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 must 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. However, I will (probably) 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 and cookies 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 (and have) sue the author. Basically, this means that authors really can’t read any fan-fic for our own protection. We must have plausible deniability. 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, 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
I cannot admit, for legal reasons, to having seen any fan-make. Let us say, hypothetically, that certain things have turned up on Etsy. Here are my manifold reactions:
- First, unlike fan-fic, these items are for sale. Quite practically, I am not seeing any money from this and it is my intellectual property. Mine, mine, mine.
- Second, 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 were not associated with my world.
- Third, within any movie/TV option merchandising is part of the contract, and it is a deal breaker. If the production company were to happen upon all these Parasol Protectorate items for sale all over the internet, they are likely to pull out of any offer. This could cost me not just the money, (and really you guys want me to make money because then I can continue to afford to write more books), but it also costs you, the fans, the possible pleasure of seeing these characters brought to life on the big screen.
- 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 should I have to, 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 loose-leaf. 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 are dabbling with, and in the end, I need to eat… for 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.
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.
Polishing Mudballs says, “This book really did have a different feel to it from the other paranormal books I have read in the past. Frankly, it was a breath of fresh air. The characters of Alexia and Lord Maccon were fabulous!”
SPOILER ALERT! Changeless blurb gives away ending of Soulless. Rex Reviews says terribly kindly, “Changeless by Gail Carriger is breathtakingly brilliant. I am enamored with this series and this is only the second installment.”
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