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Author Status 5 – This Is Going To Take A While

So… once again I have missed most of a month (again due to back problems) and my last few posts haven’t exactly been up to the standard I used to hold myself to.

There have been so many things this year that I started but never managed to finish (I have a half-made patreon account and a microphone sitting in the cupboard waiting for me to get on with youtube), and so many other things I have to do (like my day job, which has upped the number of responsibilities I have, and this blog which I am starting to hate). I’m not getting anything done.

This hasn’t been a good year for my writing. My writing advice book is barely selling and I have c.40 copies sitting in a box – quietly mocking me for having hope. I haven’t been able to get any of my other projects to work. Sometimes I feel like my muse has died from grief. Somewhere between me and my next publication – be it a book or just a good blog post – are the spectres of my greatest fears Mdm. Mediocrity and General Failure. I can’t see them and I reach out to work and then there they are, staring at me. To get past them to my muse I have to look them in the eyes, have to believe they won’t – can’t – touch me and walk past, but I can’t. I can’t stand to look at them, because I’m afraid of what I’ll see. I’m afraid that if I look up, the monsters staring back at me will be the monster in my bathroom mirror. A reflection of truth – and truth is a monster. No one wants to have to face what they really are.

All that being said, this was meant to be an update on how my next project is going.  It’s not. It SHOULD have been a fairly simple project, as it was a re-write of a fanfic I once wrote – which was 99.99% original material and characters as it focused on the mostly glossed over part of a character’s backstory, some sixty years before the canon, and only had four canon characters in a cast of thirty+ OCs (of whom three were bit-parts or one-off names in canon and only one canon character was important in the canon). It’s being difficult. I’m not sure if that’s because I feel like I’ve already told this story or because I’m terrified that my next book will go down as unnoticed as my first. I keep telling myself that it’s stupid to be afraid it will go unnoticed, because two of my fanfics were recommended on their respective canon’s TVTropes fanfic recs pages, and I’m cannibalising (you’ll get the joke later) parts of Schaduw Wereld (the bits which aren’t canon, the other canon, or Norse Mythology – the bits I invented) to patch the holes left in Little Differences by the removal of the 0.01% canon that it contained in fanfic form.

I took down my fanfics before publishing Help! My Story Has the Mary-Sue Disease because I wanted to be as legally in the clear as possible and I didn’t want to leave any plot twists open for discovery for those who hadn’t already read Little Differences and/or Schaduw Wereld. When I took them down I contacted all their fans I could and offered to send them a copy, provided they did not put the stories up or share them around (private use only). I also said I hoped to publish the re-write (or Ascended Fanfic as TVTropes calls it) in late 2017. That isn’t going to happen. It’ll be something like mid-2018 at the earliest (and, in my defence, Differences was 200K words long).

But if you were looking forward to a rewrite, don’t despair, eventually I’ll blindfold myself long enough to get past the monsters in the mirror.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2017 in On L.C. Morgenstern's Work

 

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Author Status !? – The Stress Don’t Stop (because you published)

I am SO sorry for not having gotten back to posting regularly (it was supposed to go back to once a week – my bad).

As you might have guessed, this last …well, almost a month now if we’re counting from the Kindle release… has been hectic. I’ve only just published for the first time and have quickly discovered that – no matter how stressed I was during the publication process – it’s actually more stressful when you think the worst is behind you and then stumble upon the fact that [BLEEP of your choice] you now have to advertise the damned thing.

And if you’re an author like me, you probably know that having to do social media enough to build up a prescence – and a buyer base – is annoying because it takes a lot of time you could be spending on your writing. If your a technologically incompetent outcast with no social life, like me, you probably also know that – to those unfamiliar with it – having to abruptly create and manage a flood of social media platforms in order to market yourself is not quite your worst nightmare (that’s the one where everyone in the world hates you because you’re an embarassment and the spiders turn up) but it’s pretty close.

The one upside is that – while I was contacting my old fanfiction fans to let them know I was taking my fics down – I got back in contact with some wonderful people who used to like my fanfiction and whose opinions on my first published work I am now terrified and anxious to know. But I also really enjoyed getting back in touch with them, which is impressive given the whole “technologically incompetent outcast with no social life” bit. One of them even gave me some truly awesome ideas for posts which I will hopefully get to just as soon as I am no longer completely run off my feet.

The upshot of all this is that I will be trying to get back to a once-a-week posting schedule …soon. That and that you can now find me on several social media platforms. Technically. I’m still learning how to use them so I can’t promise I’ll be any good at responding, but still, I will work it out eventually.

