Lately, I’ve been thinking about fanfic.
This is new to me. Up until this this point in my life, I’ve spent more time thinking about how turtles have sex than about fan fiction.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against fan fiction. It’s just….
It’s like this. Let’s say you came up to me and said, “So, what do you think about Dnipropetrovsk?”
I would look at you blankly.
Then you would say, “Dnipropetrovsk? Major Ukrainian industrial center?”
To which I would shake my head dumbly.
Dismayed, you would continue, “Come on! It’s the third largest city in the Ukraine! More than a million people live there! How can you not know about Dnipropetrovsk?”
At this point in the conversation, I would probably explain that I’m sure that Dnipropetrovsk plays a vital role in a lot of peoples’ lives. I’d admit that I’m not surprised that folks have strong feelings about how it used to be a major military asset for the USSR. I’m sure that a lot of people live, breathe, and spend a big chunk of their waking time thinking about Dnipropetrovsk.
But I’m just not one of those people. I’ve never known anyone from there. Never visited. Never seen a movie set in the city. For all these reasons, Dnipropetrovsk has been off my radar for my entire life.
It’s the same thing with fan fiction.
Admittedly, in these last several years, I’ve become aware of fan fiction through a slow osmosis. At any given convention there are going to be panels on the subject. You’ll hear conversations in the hall. Occasional jokes.
Even so, fan fiction has only been dimly present on the edge of my perception.
The one notable exception is that I’ve known, sooner or later, that someone was going to do fan fiction about my stuff. Using my characters. Set in my world.
Truth is, I’ve looked forward to it. When people start writing fan fiction about your stuff, it shows that your writing has attained a level of popularity. It’s like fanart, in my opinion. No matter how you feel about the art itself, the fact that someone went out of their way to do it is really flattering.
That’s the most I ever thought about it. The thought of folks writing a Potter vs. Kvothe cage match never really bugged me.
How other writers feel on the subject has never concerned me very much. I know emotions tend to run hot on the subject. Some people love fan fiction. Some people hate it. Some people view it as legally actionable, others see it as a crime against god and nature.
The first people I met who were firmly on one end of the spectrum are the awesome folks who won the photo contest that I ran a while back. The first time I ever met them out at Gencon, they expressed a firm distaste for fanfic. They even made up this picture for me.
When I went down to Indianapolis a year ago, I they dressed up for a reading I did at their local library. And, as a joke, I had Kvothe and Bast pose for kiss because we were talking about the bit of Yaoi that got written.
You can see from the expression on Kvothe’s face that she doesn’t condone this sort of behavior.
It didn’t really strike me as odd that people who engaged in cosplay would look down on people who wrote fan fiction. There is a viscous of territorialism in geek society, as shown by this flow chart that Brunching Shuttlecocks put together years ago:
(Click to Embiggen.)
It reminds me of a quote that used to get tossed around when I was in grad school. “Why is the competition on academia so fierce? Because the stakes are so low.”
I think some similar psychological force is at play in geekdom.
Hold on…. I just realized something. Our award-winning cosplayers, by putting together a series of images that tell a story have created a narrative. A narrative that features characters someone else created.
Does that make their entry to the photo contest fan fiction? Are they all closet fanficers?
Whoo boy. I’m glad I’m not there to hear the great wailing and gnashing of teeth right now. I’m guessing those are fighting words….
Anyway, I always figured how people felt about fanfic was a personal issue. It’s like Jefferson said: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
That’s been my philosophy. You love fanfic? Fine. You hate it? Also fine. It really doesn’t effect my life in the least.
But then I accidentally wrote a piece of fan fiction, and everything changed….
(Stay tuned for part two, space cowboys.)