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George R.R. Martin Threads > George R R Martin talks about why he's against fan fiction

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message 1: by Tamahome (last edited May 09, 2010 07:36AM) (new)

Tamahome | 4744 comments George R.R. Martin talks about Fan Fiction, a response to Diana Gabaldon's PoV.

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2010...


message 2: by Mario (last edited May 09, 2010 08:10AM) (new)

Mario (Taishonoreno) | 1 comments I agree, but I think Mr.Martin is over reacting a bit. Regardless of the outcome, it will not hurt him in the slightest.People can discern the difference of works. Mr. Martin is absolute right, of course:his characters and his universe, respect the source material.Honestly,I think Mr. Martin came across some very bad fiction of his work. I remember coming across fan fiction about Dragon Ball Z meets World War II. After reading that, and if I was the creator, I would make a crusade of eliminating all fan fiction as well, good or bad. I would rather create my own work, because of its absolute freedom.


message 3: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 4744 comments He told some story about Marion Zimmer Bradley encouraging fan fiction, then having to scrap a novel because a fan wrote something similar, and would have wanted co-author rights.


message 4: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 1939 comments Tamahome wrote: "He told some story about Marion Zimmer Bradley encouraging fan fiction, then having to scrap a novel because a fan wrote something similar, and would have wanted co-author rights."

Back in the day, JMS had to scrap an episode of Babylon 5 because someone mentioned a similar idea on the B5 newsgroup. So these kind of things are going to happen even without fanfic.

I think the worry is overblown -- you can't copyright ideas, so the fanfic would have to be extremely similar to cause problems.

Besides, look at the professional authors who've published books that amount to fanfic. Jules Verne's An Antarctic Mystery, is a sequel to Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket & Related Tales; Garrett P. Serviss wrote a sequel to The War of the Worlds within weeks of its American publication; Lovecraft encouraged people to write in the Cthulhu mythos and many of his stories are based upon works by his own favorite authors; Maurice Leblanc wrote stories about Sherlock Holmes trying to catch Arsene Lupin; and of course there's the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


message 5: by Cameron (last edited May 09, 2010 12:22PM) (new)

Cameron (cm_cameron) | 50 comments Sean wrote: "Back in the day, JMS had to scrap an episode of Babylon 5 because someone mentioned a similar idea on the B5 newsgroup. So these kind of things are going to happen even without fanfic."

You're probably right. However, I don't think the fact that something can happen should stop someone from taking preventative measures. For example: if a man has to go out into freezing temperatures, should the fact that he can still get hypothermia regardless of whether or not he wears a coat stop him from putting one on if it means even partial protection from the potential threat? In this case, the fact that similar ideas between authors and fans can appear in multiple areas doesn't mean (imho) that the author shouldn't do what he/she can to lessen the "potential threat".


message 6: by Paul (new)

Paul Kelly (ptekelly) | 198 comments His copyright - his call


message 7: by Alan (new)

Alan (ProfessorAlan) | 72 comments I agree with Paul, that it is his call -- if the author wants to be tough on fanfic and crack down, that's cool.

And if the author wants to loose with the copyright and world, and allow/encourage fanfic, that's cool, too. Author's call.


message 8: by George (last edited May 10, 2010 06:42AM) (new)

George Van Wagner (GVDub) | 26 comments And don't forget Philip Jose Farmer's Doc Savage and Tarzan expansions. A Feast Unknown is some twisted stuff. And his Oz book, A Barnstormer in Oz, is another example. There's also his classic pastiche "The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod", which was a Tarzan short story as if Tarzan had been written by Willism S. Burroughs, not Edgar Rice Burroughs. There's a long tradition of borrowing from other universes that goes way back in fantasy and SF.

That being said, most fanfic I've read is absolute crap.


message 9: by Jeff (last edited May 15, 2012 11:31AM) (new)

Jeff (Jefforama) | 12 comments Well, anybody can sue anybody, it's a question of likelihood of success. If you write about Susie from the Bronx, GRRM won't necessarily have a copyright claim against you, even if she is just like Arya Stark in many many ways--two questions are involved, whether the fanfic is actually "based on" the underlying work, and whether or not it falls under "fair use" of the original work. He might be able to hire expensive lawyers and make you stop, or make you wear polka dots, or whatever he wants just because it's easier to give in to demands than to fight a lawsuit, but that doesn't mean he's legally right.