Oh, and I’ve set in motion the beginnings of a youtube channel (in which I will do video versions of some of my blog posts, other similar content, and even do readings of bits of my books… just as soon as I work out how to use the sound and video editing software I have). …There’s also technically a Patreon account and a Zazzle store (both still under construction).

Expect all of these to slowly come to life over the course of the next couple of months.

 
 

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Scrap Pile 3 – My House: My Rules

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?).

  1. 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.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in On L.C. Morgenstern's Work

 

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Magic Trick Traits

So for those of you, if any, who’ve been hoping for another bestiary post; I’m sorry. I meant to write one, I even got started on it, but they take a lot of research and I’m really tired at the moment. It’s easier to write On Writing rants because I keep most of that information in my head. Also, I’m open to ideas if anyone would like a rant/would like to read my thoughts on a particular subject.

 

This week’s (weeks? Bugger I’m getting slow at this) rant is brought to you by my irritation with how often characters’ skills and traits are treated as easily switched-out accessories (the ones which flash in and out of existence like a bunny in a magician’s top hat). These “Magic Trick Traits”, for lack of a better term, are really unhealthy for a story and, frankly, they drive readers and viewers so far up the wall that they’re standing on the freaking ceiling. Frankly, I think T.V. series are probably to blame for this one, given that most shows on the telly are written by an ever changing set of writers – many of whom have never seen the show they are writing for and none of whom have time to read all the episode scripts. Given that only some shows are wise enough to have an open file for all writers that lists the basic skills and traits of each character, this is somewhat unavoidable for overworked, underpaid screenwriters in television. It’s decidedly NOT unavoidable in other forms of writing, yet it all too often turns up there anyway. So whether you’re trying to mitigate the problem or avoid it all together, please consider the following:

 

1. Skills and traits shouldn’t appear out of nowhere. Seriously – your character is not a magic trick. The audience will not applaud when something turns up out of nowhere. In fact, it’s likely to tick them off. I can’t even begin to list the number of stories, both professional works in all media and fanfics, in which characters got new traits and skills applied to them haphazardly whenever the plot needed something and working with what was already there would have required effort. Inevitably, the result was that the audience (and by that I mean that other people complained, not just me) would become irritated as they viewed the character as a whole while the writers viewed characters more by instalment. That is to say that when someone takes in a story, be it reading or watching, they accept the illusion that it is real and therefore the fiction that a character is consistent – if a character couldn’t fight off an attacker in chapter one but in chapter four is revealed to be a black belt they will cry foul. Comparatively, the author – or authors – of a work are viewing it from the technical side and therefore are less likely to cry foul at random additions because they are consciously aware that they are creating the character as they go rather than telling the story of someone who exists as a complete being (the way the viewers see it).

Here’s an example to show why it doesn’t work. Um, spoiler alert? In Star Trek: Enterprise they tried to go back to the TOS way of having the main seven cast be divided into the main three (Kirk, Spock, McCoy) and the four secondary characters (Sulu, Chekhov, Uhura, Scotty) but in Enterprise the back up four (Reed, Sato, Phlox and Travis) got far less screen time than the TOS secondary quartet. In fact, Reed was the only one who really got much of a personality (and worse, the main three – Archer, T’Pol and Trip – were the main characters primarily so they could be the love triangle rather than say because they were interesting or competent). Then, in the last season, it was revealed that Reed was actually a secret agent for Section 31, or (to translate out of Trekkie) they had JAMES FREAKING BOND on the secondary cast for years and he was never one of the main three. And worse, they barely did anything with it after the reveal. There were a few episodes in which the secret agents had a complicated (and really badly put together – as in “how are these people even secret agents” bad) and other than that: nothing. Yet there were a huge number of incidents wherein being a secret agent would have, or should have, be at least hinted at before and it really screwed up a lot of the believability of the world because a Section 31 agent should have been able to solve a lot of earlier plotlines in half the time but just …didn’t. That’s how it looks to the audience when additional skills and traits are dropped on a character with no foreshadowing – it looks like the earlier story is absurd. Now, from a writer’s point of view that’s not fair because they didn’t know ahead of time their character was going to turn out to be a secret agent, but that’s the point. You NEED to know ahead of time. You NEED to build reveals like that off things that have come before, because if you don’t it won’t matter how many good reasons you have from the technical side of writing: your audience will get annoyed and assume you’re an idiot.

