This has been floating around my brain for a while now. As it's quiet today I thought I would finally try and turn it into coherent words.
Has anyone else read the news story lately about the publishing company which is taking classic novels and adding "missing scenes" of a risqué nature? They're using the argument that if they'd be a lot racier if written today, which may well be true, but on the other hand, you've got Lady Chatterley... Phantom was included in the list, along with Sherlock Holmes (they're basically writing slash; the article said this like it was a surprise), Pride and Prejudice, etc. Part of me is sorely tempted to read the Phantom "version" just to see how awful it is; I can pretty much guarantee there will be fanfic (yes, even on FFN) which is lightyears better. (I'm a little scared that it's either going to be C/R centric, terrible off-the-mark E/C, or involve all three in some hideous OT3 scenario...) How many times do we see "official" novelisations where characters bear little to no resemblance to the show? Fans know their fandom inside out; commissioned writers who are given character outlines do not, and I suspect these "reimaginings" are going to suffer the same way.
There's also been a lot of hype recently around Fifty Shades of
I anticipate the above-mentioned publisher will get similarly berated because it is, essentially, also fanfic; someone pointed out as much in Metro this morning, so I'm expecting some snarky smart-arse responses about that, too. The fact that people have been doing it online for years means nothing in the world of "proper books" because fanfic is still frowned upon as being illegal / pointless / lazy / [insert negative stereotype here]. Fanfic is also still perceived as being nothing but smut. It's true that the majority is 'ship-based, but the percentage of "mature" stories depends on the fandom, the readership, and any number of other factors. There are just as many PG stories as M. Some readers are prudes, as are some writers. A fade-to-black can be just as effective as something overly-descriptive. My worry is these additional sequences in the classic novels will do nothing but further the stereotype.
Here's the thing, though. Fanfic is not the enemy in this situation. The enemy is vanity publishing and bad authors. I have nothing but respect for anyone who can use fanfic as a springboard into "proper" writing; good God, isn't that what every fanfic author secretly hopes for, some metaphorical talent scout waiting in the wings? I've read some fanfics which have been as good, if not better, than published novels. It is no longer a valid argument to criticise someone for not being "clever enough" to create their own characters, and I simply do not understand authors who are precious snowflakes about their books. I am not a Harry Potter fangirl in any sense, but I respect JK Rowling so much as an author: not just because she created a phenomenon, not just because she remains humble despite being worth millions, but because she loves and appreciates and encourages her fanfic-writing readers. If I am ever in a position to have created something for which someone felt inspired to write fanfic or draw fanart, I would be flattered that (a) my characters were so loved and (b) someone understood them perfectly enough to be able to do it justice. (This goes back to my first point about official novelisations being generally terrible.)
I know I'm biased. I've been writing fanfic since I was 14. When I was that age I didn't know that's what it was, and thought I was a bit weird; it's second nature to me now, as it doubtless is for any other budding authors who happen to be part of a fandom. These days it's one of the main cruxes of fandom. In my case, fanfic is my first port of call when something grips my attention, or when a 'ship takes over my brain. I don't frequent message boards any more because they're bad for my sanity, so in many respects, fanfic is the be-all-and-end-all of my fandom involvement (aside from occasional LJ posts and discussions, of course). Fandoms these days pop up before the subject matter has even gone mainstream; they're practically pre-created. The biggest crowning glory of the internet, in my eyes, is its ability to bring people together through common interests - more often than not, through fandom. It's a medium through which I gained some very good friends, whom I doubtless would not otherwise have met, yet I can't now picture my life without them in it. If not for fandom, and fanfic, I would not know Katie, Eni, Eve, or anyone I've ever met online.
I think it's incredibly irresponsible of popular authors to stomp on their fanfic-writing readers. I really do. We should be encouraging creativity in any form, especially in young people, not telling them off for experimenting. Fanfic is an excellent way to practise and hone your writing skills: other members of the fandom (be they writers or readers or both) are always willing to offer constructive criticism, beta things and sing your praises. It builds confidence, allows burgeoning talent to blossom, and encourages social interaction. (Of course, some people still do not consider internet relationships as "sociable", which is a separate issue. Many people with conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome find face-to-face relationships very difficult; fandom involvement can be a pathway to forming satisfying friendships.) Above all of that, imitation is the highest form of praise. One of my greatest fan-moments was Faith Brown reading, enjoying and commending my first Sunset Boulevard fanfiction; I was flattered she'd found time to read it, and she was flattered I'd gone to the effort of writing it at all. I don't think that a fan would get the same reaction from the likes of Stephanie Meyer. Stepping on your fans is not the best way to ensure their continued devotion. Just a thought.
The public eye can frown on fanfiction all it likes. It can criticise it, badmouth it, joke about it, consider it a lower art form than proper publishing, but it will remain accessible, gratifying, socially fascinating, occasionally frustrating, and ultimately as important as mainstream books. You can keep your 50 Shades; I'd rather go through my favourite authors list on FFN.
You'd think, after doing nearly 12,000 words on the subject of fanfiction for my dissertation, I would have got all of this out of my system by now. Mind you, back then the lines were not so blurred...
I need to do another post at some point about season 3 of Glee, as it finished a few weeks back and I've just started a re-watch with Paul. Normally my repeat viewings are not so close behind the initial showing, so it's been quite interesting seeing how certain events at the start of the season have shaped later episodes. I've had some thoughts brewing for a while about the finale anyway, but as this is quite lengthy, it can wait a bit longer...
I have to say, it's refreshing to use my LJ for something a bit more intelligent than office-related rage. If this was a proper blog, I can't quite see it reaching the point of "Julie & Julia". ;)