Thursday, 27 June 2013

Why Fanfiction is not Plagiarism

I am annoyed, seriously bloody growly in fact. Today I've read two things that has really got my hackles up, and instead of sounding off at the people in question I've decided to blog about the issues. 

This is number one.

It all started from yet another plagiarism case on Dear Author. I'm damn glad Dear Author is on the ball, because where the hell do people get off taking whole passages of other authors' work and claiming it as their own?

Plagiarism is stealing, it's wrong, and people who steal other people's work deserve to be tracked down and have their genitals fed to the ferrets.

However, as I read comments on various posts, fanfiction was once again described as plagiarism. I know in this latest case there are links to an actual fanfic but I am not talking about that. 


There is a hell of a lot of snobbery about fanfiction in the industry, some of which I understand, and some is pure bollocks. What do you think of fanfiction? That's it's immoral, it's cheating or lazyIt seems that writing fanfiction is just about acceptable, but "filing off the serial numbers and charging shock horror actual cash for people to read it is wrong wrong wrong!"  

I don't agree. All my early books are ex-fanfic: Nothing Ever Happens, Morning Report, The Night Porter, Stolen Dreams, Final Admission, Chance to be King. These are all my universes, my characters, my plots. I worked really hard on those stories and I'm damn proud they are good enough to be published as original fiction.

Yes, they were Supernatural J2 RPS (Jensen Ackles/Jared Padalecki Real Person Slash/Fiction). So I took two gorgeous guys, imagined them as cowboys, teachers, querying sexual identity, suffering domestic abuse and wrote an original story around them. It could have been Daniel Craig and Gerard Butler, Tom and Jerry, Prince Harry and Will Smith. It just happened to be J2. 

I'm not going to deny their origins. Why are a lot of my initial stories Texas-based? Jensen and Jared are Texans. No secret there. I wrote a cowboy story, I wasn't going to stick them in Croydon, was I?

One the major criticisms is using actual characters, in a known universe, then the cry goes up that it is stealing. Well, Fifty Shades of Grey springs to mind. No, I think I really want to move past FSoG and instead look at some literary examples.

Please read this post on livejournal which starts off with I'm done explaining why fanfic is okay and goes into greater depth and much more eloquently than I have the patience.

These are just some of the examples of fanfiction in the article. Yes, I have lifted their examples!

"Jane Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres, a modernized AU (Alternate Universe) retelling of King Lear and winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. King Lear is itself a hybrid of multiple folk and fairy tales.

Geraldine Brooks' March, a parallel retelling of Little Women (from the point of view of an off-screen character) and winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for literature.

Stephen Sondheim's Sunday In the Park with George, which is half-original fic, half-RPF (real person fiction) based on the artist Georges Seurat, and winner of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Michael Chabon, who wrote and published The Final Solution, an unabashed piece of Sherlock Holmes fanfiction set in World War II, 2 years after winning the Pulitzer for Kavalier and Clay.

Amy Lowell, winner of the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her volume What's O'Clock, whose celebrated poem "The Sisters" not only praises the sisterhood of female poets, but enacts fictional conversations with the poets Sappho, Elizabeth Barret Browning, and Emily Dickinson in a delightful example of poetic RPF.

Not a Pulitzer, but how about a Nobel? Laureate Jose Saramago's New Testament RPF, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ."

How about modern adaptions of Jane Austen? The list includes Clueless, Lost in Austen and we mustn't forget Bridget Jones Diary.

We get so caught up in the idea of fanfiction being a modern invention we forget it's been around forever. Great works always have their fans ... just look at artists and their schools.

I wish people would think about what they are saying when they cry plagiarism. Read what happened to JL Langley when she had an entire book stolen and Nora Roberts' feeling on being plagiarised. Fanfiction is not the same thing. Creating an entire plot that can grip people to read from start to end is a talent, and one that should not be denigrated. Okay, that sounded pretentious. But writers spend hours honing their stories, and whether they originated from Star Trek or Jane Austen, or a germ of an idea whilst walking down the road, the stories are the author's own, and deserve respect. You never know, the author might one day win a Pulitzer.