2. If you have to pull them out of nowhere, make sure they make sense. I’ll grant that sometimes you work with a medium – like television or comic strips – where you can’t be sure you (as the writer) know everything about a character from the start or where you’ve got a team of writers and no time to go back and research everything, so you have no choice but to pull something out of nowhere. But here’s the thing: when you have the choice you should ALWAYS choose to avoid Magic Trick Traits. So, here you are, writer for some reason unable to pull some trick or trait out from previous scenes, standing before an audience who are ready with the rotten tomatoes and desperately in need of some sort of prop – but the props department is busy – and so you pull a rabbit out of your hat. That wouldn’t be so terrible, except that you didn’t have a hat on stage with you either. The audience isn’t going to applaud you for getting a rabbit out of a hat-from-nowhere; they’re going to want to know why you didn’t pull the rabbit out of the sleeve of the coat you were wearing or, better yet, a playing card from the sleeve of your coat. That, to them, would have made sense.

Or, to give a more applicable example, when you need to pull a new trick or trait out of your arse, made damn sure you’re applying the right sort of trait to the right sort of person. If you have a tomboyish princess, a farm hand and a jester on an adventure and suddenly need one of them to save them from an attacking beast, it makes a heck of a lot more sense for princess tomboy to know enough about proper fighting with weapons and use the wood axe or hunting bow to save them than for the farm hand to do that or for the tomboy princess to develop random magic powers and “tame” the beast or for the jester to do either of the above. This is because the tomboy princess is the most likely to have learned to fight, given that nobles did not typically allow farm hands to handle real weapons and would be more likely to cave for a princess than a peasant, while jesters are typically safer if they are “harmless” and magic powers from nowhere is always a bad idea. (If the jester pulls out a jesting trick to scare it off, that’s not even a Magic Trick Trait, that’s a trait from previously established traits and the sort of thing you want your characters doing). To compare to the metaphor from earlier; a tomboy princess who can fight is like pulling a card out of a sleeve which is already on stage – the set up is there and the item/trait fits the set up and character. Meanwhile the farmhand with secret sword skills is like pulling a rabbit out of a sleeve that was already on stage (yes there’s set up there but the item doesn’t fit) and the princess with sudden magic powers from nowhere is like pulling a rabbit out of a top hat which also wasn’t on stage (even if the rabbit fits with the hat, the hat/set up comes out of nowhere).

3. If you can; go back and foreshadow. Now, if you’re not writing something that is published in increments, like a webcomic or a television show, you have the chance to go back and foreshadow the skill from nowhere before you send your work out into the big bad world. DO THAT. If you’ve gotten most of the way through writing a book and discover you need your character to rock-climb their way to safety but have never even implied they know how to do that, go back and change a café-talking scene into a talking-while-rock-climbing-for-a-hobby scene. Or put a few rock climbing competition trophies in the description of your character’s bedroom. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it stops your audience from trying to tear YOUR hair out in frustration because they don’t appreciate random new deus ex machina being dropped in willy-nilly to save the day. Now, this also means you have to think about how having this trait will have affected your character earlier – if they got out of somewhere by other means when they could have climbed: why didn’t they climb? Or why don’t they use those other means later? Want to stick with the climb? Okay. So they climb out rather than more complicated means and therefore don’t run into the guard and …oh dear, would you look at that: the string of events has changed so much that they’re never in the original rock climbing debacle in the first place. Good. This means you were paying attention as you re-plotted and added that trait. That means you aren’t giving your characters traits that – like a magic trick – last for one scene and no longer. That’s good. Unless a trait is shown as being learned or lost (painter goes blind, to give a very blunt example) during the story, the character should be able to do it consistently the whole way through – not just when it’s convenient for the author to get help them escape from or keep them in trouble.

4. If you can’t foreshadow; pick up past plot threads and tie them in. Or take incidents and relate them to this new thing so that in hindsight it looks like the person actually was using their skill earlier or had good reason not to. Either way, once you’ve added a Magic Trick Trait you need to stabilise it – to tie it to the rest of the story so it’s not just some random puff of smoke floating by and obscuring things without ever truly affecting them. This is, again, more something which should be done in incremental fiction rather than fiction which can be edited and redrafted before publication. A book will go through many drafts before publication, a film or play many re-writes of script and a fanfic can be re-drafted even as it is published chapter by chapter. But it’s harder to do that with a webcomic and it’s impossible to do it with a television series. So sometimes the best you can do is make sure to anchor this floaty new trait to things that have come before – to take a moment to go over past events and explain how it relates to them.

