this is gonna be weird

Katarina Hjärpe head_overheels at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 21 06:18:15 EST 2004


> >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.
>
>The skill of the quilt is in the shape of the patches, and the people in
>them, and the words he uses to stitch the patches together, isn't it?

Wow, I just thought of the quilt metaphor before – how fanfic - or all forms 
of derivative stories - can be seen as making a quilt of a piece of cloth. 
You have to add something of your own to make it worthwhile - otherwise the 
quilt just keeps getting smaller and smaller until there's not enough left 
to keep anyone warm.

Which happens a lot both in fanfiction and professional fiction.

>Yup.  Not derivative, because it's new in its use of things.  Otherwise 
any
>book set in the Real World (TM) could be said to be 
"derivative" of any
>previous book set in the Real World (TM).

I honestly don't mind the word "derivative" - stories aren't made in a 
vacuum, after all. Fanfic *is* derivative, as is most other fiction – fanfic 
is just a bit more honest about it. (Hollywood producers, on the other hand, 
can go, "Why, this teen horror film has *nothing whatsoever* to do with any 
other teen horror film, even though it follows the same pattern as all the 
others!")

>But I do still feel that if it's good, it shouldn't really need the 
leg-up
>from association with some other, familiar work: it can be an homage, 
and
>people who've read the original work that gave the springboard can grin
>happily when they encounter something that tells them the author is
>deliberately refering to another author, without that having to be writ 
in
>large spangled letters on the front, surely?

That strikes me as a bit... dishonest. Sure, it's done a lot in profic, but 
it's still dishonest. It means people who *hadn't* read the original would 
expect everything in the story to be made up by the author. Advertising it 
in *some* way, either by calling it a homage or saying "in a world 
resembling..." or simply, like Terry Pratchett, making fun of so many things 
that people are *bound* to get that everything is just as likely to be 
hogged from somewhere as it is to be created by the author himself.

Also, not advertising also means the people who'd be interested in the story 
for that very reason won't come. For example, I spent years in my teens 
reading everything I could have on Robin Hood. It really helped if the story 
had "Robin Hood" in the title, or at the very least wrote "a story about 
Robin Hood" on the back.

>That seems to me to be a limiting of one's writing, though; in-crowd
>writing is by its nature not going anywhere much except the in-crowd, I
>would've thought.  Like stories that end "well, you had to be 
there, I
>guess".

Well, yes, but this is true about most of genre fiction as well. You play 
with the conventions, you change them, but ultimately it helps to be aware 
of what's come before. (Just like seeing a John Hughes film or two before 
seeing Saved! really helps too.)

But I'm weird - I read fanfic of shows I've never seen and books I've never 
read.

Katta

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