other most common, non-canon worlds that are used in fanfics. So you don’t have to do the same level of setup, you don’t have to build attachment, it’s just already there, and so fanfic stories actually get started much faster. If you’re tired of original fic prose stories where you’re spending a chapter in these really slow scenes where nothing is happening so that there can be exposition dumps about the world, it’s actually really refreshing how fast most fanfics get started. They usually have a specific purpose, they’re very clearly marked- this is for people who like this- and then they just get right to it.

And of course, we talked about fulfilling needs and wishes that aren’t met with the regular show, so that’s why they have tend to have a lot more internal conflict and a lot less external conflict, because in most cases the need for external conflict is already being met by the canon material. So, those are some craft differences, but it does mean that it is harder, if you want to take your fanfic and then sell it because it’s popular, it’s actually a lot harder than just rubbing off the fingerprints, as we would call it, because your audience is not going to already love your characters coming in. You know, same thing- Oren was talking about this in reference to role-playing games, where if you want to take a role-playing game and your character from a role-playing game and make a prose story out of that, you’ve got to think a little bit because other people haven’t role-played that character. They don’t come with that attachment built in.

Oren: That is a serious problem when I talk to authors who are trying to turn their campaign into a story, and this thing will happen and I’m like, “What is, why are they all laughing at this lizard?” And it’s like, “Oh, it’s a running joke from my campaign.” And it’s like, well, okay, but no one else reading this was in the room when someone made the first lizard joke, okay? That’s just not going to connect with anybody else.

Chris: Yeah, similarly a fanfic will inject tons of references to the original work or just have minor characters pop in just because a lot of times it’s like, “Oh, I want to see these characters too.” And it will pair everybody up, all of those random side characters will now have a partner, that they did not originally have, and they just pop in, but that would be way too many names, normally- you just introduce all these random name, minor characters who just like, why are they here?

Wes: I think I’m realizing that fanfic has been around forever. Dare I say, this is probably not an original thought, somebody else must have observed this already, Dante’s Inferno is fiction. Dante Alighieri clearly read Virgil’s Aeneid, which talks about going to hell, and was like, “Oh, I’m going to rewrite that story, but Virgil’s going to lead me into these depths and I’m going to make a highly allusive story about some of these other things everybody’s read and enter a world of our own creation.” At least that’s my own thought now.

Oren: Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen that meme and I think it’s accurate. In fact, it was on a discussion of that meme that someone tried to tell me that fanfiction was gross. So, I’m thinking what you’re thinking.

Wes: It makes sense- I mean people like having fun and like talking about shared stories, and now I’m thinking about all the stories that have been told that just build on other stories for particular communities who’ve read the same stuff and I’m like, okay, great, fanfiction is awesome, this is fun.

Oren: Right. And I mean, that’s why fanfiction does have a certain amount of sandwich discourse to it, because there are different traits that are common in fanfic that you see in original fic, too, of different levels. It’s just fanfic tends to be pretty extreme on the expecting everyone to have a base knowledge set, because that’s how fantic communities evolve.

Chris: I do think that one really nice thing about writing fanfic, if you are in a place where you just desperately need your work to be read and appreciated and people say, “I enjoyed this,” then fanfic can be a great thing to delve in for that reason. Because there’s usually a built-in audience, if you go in a place like AO3- and there’s other places where people post fanfic like wattpad and Tumblr, but AO3 is the big place- and you read for a while so you get a sense of your fandom, whatever fandom you want to write in, and what kind of stories they are and what kind of tags specifically they put on their work, because that’s how people filter and find things and know what type of story you’re having and if it’s a match for what they’re looking for, and you give it the right tags, the people who are just interested in that type of story will find your work and see it when it’s posted and read it. It’s way easier to get some people reading your work and fanfic than it is original fic.

Oren: Yeah, it is. It’s like being a visual artist. It’s amazing.

Chris: And the other thing about it is, people are giving away, doing this labor for free, giving away their work for free, and so there isn’t really any reason to get into critique. There’s no reason to critique somebody’s fanfic that was a labor of love that they did for free. So there’s a lot of just positivity going around, so, if you’re in a place where you need that, writing fanfic can be a great thing to do and a way to connect. Again, be aware of, if you’re an original fic writer and you want to continue original fic, be aware of its differences with original fic, that it’s not the same and there’s different expectations.

Oren: And sometimes people can be mean about fanfic. My understanding, and this is from an outsider’s perspective because I don’t spend a lot of time AO3, but my understanding is that AO3 is generally considered a pretty positive community, but that has not always been the case. And there are some amazing stories of drama that people would start over flaming each other’s fanfics, and that happens in every community. But if you post your fanfic there’s not an unreasonable chance you might get someone being mean. But I think most people will probably nice.

Chris: I did have a question from our Q&A recently, where somebody asked, it was like, “Hey, I’m writing this fanfic and it’s not in the canon universe, it’s in a different universe, and I handed it to somebody, and she told me that I shouldn’t waste the reader’s time, wouldn’t even read it, and I guess it’s just not allowed in this fandom.” Like, what are you talking about?