Fanfic that doesn't actually infringe on any copyright, which is a subset of all fanfic, raises ethical, not legal issues. How far should we take this? If GRRM asks fans not to write fanfic, I find it a bit problematic to write a short story about Jaime Lannister, then remove or change all the names and places. But is it ok to put a character inspired by Jaime Lannister into a short story set in a different universe? Is it ok to populate a different universe with a limited set of powerful houses? At some point, if we give too much deference to authors' wishes in this area, there will be nothing left to write about.


message 10: by Alterjess (new)

Alterjess | 318 comments Jeff wrote: "But is it ok to put a character inspired by Jaime Lannister into a short story set in a different universe?"

50 Shades of Grey would suggest that it is.


message 11: by Erwin (new)

Erwin (eblonk10) Author's call, sure. But also estate's call? IP, copyright etc has gone out of hand, turning creative works into commodities. Had this system existed in the time of Shakespeare, the Estate of Shakespeare Inc. would made sure an amateur company would have to cough up the cash to perform MacBeth. That and nothing else is why I stay away from IP hoarders, to prevent creativity from becoming a means to generate monetary value as the singular goal. GRRM can't help it people that didn't create his stories can still own them after he dies to make money of off it but, seeing his Tarzan vs Cthulu example, he defends it. Basically he would defend the Estate of Shakespeare example and laments it doesn't exist.
I defend his right to his IP but not ad infinitum post mortem, as he does. I also disagree with his implying that every artist wants to get rich. Most do and more power to them. Some however, like Linus and Linux, just want to create something for the sake of creating it. I'm not saying one is better than the other but GRRM is assuming that the latter doesn't exist.
I won't respond on his blog because he made it clear some reactions will not be accepted and he feels victimized beforehand (something to the effect of 'let the onslaught come' - very weak pre-emptive defense).


message 12: by Louis (new)

Louis | 13 comments I think you have all missed the most important fact from that Not-a-Blog post:

GRRM reads XKCD.


message 13: by Alex (new)

Alex Ristea (alexristea) | 654 comments Since I'm kinda against intellectual property, I disagree.

I think anyone should be allowed to do anything they want with his work. Who knows what awesome creative things might surface if only people had the chance to try.

Especially since fan fiction isn't usually about money, just creative output.


Mel (booksandsundry) (Booksandsundry) | 109 comments I've never had a problem with fanfiction before now, but having read that I think he has a very strong case. The situation with Marion Zimmer Bradley especially resonated with me because she tried to do the nice thing even though she didn't have to.

Perhaps clarity surrounding the laws needs to be the solution so that fans can continue to explore and expand on their favourite stories but authors are protected from infringement. Creative Commons are a great way to encourage creativity but it does all depend on the original artist granting permission.

Generally though I think that the more worthwhile reading fanfics are those with original characters in the author's world. Thinking back on some of the published fanfics from Pride and Prejudice I cringe at how they destroyed the story for me and now I've entirely given them up.


message 15: by Erwin (new)

Erwin (eblonk10) Darren - would you care to clarify?
Mel - In my opinion it is exactly the laws that are the problem. The creator of any works has to defend it on every square inch, even the slightest slip and all rights are forfeited. On the other hand the fans almost are disallowed to think lest their thoughts infringe any right on the side of the author.
Right now the IP/copyright industry is the main cause. They keep on pushing for ever further reaching laws, doing a disservice to both, in this case, pitting authors against readers. Because if you look at it, that is what it is: authors and readers being angry at each other while the industry causing it should get slapped on the head by both.
Authors should get more freedom to let things go without losing the right to their creations.


Mel (booksandsundry) (Booksandsundry) | 109 comments Then you're suggesting more than clarity Erwin? Perhaps a rewrite or some new laws that address the issue directly?

It's a tricky area, only made worse when you consider what does the word published mean. Is putting it on the web published or only when it's printed as a book? What about ebooks then?

