Over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (which if you read romances you should totally be reading--heck, I don't even read romances, and I still love it), they had a post this week about fan fiction, which mentions Annie Proulx's objections to people foisting their Brokeback Mountain fan fiction on her. (The Wall Street Journal article is here.)
As a fan fiction author and, potentially, a "real" author, I've been thinking about this for a couple of days. What if I get published and then people start writing fan fiction about my book? What will I do? How will I feel? How will I react?
What I won't do is give an interview where I talk about how offended I am about the fan fiction. That would be a wee bit hypocritical of me, I think. But, on the other hand, I have huge sympathy for Ms. Proulx who, after all, probably didn't have a huge fan fiction exposure before the movie version of Brokeback Mountain. I mean, were there people out there doing fanfic of The Shipping News? (Of course, if I know the internet, there probably is Shipping News fanfic--don't link me!) So she's been thrust into the fanfic world against her will, which blows, and she reacted negatively. I can't blame her for that. Fanfic can be a scary place, especially if you didn't find it on your own.
But I will take a page from her and not read the stuff. Setting aside the copyright infringement issues, I'm not interested. I would be immensely flattered if people loved my characters so much that they wanted to play with them, but I don't have to watch. It's fan fiction, not author fiction--it's not my place to get involved.
(But if people try to make money off of my characters through fan fiction, I will shut them down so fast their heads will spin. I have a law license and I'm not afraid to use it.)
I think that part of the problem for Ms. Proulx is that people have been so aggressive about showing her their fan fiction. This is uncool. WAY uncool. (I think one of the commenters on the Smart Bitches post said it best: the first rule of fan fiction is: DON'T APPROACH THE TALENT WITH THE FANFIC.) I don't think she would be so upset if people hadn't been handing it to her or mailing it to her and telling her that they "fixed" the story for her, as if she didn't realize what she was doing when she wrote it the way she did. I'm not going to lie--my main impulse when I write fan fiction is to "fix" things that didn't go the way I wanted them in the original story (although I usually write about television shows, not books). But I wouldn't email my stories to the writers of the original series and say "hey, look how I fixed the mistakes you left in your scripts!" Because, as the creator, what's the appropriate response to that? Gee...thanks?