What is Fanfic?

What is fanfic?  Is it a crime to write it?  Is it a sin?

There’s a lot of misunderstandings about fanfiction (aka fan fiction, fanfic), especially since ‘netfic became more popular than fanzines.  (Don’t worry.  All terms will be explained presently.)  Fanfic is generally defined as writing stories based on TV shows or movies, without the permission of the copyright holders.

Stephen Downes defines fanfiction as “any work which embellishes, alters or rewrites the work of another (usually a published author) with new storylines, characters, alternative endings, beginnings and substitute sets of morals, ideals or sexual politics.”

The Urban Dictionary says “fanfiction is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it. Sometimes people will take characters from one movie and put them in another, which is called a crossover. ”

Wikipedia says “Fan fiction or fanfiction (also abbreviated to fan ficfanfic or fic) is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator. It is a popular form of fan labor, particularly since the advent of the Internet.”

Please note the last seven words of the paragraph above.  Fanfic predates the Internet.  Many people are under the misapprehension that the Internet created fanfic.  The Internet simply made fanfic cheaper and more accessible.

Once upon a time, there was a TV show called Star Trek.  (You may have heard of it.)  Some fans felt three seasons wasn’t enough, so just as Tom Sawyer played Robin Hood and King Arthur with his friends, they played Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel and Scotty.  Only instead of going outside to play make believe, these fans wrote down their stories.  Some were good.  Some were dreadful.  Some were eventually professionally published (often with the names and serial numbers filed off).  Many of these writers wanted to do things that the censors wouldn’t let NBC do at the time:  “adult” stories, what-if stories, crossovers, deathfic.

Examples:

  • What if Spock went into pon farr and Kirk was the only other person there?
  • What if Spock and Kirk were stuck in the 1930s with Edith Keeler?
  • What if the Enterprise found Captain Buck Rogers’ capsule and thawed him out?
  • What if the Enterprise went forward in time and was trapped in the Planet of the Apes future?
  • What if Kirk were never rescued in “The Paradise Syndrome” and Spock became captain of the Enterprise?
  • What if Spock really killed Kirk in “Amok Time”?
  • What if the Enterprise met the Battlestar Galactica and its ragtag fugitive fleet?

These stories were printed in homemade magazines called fanzines (fan magazines).  The fans didn’t invent fanzines — they were already around, but more for discussing SF and fantasy than writing stories based on other people’s characters.  But with mimeograph machines in their parents’ garages, these fannish authors abducted the term fanzine and refused to give it back.  Eventually, printing methods improved.  Photocopying costs came down.  (Oddly, photocopying costs were much lower on the West Coast than the East Coast, which affected the price of ‘zines.)  Kinko’s made editors’ lives easier.

Once writers get in the habit of writing, they don’t stop.  Fans of one show seldom like just that show, they become fans of other shows.  Star Trek fanzines and letterzines started having material from other shows and movies.  Eventually, those shows and movies started having their own ‘zines.  There were genzines.  There were multimedia ‘zines.  Under the table and in a whisper, there were slash ‘zines and het ‘zines.

It was a glorious time for fanfic authors and readers.


Vocabulary:

AO3:  Archive of our Own (archiveofourown.org), a popular ‘netfic site that has quite a few “adult” stories, theoretically by invitation only, but it’s easy to get invited.

AU:  alternative universe, a what-if such as what if your favorite Harry Potter character that J. K. Rowling killed off lived, what if the Pevensie children stayed in Narnia, what if Leia Organa had been trained since childhood as a Jedi knight

canon:  what happened in the original material

crack or crackfic:  a very silly story, not meant to be taken seriously

crossover:  a story that combines the characters from two or more fandoms, such as Batman meeting Jessica Fletcher or Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory and Dr. Spemcer Reid of Criminal Minds collaborating on a physics project together/

crunching:  The Mills Brothers sang “you always hurt the one you love.”  Crunching is showing how much you love a favorite character by writing a story where he is physically and/or emotionally hurt.

deathfic:  a story that features the death of a major character

fanfic or fanfiction:  an amateur story written by a fan, based on characters and situations created by someone else (usually a TV show or movie, sometimes a book or series of books)

