Monday, March 26, 2012
Unfortunately, the season finale was also the series finale, as the show wasn't renewed for a fifth season. So fans of the show were left with a cliffhanger that would never be resolved.
I was so irritated by the lack of resolution that I ended up writing my own. And thus, I was introduced to the world of fanfiction.
It was awesome. I discovered a community of other fans of the show, from all over the country, all as passionate about the characters and the storyline as I was. We spearheaded a (doomed) attempt to get the network to bring the show back to the schedule, but most of our focus was on fanfic.
And the most important rule of fanfiction, the first thing I learned when I dove into fandom?
DO NOT PROFIT FROM FANFIC.
When you're writing fanfic, you're playing in someone else's playground, using their toys. They've done the hard work of creation. For the most part, they're doing you a favor by turning a blind eye to the underground creativity that drives fandom. So it was always understood - both explicitly and implicitly - that fandom was just for fun, not economic gain.
It wasn't just in that fandom that this was the rule of the day. I've participated in many fandoms since then, both as a reader and as a writer, and it was always expected that you were never intending to profit. Most stories even have that as a disclaimer at the top of the page.
Which is why I'm infuriated at the actions of EL James, her publisher, her agent, and the big movie studios currently throwing obscene amounts of cash in her direction.
Fifty Shades of Gray, and the other two books in the trilogy, originally started as Twilight fanfiction. It was an Edward and Bella AU (Alternate Universe) called Master of the Universe. And a year or so ago, James pulled the fic off the web, did a search-and-replace for the names and a few other details, and published it.
I don't care if her Edward doesn't sparkle, or if Bella is a college student instead of a high school kid. It was written in and intended for the Twilight fandom, and should have stayed there. And if James wanted to be a published author? She should have written something completely new. I believe it would have been the ethical thing to do.
I started writing romance in fanfic. It was a chance for me to try out a new genre with the framework of characters I already knew and loved. But when it came time to write for publication, I never considered using my fanfic writing. And I never will. (And yes, I still write in some different fandoms from time to time, but that's completely separate from my professional writing.)
Will there be fallout from this? For James, probably not. She's got a seven figure book deal, a potential movie deal that will likely bring her even more, publicity from almost every media outlet imaginable, and multiple weeks at the top of the bestsellers lists.
For fandom, most likely. The writers and producers who have allowed fanfic to flourish outside of their notice may now decide it's not worth the risk, and start invoking their copyright claims. Why should other people profit from their creations? I fear a crackdown while at the same time I don't blame them if they choose to go that direction.
So James got hers, and the rest of the fanfic writers, readers, and fandom participants will get the blowback. Which is why I will never read Fifty Shades or the rest of the trilogy, and why all the attention leaves me Fifty Shades of furious.
What do you think? Are the rules of fanfic changing? Should people be able to profit from fanfic? Or should those boundaries be respected?
Posted by Kate Davies at 1:13 AM