It’s getting kind of hard for me to get worked up over authors making sweeping ignorant statements about fanfic, but it’s also impossible to ignore. The latest culprits are big names: Time-travel romance author Diana Gabaldon and epic fantasy MVP George R.R. Martin.
And luckily, there are plenty of folks stepping up to the plate this round: I particularly appreciate Catherynne M. Valente’s take:
So much ire spent over something that ultimately helps books, keeps the conversation going past the long tail of marketing, keeps them alive and loved—I’ve never understood it. Quashing fan activity is not only self-sabotaging, but unkind. I have always been delighted when told there was a piece of fanfic inspired by a book of mine floating about. I don’t read it for legal reasons, but I’m thrilled to know it’s there. Someone cared. Someone loved it enough to spend their free time writing about it for free.
And with a more bare-bones look at things, Kate Nepveu:
People gossip about their favorite characters; become fascinated by unexplored characters, locations, histories, themes, implications; imagine what would happen next, or if, or instead; and critique every aspect of a work. Sometimes this takes the form of passing in-person conversations, sometimes of blog discussions, sometimes of scholarly works, and sometimes of stories. (Sometimes, even, of critically-acclaimed, award-winning, professionally-distributed stories.) I would be astonished to hear that your own writing never was influenced by this impulse—I say this not to suggest that you’ve been writing fanfic all along, but to point out the strength and universality of this impulse.
(What fan activity isn’t born of that impulse?)
Granted, for the most part, my personal experience with fanfic has been within Star Wars, and Lucasfilm has, for the last, oh, 20 years or so, pretty much turned a blind eye. (No, this wasn’t always the case.) But I’ve been in a few smaller author-based fandoms over the years where it was politely asked that fans not engage in fanfic of the books at hand, and people complied. (And not only that, they self-policed.) It’s not perfect, and may be hard to enforce with a larger fandom, but treating your fans with respect is never a bad move. Doing otherwise just makes one look like a bully – and a particularly petty one at that.