JOdel at JOdel at
Sat Nov 20 20:01:07 EST 2004

I think that the sticking point for defining fanfiction is probably that of 
using another author's acknowleged world and recognizable characters as its 
base. Putting together a new story out of existing cultural mythos or personified 
concepts in circluation in the real world isn't fanfiction. It's retelling 
fairy tales, or some other exercise in classic storytelling, even if not exactly 

And faniction has got an authentic literary precident. How many library 
shelves could you fill with Sherlock Holmes pastiches? How many Oz books are 
floating around out there that Reiley and Lee (let alone L. Frank Baum) never heard 
of? Star Trek novels were a "first break" for any number of fan writers who 
later went pro. For that matter, there are some authors and publishers who 
cultivate that sort of thing with a "shared worlds" program in which the fans are 
positively encouraged to write stories within certain parameters, and the 
publishers cherry pick the most promising for pro, or at least semi-pro exposure.

I'll agree that it is harder to grok why a few published books seem to 
generate this sort of thing where most simply don't. But there is no mystery about 
why it springs off from series television or film. It is clear from watching 
series television that you are not getting *all* of the characters' stories. The 
fans, who buy the illusion that these characters who show up in their living 
rooms every week have an existance off the screen, are simply filling in the 
blanks of the additional adventures which didn't make in onto tape.

With books, however, the reader generally accepts that the character's 
adventure that made it into print was probably the only adventure that character had 
which was worth writing up, while the rest of his life was about as dull as 
anybody else's. 

Occasionally, however, a book or set of books will come along that generates 
fanfiction on its own. The Harry Potter series is in that category. There were 
thousands of HP fanfics online before the first movie was even announced. And 
I'm not altogether certain why, apart from the fact that there was such a 
buzz over them that a lot of people who simply *don't read* children's fantasy 
ended up reading them and were blindsided by the fact that they found them so 
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