In Defense of Fanfiction: Guestblogger Justin Goes Robin Hobbnobbing



If you had of asked me on a given day whether I'd one day end up passionately defending fanfiction, I would have given you a strange look. I don't read any of the stuff anymore, and my own endeavors in the field ceased long ago. And yet, I found myself reading Robin Hobb's rant (Swifty: The rant was taken down sometime after this entry was posted) with growing outrage, not just because I disagreed with Hobb's sentiments, but because I COULDN'T BELIEVE that a published author of some repute could hold opinions so closed-minded, reactionary, and ridiculous. The outrage, though, stemmed not so much from this as from the idea that Hobb's opinions, through her position as an eminent fantasy author, could actually discourage young writers from practicing fanfiction, and thus, exercising their creativity. Therefore, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. THIS SHIT CANNOT STAND.



My text in bold.

I am not rational on the topic of fan fiction.

That's putting it mildly.

Well, actually, I can be, and in this essay, I will endeavor to be. But people who know me well also know that this is one topic that can make my eyes spin round like pinwheels and steam come out of my ears. In fact, I would venture to say that knowing this brings them great delight in provoking such a show several times a year when the topic comes up at a convention or in a discussion group.
So, rather than continue to publicly rant, unreeling endlessly my venomous diatribe against fan fiction, I thought I'd gather my bile and spill it all here, in a logical and organized flow. Hereafter, I shall simply refer those who query to the infamous red shoe gripped by the mad woman in the attic.
To start my rant, I will first define exactly what fan fiction is, to me. Others may have a wider or narrower definition, but when I am speaking of the stuff I dislike, this is what I mean. Fan fiction is fiction written by a 'fan' or reader, without the consent of the original author, yet using that author's characters and world.
A few specific notes about this definition.
'Without the consent of the original author' This means it doesn't include someone writing a Darkover story, with Marion Zimmer Bradley's permission. It does include someone writing a Darkover story without Marion Zimmer Bradley's permission, even if MZB had allowed others to use her world. It does not include professional authors writing Star Trek or X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories. All those stories are written and then published with the consent of the copyright owner. Media tie-in novels are not what I'm talking about here. Those stories are not, by my definition, fan fiction.

Implicit in this is the assumption that an author somehow owns their 'characters and world' to the extent that no one else is allowed to play with them. But why? Once you publish work, it enters into the public arena. People begin to engage with it. It becomes the property of the readers.

And what constitutes a 'professional' author? Does corporate sponsorship somehow legitimize someone's creativity? How are 'media tie-in' novels, often leagues worse than Hobb's derided 'fan-fiction' somehow more acceptable? Hobb would answer that 'the consent of the copyright owner' makes the difference, but what about popular figures and archetypical characters? It's the same principle by which children's artwork on school walls depicting Disney characters gets taken down because the children didn't get the permission of Disney executives before putting their stuff up in a public place. What it comes down to is: money. There's a very capitalist, very Protestant mindset behind this: even if they're not making money off 'my' characters, they shouldn't be able to have that much fun with them, dammit! They're MINE!

And...as for definitions, to what extent is Paradise Lost a fanfiction of the Bible? To what extent is Tennyson's 'Ulysses' a fanfiction of the Oddyssey? For much of human history, the concept of creative ownership Hobb seems to be using was thoroughly different: characters could be reused and rewritten as seen fit. Even given the capitalist 'ownership' argument, which I personally find distasteful, narrow-minded, and restrictive, once again, the fanfiction under discussion is NON-COMMERCIAL. Trying to suppress fanfiction is like trying to sue those children for drawing pictures of Disney characters. It's not just ridiculous, it's offensive.


Now that I've defined it, why do I dislike it so much? What, I am often asked, is the harm in fan fiction? I am told that I should be flattered that readers like my stories enough to want to continue them. Another justification is that writing fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers. A fourth point that is often made is that fan fiction doesn't attempt to make money off the stories, so it doesn't really violate anyone's copyright. And finally, I am usually chastised for trying to suppress people's creativity, or suppressing free speech.
So let me take each of those points one at a time.
"What is the harm in it?"
I might counter by demanding to know 'What is the good of it?' I'll resist that temptation.

*coughs* Allows chance for creative expression, deepens the fan community, creates bonds, broadens the fanbase of the original work *cough*

Fan fiction is like any other form of identity theft. It injures the name of the party whose identity is stolen.

Your literary creations are not your identity; or at least, they shouldn't be, lest you have some kind of eggshell psyche. One wonders what Hobb makes of literary criticism in general; certainly if she sees fanfiction as being equivalent to identity theft, it seems likely she'd see any form of criticism as a personal affront.

When it's financial identity theft, the thief can ruin your credit rating. When it's creative identity theft, fan fiction can sully your credit with your readers.

Or broaden the reader base by merit of its quality, drawing new readers who've been enchanted by the high quality of the fanfiction. Accentuate the positive, Robin!

Anyone who read fan fiction about Harry Potter, for instance, would have an entirely different idea of what those stories are about than if he had simply read J.K. Rowling's books.

Well, in that the majority of readers of Harry Potter fanfiction ARE PEOPLE WHO'VE ALREADY READ ROWLING'S BOOKS, OTHERWISE WHY WOULD THEY BE INTERESTED, no.

In this way, the reader's impression of the writer's work and creativity is changed. My name is irrevocably attached to my stories and characters. Writers who post a story at Fanfiction.net or anywhere else and identify it as a Robin Hobb fan fiction or a Farseer fan fiction are claiming my groundwork as their own. That is just not right.

So Hobb seems to think that an audience is completely detached from its chosen text, total passive consumers. In a way, it's a model that fits her classical-capitalism model of creative ownership: I am the literary god and you are the groveling readers poring over my sacred utterances, each word infallible. In reality, of course, that model is absurd. The relationship isn't that one-sided: it's the readership that ultimately decides whether you'll become a Name or an obscurity, and the readership that determines what history will think of your works. Otherwise, you might as well take the reputed late-Salinger approach and drop each manuscript into the vault after it's finished, showing no one.

Like it or not, the very act of reading itself is a two way process. That's what makes reading so exciting and potentially dangerous: multiple interpretations of a text. The kind of intentionalist approach Hobb seems to implicitly endorse is that what she intends her texts to mean is exactly what the readership will pull from it: her texts are perfectly sealed envelopes with legible letters inside. In reality, texts are more like graffiti scrawled on a streetside seen from a distance. Each reader's disposition and preconceptions will determine how they read a certain text. For example, abstain from physically describing a character and the reader will fill in their own description based on what occurs to them. Even if you take the time to describe a character in-depth this often still takes place. Reactions to scenes, passages of dialague, and thematic content are the same. Reading is anything but the kind of clean and objective transmission Hobb takes it for. What a dismal world it would be if she were right!

Even if J.K. Rowling were to despise the writers creating Harry Potter fanfiction, what right would she have to do so? Their appropriation of her text shows only that it struck a deep enough chord within them for them to want to elaborate, emend, and further engage with it. Far from the kind of disrespect Hobb seems to think this constitutes, it is in fact the ultimate tribute: I cared enough to work in your world! The relationship Hobb seems to prefer, with books standing on distant, untouchable pedestals, seems to me to be far more joyless and devoid of true respect.
Nor can it be said that any author can really CHOOSE their readership. Once a text is out there, it's up for grabs. Texts can end up being appropriated by groups wildly divergent from the ones the author assumed they would be: did Herman Hesse, for example, ever envisage that 1960's beatniks would embrace Steppenwolf? Could he even have predicted the existence of beatniks? Or, to keep things fantasy, in keeping with Hobb's genre of choice, did Tolkien aim The Lord of the Rings at the American students who ended up cementing its status as a classic? Texts aren't straight-slung arrows that authors fire into the bullseye of a target audience; they're more like shotgun pellets, dispersing in all directions.


"I should be flattered that readers like my stories enough to want to continue them."
That's not flattering. That's insulting. Every fan fiction I've read to date, based on my world or any other writer's world, had focused on changing the writer's careful work to suit the foible of the fan writer. Romances are invented, gender identities changed, fetishes indulged and endings are altered. It's not flattery. To me, it is the fan fiction writer saying, "Look, the original author really screwed up the story, so I'm going to fix it. Here is how it should have gone." At the extreme low end of the spectrum, fan fiction becomes personal masturbation fantasy in which the fan reader is interacting with the writer's character. That isn't healthy for anyone.

Again, this petulant insistence on a one, true, infallible interpretation. Hobb's reasoning, that the author's intention is some kind of objective guiding light and anything which deviates from it is insulting vandalism, seems to preclude not only fanfiction, but the act of reading itself!

Listen to the words she uses: "screw up," "fix," "masturbation," "indulgence," - ignoring concepts of play, enjoyment, and immersion that accompany, indeed, even constitute, the very pleasure of reading. And what is her idea of writing that is somehow free of indulgence? The very act of writing itself is the supreme indulgence!

The idea of a tribute, or of a work touching a writer so deeply that they feel compelled to continue it in their own way isn't the kind of defacing Hobb thinks it is; rather, it's the continuation of ANY 'successful' reading of a text, success being defined as the reader becoming deeply absorbed in the work, and seeing its characters as real people rather than textual constructions. Who hasn't, for example, fallen in love with a literary character and imagined what it would be like to meet them? Even if one doesn't actually write these thoughts down, THE PROCESS IS FUNDAMENTALLY THE SAME. The reader is completing a mental tangent that the text's author couldn't have thought of, and has no real right, or indeed, freedom, to restrict once the text has been distributed. And yet, Hobb seems to think of this as unhealthy, hypocritically ignoring that she seems to be dangerously in love with her creations, and holds them a bit too close to her identity than is really healthy: see her following family-photo analogy for more on this.


At the less extreme end, the fan writer simply changes something in the writer's world. The tragic ending is re-written, or a dead character is brought back to life, for example. The intent of the author is ignored. A writer puts a great deal of thought into what goes into the story and what doesn't. If a particular scene doesn't happen 'on stage' before the reader's eyes, there is probably a reason for it. If something is left nebulous, it is because the author intends for it to be nebulous. To use an analogy, we look at the Mona Lisa and wonder. Each of us draws his own conclusions about her elusive smile. We don't draw eyebrows on her to make her look surprised, or put a balloon caption over her head. Yet much fan fiction does just that. Fan fiction closes up the space that I have engineered into the story, and the reader is told what he must think rather than being allowed to observe the characters and draw his own conclusions.

Here, again, is the crux of the matter: 'the intent of the author is ignored.' 'Fan fiction closes up the space that I have engineered into the story.' What a depth of fear seems to underly these words: that is, the fear that, far from "closing up" the "space in the story," the fanfiction might OPEN it up into something brilliant that Hobb couldn't have imagined. The last line is particularly irrational, 'the reader is told what he must think rather than being allowed to observe the characters and draw his own conclusions' describing perfectly Hobb's OWN stance throughout the rant.

When I write, I want to tell my story directly to you. I want you to read it exactly as I wrote it. I labor long and hard to pick the exact words I want to use, and to present my story from the angles I choose. I want it to speak to you as an individual. It's horribly frustrating to see all that work ignored and undone by someone else 'fixing' it. If you don't like the stories as they stand, I can accept that. But please don't tinker with them.

Once again: 'right' and 'wrong', 'fixed' and 'broken' paradigm.

The extreme analogy: You send me a photograph of your family reunion, titled 'The Herkimer's Get Together'. I think it looks dull. So I Photo-Shop it to put your friends and relations into compromising positions in various stages of undress. Then I post it on the Internet, under the title 'The Herkimers Get Together', and add a note that it was sent to me from Pete Herkimer of Missoula, Montana. Suddenly there is your face and name, and the faces of the people you care about, doing things that you would never do. Are you flattered that I thought your photograph was interesting enough to use? Or are you insulted and horrified? Are you alarmed that I so clearly connected work that is not yours to your good name?

If, however, someone used my family reunion as the basis of a legitimate artwork, cutting it up and photoshopping it to make something truly distinctive and striking, then I'd be overjoyed! Here, Hobb exposes the bias inherent in her thinking: no appropriative works can ever be art. Which, again, is absurd. Using the lowest common denominator as the standard is bias, pure and simple.

"Fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers."
No. It isn't. If this is true, then karaoke is the path to become a singer, coloring books produce great artists, and all great chefs have a shelf of cake mixes.

While most of Hobb's arguments are specious, the passage above is simply LUDICROUS. OF COURSE karaoke is the path to becoming a singer and OF COURSE fanfiction can be the path to becoming a writer! How else is one supposed to gain an individual perspective when they haven't sufficiently digested any influences? Hobb seems to think that writers spring full-formed from the womb, literary Athenas who can suddenly produce a fresh perspective and style without any practice or study of past masters. WRONG!
By singing other people's songs, a singer learns the possibilities inherent in them, learns to modulate their voice, approximate phrasings, and recombine elements, in much the same way a writer of fanfiction, by learning from their influences, can learn, in time, to write with a distinctive voice. Even someone like Hunter S. Thompson recounted simply typing passages direct from The Great Gatsby because he just wanted to feel what it was like to physically write words that great. Of all the absurdities Hobb perpetrates in her farrago of a rant, this has to be the most fallacious, ignorant, and thoroughly HARMFUL thing said.


Fan fiction is a good way to avoid learning how to be a writer. Fan fiction allows the writer to pretend to be creating a story, while using someone else's world, characters, and plot. Coloring Barbie's hair green in a coloring book is not a great act of creativity. Neither is putting lipstick on Ken. Fan fiction does exactly those kinds of things.

So I guess we're to assume all found art, graffiti, and sampling isn't creative. Max Ernst's collage work - might as well throw that in the trash. Toss out Duchamps and Basquiat as well. As for sampling in music - gotta be sure to send Public Enemy, DJ Shadow, and Negativland to jail. Appropriation and recontextualization? Forget it. Why not dismiss all parody and satire as well? This says nothing about fanfiction and everything about Hobb's complete ignorance of any major artistic developments from the end of the 19th century onwards.

The first step to becoming a writer is to have your own idea. Not to take someone else's idea, put a dent in it, and claim it as your own. You will learn more from writing one story of your own, no matter how bad it is, than the most polished Inuyasha fan fiction that you write. Taking that first wavering step out into the unknown territory of your own imagination is what it is all about. When you can write well enough to carry a friend along, then you've really got something. But you aren't going to get anywhere clinging to the comfort of saying, "If I write a Harry Potter story, everyone will like it because they already like Harry Potter. I don't have to describe Hogwarts because everyone saw the movie, and I don't have to tell Harry's back story because that's all done for me."

Again that defensive possessiveness: 'your' idea. As if anyone can somehow own ideas. Nabokov said something along the lines of "style and craft is everything, 'great ideas' are rubbish." One wonders if Hobb thinks that Shakespeare invented all his plots. On the same note, is a work like Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, one of the most acclaimed pieces of 20th century post-colonial fiction, to be viewed dismissively as Jane Eyre fanfiction? Using Hobb's logic, such works shouldn't rightly exist. If Hobb's version of 'originality' were insisted on, contemporary (or indeed, any kind of) literature wouldn't simply be different, IT WOULDN'T EXIST.

Fan fiction is to writing what a cake mix is to gourmet cooking. Fan fiction is an Elvis impersonator who thinks he is original. Fan fiction is Paint-By-Number art.

Yes Robin, and by the same logic your ENTIRE GENRE is WATERED-DOWN TOLKIEN-LITE. Gross generalizations are fun, aren't they?

Fan fiction doesn't attempt to make money off the stories, so it doesn't really violate anyone's copyright.
I beg your pardon?
Where did you get the idea that copyright is all about money? Copyright is about the right of the author to control his own creation. That includes making money off it. But it also includes refusing to sell movie rights, or deciding that you're not really proud of your first novel and you don't wish to see it republished. It's about choosing how your work is presented. Under copyright, those rights belong to the creator of the work.
I've seen all those little disclaimers on stories at fanfiction.net and elsewhere. Legally and morally, they don't mean a thing to anyone. "I don't make any claims to these characters." "I don't want to make any money off this story." That isn't what it is about, and yes, you are still infringing on copyright even if you make those statements. Yes, the author can still sue you, even if you put up those statements.
If you don't believe me, please go to http://www.chillingeffects.org/fanfic/faq and read what is there. They are pointing out to you that fan fiction can infringe copyright.
"You're trying to suppress people's creativity."
No. I'm doing the opposite. I'm trying to encourage young writers (or writers of any age) to be truly creative. Elvis impersonators are fun for an occasional night out, but surely you don't want to spend your life being a Rowling or Hobb or Brooks impersonator, do you? What is wrong with telling your own stories? Put in the work, take the chance, and if you do it right, stand in your own spotlight.
"I have a free speech right to put my fan fiction on the Internet."
Do I have a free speech right to write pornography and post it under your name? Do I have a free speech right to put a very poor quality product in the public eye, and connect it to a work that belongs to you? Please try to think of this in terms of your own life and career. It doesn't matter if you are a writer or a plumber or an aerospace engineer. You have the right to receive credit for the work you do. No one should take that credit from you. No one should be able to connect your good name to work you did not create yourself.
You certainly have a free speech write to post your own fiction on the Internet or anywhere else, and I heartily encourage you to do so.
If you're really tempted to write fan fiction, do this instead.
List all the traits of the book or character that you liked.
List all the parts that you didn't like.
List the changes you would make to improve the story.
List all changes necessary so that the changes you want don't contradict the world, culture, morality or plot of the original story.
Change the proper nouns involved.
Change the setting to one of your own.
Write your story. Write the paragraphs that describe the world. Write the ones that introduce the characters. Write the dialogue that moves your plot along. Write down every detail that you want your reader to know.
Then publish it however you like.
Know that if it's a bad story, it would still be a bad story even if you had kept the original names and settings. But at least what you now have is your bad story, not your bad imitation of someone else's story. And it years to come, you don't have to be ashamed of it anymore than I'm ashamed of my early efforts.

Here Hobb admits her fundamental inability to conceive that a work of fanfiction might somehow have intrinsic artistic merit - for her, it's a foregone conclusion that all fanfiction is peurile, juvenile, and subliterary, a kind of hoax perpetrated by writers trying to besmirch the good name of her writings. "Know that if it's a bad story, it would still be a bad story even if you had kept the original names and settings." The possibility that a fanfiction writer might equal, or even, yes, SURPASS the 'original' work seems far from her mind. Perhaps swayed by the stereotypes of fanfiction writers as ignorant teenagers aping authors with no regard for depth or craft, Hobb brushes over the numerous talented teenagers, as well as adults, working in the fanfiction field. There are writers out there who write only fanfiction whose work, when viewed critically, easily holds up to the original work and, in some cases, does it one better. Fanfiction writers, indeed, are one of the most marginalized literary groups ever.

I will close this rant with a simple admonition.
Fan fiction is unworthy of you.
Don't do it.

Postscript: I wish to be absolutely clear that the opinion above is entirely my own. Although I use Harry Potter fan fiction as an example, and reference Marion Zimmer Bradley, the X-Files, etc, I do not speak for those writers or copyright owners, or indeed any other writer, nor do I claim that they share my opinions on fan fiction.

The views expressed in Hobb's rant are not just reactionary, they seem positively Victorian; and there's a disturbing undercurrent of puritannical restriction: you can read my books, yes, but don't get too CLOSE to them, and don't you DARE think of changing or imagining anything different!