I'm feeling very torn because I want both sides to win in this debate. In the end I keep coming back to the fanfic writers needing to respect the authors' wishes and protections being put in place for those who do allow it.


message 17: by Erwin (new)

Erwin (eblonk10) It is tricky. Law requires exact, unambiguous language and if there is one thing language isn't good for, it is precision.
Mutual respect goes a long way but you can guarantee it (hence we have laws). Yet some things could be simple, like making certain rights limited in time. For example, when a creator dies, his works go public after 10 years or, when has children who stand to profit from such rights, until 10 years after they reach legal adulthood, whichever comes last. Extending those rights to spouses or children for as long as they live is reasonable too. There can be emotional value for them which I don't want to push aside - for example the son of Tolkien or in music, the wife and children of Frank Zappa. But after that it goes public.
In my mind I'm trying to grasp what it all touches. You could allow derivative works like fan fiction earlier. Or can you? My head explodes......
It is a cheap shot to say 'the lawyers win', still that seems to be the case.


message 18: by Charles (new)

Charles (CAndrews) | 60 comments In general, I think it comes down to a question of livelihood. To my mind, copyright exists so that those who use there creative output to earn a living can have that living protected. On the other hand the law can be abused.

Take the music industry, for example: as far as I am aware, one of the first things a record company does when it signs on new talent is to get them to sign contacts that hand over the rights to their work to the company. Consequently, the artist actually receives a very small proportion of the sales income (like just one or two percent? I saw some real stats on it somewhere) and you can also end up with the absurd situation where the artist has to pay the record company to perform their own work, if they move on to another company.

The same seems to apply with authors and their publishers, as well as movie rights and the like.

So we seem to have a set of copyright laws that rather than protecting creative content producers, actually permits exploitation of them. And I think this is the problem with the permitting of fanfic (other than having the pleasure of reading whatever horrific thing someone else has done to your beloved character) is that, in permitting it, the law actually hinders the protection of your livelihood.

Incidentally, there's a whole argument with DRM that links into this, but that's a post for another time.


Erwin wrote: "Mel - In my opinion it is exactly the laws that are the problem. The creator of any works has to defend it on every square inch, even the slightest slip and all rights are forfeited."
Is this just the case in the US or does it apply everywhere? I was under the impression, here in the UK, that copyright was granted automatically and you have to actively waiver those rights in order for someone else to make use of them.


message 19: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 1939 comments Erwin wrote: "In my opinion it is exactly the laws that are the problem. The creator of any works has to defend it on every square inch, even the slightest slip and all rights are forfeited. "

That's with trademarks. Copyright is absolute and cannot be lost.


message 20: by Erwin (new)

Erwin (eblonk10) Sean - I must say I freely confuse them. If my life depended on explaining each term, I be dead :-)
However, thanks for the clarification, in these discussions it is easy to lose track of oneself.
Charles - I'm not sure but I think the UK is not much different. The UK-based Games Workshop is known to crack down often and harshly on perceived infringements. They work in a market (table top wargaming) where fan-produced derivative material is the norm so they walk a fine line.
I've taken more and more to supporting independent artists. In music, that is easy. In movies, a bit harder. In writing I have no idea, I have not ventured into it as of yet.


message 21: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments the point Mr. Martin makes sense and he has all the rights to be pissed when someone writes fanfiction stories that might contain parts of what he planned, however each and every one of his readers have a " how it should have ended" thread in their brains and they might want to try ( for fun their version of the story). Fan fiction is just something fans do; but i believe it would be bether till good ol'Mr Martin ends his story telling and thus there would be no right ownership conflicts


message 22: by xenphilos (new)

xenphilos I disagree for most of the reasons Cory Doctorow brings up in this essay: http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2007...


message 23: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) (last edited Jun 19, 2012 09:55PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) (Gatadelafuente) | 44 comments I think he is entitled to be protective of his work for his own reasons.

Like he said, there are some authors who don't mind fan fiction and some that do.

Fan fiction will always be around, in some form or another. I'm not personally against it unless you try to make money off someone else's creations and works. That's wrong. I think authors now have an edge over deceased authors like Jane Austen and Shakespeare. I mean they would be cajillionaires if they had copyright laws over their product. Fan fiction writers need to be careful about how and where they publish their work, because that's when it becomes an issue.


message 24: by Brian (new)

Brian | 12 comments A fan has sued a writer for similarities to Fan Fiction written in that authors universe previously. This happened to David Webber of Honor Harrington fame.