FanFiction.Net:  one of the more popular fanfic websites, sometimes referred to as the Pit of Voles because it obeys Sturgeon’s Law.  Proofreading is regrettably rare.

fanon:  something that happens so much in fanfic that it is accepted by other writers as semi-canonical

fanzine or ‘zine:  a homemade magazine containing fanfic stories, poems, artwork, etc.

genzine:  a fanzine that has stories rated G to PG-13, with limited sex in the stories

het:  R or X rated stories focusing on male characters with female characters

hurt/comfort or h/c:  a story where character A is badly hurt, so that character B can comfort and console him

letterzine:  a homemade magazine with little or no fiction, with the emphasis on letters between fans discussing and debating their favorite shows

Mary Sue:  a character who is beautiful, intelligent, has multiple skills, is often of royal or noble birth, frequently has psi-powers, a born leader, and whom the hero falls head-over-heels in love with; very common in beginning writer’s stories as they attempt to have a character who is good enough to keep up with the canon cast, and winds up outdoing them in every category.

multimedia:  a fanzine that has stories from multiple fandoms

‘netfic:  fanfic that originates on the Internet, instead of being published in a ‘zine first

slash:  stories of any rating focusing on romantic relationships between two characters of the same gender, especially if they were heterosexual in canon, ie, Ellison/Sandburg, Kirk/Spock, Solo/Kuryakin, etc.


Then came ‘netfic.  Now, ‘netfic is not inherently bad, just as ‘zines are not always good.  But ‘netfic has a tendency to jump from writer’s brain to keyboard to posted on-line, without stopping for a breath in between.  This is especially true of the younger writers.  Paula Smith had this to say of the difference in the writing process between ‘zines and ‘netfic:

In writing, there is a crucial step of rewrite which is not regularly being seen these days. This is one difference we noticed in the late 1990s with fans coming in from the Internet. In the old days, I would write the first draft of a story in longhand, type it up, read it again, fuss with it, type it up again. And then the editor would read it, recommend changes, and you would have to type the whole bloody thing up yet again. The stories went through the typewriter more than once, and a lot was changed slowly but crucially. I’ve noticed the difference in my own writing. Now, you write something, put it aside, write something, put it aside, and then jam it all together.  {Paula Smith}

On the one hand, ‘netfic is free.  (Due to printing costs, ‘zines can be as expensive as hardcover books.)  The feedback is almost instantaneous.  On the other hand, GIGO.  Since no editor looks over the story before it’s posted, typos abound in ‘netfic.  Typos aren’t unknown in fanzines, of course, but authors and editors at least try to catch and correct them.  As Paula Smith said, “Another difference is the level of literacy of people coming to it—and the level of entitlement about their level of literacy: “Well, I don’t care if this is misspelled because that’s how I want it to be.” I may sound a bit snotty, but heck, I’ve seen typos completely wreck the point of a story.”


Is fanfic a sin?  Is it a crime?

Most people say that fanfic violates copyright.  This is why is must be done on an amateur basis, and fanzine editors and publishers can only charge enough to get their printing and mailing costs back.  They cannot make a profit.

However, there’s the Fair Use argument.

Like every other potentially infringing thing we do on the Internet every day, from reblogging a photo on Tumblr to uploading a song cover to YouTube, in the U.S. fanfiction writers are protected by a magical thing called the Fair Use clause. The Fair Use clause states that if use of someone else’s work is “fair,” it’s OK. Traditionally, “fair” has usually been granted to purposes of education or commentary, but this is also the clause that allows and protects parody. (By Gavia Baker-Whitelaw AND Aja Romano )

Many “real” authors got their start in fanfic  Mercedes Lackey, Jean Lorrah, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Lois McMaster Bujold, Rosemary Edghill, Jean Graham.  Dr. Lorrah uses the supporting characters she developed in her Star Trek fanfic stories in her professionally published by Pocket Books Star Trek novels.  (I don’t know whether Pocket Books is aware of this.)  Take a close look at Bujold’s Hugo-winning Miles Vorkosigan series.  If you squint, you can see the roots of a Klingon admiral in Aral Vorkosigan and a Starfleet officer in Cordelia Naismith.  Rosemary Edghill’s Hellflower trilogy started life as Star Wars fanfic, with Butterfly St. Cyr as a business rival to Han Solo.  I’ve seen a series of romance novels where the heroes were very clearly based on the men of TV’s Magnificent Seven, although again, I’m not sure if the publisher was aware of that.

