So I was following links off posts on metafandom
, and I came across this post from just over a year ago
about book fandom vs. media fandom, the ways in which their cultures differ, and why we often see apparent clashes between them. The major theme of the post is that these terms are actually not very accurate; obsession_inc
proposes the names "affirmational fandom" and "transformational fandom", terminology that gets much closer to the heart of the differences. It's a really thoughtful post, and I recommend both it and damned_colonial
's recent follow-up
(which is where I found the link in the first place).
But what really caught my eye about obsession_inc
's post is how eerily prescient it is. To wit:
I've come to a conclusion. It may not be hitting movie- and TV-creators yet, but the democratizing forces of the internet are starting to freak out authors (and editors, and publishers) of books and comic books. We are rocketing toward a point where you might need a regular publisher to put a book in print, but it'll be ridiculously easy for anyone to be published for eBook readers like Kindle. [snip] I get the feeling that the battles between creators and transformational fans are starting to ramp up as a prelude to a larger battle: the moment when, on the internet, creators are in direct competition with their fic-writing fans.
This is a giant ass-pull on my part, of course, so take with an equivalently sized grain of salt. That said, I'm going on the record as thinking that things in the next two years are going to get really nutty with authors.
I read this part of the post, and I immediately thought of this
. And this
. And also this
, which I didn't post about at the time because, as the write-up title suggests, it didn't really contribute anything new to the discussion besides a new author to add to my "will never buy books from" list. And what comes to mind is: why so many authors sharing their rage about fanfic now, at this moment? True, the community of professional sf/f writers is a fairly small one, and topics can travel through it like wildfire, just as they do in fandom. But might there be more to it than that? The Internet and self-publishing have had two related effects on fanfic that are relevant to this discussion: fic has become far easier to distribute than it once was, and as a result pro authors are much more likely to stumble across it. This isn't the first time we've had authors flip out over fanfiction, of course (Robin Hobb
and Anne Rice are among the more memorable, but many other examples come to mind), but I can't think of another time when we had so many in a row. I'm sure there are other reasons, but I wonder if obsession_inc
might not have nailed a significant part of it, and before it even happened! The seeds of these kerfuffles have been brewing, and the fallout is probably far from over.
As a side note, there is one part of the above quote that I'm not sure I agree with: the suggestion that TV and movie creators haven't yet gotten involved in these types of battles because fan-created content isn't yet a threat to their livelihoods. Although there might be something to it -- we're still a ways off from the average fan having access to the same production values as your average Hollywood movie -- I believe it has more to do with the issue of sole authorship (which I've discussed in comments, but not really in any of my posts on this subject). Many, many people are involved in the creation of a character for a TV show, or a movie, or a game: writers, directors, producers, actors. Even if one individual came up with the initial idea for the characters and the world they inhabit, creation is more of a group effort. So it seems intuitive to me that the sense of ownership would be much less for these creators who work in teams. Whereas I expect most book authors are used to thinking of themselves as the sole arbiter of their universe. So I can see fanworks coming as more of a shock to their system. Not to absolve the authors who handle that shock badly, especially considering how many authors seem happy to allow fanworks
. (And note that, as of this writing, there isn't a single TV or movie or game writer on the "no fanworks" list, and Archie Comics is the only property that could be considered a shared universe. Interesting, yes?)