Here’s a roundup of stories on fanfic in the spotlight that might be of interest to fans:
While newspapers across the globe have featured stories over the past decade on local authors with fanfiction pasts (or presents), the case of former Twilight fanfic, Fifty Shades of Grey has sparked considerable media coverage over the past month, prompting discussion in a variety of areas and hundreds of news stories and blog posts.
- Some of the early discussion focused on the apparently surprising idea that women like to read erotica, which sent at least one journalist into a panic. Fortunately, the stories prompted some people not surprised by this amazing news to discuss the business of erotica publishing and promote the genre, or “debunk sexist stereotypes about women and technology” by noting how “the removal of the gatekeepers of publishing has huge implications for publishing; but it also has huge implications for gender equality. The women in Twilight fandom who formed their own publishing houses followed in the footsteps of pioneering female-run digital publishers like Samhain, Ellora’s Cave, and Torquere Press, who founded their businesses as romance writers and fans. The success of each of these digital publishers proves that women can not only be their own gatekeepers, but that they have the technical skills to thrive in the process.”
- Other takes suggested that “what’s really groundbreaking about this book and future film – [is] the mainstreaming of fetish. The popularity of this novel has made it okay to talk about erotica as a real literary genre and admit to our own desire to see more than just two types of sex- the vanilla and the grotesque.” Others counter that the book’s real appeal is that it’s a Cinderella story in a cynical age. In Fanfic as Iconography, a romance blogger looks not at the genre but the archetypes in the book and finds herself “[t]hinking about how this giant hit might offer a different model for alpha heroes, I wondered what else romance writers, agents and publishers might learn from it.”
- Paid Content’s question about how the novel’s success “raises interesting questions about crowdsourcing and copyright” suggested that fan fiction’s often collaborative, communal process is in contrast to the single author model of professional remuneration. Author Jami Gold, a former fanfic writer herself, echoed this ethical rather than legal concern. “Without its association with Twilight, the story wouldn’t have received 20,000 reviews (on fanfiction.net) and gained those fans to begin with…She then had her fans, from back when the story was free, buy up copies…and post hundreds of reviews all over the internet. Boom. Instant best-seller…And all she had to do was use someone else’s characters and fanatical fandom ties to get there.” This discussion was further explored in a series of posts on Dear Author, including one featuring Rebecca Tushnet from OTW’s Legal Committee. Some authors, such as Jim Butcher (who cites Mercedes Lackey’s earlier action) has decided “fanfiction is to be licensed as derivative, noncommercial fiction under the Creative Commons (CC) umbrella” with the intention being that “You can’t make money from fanfic based on Jim’s work” and requesting that fans utilize a CC disclaimer on their work.
- Other stories focused on changes in the publishing industry, both the ones leading up to Grey’s marketing success, and what will likely follow given the visible successes of self-published authors. “Ethical objections of fan fiction aficionados over James’s alleged appropriation of copyrighted material, and her breach of fan fiction writers’ most sacred tenet — Thou Shalt Not Publish For Profit — have been drowned out in the rush to find the next “mommy porn” contender in online media outlets once considered outlaw territory and beneath contempt by legit publishers.” A recent post at publisher Tor asked if “America may be ready for traditionally published works of fan fiction?” but this is clearly an international matter. ““With the smallest of publishers able to release an e-book to a worldwide audience, hits hit bigger, faster, and simultaneously around the world.”
- Finally, some articles sought to trace the origins of the book’s success, which has moved from a publishing coup to a film sale, with coverage of the book appearing as an alternate cover story to The Hunger Games. While one might question “why fan fiction’s stigma persists” given its ubiquity, perhaps fittingly, the latest news is that Grey will soon have its own derivative works: a parody derived from tweets will be making its way into print soon. And at least one online site has offered recipes tied to the book.
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