Q. about Fanfiction

Liz Ottosson elizabethottosson at cableinet.co.uk
Mon Apr 16 13:39:11 EDT 2001

Nat wrote:
> When I was 18, I started a sequel to the DARK IS RISING sequence. I
> wrote Susan Cooper a letter where I mentioned this, and she wrote
> back gently suggesting I find my own world to write in. I was
> bothered by this, but respected her wishes and put it away in a
> drawer.

I read this as her suggesting that if you wanted to write seriously, and
have your writing taken seriously, you would have to find your own
creativity, rather than borrowing someone else's. Did you take it as her
sort of saying, "Hands off my work"? (This is what your comments below
imply, and I can imagine that it would be easy to read it that way when
you're receiving a letter from someone you admire.)

> In retrospect, I guess I'd turn the question around, and ask why Neil
> Gaiman can win a World Fantasy Award for a story derived from
> Shakespeare's world, and Laurie King can write much-acclaimed novels
> set in a reconsidered world of Arthur Conan Doyle's, but when a
> writer works within a world still under copyright, all sorts of
> warning bells go off? Is that really just it, legal ownership and
> living authors? Now that, say, John Steinbeck is no longer with us,
> is fan fiction in his world more OK? Or do you have to wait some sort
> of period of time before it's OK?

I don't know the two cases you're referring to above (but which is the Neil
Gaiman book you're talking about? Please don't tell me it's Stardust
because, if so, I've read it and never noticed!). As far as I am concerned,
I enjoy books which have a different take on an established situation (e.g.
Caliban's Hour by Tad Williams which rehabilitates Caliban, although it
doesn't stand up to the evidence from The Tempest, IIRC), but not really
those which are an attempt to "carry on" the work of the original author -
all the Harry Potter fanfic being a case in point. For me, at any rate, that
kind of emulation comes from the constant urge to know "what happened next",
and it's fine to put it down on paper to get it out of your system and for
your own enjoyment (and I've been tempted to do this myself and occasionally
have done), but no-one else is really going to enjoy it in the same way - it
won't have the same magic as the original does.

Having said that, I'd love to know what your ideas were for a sequel to TDIR

I've really given my own answer to SallyO's question above - I think people
write fanfic because they can't get enough of a particular series or
character and writing it themselves is the only way they'll see more!

In addition (and sadly) I know that the only times I've ever written
anything of value were when I drew either the characters or situation or
both from a book.  The reason for this was that it was always something I
felt extremely strongly about, and that's the only time I can write really
eloquently. Obviously, I feel strongly about things in real life, as well,
but before I could write about them I'd have to convert them into some kind
of literary context, which takes, er, creativity, with which I don't seem to
be overly endowed.

Just my opinion,


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