Thursday, February 6, 2014

Artistic Opinions #1: Say YES to Fanfiction!

Bet you thought this blog was never going to get a single post now, didn't you? That's OK- I didn't think so either.

Also, I know this is like, four years late after the great fanfic debate in that time, and I just wish to give the opinion I wanted to give all those years ago, so I don't mean to reopen old wounds.

There are many kinds of fiction in the world. Some fiction comes from a kid lying about how that orange juice got on the floor. Other fiction originates from the mind of crazy people. The most common kind of fiction, however, can be traced back to people who are not as crazy- writers.

Once this fiction is written and published, many after-effects ensue, whether they take the form of money, cars, or personal fame. The most important after-effect, however, comes in how the story itself influences its readers- making them cry over death, laugh at jokes, or even bang their head against the wall for some reason.

Of course, these works get talked about and even reviewed, so that more people build a base around. Eventually, though, comes an incredible situation- one where the fans want to do something constructive with their love of the work, yet feel that reviews and blog posts aren't enough to get it across. So they go one step further and give birth to a fanfic, or fanfiction.

As gathered above, fan fiction is fiction written by the people who liked the story, or fans. The full word is "fanatics" but...yeah, it makes people who like the work look crazier than usual, so the word was understandably shortened respectfully.

However, sometimes, a very strange situation happens- sometimes, the people who wrote the story don't want anything immediately based on it. In addition, while some detractors are sane in their explanation as to why, others go so far as to use analogies like child kidnapping, or even being overly pessimistic to the point of looking as though they have problems beyond fanfic. You know who I refer to.

(And if I may take this moment, most detractors of fanfiction are literary writers, and I do mean MOST. Make of that what you will.)

So, as someone who takes writing seriously, and someone who likes entertaining people while letting the spirit of art live, I'm here to set the record straight- say YES to fanfiction.

...also, as a reminder, Sturgeon's Law. Celebrate the exceptional-to-great 10% instead of being poisoned and soured by the meh-to-SWEET GOAT GET ME OUT OF HERE 90%!

There are four core reasons why, some of which are possibly reasons not even detractors thought up:

1. While writing fanfiction, it makes the fanficcer ask questions about the work/franchise's structure.

Any writer can ape. A great writer learns. And one thing a great writer should do, whether the real McCoy or a fanfic writer, is ask questions about the work in question.

It's not just stuff about the core personalities of each character, location, or event either- it's also questions about how the original writer got their point across, balancing exposition and action, finding the best way to do these things, and determining the best story flow.

Not just that- writing fanfic also serves as a test to see whether one can also balance callbacks and new material, not going overboard with one (mostly callbacks) and giving that work a new base to grow upon.

Which brings me to the next point...

2. Writing fanfiction gets that writer ready for an understatably important part of the world of art (and business)- researching and writing other people's stuff.

Now, this doesn't apply to every work ever, but a reminder must be set out- sooner or later, a writer may have to work on a franchise that already exists, and they will have to really buck down and spend the time in getting to know that franchise. For sake of example, many comic book franchises and TV shows go on for a long period of time, and the owner of that franchise will want some details to stay consistent.

So, the question is as follows- will they hire someone who just shows up to get their moolah? Or would it prove wiser to hire on someone who has proven to do the hard work and extensive research on not only the show, even outside of "the Bible", but other details as well? SPOILER: I'd pick the second guy.

3. Writing fan fiction ironically forces the writer to be original and show some quality control on their entry.

Any writer knows that if they want to be remembered for their work, they really have to bust their brains and stay true to themselves as often as possible to hand in an 80-100% work and get the CHA-CHING or views, as well as the respect.

In addition, there's many fans in the world, many of whom will probably be writing similar stories. This is where another skill in writing comes in- a writer must come up with a "hook" or twist in their story that not only makes sense in the bigger picture, but also sets it apart from other stories.

Unless the writer is deliberately trolling the fanbase, a low-quality work is the very last thing they want in their name. Higher quality is a higher pedigree, after all.

4. Fanfiction and fanworks help build strong fanbases, make more people notice the franchise, and make them buy more stuff related to that franchise, creating the best kind of pleasant cycle.

See Harry Potter over there? Look at all the green it made/makes. How about Super Mario Bros.? Kingdom Hearts says "Hyuck!" In the present day, on a planet you all live on, Star Wars fanfics were written, yet it didn't cut into any noticeable amount of money. Dragon Dragon Ball- Dragon Ball Z fanfics bring attention to rocking the dragon. Many Abridged Series themselves take the time to actually say "Buy the real deal!"

