Keep Calm: Read Twilight Fan Fiction

Today I read this post on Dear while searching for information on Twilight FanFic that has been published:

Nov 9 2012

Friday News: More Twilight fan fiction goes mainstream; Stanford introduces open source educational platform; Royal Society archives reveal more influential females in science

By Jane • Publishing News • • Tags: , , ,

‘Twilight’ Fanfiction Hit ‘The Office’ Gets Book Deal – Gallery has bought the Twilight fan fiction of Christina Hobbs (aka TBY789) and Lauren Billings (aka Lolashoes) called The Office. The story is Edward as the boss and Bella as his assistant. This will be published by Gallery in 2013 as “Beautiful Bastard” and “Beautiful Stranger”. Hollywood Reporter

It is also rumored that Tara Sue Me has a book deal for her trilogy, the BDSM version of Twilight that was written before 50 Shades was written by EL James.

Gallery and Atria have gone crazy buying self published and fan fiction work. Is this a gamble that will pay off?

Cyndy Aleo, an original critic of the P2P emailed me this:

I still think the ethics are the same. I haven’t changed my mind about my own fanfic, and have no intentions of shopping it. For us old-schoolers, the cardinal rule is “First, make no money.”

That being said, I think it’s pretty apparent that, at least for the Twilight fandom, there won’t be any legal action. Arguing about each successive big-name fic that gets published is like asking someone to shut the barn door after the barn’s been burned down. Fifty Shades of Grey pretty much burned down the barn.

The Twilight fandom was always referred to as a feral fandom — which I know was resented by the community — but its inability to follow fandom conventions has been made obvious here by the number of authors who have made quite a bit of money doing what those of us who came from other fandoms were taught was the ultimate fandom heresy: profiting off the work.

At this point, I think the culture has changed so significantly that fighting is the equivalent of sitting and yelling “Get off my lawn.” It’s happening. It will continue to happen unless the books stop selling. It’s easier for publishers to take a chance on authors who have an established fan base, like we are seeing with successful self-published novels. I think any new fandoms that sprout up will probably see the same thing happen; I mean we have already seen an RPF sell in the One Direction fandom, and that’s something based on real people. It’s not going to stop because hardliners disagree.

What I really think would be interesting to see at this point would be for a fic to sell from a fandom that’s been suppressed by the canon author — say, J.R. Ward or Diana Gabaldon. Stephenie Meyer was a fanfic author herself and was very supportive of her fandom. If a fic sold out of an unsupported fandom, would we see the legal issues finally brought to the table?

The discussion comments that followed were very interesting and yet somewhat inane. To the point where I wanted to ask:

Cos some of it is really good. But the argument continues that because it was done in the fanfic community, because it copies elements from the original, because the author should know better, suffer for their art, come up with something truly original, then it can’t be any good and you certainly shouldn’t buy it.

I think we have been living in a world of derivative creativity for a long, long time.  The internet has merely done what it always does and accelerates the process exponentially while simultaneously making it transparent but throughout history, there have always been master/apprentice relationships in every art form.

We learn from, mimic and then ultimately, if we have practiced and honed our skills enough, create something original. For the most part we replicate based on tried and true formulas hoping for an original edge. There will always be those who do it for love, those who aspire to fame, those who are motivated by money and might even make some. There will always be those who are paid by a benevolent patron or have their creativity sucked out of them by being locked into a corporate deal. It happens in all the arts. And every now and then there will be a moment of brilliance, often unrecognized – overshadowed by something that is poorly executed or worse mundane, that has found popular appeal and is being celebrated by the masses.  It is the old ‘high art v low art’ argument which brings with questions of ‘is it wrong to be popular’? Who defines ‘good’?  Is it ethical to make money off a derivative art work? Is there anything truly original?  Closely followed by who does this little upstart think he/she is – they didn’t follow the traditional pathway, stick to the rules, go to the right schools etc.

People will make up their own minds about the ethics and value of the thing. Make of it what you will.  There are those who say that artists in all forms and at all levels, these days are only after their 15 mins of fame. Everyone thinks they can be the next great [insert singer, dancer, author, artist, film maker here] from the comfort of their home computer and that this has detracted from great art. Well, yes there will be a lot of crap product but there will also be a few gems that will find both critical acclaim and wide popularity.

