this is gonna be weird

deborah.dwj at deborah.dwj at
Wed Nov 17 16:57:38 EST 2004

I shall reverse the order of these questions.  :)

On Wed, 17 Nov 2004 minnow at wrote:
|Seems to me that either it's derivative, which I suppose it's fair to give
|warning about so those of us who like our fiction a bit original can be
|warned and avoid it, or it isn't, in which case why not let us know that it
|isn't a hack re-write of something we enjoyed before it was regurgitated?
|Either way I wouldn't have thought it was to the author's advantage to call
|it a story about someone already known.  Like the "sequel" to *Kim*, which
|wasn't (apart from a coincidence of name); or the telly series of *Coral
|Island*, in which the names of the three boys were the same and nothing
|else, not even their parentage or character or station in life, was left
|intact... Why not just call it something else, and claim originality?

Well, it's a tough call what's derivative and what's not.  Why on earth
bring the Norse gods into a story, when poor [spoiler] could merely be
hanging out in Walsall with some powerful superbeings?  What's
Prometheus got to do with Them?

An excellent and worthy argument can be made in those cases about mythic
weight, the power of eons, etc.  But 50% of everything Neil Gaiman's
ever written could be called professional fanfiction, notwithstanding
his disparaging remarks on the genre, and it's all splendid.  Whereas
this book I am currently reviewing has a plot I've never seen before,
and I'd take Sandman, American Gods, the Books of Magic, or 1602 over a
piece of crap original fic any day.

Diane Duane's _Spock's World_ is absolutely brilliant, and it's a
tie-in novel, which is just the way of saying "professional and
sanctioned fanfiction".  In my opinion say it's substantially better
than all original and most modern Trek.  She took an existing universe
and used it as a starting point, and went somewhere powerful and
personal with it.

Whether of not my work was inspired by someone else, perhaps even to the
point of needing to credit them, is no indicator of quality.

As for the next question which is frequently asked, "why do good writers
do this?  They can be original!" Well, why should they be?  I think
Diana Duane has written equally strong -- and equally weak! -- books in
derivative and original settings.  Eight Days of Luke is no weaker a
book than Time of the Ghost, in my opinion.  I, personally, don't find
derivative works to be necessarily a weakness.  only when done poorly.

It's all a matter of taste, but also of definition.  The sad "golly gee
gosh Sophie" piece from is certainly not a representative of
what's best in the genre.  On the other hand, I've read what were
effectively X-Files or Angel episodes written by fans, better than many
of the episodes that aired.

|So whyeveronearth say it is to do with Buffy?  Why not just call it a story
|about a vampire slayer in 4th century Norway?  (Not that there is that much
|evidence for vampires there/then, I don't suppose, but no matter.)  One
|might as well say that a story about Robin Hood was "Simon Templar fanfic",
|I'd've thought.

There's several possible reasons, some artistic, some practical.

- Automatic audience of fanfiction readers who won't read your original

- You like the universe and use its rules, so you want to credit the
  creators of that world.

- Your thoughts about the world are focused on your ideas of what it
  will eventually become in the source material's canon, even if that
  doesn't come through in the story.

- You could be using the artistic conventions of your fandom's genre,
  which are subtly different, probably, from the artistic conventions
  used in standard published fiction.  *Not* worse, just different.
  (The way thoughts are portrayed, for example, is completely different
  and very ritualized in high quality fanfiction.  Or the sentence
  structure for shocking moments.  If I were a linguist, I would love to
  study those writing conventions of what's a highly literate and
  educated audience, at least in Buffy fandom.  There's a thesis for ya;
  when a community invents its own writing style by consensus.)

- Habit.

There's places where I ask the same question you're asking.  Why write a
story in which Howl is a Barbary Pirate and Sophie is a French teacher
from a girl's prep school, and then call it "fanfiction"?

Actually I know the answer to that one.  It gives you a shorthand way to
describe the characters.  You don't have to convince people to like or
know your hero or heroine, if they already know who they are.  Doesn't
mean I approve.  :)

Always remember to demand more of yourself than anyone else.  Otherwise you
become merely a tiresome rebellious young girl who wants that the whole
world should change to suit her whim.  The world is full of such as these;
most of them grow up at last, but they are not particularly admirable,
enfin.  They are against everything, for nothing. -- _Jade_

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