Friday, April 17, 2009

Fan Fiction

OK, I’ve been getting an education since I posted my “Ich bin ein Trekker” piece. I knew there was fan fiction out there, and that there was a lot based on Star Trek, although I’ve never read any of the Trek zines where this kind of thing has been typically published. I’ve certainly read professionally published stories by folks who began their writing lives as Trekkers and I’ve always known some of their story lines came from their own fan fiction.

I also knew that other TV shows had their own fan fic, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Stargate SG-1, and I found out a few years ago about the beginnings of fan fic in the Harry Potter universe. I was also aware that certain characters, most notably in my experience, Conan the Cimmerian, Tarzan, and Sherlock Holmes had been the subject of many pastiche stories in small fanzines.

There were a number of things I did not know. First, I had no idea of the “extent” of the fan fiction that has been and is being published for all kinds of shows and characters. By Crom, but it is huge! Second, I had no idea that the “vast” majority of fan fic written for TV shows is written by women. It seems to be different where pastiche stories about characters in books are concerned; many of those writers, perhaps most, appear to be men. Third, I had never heard of “Kraith,” which is a whole subgenre of Star Trek Fan fiction set in a related but not quite canonical Trek Universe. It focuses on the Vulcans, and at least one story has Spock administering a sound spanking to Kirk. Fourth, until two days ago I had “never” heard the word slash associated with fan fiction and had no idea what it meant. I had heard, many years ago, that a story or two had been written about Kirk and Spock as gay lovers. It is apparently a LOT more than a couple of stories. (The name “slash” comes from the way in which “Kirk/Spock” is often written when referring to these stories.)

When I first heard about the Kirk/Spock stories I assumed they were written by gay men who were Star Trek or SF fans. Turns out the vast majority of these stories are also written by women, primarily heterosexual women. I have to say that confuses me a bit, although I’ve become aware in the last few years that there is a pretty big market for male on male erotica and that most of it is written by women for women. As a psychologist, I find that rather fascinating, although I can’t quite come up with a theory as to why it occurs. I would welcome input.

As for fan fic, I’d also be interested in hearing from folks who write it as to why they enjoy it. I can certainly understand the enjoyment of taking part in a kind of imaginative game using established characters in an established universe. I’ve imagined myself in the universe of Star Trek myself, although I never had much urge to write those stories down.

I’ve never written fan fic myself, although I once rough drafted a Conan pastiche for the REHupa group that I’m in. I think, in my case, it has most to do with the fact that I really like to have complete control over the creative aspects of writing myself. I don’t want to be constrained by someone else’s imagination, although I’m not above borrowing the good stuff.

Anyway, thanks to those who have helped educate me on fan fic over the last few days, and thanks to Wikipedia for the help in discovering more about Kraith and Slash fiction. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, and I’m desperately trying not to imagine Kirk over Spock’s knee with his pants down for a spanking.



Heff said...

"desperately trying not to imagine Kirk over Spock’s knee with his pants down for a spanking."


Heff said...

"Spock, set Phaser to "Bare-bottom spanking", and fire when logical..."

Ok, I couldn't help myself.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Eye-opening, eh?

Yes, I've heard of slash. It was/is huge with fans of Xena.

There is also the sub-genre "Mary Sue" where the author wishfully writes themselves (through a thinly veiled character) into the sex. Usually in the middle of Xena and Gabrielle.

Those authors tend to be lesbian, not straight.

Makes the world go 'round, I guess. I never understood the appeal. To me - particularly in sci-fi, fantasy, adventure - I am interested in the adventurous aspects of the shows. Why anyone would be more interested in the details of Xena's sex life rather than reading/writing about her lopping off heads is beyond my ken.

Aine said...

Since I'm well acquainted with the Harry Potter fanfics, I can attest to the phenomenon of most slash fics being written by women (mostly middle-aged, too). I have never read one, because it just doesn't turn me, so to speak. ;) But there are many websites devoted to favorite pairings.

And, to further your knowledge of the terms used, in the HP fandom any romantic pairing is written with the "/" and they are called "ships" (short for relationships). People who agree with certain pairings are called "shippers". In HP there were huge online wars between Harry/Hermione shippers and Ron/Hermione shippers, until JK Rowling cleared it up in book 6. As fans say, the H/H ship sank, LOL. Only gay pairings are called "slash", but it makes sense that the term probably started for all pairings. Also, because the series wasn't complete, stories that jumped off from a "canon" point (such as the end of book 5) are later termed AU (alternate universe) after the next book was published.

