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Pointless musings about authorised fanfic - Words in the Heroes' Tongue
I have a variable-sword. I urge calm.
speakr2customrs
speakr2customrs
Pointless musings about authorised fanfic
Tonight I went along to the Co-op to get some milk (and I couldn’t resist getting some of their chocolate caramel shortbread, but that is another story) and my route took me past a bookshop. It used to be a good bookshop but it changed hands and the current owners seem to see it as their mission to fill it with as much junk and as few saleable books as possible. One of the books on display in the window is The Night of the Triffids by Simon Clark.

To quote a review on Amazon.co.uk, it is ‘the authorised 50th-anniversary sequel to The Day of the Triffids (1951) by John Wyndham, that classic SF nightmare which gave our language the word "triffid".’

There are a large number of such ‘authorised sequels’ in existence. Gone with the Wind sequels Scarlett and Rhett Butler's People, Peter Pan in Scarlet, The Dragon Lensman, the James Bond continuations by James Gardner and others, and many more.

There are a lot of follow-ups to Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories written by other authors. First came L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter’s stories that were based on uncompleted drafts of stories by Howard himself, then they wrote original material, and then everyone else seemed to get in on the act. Examples include Robert Jordan’s abominable Chronicles of Conan, all the Roy Thomas Conan graphic novels that were his creations rather than re-tellings of the Robert E. Howard originals, Harry Turtledove’s new Conan of Venarium, and Conan and the Grim Grey God by Sean A. Moore which is notable because the only review on Amazon.co.uk is the author’s own (beginning My favorite of the Conan novels I've written thus far - I rather doubt that anyone else will describe it as their favourite anything!).

They’re fanfic. Some are reasonable, many are crap, but they’re all fanfic; unless the contracted author didn’t really like the original material and is writing solely for the money, which usually produces extremely flat and tedious results.

Fanfic, then, to the Establishment, is something that is of universally poor quality and to be derided – unless they are making money out of it!

I noticed something else odd today. There are no Conan crossovers at all on 'Twisting the Hellmouth'. I wonder why?

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Current Location: Hyboria
Current Music: Conan score by Basil Poledouris

14 comments or speak 2 me
Comments
rahirah From: rahirah Date: February 9th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Apropos of nothing, the PBM company I used to work for had a (duly licensed) game called Hyborian War, which was basically a souped-up version of Risk played on a map of Hyboria. Players would occasionally write snippets of fic for the newsletter. I wonder if it's still eking out a profit somewhere out there...
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 11th, 2008 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Probably. Conan is massively commercialised, and the next big thing is the Age of Conan MMORPG due out in May.
audela From: audela Date: February 9th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Fanfic, then, to the Establishment, is something that is of universally poor quality and to be derided – unless they are making money out of it!

Yeah, this has always pissed me off, especially when people get sniffy about fanfic's quality. And it's not just the authorized sequels: Wide Sargasso Sea? Wicked? Fanfic. Or all those mysteries featuring Jane Austen or Beatrix Potter, or Her Maj? RPF. But of course, these are professional writers writing and earning money for publishers, so that magically makes it OK. It really is all about the money. Sigh.

I'd better calm dow, I can rant about this for PAGES once I get started!

F
curiouswombat From: curiouswombat Date: February 9th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I mentioned 'Wild Sargasso Sea' to him when we were talking about this - it gets all this kudos as one of the great works of the twentieth century and it is fanfic!
audela From: audela Date: February 10th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Yep! And we know that the original author never gave permission -- though I suspect she might have done. IIRC, the Brontes had a whole shared-world thing going on when they were kids, so she might have been OK with the idea.

Doesn't affect the quality of the work, either way, of course. Nor does the money.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 11th, 2008 08:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I didn't mention "Wide Sargasso Sea" because it's weird. It's supposed to be a prequel and yet it is set 20 years later, the character's names have been changed, and the central character is ten years younger than she is supposed to be. If it is "Jane Eyre" fanfic it's very AU.
booster17 From: booster17 Date: February 9th, 2008 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I give it one week before you have a Conan crossover up there.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 11th, 2008 08:52 am (UTC) (Link)
You know me too well.
mythichistorian From: mythichistorian Date: February 9th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Conan crossover? You tempt me ... *g*

It would probably be too cliched to do it as YAHF - although the idea of Xander as the buff barbarian does have a certain appeal!

And I can see real possibilities in Red Sonya turning out to be a Slayer ...
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 11th, 2008 09:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm already well into one!

Red Sonja is really nothing to do with Conan or his world. She is the central character in Howard's story "Shadow of the Vulture", which is a historical fantasy set at the time of the Siege of Vienna by the Turks.

It was re-written many years later by Roy Thomas to put it into the 'Conan' universe, but it's much better in the original form.

The original version of Red Sonja would work very well as a Slayer and, in fact, I've already made use of that concept in my ficlet Twenty-five Deaths of the Slayer, although I didn't use the 'Sonja' name there.
mythichistorian From: mythichistorian Date: February 11th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now why aren't I surprised? *g* There's nothing wrong with being inspired by your own ideas - in fact, I have a feeling you're probably the best man for the job!

You're quite right about the original Sonja, of course (and an excellent use of the reference in an excellent piece btw.) I have a sneaking fondness for the comic book version though - partly inspired by a friend of mine who could carry off the costume, and did, at at least one new years eve party I can recall ...

Your comment triggered a completely different creative impulse in me, and I am now staring at a graphic of 'Willow as comic book Sonja' which has turned to be extremely disconcerting and most unWillowlike ... so I'm in two minds about posting it anywhere!
trinfaneb From: trinfaneb Date: February 9th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have noticed over the last few years that there is more of this "fanfic for hire" stuff out there than I would have thought. I don't read much of it myself, but I liked David Drake's "Surface Action" and "The Jungle" which take place in the alternate reality Venus created by SF author Henry Kuttner in 1943. http://david-drake.com/surface.html has more background on that.

Most authors don't acknowledge (or sometimes realize) how directly the works of their favorite authors influence their own works. David Drake does in many of the comments to his bibliography, but the stuff that influences him is in the public domain, so he doesn't have to worry about lawsuits :)
http://david-drake.com/bibliography.html

P.S. I was just listening to my "Conan" soundtrack mps last night, great stuff! I almost wore out the groves on my record when I was growing up.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 11th, 2008 09:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I have the 'Conan' soundtrack as music files in a 'Neverwinter Nights' mod that someone created set in the Conan universe. The use of the music is probably unauthorised and illegal but, like fanfic, it's done entirely for fun and without making money out of it therefore it's legit in my eyes.
ozma914 From: ozma914 Date: February 12th, 2008 09:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd always thought part of the definition of fanfic was "unpaid"; not that there's a definitive definition. But regardless, you're absolutely right -- the only difference between that and what we write is a contract and paycheck.

On a related note, last year I sent a submission package to the company that publishes Buffy novels. It was rejected, but I got a very nice personal letter, basically saying they didn't want it because they'd just published another post-Chosen novel and didn't want to do two. Not fun, but if you've got to be rejected, that's the way to go ... it seems I came pretty close to being one of those lucky few to make a few bucks on fanfiction writing.
14 comments or speak 2 me