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Writing by Hand

Fan-Fic, Fan-Make & Other Issues

A Word On Fan-Fic & Fan-Make

Gentle Reader, fan-fic is a touchy subject amongst us authors. Someone recently (very politely, I must say) asked me for my thoughts on fan-fic written for my universe and I admit, I had to reply with a very polite cop-out answer. I HAD to do it, but it was a cop-out and I'm distressed by this. I try to be as honest as possible here on the interwebs, so I've been feeling guilty over my behavior and certain recent events have convinced me to address this subject, as delicately as possible. I am also going address fan-make, which is a necessary side effect of steampunk meets etsy. (For the purposes of this discussion, I am defining fan-make as items crafted and labeled with my characters or universe and then sold for profit. As opposed to cos-play which is much more like fan-fic, in that it is a one-off original artistic endeavor).

Fan-fic or FanFic or Fan Fiction

An early reviewer called Soulless fan-fic gold, and I will say that I took that as a compliment. I will never get to read any Parasol Protectorate fan-fic and here is why: I can't. Michael Stackpole of Dragon Page fame had some very wise things to say on the subject and I agree with him in this matter. I can't find an article of his to link to, but the meat is as follows:

If we, as authors, have dropped the right threads then the Careful Reader will know where the story is going. If a fan then puts this into writing before the next book is published and their predictions are correct, they can sue the author for copyright infringement. (Sadly, this has happened.) Basically, this means that authors really can't read any fan-fic for our own protection. We must have plausible-deniability. We must be able to say we never read it, and have ISP evidence that we did not go to the site.

Thus if you link, email, or comment with anything to do with Parasol Protectorate fan-fic the most I can say is, "Thank you for the compliment of enjoying my world so much you like playing in it. I trust it is an excellent piece of writing, but I am legally unable to read it."

Fan-Make or Fan-Craft or Fan Gadgetry

Let us say, hypothetically, that certain things have turned up on etsy labeled with my name, that of my characters, or that of my series. Let us say you tweet about it, or tweet me about it. Perhaps you are hoping by including @gailcarriger you will drive some business to your shop? Gail's readers get excited and RT.

Tut to the proverbial tut.

Here are my manifold reactions:

  • First, the items must be considered allied with me, as the author, yet I have absolutely no quality control or creative influence. I have no way of knowing for certain, but I would rather junk or shoddy workmanship were not associated with my world.

  • Second, unlike fan-fic, these items are for sale. Quite practically, you are turning a profit. Quite apart from the fact that I am not seeing any money from this and it is my intellectual property, you are using my name to drive business to your shop. How would you feel if I did that to you?

  • Third, merchandising is a no contest part of any movie contract, and it is a deal breaker. If a movie house interest in my work were to happen upon all these Parasol Protectorate items for sale all over the internet, they are likely to be rather upset. This is all tied up in the murky waters of trademarks which have to be protected or lost forever! (Insert doomy music here.)

  • Finally, and by far the worst as far I am concerned (you all know my personality) my permission was not asked. And really, that is what upsets me. I am easy to find on the internet, all it would take is a nice little note and some building of trust and relationship. And I could say, "So this is what you can do and this is what will get you lawyered."


  • Witness Donna Ricci, owner of Clockwork Couture, who very kindly requested my permission before selling a parasol in my honor. Donna and I have the kind of relationship where, if necessary, I can simply ask her to take the "Gail aspect" down off her website and she would comply immediately. Ruby Blackbird and I are building a similar relationship.

So there it is, a not-so-official statement on fan-fic and fan-make. I hope that it articulates the reasoning behind my behavior on the subject, and why, under certain circumstances when I should like to be personable, generous, and polite, especially to artistic and creative people, I simply cannot. If the world were a different place... if wishes were tea bags, I should always be drinking Twinings gold. But it isn't and I'm not, and out there on the net there are sharks, and lawyers, and all sorts of nastiness. In the end, we authors are just as easily taken advantage of as anyone else, more so sometimes, because there is this very strange idea that a book is public property. I am, therefore, engaged in the epic struggle between commerce and etiquette. Sadly, I am no landed aristocrat to frown upon trade, this is my livelihood you dabble with, and in the end, I need to eat... one can not survive on tea alone.

Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:
Idly watching "Rich, Young and Pretty" last night (1951) and Jane Powell sports this lovely white dress robe. Reminded me of something I own...

Your Tisane of Smart:
Brilliant! The cup tissue dispenser hack. Sadly, I bought it but it doesn't work very well.
Your Writerly Tinctures:
If you haven't yet you should check out Exhibition Hall the steampunk fanzine. I'm a particular fan of Issue 7 which has a killer article on steampunk tribes from the indomitable Steampunk Scholar himself. Hilarious.

Quote of the Day:
"Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them."
~ John Ruskin

Comments

I completely agree with your stance on fan-make and I am glad that you don't outright forbid fanfic (it would be a pity with such inspirational stuff to work with). I would of course respect your wishes as an author and would not write any if you were absolutely against it but I am glad you are not and I understand your reasoning why you cannot read any.

I personally don't intend to write any fanfic but I love to reading good stuff.

By the way, out of interest, say you were finished with a series, would you read fanfic afters it's all done and dusted?
That is a good question. I might, but I feel a little like Mercedes Lackey, as in I should like to dabble with side characters and other parts of this world. So it may take me a very long time to be "finished."
I quite enjoy explorations of side-characters - not just short stories but novella-length spin-offs are really appreciated; it's kinda like fanfic but obviously the real thing so as a fan I do regard them as a special treat.


..it goes on and on and on and on.. ;D
Your stance on fic is entirely reasonable; fic authors (the sane ones, at least) will never send the author links to their stories or bring up specifics; all we really hope for is that authors don't seek us out and send cease and desist letters. The best solution is to live and let live and keep the mutual lawyers at bay.

A stance against fanmake for profit (would cosplay/making something for personal use be fair game, in theory?) is even more reasonable, for all the reasons you've stated and more.

Don't feel guilty; this is pretty much the best-case scenario that anyone interested in creating fanworks can expect.
I'm actually hoping for cosplay. I love the idea and can't wait to see what people come up with.
Oh yay! Because, well, *ahem* Thinking about it.
exactly why when Lauren asked why I didn't make it an Alexia parasol, I told her "to stay out of trouble". It's one thing to ask and use YOUR name, quite another to mess with your shared intellectual property to which rights are sold to, etc.
Exactly!
I have a friend who was sued by a vendor because she was "impeding his right to make an income" by him flogging off goods without even recompense and illegal use of her intellectual property. It got very nasty too.
I shudder to think. It's so sad, one really wants to believe in the good of humanity.
I write maybe one fanfic a year anymore (and only under protest while a Plot Bunny chews my ankle off, and for media properties rather than books), but as someone who cut my teeth on the stuff before shedding the training wheels and writing original fiction, I'd like to thank you for your wholly sane and sensible stance.

Honestly, I think I'd teeter between mortified, terrified, and gleeful if the original creators found my fic, actually read it, and then commented.

And if someone wrote fanfic of my stuff, I'd be happy that I inspired them that much that they wanted to share in my world. As long as they didn't show it to me, for the aforementioned legal reasons. Just knowing it existed would please me no end.
What you call fan-make, Lynn Bartsch refers to as fanchandise.

We saw the good and bad of fanchandise very clearly with the Firefly fandom. The marketing side of Fox was encouraging the fans to help market the show in any way they could, so Firefly t-shirts and merch were everywhere. Fanchandise makers were also encouraged by cast/crew, who thought the stuff was awesome.

But later, the Legal side of Fox caught on, and nasty cease and desist letters started going out, threatening legal action, confusing the hell out of a lot of people, and putting strain on what had been a great studio/fan relationship.

The problem is that licensing is currently very much all-or-nothing. Either you've gone through a very time consuming process, requiring a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, or most fanchandise is technically illegal (even if it's helping to promote the franchise).

I believe the solution to this is to create a ready-made "fanchandise license" that creators can easily customize, providing certain permissions to their fans, while still insisting on certain limits. Something similar to the Creative Commons license for content, but streamlined for the needs of merchandise.

It's probably going to be a while before I get this project off the ground. But I'd love to get your input on it one of these days (offline, of course).