More than anything, I pity Hobb. It seems she's never known the pleasure of reading a fanfiction where the writer either takes something that was only hinted at in the original work and brings it to perfection, opening up aspects inherent in the original text but never fully brought to light; or else alters the original text so drastically that the characters and settings become wildly original - the familiar faces are seen through a shattered mirror, and become all the more gripping for it. From reading her rant, one gets the impression that Hobb can't even conceive of possibilities like this, and, trapped in a closed mindset, will never be able to experience them. I'm really sorry, Robin. Truly, it's your loss.




RELATED POSTS:

The Fanfiction Debate
(Feb 2006)

Defending Fanfiction. Was It Worth It? (April 2007)




(UPDATED 16th of Aug, 2011): Since this was written by Guestblogger Justin nearly 5 years ago, there had been countless blog posts, articles and the like devoted to defending fanfiction, too many to keep up.

However, I cannot help but notice this rebuttal against author Diana Galbadon's anti-fanfic blog post (which has since been removed, so I didn't actually read it). It's definitely worth a read, and does bring back memories.

In Japan, the doujinshi subculture (a combination of American subcultures like underground comics, sci-fi fanzines and fanfiction) features many manga-format fan fiction that are actually sold in legal comic shops, even though such works aren't strictly legal. Mostly because many fanfiction over there is regarded as free advertising and breeding grounds for new talent. Yes, some of the legendary animators and manga artists of today started with fan fiction. Unbelievable huh, Hobb?

Having participated in fanfiction-writing myself during my teens, I grew increasingly jaded with the sometimes overzealous behaviour of the fan community (which isn't limited only in fanfiction circles, obviously) and retired from it. I embarked upon a filmmaking career, was fortunate to have the films I'm involved in being selected at some of the most important film festivals around the world.

Some of my better-known works are loose adaptations of novels or short stories I've read, I claimed these to be sources of my inspiration, yet in a way I think that I wouldn't be capable of transmutations and remixing of this sort if it's not for my previous experiences in writing fanfics. So yes, if people actually bothered to do fanfiction of my films, I'll actually be a happy guy.

Besides, being accepting of fanfiction can bring you entertaining videos like these:



As for Guestblogger Justin. Earlier this year, he had published his book of short stories called I WONDER WHAT HUMAN FLESH TASTES LIKE, it's definitely worth a read.



Comments

  1. You wrote: "The possibility that a fanfiction writer might equal, or even, yes, SURPASS the 'original' work seems far from her mind."

    Original is original. Everything else is watered down. Only the original author knows these characters inside out. He/she has to have right to have the final word of his/her characters.

    You also wrote: "... where the writer either takes something that was only hinted at in the original work and brings it to perfection, opening up aspects inherent in the original text but never fully brought to light... " Well it was the author's choice to let that part hidden. We should respect that. Why must everything must be brought to light? Letting it stay in the shadow is often way more interesting than revealing everything.

    Sini

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  2. 'Everything else is watered down' is too much of a generalization. Yes, there are tons of shit fanfics out there, but there are some really good fanfics there. Of course, you're now denying their artistic merits due to the fact that they aren't entirely original, but as Justin had mentioned on his entry, even these original works aren't entirely original either.

    Milton's Paradise is a fine example, is it not a fanfic of the Bible since it features 'characters' from the bible? How about Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, or his award-winning American Gods, shouldn't his works be regarded as 'fanfics' of various mythologies too? (One can even diss his World Fantasy Award-winning 'Midsummer Night's Dream' as nothing more than a fanfic of Shakespeare's own play, Midsummer Night's Dream.

    But speaking of Shakespeare, is he that entirely original when he borrowed ideas from, say, Ovid's Metamorphoses? And even featured allusions to those characters?

    Therefore, the term fanfiction is too subjective, one can say that they are the stuff we see in fanfiction.net, but many literary masterpieces are also fanfics of their own too. Like Justin had said, *points at James Joyce's Ulysses*

    And then you said 'Well it was the author's choice to let that part hidden. We should respect that. Why must everything must be brought to light? Letting it stay in the shadow is often way more interesting than revealing everything.'

    Curiosity is human nature, making new discoveries is a joy. One should judge a fanfic upon its own artistic merits, by completely twisting and turning its original source material can be considered creativity and innovation, is that not? You condemned fanfiction for their lack of originality, and thus being nothing more than 'watered down' versions of the originals. Yet you are now seemingly ripping them apart for trying to be original.

    But ultimately, what they do is not canon, so why blame them? You should know by now that the original material and the fanfics are separate entities. I'll take Harry Potter for example. JK Rowling's portrayal of Draco Malfoy is usually negative, he is just a sneering, one-dimensional dumbass. Yet Cassandra Claire's long LOOOOOONG series of Draco fanfics turned him into a complex antihero with his own set of fears and worries, the spotlight shifted upon him, making him just as important as Harry in the original books. Are you going to blast Cassandra Claire for being so good in characterization, and turning a secondary character in the Harry Potter books into a main character in her own works?

    Yes, Rowling doesn't want to focus on Malfoy, and it works well (arguably) on the actual Harry Potter books. But that does not mean that Cassandra Claire should be publicly executed just because she did something totally different.

    Creativity shouldn't have these kinds of restrictions.

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  3. Did you take note of the clear indicators that Robin Hobb was being over the top to be humorous as well as make a point? The fact that you completely whiffed on the tone of HER rant makes your's seem pretty silly.

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  4. I wonder whether Robin considers Friends of Darkover and other non-canon sanctioned shared universe fiction as lacking value - the only differences between that and fan-fiction are that the sanctioned fiction, having been approved by the copyright holder, has been through some form of quality control (at least in theory) and has the explicit consent of the copyright holder - granted, the world would be a better place if the worst 50% of fanfics were never released into the wild (something to which I contribute daily by not releasing - or writing - any myself! :)) but I fail to see why official sanction automatically means commerically published non-canon works have more artistic merit than the best of fanfic.

    I also take issue with the assumption that the only significant aspect of the writer's craft is the design of the universe. Apart from anything else, there's a clear implication that writers of historical fiction (who write "fanfics" of real history) have no literary talent. There's also the inconsistency between claiming that fanfiction writers have no ideas of their own, and the earlier claim that every single fanfic is based on the writer wanting to change the original author's work to suit the writer's own ideas.

    I also find it personally insulting as a reader that Robin assumes, firstly that I cannot tell the difference between, say, her finely crafted, canonical product, and the (by her definition) poorly written amateur work that labels itself as not written by her. I'm surprised she gives me credit for being able to read the part on the cover of her books where it identifies her as the author of the work (she clearly does if she's worried about my opinion of her being harmed by reading fanfics of her work), and secondly that I will, having read her finely crafted work with the deliberate spaces, be unable to imagine anything that could fill in those gaps unless I'm exposed to a fanfic that does it for me.

    And why is it only fanfic that corrupts the "pure" experience intended by the author, while discussion with friends, reading reviews, thinking about what I've read, or even just reading the blurb on the back of the book (which is generally outside the author's control) doesn't? Or would Robin prefer that I never even think about anything of hers that I read? That my experience of the book begins and ends with the words on the page? That the book means so little to me that it never impinges on the rest of my life?


    All that said, I respect Robin's right not to like people making fanfic of her works, and will make a point of not reading any Hobbs fanfics I encounter in future. On the other hand, my attitude to non-Hobbs fanfics is unchanged. I will continue to read well-crafted fanfics and abandon reading low quality fanfics part-way through.

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  5. I write Star Wars fan fiction and the universe is so vast that you can create stories that never even touch upon the characters from the films or even the characters from novels and grahpic novels that were inspried by the stories. There are some points I do agree with Robin Hobb, however and others that I don't. I don't have time to do that right now, but I will do it. When I did English at school we were always reading books and then writing our own interpertations of what that meant, and fan fiction is nothing more than an extention of that. I run a Star Wars fan fiction website I'll be writing an article on what I think about fan fiction and the pros and cons of it. Here is the address:

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  6. Interesting! I'll be looking forward to it.

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  7. Well, some brave soul posted a link to Robin's temper tantrum and your wonderful rebuttle over on the fan fiction resource at 'The Force . Net" -a GIANT repository of star Wars Fan fiction. (Note that I find it interesting and telling that YOU have a place for commentary where as Robin does not.)

    I read and write fan fiction myself for thre very reasons you stated - the characters have been part of my life for nearly 30 years, fan fiction (which could be considered an adult version of the days when my childhood played 'dress up) for nearly 4.

    I've got news for Robin - as often as not I've seen 'fan works' which far surpass in both quality and style 'profic'. Indeed, being exposed to truely wonderful fan fic has 'spoiled me' somewhat. I picked up one 'official EU' book, and after reading only a few pages realised that if I, had presented my 'beta reader/editor' such poorly writen (grammically and style wise) passages, my 'moniter would bleed' with her remarks written in red 'ink'.

    Fan fic writers also feed the machine, we go to the films, we pick up the books for referance, we kept the stories going and fresh while we eagarly awaited the next 'official' installments.

    Intersesting to note, Rowling embraces fan activities (muggle.net) Paramount (of Trek fame) even EMBRACES fan fiction with it's "Strange New Worlds" yearly events.

    Guess which ones are more successful? Rowling and Paramount, or Robin whatsername...


    DarthBreezy, fan fic writer

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  8. I agree with Breezy. I, too, am a SW fanfic writer, and I write about the computer games. I don't do this because I think Bioware did an inadequate job, rather, because I thought they did a fantastic job. However, the game has to end somewhere. The characters didn't stop living, though.

    Lucas has, perhaps grudgingly, accepted fanfiction, with a few restrictions. But you know what? I'm okay with that. It is his universe, and if he doesn't want to see certain things, that's his perogative and I'll respect it. There's still a TON of things that can be done within the guidelines with a universe so vast.

    What good fanfiction does is broaden the fan base. I write, as I said, about the computer games. Most people don't play the computer games, but I've got at least three steady readers who have never played KOTOR before. And who knows? Maybe they'll eventually get the game. Point is- fanfiction can draw in fans where none would have been before.

    Of course, I'm also an advocate of open source software, so my opinion is hardly surprising. :P

    DWH, carrying the KOTOR fanfic torch

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  9. I may not particularly care for a lot of fanfiction, and I am a fan of Hobb's, but she seems like one cranky, irrational writer.
    Fanfiction is a good springboard to help you learn the basics of writing, and kudos to you for this rebuttal.

    Hmm, would be amusing if she found out about it...

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  10. I seriously appreciate the feedback from you guys, I didn't expect a simple entry from a humble blog would be spreading around like this. Thanks, y'all!

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  11. I find quite a bit of Hobb's little rant ridiculous, but above all this thought: She's never wondered "and then what happened?" after her favorite book/movie/whatever ended? Or she just has no imaginative curiosity? And if so, how did she wind up writing fantasy fiction? Or writing at all?

    *rolls eyes* "List the changes you would make to improve the story." What?? We don't want to IMPROVE, "fix" or CHANGE the stories (well sometimes...). We want to know what happens before, after, between the stories.

    I'm a voracious reader and a sporadic writer. The works (books, movies, TV, what have you) that appeal to me are the ones that have sympathetic, lifelike, well-drawn characters that I give a damn about. And then, I want to know "and THEN what happened?" Why? Because I care what happens to these "people" that I just spent 2 hours watching, or 3 days reading about. If authors didn't want--hell, didn't EXPECT--that sort of thing, there wouldn't be movie sequels, or book series, and no TV pilot would ever be a TV show. Hell, Hobb knows this, she has three trilogies set in the same world, doesn't she?

    And so, I am Evil, because I contruct might-have-beens in my head, or only when I commit them to paper (or electron, in the case of Internet posting)?

    Incidentally, one cannot copyright a character. One can make a trademark for it at times, but Fits is no Mickey Mouse.

    And West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet fanfic! Destroy it!

    (If they would just publish the books faster, make more movie sequels and never cancel my TV shows, though, then maybe we can work something out.)

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  12. Damn.
    I misspelled Fitz. *smacks forehead*

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  13. Thanks for the support, guys.
    The response from the Robin Hobb camp has been predictable non-engagement and namecalling. The best response given was "Uhhh she was just joking or something." Riiiiiight. Hobb herself has made no attempt to defend her statements or acknowledge mine, and why should she? As a published author of moderate reknown, there's no doubt she feels confident enough to spout off about anything she wants without having to take responsibility for it. You could draw parallels to the similar inanities of Anne Rice, who also made an ass of herself trying to fight fanfiction, and then further besmirched her reputation by appearing in person on Amazon.com to mount a weak defense of her shitty books before deciding it was her appointed task to write the true story of JESUS (God help us).

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  14. What I found most amusing about Hobb's entire rant is that several months ago she happily let Dungeons and Dragon magazine editors create an article of her world detailing stats for ships and characters, world information and possible plot ideas. To my mind there is a slight hypocrisy in letting a whole bunch of gamers sit around a table with dice giving life and voice to characters and situations and in a sense 'ruining her world' by playing with 'her' characters but yet she would rant at the same people who might take that adventure and turn it into a good story (btw I have no issues with gamers being one myself). The idea that one is a private and the other a public display holds no water given the way in which Hobb ranted and raved against the very idea of ‘intruding’ into someone else sandbox except to make money.

    As a teacher, I love fan fiction and I find the students who write and read it have better skills with grammar, literacy and essay structure then their peers. When Hobb says that she doesn't believe that people can learn how to write via fanfic it simply shows her ignorance. As someone who has been a member of the Theforce.net fanfic site for several years, I've watched authors grow and change. Their work become better and better with each story and most of them have then gone on to write their own original novels. It does not take a leap of genius to say that these same novels would never have been written without that fundamental start in fanfic.

    I hope for her sake that Hobb has never appropriated another character from a series even if she only took a few ideas. I hope that she has never fallen in love with any character. I hope that she's never wondered about what happened after the story ended. I hope that she's never been influenced by another great author in her life....

    Otherwise the hypocrisy would be complete.

    Kithera

    P.S: To those that say that we can not see the humour in the situation, or that Hobb in her vitriolic rant was simply exaggerating things to make a point, I say this - For Hobb to not realise that text, particularly on the internet, is not good at transferring subtle emotions such as sarcasm, exaggeration and tone but is incredibly good at mobilising people out of anger (and probably against her and her writing)…is perhaps the greatest hypocrisy of them all.

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  15. Go Justin! Good stuff; as a reader and writer of fanfiction, it's frustrating to see it bashed constantly by those who clearly don't understand it. Yes, there is a lot of terrible fanfic out there, but also many really talented people who can explore aspects of the original with great skill.
    Hobbs seems to think that anyone writing a story based on her work is somehow violating the original text. Rubbish. Her works stand as they are-fanfic is unofficial and doesn't infringe the canon in any way.
    I think it's safe to say that fanfic will live on, whatever her opinion.

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  16. Kithera: Well said! When I retired from fanfiction (not because I hated the action of writing fanfics themselves, just that I want to venture more into writing some original works after being committed to one single fanfic for nearly 3 years), there were certain aspects of fanficdom which I was unhappy with. For example, some slash writers who seem to be too, er, defensive over their works, concentrating more on the fact that they were pro-homosexual and finding excuses for their lack of artistic merits. Or the fact that the popularity of a fanfic seems to be too reliant upon the popularity of its source material (a GREAT fanfic for a GREAT anime series will be forgotten cos' the GREAT anime ended more than a decade ago). And other things.

    But ultimately, I do agree that writing fanfics is good practice, while I may lament the fact that most of my fanfics will be forgotten because I wrote stuff for pretty obscure materials, and it was hard for me to accept this initially, but I don't really regret having done them at all.

    And she sold her stuff to D&D huh? Hah! Wonderful.

    Jordy: Yup, it will.

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  17. I'm going to slip out of my character in order to reply.

    If you ever read my blog, you'll see that I write it as though I were a Jedi living in the time of the Old Republic (4,000 years or so before the Saga picks up) and I had a few observations of my own to make.

    First, while I accept that some authors do not welcome fanfic, I find it incredulous that some like Ms. Hobb feel it such a threat as to come off like they're insane.

    And you aren't the only one who doesn't buy the whole "Oh, she's just joking" line. Nice to see I'm not the only one not laughing.

    Here's a thought. Let's paint anything derived from books with the same brush that she paints fanfic. After all, aren't movies based on books a "derivative work" like fanfic?

    In that vein, here's a thought I had. I saw "Pride and Prejudice" yesterday (nice adaptation of the novel, BTW), and I noticed how they characterized Mr. Darcy. Instead of making him a snobby prig the way some adaptations do, they made him a silent, uptight type with a more hulking, glowering appearance. Couldn't that be considered a type of fanfic since it's in essence changing Darcy's appearance and (in some small ways) personality?

    Oh. Wait. Movies don't count, because the illustrious Ms. Hobb might consider them "art", and thus exempt from the drivel she spews. /sarcasm

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  18. Well, I'm sure selling your shit to D&D and having people RP characters in your books' settings are much better compared to fanfiction... though I can't see the difference either.

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  19. Okay, this article made me a bit angry.

    Yes, I am fully aware that I am not a professional author, even though one of my goals is to publish a book.

    Yes, I am fully aware that I am only 17 and everything I want to do may not come true when I'm older.

    But no. No I was not fully aware that expressing my own opinions and ideas through my fan fiction was some kind of "awful" thing to do...

    I've been writing Harry Potter fan fiction for over four or five years now, and it's one of my main hobbies that I enjoy doing in my spare time.

    Let's see... With Hobbs' ranting, I got the idea that she assumes that all people who write fan fiction manipulate and twist plots.

    Well, ding ding ding! You're completely and totally incorrect and there will be no grand prize for you. My friend and I spent hours copying every little detail about times and dates down onto paper and doing the math so that when we wrote our fan fiction, the dates and times would line up with what J.K. Rowling had originally wrote. We also used the same characters when we occasionally wrote Harry Potter era fics.

    We mainly write the Marauder's Era fan fictions though mainly because we can be more expressive and open about what we write. It's less constricted because in the books, we barely learn anything about the Marauders while they were attending Hogwarts. It was mentioned above that taking something that only "hinted at" and making it into a story is wrong. Why is it wrong? If the author wanted us to know exactly how it was, then they would tell us either directly or indirectly.

    For example, we learned in the Harry Potter series that James Potter pined after Lily Evans while they were in school together. Yet you never truly see James following Lily around the school, sending her flowers, etc etc. We accept that James pined after Lily and my friend and I incorporate that into our work. We don't make James go after other girls. Some people do indeed do that though and that's their opinion.

    It's fan fiction people. It's not out to insult anyone unless the author mentions at the beginning of the fic: "Hey I think these books suck so now I'm going to screw around with the characters and plot!" Nope, haven't seen any of those yet...


    My point is: Freedom of Speech. Let people be; if they want to write, let them write! They aren't intentionally/physically harming any of you! If you don't like it, don't read it and you won't have to think about it.

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  20. Yeah. Hobb thinks too lowly of fanfiction writers, and as Justin has mentioned, she still believed in the rigid, one-sided relationship between writers and readers. "I am the author, so I am god, and as god, you must accept everything I write without question".

    In today's society, where the lines between consumers and producers have blurred (hence we are all 'prosumers', since we do both), her mentality is not something I agree with.