For the sake of clarity, let us keep with the example of a character suddenly being revealed as a secret agent, but drop the specificity of the Star Trek example. A character is revealed suddenly, well into a story, to be a secret agent. There isn’t time for the author to give lots of spy related adventures or emotional drama of broken trust between characters before the story ends, so it does feel like it comes completely out of the blue. The unwise writer will allow this to stand, possibly making no further mention whatsoever; even in the climax when mad spy skills would be damn useful, and so the whole mess becomes an ugly Magic Trick Trait – there one minute, gone the next. The wise writer, on the other hand, throws in a few one or two line conversational moments wherein the suddenly-a-spy character reveals that some of the apparent lucky coincidences (but not plot holes – there shouldn’t be any plot holes if you’re doing your job right) were neither lucky, nor coincidences, but them working behind the scenes using spy skills. This gets around the “why didn’t you do that earlier you arsehole?!?” reaction the audience will have, although done clumsily it can seem very contrived. A simple joke by a character chapters or episodes later about whether it’s wise to tell personal problems to a spy who might have to make a report on them keeps the new trait from disappearing as if it never was, and that is important. If the spy was friendly to another character at first and then drifted away without explanation, they might mention that they were feeling them out for recruitment and decided against it and suddenly the never explained has an explanation and is no longer dangerously close to a plot hole (a plot dent?). Whatever the skill or trait, whatever character gains it, one basic rule still stands: the more unlikely the introduction of the trait (such as out-of-nowhere-ness) the more often you have to reference and use it in the rest of the plot to keep it from ruining everything like a hit-and-run incident on a quiet street.

5. If you’re willing to be inventive you don’t need to add new traits whenever you’ve written yourself into a corner. Seriously. Let’s go back to the princess, farmhand and jester example for a moment. How many of you would never have thought of having the jester scare off the danger by being a jester? I can’t see through your computer screens for a show of hands, but if that question was applied to the writing world at large the answer would have been: far, far too many. Unlike a tomboy princess or farmhand suddenly showing off never-before-mentioned fighting skills or magical powers, a jester being a jester is not a case of deus ex machina or Magic Trick Traits. It’s a case of being inventive and, frankly, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than yet another inexplicable-sword-fight or glow-y powers of authorial interference episode. When you can’t rely on just adding something new, and hoping the sparkly newness distracts from the fact that you couldn’t figure out how to rescue your own characters from the mess you got them into, you are forced to get more creative and that’s GOOD. Being creative means telling interesting stories: audiences like interesting stories. Yet another blah-blah-blah-Magic-Trick-blah-blah just means they can tune it out and return when what is supposed to be a more interesting than average moment is over. It means they can easily confuse it with the ten million other stories which did the exact same thing.

When the Apollo 13 was falling apart in space and they needed to solve enough problems to get home, mission command didn’t help figure out a solution for them by bringing in things they didn’t have in space with them – they never said “well, we can get you home but you’ll need three spare rockets, four more rolls of duct tape than you have and a cow”. They solved the problem with what they had. If an author finds themselves in the position of apparently having written themselves into a corner, the “if only I had four more rolls of duct tape and a cow” thought may be the most prominent, but that is the train of thought which leads to Magic Trick Traits (there one moment, forgotten the next) and deus ex machina. You should never get on that train of thought. Instead you should glare at the mess you’ve made and jury-rig a workable wagon of thought from what you’ve got – even if that means putting in a lot of effort and getting sweating dragging that damn wagon across the plains of thinking until you reach solution station. When you’re forced to find a solution for your characters with only what you’ve already put in the story, you get a better and far more interesting story. Yes, it takes more work. But here’s the thing: writing is work – it’s not easy and it isn’t meant to be. Put the rabbit and the top hat back on the shelf and let the story shine.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in On Writing

 

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Dear AO3, That’s Not What ‘Transformative’ Means

“But authors of original works are always copying off each other by having things like archetypal characters!!!1!”

Think of it this way: a painter, a stick figure artist, and a fan of the painter each paint a house.

The painter makes a marvellously detailed house in crème colour with a green lawn and blue sky. It’s their house (of course it is: most houses are white, most lawns are green, and sometimes the sky is blue, but this is specifically their house that they live in).

The stick figure artist makes a stick figure style representation of a house, which is white, and has a rough representation of a green lawn and the word “Sky” written above it in blue. This house is distinct from the painter’s house. It’s the stick figure artist’s house, which they live in.

The stick figure artist is not copying or ‘transforming’ the painter’s house because both of them acknowledge that houses are often white-toned, lawns often green and the sky sometimes is blue. They are both houses, but they are separate houses which are not copied off the other.

But then there’s the fan of the painter. The fan could paint a picture of their own house, but they don’t. Instead they decide to make a paint by numbers of the painter’s work. So instead of putting a huge amount of effort into design like the painter and stick figure artist, they trace the painting so they can make an exact duplicate, then they paint this to be an almost perfect colour match for the painter’s picture and proclaim that what they’ve created should be considered just as original as the painter’s work because “obviously” the painter was just copying the stick figure artist.

