I wrote this years and years ago… maybe even a decade ago (where did my youth go‽) in order to make my position on the idea of fanfiction in general clear. Many fans believe, erroneously, that fanfiction is a right when it is in fact a privilege. Notably that opinion is only held by those who want to be able to use other people’s work as they please, and never by those whose works are being used – and often mutilated or used to make a profit – without their permission. I got into a debate with a friend and – despite not yet being published – wrote this as an explanation of where I stood on the matter. I wrote it as if I was talking to a fandom I had (which I don’t) and as if I had already published books (which I have not yet) based on the idea that I would simply have this ready for one day in the future when I was famous (naïve much?).
My House, My Rules:
A fictional world is like a house built by the creator – the characters are the creator’s pets. Publishing a work is the equivalent of selling photographs of your house and pets. The purchase of said photographs does not transfer ownership of the house or pets.
Fan works are the equivalent of visiting the house and pets rather than just looking at the photographs. That is: a fan is a guest and the owner lets them in with the expectation that they will behave acceptably. No matter how casual a person is in reality, they aren’t going to allow visitors into their home if they expect those visitors will berate them for their choices, trash their furnishings, claim to deserve the house more than the owner (who designed and built it from scratch), claim that the owner and owner’s wishes are irrelevant, or rape the pets. When someone allows a guest into their home they expect polite, socially acceptable behaviour. No one would argue against a homeowner who forced out a visitor who behaved inappropriately.
As long as fans can behave like vaguely descent human beings while visiting my home and my pets, they are welcome. If they cannot I shall have to enforce a no visitors policy and leave everyone with only the photographs.
My writing – my stories – is my house: a property I designed and built (and own) all by myself.
You are welcome, as guests, to let yourselves in and make yourselves comfortable – to write fanfiction and make fanart, so forth. However, you must remember that you are guests and guests are only welcome as long as they respect their host’s wishes and general patterns of social acceptability. Since I have seen far too many other ‘houses’ trashed by badly behaved guests (many of whom feel they have the right to complain about being kicked out afterward) I have made a simple list of rules which, let’s face it, really should be so obvious they don’t need to be spelled out for you (so why, exactly, do I have to?).
- You are welcome to make use of my furniture, read in my library and make yourself tea in my kitchen. That does not mean you have the right to take any of my things with you when you leave. If you wouldn’t steal your neighbours spoons (or characters, ideas, etc) don’t try taking mine. [You were not the inspiration, nor can you claim ownership of any characters or ideas. Yes, even if a sequel has something you also thought up in it. That just means you know my characters well. Congrats.]
2. You are welcome to tell me, and the other guests, what you like and dislike about how I have designed and furnished my house. You are not welcome to claim that I did things wrong because it is not the way you’d like it, nor that you could have designed and furnished it better. If you could have done it better you would be the host and I the guest. It is not so and that is not ‘unfair’. I am not ‘stupid’ because I painted the living room blue where you would have painted it green, nor because I do not try to make my pets sleep together. [Your opinions are welcome as long as they are given maturely. ‘I’d have preferred’ is acceptable, ‘you’re stupid because you didn’t do what I wanted’ is not. You do not know better about my stories than I do.]
3. On that note: my cat and my iguana do not wish to have sexual intercourse with each other. Kindly stop trying to force them together. It is not cute. I wouldn’t make your hamster fuck your gerbil. [If my canon states that a character is not interested – be it in a particular gender, person, or sex as a whole – do not try to change this …especially not because ‘they’d look so cute together’.].
4. Also, I am aware that my house is near another house where the guests are welcome to roam. I do not own the other house, but I am pretty sure that its owner will be just as upset as I if we find that you’ve dug a tunnel under the garden fence to connect the two. Even if I owned both properties, this would still be unacceptable behaviour from guests, no matter how drunk they are. If I wanted the properties connected, there would not be a fence. [In other words: crossovers are a no-no. I don’t care if you’re writing this at three A.M. and you’re high, that’s not an excuse.]
5. Similarly, I welcome guests, but not when they are drunk or high (or otherwise compromised). I assure you that your neighbours would no more approve ‘I was drunk’ or ‘I was high’ as an excuse for defacing their walls and destroying their furnishings that I would. [If you are, drunk, high or otherwise compromised then you should not be putting up ‘fanwork’ – especially not with a mention of the fact to ‘defend’ yourself.]
6. If you and another guest feel the need to shout at each other over whether my blue living room should have been painted green or purple please do so on the main road. This not only stops you from disturbing and frightening the other guests, it also makes it easier for disgruntled neighbours to run you over. [Flame wars: no.]
7. I have no problem with you drawing up plans for extensions to my property and showing them to other guests – I might even have a look myself if I hear good things and I have the time. I do have a problem with any attempts to actually build such extensions. Furthermore, you came to my house because you liked it – you call yourself a ‘fan’ – so if you do draw up extension plans have the decency to put effort into it: this means making sure you get everything (including spelling, punctuation, etc.) right. If you do not have the time or skill to do so, but have an idea for an extension you’d like to see: tell the other guests, I’m sure it would make the day of some of them to try for you. [Do not claim it is canon, claim it ought to be canon, or try to publish it anywhere but inside the fandom; no making profit or selling fanwork. Furthermore, if you claim to be a fan put effort into your fanwork: there are no excuses for poor spelling, punctuation, capitalisation or just plain bad characterisation and plot. This also goes for getting your canonical facts right. If you do not have the time to get it right, put up a story request in a community, etc, and hopefully one of your fellow fans will help you out.]
8. It is not symbolic. No, really, it’s not. Nor is it symbolism that I have subconsciously put into the work – I spend far too much time going over and revising my work for anything to slip in subconsciously. Assuming otherwise only shows that you, as guests, have absolutely no idea how much effort goes into the building and furnishing of a house – yes, even those of you who hold official university degrees and teaching positions in architecture and interior design. If I put symbolism into my house, you can be certain that I will specifically mention it. [If I haven’t specifically and clearly stated, in the story itself, that something is symbolic, then it’s not. Any ‘symbolism’ or ‘intentions’ you might have ‘discovered’ are merely the workings of your own – distinctly lacking – imagination. I don’t care how many degrees in literature you have: you don’t know my meanings or intentions better than I do.]
9. Any attempts to imply that the house was – in any way – your idea and/or to make a profit off of it will result in you receiving a boot up your arse on your (assisted) way out the door. [Do I really have to explain this one?]
In other words, ladies and gentlemen, if on any normal day you would not do it while visiting the home of your neighbour, your best friend or any random stranger: don’t do it in mine.
I still hold to a lot of those principles, but I’d like to think I could explain myself nowadays without being quite that condescending.