I’ve been reading a lot of scathing articles regarding this matter, and possibly I have little to contribute to the debate. But I do think that most people have a habit of taking extreme sides. The middle ground never gets heard. So, I’m writing this in the spirit of tolerance.
Recently I found one of my favourite authors posting her opinion on a book that she admits she barely read - ‘Would FSOG be as successful without Twilight? Probably not. It’s definitely cashing in on the Twilight fandom’s desire for nookie between beloved characters.’ - probably because she read other people posting similar opinions on their blogs. Maybe they are right, maybe I missed something – but it seems wrong to judge a book by its biased reviews which is what she seems to have done.
I found Fifty Shades of Grey through a recommendation at goodreads. I read the reviews on its page and a majority of them were gushing. So, I read the first book. I couldn’t find Edward or Bella in the story. I found a situation only distantly resonant of the Twilight Saga, but really, it didn’t read like fan fic at all.
On the matter of fan fics being marketed to readers and using the popularity of original creators as a spring board – I’m undecided.
If I were an author and someone took my characters and my imaginary world and built a story in it that I didn’t sanction, I would feel cheated. As if someone just muscled into my territory and decided to squat in it.
But if someone takes inspiration from my stories and creates a world of their own? How can I be offended, even if it does cut into my market? To my way of thinking that would be their original work.
Just don’t mess with my characters and their lives.
And truth be told in case of FSOG, if James’ work hadn’t been on the net as a fan fic first, would most of us have ever realized where she got inspired from? Her whole world building, the relationship dynamics, even character development is vastly different.
Back to my point: I’m undecided about fan fic being marketed as novels on their own right beside the original creator’s work. I guess it depends on the degree of theft. How much of my world have you stolen? Is it enough that my fans would get confused about what’s happening in my storyline?
So, what I’m saying I guess is if you’re going to write a fan fic intending it to be a novel, and then put enough of the original in it to make it obvious to everyone that it is a fan fic – have the sense to seek permission from the original creator. Otherwise you deserve to be (or at least really asking to be) sued. And if the creator doesn’t give you permission, then ditch the fan fic and write your own stuff.
And if you really want to write fanfic and nothing else inspires you, then choose the works of a dead author with an expired copyright.