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  21. I know of several recipes that take a basic cake mix, add stuff, and make a whole different kind of cake. I know of people who use these recipes, make changes to suit themselves, and acheive the goal of making a tasty treat for themselves and their friends.

    This is fanfiction.

    then there's the folks who trouble themselves to figure out how to make the cake mix base, and work from there. Sometimes they impress just their friends, sometimes they find a way to turn their mad skillz into a source of income.

    this is 'original' writing.

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  22. I ask anyone who doesn't like fanfiction to go read Jasper Fforde's critically acclaimed and bestselling "Thursday Next" series. Characters from "Jane Eyre," "Alice in Wonderland," and many other literary classics appear. Reading the first novel of the series inspired me to read "Jane Eyre" and use it for my term paper. And did I mention that critics love Thursday Next?

    Hobb seems to assume that readers will read bad fanfiction, notice what canon work it's taken from, and then decide not to read that work based on the quality of the fanfiction. That couldn't be farther from the truth. I read a horrible X-Files crossover fic once, but that didn't stop me from watching the real show a couple weeks later. It's now my second favorite TV show. The fanfic writer doesn't put their work under the original author's name, as Hobb repeatedly claims. That's why fanfic authors have their own pennames!

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  23. There is much that is made of Robin Hodd's "arrogance" regarding her obvious desire to protect her work.

    In the fanfic realm that I frequent (I won't say which), I lately find myself sympathizing with her position more than I do with the insistence that she is somehow full of herself and arrogant and angry.

    Why should an author, who spent long hours creating a world and characters out of her own imagination, be thrilled and flattered when other fanfic writers come along and take characters he/she loves and drag them in the dirt? Why should this writer, who made certain characters his/her main protagonists and clearly made them the hero and heroine of their book or show, be happy when another fanfic writer decides that, in *their* work, they are going to turn one or more of these characters into monsters, making them the villains of their piece?

    What is so wonderful about that?

    It happens to be my main issue with fanfiction … character assassination. For the simple reason that a fanfic writer doesn't like a particular character, that character is fair game to be completely destroyed. Decimated. I've seen certain great characters that the original author lovingly created turned into rapists, stalkers, murderers, thugs and bastards. Not because these writers are taking the characters that the original author created and "enhancing" them or *expanding* on them, but because they've developed an aversion for them. Some of it is so blatant that there isn't even a hint of *trying* to stay true to the original character.

    Why is this flattering?

    Instead of a fanfic writer getting beyond their obvious hatred for a certain character and staying fairly true to that character anyway, some will use their fic to gut that character, completely disregarding how the original creator saw and wrote him/her. And yet, these are the very same people who, when questioned about how completely off-base certain characterizations have become, will … with just as much arrogance that seems to be attributed to Robin Hodd … say that *they* are the writer and this is *their* story and *their* interpretation.

    Why should the original author be happy about that?

    For every good fanfic writer out there … and there are good fanfic writers out there … there are just as many writers who do nothing but a hack job on characters that someone else created, citing the reason it's their "interpretation" as an excuse to destroy something that they are, in reality, merely borrowing.

    And it's all in the disclaimers. Fanfic writers will say they are "borrowing" characters created by someone else and will return them when they're done. And many times, in the fanfic realm I go to anyway, some of these characters are returned in ruins, with a blithe "thank you" for letting the fanfic writer use them. Kiss, kiss.

    One of my two personal favorites, for understanding why an author wants fanfic writers to keep their hands off their characters, would be the plot direction for one character (usually the female heroine) that demands the other character (almost always the male "hero") be an idiotic smarmy asshole for long periods of time before eventually being "redeemed" for the ending. Another would be pairing two characters as a couple that didn't exist in the original author's mind. Since one of the pairing was part of another couple, and she needs be placed with a new hero, the male side of the original couple must many times be turned into the biggest prick on the planet. Often, the fanfic writer dislikes the original hero anyway, for whatever reason. So, in order to make the new male protagonist the hero, the original must be turned into a total bastard, which makes the new pairing palatable … for that fanfic writer and their fanbase anyway.

    In these cases, the plot direction and the new pairing have dictated a new characterization that must surely astound and dismay the original author.

    What's so great about that?

    When I loan something out, I obviously don't expect the person who is borrowing my possession to use it in exactly the same manner that I do. But, I do expect … no, I demand … that it be treated with care and respect. When I get it back in good shape, or maybe better (i.e. getting my truck back with a filled tank and sparkling from a car wash), I'm thrilled. But, when it comes back to me, more than once, completely destroyed, do I think twice about ever borrowing it out again? Hell yeah. Who in their right mind, when their possessions are being abused, or have the potential for being abused, ever even thinks about lending those things out again? To anyone?

    Obviously, there are great fanfic writers out there, with a complete grasp of the characters and the imagination to expand lovingly on the world the orginal author created. And then there are the ones who abuse certain characters and drag them into the ground because of dislike, an incomplete grasp of characters they don't care for, and a world that leaves these characters wide open to be slashed to death with their pen.

    What I find hypocritical is that some fanfic writers are *just* as possessive about their own work as the original authors are.

    I have seen fanfic writers put clear instructions on their work that there is to be no distribution without their express consent. Why? I've seen others who, when finding out that someone else has merely *translated* their work from one language to another without them knowing about it, have gone completely ballistic. How *dare* someone come along and take their work and put it somewhere else? Don't they realize this is *MY* work?! I busted my ass writing this and I'll be damned if someone else is going to come along and just post it wherever they feel like. It's about RESPECT for my work. Bah.

    I always wonder how these writers would feel if someone would come along after their fanfic masterpiece is complete, take said masterpiece and completely gut it because the *new* writers just don't see the characters the same way they do. Somehow, I can't see that they would be any happier if another writer would come along and take the hero of *their* work and turn him into the crazed villain that the heroine had to be saved from. There are times, when these fanfic writers use the excuse of *their* interpretation to justify character assassination, that I wish someone would actually do it to them, just so they could see how the original author feels.

    Would they even have a leg to stand on? After all, their work is being posted to the public at large. They've lost control of it. Once a text is out there, it's up for grabs. They should feel flattered that someone else appreciates the world they've created enough to want to expand on it. And if they change some things to suit their own foibles, and dump on the character that the original fanfic writer made the hero and loves the best, so what?

    Surprisingly, or perhaps not, not one that I know of is on board with this idea.

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  24. Been a while since I commented here...

    realmjit: Yup.

    Emilee: Ah, I like the Thursday Next books. Hope I can see Jasper Fforde this Friday for his book signing in Perth.

    Anonymous: Like I said in earlier comments, an author should know when to differentiate their works from the others, not lump the canonical works with the fan works. If the author can really feel THAT bothered about seeing his or her own creations being... abused by fanfic writers, then the author just didn't seem to have enough faith in his/her own work.

    If I ever read fanfics of my own work, I'll probably be more amused by the creativity of the fanficcers (provided it's a good fic), and happy about the possibilities that they can serve as viral marketing tools for my own works. If they are horrible fics where my own characters are... misused, well, I'll remain amused, seriously. Can't see why writers (yes, not just original ones, but fanfic ones as well) have to be sooooo possessive and attached to their works. Despite how dear and personal that creative work is, one should know when to draw a clear line.

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  25. Okay, that was just plain wrong. How does anyone have the gaul to tear someone's writing form to peices and then burn them to cinders?

    Whilst I shall admit right now that I am an avid fanfiction writer, even if I were not I should highly doubt it would change my veiw much. Fanfiction is, indeed, a way to expand on a world the fanfiction author ejoys or even admires.

    The reader of the fanfiction is also given every opportunity to click the little 'x' in the top right of the screen and stop reading it. Should they find it offensive or degrading of the subject the fanfiction is question is written about, they may simply not read it or - in most cases - take this up with the author.

    I, personally, no longer write much fanfiction about fictional stories, films or games. I now write fanfiction about real people - a task not to be chosen lightly.

    From experience, I know fanfiction certainly improves the fan base for bands and actors. It allows information to be inadvertedly passed around (though not always for the better, I suppose) and allows the reader to gain a better knowledge of the subject matter of the fanfiction in general.

    Though feelings must be taken into account - both of original authors and of the people a fanfiction may be writen about - no-one has any right to tell fanfiction writers they are wrong in doing what they enjoy. It's worse than sueing kids for drawing pictures of Disney characters.

    Finally - a fanfiction reader may also choose to ignore what you may refer to as 'lower standard' sites; sites that are open to anyone who can use a keyboard and has at least a drop of creative imagination (these sites normally prove be the starting block for many good fanfiction writers). Whilst good writers can be found on these sites, the same authors can also be found on 'higher standard' sites; sites which are normally centered on one subject or catagory. These sites normally show a higher standard of writing and contain authors which have learnt to take critisism in thier stride and learn from it. 'Mary Sue's' are frowned upon in these circles, and text language even more so.

    Bottom line: You don't like the fanfiction people write - don't read it and sure as hell don't take a singular, norrow veiw of it.

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  26. As a writer, I must admit that I can see points on both sides of the issue here. I love my characters and the worlds they live in as if they were my own children, and to see them butchered by some amateur writer just might be too much for me to bear.

    But I have to keep in mind that every parent has a duty to not only raise their child, but also to see that child off into the world. For better or worse.

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  27. Anonymous: Aye.

    Matthew: Ultimately, they're still fictional. However, the fact that I can tell that my characters are fictional doesn't mean that I don't care about them as much as you do. Just that the less emotionally attached (and clingy) I am, the more, ah, objective I can be regarding such matters. If someone writes fanfictions about characters I created having gay sex, it wouldn't bother me much.

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  28. What I'd like clarification on where do you draw the line. The reason I'm wondering, is that I am head writer on an online project to create an online Sonic the Hedgehog comic.

    Now, there has been other Sonic Comics around, done by Archie and Fleetway, and they got the permission from sega. But they change the storylines and characters.

    Now surely since I have my own spin on the characters and because of this I've created my own 'Universe' which is different to the universe of Archie, fleetway or even the games themselves. So how can RH suddenly turn around and say, 'You're messing with the story'?. We've made our own story from it. doesn't that nullify the argument?

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  29. Yeap.

    Anyway, give me the URL to the online Sonic comic when you're done. I'm interested.

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  30. I hate to be the first to say it, but... Robin Hobb seems a bit dictatorial about her work and audience. Readers MUST read her books and interpret her characters ONLY as SHE wishes them to be read and interpreted. Deviations are EVIL. Unauthorised reactions are EVIL. Independant thinking is EVIL. Totalitarian regime, anyone?

    If she doesn't want her work to be 'tainted', she shouldn't publish it in the first place. Readers HAVE to destroy and reconstruct what they read/see just to be able to receive it. The author's/creators' mindset(s) are too different from their readers'/viewers' to allow the latter to accept the story otherwise. The author is not a key that can be perfectly fitted into the lock of an audience. The teeth of the key will never completely fit with the lock, because the author of a published work is no longer the sole reader. The reader and the author are not the same personality, with the same genetic roots, the same memories, the same wants, dreams, fears and traumas. No matter how much effort you put into it, your work will never be interpreted exactly as you intend it to be. Just to be able to handle something, much less enjoy it, the reciever must always create their own version of the alien original. Basic psychology.

    Fanfiction shows this descrepancy quite blatantly. But Robin Hobb's reaction also shows quite blatantly that she does not understand fanfic writers. She sees them as hostile entities, and apparently the fear for her creations this brings her blinds her for the fact that they love she has written. Or rather, what they have read in what she has written. I respect the fact that she does not want fanfiction to be written about her works, but to state that she doesn't want her readers to even THINK like that... I find that even more offensive as a reader of her books than I find her claims that fanfiction teaches you nothing offensive as a writer of both fanfiction and original fiction.

    If she doesn't WANT us to read and enjoy her books the same way she enjoys them, she should just say so!

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  31. Very well said. That's why Robin Hobb's desperation to maintain a one-sided relationship with her readers had been so utterly befuddling. Although, I'm rather surprised to learn recently that Jasper Fforde himself isn't much of a fan of fanfiction too, strange considering that what he had written were pretty much fanfiction too.

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  32. What I have learned from her rant is the mere fact that Robin Hobb egoistically defends her own work with the insane thought of fanfiction hurting it.

    She emphasizes that it is her own opinion and does not resemble the opinion of any other person. Well the fact that she finds it so urgent to report this clears out that Robin is well aware of what her rant has done to the numerous people disagreeing with her. She is insulting people and she knows it. An incredibly cliche Idea she has about fanfiction. Thinking its all about improving the original story because it should be bad. Its quite the opposite. People are impressed by the original story and do not want to improve it, but Improve their own story's/imagination with it.

    She states that you cant learn to write by writing fanfiction. Well there are two ways to interpret that, first most beginners need to know how to write, how to make good descriptions of various situations and how to not make dialogue look extremely crappy. This is a slow process and a lot of practicing and reading improves you on this.

    The second interpretation involves inspiration and imagination. Why would writing fanfiction be a proof of someone lacking own Imagination? Any major change the fanfiction writer makes is in fact a product of his/her own imagination, is it not? If you have attained a high level of writing you can go set off into the real world using your own imagination and fill up the other half, the world filled by the original world, with that too. Comparing writing to singing makes it look like you need to have excessive talent for writing or you will fail. True, you do need to have some to success and create best seller novels, but as stated through her own experience she has put great labor in creating her words fot the best of her story, it is her job isnt it? But fanfiction isnt about making money now is it? Most people do not want to become writer for money, now do they?

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  33. Interesting... I had never heard of this Hobb character till I discovered she opposes fanfiction; I followed the link and discovered that the woman has moved on to oppose movie adaptations. I have no interest in her work - I don't read much fantasy anyway. But I suddenly found an interest in this person; how can someone so moderately famous, within such a small circle, be so improportionally self-absorbed? Most writers (and I know this, for I write myself, and not fanfiction) are plagued by self-doubt, by desire to know that people read their stuff and appreciate it and get absorbed in the stories and characters. In that sense, she is not a real writer to me at all; she is greedy.

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  34. Well, I've never posted on here, but I was sent the link and found the article and the comments to be very interesting. I like fantasy, but haven't read any good stuff in a while, not having time and putting time into other things. But I've never heard of her either.

    I write fanfics mostly for anime, though I like a wide variety of things and have tried them all. Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Files, and any number of popular or not so popular ones.

    I myself have found that I have grown a great deal with fanfiction. When I was younger, I wrote original stuff. With it, I realized I was working on my ability to make original characters. To make a plot. Never went very far, but it was good practice. Fanfic gives me practice in other ways. Grammar, creative uses of words, character development, twists and turns in plot . . . fanfiction is just another tool.

    And guess what? so, authors might get mad if two male characters are made gay when they weren't? Well, good for them to get mad. But you know what? *I* get mad too, and they aren't my characters at all! Because I feel that characters shouldn't be toys, but should be respected. I respect the characters by placing them in new situations, by giving them new pathways. Want a straight guy turn gay? Don't just "say" he is, I say write up the entire path his life takes that brings him to that conclusion. how does he feel about realizing, over weeks or months or years, that he's now gay? Does he have any qualms, any religious views, or any problems? Does his family, or friends?

    Now, if a fanfic writer did that, I wouldnt' be bothered at all.

    To me, it looks more like Robin Hodd has never actually done much with fanfic, or read much of it at all. She writes more as if she's heard bad rumors, and not done any research. Don't you think? I mean, if she had read fanfics, she'd know that some are actually good. She'd KNOW that most people write fanfics because they are expanding on a series they like, not bastardizing or ruining a series out of spite, or cruelty, or morbidity. But she doesn't see that.

    Personally, bad fanfics are exactly as she describes them. I've read fanfics where my favorite female character, a person who is loving and kind and compassionate, is turned into a screeching, jealous harpy who attacks people that she feels threaten her power. these very writers also twist all the other characters to fit their own warped desires of what the show, or movie, or book *should* have been like. Yes, they are out there.

    That doesn't mean that all fanfic is like that. That's like saying "oh, pornographic movies exist, so therefore, all movies are pornography". This isn't a math problem. a=b, b=c, so a=c? Not in real life. There is no black and white, there are instead, many shades of gray. Just because some fanfiction is bad and kinda stupid, doesn't mean that all fanfiction is bad and stupid. That's a generalization, and something that makes me think she probably is bigoted against other things for other reasons. Like another race, or a certain gender, or a certain style of music. And, for any of those things she also hates, I would bet you any amount of money that she doesn't have much experience with them either, which makes them easier for her to hate.

    She definitly comes across as frightened to me. Most people who are blindly bigoted against something are, after all. But you know what I find really amusing?

    I ran across a woman who writes one of those "bad" fanfics which makes straight men gay, and nice women mean, and basically twists and turns everything inside out in a bad, evil way. She had her own website, and on it she had a long rant about why the characters she professes to "love" were actually nothing like how they appeared in the series she also said she "loved", but were instead as she writes them (completely different for no good reason). And guess what she does for a living? she's a grown woman, who works as an editor of screenplays in LA, and she's publishing her own original novel.

    This frightens me. And it should frighten Robin. Because the dregs of the people she professes to hate are publishing legitimate novels. And those nuts, like that woman I described, are now *legitimate* to Robin Hodd. While the rest of us, who write well-thought out fanfics that build upon a series instead of destroying it, are just worthless hacks. Thanks a lot, Robin. ~.^

    --Ukky

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  35. I confess, Ms. Hobb-- I am, in fact, the Devil Incarnate. I have read many and written a few works of fanfiction, and, worse still, I have propagated them online at atleast 3 sites, one of which is my own.

    More seriously, there are good arguments for both sides. However, I must say Justin has done an incredible job in poking holes in the underpinings of Hobb's arguments. I would never argue that intellectual property writes are frivolous or void. However, I would argue that it's frivolous to be quite as virulently against them. I also believe that it shows an incomplete (and, therefore, mis-) understanding of creativity and creative processes. I will return to that later.

    I am the 'archetype' that Hobb seems to hate.. I fervently believe that I write well, as I have been told, because I got to play around with characters that weren't mine as I started my teen years. My early stories atleast were not particularly great, although I do pride myself that for a 14/15 year old, they're pretty good-- logical progression, correct grammar, basically true to character (although I did commit the unforgiveable sin of changing pilot-ep canon in my very first attempt... I did warn you folks, I am the Devil Incarnate..).

    The way I view it, writing is a craft-- and to get good, you need to write- to practice it. Characterisation is incredibly difficult. When I set out to write something original, characterisation is always what holds me up. I've got 56 pages of a script waiting for me to figure out who the characters are so I can re-do 53 of them. Practice writing is valuable-- if you have an understanding of a character already, then you can really use that to drive plot, and can do justice to any original characters you create because it's one or two, not a whole new thing. That gives folks a chance to work on characterisation, so when they write original stories, they have a much better sense of what they're doing and can do it better. And there are a lot of writers who I think get confidence to write that novel they've been thinking about for a few years because they finish a story in a particular fandom, and gosh, people like it, and their Beta says they've improved, etc.

    Also, reading in a fandom is a great way to learn about fiction writing. If you read a crappy piece of original fiction that bores you to tears, and then you read a well-written, attention-retaining nonfiction piece on the history of roads, you can pick up some grammar tips, but style, no, not really. Of course, you learn tons from reading literature, but sometimes it's helpful to see a bunch of works focusing on the same theme/idea, or within the same framework. My AP English teacher gave us 9 essays, each of which had received a different rank from 1 to 9. Guess what? Everyone passed, and many of us got 5's, because we learned something from the comparison. Even bad work has a value-- educational more than anything.