I was amazed to find how many novel length stories there are. Just astounding hours of work. And some are of quality writing. Rowling, to her credit, was quite supportive of fans playing with her characters. She has always maintained her teacher values. If her work got kids reading and writing, she was ecstatic. (Course most of the fan fic authors weren't kids... :P)

To answer your question about why people write fan fiction, I can again only speak of the HP fans. There was a 2-3 year waiting period between each book in the series. And the characters were so vibrant and real in our heads, that many fans wanted to explore the possible outcomes. It was a fun way to try to predict which clues would lead to the solution of the mystery, not to mention how much fun it was to explore how everyday scenarios could play out in the wizarding world. In essence, it was a way to pass the waiting period while keeping the world fresh and alive in our minds.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There is no TV show I know well enough to write fan fiction about.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sorry to continue but I hit the send button inadvertently. I do know a few shows to write fan fiction about, but they would be comedies. Does anyone write fan fiction about those.

Cloudia said...

Who knew what would scurry out into the light when you scratched this surface, eh, Charles?
Aloha ha ha!

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, I bet in the "slash" world phasers have all kinds of settings they wouldn't normally be expected to have. Uh oh, I'm getting visuals. Must...put...on...Megadeth's Peace Sells!

Paul, that's right, I did hear something about the Xena stuff. Yeah, I'm into the fantasy, SF stuff primarily for the adventure elements. I tend to separate those out from the porn!

Aine, a whole sublanguage in there. Amazing. I bet there are many other aspects of human "ships" that I know nothing of. I too was thinking about the committment to write novel length fan stuff that you're sure will never be published. Wow.

Pattinase, I don't know of any comedy fan fics. Maybe we could team up on Young Frankenstein fan fic, or Team America fan fic. Lol.

Cloudia, stranger than strange fiction indeed.

X. Dell said...

Well, Spock is considerably older than Kirk. I'm assuming he had a logical reason for doing it.

Forgive me, but the bulk of my library sits in sealed cardboard boxes waiting for transport to their final destination. Had I had all my tomes at my fingertips, I could point you towards a couple of scholarly papers written on slash fiction (both published in the 1990s, but I can't remember the title or authors). Basically, they both noted that the mechanics of sex, as depicted in the Kirk/Spock stories, seems more descriptive of heterosexual sex, than of actual homosexual contact (I'd describe in more detail, but that would leave you with an image that would make you want to remember the spanking). So they often betray a female perspective of the erotic.

I'm no shrink, obviously, but I might guess that some heterosexual women would be turned on by boy-boy sex for the same reason a lot of heterosexual men are turned on by girl-girl. If feminity itself signifies sex, then female homoerotica becomes an extremely potent symbol, a hypersexualized image of womanhood. I could imagine that some females might feel the same way about men.

Just a guess.

Pattinase (abbott), I've read one Wilma/Betty (Flinstones) slash. So comedies would seem to be fair game.

David Cranmer said...

Check out 1997's documentary Trekkies, followed by the 2003 sequel, Trekkies 2. You will be amazed. One scene has fans dressed as Klingons ordering at McDonalds in their alien tongue. Another has the biggest Brent Spiner fan alive that's truly disturbing and funny.

writtenwyrdd said...

"...and I’m desperately trying not to imagine Kirk over Spock’s knee with his pants down for a spanking."

OH ye gods! That set me rolling about, laughing my considerable heiny off. It's like saying Don't think about X. Of course you think about X, lol.

As a psychologist, you probably have a better feel for the het women writing slash fiction basis than I do. I knew the stuff was written by mostly women, but I don't get the attraction either. I have my own particular quirks but slash fiction isn't one of them. I suspect that the draw might have something to do with the power politics of sex???

Sidney said...

I've often wondered what it might be like to do a novelization, but such a job's never come my way. No biggie. It's not something I'd do as a hobby.

I think one of the first Trek collections of stories had a poem that alluded to Kirk/Spock so I've been aware of that strain for a while but didn't realize there was so much gay fiction followed by heterosexual women, but I guess it's the flip side of lesbian sex aimed at men, somehow, right?

Travis Cody said...

I'm sure I could have done without the image in that final paragraph.


Angie said...

The "why" of it all is complex, and varies from community to community as well as from fan to fan.

Personally, I have a few reasons. One, I'm a straight woman and hot guys are hot. If one hot guy is good, then two are better and three's a party. It's not terribly complicated.

Second, I can write m/m (whether fanfic or commercial fiction) without having to deal with gender politics or the people who come around and bash you over the head with same. If you're writing anything vaguely romantic and/or sexual between a man and a woman, the political baggage is always there. It just is, and if you deny that you're fooling yourself; eventually someone will come along and point it all out to you and you probably won't enjoy the experience.

Third, much of fanfic fandom is huge, and all of it is very participatory. The feedback is great, if you're any kind of decent writer. I've published commercial stories which brought me a small amount of money and anywhere from zero to three reviews, and maybe a couple of personal comments here and there from readers telling me how much they enjoyed the story.

On the fanfic side, when I post a short story or a novel chapter, I start getting comments almost immediately. (More than once I've had a comment or two waiting for me in my main journal by the time I was done posting links to various communities. [laugh/flail]) Just knowing that yes, people are reading my stuff, and they enjoyed it enough to drop me a note and say so, is a great boost. It's an ego thing, yes, but also it lets me know that my communication (which is what all art is) is actually reaching people, and they're communicating back to me.

Commercial publishing at the low end of the totem pole can be very isolating. It's easy to start wondering whether anyone's reading, whether anyone likes what you're doing, whether there's a point to it all. With fanfic, if what you're writing actually is reasonably good, you get answers to those questions right away.

Fourth, and related to number three, it's about the community. Each fandom (or segment of the larger fandoms, such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings) tends to be fairly tight-knit, at least among those who participate regularly. There's a lot of discussion about fanfic fandom's "gift economy;" status and recognition are based on contribution, on the value of what you have to give away freely to others. Writers have some good product, of course, but so do people who comment a lot, people who run contests or awards or fests, people who compile lists or edit newsletters, or mod archives or communities. People who participate get to know each other and become friends. Pretty much the only reason my husband and I are planning to go to Melbourne WorldCon next year is so I can meet one of my best online friends in person for the first time, and hopefully a few others too. If it weren't for that community, we wouldn't have considered going.

Paul -- be aware that the term "Mary Sue" (or "Marty Stu" when referring to a male character) is strongly pejorative. This is used to point out bad fanfic, where the story, if it's even a story, serves as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the writer and little else. The writer and maybe her/his best friend thinks it's wonderful; everyone else eyerolls and moves on. It's been done so badly so often for so long that there's a strong knee-jerk reaction in fanfic fandom against original characters of any kind; they're so often Mary Sues that it's tough to get anyone to even read a fanfic story featuring an original character because the readers just assume that the writer's being self-indulgent (again) rather than creating a new and interesting and well-developed character.

Aine -- my end of fandom doesn't use the "shipper" terminology, for which I'm profoundly grateful, but it's taken to the smush-name terminology with great enthusiasm. I'm not at all proud of this, mind you; it's ridiculous and twee, and makes it tough for newcomers to the fandom to figure out what the frack is going on. [sigh] I just sigh and keep writing things out.

Pattinase -- yes, definitely. [nod] If you use your Google-fu you'll find fanfic for pretty much any TV show with a reasonably following (and some whose viewers could have probably fit into a medium-size hotel ballroom).

X. Dell -- some people are better at writing gay characters than others. Writers whose characters behave like straight characters are said to write "chicks with dicks," and that's not a compliment. As with most cases of accumulating institutional wisdom, the gay fanfic has improved quite a lot over the decades.

David -- the problem with things like "Trekkies" is that this kind of movie or TV show or newspaper article or whatever usually focuses on the nerdiest, the geekiest, the fattest and ugliest, the most outrageous fans they can find. They're out to sell tickets/papers/ads or whatever, so they go for the shock value. Most of their viewers or readers are going to be happiest if they can point and laugh and feel superior, so the material focuses on the stupidest outliers. (The same thing is happening here -- what's the one bit of Charles's post which has been mentioned the most here in comments?) If you want a more accurate view of fandom, check out Henry Jenkins's work. He's a professor of media studies at MIT and has written a number of books on fandom which don't just go for the outrageous dorks. [wry smile]


Lana Gramlich said...

The way you refer to it as "fascinating" is quite Spock-like, inspiring fantasies of my own. Pon farr me, baby, PON FARR!!!

Charles Gramlich said...

X. Dell, I wondered about the heterosexual angle to the Kirk/Spock stories. I suspected it was there but have never actually read one of those stories. Those articles sound interesting if you ever locate them. Although the reversal of roles for male/male sex for females and female/female sex for males seems logical on the outside, I’m actually suspicious that the reasoning is the same. Flintstone flash? Has a ring to it.

David Cranmer, I’ve seen one of those documentaries, although not both. I don’t remember the Spiner thing so it must have been the other one

writtenwyrdd, Yeah, that image had Lana and I laughing like crazy. I have some ideas about women dominate the male/male slash genre but I’m completely unsure of their accuracy.
Sidney, The reason I wrote that Conan pastiche short story was just to see if I had the chops and the interest in possibly writing a Conan novel. I found my interest waning very quickly. I did a pastiche of Howard’s Sailor Steve Costigan, which was published. I almost forgot about that one.

Travis, I’m just hoping it doesn’t show up in my dreams tonight!

