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people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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derivative works in context
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Via cofax7, Boing-Boing on Bookshop's Post

From boing-boing comment:
If fanfic wants to be something that expresses a love of / obsession with a particular cultural product and reinforces a shared, often subcultural, identity built around it - which is surely, what fanfic is - then it is unlikely to have much impact beyond that. But as soon as it starts to mean something independent of the original product, it ceases to be fanfic and becomes part of wider culture. Exactly like most of the things on this list, whatever their origins.


A lot of arguments about fanfic revolve around the idea of the lack of creativity--which is absurd--the lack of quality--because pro novels are uniformly good, let me refer you to Brian Fucking Herbert before you even bother--but this one, this one....

But as soon as it starts to mean something independent of the original product, it ceases to be fanfic and becomes part of wider culture.

No, it ceases to be fanfic when authors can legally publish it and potentially get paid for it. Diane Duane's Spock's World had exactly as much context to wider culture as D'Alaire's Voyager fic Word Painter.

Cofax goes into the context bit here, which I agree with and keep thinking I want to add to, but it's more complicated than that.

Derivative works already mean something independent of the original product; that's why they were written. So it comes back to the context issue; a derivative work isn't fanfic if it can stand alone without context.

I could say this; all fiction requires context.

I could say this; some fiction requires more context than others.

I could use this: tell me that Apocalypse Now would work if you were not American, did not know the military existed, and lived on the moon. Fiction accesses context consciously and unconsciously all the time, from general cultural context to historical context to language context--Bastard Out of Carolina, hard Southern: Mairelon the Magician, cockney: Ghost Story, very British. The Yellow Wallpaper requires knowing about the treatment of women by society and the patriarchy in the nineteenth century; Raj needs a basic understanding of India's state under British rule and the effects of colonialism.

And [profile] samdonne's Your Cowboy Days Are Over requires some understanding of colonialism and Stargate: Atlantis.

At some point, someone needs to just admit it; it's not about context, and in some ways, it's not even about copyright; it's the subculture around fanfic that makes it unacceptable. Derivative fiction that comes out of mainstream is literary and critical and meaningful and art; derivative fiction that comes out of fanfic communities isn't.

Or as one poster put it:
I read (and watch, and listen to) plenty of things that aren't pushing any artistic boundaries. But I don't pretend it's anything more than popcorn, and for the most part the producers don't pretend it's anything more than popcorn.


Yeah. I miss coffee right now.

ETA: Link corrected.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/22319.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

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There's a errant " on your link that borks it.

And I like what you have to say here.


Fixed!

And thank you! It ended up different than I expected when I started writing it; my original post was going to be about how context based out of fanfic communities is awesome when I realized that was the entire point. It doesn't matter how awesome or interesting or complicated or artistic we are; the community itself is what is considered unacceptable.

It was a very depressing thought.

Yeah, and then there's things like how I became a fan of Adam Lambert & Kris Allen after reading fanfic about them (and I've heard similar stories of people who access the "original" via the derivative over the years as well).

(Seriously, I wrote my first fic when I had only half a dozen songs on my hard drive between the two of them.)

Edited at 2010-05-29 06:53 am (UTC)

It's clear to me that some of these people need to read Henry Jenkins, an MIT professor who actively studies fanfiction and its impact. My reasons are my own but I got into fanfic because what I read in and for school and what I saw on TV wasn't fulfilling my needs. Fanfiction gave me fleshed out homosexual characters living in their own space. It gave me powerful women. It gave me words that moved me to tears. It's part and parcel that it used characters that I was aware of thanks to the wider media, but beyond that fanfic authors made these characters mean more for me.

I can't have coherent arguments about this to people who won't listen. Fanfiction is art and has just as much right to be called literary fiction as anything else. It has form and substance, shape and plot. Anyone who denies it, is just not well informed.

"That thing you do is gross and meaningless. Unless it accidentally is meaningful and stuff, in which case that thing you're doing is no longer the thing you're doing! Silly girls, you have no idea what you're doing. Y'all are so crazy, writing stories while having vaginas."

Ha! It's funny 'cause it's true.

And because it's true, it's actually...not...funny.

...oh my goodness, do I ever wish this weren't true. :(

Sweet zombie Jesus. I don't think I can read any more of the comments on that post, they're making me want to claw my eyes out. D<

The gist of their argument seems to be, "well, that stuff isn't really fanfiction." Which - O HAI, I SEE THE POINT HAS WHIZZED RIGHT OVER YOUR HEAD. *facepalm*

I think you've put your finger on what's been bothering me about this whole fanfic debate, actually. When people in the mainstream do exactly what we are doing, it's totally fine! But when we do it, it's disgusting and contemptible. Of course when you point this out to people - well, see above. Apparently it's only fanfiction if I don't like you.

...of course I will now go back to reading the comments and hating myself. And the internet. Cheerio.

At some point, someone needs to just admit it; it's not about context, and in some ways, it's not even about copyright; it's the subculture around fanfic that makes it unacceptable. Derivative fiction that comes out of mainstream is literary and critical and meaningful and art; derivative fiction that comes out of fanfic communities isn't.

I think you're right, and I think the other thing that critics need to stop hiding behind is the "does it have a message" measuring stick.

Literature is supposed to change your life, right? There's a fanfic that fundamentally changed the way I think about how I see myself, about how I understand people's expressions of their identity. Sometimes I want to tell people about the insight I got from the author's writing, but I can't. It's what you're getting at--the subculture makes it shameful. The couple of times I've brought it up with people I am vague about where it came from--but why the hell can't I give the writer credit? Like, oh, I don't know, a real author?

The point you make about context made me think about the idea of "standing alone" without the source material. What does that mean? Some things can stand alone, and honestly a lot of fanfic can--it becomes a (99% of the time) love story/romance. Period. That's still a functioning piece of writing, even if it might lose a lot of the richness of the context. On the other hand, sure (some of) the literary works can stand alone, but don't they lose something if they're not understood as derivative? Wide Sargasso Sea? March? Let's not pretend they don't fully capitalize on and are given meaning and significance BECAUSE they are derivative. And that they weren't written at least in part with that intention!

Randomly: I love the word pastiche, which means something along the lines of remix/adaptation/imitation and can apply to so much of the material under discussion, from published works like Ahab's Wife and Laurie King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novels to anything on AO3.

Gah, sorry if this is incoherent. I wish I remembered more from my lit crit/post colonial theory days, because we spent a lot of time talking about works that took established works and redid them, were subversive, etc--not that all fanfic does that, but it's one of its facets.

I think my favorite comment is the very first one - the one that says, "Operas and Musicals in particular are highly complex artforms that often rely on source material from other media for their stories. They are genres rife with adaptations from other plays, novels, historical events, folktales, etc." and then goes on to argue that those things are not fanfiction. Possibly I like that comment because I just wrote an entire term paper on the similarities between the theatre community and the fan community, because guess what, they're really similar. *sigh* Some people will never get it.

This whole argument makes my BA sad. It's just such a fucking narrow life-view to have when it comes to creativity and art and all the different things that those two words encapsulate.

Why do I feel like fanfic readers and writers have just become the dirty hippies to the rest of the clean-cut, wholesome literary world. I mean, not that I mind being a dirty hippie, I'd just like to know ahead of time that that is what is now expected of me so I can co-oridinate an outfit or something.


Hear, hear! Then again, since I'm in Washington state, I can go the whole grunge route and when was that ever coordinated?

I haven't had enough coffee to make a coherent response to this, other than heavy-duty nodding that kinda makes my head hurt. Nodding especially hard at this bit:

it's the subculture around fanfic that makes it unacceptable

..and then sighing.

And because I keep running across you saying smart things, via friendsfriends and metafandom and suchlike, and have decided to friend you just so I don't miss anything. I hope that's okay!

I'm only doing what John Keats did 190 years ago

... when he wrote "Ode on a Grecian Urn."

Okay, sure, I use a little more smut, but a lot of acclaimed artists have worked with the naughty over the years. But what I'm talking about is that no one's ever given me a reason to consider what I'm doing to be different from what Keats did, when he stared at a vase and started seriously looking at the figures and what was happening in their lives in that moment.

Keats was consciously someone else's creation, and asking his readers to connect with this original source while he connected it with the greater world outside the pretty pictures.

I'm not going to claim to be a Keats, but does that mean I shouldn't write? I know a lot of people who will never be a professional athlete that still like to go out and play.

Thank you for linking to this and for your thoughts, it's really made me think as well.

Especially this: it's the subculture around fanfic that makes it unacceptable. Derivative fiction that comes out of mainstream is literary and critical and meaningful and art; derivative fiction that comes out of fanfic communities isn't.

One of the arguments that comes up time and time again about the difference between mainstream literary media and fanfic is money. While I am sure there are people in the publishing, television and movie industries who are in it to create great artistic works, when it comes down to it, they are there to make money.

No, it ceases to be fanfic when authors can legally publish it and potentially get paid for it.