If you are willing to risk the legal issues, fanfic is a good way for writers to practice.  Since the settings and characters already exist, the writer can concentrate on plot, description, etc.  Fanfic does not require a plot; many fans see nothing wrong with a vignette that is just character development.

And then there’s the success story many fanfic readers and writers are both proud of and embarrassed by:  Fifty Shades of Gray.  It started life as Twilight fanfic.  People are pleased (and jealous) that one of their own made it to the big time.  They’re embarrassed because it’s so dreadful.  But then, so was Twilight, IMHO.

“Author Orson Scott Card (best known for the Enders Game series) once stated on his website, “to write fiction using my characters is morally identical to moving into my house without invitation and throwing out my family.” He changed his mind completely and since has assisted fan fiction contests, arguing to the Wall Street Journal that Every piece of fan fiction is an ad for my book. What kind of idiot would I be to want that to disappear?’ “(Wikipedia)

The inimitable but oft-imitated J. K. Rowling says she’s flattered by fanfic set in the Harry Potter universe.  (Which is a good thing, because there are over 776,000 HP stories at FanFiction.net and 154,267 HP stories at AO3.)  Shannon Hale admits she still writes fanfic on occasion.  Raymond Feist, Anne Rice, and George R. R. Martin are opposed to fanfic and have requested their fans not write any based on their novels.

I think fanfic is A, harmless fun, and B, good writing practice.  My opinion may change when other people start writing stories about my characters without permission.  As the saying goes, YMMV;  your mileage may vary.  What’s your opinion on fanfic?

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I’m A Movie Star!

Last weekend my husband, daughter, and I were extras in a movie that was filming in our area.  It’s called Time Boys, and it should be released next summer.

#timeboysfeaturefilm

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The movie is written and directed by Randall Terry.  He’s a documentary maker; this is his first narrative feature.  Mr. Terry also plays Josiah O’Neil, a widowed inventor.

We were extras in the county fair scene set in 1908.

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Here’s my husband with Johnny McPhail, who plays the richest man in town.  His real life wife, Susan McPhail, played Miss Violet, a friend of the O’Neil family.  The “time boys” of the title were played by Mr. Terry’s real life sons.

My husband was assigned to the Civil War memorabilia booth, and he showed off various artifacts from the War Between the States to other extras who were playing fairgoers.  I spent most of my time sitting on a hay bale, clapping along to the music as the Dickens Dancers danced the Virginia Reel.  My daughter wound up joining the dancers.  She’d learned the Virginia Reel from watching Felicity, and filled in when one of the dancers had to go home early.

Josiah (or was it Joshua?) O’Neil is a widowed inventor who is trying to make a time machine.  He wants to go back in time to save his wife.  Somehow, his sons go forward to 2016 and must figure out how to get back to 1908.  This will be a family-friendly film, G or PG, with no more violence than juvenile fisticuffs and no foul language.

There was a lot of hurry up and wait, and we got a little sunburned, but it was fun.  We were fed.  We met some nice people.  We learned a little bit about movie making.  (When they say “quiet on the set,” they aren’t kidding.)  It took a day and a half to film what will only be a few minutes of movie.  I’m looking forward to seeing the movie when it’s released next summer.

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My First Story Sale (a guest blog by Melinda LaFevers)

This is by singer/storyteller/historical re-enactor/writer Melinda LaFevers. She is the letter S (for storyteller) in my children’s book, R is for Renaissance Faire. She is also going to be my co-anthologist in More Alternative Truths, and she assisted with the musical arrangement of the filk song I co-wrote with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, “Donald, Where’s Your Taxes?” Thank you for being a guest blogger, Melinda.

Melinda's obscure thoughts...

