This just in: Amazon is going to start selling fanfic, with royalties to be paid to both the author and the world-creator. Color me… bemused? Uncertain? Confused?
Like many authors, I have an uneasy relationship with fanfic. Although my first serious-to-me writing effort was a sequel to The Lord of the Rings (drafted when I was thirteen years old), I’ve never been serious about fanfic, and I’ve never participated in any of the many online communities dedicated to the craft. As far as I know (and that’s the way I’d like to keep it), no one has created fics in my worlds.
As a lawyer, I’m not as rabidly anti-fanfic as most. I understand the difference between copyright and trademark law, and the defense of estoppel (which applies to the latter, but not the former.) While trademark owners can lose their marks if they don’t enforce against infringement, the same standard does not apply in copyright law.
Mostly, I just don’t understand the allure of fanfic. I invest a tremendous amount of time, effort, energy, blood, sweat, tears, angst, etc. into creating my fictitious worlds. I don’t understand the craving the pour all of that into someone else’s world. It feels … like a cheat? Like a waste? Like… A bunch of things that sound really negative, but I don’t actually mean them that way. What I mean is, I don’t have the resources to do my writing and fanfic writing, and I don’t understand the investment some people make.
So. I suspect that Amazon’s program is going to open the door for a lot of public discussion about fanfic. It’ll add a lot of pressure to authors who have publicly demanded their work not be ficced. It’ll raise some questions about plagiarism and continuity and, and, and…
Maybe I’ll go pop some popcorn.