    I think the bad works of fanfiction are, however, still problematic. If I were an author, and I saw a story like some of the ones I've seen, I think I would probably be upset. Something I poured so much effort into borrowed by someone who has typos, terrible spelling and worse grammar, soap-esque plots (appropriate for soaps, but eventually grating in any other genre), etc., would be depressing. It's even depressing to me now, as a reader only. Guess what? I find a really good story that makes me forget the loads of 589 word "huh?" stories (not that drabbles and ficlets can't be brilliant, or hugely long ones miserably bad).

    So.. the adult solution is...? Move On. Click Out. Somebody's imagination was going to do something awful to the characters anyway-- so, why does it being online make much of a difference? People who do these are readers of the works-- and will keep it alive long after it goes out of print or gets cancelled. Case in point: I used to watch reruns of a western that ran for four years in the sixties.. and it got cancelled. So I searched online, and found a group of devoted fans, some older some new like myself, and joined. That group has kept that series alive-- so much so that they managed to get the first season released on DVD, despite the fact that I'm pretty much the only person in my entire generation who's even heard of it. This group also writes fanfic. Some isn't so great, but some is really excellent. The point is: she shouldn't knock folks like that. I've never heard of her before, and chances are, the only way her work will be remembered will be through a devoted fan base like that that keep her characters alive-- okay, so sometimes on life support, but the point is still valid.

    Also, to what was going to be my main point-- the creative process.

    I think Hobb is a bit too used to the godlike powers novelists have. Sure, they have editors, but other than that theirs is the only view we ever see-- they create an entire world and no one can see it in any other way than they see it (atleast until the film adaptation, lol). Well, I'm a theatre student, and once the script's out there, the play is done with other people's creativity. Creativity is meant to be a process, not a product, just like any artistic work. In real life, there are as many realities as there are people, because we each have our own unique perceptions. She's arguing against the natural by arguing for the godlike, singular creativity.

    In theatre, we take a script, and we glean everything from it that we can. And the director makes choices that make that play into a performance. So, you get a script, then you get the director's understand of it-- his/her metaphor/vision. And then you get all these other creative people to make it happen- through sets, lights, costumes, make-up, sound, etc. So you get a huge amount of creativity-- and without it, the play wouldn't happen. But because of it, for every director who chooses the same script, there is a unique performance, and, as Pulitzer winning playwright Paula Vogel says, a different play happens for each one of them. If we did what she advocates in theatre, we'd have actors reading lines to a blank wall with no audience.. and the play would be terrible.

    Creativity is all about ideas, and lots of people having them. Creativity isn't creativity at all unless it creates something in someone else-- so that when I read The Lord of the Rings, love it or hate it, I have a response, an instinct. She's asking people not to be human, and not to respond to her or any other author's creativity at all, especially creatively. Does that strike anyone else as a bit silly? I mean, if I taught astronomy, and I had a student who was an English major and needed to take it for a gen ed, but I really loved much subject so much that it rubbed off on the student, so that at the alumni weekend, all of a sudden, "Hey, Professor Z, I was thinking about you when the eclipse happened- I got this telescope.. Not sure what I'm looking at half the time, but it was really cool to pick out Polaris..."

    Who wouldn't be thrilled that their work had inspired some affinity for it? It's really an amazing compliment.. Were I a writer, I would think fanfic would warm my heart.. I might ask ff.net to post a note ("Hi, please refrain from explicit material. I think that drawing from the text works best, but if you want to try something different go ahead, just mark it non-canon. Have a blast, and maybe you'll write your own novel someday.") but that's it.

    So.. that's my own defense of fanfic (and the creative process, which she clearly views as abortive due to novelists' godlike powers). Again, fascinating discussion.

    ~Nzie

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  36. Thank you! As a reader and an aspiring writer, I really am shocked that any writer could be so closed minded. Fan fiction is a great form of creativity and are written as a form of admiration. They're not written to hurt or to soil the original work or its author, they're written because a reader like a story, liked a series, like a world, or liked a character. They're written because a reader fell in love with an authors world and became just as attached as the author themself to that world and those characters. They write fanfictions cause it's the only way they can think of to make it to where they can meet those characters, experience that world themselves, bring themselves closer to the characters and world they love so much.

    I write this with the full belief that it is the truth because I, myself, am a fan fiction writer with plans to post the many fan fiction series I am writing up on my favorite sites (fanfiction.net, quizilla, and a personal website I am working on) because I write them to honor the works and authors I love so much and to show all how much they have helped me improve my own writing, and I can say, in true honest, that writing fanfics has indeed helped improve my own writing style and my own original stories that I am also writing. The proof of this I can find in my old notebooks and binders of sories and fanfics I had started when I was younger. Recently, I looked back at an Inuyasha fanfic I had started when I was 14 and now, 4 years later, I look at another Inuyasha fanfic that I am writing (as well as the many other fanfics and my own original story) and can easily see the improvement in my writing.

    I look over all my fanfics and personal creations and am thankful to all the authors and stories that inspired me to write them and that have inspired and helped me create my own writing style and the ideas and stories that are my own original creations. I hope one day that if I do publish my own original works, that there are thousands and thousands of people that are inspired my them and the worlds I create and that they write as many fanfics with as many different twists and changes as they want because I can promised that I will still be on fan fiction sites reading them and enjoying them as much as I do now and I can promise that even fifty years from now, whether I manage to become a published author myself or not, I will still be reading AND writing fan fictions.

    -Alex (aka Ashe/ Blade Wolfric)

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  37. My eyes welled up in tears after being overwhelmed by the intense passion of you people.

    Viva la fanfics.

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  38. This can make me so angry...

    When I was a little girl, I had a wide variety of Barbie and Ken dolls. Me being the impulsive person I am, had a tendency to dye their hairs in weird colours and stick tape to their bodies as makeshift outfits. You know what I did with them? I pretended they were X-Men (the ones from the old cartoon) and made them have ‘exiting’ adventures together when the cartoon channel started to annoy me with all the reruns.
    Later on in my life, I went through a period of playing Charmed with my friends. We’d gather in an abandoned backyard and act like we were the three sisters. After a while, we were able to get a boy to look at Charmed so he could join us in that garden, where he would play Andy or Leo.
    Now, I write fanfiction, and stick a big fat disclaimer at the top of every single story, proclaiming that none of it is written for commercial gain. My introduction to fanfic was the request of a friend to look over a story of hers in search of spelling and grammatical errors. I’d never heard of the show she wrote about, but after finishing ‘beta-reading’ the fanfic, I went out, watched the show, and soon I was writing as avidly as my friend ever did.

    *gasp* Writing fanfiction is so EVUL! STOP IT RIGHT NOW, YOU BIOTCH!!! YOU’RE VIOLATING MY COPYRIGHT AND MAKE ME LOSE PROFITS AND YOU’RE STEALING MY SPOTLIGHT!!!!!!!

    Please, give me a moment to barf at the hypocrisy of this.

    Ugh, and another thing... “Fanfiction is all crap”

    No. A lot of it is, there’s no denying that, but saying ALL of it is crap is like saying all immigrants are lazy bums who don’t want to work for a living. And so what if it’s crap? High quality work only gains so much appreciation because it’s rare. If everything was high-quality, nobody would care to seek it out or pay for it.
    There is a lot of high-quality work to be found in the realms of fanfiction, but there are also pieces that show that the author had significantly more enthousiasm than talent.

    You can’t HONESTLY blame people for lack of talent or experience? And then refuse them the opportunity to do something about it?! *seethes*

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  39. Muis: Your mention of Barbie reminded me of this comic. I don't know why. Anyway, the comic was Dugg a week or two ago, and also had a pretty intense discussion related to fanfiction, slash and all kinds of things. Check it out here.

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  40. Well, I arrived somehow a bit late, but I still want to make my contribution and say what I think. No one might read it, but at least it will be there if anyone is interested. I won't repeat all the arguments which have already been posted here, for if you read down to the bottom you already know what they are, and I will merely express my own opinion.

    First, I'd say my dream is to write an original piece of work (I know, many people have the same dream). Let's say I do write it, and it's a huge success (hey, I can dream, can't I ?) Now, let's say I go surfing on the net and find fanfics about my work. Hmm, interesting. I gotta read that. What would I think if this happened ? I would be curious. No matter how bad or good the fanfic is, it actually shows another point of view, and most of the time it's fairly amusing. Oh, so that's how this writer sees this character ? Heck, I never thought X would do that, but it does sound plausible, oh my... Do many people see my characters this way ? And then, I would burst out laughing trying to imagine John actually going out with Rhiannon, and here I thought they would never make a couple, I could never get them to go out together in my book... (John and Rhiannon don't exist, eh, they're here just for the sake of illustrating my words).

    All right. That last bit was maybe a bit confusing. Let's get back to rational arguments. Know what ? Fanfics are actually a good way to spread a writer's work. For instance, I had never even heard of "the man from U.N.C.L.E." before I read a fanfic of this fandom. After reading the fanfic, I was curious, but I thought "that's fanfic, so I don't know what the show was really like. Let's read some more fanfics and find out if that series really sounds interesting". I don't let one fanfic, whether well or badly written, dictate my opinion on a show I never watched. After I read all these fanfics about "the man from U.N.C.L.E." I finally bought the movies (the only stuff that was released on DVDs) and I watched them, and I liked them a lot. Without fanfics, I still wouldn't even know about it.

    Then, I write fanfics myself. What did that give me ? Well, first, that allowed me to become top of my class in English (as a foreign language, 'cause I'm not a native English-speaker), because I like writing in English, and I know more people will read my work if I write it in this language. Because I don't master the language as well as a native speaker, maybe I didn't write all that well, and I'm open to criticism - maybe the fanfics I wrote were horrible. Only, separation between fanfics and the original work is primordial. There's a reason the "alternative universe" term exists. And I should know since I use it a lot. If I told Robin Hobb "Okay, I want the story to be like that, so from now on, Fitz is going to be homosexual" (to take the lamest exemple), I'd understand why she would be angry.

    However, the aim of fanfiction isn't to change the original work. It's more a work of exploration, something like "but what if ?" What if that had happened instead of that ? What if this guy was different from what he seems like in the story ? Or how about I explain why, in my opinion, that character reacted like that in the original story ? I'm just saying "when I read this book, I wondered about that part", or "I love both this fandom and this fandom, so I'm gonna put Fitz in Hogwarts". Okay, so putting Fitz in Hogwarts sounds pretty ridiculous, I'm the first to admit it. So what ? I'm not asking the original writer to like it, or to do the same thing in her books. I'm not even saying I want to do better than he/she did, or that the original work should have been like that. I'm only exploring other possibilities. Sometimes, they work out nicely. Sometimes not.

    Ms. Hobb states that she encourages young writers to write their own stuff. Only, writing original stories is harder than writing a fanfic, because the universe is already set. The story has already a ground. When I was 11, I wanted to write a book of my own, but I lost heart because I realized two years later that I was getting nowhere. Then, here it is, I discover fanfics (I didn't have the internet before). I'm still writing today. Without fanfics, I would have been totally discouraged, convinced myself I didn't have enough talent to write, and given up years ago. I consider writing fanfics as a training before I write my own stuff.

    "Destroying the characters". I disagree with that idea. Completely. As if there was one exemplary of the characters, like a tea set, and they could be broken. The characters will always live as depicted by the authors. There's a reason why we speak about "canon" and "alternative stories". If you want, fanfics are more like the reflections from a shattered mirror. If I try to watch myself in a mirror, only the mirror is broken and I can see only half my face, does that mean I am actually maimed ? Or watch the world through a crystal. That's exactly the same thing. When I read a fanfic, that's like I'm wearing glasses labelled with the name of the author, and I get to see everything through his/her eyes. But I know at each passing moment that this is his/her point of view, not mine or the original writer's. Maybe a character will be depicted in a totally different way than in the original book. But after reading two, or three, or a dozen fanfics, I think I'll be able to determine fairly acurately what aspects of the character are canon, and which are not. That's something the readers feel. In other words, when using this or this character in my fanfics, that's the same thing as if I printed a reproduction of the Joconde on a sheet of paper and drew moustaches on her upper lip. If I did that on the original, I'd be in trouble. But no one is going to sue me because I did what I described above. And what should we say about art students, who spend hours copying the oil paintings of masters like Raphaël or Titien ?

    Not to mention, usually when you are interested in a fandom enough to read fanfics, either you have already read all these books/watched this series, or you will. So you can all the more easily tell what is fanauthor license and what is original work.

    Now, the quality of fanfic. Right, a lot of fanfics are pretty badly written, because anyone can try, only not everyone is talented (ah, the unfairness of life...) even though hard work can often make one improve. But I do believe I am clever enough to say whether it's a bad fanfic about a great series, or a good fanfic about a bad series. And if I have any doubt, what do I do ? I go to the official website and have a look, or go to the library and read a few pages of the book, or whatever. I never, ever, renounced to watch a series or read a book because I had read a bad fanfic about it. On the other hand, I did watch a series or read a book after reading fanfics, either bad or good, about it. Without fanfics, I'd probably never have bought Hogan's Heroes series on DVD.

    Okay, when I start I often have trouble stopping myself. I know this was long, and I hope I didn't repeat myself too much. But once again, I want to insist on what writing fanfics gave me. It taught me to cling to an idea and finish to write a story I started ; it gave my writing a rythm ; it allowed me to see the same characters through different points of view, thus better fathoming the depth of their personnalities, and being less manichean. So I won't give up on this anytime soon. I also read Robin Hobb's books, and I liked them a lot. She's even among my favourite writers. Quite naively, I thought that such a good writer had to be open-minded about fanfics, and I was actually very surprised when I found out how much Ms. Hobb hates fanfiction. I don't understand her point of view, although I respect it. I won't write Hobb fanfics either, but that has more to do with the fact that her universe is too restrictive.

    In return, I will ask her to respect my point of view, and the point of view of writers who accept or condone fanfiction, and let me write my One Piece fanfics in piece... uh, I meant peace.

    By the way, since all this has to do with the authorisation of the author... Given that Ms. Rowling embraces fanfics, and thus implicitely gives her permission to the writers to do whatever they like with her characters as long as they don't make money with them, wouldn't that make HP fanfics... not fanfics, according to Ms. Hobb's definition ? I'm having some trouble with that definition...

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  41. Sometimes, I wished writers are objective enough to accept the fact that their characters are all fictional, yes, FICTIONAL. Accepting this doesn't mean that one hasn't invest enough emotions into the characters, just that it lessens the chances of said artist/writer whining and bitching about his or her 'babies' being 'corrupted'.

    Unfortunately, there are still many who say things like "waah, waah, me no likey people write fanfic because the characters are my babies and watching people write about my babies having gay sex is too painful for me to bear". People THAT obsessive over their fictional creations scare me.

    BTW: There's an even more intense discussion about fanfiction over here.

    And thanks for the lengthy comment, Svan, appreciated it.

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  42. As someone who had previously seen the rant (and ranted about it!), I could not resist taking a look at this article. Some of the comments have been interesting, too - but I must admit that a few have struck me as odd or "missing something". But then, that comes from me having had different experiences. ;) Such is being human.

    "As a writer, I must admit that I can see points on both sides of the issue here. I love my characters and the worlds they live in as if they were my own children, and to see them butchered by some amateur writer just might be too much for me to bear."

    You know, I have gone through a LOT of evolution as a writer. Don't worry, I actually have a point coming out of this, believe me.

    When I was really, really young, it was an escape into the same kinds of fantasy worlds I lived in when I read books or watched my favorite cartoons. As I got a little older, it was then an imitation (pale, admittedly) of the kinds of works I liked to read. Aside from a couple of Sailor Moon stories (and believe me, Naoko Takeuchi does NOT mind fans doing alt versions of her story; she was actually, according to legend, once seen at a convention giggling in amusement over "Lunatic Party", a hardcore lesbian sex comic using her characters, even), most of my stories were original fiction.

    Original fiction is sometimes an oxymoron. I had read LotR when I was in fifth grade and was a fan of Sailor Moon around that time as well. So guess what I wrote? A story that absolutely would be considered non-fan fiction by Hobbs' standards, by anybody's standards, really, but which was COMPLETELY unoriginal. I honest-to-god had a quartet of characters that turned out to be long-lost princes and princesses from a conquered kingom, destined to carry on the power of several pieces of enchanted jewlery, that they could use to control the (mythological, as opposed to chemical) elements and battle the forces of the evil "Imperium" that had conquered their old family kingdoms in the Lorek dimension, and they were accompanied by a pair of telepathic cats. However, they only have four of the nine pieces, so they have to travel from universe to universe in search of them, attempting to find them before the Imperium beats them to it.

    OK, so in and of itself, it probably just sounds like a bunch of standard bits of fantasy and SF world-building, which could actually be interesting and original if done right. Which it wasn't.

    Aside from the fact that it rips off Sailor Moon (the telepathic cats were a more realistic version of SM's talking ones), Sliders, Lord of the Rings, every basic fairy tale imaginable, and then some, it also had a main character - kid you not! - who despite being only 13 and having grown up in our world, was a brown belt in judo, fluent in multiple dialects of Japanese (despite the fact that she grew up in Florida, with no Japanese speakers around), was ever-so-perfect a diplomat in every world they came to, a powerful psychic, and could control fire and earthquakes (oh, and she was immune to fire to the point of being indestructable by any kind of heat, including MOLTEN LAVA), and by the way, also had this super-uber-special form that looked like an angel. Oh, and she had the attractions of not one but TWO hot boys, one of whom was a tragicish "empath" (oh, that's right. It also ripped off the later versions of Star Trek in that respect) girly-boy of the kind girls squeal over when in boy-band form. Who could control lightening. And had an angel form. And was a long-lost prince. And was gentle, caring, could cook, clean, and sew with procifiency, could speak three languages with decent conversational proficiency (including French!) in addition to speaking English, and practically mind-read when it came to emotions.

    Tell me that's "original", or good quality character/plot development, and I'll eat my hat. Tell me it's any better than the vast majority of fan fiction just because it's not fan fiction, and I will laugh. Possibly so hard that I shed tears of amused glee.

    Point here is, of course, that NO amateur fiction is going to be automatically good. If people aren't imposing these kinds of hideously bad characterizations and plots on YOUR characters, they will impose them on their own. It does not make the writing any better in general for it to be their own characters, even if it may make you less unhappy. Amateur writing will ALWAYS start out being fairly poor. That's why writing is referred to as a "craft" just as often or more so than it is an "art"; because it's something you learn and develop over time.

    Most fan fiction writers on larger free sites? They're young. They're beginners. They're teenage girls mostly. This doesn't make them evil, it just makes them not usually a good writer yet.

    I have another point coming from all this, though.

    I once thought that story would be my opus; my epic; I had dozens of books in various eras for it all planned out.

    Then I realized it sucked, thankfully, and decided to either drop it (my original plan) or rework it (my current plan, though the drastic changes may end up entirely cutting the original "main" plot and characters almost entirely, because world-building seems to entertain me more than travel logs with a few battles tossed in, and most of the SF-ish stuff about interdimesional travel - leaving aside the fact that I really do refer to them as "alternate dimensions", which is somewhat inaccurate - is hideously implausible :P).