Ideas _are_ patentable, and they are copy-writable.

This is GRRM's business not a hoby. Publicly posted fan fiction (Especially were he might see it, or if deliberately brought to his attention) is akin to walking into a hardware store as a customer and starting to (unasked) help customers in the store find what they are looking for. You will cost the business money even with the best of intentions.

Fan fiction can cost the author money. There are plenty of authors like Eric Flint, and John Birmingham who encourage fan fiction in their universes and promote that fan fiction themselves. If you need to write in somebody else's worlds. Do it where you are wanted.


message 25: by Erick (new)

Erick Taggart | 71 comments One of the more poignant arguments I've heard in terms of the copyright of intellectual property is the one-way flow of information that it creates in mediums that are all about the exchange of ideas. There's an article on it from Harpers called "The ecstasy of influence" (http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/00...), but in quick reference, the author mentions in the case of Disney that they use as the source of many of their movies and products stories that are public domain and part of our shared culture. But they then commodify it and close off their products for use by anyone else. While GRRM is not a huge corporation like Disney, I definitely see a similarity in that he uses fantasy writers as his own influences, not to mention the direct use of historical events like the War of the Roses, but is so vehemently opposed to others using his own ideas, essentially pinching off the other end of this exchange. This seems especially relevant when he mentions that he himself started off writing fan fiction. He says that he didn't write using exact characters, but he was imitating a style and borrowing more than a bit from the ideas presented in sci-fi and fantasy writings.

I understand that he is a writer by profession and he needs to make a livelihood, and I also understand that he's working within the nature of the greater copyright system to do the best for himself personally. But I think, in making some of the more impassioned arguments in his article, that he is missing these points.

One last point: I don't think that these sorts of markets need necessarily be financially detrimental to the authors of works like ASOIAF. While I realize that it's a different legal and cultural system, the example of the Japanese manga fanfiction market is an excellent counterpoint to this argument: http://www.corneredangel.com/amwess/p...


message 26: by Erick (new)

Erick Taggart | 71 comments Darren wrote: "I don't think it's fair to misrepresent him. Martin was very clear that he wrote "fan fiction" in that he wrote for fanzines. He did not write fan fiction as it is defined today. And conflating fanfic with influence... that's ridiculous.

I didn't misrepresent him. As I said in the previous post, "He says that he didn't write using exact characters, but he was imitating a style and borrowing more than a bit from the ideas presented in sci-fi and fantasy writings." I realize he is using the term "fan fiction" in a slightly different context, which is why I said so (speaking of misrepresenting).
And I don't think at all that comparing fanfic to influence is ridiculous. Where do you draw the line for copyright infringement of a character? A name? A personality? A type or archetype? It's all very subjective, and the fact is that fantasy and sci-fi writers are all drawing upon the same well of common ideas. So trying to cut off aspects of that runs counter to the literary tradition in many ways, is my point.


message 27: by Jeffery (new)

Jeffery Sargent (TheSarge) | 5 comments Most artists learn their craft by, at some point, copying others. I learned to draw by copying John Romita and Jack Kirby. I have been influenced by any number of writers: from Shakespeare to Saki to Chandler. It's a way of developing your tools towards the ultimate goal of expressing your own ideas. This is not the case with fanfic. Fanfic isn’t a derivation to express something new, so much wrapping someone else’s image/characters/world/etc around some slim bit of potentially, though often not, original story. Given that a writer writes to express something of themselves, pouring a part of themselves into their characters, then fanfic amounts to identity theft. As though someone else can write YOU better than you.

Look at Disney – yes, they are adamant about their copyrights, even if they have based them on culturally ubiquitous stories (Snow White, Cinderella, etc). They’ve produced their own version, and they protect THAT version. A quick look at the IMDB shows at least 19 Snow Whites, and 54 Cinderellas, spanning from the earliest days of film to the present. They aren’t making the stream “one way”…just cementing their portion of it.

