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So I've been tripping across this thingy about some organization that wants to legalize fanfic, or something like that, and the fanfic debate is screaming at full pitch.

Full disclosure: I am guilty of fanfic in my previous life. I've started, but never completed, fanfic based on a certain TV show that's currently enjoying a rather popular revival and, of course, I wrote Duran Duran fic back in the day and more recently than that. So I understand something of the impulses that drive one to write it, and I don't necessarily condemn the practice.

But the more I think about it, the more I think that there is a certain effect that comes from it, and it's one that people don't realize or can't seem to fully articulate.

One of the arguments against fanfic is that it somehow does damage to the original work. On its face, these seems like an absurd notion--how on earth can, say, a book be 'damaged' this way, short of someone physically scribbling in the margins? The book remains what it is, regardless of what people choose to write about it. Right?

This hinges on an assumption that I seriously question--the notion that art is somehow an objective experience. I maintain that art is as much subjective as objective.

I have a theory about music. (I'm not changing the subject, really.) I call it the Fifth Beatle Theory. Short version--the Fifth Beatle is the listener. A Beatles song is nothing but sound vibrations in air until it hits someone's ear and an emotional response is elicited--for good or ill. This makes art, in a sense, participatory. You aren't just reacting to the sound vibrations, you're reacting to the parts of yourself that are moved by these vibrations.

This is why one person's art is another person's shite. Or, as I like to say in the Duranie world, why one Duranie's Medazzaland is another Duranie's . . . Medazzaland. (For the non-Duranies reading, Medazzaland was the last album Duran Duran did for Capitol Records. It bombed so catastrophically it has not been released in the UK to this day. I personally think it's one of the most brilliant things they've done. So go figure.)

Consider--why are people so determined not to see any 'spoilers' about, say, a character dying? Knowing or not knowing won't change whether or not it happens--that's fixed in the work. But what it does change is the experience of the work. Art isn't just about what's on the canvas, or on the page or on the speakers. It's about everything you bring to the table when you engage with it.

Therefore, in that sense, fanfic changes things. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a whole other debate, and it's one I don't feel like getting into right now. I will say that I question whether it is an entirely good thing and leave it at that.

(I welcome civil discussion in this entry, but if random people show up to insult me, I am within my rights to show them the door. Thank you.)

Today I took pleasure in the Godiva chocolates that the guy upstairs brought to my workplace to thank us for holding on to his UPS packages those times that the delivery arrived while he was away.

Today I learned how to order an article from a subscription service for my boss.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 21st, 2007 06:43 pm (UTC)
Medazzaland *was* brilliant. People just wanted to keep hearing Hungry Like The Wolf. Same problem that Liberty and Big Thing suffered. :)

That is all I have to say about that. Which doesn't really touch on your main point, but I'm not really qualified to do so!
Dec. 22nd, 2007 02:54 am (UTC)
But Red Carpet still sucks...
Nothing can ever bring that album out of the gutter. I didn't like medazzleland when it came out, I don't even HAVE that album anymore, but seriously, it was better than this new one.

I don't get into the fanfic scene, slash or otherwise, but can't it be said that all those people who write Star Trek novels, even though they were "official" novels under the Bantam line, are in fact taking an established character, and molding that to fit the plotline of their own story, within reason? Straight up fan fiction is just like that, except they don't have a publisher or a stamp of approval.

I don't think there's a way to "illegalize" fan fiction, unless it involves a real life person (say duran duran) who may suffer some kind of emotional/professional harm from something written by another person. Say, a story that Nick Rhodes is a wife beater. But if its about a fictional character, say um...I dunno, The Office people - there isn't anyone to "offend" with the stories. They can't even use "copyright infringement" because that implies the writer is taking someone else's work, and *pretending* it is their own. Fan fiction seems to state quite clearly that they take an existing fictional character, say Harry Potter, and just write another story about it - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Virgins.

*shifty eyes*

So, as much as Live Journal is desperately trying to stamp it out, and as much as the owners of copyrighted works want to stop it, they can't.

(I can't rss feed under my new journal without paying mullah, so I'm going to have to post vigilante like on everyone's journal)
Dec. 22nd, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
Re: But Red Carpet still sucks...
Well, see, here's the thing--my brother-in-law, for example, has written Star Trek novels. You could say he's doing the 'same thing' but there are pretty fundamental differences.

Point first, he's doing it at the request of the copyright holder. They are asking him to write these books (and paying him.)

Point second, he goes through editors who determine whether that work will fit with what they want the universe to be. Though he'll sometimes get in some . . . interesting arguments about it, he generally respects what they ask of him.

A fanfic writer has no such requests and no such boundaries. At best, they get a blind eye turned to what they're doing, which is pretty much copyright violation. The only way fanfic writers avoid excessive legal scrutiny is by not charging for it. Does this magically make it legal? No, it just makes it not worth the trouble to prosecute, since it's a lot harder to prove financial harm for something someone isn't making any money from.

Ironically, fiction about Nick Rhodes, as long as it is properly disclaimered as such, is completely legal, because Nick Rhodes can't claim copyright on his own existence, only on what he creates.

My dad pointed me to an interesting link about it, which explains the legal ramifications in detail:

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )