Yuletide, the annual rare-fandoms fanfic gift exchange, had a rule change this year that suddenly made it relevant to our interests – they allowed requests from lesser-ficed parts of large fandoms like Star Wars. So, for the first time, we’re seeing Star Wars fanfics among the offerings. 32 of them, in fact, including a whooping 13 X-Wing fics. Other requests included the Thrawn trilogy and The Old Republic.
EU-based fanfic has never been exactly rare, but it does tend to focus on the big ‘ships (ahem) so if you’ve been looking for something a little different, check out the listings. The authors are all currently anonymous, but will be revealed on January 1st, per Yuletide tradition.
There’s a long history of fans monetizing their fanfic – but generally they do it by filing off the serial numbers, changing the names, and repurposing it as ‘original’ work. Fifty Shades of Grey may be the most infamous example, but it’s hardly the first.
Now Amazon wants to cut out all that work to get your fanfic published: They’ve launched Kindle Worlds, “the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.”
How are they not getting their asses sued? Well, they’re actually licensing the stuff. First up is Alloy Entertainment, the Warner-Bros. owned book packager responsible for such book-series-turned-TV as Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries. Not your bag of blood? They plan “to announce more licenses soon.” (For what it’s worth, I really doubt that Lucasfilm or Disney would sign on to something like this – at least not this early on.)
Naturally, they’re not allowing porn or crossovers, which disincludes plenty of fandom right from the start, but it’s still pretty troubling – and something that could end up very disturbing precedent.
The first and only rule of fanfic fandom is you don’t sell your stuff. I firmly believe that the line between fanfic and profic is something that should only be crossed very carefully and with great caution. And, let’s face it – most fanfic is awful, porn or no porn.
The idea of actually monetizing fanfic is no real surprise – it’s been tried, and failed, a dozen times over, and the runaway success of 50 Shades made this nigh-inevitable. To have the Powers-That-Be actively involved in fanfic has a real potential to change this very specific fandom activity – and not for the better. Part of the point of fanfic, to my mind, is the complete lack of tether. It rarely pays off, but when it does, those are the moments that make the whole enterprise worth it.
This alone is no great shakes – Alloy and a couple of writers making a couple bucks off some PG smolderfests is not going to change the whole landscape of fandom. But it’s a very dangerous first step that could lead to more corporate policing in the fanfic realm, the making such a thing mundane – and that’s something I am not in the least comfortable with.
Sure, we winced when ex-Twilight story 50 Shades of Grey became the giant bestseller of 2012. But for the world of fanfic, what’s worse than watching badly-written BDSM shoot up the bestseller lists?
Could it be… Boy band fan fiction? Penguin has picked up a story called Loving the Band, written by a 16-year-old “One Direction super-fan”. Maybe the cash will help take the sting out of the embarrassment she’ll feel about the thing in 5 to 10 years – assuming it proves even a fraction as sucessful as 50 Shades, anyway.
James sent in several videos from San Diego, including this tour of Her Universe’s new offerings from Ashley Eckstein, including our first look at the new Her Universe logo tee! And Ashley mentions that they have lanyards, which have been pretty thin on the ground at cons lately… I hope they bring them to Celebration!
UPDATE: Bryan Young talked a bit more in depth with the PR people about the contest, and the fan fiction thing “is not the primary goal.” Nonetheless, the whole concept makes me very nervous, something which I’ll explore further later.