A Defense of Fan Fiction: Part Two
Posted by Jaime McCall
In my last post we started discussing several arguments against the potential value of Fan Fiction and tried to logically break those arguments down as they might apply to all genres. We discussed:
- Quality as a valid but hardly unique concern.
- Social relevance given that Fan Fiction can be used as a way to track culture without the influence of corporate or money making concerns.
This leads me to my last point. If you accept that some fan fiction writers are truly talented and that they have valid stories to tell, someone inevitably chimes in with…
So Tell Your Own Story Already!
I have to admit, this is the point that I tend to find the most frustrating. It is no revelation to any Fan Fiction author that they are operating in established worlds. I could submit the fact that maintaining a characterization throughout a 250,000 word piece takes skill whether you originally created the character or not, or that plot pacing is plot pacing whether you are responsible for naming the planets in that particular galaxy or not. And we won’t even get into the fact that, as we established earlier, several Fan Fiction authors do indeed go on to create their own worlds.
Because the truth is that a counter argument to this assertion can be boiled down to something much simpler.
I did not create the characters or world I am writing about?
… So what?
If the author-created nature of a world or character is going to be criterion by which to judge the validity of a story or genre, we’ve got an issue.
Why? Walk into the Sci-Fi section of any book store and you will see entire shelves dedicated to books that take place in the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Warhammer universes, just to name a few. If we require unique worlds from all of our authors, all of these books are now booted.
After all, A.C. Crispin did not create Spock nor write the episode “All Our Yesterdays”. Nevertheless, in “Yesterday’s Son “ A.C. Crispin took not only Gene Roddenberry’s characters, but the plot Jean Lisette Aroeste put to script and did something with them. She built upon the preexisting world, took the characters someplace that had not been previously imagined, and did so well enough that she was asked to write a sequel.
Plus, it’s important to note that at the time that she wrote “Yesterday’s Son” she was not a professional writer. The manuscript wasn’t solicited by Pocket Books, she just wrote it for love of the fandom and sent it in on her own.
So, while the argument that Fan Fiction isn’t “unique” is theoretically true, it is also fairly moot. Not only can you get esoteric and say that there are no new stories under the sun, but its simple fact that there are entire hoards of published authors who make their living expanding, clarifying, filling in, and adding detail to worlds that were created by others.
In closing, Fan Fiction does what every single work of literature does and what every single other genre author does. It answers the question “what if?” It doesn’t matter that the worlds are already established or the characters previously existed. If the story being told is told well, if there is skill in the craft, it deserves some degree of acknowledgment for that. Just because there are bad examples (and dear lord almighty there are some truly horrible ones out there), one cannot throw out the entire genre to mockery.
And just because it is not a money maker, one cannot ignore its usefulness to aspiring authors or society in general.