Angie, thanks for the detailed response. And I’m sure you did much to educate everyone. I seem to be rare among males in that I don’t particularly find female on female sexual behavior arousing. I know that men are typically very prone to visual stimulation, and that women are, but somewhat less so. Thus, for men to see just two women together is quite possibly more arousing for the average male than the opposite would be for the average female. Also, many men who do have this kind of fantasy imagine themselves getting into the action at some point in time. I wonder if women writing male/male stuff envision themselves in the action, and I suspect they do so to a much lesser extent. Although I don’t know for sure. The M/M story I read by you definitely didn’t seem that way. The guys seemed completely into each other and didn’t seem like they’d want a woman involved, while female on female stuff written by men usually has exactly that element. In addition, from what I’ve read about “slash” or M/M fiction, the female writers of this material focus much more strongly on emotional aspects of the “ship” while males writing the reverse are focused more on physical aspects of the women and their actions as they fit into male fantasy patterns. These are just generalities, of course, and I’m sure there’s lots of variability.
I can certainly see the immediate and passionate feedback element being involved. It’s nice to get such feedback and “fans,” by definition, are passionate enough to talk about what they like and don’t like.
You also added something new that I didn’t realize. You indicated, I believe, that modern fan fic tends to use the actual characters from the stories far less than used to be the case? Or did I misunderstand you? Instead of the actual characters they tend to use the setting to create their own characters?

Lana Gramlich, My goodness, has it been 7 years already? Lol.

Angie said...

Charles -- I agree that men tend to be more visual than women, as a generality with the usual exceptions scattered through the data. There are a lot of lesbian porn movies made by and for straight men (and in fact I've never heard of lesbian porn movies made for lesbian viewers) but not so much written lesbian erotica for men, or if so I haven't run into any of it. On the women's side, there's a lot of m/m romance and erotica and some written m/m porn. The m/m porn movies tend to be made by men for gay men; most women I know of who are into m/m movies want romances rather than porn. And while there's written erotica for gay men, it tends to be very porny, the kind with sex in every chapter whether the plot needs it or not.

And yes, most lesbian porn for men has at least an opening for a man to join the action, and tends to imply that of course a couple of hot lesbians would just love to welcome a man into their bed. [wry smile] Definitely a wish-fulfillment thing for the guys.

In contrast, m/m romance and erotica written for women is, on the whole, actively hostile to female participation in the sex or the romance, both on the fanfic side and the commercial side. There's a smaller subgenre called "menage" in romance which involves a mixed-gender triad, always two men and a woman, but for one thing, the m/f/m configuration is much more common than the m/m/f or an equal triad. Meaning that in most menage romances, both men are focused on the woman and don't touch each other sexually, even if they're all in the same bed, which isn't always the case. And for another, menage appeals to a small subgroup of the female readers, and the larger bulk of both het romance and m/m readers dislike it pretty strongly.

As a data point, m/f/m menages are the general rule when they're an offshoot of het romance, whereas m/m/f and even triad menages tend to be offshoots of the m/m genre, which of course also has m/m/m books. (Which don't get anywhere near the strongly negative feedback from readers that menages with a woman do, by the way.)

I have a friend who's publishing a series which begain as primarily m/m, although there was a woman who knew the two guys when they were in college and was a girlfriend to one of them for a while. The book that came out a few months ago, though, turned into a menage (although an even-triad one) and a lot of the m/m fans who'd been following the series were pretty upset. :/ The writer's waiting to see what the reception to the next (and last) book will be. There seems to be enough segregation between people who prefer m/m versus menage, though, that switching from one to the other at the last minute will prove to be a poor strategy.

I think the menage stories fill the same type of fantasy for females that males fill by watching lesbian erotica where a guy jumps in halfway through. But for the guys it's the majority fantasy, whereas for the women it's a distinct minority. Most women who like seeing or fantasizing about two or more men together want to see men, and many of them will react with rather heated disappointment, scorn and even distaste if a woman is introduced into the relationship.

And yes, for female readers the emotional relationship is usually just as important as the sexual. [nod] I think that's another strong difference between men and women (again, with obvious exceptions in the data set), that most men fantasize about string-free sex as a purely physical and sensual experience, while most women fantasize about sex in the context of a relationship. Even the porniest erotica written for women tends to have a plot (even if it's fully oriented around the sex) and some sort of description of how the characters relate to each other beyond Tab A into Slot B, even if they never learn each other's names.

And yes, getting a string of comments from readers rocks. :D

that modern fan fic tends to use the actual characters from the stories far less than used to be the case?No, sorry, I must've phrased that badly. :/ I think the proportion of writers inserting major original characters into their fanfic is probably about the same as it's always been (which is pretty small) although that's just a guess. If anything, there might be a bit less of it than there was twenty or forty years ago, since it's tough to hang out in the community for any length of time without picking up on the scorn and derision most fanfic readers have for "Mary Sue" characters and the people who write them.