But the fan isn’t making transformative art. The fan has made a forgery.

This, essentially, is the problem with Archiveofourown.org/the organisation for transformative works’ claim that all fanfic is transformative. But most fanfic is no more transformative than the above forger’s slightly off colour recreation of the painter’s art. There is a MASSIVE difference between using accepted literary tropes in original works and writing fanfiction. Comparing the two only proves how little the person doing so actually understands the art of writing and the effort that goes into it.

The idea of a being who can enter people’s dreams is a Trope.

Freddy Kruger is a character from a copyrighted work, who is a being who can enter people’s dreams.

…So is Princess Luna of My Little Pony.

Saying that “all fanfic is transformative and therefore fair use because original authors use tropes” (the basis of A03’s arguments) is saying that Princess Luna is a fan’s representation of Freddy Kruger because OMG they can both dream-walk.

Likewise, Glen Cook’s Garrett (of the Garrett P.I. series) is definitely inspired by Chandler’s Philip Marlowe but – and here’s the critical thing – neither TunFaire nor Garrett ARE Chandler’s setting and character. If you compared Garrett and Marlowe, or TunFaire and LA, the differences would be too enormous to consider them the same place or person. They’re too transformative.

Plucking Marlowe – specifically Marlowe, not merely a hardboiled detective, but specifically Chandler’s Marlowe – down in a fantasy setting is not transformative.

But that’s all beside the point because, dear AO3, that’s not what transformative legally means.

You see, to be transformative it must – and I get this from the US government’s copyright department’s legal information pages “add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work” (emphasis mine). Oh, and that’s “character” as in the nature of the work, not the people in the story.

Do not substitute for the original use of the work.

The original use of a work of fiction – film or book or tv show or webcomic – is to entertain.

The original use of fanfiction is to entertain.

Do you see the problem here? Fanfiction does not fall under fair use law. Fanfiction is not transformative. By the time fanfiction is different enough from the original work to count as legally transformative, it is so different from the original that it might as well be completely original.

And here’s another important thing: alternate character interpretation – no matter how many big issues like sexual orientation you drag into it – is not transformative. Why? Because you’re only changing one little thing. After all, if you’ve alter the character completely because of their orientation they aren’t the canon character anymore, they’re a Mary-Sue with the character’s name and vague appearance.

Parody is transformative because it holds the original up to ridicule. Parody – true parody – takes the ENTIRE work and holds a mirror up to it. Messing with one character’s ethnicity or orientation is not transformative. It is changing things, but it is not transformative.

Oh, and the argument that fanfic “should” be considered fair use because of how many minority groups it helps bring to light when straight, white characters are made into anything but that? That’s not a proper argument. Self-publishing (whether freely online or for profit) is fairly easy to master. If it matters that much to you that there aren’t enough non-straight, non-white characters out there, write some original ones of your own and start changing the norms of what main characters in original works can be. That would ACTUALLY make a difference. And you know what? Everyone should be able to eat, but that doesn’t mean we should be protesting laws that make it criminal for someone to break into our homes and offices and steal all our food, or make themselves at home in our pantries. There is no reason that respecting an author’s right to control the art they laboured to make and, oh yeah, is their living would make the benefits of fan communities and fanfiction impossible everywhere.

Here’s the thing, fans, an author only has one or two canons to live off. A fan who can’t express themselves in one fandom because there’s a fanwork ban? They can just move to a different fandom and there are THOUSANDS of them to choose from.

So, no, AO3/OTW, you haven’t done good. You’ve done fucked up. Why? Because you’re teaching fans to be entitled brats with no true understanding of what “Transformative” legally means and are campaigning to take the control of all authors’ livelihoods out of their hands. And for what? For the sake of fans who put “ORIGINAL CHARACTER DO NOT STEEL” in their summaries when they have major OCs, who think it’s not “Fair” that they can’t profit off someone else’s copyrighted work, and whose oh so ‘original’ fanfiction is all too often more akin to plagiarism than copyright infringement given how many scenes get lifted out with almost no textual changes.

And you know what, AO3? If it weren’t for ‘fans’ like you trying to take control of the original creators’ intellectual property away from them, a LOT more original creators would be open to allowing fanfiction. You have a privilege. Stop acting like spoiled brats with entitlement complexes and calling it a ‘right’.

If only fans and fan organisations, like AO3, could go into fandom with an attitude of “Gee, I’m glad this canon’s author is cool with us doing this” when fanfic is permitted and of “oh well, there’s always other fandoms” when it is not, fandom and fanfiction would be a lot better off. But no, instead they insist on acting like two year olds who’ve got the Gimmies.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2016 in On Writing

 

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