Whatever authority to pass judgment on what is or what isn't legitimate media these industries pretends to have, their basic purpose is to make money, so it behooves them to create a monopoly on what's 'real' literature or media, as it were. Books and movies and tv shows aren't flops just because they were poorly written or didn't strike a chord with the audience but because they failed to make tons of money. (insert obligatory Firefly reference here)

So here we all are, producing tons of fic that they can't monetize. It must be galling.

I also think part of the stigma attached to fanfiction is because we revel in porn. I love porn and I only found this out when I started reading fanfic. Where there are others who proudly proclaim that they love reading about sex, all kinds of sex. Which polite society doesn't like much. Especially from women.

And then there's all the fic that explores issues that make mainstream media squirmy and nervous. Womens issues, racial issues, lgbt issues, I've learned more about feminism, racism and lgbt issues since getting involved in fandom than in all my years of school.

Fandom educates better than mainstream media too. Which leads to questioning mainstream media and it's authority. And then the whole legitimate media/fandom media cycle begins. Mainstream media produces something, fandom takes it as it's own and transforms it according to it's own wants and needs. Mainstream media objects, drawing attention to the whole thing and presumably getting people to buy things to see what the fuss is about.

It all seems to boil down to the illustrious "Them" saying "You can't do that!" and fandom saying "Yes, we can! Nyah-nyah!"

I now have this image in my head of fandom being cultural pirates. We take what we want, do what we want with it and don't apologize for it. (except for the legal disclaimers) And I really love it that way.

man, I hope this makes as much sense for other people to read as it does in my head, I don't meta often. If this is derailing to what you wanted to discuss, please delete.

Edited at 2010-05-29 06:16 pm (UTC)

I am just sat down to enjoy my lunch break, when I got here via one of the newsletters, and skimming through the comments, yours absolutely resonate with me !

it just so totally unaccetable, and even more, unfathomable for the entire Hollywood, and rest of the cultural industry, that there are literally millions of women across the world, who do this (our) thing

a) and we don't even ask for money for it!!! How outragous!! NOT DOING STUFF FOR MONEY! WOMEN doings things for each other, and it doesn't involve kittens, elderly people, or men!!!
b)ditto to the sex thing. WOMENZ WHO LIKE SEX AND PORN, and sit together and talk and share their fantasies!!! and we even admit we like it!! without shame!!! totally outrageous! that we don't actually perform for men. Or try to please them. or ask for their opinions!!

in totes: its not just, that what we do , we do it freely, BUT ITS ALSO ALL KINDZ OF IMMORAL!

"it's the subculture around fanfic that makes it unacceptable"

Because it's primarily a female pursuit.

And everyone knows we don't make important ART. (We make crafts. Which are ADORABLE but totally undeserving of societal accolade.)

No, it ceases to be fanfic when authors can legally publish it and potentially get paid for it. Diane Duane's Spock's World had exactly as much context to wider culture as D'Alaire's Voyager fic Word Painter.

I'm sorry, I came in late.

...Wut?


I'm sorry, I came in late. ...Wut?

*curious* Which part?

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Argh, sorry, I replied to this in the wrong spot. Chalk it up to it being 1:30 AM for me.

Personally I'm of the opinion 'pro' author's are actually rather insecure about their writing.

Um. As opposed to all other living, breathing authors on Earth in what way? Do explain.

Because if you have not been insecure about your writing work at some point... you are not a writer.

Edited at 2010-05-30 12:26 am (UTC)

Derivative works already mean something independent of the original product; that's why they were written. So it comes back to the context issue; a derivative work isn't fanfic if it can stand alone without context.

I find this really interesting because I'm someone who will happily read a 100K word fanfic in a fandom I know nothing about, if I know the writer or have gotten a rec from someone I know and trust, and the vast majority of time I can pick it up, no problem. Now, I'm clear that I miss stuff when I read in a fandom for which I'm not familiar with the source material - after all, one of the great pleasures of reading in fandoms I do follow are all the details and shared canon that's used and manipulated and expounded on. But by the end of the fic, I know those characters, and I know that story, and it can be enough. I've seen exactly two episodes of SGA, but I've read extensively in that fandom, and it took maybe two fics before I really started to know who these characters were. I developed a fluency through the fic itself.

I guess what I'm saying is that while the stories wouldn't exist in their current forms without the source materials, many of them can be read independent of them, especially AUs - and I think that's okay, and valid, and actually speaks again to our desire as human beings to tell and be told stories, even when we know we may not be getting the whole picture. Because who ever truly gets all the references in any story, pro or for pleasure? All of our stories are influenced by what we've consumed, and that's how we know how to tell stories in the first place.

I totally agree with this! I'll go further and say that there are at least three TV shows and one series of books that I never would have started watching/reading if I hadn't found and read their fanfic first.

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