A Word On Fan-Fic & Fan-Make & More
Gentle Reader, fan-fic is a touchy subject amongst us authors. I’ve found fan-make (and fan-dub) to also be of concern, so read on if you dare!
Why am I discussing Fan Fic?
Someone recently (very politely, I must say) asked me for my thoughts on fan-fic written for my universe. 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.
Why am I discussing Fan Make?
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 or fan-art which is much more like fan-fic, in that it is a one-off original artistic endeavor not intended for profit.
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 never get to read any Parasol Protectorate fan-fic and here is why:
Michael Stackpole of (defunked) 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 an 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 screen.
- Finally, and by far the worst as far I am concerned (you all know my personality), my permission wasn’t asked. And this upsets me. I’m 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.”
I have licenced the Finishing School to Badali Jewelry, so they have a few items for sale and of course I have my own store front on Zazzle where you can get all things Parasolverse as mugs and t-shirts and totes. The store allows you to customize most everything to different cuts, style, and colors.
This only recently came across my radar (2019). There is a YouTube (etc) sensation for voice talent to read picture books or comics while showing the book on screen. Apparently this has happened with my manga.
Unfortunately, showing the contents of an image-based book in greater than 10% is copyright infringement. I legally must protect my copyright or it will be taken away from me. Also, it’s a part of my contract to report it when I find it.
Copyright is my livelihood and it’s not that you are necessarily stealing my readership, it’s that you are establishing a legal precedent that I am allowing it to occur: THIS CAN BE USED AGINST ME IN COURT. A pirate site could for example screen cap and steal all those images and then republish. I know you didn’t mean harm, but they sure do, and you enabled it.
Feelings, Nothing More Than FEELINGS
I am so sorry we live in this litigious world.
And I am so sorry I can’t me more generous about your enthusiasm and my IP.
But this is the age old battle, as Dickens would have it, “between art and commerce.”
If there were good systems in place for Shared World action, I would jump that band wagon in a heartbeat. But there isn’t, not that also protects my livelihood. I’m in the enviable position of being just popular enough to have this happen to me in increasingly odd ways. And not so popular that I have a team of IP lawyers on my side, nipping about the internet and deciding when to pursue and when to clamp down (see Harry Potter or Star Wars).
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 pirates, 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 profit 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.
I love cosplay & fan art. I love to see it and I love that you do it. Just don’t sell it publicly branded with my sheez, OK?
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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