    I count that as the end of my first epoch as a writer - the first point at which, though I did not completely stop wanting to write dramas, I did decide to not always take myself so seriously, and sort of instinctively gravitated away from the more blatant Mary Sues.

    I abandoned it in favor of my current opus (abeit an earlier form of it), a story which was mostly a comedy, and therefore mostly had truly flawed characters, albeit not yet developed ones. I temporarily ruined this by making one character a complete Mary Sue almost to the level of the previous story's (though not quite; she didn't have an angel-like form, what magical powers she did have were much less grandiose, and she wasn't some sort of long-lost princess). Then a couple of years later, I discovered what the dreaded MARY SUE was.

    I realized, to my horror, that she was a total Mary Sue. She knew Tae Kwon Do despite being from the boondocks of Romania, she was a wannabe poet and fluent (six of them by only reading(!)) in eight languages, despite having been born on a farm to relatively uneducated parents in the middle of rural Europe in a pseudo-middle ages era. She was extremely competant in mathematics, all self-taught, including the higher maths like Calculas, the list goes on and on.

    It was either shortly before or shortly after I discovered the forums of Godawful Fan Fiction that I, even more horrified, took a machete to her profile and completely changed the character so that she was only a logical, practical, compassionate farmgirl who'd had a bit of a rough life but got by because she already had some decent survival skill knowledge from her rural parents (such as how to make a fire) and she was a bit scrappy by necessity, but hardly was she a Buffy Summers. Far from being cool and confidant, she has several little neuroses and a complete confusion over how to handle a close relationship with other people. She doesn't have any poetic or literary aspirations, only ever learned enough math to handle money and baking, only speaks her childhood tongue (which childhood proficiency) and the local dominant language, knows no martial arts whatsoever beyond "hitting a guy in the crotch is a good way to distract him if you really need to escape", and can't read so much as a map.

    It's not hard to argue that the latter, though I have probably not described her entirely all that well, is inherently more interesting and more realistic than the former version of her.

    So, I learned to improve my own work, after seeing how bad certain other amateur works were. I criticized them too for a while. I laughed at how bad they were, sometimes got annoyed by how bad they were, but I improved my own work and eventually learned to have a relatively thick skin - but not inpenetrable, because it can't be if you expect to learn from your mistakes and improve your later work - when it comes to being criticized. This would be my third personal evolutionary epoch's end (the second, of course, was where I merely realized how to improve my own work by seeing the same flaws in mine that I saw in others').

    And then, just recently, I went through the logical conclusion of my third person epoch as a writer, and hit the beginning of a fourth: a true thickening of the skin in a way not every author manages to do so (and which I probably wouldn't have been able to do without having been exposed to GAFF, or to rants like Hobbs').

    Once again, I'll quote this, since many might have lost track of it in the process of meandering through all that mess of a post up there:

    "As a writer, I must admit that I can see points on both sides of the issue here. I love my characters and the worlds they live in as if they were my own children, and to see them butchered by some amateur writer just might be too much for me to bear."

    The characters in the second story I mentioned, in part due to the fact that they were the first-ever characters of mine to be de-Sueified and developed fairly well, are pretty much my darlings compared to most of my other characters. I think of more stories and plots and things using them or relating to them than any other set of characters. I even have fun imagining them crossed over into other authors' stories, such as Harry Potter or Buffy or Stargate: SG1 (the latter is kind of odd, given one character is a werewolf, but hey, I found a way), even though I haven't written any of them. That's how attached to these characters I am.

    However, I now realize that what will be, will be. All I can do is do my best to portray them accurately and well, and spin their stories well and engrossingly, and then leave the interpretation up to the reader.

    The simple fact of the matter is that any writer who allows fanfic, only to see it mostly turn out to be crap (and sometimes rather disturbing crap, at that) that "abuses" the characters and world, should not be surprised at all. ALL fandoms have this happen. ALL of them. There is not one exception I can think of where the story has more than a half dozen fan fictions based on it out on the net where at least a couple of them don't suck like a Hoover. The more popular the story, the worse the fiction gets. The more young people in the fandom (and my books would likely, were it to become published and noticed, attract young teens if only because some of the main characters are teenagers), the worse the fiction. If it's fantasy or SF, the fiction will be even worse, because people will think they can get away with just about anything, or they'll do silly retellings of fairy tales that don't fit. They'll cross it over with other stories, many of which it won't make much sense to cross it over with. They'll pair up characters that would NEVER get along together, they'll insert themselves or Mary Sues based loosely on thesemvles into the story to talk down to your female lead and improbably steal the male lead's heart, or else they'll create a dashing young Gary Stu to steal her heart away while he gets portrayed as a whiny, petty nincompoop. They'll turn it into a soap opera, they'll randomly set it at the local shopping mall, they'll make characters sing popular songs as a testament of love to each other at a Battle of the Bands or karaoke bar, they'll do any number of hideous, stupid things to it. They'll have your female characters get raped and fall in love with their rapist, they'll have the gentle, caring male lead do the raping half the time, or they'll turn your straight characters gay (or vice versa). Cultural differences - including those you took pains to create or remark upon in the original - will be removed or ignored. The characters will be stuffed into an American high school, or outfit themselves in Hot Topic clothes and accessories while still in Europe, or they'll randomly become a werewolf or vampire. They'll have children that will turn out to be Mary Sues; they'll be turned into Mary Sues themselves. All manner of horrible things will happen.

    BUT NONE OF IT MATTERS! The author of this blog post has it 100% right; just go ahead and laugh. If they get the characters REALLY wrong, it means they're just messing around with no real regard to canon, and it's actually kind of amusing, if eventually repetitive. Nothing is more amusing to me than the idea of somebody actually pairing up two particular characters who loath each other, without even going through the trouble to develop an alternate universe where it could even conceivably make sense. Or making a certain character gay. Or, to a lesser extent, making him a paranoid, controlling, abusive boyfriend who takes pleasure in weakening his girl, when half of the point of said character's characterization when he's around women is to show that he likes the women around him to be strong and opinionated and intelligent and, frankly, finds a woman who could kick his ass rather sexy.

    Just get over it. Ignore them. None of the people writing the REALLY horrible stuff are worth bothering over. Maybe worth a private laugh here and there, but not worth raising your blood pressure over. Even if it's your own characters that are being butchered beyond all recognition.

    Because remember - despite what some have said here about characters being "borrowed and then returned in horrible condition", the fact is, they AREN'T being borrowed. That's like saying someone who draws a mustache and cuts out the eyes on a print of the Mona Lisa is borrowing the original from the Louvre, taking a box cutted to the eye sockets and a Sharpie to the upper lip, and then returning it to the Louvre with millions of dollars of damage to the original, priceless piece. Which is Bull, of course. The only thing that's happening is that a COPY of them is taken and then PhotoShopped into something else that's sometimes completely unrecognizable. The original - YOUR original - is still intact in your own mind and your own writing. It always will be, for however long your original work lasts. It's not even an insult, any more than some kid drawing scribbles on a page and calling it art is an insult to the paper. They're too young or inexperienced to care that the thing sucks, so just let them have their fun until they can sort of learn how to color within the lines. And don't bother to care, either, whether or not Barbie's hair ends up blond or green. They're having fun, and everybody who actually knows a thing about Barbie knows the real Barbie's a blonde anyway. ;)

    :) So just ignore it or have a few laughs over the slushpile of dreck that is fanfiction . Net.

    It's what all the sanest, happiest writers will be doing, I think. ;) Myself included!

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  43. I'm afraid Miss Hobb would be quite horrified to learn that, in my head, I've paired her beloved Fitz with both Burrich (Fitz's father Chivalry's right-hand man and Fitz's closest thing to an actual father figure), Patience (Chivalry's widow), and Kettricken (his uncle's wife). Perhaps they'll get written out for my own personal enjoyment--discovering the hidden backstory is a great pleasure, one she clearly has never experienced! As she clearly has no qualms about quasi-incestuous pairings as long as they're cannon (Burrich and Patience were together before Chivalry snooped in his mind--some implied gay bits here--and then married Patience himself), I think they'll fit nicely in the canon.

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  44. Having only just found this article I must first congratulate Justin for a splendid rebuttal.

    You have managed to articulate the major errors in Hobb's rant. In fact, I don't see a single point she makes that translates into the real world or makes any kind of sense whatsoever.

    My main issue with her ranting is that she seems to believe that Fanfic authors change everything about the material. That they hate the originals, or want to change it to suit their own agenda. I have to say, I am very active in the Harry Potter fandom and not once have I come across this viewpoint. Fanfic writers write what they know will never happen in the original. I write Harry/Snape. There are several reasons why this pairing will never be included in the Harry Potter books. These should be obvious to anyone who has ever heard of the two characters, their genders and their positions in the books. By no means do I like the Harry Potter books and films less because they do not support my 'ship. In fact, I love them more because it means that I am free to imagine Harry and Snape the way I like them. The reason I write is because I think "hey, wouldn't it be interesting if this happened?". I try and write as an extension of the canon JK Rowling has created, and not as a contradiction. I try and stay as true to her characters as possible. And to the events that have happened so far. And in no way would I ever try to claim Harry Potter as my own.

    As for Ms Hobb's opinion that writing Fanfiction does not improve creative ability...well, she couldn't be more wrong. Not in my case, anyway. Ever since I began writing Fanfiction in late 2002 my writing has steadily improved. My vocabulary has expanded to surpass that of others my age and my English grades have been maintained as A's throughout my schooling. Not only that, but my story telling ability has improved. I'm not saying I'm brilliant- I still have many a thing to learn- but I am better for writing fanfiction. I truly believe that. I have expanded to writing original fiction in my spare time, something I would have never considered beforehand.

    As Jamie above me said: if they do mess with canon- who cares? Just laugh along at goth!Harry and hope to god the next fanfic you read will be better.

    I have to say, the amount of fanfic I read every day that moves me to tears is astounding. I am constantly amazed by the talent of the authors that populate just my little corner of fandom. I can't even imagine what goes on in others.

    Finally, I would like to end with this: Harry Potter has been said to have rekindled many children's love of reading. It rekindled my love of writing. Now tell me just what is wrong with that.

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  45. I can only say this...

    I have so far had a chance to taste both ends of this. Initially, I started out as a fanfic writer. Heck, my determination to become better stemmed from just that, wanting to write good, enjoyable stories while I was not yet ready to tackle whatever original novel ideas had been on the backburner at that time.

    In English, too, which is a foreign language to me.

    I have since moved on to original fiction. And I'm proud - yes, proud, and flattered, and happy - to say that I've read fanfic written in my universe.

    The catch? Sure it's there, and a pretty big one. Some of the fanfic fell rather short of my book in terms of characterization. The writing wasn't top-notch at all. But, guess what? I loved it. I loved it not in a masochistic, 'I'll always be better than this wannabe' manner, but rather along the lines of, 'Oh, GODS. Somebody loved this so much that they felt compelled to WRITE a story!'

    Really, regardless of the quality of the fanfic in question, I do find it flattering. That is not to say every writer should, or has to, share my point of view on this. Obviously, they don't. But the way I see it... the kid who butchers your characters in a horribly written, awfully punctuated, cliched story CARES enough to WRITE. Practice makes perfect. Practice, combined with the love for writing, might very well make you a writer someday. And if I happen to be on that kid's way to serious, original writing, then it makes me happy.

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  46. Oh, dear... I really should find a less dangerous pasttime than raiding my friend's computers. Now I feel obliged to leave a comment. Looks like Muis and his sister have already put in their respective two cents, so I'll keep this brief.

    "Fan fiction is unworthy of you.
    Don't do it."

    Is it? I have learned everything I know about writing through fanfiction. When I first started, my writing was horrible. Now, years later, I am no longer flamed. I have learned and grown so much through fanfiction. Without the support of the fanfiction community, I would have given up on writing a long time ago. Oh, I don't think I'll ever be good enough to publish, but that's not my intention. I just like doing it. Finishing a story about my favourite tv-show gives me a thrill beyond any other. But it's a hobby, not a professional aspiration. Readers tell me they enjoy my stories because I recreate the original feel of the show so well. So what if it's not that original? A skill is a skill.To each his own, right? Robin Hobb should be glad fanfictioneers are not all trying to become professional writers. As good as her writing is, some of the writers in fanfiction I know would knock her clean off her feet.

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  47. "Even someone like Hunter S. Thompson recounted simply typing passages direct from The Great Gatsby because he just wanted to feel what it was like to physically write words that great."

    Actually it was Hemingway Hunter typed. I say typed because that's all he did with it. He changed nothing and didn't publish it in any form. This is a red herring. Publication and adding perversity is the general objection.

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  48. Hello, Hobb. My name is Werefox, and I'm sure you wouldn't be pleased to note that I am a fanfiction authoress, though never for any of your *sacred* work. See, unlike some people, I can distinguish between good fanfiction and bad fanfiction. The sad truth is that there is undoubtedly too much in the latter camp, but what can you do, eh? I am rather uneasy though completely willing to say that mine is barely above 'passable' in its own right, but strangely I'm okay with that. Allow me to tell you why.

    First of all, as Justin here has rightly pointed out, there is a fine line between plagarism and having fun. Who is to say that one's own fantasies cannot be entertaining not only to one's self, but others as well? Furthermore, your portrayal of fanfiction as little more than a masturbatory daydream of the sickest order is offensive not only to me, not only to fellow fanfiction writers, but also to anyone who has ever read and, yes, ENJOYED a work of fanfiction. Whether published on one of the many fan archives or more mainstream, I bet you could find thousands of ordinary people who would admit to liking fanfiction, even if they themselves were unaware.

    Allow me to draw you an example: Have you ever heard of the Broadway musical Wicked? Now, you may think that, by your terms, a musical adaptation of a book isn't fanfiction. And by that standard of inquiry, it isn't. But dig slightly deeper, and you find that Wicked, the book, was actually based on The Wizard of Oz. Eureka!

    Now, I'm not saying that all fanfiction is good. Far from it, there are quite a few abominable travesties that are, quite frankly, the adolescent jerk-off fantasies that you seem to regard all my work as. (I am, of course, including my own few tragic deviations in this, lest anyone think me a hypocrite.) But to say unequivocly, without room for debate, that ALL FANFICTION, NO MATTER HOW PLOTTED AND THOUGHTFUL, is bad, is, well, worse than terrible, it's ignorant. It betrays the fact that you have not ever given most fanfiction more than a passing glance, and then only to sneer at its inferiority to your work, the original. This is worse than Bill O'Rielly calling himself a culture warrior. By labeling yourself and all other 'official' writers the only thought-provoking and worthy creators of literature, you are showign the world your true colors and motives; you are like a three year old who refuses to share her favorite dollies at playtime. You whine on about things that most people would take as a compliment, and move on.

    A famous phrase states, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I do not know why you choose to disagree with this point of veiw, but I highly suggest that you get off your high horse and see the world for what it is. The simple fact is that there will always be people with not a single original cahracter or setting in their heads who nevertheless want more than anything to write. Why deprive these people of their enjoyment? For me, writing, no matter what about, is the most joyful expereince I have ever had. I know this to be true about some of my fellow fanfiction authors and friends, as well.

    This brings me to another point. I will admit to being socially inept in real life, anway from my computer. But through fanfiction, speicfically reviews and communal sharing of works, I have met people who I truely like, and who seem to like me.

    Beyond this, I have an actual quote from your insane little diatribe to refute. At one point you mentioned that, "To use an analogy, we look at the Mona Lisa and wonder. Each of us draws his own conclusions about her elusive smile. We don't draw eyebrows on her to make her look surprised, or put a balloon caption over her head." Let me ask you something. Have you ever heard of Marcell Duchamp? He was a famous, if a bit whacked, French artist, and one of the pioneers of the modern art movement known as Dada. In one of his signature peices of art, he took a reproduction of the Mona Lisa and drew a mustache on her. He then called it art, in fitting with Dadaism's motto, 'if you call it art, it's art'. Does this make it any less of an artwork? Duchamp was an artist. He called his copy-of-Mona-Lisa-with-mustache art. So pending that that was art, you don't really have a leg to stand on here. Duchamp wasn't accused of making 'fanart', but his stunt merely became another peice of arguable insanity in amongst the art movement Dada. Which, by the way, was never attacked or marginalized as viciously as you are to fanfiction.

    Most of all, I am deeply offended on a practical level by your assumption that fanfiction cannot help one learn to write. It had taught me, more than anything else, how it feels to write something of length. This helped me when I wrote my first, still unpublished, novel, which had absolutely nothing to do with any fandom I write for.

    Lastly, and I realize this is becoming a bit lengthy, I would like to point out that most of my fanfiction is written when I am in a bad mood. The simple act of writing helps me cope, and sometimes I don't have the copious amounts of time needed to flesh out story, characters, and plot. Sometimes I just want to write. It makes me happy.

    And if it makes others happy too, so much the better.

    ~Werefox Alchemist

    P.S. If anyone is interested in seeing what my work as a fanfic author is actually like, I have included my fanfiction homepage. I just ask that you consider your words carefully before reviewing; I am surprisingly eloquent, and WILL fight back if provoked. I may be a teenage girl, but I'm not stupid.

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  49. Honestly, I really take offence to the idea that "fanfiction can sully your credit with your readers".

    Firstly because I believe that in the realm of 'unofficial' fanfiction both reader and writer know that what they are creating is seperate from the original source material. They know that it doesn't - it can't - change what is set in print or film, and they know that they're having a play around with established characters and settings (or at least this is my interpretation, I hope I'm not the only one who finds it reasonable). And reimagining and recontextualising a series is not a bad thing - it gives people scope to expand their skills and it's fun for the readers, too. Besides, if no-one ever reimagined Star Trek or Transformers then it's possible those series would have died. And hell, Doctor Who thrives on change and reinterpretation of the central character!

    Secondly I firmly believe that it is "official" adaptations (movies, miniseries' etc) that have far more potential to "sully [the author's] credit with [their] readers". Partly because they have a wider audience, and partly becase of the percieved veneer of authority and authenticity (i.e. the author is fine with someone murdering their work - though not to say all adaptations are bad). Case in point: the Earthsea miniseries. I hated it with a passion for various reasons (e.g. changes to the plot line and characterisation which make characters stupid and take away their hard-earned steps toward humility and humanity - and making Ged white for God's sake!). Even though I've read fanfiction which was arguably worse, I've never had the urge to throw things like I did watching that drivel.

    Okay, I do know that there is an awful lot of... well, awful fanfiction. Many of the writers are young; they'll improve, especially if their stories are beta'd and they are given constructive criticism (fanfiction can be a group sport!). And it is a definite problem that there are a surprising amount of fans who do not treat the source material with enough respect. But those writers... well, many of them end up being criticised by other fans, sometimes politely, sometimes not.

    In some ways I can see where Robin Hobb is coming from. It's not fun to see something you love be... changed in a way you don't like. That's fine; she's allowed to be upset. But it's not fine to take away the agency of her fans by telling them "no!" and that they're hurting her by writing down what would have gone through their heads anyway is absurd; you can't stop thoughts occuring to people. And to Hobb I say this: you are being overly sensitive, and worse, you do not credit your fans with either intelligence or taste. OR the capacity for independent thought (for instance your mistaken belief that one cannot interpret a text in a different manner to you, and that they cannot ever wonder what happens in scenes we do not "see"). It takes far more than bad fanfiction to "sully" a reader's opinion of the story and it's author.
    After all, if the Earthsea miniseries didn't change my opinion of Ursula LeGuin's wondrous novel, then nothing ever will.

