There’s been much debate in the blogosphere over the years about FANFIC: Threat or Menace?!?!?1! I haven’t participated in most of that debate, mostly because a) before four years ago, I had no “professional author” dog in the fight, and b) I was busy, mostly producing dogs for the fight.
But I also haven’t participated because my thoughts on the subject are fairly simple. I think fanworks = flattery + free publicity. I’m not going to limit things to fanfiction here, because the issue is really derivative art in general (including filk, fanart, fanjewelry, whatever), and I’m not going to go much deeper into it because lots of other authors have already said smart things on this issue, and I don’t feel like retreading the ground. Also because this particular ground has been paved for centuries anyway, so I’m not sure why it’s even an issue.
Yeah, I’ve heard the Marion Zimmer Bradley myth. Yeah, I’ve seen a dozen-odd Authors Behaving Badly over fanfic, defending their right to police other people’s imaginations with tooth and claw — I don’t agree with those authors, but if they want to draw a line in the sand over it, that’s their business. And yeah, I’m aware that the potential for litigation exists if somebody thinks I stole their idea, particularly in the area of fanfiction since writing is something I actually do. (Never mind that ideas can’t be copyrighted. I’m an American, and if there’s one right us Americans treasure, it’s the right to sue the pants off anybody for completely nonsensical reasons.) I’m also aware that people might do squicky things to my characters. But there’s a very simple way for me as an author to avoid the problems (if any) associated with fanfic, and that’s for me to ignore it. If you write it, don’t tell me. If you post it, don’t show me. If I blunder across it, I won’t read it. If you pull a Clockwork Orange on me and strap me to a chair with my eyes wired open while you flash it on a screen before me, I’ll pretend I didn’t read it. (And then I will probably sue you, at minimum.)
If we’re talking something other than fiction — say, fanart or filk — that’s less of a risk to me (if any). Frankly I have no talent whatsoever for visual art, sculpture, music, or anything else, and no interest in ever pursuing projects in any of those arenas, so I won’t actively avoid those… but. I also won’t go looking for them. Because fanworks are for fans, after all, not for me, and I know it can be a little unnerving to fan-creators when the author suddenly shows up in the comments, even if it’s just to squee. (And I do squee when I see something I like.) So if this is causing you to lose sleep at night, let me assure you: you don’t have to worry that I’ll go trolling the web someday, find your stick-figure drawing or experimental-theater script of the tentacle sex scene in 100K, and pitch an epic hissyfit. If I see it at all, I’ll probably just pull one of these:
…and move on.
And that right there is pretty much all I can state as my policy on fanworks. Any questions?