Wes: Oh man.

Chris: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fandom where it’s weird to write a fic in a different universe- in some fandoms that’s more popular than the canon universe. It’s just- but yeah, people can be petty, regardless of what community you’re in, but most of the time it’s pretty positive. I think the thing that I’ve seen that gets the most brutal is just when people have really passionate different opinions for what they want to see from a story, like shipping battles, for instance, where we have all these monogamous shippers who just feel like having a character in a relationship with somebody who’s mutually exclusive and that they have to fight each other over it, and that can be really bitter, so, that’s not fun.

Oren: I will tell you one thing, is that my experience with fanfiction has really made me wish that copyright law was looser. This is a complex topic and I’m not qualified to reform copyright law, but I just feel like copyright law is too long.

Wes: It’s really long in this country for sure. But, did you know that, starting this January, the Great Gatsby’s coming out of copyright? So everybody’s gonna have some fun with that one.

Oren: Yeah! I just think that culture might be improved if some of our icons were allowed to be open source.

Wes: Yeah, I think you’re right.

Oren: I think that people are innovators often better than they are inventors. That’s certainly the case with me. And it could be pretty cool to see everyone’s take on Middle Earth, or Earthea, or The Broken Earth, not- The Broken Earth is brand new, so even in the most optimistic context, I don’t think that that should be available yet. But you know what I mean. And I just think that that would be cool. I would like to see a bunch of independent creators get their shot at various Marvel characters that have been around for 70 years. I just think that would be cool, and I would like to see that at some point, so, you know, vote for me for president, I’ll shorten copyright. That’s my one platform. Also, sandwiches for everyone.

Chris: Yeah. I would be a lot more lenient with- I mean, characters are ideas, which is the other weird thing, is that ideas themselves aren’t really supposed to be copyrightable, but I mean, a character’s usually a very specific idea. But I also think about, we want to keep big budget movie studios from not paying writers, is the downside of- of course, obviously Disney knows how to bend copyright law to whatever they want it to be- but that’s the downside of reducing things. But yeah, it’s gotten really, really long. Unnecessarily long, I agree.

Oren: So, I think that’s a good place to end this podcast, and maybe soon we will end copyright law a little earlier than where it ends now, maybe, but also in the meantime, go out there and write your Great Gatsby adaptations because soon no one will be able to stop you!

Before we go I want to thank a few of our patrons. First we have Kathy Ferguson who is a professor of political theory in Star Trek. Next we have Ayman Jaber, he is a urban fantasy writer and a connoisseur of Marvel. And finally we have Danita Rambo, and she lives at therambogeeks.com. We’ll talk to you next week.

[Closing theme]

Chris: This has been the Mythcreants podcast. Opening, closing theme, ‘The Princess Who Saved Herself’, by Jonathan Coulton.

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?

 

Comments

  1. Star of Hope

    The thing with Dante’s Inferno is also true for other stories:

    The epic of Gilgamesh was very much an fanfic of the older myths of Gilgamesh of the Sumerians. One Akkadian or many writers must have found these tablet and like Dante after him,wrote an fanfic.

    The whole of King Arthur’s legend is filled with fanfics, some good, others god awful like Merlin,but that was only because of many poor decisions the writers made, it could have been greater without them.

    With that in mind, I wish there was an fanfic of Infinitive wars where Thanks was relatable in some level and had the original motive of the Comics and have Star Lord lose his shit after hearing it,only for Thames to blast him off and everyone thinking:”This guy is mad, we have to kill him.”

    That would be better than the pseudo-Eco fascist and idiot.

  2. Bellis

    Another thing about fanfics is that it is oftentimes less frowned upon to use clichés, which can be fun to play around with. Like having two characters get stuck in an elevator to force them to spend time together and get close. Although now that I type this, I remember that this also happens in published fiction, like several Star Trek episodes… But for me it’s kind of freeing to tell myself that I’m “allowed” to do these cheesy things and focus on some other aspect and practice that (for example character dynamics) and not worry about worldbuilding or external conflicts that actually make sense. Since I’m not actually a practiced writer yet. This way I can practice one area and worry about other things later on. I’d have a harder time doing that for my original stories, because I wouldn’t want them or some aspects of them to be mediocre, I’d try to get everything right (or as right as I can) and that sets a high bar for myself and then oftentimes I end up just not writing it.

    Plus I do get a lot of ideas just watching tv shows or reading books and thinking “Hey, I could do this thing better!” or “I wonder what the explanation for this mysterious world element/character backstory is? I could just invent one!”
    I think consuming media with an analytic lense/ critiquing it as you go and writing fanfic are two things that go well together.

  3. A Perspiring Writer

    I’m surprised you didn’t discuss Robin Hobb’s infamous (and lengthy) fanfiction rant.

    I’m not going to reproduce it here (did I mention lengthy), or summarize it (I don’t think I could do that effectively), but you can find it pretty easily online by searching “Robin Hobb fanfiction rant”.

    With permission, however, I would like to post the whole thing here, because… it’s really something else.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s certainly a doozy. That said, people can check it out on Fan Lore if they like, I don’t think we need to repost the whole thing.

      • SunlessNick

        I remember when Fifty Shades of Grey was published, Stephanie Meyers’s reaction to EL James was basically to wish her good luck. I thought that was pretty nice.

  4. Cay Reet

    Fanfiction helped me rekindle my writing, as it were. When I discovered fanfiction online (that was in the old days of fanfiction.net – a long time ago), it motivated me to write some fics of my own. Those led to me writing stuff with my own characters and that, eventually, led to me writing more professionally. My second rekindle during my burn-out was writing Loki fanfiction (not really, but it started out with “Marvel’s The Adventure” and me writing my “The Loki Files” novellas).

    I’ve found the community a very good thing, even then. It was also the first time I read stuff not professionally edited (unlike regular books you can buy) and realized that writing isn’t that perfect from the get-go. That was a huge help to motivate me.

    It would be fun to have more stuff in public domain, especially as copyright laws are not the same everywhere and can be complicated (due to being written into the 1970s, for instance, Dr. Fu Manchu is still in copyright, despite the first novels being from the 1910s, and due to a movie project that might never be finished, Fantomas is on hold, too). I read that the creators of the “Enola Holmes” movie got into trouble with the Doyle estate over Sherlock Holmes – because he’s more ’emotional’ in this one and the ’emotional Holmes’ is apparently content from the later period of Doyle’s writing and still in copyright. I’ve got no idea whether there was a settlement or it was rebuked, but it makes things more complicated.

    • Sarah

      I’m getting into fiction writing through fanfiction, too! It’s been great for me to practice things like story structure, building scenes, depicting characters’ thoughts and emotion, and word craft. This would be a lot harder to manage without the scaffold of established worlds and overall character arcs.

      • Cay Reet

        Yes, it’s easier to focus on constructing your plots when you have fully realized characters and worlds to work with. Also much easier to focus on your writing in general at that point.

  5. SunlessNick

    I’ve heard the story of the Golden Fleece described as crossover fanfic because of how many other heroes Jason recruited to crew the Argo – complete with flame wars about one or other of them being bullshit because they should have been dead by then.

    I remember seeing an article where a woman talked about look in her late grandmother’s Bible and finding fanfic about the Apostles. At the time I had the all fanfic is erotic prejudice myself and assumed a lot of it was slashfic, but I can’t now remember if there was anything in the actual article to suggest that.

    Apprently there is a big market for fanfic about band the 1 Direction set in the universe of The Purge. (An youtube blogger reviwed some, finding it a weirdly specific combination).

  6. Julia S

    In high school our English teacher would sometimes give an assignment to write a story in the style of the author we were reading and discussing. Who knew we were writing fan fiction!

    • Cay Reet

      You were even writing pastiches – which is what they call it when you try to write a story in the style of another writer (unless you have nefarious plans with it).

  7. mysterious ghost

    I think fanfiction could be a good method for writing practice, for example since the characters already exist and you already know their personalities, you can practice writing them “in character.” It’s also just less work since so much content is already provided and you can focus more on other aspects.

    There’s one view that I think is becoming more obsolete, but I figured some of the stigma against fanfic is the idea that it’s not cool to be “obsessed” with something. There’s one scene in The West Wing where Josh lectures a Star Trek fan about how unacceptable it is to spend a lot of time obsessing over a show you’re into. Again that’s an older opinion and I believe that sort of attitude is loosening, thankfully.

    • Cay Reet

      I wonder what Josh would say to someone who obsesses over how their team played … ‘fan’ comes from ‘fanatic’ and people who are fanatic about something always obsess over it.

      Fanfiction is a good way to get into writing (or back into writing in my case), because you do have material to work with and can concentrate on writing and finishing (there’s no way to overemphasize this) stories. Then you can branch out into original characters (OCs in fanfiction) and alternate realities and so you can then make your way to your own material.

  8. Dave L

    So how would you write copyright law so that Oren Ashkenazi ca write a novel about Marvel’s SHIELD’s Agent Coulson, but so that Disney can’t make a TV series about Oren’s Deathslinger’s Judge Colson w/o having to get his permission or pay him anything?

    I mean, that would be cool if you could…

    • Cay Reet

      A good start might be to declare that using other people’s content without making money is allowed, but if you wish to make money with it, you have to get a precise contract in which the original owner agrees.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      My amateur opinion is that copyright should protect the holder’s right for a set amount of time, but that the current amount of time is absurd. I’m not sure how long that time should be, but 70 years after the death of the author is silly. If we could make that more reasonable, I’d have no problem with someone using my stories when they fall out of copyright. It’s unlikely they’ll be worth much anyway.

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