Most Mary Sues are created by writers who are very young, very new to fanfic fandom, or both. Mary Sue stories tend to get negative comments, if not open mockery, which generally discourages the writers from ever going in that direction again. Either that or they hunker down with a tiny clot of their like-minded friends and grouch to each other about how mean everyone else is. [wry smile] But what they're writing is very personal wish-fulfillment, whether sexual fantasies or just adventure fantasies. The Mary Sue, who is the writer's avatar (and who might have the same name as the writer or her fannish pen name) is the star of the story. She's beautiful and perfect, or maybe has a couple of picturesque faults, applied like an 18th century lady would apply a patch to her face. All the other characters love her, even the ones who love nobody. Characters who are grouchy are nice to her, characters who are rough and crude are gentle with her, and the ones who have love interests in the fandom's canon abandon them to court her. Her sole purpose in the story, if it follows the canon storyline, is to jump in and do all the cool or heroic actions instead of the canon characters who actually did them, or to provide assistance to them (often in a way which eliminates much of the plot tension or character development opportunities from the story) for which they're always gushingly grateful. It's the sort of thing no one would be interested in reading except the writer and maybe a few of her closest friends. The sort of thing which should be confined to an individual's nighttime fantasies.

There's been so much of this garbage in the forty or so years that fanfic has had an active community that it's gotten to the point where even good original characters are difficult to present to the readers. They've experienced so many Mary Sues that many fans simply refuse to read any story with an original character in a major role. The complete anti-original sentiment has grown considerably; it wasn't anywhere near as strong when I was dabbling in the occasional fanfic back in the eighties and nineties. I came back to the community in around 2003-4 and found that the enmity for original characters had grown by several hundred percent. Personally, I think it's gone way beyond what's good for the community, but then no one's asking me. [wry smile]


PS -- try this for a giggle, a short parody of Lord of the Rings Mary-Sue fics called Nine Men and a Little Lady. You might not pick up on all the in-jokes, but enough of them are blatantly obvious that you should get the idea. :D

ANNA-LYS said...

Interesting, indeed

Have no female input to share,
reflecting upon what I read n' hear

Have a nice weekend,


laughingwolf said...

i have learned much also, charles, thx to your blog, the links you post, the cool folk who come around here, and others i've met online :)

like you, i've never gotten into using other's characters, other than the odd one, like beowulf and similar, though not using their names much...

canadian writer, kirsten saell [kirsten in my sidebar] writes m/m, f/f and group tales in fantasy realms, check her out

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Charles there is a really good book out called THE DEMOCRATIC GENRE: FAN FICTION IN A LITERARY CONTEXT BY SHEENAGH PUGH. It's interesting and did you know that fan fiction is the fastest growing form of writing in the world.

laughingwolf said...

forgot to mention: kirsten's het, and mother of three, step-mother to more

J. L. Krueger said...

Well, I know I won't be writing any fan fiction. There's nothing on big screen or small that could get me that obsessed.

Besides, I have enough to do with my own charcters. I don't need to "flesh out" someone else's.

Randy Johnson said...

Back in olden times. before the internet, Star Trek was the main contributor and I bought a few of the mimeographed publications(this was before the professionals went crazy with the books. I stuck with the straight stories because the slash stuff just wasn't my thing(to quote Seinfeld, "Not that there's anything wrong with that.")
In looking around the sites that deal in fanfic, I found that any show with two strong male characters(Starsky and Hutch, UNCLE, Harry Potter, etc,)is rampant with these stories. Likely Xena, I'm sure.

Gabby said...

*giggles* I wasn't aware that you had no idea about slash. Funny! ANYWAY, as you know I write fan fiction. Although, I'll be honest. I have only started three, and will probably not finish the third one (it only has a couple hundred words, and it's based on an anime), but I digress. I think for me, I write it for the "what if" aspect. What if this or that happened? With the shows I write about, there's room for "episodes" that fit within the series. I try to stay as close to canon as possible, and I try to make sure that my story could fit as an actual episode. And while I may introduce original characters, I think it's not something outside of the realm of possibility given both shows (Stargate and Alias) to have new characters pop up. But that doesn't mean they're going to stay, ya know? Also, it's always a good way for me to work on my storytelling skills, since I already have established characters to work with (although that's just me, and I definitely cannot speak for everyone out there). Oh, and truthfully, most fan fiction is bad. REALLY bad. Bad story. Bad writing. Bad characterization. Just ... bad. *sigh* (Although it is nice, like someone said, when posting your fics and you get nice comments right away, well, it makes you feel good, even if they offer no constructive criticism whatsoever.)

Middle Ditch said...

You are surprised? Surprised?????

I'm not. I have always known there are sooooo many good women writers.

Funny thing is, so I've heard (true or false, I don't know, somebody can help me here?) that publishers fear that a detective, science or adventure novel will not sell when it's known to be a woman writer and they often demand to have just the initials on the cover. Hence P D James, J K Rowling etc.

Charles I'm still expecting to see you. Have you forgotten about my humble radio serial?

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, Yes, I was pretty sure there was a difference in how men typically view f/f sexual stuff and how women view m/m. You’ve reinforced that. And interesting that many women readers get actually irritated if a female gets into the m/m action. In Star Trek Lives!, which I just finished reading, they talked a bit about how the “Mary Sue” stories tended to be by young readers and purely wish fulfillment, though they didn’t use that name. The book was published in 1975 so maybe that was before the name developed. Both males and females have get their wish-fullfillment some way, however. It’s just a bit different in how they go about it. And perhaps in what “wishes” they’re getting fulfilled. I’ll have to check out nine men and a little lady.

ANNA-LYS, I’m looking forward to some rest this weekend. Been a long week.

laughingwolf, Yeah, the blog atmosphere can lead to a lot of freewheeling and interesting discussion. Thanks for the heads up about Kirsten.

ARCHAVIST, I’ll have to check it out. I didn’t know that about fan fic. I guess I thought it had decreased in recent years but apparently I’m mistaken. I’ll have a look for that book.

J. L. Krueger, yeah, I’d rather work with my own. I’m obsessional enough about those. I do know some pro writers today who began with fan fic though.

Randy Johnson, I know Xena is, or so I’ve heard. Interesting observation about the “two” main characters. I hadn’t noticed that. That certainly seems interesting. I wonder about maybe doing some more research in this area.

Gabby, Yes, I knew you were doing some SG-1 stories. I’ve heard others say it was a good way to get their feet wet in writing, so to speak, to work on characters and scenes. I can see that, and see how a particular episode might be a jumping off place for someone’s imagination. And nope, I never had heard the term slash before, or hadn’t processed it if I had.

Middle Ditch, Did I miss an episode? Hum, I had some days last week when I just couldn’t make it through my blog roll because of school work. I’ll see if I can get caught up. I think that women use to use initials more, but a lot depends on the genre. I know men who have written romance novels under female pseudonyms because women wouldn’t buy a romance from a man.

Barrie said...

How interesting. I don't know enough about fan fic. And....I did get your book. Thank you! I won't be able to start reading it until end May. But I did want to let you know it arrived safely. ;)

ivan said...

I've always wondered about Kirk and Spock. But discipline?

Charles Gramlich said...

Barrie, I'm glad you got it. I would have emailed you in a day or two to make sure.

Ivan, many people have apparently.

Chris Benjamin said...

can't give you a very scientific explanation, but i have talked to a few women who find guy on guy hot, just as most men seem to find girl on girl hot. maybe for a hetero it's the lack of one's own gender uglying up the imagination?

the walking man said...

I don't know enough about anything to be a fan

Charles Gramlich said...

benjibopper, hum, I never really thought of the "Uglying up the imagination" part of it. You could have a point there.

Mark, Star Trek's the only TV show I know enough about. but there are a few other "fan" activities I take part in.

Clare2e said...

Because I knew a girl in junior high who did, I wrote a little Battlestar Galactica fanfic, old school. I'm afraid since then, I've become too controlling not to have the power to make any canonical changes I thought the story needed, and while I get the fannish enthusiasm and feel it myself for some creations, I'd feel a little strange about arbitrarily reinterpreting another author's world.

The newer versions of fanfic and all their permutations of tropes and players are pretty overwhelming to me in scope, though I'm glad the hordes who love writing and reading them can find each other and contribute to the community through the intarwebs.

I've wondered about the m/m fic, too, knowing as I do that it's largely by women and for women. There are Japanese schoolboy romances in manga form. It's a mirror world with frustrated pining and gifts of roses and stuffed animals, a commanding older boy (top) and a wide-eyed younger one (bottom), and they're designed for young girls to enjoy. I'd read some reviews of the Twilight series dissecting its appeal as an introduction for girls to the scary concept of a sexually awakened womanhood, and these m/m comics do somewhat the same, but I'm not sure exactly why it's less threatening than m/f.

Donnetta said...

Well, you are educating me. Hmm. Hadn't even thought about this before. (Yes, I'm slow.) But, really, that last image is pretty--well--illogical. D

Steve Malley said...

Well, here's me late to the comments board. Nothing much to add, but I did enjoy the post!

Anonymous said...

Charles, I can't even think of one fan fiction piece that I have read. Lana and you need to get a room!

Charles Gramlich said...

Clare2e, hummn, awakening womanhood. Interesting. I hadn't thought of that potential angle, although I know lots of older women read and write this kind of material. I'm the same way about writing in another author's world. It be like staying at someone else's house. I don't think I'd ever feel completely comfortable.

Donnetta Lee, I myself prefer to think of Spock and Kirk as just good friends.

Steve Malley, thanks. Glad you liked it.

jodi, fortunately we have a house. :)

cs harris said...

Thanks for the education, Charles; I'd no idea about almost all of this. Although I think I could have done without the mental image of Spock and Kirk! Obviously I'm not one of those women who finds m/m arousing.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Slash fiction huh? Thank-God Dirty Harry had a female partner. I don't think I've ever read any slash, not that kind of slash anyway, gore yes, slash no.

Erik Donald France said...

Add all the poetry inspired by Twin Peaks. Fun stuff, eh? Back in high school, I wrote a story based on Yeoman Rand, and "no beach to walk on." For what it's worth . . .

Leigh Russell said...

There is something fantastically hilarious about all this - a whole new world... keep guessing, guys! and no, I'm not going to imagine any of this - I'm not - I'm not!

As for my own particular obsession - The individual vs the faceless corporation (Leigh Russell vs - Sales ranking for Cut Short on rose to 780,000, thanks to my friends in the blogworld. So thank you USA.

If everyone persuaded a friend to order a copy, or ordered a second copy as a virtually signed gift for a friend, perhaps we might maintain a good rating… and - (am I hoping for a miracle here?) might take notice.

I leave it with you, my friends around the world.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, consider my predicament with said image!

JR, just hearing the word "slash" makes me think of slasher flicks. OMG, I've just created another image I didn't want.

Erik Donald France, hum, well I probably imagined a few stories about yeoman Rand, although I wouldn't have written them down for fear my mom would find them.

Leigh Russell, Imagining is half the fun, when it's the right kind of imagining. Glad your Amazon rank went up some. Be careful though, watching those Amazon numbers can be addicting and probably isn't all that healthy. I speak from experience.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I've never read fan fic before. I am always interested in what causes people to write fan fic - I guess a desire not to see the characters or the world end?

Lauren said...

I have met many Trekkies, but had never known about the whole Spock/Krik


I know that fan fiction is out there, but I've never really read it with the exception of reading some stuff that friends have written.

j said...

CRAZY that you addressed this and I had a question along the same lines yesterday.

Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked based on some characters in L. Frank Baum's Oz series. It struck me as odd that one author can use another author's characters to write a novel. Is there any rules or guide lines for doing this?

slash... that was a new one to me.

Angie said...

Jennifer -- more than you ever wanted to know about the legal side of fanfic.... ;D

If the source material is out of copyright you can do as you like with it, assuming you don't try to claim that you created the characters or setting or whatever. (That's still plagiarism, regardless of the copyright status of the source.) The Oz books are out of copyright, as was Jane Eyre when Wide Sargasso Sea was written.

Or if you have permission from the author (or the controlling estate if the author is dead) then you can write in that author's universe; that's how Scarlett was written, with permission from Ms. Mitchell's estate.

Another option is to go for a Fair Use case. Parody is protected under fair use, which is why the Harvard Lampoon can publish books like Bored of the Rings and Doon. If the work isn't clearly parody, though, then it gets sticky. You'd have to argue that your unauthorized sequel or whatever is sufficiently transformative to meet the fair use rules, which are kind of vague and which are interpreted case-by-case. No fanfic writer has evern felt like spending the money to go to court over the matter, particularly since fanfic writers tend to be ordinary people without huge bank accounts, and the owners of such original properties as Star Trek, Harry Potter and Rings tend to be pretty darned wealthy, and could keep throwing lawyers at you until you suffocated under the pile, regardless of the merits of the case. :P

But yes, it's all essentially fanfic. :) So are all the movie/TV/game tie-in novels; they're written under license from the owner of the source property, but in substance they're fanfic.

In practice, fanfic keeps a low profile and most copyright owners who officially disapprove (not all do) look the other way until or unless something happens which forces them to notice. In that case, they send out a handful of Cease and Desist notices, the writers or archivists in question take the stories down, and the rights holder goes away satisfied. The stories often go up again a few weeks or months later, at a new site under a new name; a site which was forced to move for this reason will often be locked or secured or anti-spidered or whatever when it respawns, and it starts over. From the POV of a property owner who thinks fanfic is anathema, it's like stomping roaches; they'll never get rid of all of it, and they make only a token effort to try. [wry smile]

Most owners know, though, that fanfic writers are among their biggest fans. People who write fanfic based on a movie or TV show evangelize the movie or show to all their friends, rave about it online, and the fanfic itself often brings in new viewers. (I never saw Blackhawk Down until I read some excellent fanfic based on it. I was never a Stargate: Atlantis fan until I got into the fanfic; now I'm buying the DVD seasons so I can watch it, since it's been cancelled.)