If writers don’t mind other people engaging in “free swim” in their pool, more power to them. However, I take no umbrage if an author discourages it. They have that right. People have to get over the idea that just because they like something, it belongs to them. Maybe it’s the age I grew up in, but for me, a creator’s rights trumps all else. The article on Manga may be factual – I really don’t have the numbers to contest whether it’s actually beneficial or not, but given how very little writers and artists get paid here (contrary to common belief, the average writer doesn’t make a living off of a book – they receive a flat rate up front, usually less than 10k, and will see no royalties until x number of copies sell – amounting to whatever they were paid up front. Which means unless their book was that one in a million bestseller, they will need to write 5 novels a year to make even half of a living) I don’t imagine it would be beneficial to the average writer to have no income coming in from people coopting their work. Think of it: you spend time and brainpower developing a new universe, with laws and conventions to work your story through, and characters to wander amidst it, and other people come in and use all your hard work without putting in the work themselves, AND they’re competing with you fiscally using your own work. Add to this, the visibility. If someone discovers the fanfic first, hates it, then sees the original author’s work, apparently with the same characters and setting, and skips it based on the fanfic’s failings – how is that NOT detrimental to an original author’s livelihood?


message 28: by Erick (new)

Erick Taggart | 71 comments I think it's an extremely interesting conversation to have in general about intellectual property and copyright law. I'm not myself a fan of fanfic, but it spurs ideas, so we talk. One of my coworkers also brought up the point that IP laws encourage creativity because it forces people to come up with new and different ideas. I, on the other hand, said that it stifles creativity in that it forces people to constantly look over their shoulders when creating new things, tweaking and changing them when they seemingly overlap so as not to infringe on ideas they may never have been exposed to but are remotely similar.

Sarge wrote: "Most artists learn their craft by, at some point, copying others. I learned to draw by copying John Romita and Jack Kirby. I have been influenced by any number of writers: from Shakespeare to Saki ..."

Good points, and I can definitely see your point of view as an artist yourself. But a few points in response:
1) While 50 Shades of Grey is a glaring exception, the vast majority of fanfic is written and posted freely and without financial incentive for the fanfic writers, meaning it's almost entirely meant as an expression of appreciation for an author's work (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery).
2) Fanfic does not include copying text (plagiarism being a totally different issue that I'm on board with you on completely), so the author's original concepts are completely intact and the fanfiction is entirely separate. This keeps the artist's creative endeavors all their own, identity intact.
3) I seriously doubt people are finding fanfiction before the author; how did they find that story in the first place? Considering how fanfiction is, by its nature, referential, a person reading it would know immediately even if they somehow made that mistake.
Why do I read GRRM's stories? Do I read them because he's an interesting and engaging writer that comes up with new takes on concepts in fantasy? Yes, absolutely, and I pay for his books to support him. If he didn't, I'd read someone else. Do I read him because he's got a patent on those concepts and characters? Not at all. I'm supporting him financially because of his style, not his substance, because in the end, he's using fantasy ideas and characters that are not wholely and completely original, as that would be impossible. And, as you mentioned, those influences are a natural part of the artistic process, which is ultimately hampered by IP laws, in my opinion.


message 29: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments Erick wrote: "Why do I read GRRM's stories? Do I read them because he's an interesting and engaging writer that comes up with new takes on concepts in fantasy? Yes, absolutely, and I pay for his books to support him. If he didn't, I'd read someone else. Do I read him because he's got a patent on those concepts and characters? Not at all. I'm supporting him financially because of his style, not his substance, because in the end, he's using fantasy ideas and characters that are not wholely and completely original, as that would be impossible. And, as you mentioned, those influences are a natural part of the artistic process, which is ultimately hampered by IP laws, in my opinion. "

don't forget the cool beard


message 30: by Jeffery (new)

Jeffery Sargent (TheSarge) | 5 comments There's a distinct difference between writers drawing from the same melange of genre or concept, and drawing directly from another author. Dragons, dwarves, and elves may be cultural property, but J.R.R. Tolkien created a whole universe with it's individual laws and conventions. This doesn't mean another author might not draw the same cards from the deck, but he will likely create something entirely different from them. That's creative distinction. It's another thing entirely to take Tolkien's canvas, and move the characters around differently and call it "creativity" (I'm one of those people who loathed the "Sword of Sha-na-na" series because it was so derivative and didn't introduce anything of note beyond it's derivation). Tolkien did all the heavy lifting, and along comes someone else to take credit for it. It may sound like hubris, but I believe someone who has labored to create something unique, has a right to being rewarded, if in no other way than exclusivity.

