Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: First, Come to Your Conclusion

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  • Stephen Judd,

    Heh. I was sort of thinking that Megan's comment was almost an invitation to create Brontë fanfic... but also I was thinking like this:

    "Historical characters" are literary constructions, based in fact, but nonetheless already the product of multiple authors, sometimes closely coupled to a person, but often already distant and speculative.

    Therefore, if I just really like the story of a known historical figure, and decide to create a fictional work that makes up things out of whole cloth, and we've decided that when the Brontës did this about their near contemporaries, this was fan fic, how exactly is, say, I Claudius, to be distinguished from fan fic? It even has a few sexy bits, although teenage me wanted to hear a lot more about Messalina than we actually got.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2917 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    The Brontes used people they’d heard and read about (e.g the Duke of Wellington) &
    -transmogrified them (into wooden soldiers no less!)and wrote entirely new non-factual entirely fictional stories that had no roots outside of their tiny family group.’
    “I, Claudius” has wellknown roots – but I wouldnt call it ‘fanfic’ and, not in the least would I apply that label to a whole diverse & wonderful range of historical fiction.
    “Historical characters” are just that: the padding/’developement’ of such people by fiction writers is an whole other matter, and I would seriously dispute that belongs in the realms of ‘fanfic.’

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Islander,

    “Historical characters” are just that: the padding/’developement’ of such people by fiction writers is an whole other matter, and I would seriously dispute that belongs in the realms of ‘fanfic.’

    Depends; if you're sticking pretty closely to a recognisable depiction of historical figures developed by other people, it definitely counts. Just using historical figures doesn't, though.

    But, then, fanfic has a much longer tradition than people give it credit for - Shakespeare nicked the plot of Romeo and Juliet wholesale from a poem, and rewrote it as a play. The Aeneid was a "what happened next" for the Iliad/Odyssey. It was really only with the invention of copyright that it started being viewed as problematic.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Shakespeare nicked the plot of Romeo and Juliet wholesale from a poem, and rewrote it as a play. The Aeneid was a “what happened next” for the Iliad/Odyssey.

    So, at what point does it stop being homage, and start being Fanfic, though? I hate those books that are like "let's take a famous novel and make a sequel to it.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Ms Tanqueray

    Sadly an unfortunate experience with her at age 14 has meant I can't take her solace. However the nice folks at Ata Rangi have offered to step up to the plate.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3217 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    So, at what point does it stop being homage, and start being Fanfic, though? I hate those books that are like "let's take a famous novel and make a sequel to it.

    And so do I, which is interesting because I do wonder why: they can't all be badly written. I think, with something like Scarlett, and the inevitable Jane Austen "sequels", the originals have been around on their own for so long that everyone has their own idea in their head of what happens next, what the characters would or wouldn't do, and something in the "sequels" is going to be wrong. Also, as a writer of something like that, do you use your own natural style, or try desperately to emulate that of the previous author?

    We have two sister sites on our writing boards: Bardic Web and PanHistoria. Fanfic is banned on BW and pretty much a free-for-all on Pan. And the historical fiction? Is on Pan. We get the same problems as we do with the fanfic. People argue over the canon (the existing works or the historical record), over who gets to write the fun characters (Captain Jack, Queen Elizabeth I, same problem), over what they would or wouldn't do. At BW we only allow people to write fictional characters in an historical context, which cuts down (but doesn't eliminate) the bullshit.

    Shakespeare and fanfic? Richard III. Pretty much entirely fiction. Politically-motivated defamatory fiction at that.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Emma Hart,

    So where do we stand on something like this? Parody, surely? (Also, who the hell has my copy?)

    I am asking these questions, because I've never been that interested in fanfic as a thing - or for that matter, historical fiction. I'm just not that kind of fan. It's probably snobbery, but I care what Joss wants to do with the characters and the story, not what someone else does. Plus, I don't need someone else's imaginings of what Mal is like in bed, I can get there on my own. (so to speak, etc.)

    I thought maybe it was because I don't tend to like the kind of shows that inspire it mostly. But then someone pointed me to a Darcy/Bingley story, and I was still underwhelmed. I just don't get it.

    Or, maybe, it's just that I tend to think, if you're gonna write, come up with your own characters and backstory.

    (I am also astounded at how little smut there's been in this thread, given it was all about the ridiculous idea that women actually like sex.)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    I hate those books that are like “let’s take a famous novel and make a sequel to it.

    Well, yes and no… you can assemble a long (and depressing) shelf of sequels, prequels, ‘re-imaginings’ and flat out WTF-ness ( ETA: Snap, Megan!) spawned from Miss Jane Austen’s novels. (There’s even Austen slash out there, but you can find it yourself.) Still have a very soft spot for Clueless though.

    But, like anything else, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea is much more than a prequel to Jane Eyre telling the story of the first Mrs Rochester.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Still have a very soft spot for Clueless though.

    And 10 Things I Hate About You.

    Is the difference that they are good?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And when it comes to fanfic gone wild, I've very pleased Kim Newman's sublimely batshit Anno Dracula is finally back in print -- with the sequels, various interstitial novellas and a new novel to follow.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Is the difference that they are good?

    Why, yes. And, sadly, most Austen sequels are like polyester knock-offs of vintage Channel run up in some Chinese sweatshop. You can imitate the silhouette easily enough, but the complex alchemy of proportion, structure, knowledge of how different fabrics drape and move, subtle and intricate craftsmanship and a clear aesthetic vision? Not so much…

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Or, maybe, it’s just that I tend to think, if you’re gonna write, come up with your own characters and backstory.

    I must preface this with the note that it is totally okay to not get or be interested in fanfic and there are plenty of fandoms for which that holds for me, but: you just hit one of my big grumpy spots. Believe me, writing really good fanfic takes just as much effort and imagination as writing really good original stories. In some ways it's harder, because (if you're doing it well) you can't make stuff up, it has to reconcile with the established canon, which in multi-author fandoms like comics or TV shows can be wildly conflicting anyway.

    We don't say that writers who join the writing staff of TV shows or comic books or write for cross-platform franchises aren't trying hard enough because they're working on something with an established canon. I don't see why it's any different for people who write fanfic - sure, they're not making a living off it, but that's not a requirement of quality. (Or, in many cases I can think of, any sign of quality.)

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    a Darcy/Bingley story

    Oh, come on. Darcy would *never* fuck Bingley. Bingley is as dumb as a box of hammers. He'd be *way* more likely to fuck Mr Bennet, who is at least funny.

    (Cue someone pointing me to a Darcy/Mr Bennet story...)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3623 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Believe me, writing really good fanfic takes just as much effort and imagination as writing really good original stories.

    Oh, yeah, I didn't mean to imply that it doesn't. God, any kind of good writing is hard. I meant for me as a reader, it just doesn't interest me as much. I don't know why - I am exploring the idea out loud.

    Like I said, it is likely snobbery. But see, say, I've never read Joss's Buffy comics, or anything like that. To me, the show was the thing, it's done, I loved it, and that's enough.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Or, maybe, it's just that I tend to think, if you're gonna write, come up with your own characters and backstory.

    But then why not "If you're going to write, come up with your own world, your own society, your own environment"? If it's a matter of quality or originality rather than copyright.

    It's probably snobbery, but I care what Joss wants to do with the characters and the story, not what someone else does.

    But you know (committing a little heresy here) that Joss didn't actually WRITE most of the scripts for his shows, right? nor create a lot of the minor characters? If you want a job as a screenwriter, one of the things you need to produce is an original script for a show that already exists. They need to see that you can stick to an existing canon, capture the feel of a show, and also do something new and different with it. Everyone writing on every TV show you watch has done that. How is it different from fanfic?

    Now just like Lucy I'm not saying you can't not like it, that'd be ridiculous. I think one of the hardest things to understand is the appeal of other people's hobbies. But "I don't get it" doesn't mean it's dumb, or lacking in artistic merit.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    I think it's quite OK to be inspired by the work of others; and while some stories are more original than others, it's hard for a story to be original in every way .

    Maybe it's a little like that adage, "Stealing from one author is plagiarism; from many authors, research"?