Fanfic writers buy the DVDs, with all the special editions and extras, and buy the books and the encyclopedias and concordances and any other official tie-ins, so they can study them as research for their writing. Pissing off the fanfic crowd is like hacking a hole in your own wallet, and most owners realize this.

Because of the money situation, though, there's never been a court case about fanfic and no one knows where the line is drawn, legally. Many fanfic stories are clear parody and therefore legally protected. Many are just "further adventures," fun but pedestrian and just more of the same thing offered in the original property, and probably not protected. There's a huge grey area, though, and despite what any number of people (particularly a few really uptight authors [cough]) loudy claim whenever the subject comes up, 1) without a court case, no one knows for sure how it would come out, and 2) even a court case would only serve as precedent for the given type of story put on trial, not all of fanfic. And even then, each case is up to its individual judge, who can usually find a reason to either use or discard a precedent if he or she has a reason to want to.

Bottom line, it's complicated if your source is still in copyright. :) But with properties which have passed out of copyright, give credit and you're golden.


Charles Gramlich said...

Ello, I think that's where I started with this topic. It makes me curious as to why. I've gotten some info that has helped.

Lauren, yes, it was all new to me just a couple of days ago.

Jennifer, I see Angie answered your question.

Angie, it never occurred to me that movies based on video games or comics are really fan fic. But you're so right. Interesting. I do watch those kinds of movies quitea bit.

Angie said...

Charles -- that's... actually an interesting thought. [ponder] What I meant, though, is that novels based on TV shows or movies or computer games are fanfic. I was still thinking of literary fanfic. There certainly are short movie-ish things created by fans, some with more production value than others, but I wouldn't consider, say, the Batman movies to be fanfic of the comics.

In this context, my definition of fanfic is fiction about an existing property, written by someone who has no control of or influence over that property.

So a fan writer who writes a Star Trek story and posts it online is writing fanfic, because they have no control over the original Star Trek property. They can write whatever they want, but it's not considered canon by the rights holders and is effectively invisible so far as the larger property is concerned.

Someone who writes a licensed Star Trek tie-in novel is also writing fanfic IMO, because although it's considered somewhat official by the rights holder, the author of the novel has no control over canon. He or she is required to follow canon, and is not free to get creative with the characters or setting or even the larger plot. So the writer couldn't, for example, write a novel where the Federation and the Klingons are at war, and the Klingons get a fleet deep into Federation territory and take out Earth, leaving humans only on their colony planets, plus whoever was travelling elsewhere at the time. The tie-in writer is limited not only to the characters and setting as presented in the TV show and movies, but also in that they have to hand everything back in the same condition they found it; by the end of the book, everything has to be back to normal. They're not allowed to make any really lasting changes or developments to any of the regular characters or to any part of the established setting. They have some legitimacy (and some money) but no actual control over what they do. To borrow from the late and unlamented Fanlib, they're forced to color strictly within the lines.

I wouldn't consider the official movies to be fanfic, though. They are official, and they're given much more leeway to make changes. So we have the restart of Trek Classic with the movie coming out next month, with significant changes from the original canon which are obvious even in just the trailers. The people making the movie have not only legitimacy, but clearly were given considerable latitude to reinterpret the characters and setting to suit themselves -- to rewrite the canon, to a certain extent. I think that's an important difference.


Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, ah, I see what you mean. Still, there is a fine line perhaps.

Chris Gruber said...

Hey! you seem to have forgotten your Sailor Steve Costigan pastiche. However, you did take him to a place that I am sure Howard had never intended for the poor galoot.

writtenwyrdd said...

Charles, thought I'd share this with you:

Shauna Roberts said...

Wow, what an informative post.

j said...

I read Angie comment and I appreciate the explanation very much. AND I am a bit fascinated with fan fiction now. This post was a learning experience for me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris Gruber, I did indeed forget about that one until after I'd already put up the post. It definitely was not a regular Costigan setting.

writtenwyrdd,cool. I'll check it out.

Shauna Roberts, it was certainly new info to me. Or much of it was.

jennifer, yes, she explained it pretty well.

Jane Turley said...

Heterosexual women enjoy seeing gay men making out? I'm so behind the times! Do they wear tight Speedos to excite the ladies before they get down to the foreplay? Fantastic! I feel as about excited as when I wash the dishes and clear out the cat litter tray.

Well I agree with you Charles, I can't see any attraction about writing fan fiction. Except maybe for comedy purposes; I've always wanted to see Superman in those lovely tight red pants in a clinch with Spiderman. How long do you think it would take them to get out of those suits? Could be a passion killer.

I suppose they could have velcro suits that just rip off? Nah, that would sound like they're just breaking wind. Maybe buttons? Or a zip? Oh yes, there's comedy in a zip....

Hmmm...think I'm gonna write some fan fiction now. Could be my most inspired piece of writing yet...