Do you see my point? No? Well, that's OK, because here it is again- all these fanbases have all these fanworks, but the franchise is still successful, and actually seem to be more successful than those that don't allow it (with some exceptions on both sides). In other words, it's possible to have your cake and eat it too.

Now then, we get to the cons, all of which can be counter-argued away to varying degrees of success- even the legally ramifying ones. I'll write down the gist of what the counterargument is, then write my retort. Here we go:

1. "If I don't stop this, I'll lose my rights"

Alright, I thought we might start by addressing the octopus in the kitchen. This argument is...not completely accurate. Because- and you really need to pay attention here- except in Germany, trademark level is the level at which "do or die" happens.

Also, while I haven't completely verified it yet, there may exist ways around the above that also follow the spirit of why that trademark amendment was written (to show that the owner cares),  so there must be some way around the rule that the lawyers of detractors don't know.

And even if I'm incorrect, I must ask detractors who cite that as their problem #1- if that is such a concern, why don't you all team up and lobby to change the law so either that amendment doesn't exist anymore or add a "backsies" amendment so that after defending the trademark initially, you ca un-C&D it without losing the trademark, and make the step optional so if you feel the fanswork wasn't really hurting anyone, you have the option, while not changing the way trademarks work in other fields, such as automobiles or company names (except under dire circumstances)? What could possibly go wrong if that law didn't exist anymore? SPOILERS: Nothing could go wrong.

2. "I could make less money letting fanworks based on my work exist".

While paychecks are indeed important to living, people will still buy the books (unless it really does suck...and even that may not deter people).

Plus, there's the little detail that a strong fandom and customer base incited by either themselves or other fanworks would help to recover any possible damages. Again, see pro-reason number 4 above.

3. "If I ever read a fanfic, yet use similar ideas by accident, and the person who wrote the idea isn't nice, I could be sued."

...I am genuinely so sick of hearing this excuse.

Yeah, I know the story of Marlon Zimmer Bradley. Yeah, I know how a certain fan wanted more moolah than expected, causing Zimmer to have to take a different route in her writing than before.And yeah, I know that's the most cited example of why fanworks aren't allowed.

But here's the thing, something that, in fear, may not have been taken into consideration (if you did, I'm sorry, but still...)...that was years ago, in the past, not happening right now. Times have changed, and the point of the field of art, or any sort of discipline in general, is that the people in them get smarter and learn from past mistakes in a constructive manner.

Here's the solution- have a fanfic policy where the fans can write fanfics all they want in exchange for giving up any and all legal rights to the story and content originating from the story. There's no way trademark law doesn't allow that to happen, because that would mean that it really does need to be changed.

4. "It's like I'm being attacked or the characters in the story are being attacked/How would you like it if (uses a digusting strawman argument using the pro-fanfic person's close ones that, if addressed as a strawman argument, would make the example fall apart)?"

...ew, you dirty bird. We treat your side as full beings, so do the same for our side, and we'll get along just fine.

Plus, the audience doesn't know that the characters are based on real people or you yourself grew to like them like your own. And then there's the detail of age filters on various sites.

Now, if the disgusting stuff with your characters was the first example found in Google Search or Google Images even with SafeSearch on, then go ahead and do what you have to do. Otherwise...yeah.

5. "The fanficcers presume they know better than me!/Every fanfic I read of other fandoms sucked!"

Well, I'll admit that is rude to just come out and say that to the actual writer of a series. However, fans are people, and just as the writer could (and will) come to really like their own characters, so will fans and customers. So, maybe just take it in stride and don't let it bother you too much.

As for the second point...Sturgeon's Law.

6. "They're not the real McCoy!/I find it rude that they want to do the next part of my saga before it actually happens!"

So what if they're not the real story? It's just a temporary thing until the real one comes out anyway, to tide over fans and allieviate the wait for the real one.

Plus, would you rather that fans never bother to take the time to show in their own way how much they like your series and risk your series forever lurking in the shadows, lacking that extra advantage in awareness? (Again, some exceptions).

And so I end it. Now, some of my arguments are not completely air-tight, and there may be holes in them, but it's what I think. In addition, no-one is infallible in their words, whether it be the writers or fans themselves. I am not infallible either, so search for more opinions on this matter to compare and eventually form an opinion for yourself.

Finally, a friendly reminder that writers CAN be made in addition to being born. I should know- I sucked at writing before taking significant steps to improve it. Now, my writing is...OK, it's not Shakespeare, but it still shows marked improvement in the thought process that came before, while combining it with some old writing techniques to get where I am now.

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