    I like what Philip Pullman says in the back of The Amber Spyglass : 'I have stolen ideas from every book I've ever read. My principle in researching for a novel is "Read like a butterfly, write like a bee," and if this story contains any honey, it is entirely because of the quality of the nectar I found in the work of better writers.'

    Shakespere borrowed plots from all over the place, but no-one could argue he didn't do his own thing with the material.

    And +1 to loving Wide Sargasso Sea -- it's quite a different sort of story to Jane Eyre , and it complements it brilliantly.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3410 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    But see, say, I've never read Joss's Buffy comics, or anything like that.

    Probably a good move. The canonical "Season 8" comics were pretty dire - they came very close to killing my love for the original series. (Helped along by the letters pages, wherein I was introduced to the words "Spuffy" and "Bangel". I don't approve.)

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Everyone writing on every TV show you watch has done that. How is it different from fanfic?

    Yeah, no, like I say, I didn't mean to diss the genre. I actually am interested in why I'm just not interested in it.

    I guess, the difference, is the endorsement of the show's creator...The officialdom?

    I also think I'm just not that...obsessive a fan. (And I don't mean that in a bad way.) I mean, I watched an episode of Dr Who last week, massively out of order - as in, I've seen the first half of one season, and I watched the end of one about four years later. Poor Emma had to put up with my "who is that guy" questions, and I am pretty sure she was horrified.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    And when it comes to fanfic gone wild, I’ve very pleased Kim Newman’s sublimely batshit Anno Dracula is finally back in print – with the sequels, various interstitial novellas and a new novel to follow.

    You could probably throw Dacre Stoker's Dracula: The Un-Dead into that category too (although I'm not sure it merits inclusion on grounds of quality.)

    I do think Lucy made a really good point in that Virgil was the original fan fic author. (Although you could probably make a similar case for John of Patmos.)

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 846 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Yeah, no, like I say, I didn't mean to diss the genre. I actually am interested in why I'm just not interested in it.

    Sorry, we posted at the same time, but yeah, that was why I asked the question. If it's not a question of quality or originality, then why? I think it's a really interesting question. Whedon himself has said, for instance, that Angel/Spike is canon, but because he was working on network television, he could never make that clear. On television in particular, the "author's" ideal intentions can be really constrained, particularly (until quite recently) in portraying sexual same-sex relationships.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    (Although you could probably make a similar case for John of Patmos.)

    LOL.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Yeah, no, like I say, I didn’t mean to diss the genre. I actually am interested in why I’m just not interested in it.

    I guess, the difference, is the endorsement of the show’s creator…The officialdom?

    For me, disinterest is often related to how closed-off I feel the story or universe is – if I’m satisfied with the story as it is, I feel no great need to read fanfic. If there are lots of interesting corners or unanswered questions left – or adventures potentially to be had by the characters – I’m there. I can sort of visualise being satisfied with everything I watched or read as presented. I just never managed it myself.

    (Although you could probably make a similar case for John of Patmos.)

    LOL.

    Looked at in a very specific way, the entire New Testament is an unauthorised sequel.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I can sort of visualise being satisfied with everything I watched or read as presented. I just never managed it myself.

    I think it is maybe a matter of just not caring enough. Or recognising that were I to slip down that particular rabbit hole, I'd never get back out.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • bmk,

    I also think there certainly is a place for sequels by different authors. For example I have been a keen reader of the Wheel of Time series and when the author, Robert Jordan, died there was a raging debate among the fandom about whether the series should be completed or not.

    I, along with most readers, were pleased that they chose to complete it with a different author. And the author, Brandon Sanderson, I think has chosen the right path where he said he wouldn't try to mimic Jordan's writing style but would endeavor to stay true to his vision and the notes he left behind.

    Since Jun 2010 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Emma Hart,

    On television in particular, the “author’s” ideal intentions can be really constrained, particularly (until quite recently) in portraying sexual same-sex relationships.

    Battlestar Galactica did something quite interesting with their webisodes between series that I think (reading between the lines) was for similar reasons. Gaeta's bisexuality wasn't addressed in the broadcast series at all, but in The Face of The Enemy it's a central plot point. They did the same thing with Admiral Cain's relationship with Gina in Razor-it was only alluded to in the broadcast series but it was made canon in the TV movie.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 846 posts Report Reply

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