For those who are unaware, I am a writer.  Now, I don’t just mean the occasional blog that I post (and I really need to post more often)

No, I mean I actually write fiction and non-fiction, and when I’m fortunate and blessed, I actually am able to sell them.  I have been writing poetry, songs, and music for decades, mostly for myself.

But a few years ago, I was inspired to write a story and offer it for sale.  It happened like this…

I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.  This is a historical recreation group that studies the renaissance and middle ages.  They hold a large event in Mississippi in March called Gulf Wars – and by large, I mean 4-5000 people or more.  Also held in March, in Memphis, is a science fiction convention called MidSouthCon.  Usually there would be a fairly large contingent…

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Alternative Truths: An unexpected-success story

Here are the thoughts of one of my co-contributors to Alternative Truths. I did a silly story, to make readers laugh. She did a serious story, to make readers think.  Ladies, gentlemen, I present my colleague Karen G. Anderson.

Writer Way

Alt truths cover The cover of the Alternative Truths anthology

Just over 100 days ago, on Jan. 23, science fiction author Bob Brown issued a writing challenge: Imagine the future during or after the Trump presidency. Write a story. Submit it to an anthology to be called Alternative Truths.

“This is an anthology about the future in an alternative fact world,” Bob wrote. “What does the future hold? Endless alternative facts? Brilliant leadership? Alien invasions? Zombies in the White House?”

Bob set about co-editing the anthology with Phyllis Irene Radford, vowing to publish the book within the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

As submissions came in, Bob formed the private Facebook group Alternative Truth (now public) so the participants could discuss the project. In a field where submissions generally vanish behind a curtain from which editors issue cryptic rejections, the decision to open-source the anthology project seemed both odd and courageous. Did these people know what they were getting into?

I submitted a dystopian story, “Patti…

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Cover art by Alexander James Adams.

Alternative Truths

A few months ago, I wrote about the CREATE Initiative, that we could fight against corrupt politicians through artistic creation.  Well, Bob Brown and Phyllis Irene Radford had the self-same idea.  Knowing that humor is the best way to fight pomposity, and that parody is a traditional response to politics and politicians, they organized a science fiction anthology called Alternative Truths. That book debuts tomorrow, April 28, 2017, via Amazon.

Alternative Truths Anthology was formed, when on February 23, 2017, I, and many of my friends, asked what we could do. We could write, we could join that noble tradition of using the pen, to poke the powerful.  So was born, Alternative Truths. And our pens became word processors and our ideas became stories.

Alternative Truths is a look at the post election America that is, or will be, or could be. We attach no manacles to the word truth to bind it to our visions, but instead we free it to find its own way through the minds of the two dozen writers who have shared their vision of the future…. Whomever or what ever you like you will find here with an absolute appreciation for the fact that we live in a great country where you can still publish a book like this, in part to the continued efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the ink of patriots.


Phyllis Irene Radford and Bob Brown,
Editors, Alternative Truths

Alternative Truths has twenty-four stories, mostly science fiction, but a few fantasy.  There are ghosts, there are demons, there are aliens, there are time travelers, and there are the most dangerous creatures of all, human politicians.  The stories range from the humorous to the horrific, from the silly to the scary, from (First Amendment legally protected) parody to frighteningly plausible predictions.  Several of the stories would make excellent Twilight Zone episodes.  American, Canadian, and British authors have joined together to imagine what might become of the United States if an unethical businessman with no political experience were to be elected to the highest office in the land.

“In true American tradition, we lampoon our politicians – particularly those with overblown egos. And our current President has an ego big as – well, a wall. His own staff member provided the inspiration for this anthology when she used the term “alternative facts.” Since the President won’t come to the correspondent’s dinners, we’re bringing it to you. Alternative Truths is a collection of twenty-four stories by authors specializing in genres from political commentary to science fiction and fantasy. Once started, it’s impossible to put down. The topic of prevarication is addressed in manners from humorous to deadly serious. Contexts range from the past to dystopic futures. The collection is powerful, provocative, and in some cases – hopefully not precognizant.” R. Kyle

Alternate Truths has stories by Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station, award-winning author Adam-Troy Castro, Diana Hauer, Louise Marley, Irene Radford, Canadian author and journalist Gregg Chamberlain, Sara Codair, K. G. Anderson, Daniel M. Kimmel, Janka Hobbs, Bruno Lombardi, Victor D. Phillips, Larry Hodges, Bobby Lee Featherston, Blaze Ward, Joel Ewy, Marleen S. Barr, Ken Staley, Wondra Vanian, Liam Hogan, Voss Foster, Rebecca McFarland Kyle, Paula Hammond, and Susan Murrie Macdonald.