I'll give you that fanfic is homage to the original creator - and as long as it doesn't impact the creator, is pretty much at the creator's discretion.

You can argue that everything is influenced by something, but it's disingenuous to use that, taken to ridiculous extremes, to justify a dissolution of IP rights.


message 31: by Erick (new)

Erick Taggart | 71 comments Sarge wrote: "There's a distinct difference between writers drawing from the same melange of genre or concept, and drawing directly from another author. Dragons, dwarves, and elves may be cultural property, but ..."

Except that's just because those common aspects entered public domains prior to copyright law. If a dragon were created today, you can bet it would be considered IP, and then all those great subsequent dragon stories would be infrigements. And Tolkien is a great example of someone adding to the tapestry in significant ways; his reimagining of fairy tale creatures like into the tall, regal, superior beings has essentially become a staple in fantasy literature now. And we all benefit from his heavy lifting as a result, though he received no compensation.
I'm not trying to demonizing GRRM; he's an author making a living within the system presented to him, and his stance is understandable and widely accepted (and his beard, magnificent). But I think the attempt to monetize intellectual property under copyright law as it is leads to this unbalanced system of the exchange of ideas. Yes, I think you're right that they should have exclusivity to their content and the actual writings they produce, but when you extend that to ideas, it becomes very shaky ground riddled with abuses and ultimately detrimental to everyone involved. And fanfiction is the outlier on this whole exchange, since it skirts the border into plagiarism.


message 32: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (Jefforama) | 12 comments Darren wrote: "@Erick

-The difference between enjoying someone's lasagna and trying to create something similar in the kitchen, or sneaking into their recipe box and stealing it without permission.

-The differe..."


Is it really that black and white? Which one of those three things do you think fan fiction is? It seems to fall somewhere between the second and the third to me.

But fan fiction isn't just one thing. There is a huge gradient between trying to write a new story in another author's world using their characters and just being generally influenced by a previous work. It's really tough to draw a clean line between influence and copying. Has anybody got one?


message 33: by Erick (new)

Erick Taggart | 71 comments Darren wrote: "Erick wrote: "I didn't misrepresent him. As I said in the previous post, "He says that he didn't write using exact characters, but he was imitating a style and borrowing more than a bit from the id..."

You're arguing something completely different. Plagiarism is a separate issue involving wholesale copying of text (a concrete and tangible product) without recognition to the original author or source. Furthermore, your analogies are similarly off base, apples and oranges to the point I was arguing since they 1)refer mainly to the theft of specific, tangible products, not ideas, 2)assume that the person using those ideas are doing so without reference, which fanfiction does, 3)assume a financial detriment, which outside of one case that GRRM mentions of another author scrapping an entire book due to the threat of legal action (and which owes its weight to the litigious nature of copyright law anyways), is not at all evident, and 4)assume the copying of text, which is, again, actual plagiarism and not the use of someone's ideas. And using dismissive points like "there's nothing to discuss" or "not an intelligent argument" don't prove a point as they have no weight behind them. That you didn't read the original article in question (or reread it, in this case) underscores problem with your points.

I don't want to go on incessantly, and I realize I took a hard right turn from the direction of some of the discussion, so in quick closing, the whole deal with fanfiction points to what I think is a larger issue with the idea of ownership under intellectual property and copyright laws, a more recent development (say, the past hundred years, not just back in medieval times) and one fraught with errors. Absolutely, if you want to protect your physical writings and products, you should by all rights be able to do so. But when you get into commodifying your ideas, it becomes a whole different ballgame. Try to define what constitute a character as protected under those laws and you can see what a vague and unspecific process it can be. As of now, GRRM gets to choose, and his choice is totally understandable within the current legal environment. But that doesn't validate the system as a whole.
Ok, I'll leave it alone now.


message 34: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (RobOsterman) I'm not overly surprised to see a big name take a stance against Fan Fiction, though I'm curious to see if it's really respected or not, long term. Truth is it is very hard to sue someone random fan unless Martin can prove injury from the posting of fan fic on some blog.