    Okay, that was longer than intended. Uh, sorry.

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  50. Ha... ha... ha... The irony in this is almost funny, if you ask me. Someone, let alone a ADULT so imature, is so negative at fanfics. Ha! If you don't like fanfics, fine! I understand why some aouthors dislike fanfics off their stories, and ask websites to not alow them. Fine then! Hundreds of public authors probably don't allow that. It's okay, I won't try to stop them. But something like this, how Robin puts them and sees them... Hahaha... it's COMPLETELEY pathetic. Robin, if by any chance you read this post, I want you to know... you are a spoiled brat of a adult. You should be ashmaed of yourself! I have a acount on fanfiction.net with for fics, so this REALLY offends me, and I think I can speak for all of us, Robin. Be ashamed. Be ashamed...

    And thats all I have.

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  51. Three points I want to comment on:

    1) "Fan fiction is like any other form of identity theft."

    Well, yeah, if someone wrote a fanfic and signed Robin Hobb's name to it, that would be identity theft. Sure.
    As it is, most fanficcers are damn clear about how THEY have written the story. Most disclaimers I have seen tend to say something like "The characters belong to John Smith, this non-canon story belongs to me."

    2)"'Fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers.'
    No. It isn't. If this is true, then karaoke is the path to become a singer, coloring books produce great artists, and all great chefs have a shelf of cake mixes."

    As a singer myself, I have to say that karaoke is a GREAT way to improve your singing voice! Also, I am currently teaching myself to draw in comicbook style, mostly by buying comics and copying parts of the drawings as accurately as I can. Most comicbook artists start out the same way.
    So do regular painters. Amateur artists have been going to galleries and copying the professional paintings for decades.

    3)"The first step to becoming a writer is having your own idea."

    Hmm. Off the top of my head:
    West Side Story is a fanfic of Romeo And Juliet, itself a fanfic of older material.
    Miss Saigon is a fanfic of Madame Butterfly.
    Almost all of Disney's films are fanfic of original stories.
    Xena Warrior Princess is a fanfic of Greek mythology.
    Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead is a fanfic of Hamlet.
    Writers have spent centuries pilfering each other's best material, and adding a couple of new characters to give the work different flavour.

    That's all, folks...

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  52. I feel as if I've found this entirely too late but I still can't resist saying my piece.

    While I can understand Hobb's dislike of fanfiction and it's authors (many authors do) her seemingly victrolic hatred of them is quite frankly frightening. Her opposition to people 'playing' with her characters on the platform that they are hers and hers alone I find greedy and insulting. As Justin and others who have commented have said, a book, a movie, a television show, reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, even admiring a painting is a two way experiance. We see what the author or artist wanted us to see, but we also see something more. A unique view that only we can see ourselves. Fanfiction is simply a way of relating that view to others.


    I have been reading and writing fanfiction for longer than I can remember and write in many fandoms. I will happily admit that some of my stories(not just my earlier ones) are utter crap. I am not a great writer but I get fun and satisfaction out of writing stories about characters that caught my imagination, and according to some of my reviewers, other also enjoy what I have to share. When I read a really good fanfiction, about characters I know and love I do, on occasion, get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The caliber of some of the writers on line is excellent and I take great pleasure in reading their works. If I can make even one person feel that way from my writing, who is she to tell me I can't do that. Or to deny me of the enjoyment I get from reading other peoples work.

    As for the clingy-ness issue; Hobb's possessiveness over her charcters is worrying but on some level I can see where she's coming from. I also think she should get the hell over it. I wrote a story some years back which I put a lot of work into, but the idea faded in my mind. I was (am) one of those horrible people who left a story to lie unfinished, half the chapters already completed. Nearly two years later I was contacted by someone who had read my story, enjoyed it and asked if she could continue it because she suspected(correctly) that I had no intentions of finishing it. At first I said no! This was MY story, MY idea, MY writing. Then I gave myself a good mental slap. These weren't my characters in the first place. She enjoyed my story so much, that she wanted to see it finished. I was flattered and gave her leave to do so. Why not?

    Hobb seems to want to quell any creativity that a person has. If someone has been inspired by her work or anyone else's, why not indulge them, let them play, let them learn. One of the most important part of fanfiction is the ability to review and receive instant feedback. I have learned a lot from reading the work of good fanfiction authors, and writing my own bad fics so that people can call me on it. I don't claim to be a future literary great, or even a very good fanfiction writer, but I want to have the ability to flex what little creative muscle I have. Hobb needs to calm down, stop generalizing and get over herself.

    I'll shut up now...

    P.S: I'm a professional singer and love karaoke. Best way to stretch those vocal chords.

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  53. In defense of Ms. Hobb, I am also a writer, working on getting a novel published. If it happens, under no circumstances will I allow fanfiction of my work to be published. If the graphic novels happens first, no fanart. You wanna make it, fine, but keep it to yourself.

    Why?

    I have been writing since I was a child and at no time have I ever written fanfiction. It helps people become better writer, sure yeah fine, whatever. I made it through more than 20 years of writing without resorting to fanfiction. To me, it is the ultimate lazy cop-out. Yes all stories are derivative, but then so is life. It pains me to know that people who could be writing something based on what they liked, or inspired by what they liked, are instead simply cutting out the story elements, throwing them into the air (with a likely Mary Sue), and then claiming what they are doing is writing.

    Writing is what you do when you spend hours agonizing over the words you choose and the placement of every little bit of your story. Witing is what happens when you spend days sketching out characters and settings, and the interplay of them that conveys whatever the author wishes to. I am not against playing with something to say "this is where I think it should have gone" but at some point a person has got to have some dignity and say "I can write something that is mine. I can make something good that I did not lift from someone who spent approximately 100 times longer than I have on this story."

    When I write a story I craft it with care. I put the characters and settings, dialogue, plot into a delicate mix that is meant to say something to the reader. Removed from that context, my story is meaningless. Otherwise I could have simply written it differently already. I am sure fanfic is here to stay, and if people feel it helps them, whatever. At the same time I think it is foolish to say that writing it is any bit as hard work as writing an original story. It is one thing to appropriate an element here, an element there, as an homage or something, but lifting an entire story is pretty bogus.

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  54. Part of my job description at Books-A-Million includes the ordering of new materials for our stock. Now, I've never even heard of Robin Hobb prior to her little rant on proprietary ownership, and while I'd never deny a patron the right to buy or request whatever they wanted to read... I simply don't expect to be filling my shelves with her work anytime soon and feeling warm and fuzzy about it if this is how she treats her readership.

    This feeling of alienation is the meat and potatoes of my comment here. Is retaining proprietary control over every singular insignificant detail worth the risk of alienating her readership and potential consumers?

    I also wonder how Hobb feels about public libraries. Golly! Hundreds of patrons read the same book; nobody paid for individual copies. This affects my livelihood, employed by a book retailer, as it affects Robin Hobb. So, you didn't ask, how do I deal with these various and sundry people leeching the same book and ping ponging it back and forth? Easy! I rationalize it thus: When I read a book that I enjoy, or when it is in frequent circulation, I buy my own copy. Most of my friends do the same. Gawds, my relatives circulate books between themselves and friends!

    The point is that I get more enjoyment out of the sharing of good works than I do being the Book Police.

    Why, taking a Great Idea©®™ (all rights reserved) and improving upon it is part and parcel of the American Spirit©®™ (all rights reserved). Can only one country have laws against murder without paying royalties to the descendants of Hammurabi, who set his 'Code' into law seventeen-hundred years ago? Even then, Hammurabi and his Code were revisions of prior Sumerian and Akkadian law (fan fiction laws?)

    We must assume that Robin Hobb has never eaten a hamburger, ordered a pizza, or eaten fries. The hamburger isn't recognizable as the original German invention, nor is the pizza, Italian in origin.

    We must also assume that she doesn't believe in a supreme creator, one that holds all the copyrights on the vegetables, etc. Hobb would have to ask her creator's permission if she wanted to each ketchup instead of a raw tomato. Should a cook be growing their own vegetables, raising their own livestock, milling their own flour, forging their own utensils, providing their own heat source (ad infinitum), and be forced to ask a deity's permission first?

    Don't be ridiculous.

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  55. Hammurabi - My above post should read 1700 bce, not 1700 years ago :)

    One more thing to consider - Does Robin Hobb only allow her books to be printed in one language? Changing the language can considerably alter the context and thus 'destroy' the author's intent.

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  56. I find myself laughing. A lot. This has to be one of the most childish comments on anything, and it saddens me to see that it was by someone I thought was a distinguished fantasy author.

    One question: does Hobb mean to say that perhaps no more fiction based on real life should be written? After all, these stories are infringing on the lives and situations of many people out there, people who may feel that it was their story alone.

    The idea of people owning their own ideas may be true, but does that mean that every work from now on should be composed in the author's own language? After all, far be it from writers to use something that is already there; they had better be completely original, something obviously impossible in today's society of media and widespread appropriation. What is the fashion industry but a whole lot of copying? Should I even be writing now, using these words to state my point when really perhaps I should try my hand at creating my own language because that is what is truly original - even though I'll still end up using many sounds and characters similar to the English language.

    And the waffle about fanficion not helping someone's writing. Whatever happened to the good old ideas if benhmarking, or using som kind of standard to improve your work? What about those wonderful personages that are the reviewers, they who encourage budding writers and often offer immensely valuable advice to writers in need, regularly stooping to such lowly tasks as even beta'ing a fanfiction and thus ensuring that there will be a level of improvement. The same role as a professional editor, really, and what does an editor do but point out the sections of a story that could do with tweaking?

    As one of those fanfiction writers, I must say - while yes, there are some incredibly dodgy works out there, there are also some that simply blow the minds of their readers away. There are some fanfiction authors who should rightfully be proud to call their work their own, because in a way it is. Their ideas, simply borrowing aspects from real life and from the work they have 'toyed with'. I myself have written several pieces that I feel proud of, and many people have told me the same and stated those points that they particularly enjoyed, thus helping me improve my writing by showing what has been done well - is anybody seeing a link here?

    Childish. That's all I have to say, and really - I'm only a seventeen-year-old writer with many a fanfiction and no published works under my belt. Surely with today's broadening perspectives, others should be able to widen their own views to encompass something like this.

    AngelKairi, of the 'Kingdom Hearts' fanfiction section on ffdotnet.

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  57. I strongly disagree with Robin Hobb's little rant. The only thing an author owns is his/her skill, and frankly, that is the only thing that a reader will ever care about. The same hero, same haircut, same personality, in the hands of one author will not be the same in the hands of another - and that is the pleasure of reading, that is why fan-fictions exist. So your character turned into a rapist and killed everyone. Chances are, if someone actually believed that, then they wouldn't have have enjoyed your gentle, cultured counterpart anyways, and vice versa. People do not fall in love with the characters, plot or ideas in a literary work - they fall in love with the author's craft at presenting these things to the reader. In fan-fiction, characters will be killed off, plots changed, ideas blown out of proportion. Authors cannot control what happens to them once a story is published. Yes, you did not want character X to be seen in that light, or chapter Y to be changed the way that it did. Yet do these changes in any way compromise upon the original author's skill? A mindless fixation on characters/plot/setting is a material obsession - like a little child that stumbled upon a marble, and would not let anyone else see it, lest that other people sees this precious gem and hold opinions contrary to what the child wanted everyone to think.

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  58. I-well, I'm a teenager with certain litery asperations, and I consider writing fanfiction and writing my own things two entirely separate entities. I write fanfiction either to keep my mind active in between my own plot ideas, and to experiment with language or just as a self-indulgent bit of fun because I want to- yes, perhaps it is mental masturbation, but what is actually wrong with that? How many people can honestly say they've never indulged themselves?

    *goes into under-informaed litery snob mode*

    I'd never heard of Robin Hobb before this- but I looked her up on wikipedia, and she appears to write fantasy. Not especially fresh fantasy- not Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman type fantasy- generic fatasy which could have been written by any of the psuedonym toting fantasy churners, who attempt to make their drivel deep and meaningful, and throw in some obscure mythology, generally derivitive of Norse and Viking tradition, and try to make it interesting with old-sounding names, a lack of technology, and magic.

    That she, as a purveyor of one of the most formulaic genres of fiction, is so over-protective of her non-existant characters, is somewhat laughable.

    It's not just about the money? Please- you write in a selling formula. Write something that you aren't sure will sell, and maybe you'll be a bit credable.

    I hope that little end rant didn't offend too many people and made some sense.

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  59. Robin Hobb was one of my favorite authors when I was still in college (in the early to mid-90s)and I'm quite disappointed to learn that she could be so ridiculously close-minded about fan fiction writers.

    I agree with DarthBreezy's comment: "Fan fic writers also feed the machine, we go to the films, we pick up the books for reference, we kept the stories going and fresh while we eagerly awaited the next 'official' installments."

    If not for having stumbled upon some Harry Potter fan fiction, I wouldn't have had the desire to start reading the series, to purchase all 7 books (plus other HP companion books)and the 4 DVDs, to go to the theater to watch the fifth film, and to eagerly await the sixth film. I've come to deeply deeply appreciate JK Rowling's original work, and I actually have fan fiction to thank for that.

    Clara

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  60. "List all the traits of the book or character that you liked.
    List all the parts that you didn't like.
    List the changes you would make to improve the story.
    List all changes necessary so that the changes you want don't contradict the world, culture, morality or plot of the original story.
    Change the proper nouns involved.
    Change the setting to one of your own.
    Write your story. Write the paragraphs that describe the world. Write the ones that introduce the characters. Write the dialogue that moves your plot along. Write down every detail that you want your reader to know."
    I quote Robin Hobb. I have taken your words to heart. So that I can apply it.
    To
    .............
    ...............
    ................
    ...............
    .................

    FANFICTION!

    Yet on a more serious note. Personally I believe that fanfiction can help writers improve. I tell you the truth, I know that FFN contains many stories that do not surpass the original. Yet the reason we do read books is so that we can kick back and enjoy. Well most of the time. Are books not published for the pure pleasure of the audience? However do not underestimate fanfiction writers. There are many who have written great fanfiction that most likely do surpass the original. It is not the fact that it has 382,562 words. But the fact that this fanfic author has taken a different perspective on the story. Simply perhaps to focus on a character that has simply been overshadowed.

    We ALL think differently. Take the color white for example. One might think of the color as dull, and plain. I believe many people have the same feeling of the color white. However you should remember that white is the presence of all colors. I sure am not a robot. Told what to think and how to think. We are all HUMAN. You probably just insulted ALOT of people out there. So you'll have to live with all those millions of people that wonder what if this had happened, or what if this didn't happen.

    I however pity you for being so close-minded. You would think an author such as yourself would have just a little bit more imagination. And yet you do not have to think like me. For each person thinks differently.

    I applaud Justin for making such a great rebuttal.

    " Unleash your imagination"
    -FanFiction.net

    Like my quote?

    Jean

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  61. Ms. Robb was nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula, I wonder if she has explained her statements and puritanical viewpoint towards Roger Zelazny, an ACTUAL Hugo and Nebula award winner for his 1993 novel "A Night in the Lonesome October" - the ULTIMATE fanfic novel.

    This wonderful read is a first person memoir by a dog in his interactions with Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, Jack the Ripper (not fictional, I know),
    a Werewolf, and others. He even dedicates the book to Shelley, Poe, Stoker, Doyle, Lovecraft, Bradbury, Bloch, and Terhune.

    I think it's clear that she stands alone on this hardline approach to fan fiction since others in her chosen field understand what a wonderful homage the reuse of characters can be.

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  62. It seems to me like Robin Hobb is viewing fanfiction from a very emotional standpoint. Her experiences with it have clearly been bad, and so she looks at more as an affront on her beloved characters, settings, etc. than through a more clinical point of view. Rather than making an argument against fanfiction as a whole, her entire rant could easily be summed up as 'leave my stuff alone!' In which case, I think she'd be better advised to simply avoid *reading the fanfiction based off of her work* than condemning it as a whole.

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  63. Forgotten Wolf9/13/2007 11:14:00 PM

    I don't want to write an essay on what I think of Robin Hobb as everything has been said already, and better. The only point I wanted to make, apart from the fact that I shall be far more conservative the next time I read Robin's works and shan't think during the process, is that perhaps she should take a page from the book (if you'll excuse the pun) of manga writers.

    Those of you who read manga, or have read manga in the past, may be familiar with doujinshi. For those of you who aren't, doujinshi is fandrawn short stories based upon an original work, and not always manga. FullMetal Alchemist is a popular one, Harry Potter is one that is quickly growing in popularity. Doujinshi is a trade in Japan. There are professional doujinshi writers out there. Many manga writers have also admitted to producing doujinshi OF THEIR OWN WORK. Doujinshi is not considered a crime. It is a well known, well liked form of art and is popular amond fans of the original work, as well as introducing new fans to them.

    The point I wished to make here was the way in which manga writers have accepted the fanwork that has been sparked by their original piece. Many of them encourage it. Copyright seems to be a relative concept, and one that I have not heard mentioned negatively in anything regarding doujinshi. Robin could learn great things from Sakura Kinoshita and Kazuko Higashiyama, the authors of Tactics, just one particular pair of manga artists who write doujinshi for their own work. They love it. They love that their fans love it. If they could see Robin's rant I'm sure they would laugh, and laugh hard, at just how pitifully closed minded and childish she is being.

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  64. After reading both Robin Hobb's essay, Justin's rebuttal, and various other comments, I think it's safe to say that all sides have made valid points. For me, it comes down to whether or not an author is 'okay with' fanfiction on a personal level.

    I can understand how Hobb might resent people changing the characters and events of her stories. I'm not going to deny that I'd be a little miffed at first if someone manipulated the world and characters that I had so carefully thought up.

    But then, what of all the fanfics that are written with an amazing depth and understanding of the characters and world? They cannot be condemned as worthless or perverse merely because of their being fanfiction.

    So, it comes down to this. As an author, do you feel comfortable with your readers exploring your characters? Following threads left untied?

    Robin Hobb feels uncomfortable with it, and so as readers, I think we should respect her wishes. There is nothing wrong with Robin Hobb expressing wishes that her works be left untouched, but a condemnation against the entire realm of fanfiction is unjust and ignorant. She cannot speak for other authors in this matter, as it is a personal choice of the other whether or not to condone fanfiction. Would she like another author writing a pro-fanfiction essay on behalf of all authors? I think not.

    Let it be the decision of each individual author that determines if they will allow fanfiction of their work. Let it be their decision and respect it.

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  65. A very interesting argument, concerning the validity of fan works. As an artist and writer myself, I agree with certain points made by both Hobb and Justin. I think fan fiction/art is a necessity as it does create a unique dialogue between the writer/artist and the fan. One of appreciation, as Justin succinctly states. I think it becomes a problem however when the fans rely on it too heavily as a vehicle for their own expression. For one, I believe that if they are quite imaginative and creative with their fan works, they are essentially depriving us of the possibilities they could contribute from a blank canvas or blank word processing page.