The CREATE Initiative is a way for ordinary people to fight back against the powerful and heartless.  Write, paint, perform, blog.  If you can’t do that, then read or listen or watch the works of those who can.  Alternative Truths is $4.99 on Kindle or $11 in paperback.  Buy a copy (or two.  Books make great gifts, and Mother’s Day is coming.) Remember, to an author, reviews are love, so feel free to mention on Amazon and/or Goodreads that you liked it.

“That’s what we storytellers do.  We restore order with imagination.   We instill hope again and again and again.” Walt Disney

Remember three things:  1, the pen is mightier than the sword.  2, enough snowflakes gathered together can form a blizzard or an avalanche.  3, comedy is a traditional weapon against politicians.

Disclaimer:  I am not unbiased in this matter.  I am the author of the fifth story in the book and one of the assistant proofreaders.  I confess to having a financial stake in Alternative Truths doing well.  I have a son going to college in a few months, and I’d like to be able to pay his tuition.

 

Honor Harrington

After being on my read-eventually list for years, I finally got around to reading David Weber‘s Honor Harrington books.  I have now read five of the first six books (haven’t read #5 yet) and am about 100 pages into the seventh book.  They are exceedingly well written and I am hooked.  Weber has a complex social and technological background for his books, and three-dimensional characters.

Honor Harrington, the heroine of the “Honorverse,” is a naval officer for the Star Kingdom of Manticore.  She is human, but a “genie,” i.e., descended from genetically engineered ancestors to better survive living on a planet with slighter higher gravity than Manticore or Old Earth.  Honor is a feature of her character as well as her name: she is intelligent, brave, loyal, patriotic, with a strong sense of duty and justice.

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As a child, Honor was adopted by a treecat, a six-legged creature from her home planet, Sphinx.  She shares an empathic bond with her ‘cat, Nimitz.  Honor believes (correctly) that treecats are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for.  Treecat adoptions are respected in the Star Kingdom of Manticore.  Seven of the last nine monarchs, including the current Queen Elizabeth III, have been adopted by ‘cats.  Therefore, Nimitz accompanies her on her vessels and even attended the academy with her.

David Weber limits the profanity in these books.  Although there is some swearing, including occasional use of a certain four-letter word that rhymes with duck, it is limited to situations and characters where such vocabulary is actually in character.  Unlike the late Tom Clancy, he doesn’t feel the need to drop F-bombs like confetti.

My only complaint with the books thus far is that the Honorverse has certain similarities with the Albion Empire of my own “Captain’s Claim.”  This is not unusual, not even unpredictable.  Weber and I both read the Horatio Hornblower books when we were younger — he even dedicates the first book of the series to C. S. Forester and has Honor reading one of the Hornblower books as pleasure reading in one of the later books.  Both of us watched the Star Wars series of movies, as well as old movies like The Sea Hawk and goodness knows how many other books, TV shows, and movies with space empires.  Elizabeth Moon and Lois McMaster Bujold have also written SF books where  the hero serves in the starfleet of a space empire with a very formal society.  I’m just not looking forward to being accused of copycatting from Mr. Weber, when I’ve been working on Captain’s Claim, off and on, since 1996.

So far I’ve read the first four books in the series, the sixth book, and I’ve started on the seventh.  I’ve been ignoring both housework and ghostwriting in favor of reading these books; they’re hard to put down.  If you like military SF, give David Weber’s Honor Harrington books a try.

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If you like strong women in a western setting, try Juliette Douglas’ Freckled Venom series.

And if you want to buy my western e-book, Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid, I won’t complain.

[Feature Image Galaxy M101: Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI]