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Are we 'sad'?!
I was talking to one of my secondary school classes the other day about fan fiction. One of the group had submitted a piece which was a blatant rip off of a book he'd read and I was telling him and the rest of the class to be careful of doing that.
'I don't have a problem with using the story as a basis for your own original work,' I told him, 'in fact a lot of good writing has been inspired by existing texts - it's called fan fiction. I have even written some myself in the - '
And that's when I was interrupted by two of the little angels piping up with.
'Oh my God - how sad!'
I smiled indulgently and then slammed them all with an exam which shut 'em up!
Still, I know that fan fiction is ofted derided by others and I was just wondering - at the end of the day, are we just a little bit sad to be spending hours working on stories involving (in my case) cartoon characters?
I have my own justifications which I repeat to myself when others ask to know what I'm writing but I was just wondering what your take on it would be?

I personally do not think it sad. When I write, it is with a thirst for "what happened next". I am never happy with a book's ending. I want it to go on forever, kind of like a life of its own. And, it is a chance to explore lesser characters.

And, let us not mention the fact that most of us will never publish anything but an obituary; so, what does it hurt? Those who think it sad have never done it, or have no imagination. Moreover, what are most novels today but something based on other works? If you write a great epic on Greek mythology, are you writing anything new? Or, how many stories are there about Troy; and, yet we have another one. I am not sure at what point storytelling stopped being original, but I have to think we are well beyond that point.

So, fanfic writers sad? I think rather those who do not even try (and that is most kids today) are the sad ones. At least we are putting forth an effort to create something. Try asking them if they originated the goth look? How sad that dozens of kids in a school all choose to become carbon copies of each other; or the piercings, are they really exhibiting originality anymore? Even real life copies the past. (Do not even get me started on bell-bottoms and torn jeans. Do kids really think they originated them? My girls thought their generation invented string games and Chinese jump rope. LOL)

No, we are not sad. I am quite happy and content with my fanfic. And, it helps me hone the skills to write my own "original" stories. I think that may be the most important part of it.

Fanfiction used to be the way everyone told stories in the pre-literate era. You'd hear the tale of Robin Hood and tell it to someone else with your own additions and embellishments. Nobody thought it was weird. Personal ownership of a story or character only developed with modern copyright law.

Much of the original fuss over ownership came not from authors, but from printers who hoped to make money from a work, only to see rival printers dash off copies of the same work without bothering to sign any sort of exclusive contract with the author. Both author and printer were ripped off, but plenty of authors didn't have enough money for a protracted lawsuit. Usually it was the printer who hauled his rivals into court to smack them around. Protecting printers' rights, (not so much the authors') was the first step in the development of copyright law.

The second battle came over ownership of specific characters. Up until the late 1800s, you owned 'the exact writing' but not, in magazine publishing, 'the characters.' In the late 1800s there were a series of court fights over this issue. For example, if Arthur Conan Doyle originally published a Sherlock Holmes novel in a magazine as a serial, the magazine owned all the legal rights to the character of Holmes, not Doyle. The author had to buy his own characters from the magazine if wanted legal ownership of them. (This did not actually happen to Doyle as far as I know, I'm just using him as an example). If the author started to fuss over low wages or became otherwise inconvenient, the magazine simply fired him from the serial and hired someone else to finish it. The author had no legal way to protect his ownership of his own characters. Modern copyright law has been edited to protect authors' ownership of their characters in a very strict way because of this.

However, this type of protection is very different, and far more draconian than the legal protections visual artists get over their pictures. Artist don't 'own' the visual image of their characters in quite the same fashion. Artist haven't often suffered from being fired from a painting by a client, and having someone else finish the work, though I believe it has happened. Thus the law is a lot more casual in their case.
I think that's well put Rous - even Shakespeare retold existing stories but enhanced them (a lot!). However, it's hard to seriously put myself in the same league as Shakespeare retelling the ancient story of Romeo and Juliet with my own efforts at writing a love story between two of the characters of an anime!
My own take on it is that I'm exploring the characters in a way that the programme writers haven't. In the case of the show I write for, whilst there's loads of hints at dark pasts and unfulfilled romantic longings - there is nothing substantial, which leaves a lot of gaps to fill in. I like to think that I am simply extending the world of the characters. My favourite bits are when I add my own details.

On a positive note - I started up a creative writing class today with a 6th form group. There were a whole range of kids who were really keen on writing and, it turned out, lots of them had writing projects on the go that they did for fun and kept as a private pleasure. It was really good to see. It's easy to pretend otherwise when you're a teacher, but kids are okay really!

Hmmm. I fail to understand why you feel you do not write as well as Shakespeare, particularly in light of the rumours that he did not actually write most, if not all, of the things attributed to him.

Also, Romeo and Juliet...how about West Side Story?
Taming of the Shrew...Ten Things I Hate About You?
And, we will not talk about the plethora of Cinderella knock-offs. Some of them are truly horrible. LOL
It's a matter of perspective. People sit in front of TV and watch stories spoonfed to them. No one considers this "sad" because it is normal. Why, then, is it "sad" when one takes that a step farther, playing with it?

Because it is play, and not practical --which is considered childish.

On the other hand, applying make-up to modify one's appearance, spending lots of money on clothes, or watching sports is not considered "sad" because, again, it is "normal".

I am more embarrassed about being a rabid baseball fan than a fanfic writer. The former is normal, the latter nerdy. Writing, however, requires more skill, effort, and imagination.
You're quite right, helluin. There are tons of hobbies out
there lacking any scrap of real creativity that nonetheless
are 'prestige' hobbies.

It seems a lot of people only value work if you get paid for
it. Fanfiction=no pay=no value. I recall many of the same
arguments from the 1970s over 'women's work,' namely
housework. Women didn't get paid for it, even though it was
and is a basic necessity of life, but it had no value in the
eyes of society. It still doesn't, actually.

LOLOLOL! I get that argument right now about not getting paid for writing. I have loads of poetry and that is what I am supposed to try to publish. Who actually buys poetry books? Not me. And yet, I should quit writing it if I do not intend to publish it. Although, I should add that his "hobby" has cost us tens of thousands of dollars. Mine just costs me time.

As for the seventies and women, you are right: women are still judged by their paycheck. I figured out once that I had cooked over 25,000 meals, countless loads of laundry, probably millions of miles running kids to school, 4H, doctor's appointments, church doings, etc. I am still waiting to get paid. That is on top of the several part-time jobs I worked so that I could be home when the kids were. Not to mention raising four kids. Yes, it is a thankless job. When the kids do well, the father usually gets the praise, when they do not, well, you know who spent the most time with them. LOL

So, if I want to write, why should I not? Sure, I want published, one day; but who has time to pour into something right now? I still have two kids in school and one back home with child. I just like to write a bit of escapism. It makes me feel good, and sane; I would think that enough for some. but it is not
It's the Puritan work ethic creeping in. The idea that nothing is worth doing unless it nets you some profit. Having fun = wasting time.

Agreeing with what Heluin says about the mass media spoon feeding us entertainment. That is one of my most cherished rants. I think of fan fiction as a reaction to mass media, a way of taking something designed by committee and marketed and making it one's own. Psychologically healthy, really. How can anyone be content to just passively read or view something and then never play with the concept?
Well that all makes me feel a lot better!
So the very fact that we are creating, adding to the world in our own small way, is a positive thing and something that falls in line with a great tradition in literature. I'll remember that next time!