However, a lot of the internet is monetized to the point I have to wonder how much fan fiction is truly free now. If I write a kicking Twilight Fan Fic (where in Buffy shows up and stakes that whiney prat, then deals with Edward in equally good ways), and post it on my blog, then I might drive some traffic. Traffic = money through eyes on page advertising.

I'm not selling the stories, no one is paying me for them, yet I'm making money on the coattails of another.

And I think that's the big ethical debate/ discussion/ issue with fan fiction. By saying "hey did you love Harry Potter? Look here's more Harry, come read!" you're gaining "something" on the coattails of another writer. Those are eyes that might never have looked at your work if you had written original characters in the exact same plot with the same issues.

Heck, just saying "This is Harry Potter Fan Fic" and then having the Boy Who Lived have a walk on before you go off to an original school that's nothing like Hogworts, with all original characters and all original stories, is still going to get you more eyes on your work than if you advertise it as totally original.

Eyes on page are what matter. They get you known. They get you talked about. They get you shared. They get you noticed. And they can provide free advertising to you, as well as free editing, free beta reading, free free free free....

Give it time, but I suspect that with Rowlings shutting down the Lexicon, the 50 Shades of Twilight and the now-ness of Game of Thrones, there may actually be a bit of a reckoning coming in this realm...

Unless writers just look at Cover Bands as a guide to Fan Fiction


message 35: by Mark (new)

Mark Sehestedt | 17 comments Copyright and intellectual property issues aside, fan fiction is bad for a much more basic reason: It's artistic theft and laziness. Writing a good story is all about creating great characters in intriguing situations. If someone else has already done all the heavy lifting ... well, you're just doing yourself a disservice as a storyteller.

Thinking you can become a good writer by doing fan fiction is like thinking you can become a good artist by doing lots of coloring books.

If you love Jaime Lannister or Harry Potter or Han Solo or whoever, don't write a story with those characters. Take what you love about those characters and make them your own.


message 36: by Rasnac (new)

Rasnac | 336 comments Mark, if fan fiction did not exist, there would be no extended Cthulhu Mythos with some of the greatest fantasy writers like Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith etc. basically writing fan fiction for their favourite author H.P.Lovecraft's stories.

So, with all though respect, I don't think I agree with your statements such as "...It's artistic theft and laziness..."and "...Thinking you can become a good writer by doing fan fiction is like thinking you can become a good artist by doing lots of coloring books." :)


message 37: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (RobOsterman) Darren wrote: "You frankly can learn a lot from colouring books."

And performing covers.


message 38: by Tim (last edited Aug 02, 2012 01:34PM) (new)

Tim (ZeroGain) | 92 comments I'm a fanfiction author. Right now I am working to create my own stories and worlds. I respect Martin's--or any other author's--request for others to not play in their worlds. I believe it's fully their right to push for that, and if they wish to use the force of law, well that's their privelage.

I think he's making a mistake, but then I'm not the one who has to protect his monetized interest in a television series either. There are a host of experiences to draw from as nit everyone has MZB's, but quite simply he doesn't want to expose himself to the risk, which is completely understandable.

For better or worse we (in the US) live in the legal world created by the House of (the) M(ouse). The laws presently exist to protect those with the money and power, but that's hardly new.

*edited to correct spelling (I hate posting on my mobile)


message 39: by Peter (new)

Peter | 142 comments As the saying goes, "The highest form of praise is imitation". And that is what a lot of Fanfic writers do, they imitate and play in their favorite worlds. There are several projects that have come out of fan's attempts at imitating and expanding their favorite universes. Star Trek has at lest 2 fan created "series". Star Wars and LOTR have had decades of fanfiction, The Thrawn trilogy, I believe, came about because of the high demand for more official Star Wars stories and the prevalence of Star Wars fanfiction on BB's and newsgroups. I know when I first started using the internet (way back in the mid '90's) there where already a large number of websites dedicated to fanfiction, and at lest one to nothing but Star Wars.

GRRM really should just lighten up some IMHO. Yes he's the creator of the universe, but there is little harm in what fans do, as long as they aren't trying to make money on his work.


message 40: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (RobOsterman) as they aren't trying to make money on his work.

But that's where it gets dicey. I make a name for myself writing fan fic. Then I go on to publish an original novel with a huge following. I'm at a decided advantage over being a relative unknown.

So while there's no money being made at the onset, does anyone want to argue that EL James did not create part of her fortune by publishing 50 Shades as Twilight fan fic first?


message 41: by Tim (new)

Tim (ZeroGain) | 92 comments Actually, Rob, yes. I have been told that EL James is in industry insider and well versed and connected in the incestuous relationships that get work fast tracked. That thing is a complete PR job too. You can watch its spread across all forms of media, and to me it's very clear that interested parties are quietly saying "You know, if you could just talk about this..."

I do not begrudge her this. In my view all's fair in the entertainment war, and it's utterly cutthroat, and if she can get her contacts to spin her movie deals, Ellen Show highlights, and a three book deal right off the start, more power to her.

BTW, Stephanie Meyer is one of those authors that endorses fanfic.


message 42: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (RobOsterman) Touche.

But I think that even if you separate out James then, there is a lot of advantage to writing Fan Fic for a few years while you build rep before trying to release original material. In an age of eyeballs being the key currency, it only makes sense to take advantage of our consumption culture for books to feed readers what they want more of, get a name doing so, and then turning around and saying "hey... since you liked this..."


message 43: by Peter (new)

Peter | 142 comments Rob wrote: " as they aren't trying to make money on his work. "
"But that's where it gets dicey. I make a name for myself writing fan fic. Then I go on to publish an original novel with a huge following. I'm at a decided advantage over being a relative unknown.

So while there's no money being made at the onset, does anyone want to argue that EL James did not create part of her fortune by publishing 50 Shades as Twilight fan fic first? "


I mean they aren't making money directly from the fan fiction that they are writing. James making money (even if it started off as a fanfic) off an original work is different as it was original work. If James had reused the characters/settings it would have been different.

90% of fan fiction writers do it for the sear enjoyment of it, the love of the universe and as a thought experiments (what COULD have happened, or Mary Sueism's).

I don't see a problem with someone using their popularity in one arena to make money in another. It's an advantage but no way going to determine if a person is successful or not in the other.


message 44: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments on second thought those are big words spoken by this guy : In ASOIAF we get plenty of references to Robin Hobb's " assasin's apprentice" and to David gemell's "drenai's saga". In fact we may say G.R.R. Martin is writing one big fan fiction


message 45: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (RobOsterman) Except that being referential is one accepted hallmark of fiction writing. By that measure, Star Wars is just a fan fic of the samurai legends.


message 46: by Kevin (last edited Aug 04, 2012 08:15PM) (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 930 comments Well in Assassin's Apprentice, Hobb does make a reference to Raymond E. Feist.


message 47: by Peter (new)

Peter | 142 comments Darren wrote: You're trying to change the argument.

How am I changing the argument?


message 48: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments Rob wrote: "Except that being referential is one accepted hallmark of fiction writing. By that measure, Star Wars is just a fan fic of the samurai legends."

Yes, but using reference means you're a fan of someonelse's fiction, thus I believe Mr. Martin is a bit rough on his creative fans. He has the right to be worried about ff set in the world he's still creating ( A dance whith the dragons seemed like a prelude to some big changes in his world) but on the other hand he should be flattered by people that look at him for inspiration. he should distinguish between fans and hyenas


message 49: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (RobOsterman) Well technically I brought up the issue of using fan fiction as a way to drive popularity which then in turn drives profits on other work. It's the complex issue of the internet and how it has changed the way we consume. Ten years ago fan fiction was the kind of thing that was only read in newsgroups by people using handles. Now it's posted with full access to the author's facebook profile and twitter feed.

I think my primary contribution is to point out that like the piracy debate, the fan fic discussion is simply too complicated to be distilled down to catch phrases and buzz words. "As long as they don't make money" misses a lot of nuances related to what Fan Fic can do and does do.


message 50: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (Jefforama) | 12 comments I think the more interesting part of this conversation is about ethics, not law, but i is worth noting that IP law does not simply and unilaterally accept or condemn all fan fic. A lot of it is likely to fall under fair use, a lot is not.


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Books mentioned in this topic

An Antarctic Mystery (other topics)
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and Related Tales (other topics)
The War of the Worlds (other topics)
A Feast Unknown (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Maurice Leblanc (other topics)
Garrett P. Serviss (other topics)
Raymond E. Feist (other topics)