You could argue that a work of art, just like a house, will ultimately only be ‘worth’ what someone is willing to pay for it. How you feel about that will depend on a number of things, like whether you see art as a noun or a verb.  Is it a product or is it a process? If it is a product, then who gets to judge it? Should only the highly educated judge a thing’s value or does popular appeal account for something?  You could argue that a work should be judged on its own merits as the finest example of best practice.  But don’t the best innovations in arts come from those who understand the rules then break them? Or can you be innovative without knowing the rules?

Given that artistic merit might be accordingly defined as high subjective, should an artist always have their right to be called so, judged on the value or critique of their product?  Isn’t it that sort of judgement and critique that stops people in their tracks and sends potential artists running to their rooms to hide under their beds feeling like they aren’t good enough?  Ken Robinson talks about our education systems as ones which educate the creativity out of us.  That all children are born artists but the trick is believing that as you grow up.  I see art as a process that everyone should feel capable of taking part in. I refuse to believe that any person is not an artist, a musician, a dancer, a writer if that is what they want to call themselves. This is because I see these subjective constructs as verbs, ways of being, rather than objective nouns, an idea that I gleaned from Christopher Small’s theories of ‘musicking’.

I write therefore I am

I am not a ‘published’ fiction author but I have deliberately removed words like ‘aspiring’ or ’emergent’ from my bio because I don’t think that my right to call myself a writer or an author should rest on some corporatized ideal of the product I create.  Ask any musician, composer, author who has worked through the traditional channels of music or book publishing companies where the money goes and they will tell you that the publishers make their money first.  So I don’t judge myself as any sort of artist based on the idea that someone is buying my work – if we all did that then there would be almost no artists in the world. Fan Fic worlds might have been constructed for fans but they have become places where authors go to play and through their playing pay tribute.  The simmering debate on fanfic writers who are moving into publishing continues to position their published products in ways that seem a little pointless to me and which undermine the rights of the authors to call themselves such.

The ‘pull to publish’ culture may have been multiplied and magnified within the Twilight fandom but from what I have seen in my short time of living in the fan fic world is that fandoms are bizarre, slightly hormonal and wildly unpredictable spaces.  They can be the affinity spaces that James Gee wrote about but they are also demanding and all-consuming.  I have seen authors brought to their knees by the demands of the fans who want instant and constant updates on all stories.  Fans who will become quite feral when the fan fic author steps beyond some arbitrary boundary by daring to kill off a character or ‘ship characters in unorthodox ways.  Fans can be loyal and true (the saner ones) others will jump off a story and spin and kick you in the guts while they do it.  And that doesn’t even account for the trolls in fandom world who are just plain mean and stupid destructive forces of nature.

I am lucky as a writer of fan fic.  I don’t have a huge following on like some writers but I do get loyalty from my readers for which I am very grateful.  Even my worst reviews have been critiques that I felt I could learn from and respond to.  But that is not the case for a lot of writers in fanfic.  Now, I have little sympathy for the prolific writers who get 3000 reviews on every story and then focus on the one or two guest reviewers who slam them.  In most cases, there are other dynamics at work there that can be the topic of another blog topic. Let’s just say I’m not in a rush to turn my fanfic into something publishable.  Mostly because I have bills to pay so the rest of my life has to come first although it is amazing how quickly my writing has become an obsession through participation in the fanfic world.

However, to me it seems that the fan fic world exists more for the fans than for the writers.  If fan fic writers are doing all of this for love, to improve their skills and to celebrate a work that has touched their spirit in some way then the incessant rules around fan fic sites shouldn’t have to exist (and be consistently broken).   If this is the culture of the fandom then it is understandable that writers, who genuinely write to create something they themselves would like to read, but do so under the pressures of day jobs and real life responsibilities that mean their fan fic writing is snuck in at late hours, between paid gigs and under the radar of everyone they know lest they be criticized for even daring to write or be fans themselves, then can you blame them when they see the lure of publication and decide to take a bite. After all somebody should be paying them to take that shit!