Zigismunda formosa (melannen) wrote,
Zigismunda formosa
melannen

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I heard a lot of stories and I reckon they are true

The latest redaction of the fic-for-sale kerfuffle has turned into a discussion on Making Light about fanfic, mostly from a pro-writing point of view, and because it's TNH, and TNH knows where it's *at*, it's also mostly pro-fanfic (in the other sense of pro, that is.)

Read her comments - it says stuff about fanfic which I've wanted to say for a long time, and is much better written than I could manage it, too.

And then docbrite left a dissenting opinion in a comment.

(And no, I will *never* get used to the way that really amazing people can just pop up out of nowhere on the internet and jump into a conversation. It's almost as bad as suddenly finding out that the professor whose class I'm slacking off in is the same guy who came up with one of my favorite theories. And at least as cool.)

Poppy Z. Brite's opinions on fic really aren't that difficult, as anti-fan authors go. All she really seems to be saying (in this and other comments by her that I've fallen across) is that she's tried but she doesn't like writing or reading it and so she doesn't see why anyone else should either. That's a fallacy that most *fans* get beaten out of them pretty early on these days, so at least that's one thing we've got going for us. But that sort of calm but patronizing comment from somebody I respect is at least as disturbing as the most vitriolic idiocy, because it'll twig my 'I want to be liked!' reflex and then I feel bad. Plus, it almost sounds reasonable on first reading.

In the comment I saw today, docbrite compares fanfic written about her work to somebody sneaking up and goosing her husband. "Sure, it means they care, but ick."

Ms. Brite, you've got the wrong metaphor. We're not molesting your husband. We're dating your daughters.

(This isn't really aimed at docbrite, by the way, but at the attitudes of anti-fanfic writers in general, especially those who are far less reasonable about it than she is -- her metaphor today just gave me a jumping-off point, because I love doing indecent things to other people's metaphors.)

And yes, the first impulse might very well be to go for the shotgun, and I can't really fault anyone for thinking that - it's a natural reaction - as long as they don't follow through. Especially if you think we're only here for the sex (and fanfic writers being at least as id-driven and gleefully immature as teenage boys, many of us are) and especially if you think we're doing a bad job of it.

But look. It might be someone you'd never in a thousand years have chosen - it may be obvious they've never had an original thought in their life, barely know how to read and write, have no grasp of culture or even basic politeness, and have clearly spent their whole life in their mother's basement, watching anime and masturbating. But as long as they truly love what you've made, then just by honestly sharing that love, they make it more than it is. That's the whole *point* of love.

Yeah, you've nurtured your stories, shaped them, put hard work and the best years of your life into them, and to think of somebody else, somebody you don't know and don't trust, taking your story for a spin around the town and a make-out session in the back seat - yeah, it's scary. Maybe offensive and icky to think about. There's anger there somewhere. Your protective side comes out, and your possessive one. Probably more jealousy than you'd like to admit, too. (And, since our laws treat stories as property, always the chance that somebody might try to kidnap your work in truth - a very, very slight danger, but just real enough to make all your feelings seem justified.)

But - listen. You're the one who chose to let a story out into the wide world, who didn't want to keep that potential locked up inside you forever. And stories are like love: the more you share them, the more and better they grow. And there will always be risks. But you didn't send it to a nunnery, and you didn't (I hope) take it to a purity ball. And it's inevitable, once a story's grown up and out there on its own, that other people will fall in love with it just as you did. And some of them will want to marry it and have lots of fluffy fpreg babies. And some of them will just want to sex it up (But, really, you're not some kind of prude. I mean, as long as nobody's getting hurt, it's okay. Somehow it seems different when it's not your little girl...) And some of them may try to use it for their own benefit: but some of them just love your story, purely and surely and with no hope of gain at all.

That's life. That's *living*. That's part of being people and that's part of being *real*, just as human children grow up and grow away and become more than just their parents', so too with stories. It doesn't mean they're not yours anymore. It means that you've wrought so well that they have room in their hearts for multitudes. And letting that happen - that, well, cross-pollination is one euphemism for it - that is the *only* way new stories can ever be created.

Sure, take us out to see your gun collection. Set a curfew (but you better make sure all the windows are locked.) Chaperone on the first date. Forbid sex (with the understanding that it'll probably still happen, but at least this way you won't have to know the details.) Or just give all your fans a really stern talking-to in hopes of scaring them into behaving. But you can't keep a story tied to your apron-strings forever, and to try and stop a story from growing and changing by keeping it from *interacting* with other people will kill the most *vital* thing about it. A story is not something to be locked in a high tower or set on a pedestal - a story isn't truly alive until it's grown up and has a life of its own, beyond its parents' walls.

No, a person claiming that they own a story and nobody else should be allowed to touch it (unless they buy the rights in a contract) isn't in *quite* the same level of sheer wrong as a father asserting sole ownership over his daughter's vagina. But .. it's still fundamentally perverse, and fundamentally harmful, and hobbles and degrades us both as individual people and a society, and I constantly have doubts about a culture that teaches people that it's okay.

You say, "Calm down, melannen, it's just a *story*."

There's no such thing as just a story.

ETA: And in the normal course of Internet serendipity, a languagelog thread about a young published author who has been accused of plagiarism on much the same basis that cassieclaire was, back in the days when ff.net was young, and the mixing that is an inevitable part of the creative process. Cross-pollination on a much smaller scale than story, and *still* inevitable.

And while I'm at it, some enlightenment from my flist: stellar_dust explains why writing original fic instead is not the answer; beccaelizabeth solves the mystery of why the concept of fanfic has to exist in the first place. webbapettigrew sells some more books! p.s.: if anybody cares more than me about buying me birthday presents, hint. chaucerhathblog gets a c&d.
Tags: fandom, fic, meta, politics, sex
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