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How many shades of what? March 12, 2012

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in ex-cathedra from my navel, fandom, fanfic, MFU, Sherlock, writing.
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My brain doesn’t want me to work on anything productive today (by which I mean paying copy). Instead, it wants to play, and write fanfiction.

I’m an odd duck among writers. I love fanfiction. I know there are writers out there who think fanfiction is TEH EVIL OMG!!!! I’m not one of them. I love fanfiction. I write it, I read it, and if it ever comes out that there is fanfiction of one of my works, I will know that I’ve made it. It means that someone likes what I write enough to want to play in my world. How is this a bad thing?

Well, okay. It’s a bad thing when someone tried to take advantage of the author (which supposedly happened to Marion Zimmer Bradley. I say supposedly, because I’ve finally heard the other side of the story, and the question of who took advantage of whom is open to debate).

And now we have the incredible popularity of 50 Shades of Gray, which the author admits started as Twilight fanfiction.  I haven’t read Twilight, and based on the reviews I’ve read, I’ve no intention of reading 50 Shades of Gray. Therefore, I am not qualified to have an opinion on the subject either way.  So I’m not going to get in to the ethics of sanding off the serial numbers on a fanfic and cashing in on someone else’s fanbase. It’s a sticky situation, and I’m not sure where I stand.

As I said, I love fanfiction. I’ve written fanfiction for Man from UNCLE, for Gatchaman and for Sherlock, all three of which offer some really challenging characters to write (try getting into the heads of Solo and Kuryakin, or Condor Joe, or Sherlock — I still haven’t mastered Sherlock, so I write from Watson’s POV).

I think it is a fantastic training ground for young writers. Getting a handle on someone else’s world, on someone else’s characters, that can be challenging. Doing it well can be even more challenging. But there is something relaxing about not having to make all the rules. If you play in someone else’s sandbox, you come into it with an established structure and a world already built. You can focus on telling the story you want to tell. For me, that’s playtime.  And for a number of other writers, too. Elizabeth Bear writes some really nice Man from UNCLE fanfic (including one that I cannot find anymore that was a crossover with Torchwood). Cecilia Tan writes Harry Potter fanfiction.  And  Melanie Rawn used to write the most amazing Star Wars fanfiction under the name Ellen Randolph (sadly, not on the web and no longer in print.)

So,  whenever someone says “You’re not a REAL writer, you just write fanfiction,” I can point them at my Amazon author page and say “Oh, really?”

Fanfiction is fun. I’m all for having fun.

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