    I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I do feel that it is much easier working from a 'template' as opposed to 'scratch'. Fan works, regardless of their ingenuity, are always created from 'templates' or established concepts. I can understand why some writers like Hobb would become irritated at the notions of fan works, because the fan doesn't have to concern themselves with building the integrity of the foundation; that toil has already been done. It can be a slap in the face when your endless days and nights of brainstorming and revising and reconceptualizing are simply reinterpreted by someone else, who then takes a form of ownership as if they were there from the beginning. However, it can also be taken as the ultimate complement, as done so by writers like J.K. Rowling. After all, the fact that people would spend precious time investing their imaginations into characters and worlds they had no part of and could choose to ignore if they wanted, is quite a testament to the influence and significance. The fact that they spent a portion of their lives engaging the material makes them owners in a certain respect by virtue of time. Being subject to the public forum, absolute ownership cannot really exist over the material. On a humorous note, you can argue that the writer who isn't published or the artist who isn't shown has absolute ownership over their work. And I doubt that they enjoy the privilege.

    There is a saying that "the secret to creativity is how well you hide your sources." The objective is to not not be influenced by various literature and such. On the contrary, the more you expose yourself to, the greater your horizons expand. So then the trick is to take those influences and interpret/present them through your own unique lenses. Fan work accomplishes this but from a derivative standpoint - their contributions generally don't distance themselves from their sources framework. By this, I'm not saying that that they don't exhibit writing prowess and skill, but rather that they are building further refinements upon an already solid foundation. Why only add to a house when there's plenty of land for you to erect your own to stand [and possibly tower] above it?

    But let's face it, not everyone wants to go that far. Some are very content with creating primarily fan works and that's their right. It doesn't make them any less writers or artists, and they do in fact deliver some rather intriguing takes on established IPs [I'm actually very interested in reading this take on Draco Malfoy by Cassandra Claire]. But for anyone who is learning through fan works because eventually they want to reach a point where they're confident enough to create their own IPs, fan works can become a crutch if relied on too heavily. It can be a double edged sword in encouraging experimentation through the author's/artist's tried-and-true methods, but also discouraging experimentation that substantially displaces itself from the success boundaries of these methods.

    All in all, it shouldn't be the means to an end but rather the launching pad into your limitless creativity. I started out doing fan works like everyone else [really bad Garfield strips], and I learned much from them. It was like I was walking in the artist's aura for that moment, experiencing the magic, and I'm sure that's what draws many to do fan works. I still do it occasionally when I see a work that resonances within me. However, I started longing for my own magic and that's what I strive towards this day, as do all writers and artists.

    There's nothing wrong with appreciating and mimicking works you love; just don't become a derivative of them. Otherwise, you're making us miss out on just what you can bring to the table.

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  66. I'm not going to go to much into this because pretty much everything has been said, I'm just going to comment on something someone too cowardly to put their name or handle on said.

    "Writing is what you do when you spend hours agonizing over the words you choose and the placement of every little bit of your story. Witing (sic) is what happens when you spend days sketching out characters and settings, and the interplay of them that conveys whatever the author wishes to."

    I hate to break it to you, and anyone else who actually thinks like that, but that is exactly what I've done when I've written fan fiction, and I think it's reflected in the quality of my work. I've also seen work in my little fan fic community that in all honesty is better than the source material, because they actually put more thought and effort into it than TPTB who made the original did. So to make comments like this assuming that fan fic writing is somehow easier than what you do is really telling of just how arrogant you are, and if that wasn't enough, your little comment about never "stooping" to write fan fic pretty much seals the deal.

    I do have a question for you and Ms. Hobb think about reboots and remakes like Battlestar Galactica? That show changed a lot, and frankly I happen to think it's better than the original. Still, there are a lot of people upset about it, but the point is that by your definition it's legitimate but it’s not original, and by definition no reboot or remake is, though there can be an awful lot original in what they’ve done.

    I have another question for you, what about Star Trek fan fic? There are actually a lot of fan-made series which do exactly like the four official spin-offs did by creating their own characters and setting. It’s still a fan fic, but it’s also original, and I dare anyone to tell me that the people who do this aren’t being creative.

    Delving further into it, I’ve also seen some really good work that’s based on one of the canon series, and works with the characters and settings from that series. A lot of it is pretty damn good, and frankly better than the “legitimate” books that have been published by Pocket Books for that series. I bet if you actually bothered to read any of it instead of just condemning it from up there on your high horse, you might even agree with me about that. These people did exactly what you snottily describe as something that distinguishes what you do from what they do, and it shows.

    You know what else shows? That you don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about. If you did, you wouldn’t be generalizing and looking down your nose at all fan fic like you do.

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  67. I know it has been two years since this 'rant' was posted but I could not resist commenting - mainly because I have done little but seethe at Hobb's words whilst reading it!

    Let's consider Shakespeare, arguably one of the finest writers of the English language. "Romeo and Juliet", a tragedy renowned the world over, was a complete rip-off of a story ages old: in fact, that was the *norm* for writers in those days, to take stories passed down by aural tradition and make them their own. Story-telling has until very recently been a communal act, with tales changing and evolving over centuries. Hobbs is essentially criticising the very sort of traditions and tendancies which *gave* us storytelling! She is also criticising Shakespeare, Marlowe, and goodness knows who else for being 'unoriginal'.

    The writer of an original story is *not* always right. Look at Star Trek Enterprise: *everybody* (in the fandom) knows that ended wrong, because Paramount was forced to end the show earlier than intended, so they killed off the best character and left fans with a distinct feeling of dissatisfaction at the closure given for characters we had got to know over the four series. Fanfiction does 'fix' this, and does what the TV series could not do - it takes the characters beyond the confines of budget, and concentrates on little-appreciated characters, to the extent that small details which were never mentioned in the show have almost become 'canon' due to their frequency of appearance in fanfictions: almost every writer now gives Malcolm Reed the middle name "Stuart". This is a tiny addition, but oh-so-similar to the 'life' which stories used to have in days before they were written down.

    I do realise that Hobbs is speaking from her own point of view and in defense of her own works, and all writers (even fanfic writers - Hobbs, we aren't a different species from you, you know!) have a certain amount of pride over their work. I realise it must be disconcerting to see characters coupled (Hobbs seems to dislike the indulgence of "fetishes") which you would not have done yourself, but people who don't like slash, for example, don't read it, and the people who enjoy it *do*. Who is harmed there? Does Hobbs really think that her readers are foolish enough to read a fanfiction in which one of her character's is gay and then think that they must automatically be so in *her* book? And does it matter if they do?

    Hobbs refers to wanting to make readers 'think' about the deliberate gaps in her stories. Hmm. In what way is *thinking* about the gaps and *writing* about them any different? Surely fanfiction proves that readers have done precisely what she wants to do - think!

    Speaking generally now (since speaking of Hobbs is making *me* a bit rant-ful), fanfiction is an almost automatic response - I have memories of writing stories set in an already existing fictional world with a friend as a child long before realising that such thing as "fanfiction" existed. Furthermore, fanfiction is almost the perfect arena in which to practise writing, because the framework is already there, and more effort can be put into the actual art of writing. Furthermore, I have produced more 'original' fanfiction in terms of the ideas than I have in my 'own' works - this is because *no* writer creates a story in a void - they will always be influenced by something, and because writers are usually great readers as well, the ideas and styles of other authors will always appear in their writing.

    When speaking of writing, I like the metaphor of a painter and his apprentice. An apprentice will begin by copying his master's work, because he himself has not yet developed his own techniques. As writers we are apprenticed to every author whose work we read. I take pride in the fact that I can effectively 'imitate' the style of certain writers, for example Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with my own *plot* and *ideas* because it shows that I have an understanding of the techniques and nuances of expression which he uses - it is not simply parroting. Furthermore, I can look at the works of fanfiction which I have written and can see the improvement I have made: fanfiction is by no means a useless form of expression.

    I can only say this. The single best piece of writing I have ever encountered is a fanfiction in the Superman fandom. It is a 're-writing' of the legend, taking many situations and plot points from the original sources of the fandom. Yet the writer exceeds almost every single published, professional writer on the market today. Fanfiction also allows far more flexibility: unusual or experimental styles of writing (such as 'drabbles') would not be accepted in the form of 'original writing', yet they are appreciated and enjoyed by fanfiction fans the world over. Furthermore, fanfiction I find is remarkably relaxing: more enjoyable, in fact, that writing your own story because the characters are 'fully grown' and can be placed in far more interesting and imaginative situations (and let Hobbs interpret that as she will - "masturbation fantasy", indeed).

    Finally (at last, you will say!), I have spent three years in the fanfiction community and, give or take a few flamers here and there -we can't have it all perfect! - it has been a remarkably positive experience. I have received constructive criticism, written stories of which I am proud and have greatly enjoyed, have read some amazing fanfictions, and have enjoyed the 'net company' of a group of friendly and talented people.

    Whatever Hobbs says, many would be the poorer for the lack of fanfiction.

    HoVis

    P.S: That was, um, a bit long, wasn't it?

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  68. This was, by far, the most eloquent and thorough defense and rationalization of fanfiction I've read yet.

    (Though I'm sure that's due in part to the overwhelming length and blatant narrow-mindedness of the arguement you were countering.)

    Thank you for this; you've made my evening.

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  69. This whole thing seems really...juvenile.
    Justin seems more like a crazed fan than a rational individual. He waters down Hobb's comments to the bare minimum, rather than think rationally. I understood what she meant, and I'm fairly certain he did as well, but preferred to take the 'bare minimum' in order to make her look more foolish.
    At one point, he even contradicted himself. He said that Fan Fiction will draw in readers, yet said that all of the people who read Harry Potter fan fiction already read Harry Potter.
    I personally am against fan fiction. I understand people can, and should, be able to do so, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it. My reasons are as follows;
    1. Fan fiction destroys creativity. Most would disagree here, but listen. When writing fan fiction, it means you are using ideas created by someone else. You are using their world, their people, their politics. As such, you are also bound by their rules. You can be MUCH more creative if you create your own world and your own characters. Then, you truly have no limits.
    2. Most fan fiction disregards the source material. This goes with #1, I guess. In 98% of fan fiction I've seen, characters go through major changes, usually because the fan writer doesn't like the original character (at least that is how it seems). A character not liked by a fan writer will experience a severe overhaul, usually to make them look foolish, despite how they were in the source material.
    3. Fan fiction as 'masturbation.' Justin made a huge deal out of this, more as a child than anything else. masturbation is commonly used to portray a deed done simply for personal enjoyment. Justin, however, seems to take the literal stance. Either he really hates Hobb (and he never mentioned his opinion of her works) or he is a child. I personally prefer the former. I hate it when children try this kind of thing. But I'm getting off track. A majority of fan fiction is used to fulfill the fantasies of the writer. There is a whole category of fan fiction titled 'self insertion' where the fan writer does this. This can range from trickery, in which the writer's character will cause trouble, to escape writing, where the character fits in (from a psychological standpoint, this would point to some hostility, or separation from the real world, which could lead to many other disorders).
    4. Author insertion. Many authors insert themselves into their works as a character, and most often base other characters on people they know. When someone performs one of the character changes mentioned above, this can have personal side effects, whether the fan writer realizes this or not.
    My biggest one is the first. If there are people who write good fan fiction, why write fan fiction? Why not establish yourself as a writer, branch out on your own? As I wrote in my first book, we all have a world dwelling inside our minds. Why cheapen our own world, our own mind by relying on the world, the imagination, of someone else?

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  70. Well, as an author, I must confess that I do prefer `author insertion` to masturbation.

    ;)

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  71. I see another wuss made the same kind of generalizing statements that some other wuss who was too afraid to leave even an internet handle did.

    I direct you to my previous post since you obviously didn't read it or any of the other posts by people who have made pretty much the same points, not the least of which that the claim "fanfic destroys creativity" is complete and utter bovine excrement. Or, if you have read and simply ignored, I'm not going to waste my time making the same points over again to someone as narrow-minded as you.

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  72. Oh dear! I'm sure I'll be burned in effigy over this, but...

    Fanfic has been around for as long as the written word has existed. The New Testament should make that obvious.

    'WTF?!' you say?

    Yes, the books about the life of Jesus are mostly fanfic, if you take Robin Hobbs definition. How many books of the New Testament were written about the life of Christ decades, even -centuries- after his death? None of these people can claim to have met the man personally, nor can they claim to have his authorization to write his biography.

    Yet, these books are the most revered ever.

    Interesting.

    Yes, there is bad!fic out there. There are some ficcers who refuse to accept constructive criticism. These people don't really count, if you ask me. They will survive puberty and move on, to fade away into the ether and be forgotten. And that's okay, because there are a gazillion more to take their places.

    These people serve a useful purpose, regardless. You cannot know what's "Good" after all, if you don't know what's "Bad".

    The thing is, ficcers out there are people who had been touched so profoundly by a story, movie, anime series, etc, that they ask "What happens next? What about this time, when there is a hole in the life of this character that the author didn't fill?" We think about it, ponder it, and try to fill in the gaps. Sometimes we pick up on a moment in time and run with it ("What would have happened if...").

    Sometimes it's wonderful. Sometimes it's horrible. But for those who can genuinely accept real critique, fanfic is an excellent, and SAFE haven to learn. You don't put all your blood, sweat and tears into something you genuinely love, only to have it rejected over and over again by publishers, without knowing WHY. You get instant feedback. Admittedly, it's more often "You rock, plz rite more!", but occasionally, someone will come along and give you detailed reasons for why something did, or didn't work, and you can move on from there.

    Another thing that makes fanfic a good way to improve your skills: You have a pre-made world and already established characters. Therefore, you can spend your time working on descriptives, action, emotion, etc. You're given the freedom to crawl and then take baby-steps in order to learn your craft, instead of being forced to run a marathon right out of the womb.

    For some of us, that's a blessing. Especially since not every writer has the money or the time to go to college and take the classes that are supposed to make you an 'author'. Some of us have to learn it through trial and error.

    "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"

    Truer words were never spoken. Frankly, I can honestly say (from experience, no doubt), that someone fanficcing something I wrote is a compliment. Even if it's horrible.

    I'm a part of a Fullmetal Alchemist writing group called 'Crackbunny Syndrome'. This incredibly LOOOOONG novel that's been written (and is still being written) by numerous ficcers with awesome talent has garnered a small following, for which I'm very proud of.

    I mention this for one reason: One of the 'fans' of our fanfic wrote a short fic of her own, using our universe, our OCs and the characters and universe created by Arakawa Hiromu (the original creator).

    It was 'borrowed' third-hand, in other words.

    Anyhow, she slashed two of the characters (which we, nor the originator ever intended). The fic was, quite honestly, execrable! The spelling was horrid, the grammar was painful, and the whole story was just plain BAD. While a few of the others in the group were horrified, I was not. It told me one thing: Our story touched someone.

    And isn't that the goal of any writer?

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  73. I applaud you for speaking up on the part of fanfic writers.
    Although, it is true, there are terrible writers out there, but they made an effort to show that they have been entranced by the author's works and now wish to participate in that created alt-reality. And the good writers get better by sharing their ideas and honing their skills through reviews and criticism.
    I'm a fanfic writer myself, as can probably be understood from my tone, and I don't think an author who dismisses her fans' loyalty and engagement would last long enough to leave an imprint. If I may suggest: 'BYO Subtext' is one of the best recognition of your literary/artistic creation's merit.
    (Much thanks to Joss Whedon for the BYOS encouragement!)

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  74. I don’t understand?

    Professional authors feel merited when their work, creativity of their work in terms of characters, plot etc are appreciated but at the same time, they refute when young writers take one step ahead…

    Shouldn’t the ‘professional authors’ be feeling honoured that their work is so acceptable that people actually give a damn to continue on it even after it is finished?

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  75. I don’t understand?

    Professional authors feel merited when their work, creativity of their work in terms of characters, plot etc are appreciated but at the same time, they refute when young writers take one step ahead…

    Shouldn’t the ‘professional authors’ be feeling honoured that their work is so acceptable that people actually give a damn to continue on it even after it is finished?

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  76. Hobbs is a hypocrite. Why does she complain about fanfiction when that is basically what she does with Lord of the Rings? Authors often want readers to think about a story after they finish reading it, and fanfiction is a way to express how you felt about the book and the impact it had on you. It is also a way to imagine different possible outcomes of a story. Hobbs seems to think that her degree makes her more qualified to copy another author's work.

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  77. I can see both sides to the arguement.

    On the one hand, I can understand that a writer might not wish for someone to, for lack of a better term, "play with their toys". Writing, like most forms of creative expression, is usually an intensely personal thing where you craft something that you put a bit of yourself into. They wrote characters, events, and settings to function a certain way and tell a certain story. Thusly, it's perhaps somewhat understandable if they take issue with someone who takes something they've worked on and do something different, perhaps offensive, with it.

    However, no matter how badly a fanfic writer may or may not butcher a story and its characters, it isn't the equivalent of someone looking at an artists painting and then painting over the artists work, and thus ruining it. It is ultimately someone looking at an artists work and then painting their own interpretation of that same image, with its quality depending on the skill of the second artist and the tastes of his viewers.

    A fanfiction writer cannot actively affect the original story. He simply cannot, because to do so would require him to actively change every copy of the book ever published. All he can do is put his own spin or tell his own tale with the characters, events and so forth of the established books and hope that people like it.

    That's something Star Trek, Star Wars and other novelists have been doing for years since the original series came out.

    In closing, though, something to remember is this:

    'Wicked' is a best selling book and a popular broadway musical. It is also, in essence, fanfiction.

    Take that as you will.

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  78. I totally agree with everything you've said. The thing that Hobb said that was most surprising was that she would rather someone take her plot, character, and entire story, change the names, then make 'your own' story. Perhaps this isn't a serious statement, but even so, it really weakens her argument (as if it didn't suck already). Is it just me, or is this, too, copywrite infringement. This way, not only are you blatantly copying an orignal work, but you're being sneaky about it. In fanfiction, the original plot isn't always used, original characters can be introduced and an entirely new story can take place. Anyone with half a brain would know that this is WAY more creative than using the exact same story but changing the names and places.

    Hobbs, I'm sorry, but you fail.

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  79. You're amazing.

    That's all. :D

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  80. This Robin Hobbs woman kind of makes me angry. I can remember, quite vividly, the feelings I had when I discovered fan fiction. I was eleven years old and desperately wanting more out of a show I had been watching. The writers hadn't given all that I wanted, so therefore I wanted to find more. Honestly, I can't remember HOW I found fan fiction, but I was never so happy as when I did. I have been writing since then, my very first story was actually writing out a Power Rangers Lost Galaxy episode. Since then, I have been involved in MANY different fandoms, ranging from the 1970's cop show Starsky and Hutch to my newest obsession of Supernatural. Honestly, fan fiction has helped me get through some very difficult times in my life because it helped me escape my troubles for a time and immerse myself in the lives of the characters I loved so deeply. And Robin Hobbs calls this wrong? To me, this just seems totally unbelievable.

    To me, it just seems wrong that she can claim that our thoughts on books or novels can just stop as soon as we put the book down. You know, never wonder what happened between the eighteen years that Voldemort was defeated and Harry sending Albus Severus off to Hogwarts. Or how about, will Edward Cullen ever turn Bella Swan into a vampire so they can always be together? No, sometimes the authors just don't address the points we want to be shown. We, as fan fiction writers, are not trying to dishonor the worlds we want so desperately to be a part of. She just makes it sound like all we are set out to do is destroy the worlds we are writing about. This just seems so wrong. This is like her telling me that some of my very favorite authors are complete rubbish and the stories that I love are worth nothing more than trash.

    And, the whole writing fan fiction not helping with writing? Yeah right. When I was younger, I honestly hated to read or write. But, I got turned on to reading and later writing, and now I can't stop! I have been writing since I was eleven years old, so I have had time to work on my troubles with my writing. And that has helped considerably with my school work. Honestly, I get straight A's in English with anything I write and I am even going to college to become an English teacher because I want to instill in kids the love of reading and writing that I have. Yes, I may be incapable of writing original work, but does that really mean that I am incapable of WRITING? All I can say is that it is a good thing I had never even heard of this Robin Hobbs before. Because if I was a fan of hers, I would be deeply disappointed. Kudos to you, Justin.

    ~*~Stacee Phelps~*~

    P.S. I agree with the penname thing. Or is she going to get on me because of that, too?

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  81. Just a question. Let's say that I am writing an original story, using the Cthulhu Mythos. Would that be a fan-fiction, since from what I understand, Lovecraft encouraged people to use the Mythos, and they have, e.g. August Derleth. I would like to clear that up, as this originally story is the third draft of what was originally a Bionicle fanfic. So now, I am confused, especially as the generic definition of fanfic that I have been taught is slightly different. So, if I use the Cthulhu Mythos, is that a fanfiction? By the way, the story is available at http://jnixt.blogspot.com

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  82. I did a search on the rant after reading Hobb's current "Anti-LiveJournal and Blog" rant -- which I found amusing after reading on her webpage that journals are an excellent way to start writing -- and read her rant and your rebuttal with interest.

    I'm one of the odd ones who see both sides, possibly because I don't "get" fanfiction; I neither read nor write it. On your side, I truly don't see the harm, unless, of course, people start saying that the author has itwrong, as the Harmonians did. On the other hand, I can see why an author would be cheesed off if fanfic writers and fandom started saying that said author got it wrong, as the Harmonians did with Rowling (okay, screamed and ranted that she had it wrong).

    I guess I just don't understand wank on either side of the argument.

    And your rebuttal isn't wank. Not by a stretch. I was highly amused by and agree with your comment about the vast majority of fantasy now is Tolkein Lite; I've long since stopped reading anything that has an elf in it. As fo Shakepseare? He didn't just lift plots: one of Propsero's speeches in The Tempest is a direct translation of Ovid (and that Ovid himself stole), a speech that had been translated some time earlier by another, lesser writer. Shakepeare's is damn near a direct lift...but much much better (of course).

    Anyway, thanks for preserving the rant, and for the rebuttal. I don't agree with all of your points, but neither do I agree with hers.

    Thanks!

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  83. Robin Hobb's argument against fan fiction is both irrational and arrogant:  She's not a literary divinity (or even an extraordinarily talented author), and her fans do not simply exist to buy her books and keep her bills paid.  But her rant would imply that she believes that to be the case.  I could start ranting myself now—specifically, about how attacking her most devoted fans (i.e. those who believe her work to be worthy of fan fiction) could actually hurt her book sales—but I won't.

    Admittedly, there is a lot of bad fan fiction out there.  (And there's even more fan fiction out there that's simply mediocre.)  But among all of the dross (and in between the genuine stinkers that you'll find if you Google "linksqueen" or "fangz+goffik") you'll occasionally find some true gems like Micky Neilson's Unbroken.

    And speaking of Unbroken...take a good look at where it's hosted.

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  84. I can't understand the argument that fanfiction is bad as it is less creative than original work; nor the arguing if or if not fanfiction teaches you to write as if the only purpose of fanfiction was to generate new authors of original workand people were only writing fanfiction because they would rather write something of their own but are not able to. For me, writing and reading original work and writing and reading fancition are two diffent things, with different purposes and different skills needed.

    You would never say that a journalist is inferior to the author of a novel, just because he has to stick to the truth and thus is less creative, now would you? Next to good writing, a journalist has to learn other skills in order to deliver good articles, and there is a reason that there are awards for journalist seperate from awards for authors of original fiction. And you would not tell a journalist "Hey, your writing is quite good, why don't you do the real stuff and write a novel instead of just retelling world affairs?"

    I read newspapers, original fiction and fanfiction each for different reasons, and no genre could ever replace the other one. For me, the miracle that is good fanfiction is exactly what some criticise: That it takes the original world, plot and characters, sticks as closely as possible to the canon material and yet puts some interesting twist on it. To characterise the canon down to the tiniest detail without boring me by just reiterating the original work, but by letting me enjoy the world and characters I love from an new perspective.

    Do fanficcers want to fix canon when they produce tons of stories about pairings that would never happen in the original work? At first sight, one might think so, the way they starve for every tiny hint that might be interpreted in a romantical way, and the way they say things like "x and y are meant for each other". But personally, no, most of the time I don't want canon to be fixed, I just want canon to be the way it is, with all the inspiration and mystery that lets my imagination wander, and that lets fanficion happen so that I can experience and be inspired by the imaginations of other people as well.

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  85. I say:
    Bravo for Justin.

    I'm a fanfic-writting teenager myslef (16 years old) and my first language is german.
    Last year, I started writting fanfics on Pokemon and other Anime, because I'm a hugh fan of everything japanese.

    Robin is kind of right, I really WANTED to close up open space and I really WANTED to change parts of the story, the way I though, they would be better.

    But I never claimed, that something like this would really acctually happen in the story. Also, I don't think, you can "cage up" a story and forbid everyone to extend it in their minds. Stories are like the reality: Once you experienced and enjoyed it, you have to think about it's future. And I'm shure:
    Books, Series, Manga, Comics and movies wouldn't ever bbe popular, if people wouldn have fanfiction-like ideas in their mind about them.

    In the most recent chapter of my most popular fanfiction, I even broke the fourth wall to acknowledge, that a story can only become "a world", if enough people are "inside it" with their minds.

    To tell somebody, that fanfiction is "bad" "evil" or even "a crime" is hilarious. Because to TRUELY stop fanfiction, you would have to fire up a ray, that disables all humans to expirence creativity.

    Fanfiction has always existed and will always exist, as long as man-kind existes.

    That's my opinion.

    (P.S.: I excuse for all typos and grammatically flaws. As mentioned before, I'm not a nativ speaker)

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  86. I find myself unable to resist throwing in my two cents even though this debate is long over...

    I am an avid reader. For me, a well written work of fiction is more than the words on the page, pressed between two covers. My favorite books become fully envisioned worlds, populated by characters who become cherished friends. My favorite books are havens which I return to when I need escape or comfort or simply to wrap myself in the familiar. I revisit my favorites again and again, year after year.

    And although my husband doesn't understand what I get out of reading Pride and Prejudice for the 23rd time, I know that I am not alone in this type of practice.

    With great respect to the authors who originated my favorite stories, I consider their characters and the worlds they've created mine. And what I mean by that is their characters are my friends, their worlds have become part of my world. I make no claim to their creation, but they cease to belong wholly to the author when I read the author's words and they come to life in my imagination. I see the images painted by the author's words, but I also fill in the blanks that are left between.

    Now, I am not a published author, but I can only imagine that to some extent, that is the point of writing a fictional story. I think on some level there is a desire to take readers on a journey that is so real to them that they feel the world the author is creating come to life around them and that the reader is part of thread that weaves the story. Perhaps I am wrong, and based on Ms. Hobbs' comments I would say that I am. From her stance, I would surmise that a book should be viewed from a bit of a distance, like a priceless piece of art under glass.

    And how sad that would be.

    I have read Shakespeare and wished at the last moment, that Romeo would be delayed in taking his poison so that he and Juliet could be reunited in this life, not the next. I have wished more than once that Jo would marry Teddy in Little Women, and not break his heart. I have never gone so far with these futile hopes as to write them down and alter the story, but my imagination has indulged in the fantasy, nonetheless.

    I have written fanfiction in other cases, though. And I have read it, even devoured it at times. There are some characters and worlds that are so real to me that it is like a small death when the story concludes and I am separated from them. This is where fanfiction comes into play. Because I am not alone.

    Other readers experience the same pang of loss at the end of a beloved story. Other readers are impatient for the next installment in a series of books. Other readers wish that the minor character that charmed them had a chance at their own moment in the spotlight. And yes, other readers sometimes think that the author got it wrong.

    And these other readers form communities and share their imaginings and their love for the source material.

    Ms. Hobbs is not flattered by such activity, but she should be.

    Now, I will freely acknowledge that there is bad fanfiction. There are writers who brutalize the English language and do strange things to characters lovingly created by the author. I avoid reading such things and I hope that I haven't written anything that would fall into this category. I'll let the readers of my work be the judge of that.

    But for all of the bad, there is a wealth of well written, lovingly conceived, and, yes, imaginative fanfiction in existence. I have read the work of some very talented writers and I am glad that they have taken the time to share their talent and their imagination with the community of fans. I think to consider that there is no merit to the work just because the root of it is based in the world and characters of another is inaccurate, unfair and hypocritical.

    I personally have put time and effort, writing and rewriting passages so that my fanfiction is worth the time of the other fans who will read it. I have spent countless hours on certain stories. I have struggled for the perfect words to express my thoughts and rejoiced when I got them onto the screen. I've written things of which I'm rather proud and some things which I know I could improve upon. And I've done all of this with no expectation or desire for monetary gain. I've done these things for the joy of the writing process, for the satisfaction of creating something and for the reward of another fan telling me that they enjoyed my endeavors.

    For Ms. Hobbs and the individuals who have responded negatively about the merits of practicing the craft writing via fanfiction, I would say that you have either a very limited experience with the world of fanfiction or your observations are limited by your preconceived notions.

    I found a love for writing through fanfiction. I have taken the chance at exploring my ability to construct a plot because of fanfiction. I have confronted the horrors and joys of writing a love scene because of fanfiction. I have grown as a person and a writer because of fanfiction. I have learned about developing characters because of fanfiction.

    Am I using the foundation of another? Yes. And in some ways it can be like having training wheels on a bicycle. I can focus on developing specific skills and rely on canon for the rest. Should it lead to the creation of my own original work? Yes. Will it? Maybe. I have a career that has nothing to do with writing. For me, for now, writing is a hobby from which I derive personal satisfaction and creative outlet in my highly-structured life. While I have several ideas for novels of my own, I haven't the luxury of taking the time right now to see them through to publication. Fanfiction has given me the courage to dream, though.

    Perhaps the authors who feel threatened by fanfiction authors should rejoice in the medium. There are many talented authors in the fanfiction world who without other outlet might steal retail shelf space from the likes of Ms. Hobbs.

    Instead these people go about their real lives as nurses or teachers or students, but play at writing in their spare time. And to them I am grateful. Thank you for giving me the kiss I've been anticipating, the backstory that I hadn't dreamed of, a new adventure for my favorite hero. Thank you for contributing to this world that has become very real to me, for allowing it to continue past the author's "The end."

    And God bless the authors who conceived these worlds. But like a mother, you have to let them go at some point. You cannot control the life of your creation forever. Maybe it is best that you don’t look too closely at what is being done to your baby by the fans. But know that on the whole, it is done with love because your words inspired another. Only the dullest of the dull draw any connection between bad fanfiction and the author’s original work. But good fanfiction can and has inspired a new reader to pick up the original book. And one would hope that is the desire of the author in the end.

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  87. Having recently been reminded of this, I'm glad to find this post still here.

    Having just read through all the comments, I like to think the anonymous commenter who criticised the OP for lack of critical thought won't object to my thinking critically about aspects of his comment (in the unlikely event he ever returns this way):

    "1. Fan fiction destroys creativity. Most would disagree here, but listen. When writing fan fiction, it means you are using ideas created by someone else. You are using their world, their people, their politics. As such, you are also bound by their rules. You can be MUCH more creative if you create your own world and your own characters. Then, you truly have no limits.
    2. Most fan fiction disregards the source material. This goes with #1, I guess. In 98% of fan fiction I've seen, characters go through major changes, usually because the fan writer doesn't like the original character (at least that is how it seems). A character not liked by a fan writer will experience a severe overhaul, usually to make them look foolish, despite how they were in the source material."

    Point one argues that fanfic is non-creative because it is totally bound by the source material, while point two complains that fanfic doesn't follow the source material (and that not following the source material is, by implication, a bad thing) - in other words, you shouldn't follow the source material because then you're not being creative, but you shouldn't be creative because then you're not following the source material. There is a contradiction in the assumptions underlying those two points.

    Speaking of underlying assumptions, there are two assumptions about creativity in the first point that I'd like to challenge:

    A) All creativity is good, and more creativity is always better (if creativity isn't assumed to be good, then the claim that fanfiction destroys it is hardly an argument against fanfic)
    B) Lack of limits increases creativity.

    That point A has issues is already shown by point 2 - where certain types of creativity are assumed to be bad.

    Point B, while intuitively appealing, doesn't hold up under scrutiny - in general, it's more creative to come up with a solution to a sticky plot point that is consistent with what has gone before (whether in source material for fanfic, or in what you've already written for your own original work) than to solve it by [i]deus ex machina[/i]. Mark Rosewater, Head Designer of Magic: the Gathering, a man whose job requires him to be creative on a daily basis, has repeatedly stated in his weekly column that restrictions breed creativity - that the most creative designs for Magic cards have come from someone looking at the limits imposed by 9000 published cards and umpteen rules revisions over 15 years, and finding previously unexplored corners.


    Someone else has already picked up on the other anonymous comment I wanted to respond to:

    "Writing is what you do when you spend hours agonizing over the words you choose and the placement of every little bit of your story. Witing is what happens when you spend days sketching out characters and settings, and the interplay of them that conveys whatever the author wishes to."

    The previous response pointed out that there are fanficcers that do indeed sweat over their work, and it's not just original stories that get written that way. I just want to add that there are also successful, professional, published authors who, by their own account, just sit down at a typewriter to read a story as it rolls out of their fingertips, and don't agonise over it. Maybe what they're doing isn't "writing" by the proposed definition, but it's hard to argue that Isaac Asimov (for example) wasn't doing something right...



    And a final thought on fanfiction in general:

    Sturgeon's Law (which was inspired by people criticising SF as being 90% rubbish) states that 90% of everything is crud - this applies to fanfic just as much as to anything else. It's the good stuff that provides whatever artistic merit fanfic has, and the examples already given in previous comments make a pretty strong case for that merit being real.

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  88. Before I found al ink to this article, I'd never heard of Robin Hobb.

    That said... She's now on my list of authors to avoid.

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  89. Holy christ. I cannot believe how ignorant this woman is -- her arguments remind me of those used by many of the more intelligent Creationists, coaching ridiculous things in reasonable arguments. I appreciate that she seems to respect the written word a great deal and she truly believes what she's saying, but she's being irrational.

    Here's a tip: writing fanfiction is not like using a cake mix. Writing fanfiction is more like altering a recipe. When I add vanilla extract to my sugar cookies or extra marshmallows to my rice crispy squares it is not because I believe the recipe was flawed somehow; it's because I thought I'd enjoy something a little sweeter that day. Sometimes it's fun to experiment with recipes. It doesn't always work out well, but it's always interesting. It's a good way to learn about baking. A 'master baker' may have no need for recipes, but when amateurs try throwing together a bunch of ingredients they most often end up with something inedible. Perhaps they learn faster that way, but it's not always a very fun way to practice. And even master bakers can turn out some good stuff by creating alterations of their peers' recipes. By Hobb's reasoning there should be no double chocolate chip cookies, no strawberry cheesecake. Why, strawberry cheesecake is offensive to the baker who created cheesecake! It's like telling him that his recipe was incomplete!

    Writing can fanfiction can, and has, help make people better writers. It's a medium in and of itself that allows for people to be creative in ways that aren't usually possible with original literature. I'm immensely impressed with people who can created worlds from the ground up, but there's something to be said for being able to plunge right in. Often this allows writers to shine in a way that they never could have managed if they'd had to start at the foundations, just like how sometimes chefs who have trouble turning out anything decent when working off sheer improvisation can make five star cuisine when they put their own spin on a recipe. It may be more admiral to create one's own recipes, but some of the world's finest dishes were created when chefs altered someone else's recipe. Borrowing someone else's ideas does not make a dish any less edible, and no matter how good the recipe, nothing good can be made of it if the chef isn't talented.

    I'm not even going to get into the intellectual property debate, though I will say that if she thought she just selling some paper, ink, and an afternoon's entertainment she was sadly mistaken.

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  90. i want to focus on a comment left by someone who did not leave his/her name. i shall copy the original poster of this entry and put my own comments in bold.

    I have been writing since I was a child and at no time have I ever written fanfic. It helps people become better writer, sure yeah fine, whatever. I made it through more than 20 years of writing without resorting to fanfic. it's not a question of resorting to fanfic. it's a question of wanting to write it. To me, it is the ultimate lazy cop-out. Yes all stories are derivative, but then so is life. It pains me to know that people who could be writing something based on what they liked, or inspired by what they liked, are instead simply cutting out the story elements, throwing them into the air (with a likely Mary Sue), and then claiming what they are doing is writing. “writing something based on what they liked, or inspired by what they liked” that's fanfic honey. and please, don't assume that we all create mary sues. at least, not that we all continue to create her. mary sue is a stage that everyone goes through. you grow out of her in time and move on to real characters, but (just about) everyone starts at mary.

    Writing is what you do when you spend hours agonizing over the words you choose and the placement of every little bit of your story. Witing is what happens when you spend days sketching out characters and settings, and the interplay of them that conveys whatever the author wishes to. what makes you think we don't do this? i know that i, for one, do all of that at length, and i know several others who do as well. again, fanfic is a choice, not a last resort. I am not against playing with something to say this is where I think it should have gone but at some point a person has got to have some dignity and say I can write something that is mine. I can make something good that I did not lift from someone who spent approximately 100 times longer than I have on this story. again, you assume that we don't spend time on this. we do. i can guarantee that i spend more time on my fanfic than some published authors do on their original. i suppose i don't know that for sure, but, judging on the amount of time i spend on each fanfic, i'm willing to bet a hefty sum.

    When I write a story I craft it with care. I put the characters and settings, dialogue, plot into a delicate mix that is meant to say something to the reader. see above. Removed from that context, my story is meaningless. Otherwise I could have simply written it differently already. but you didn't. you see it your way, i see it mine. fanfic is all about different viewpoints. it's not humanly possible to include every single possibility in one work. everyone has their own ideas, their own interpretation. all are equally valuable, even the ones that, oh, put harry into slytherin, give him a mohawk, pair him with tom, and have him destroy the world. written well, that's just as valid as ms. rowling's idea. I am sure fanfic is here to stay, and if people feel it helps them, whatever. At the same time I think it is foolish to say that writing it is any bit as hard work as writing an original story. you've never tried, have you? no, you said earlier that you'd never resorted to fanfic. you should try it someday. go on, write a good fanfic story that fits with cannon, keeps everyone in character, and manages to be interesting and engaging. not as easy as it looks, i assure you. It is one thing to appropriate an element here, an element there, as an homage or something, but lifting an entire story is pretty bogus. we're not lifting, we're adapting. i use the original work as a springboard for m own ideas, while still staying within the confines of the original world. simply lifting an entire story is not fanfic, it's plagiarism. no one's arguing for that, i promise you. go read some fanfic. good fanfic. i can recommend some, if you like. it's more than just copy-paste, i promise you.

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