Saturday, May 08, 2010


Ok, taking a break from the design talk this week -- I have something else on my mind and would rather write about it, and so I shall.  I will get back to the design stuff.  Soon, I hope.

This morning I have been privy to an interesting conversation going on about fan-fic.  As someone who is very interested in writing, in fiction, and in copyright law, I'm intrigued.  I had never actually considered it from the emotional and/or private point of view of the author before, only from the legal standpoint.  Using someone else's copyrighted characters without their express permission is illegal.  Simple.  I try to avoid doing illegal things.  So, I don't write fan-fic, no matter how tempting it may be at times.

This blog post by Diana Gabaldon* is interesting in that it gives us a glimpse into the author's point of view on such matters.  It's a fascinating read, to me anyway.

So really, I know where I stand on fan-fic for the most part.  My opinion of it has not changed in reading the above post, the post has simply made me think about it a bit more.

But here's a question. I'm sure someone somewhere has answered it before, but I'm going to ask it here anyway. I know that taking someone else's characters (including the minor characters that aren't even well-developed in the original story) is fan-fic. I know that taking someone else's specific settings (i.e. writing about something that occurs on the Starship Enterprise) is fan-fic. But what about just writing something that occurred in the same world as those characters and settings without ever mentioning anything specific to that author's world? Or even anything that is specific to that specific author?

Ok, that's vague and hard to follow. Here's an example. Twilight. Whether you love it or hate it, everyone sorta at least knows what it is, right? So things that would be certainly off limits in my mind would be: the characters, the town of Forks (though given that it is a real place the case could be made that Stephanie Meyer doesn't really own that), the idea of vampires that sparkle (as far as I know this is unique to the Twilight series), and of course, lots of other concepts specific to the series.

But what about a story that takes place somewhere else entirely, involving noone from the Twilight saga, but involving vampires and werewolves (concepts that Ms. Meyer uses but certainly doesn't own) that have vaguely the same characteristics as those in the Twilight books, but not so much that anyone could really trace the idea back to Twilight? In this case I'm not asking from a legal standpoint because what I'm trying to describe is something that could never legally be pinpointed as copyright violation. I'm asking from a moral standpoint. Is it wrong to write a story that is very much (in the author's mind, though not obviously so on paper) inspired by someone else's work?  Or is that just normal, to draw inspiration from those who write about things that interest you?

I may be splitting hairs here. I am very much aware that most people would not even consider this a question, but then many people would not consider fan-fic in general to be wrong either. Even flat-out piracy is considered morally acceptable by many in today's culture.

So what do you think?

*BTW, I am not a fan of Ms. Gabaldon. I vaguely recall having seen her name a time or two, but I don't honestly even know what type of fiction she writes. It's irrelevant to this post, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. 


Jan said...

I'm not at all familiar with this genre, but don't authors sometimes sell like a license to use their characters, settings, etc. in their own books? It isn't something that I would want to read though.

BunGirl said...

Yes, but that's considered canon and not a legal issue at all. Fan-fic is literally, Fan Fiction: something written by a fan (or fans) without permission of the author. There are entire websites devoted to it. Generally the fan/authors don't receive any compensation (though there have been cases where they did) and therefore consider what they're doing to be just fine.

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