Hobb and fanfiction...

Teir

Lost in Thought
Joined
Aug 19, 2005
Messages
347
For most hardcore fans of Hobb, her opinions of fan fiction are no secret. Namely, that she does not allow the use of her characters and their worlds to be used in that way, and has, (with the aid of a legal team I'd imagine :p) eradicated all trace of any such writing from the net.

Now, many so called 'fans' have reacted quite nastily to this, publicly attacking her for her views and her actions. Recently this has really bothered me. It seems to me that it if Hobb doesn't like fanfics of her works, then that should be respected.

Here's my opinion, for what it's worth. Regardless of her reasons, regardless of what you wish could be, the characters and worlds are still HERS. It's obviously annoying to some out there who want to write it and post it on the net. But gees, get over it. There's a lot of rambling about 'freedom of imagination' or whatever. But since when does anyone have the write to manipulate a copyrighted artwork and repost it without the artist's permission?

I don't know if this has ever been discussed before, but did anybody have any thoughts on this?
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
10,648
Location
West Sussex, UK
My general thought, to get the ball rolling, is that once she publishes, they're not solely hers any more. If she wants to keep them purely the way she imagines them, she should keep them in her imagination. She obviously can't stop her readers manipulating her creations in their own minds, so it would seem to be the sharing of the results she objects to. Which seems, to me, a pretty pointless distinction.
 

mygoditsraining

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2008
Messages
448
Personally speaking, I support Robin Hobb's feelings on the matter. Having struggled my way through a few fanfiction stories, purported to be examples of "really good" fanfics in each of their respective surrounding cliques, I think any sort of attempted defence of them as "fair use" within the limits of intellectual property is laughable at best, and undoubtedly disingenious.

As I understand it, very few fanfictions are written in an attempt to "flesh out" missing or briefly described portions of a story timeline. I don't doubt there are a few fans out there who burn desperately to tell the tale of the Fool's years as Amber outside of the text of the Liveship Traders, but likely as not there are more likely to be a near-infinite number who yearn to write their "improvements" on her work, or even worse, the tale of how Fitz meets Audrey the Catgirl, who knows the Wit and the Skill and went to Hogwarts.

As for vilification from defenders of fanfiction...well, I'm sure she'll get over it. Being mean to people on the internet seems to come easily to most people, especially if they feel themselves wronged in some imaginary way. I sincerely hope no-one has the cheek to stand up and face a published author at a signing or talk and say "I should be free to rewrite your work as I see fit" because that smacks of a degree of egocentrism that is usually only manifest once the cloak of internet anonymity is applied.

The "too long, didn't read" version, I guess, can be summed up in the last three words of the Fool's Fate trilogy:

I am content.


Six books worth of getting manipulated, poisoned, beaten, wounded, killed and mangled in every way both physical and psychological, you'd thing everyone would be happy to let FitzChivalry rest.*


*I am of course assuming that no-one wants to write Liveship Traders fanfiction. Not sure that even catgirls could improve Althea endlessly whining about how it's her boat and she wants it. ;)
 

mygoditsraining

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2008
Messages
448
My general thought, to get the ball rolling, is that once she publishes, they're not solely hers any more.
But that's exactly what copyright law allows. "All rights reserved" means just that, and refers to distribution, performance and creation of derivative works.

Certainly there are copyright licences that allow derivatives, free distribution and the like (see Creative Commons, for example) but the degree of control over the rights is chosen by the author. You can't put a limit on people's imagination, certainly, but you can put limits on how they choose to exploit the product of your imagination.
 

Teir

Lost in Thought
Joined
Aug 19, 2005
Messages
347
You can't put a limit on people's imagination, certainly, but you can put limits on how they choose to exploit the product of your imagination.
Very well put. I didn't mean to say that she should stop others from manipulating her creations in their minds or privately ...I don't believe anyone would make such a ridiculous statement, only that I think she has the right to stop those creations from being published
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
10,648
Location
West Sussex, UK
You can't put a limit on people's imagination, certainly, but you can put limits on how they choose to exploit the product of your imagination.
Certainly limits should be imposed on people exploiting them for commercial purposes, but aren't we talking about a group of fans with nothing better to do sharing the products of their fevered brains on an internet site from which they stand to gain nothing but the respect of their similarly obsessed peers? Or is there more to it than that?
 

mygoditsraining

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2008
Messages
448
I guess there's a line of acceptability that depends on the creator. I mean, J.K. Rowling positively endorsed fanfiction of her work, but then that was long after her massive commercial success and no doubt she got some legal advice before commenting. Since that endorsement was made there have been a couple of lawsuits concerning derivative works, particularly those that have crossed the line with her (esp. in regards to being sold).

Hobb paints the line a lot higher up the slope or derivation, and it's her right to do so. Again, on a personal note, I can understand why she does so. Were I to be confronted by someone saying "hey I rewrote what you wrote with my own take on it and it's totally better" I'd be all kinds of angry.*


*that's not to say I dislike criticism - but I can well imagine that if I ever get a book through the mangle of completion, editors, proofreading, agents, script doctors, etc etc and out onto the shelf, the last thing I want to hear is that someone enjoyed it so much, they've rewritten it - except now all the male characters get it on.**

**That said, I did buckle with laughter in the cinema at the end of Return of the King when Frodo and Sam were stuck on Mount Doom, and a lone, female voice rang out from the audience: "KISS HIM"
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
10,648
Location
West Sussex, UK
Hobb paints the line a lot higher up the slope or derivation, and it's her right to do so. Again, on a personal note, I can understand why she does so. Were I to be confronted by someone saying "hey I rewrote what you wrote with my own take on it and it's totally better" I'd be all kinds of angry.
Well, since no one else is presenting this side of the argument, where's the damage? What's the threat? So some moron deludes himself that he's improved your work - he's still going to be a moron whether he writes crap fanfic of your stuff or not. No one is going to mistake his version for yours. The only *possible* danger is that his version might actually be better, but that's hardly a risk worth imposing a blanket ban for.

I think I'd be pretty chuffed if people felt my characters and setting were interesting enough to make their own stories about, however dire they turned out to be. And I have read a couple of bits of fanfic that were genuinely good - who wouldn't be pleased at having inspired others to write something worth reading?
 

mygoditsraining

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2008
Messages
448
who wouldn't be pleased at having inspired others to write something worth reading?
Robin Hobb! :)

The thing I'm trying to point out is that no matter how good the writing is, or how well-intended the compliment, it's still based on an original work, and it is the author's moral and legal right to assert control over the use of that original work. We could dicker back and forth over hypothetical threats to intellectual property, but ultimately it comes back to the concept of choice.

From all her comments on fanfiction, Hobb has made it abundantly clear she isn't flattered by the use of her world - that's her decision as the artist, and her choice to make.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,884
Location
California
And I have read a couple of bits of fanfic that were genuinely good - who wouldn't be pleased at having inspired others to write something worth reading?
"Genuinely good" is in the eye of the beholder. The author might think the story that you think is good is unmitigated garbage.

And personally, I wouldn't call appropriating somebody else's characters being "inspired." I call that exploitation. Inspiration is when something you love lights a fire in you to write something entirely your own.
 

Overread

All Hail Skaven!
Joined
Aug 22, 2007
Messages
3,915
Location
Hunting in the woods
hmm I might be remembering wrong, but I am sure that I recall that the main thrust of her anti-fanfic post on her website *my only source* is that its not so much Her choice as her publishers and her future possible producers/clients. Its not something that is limited to her either, many companies and writers don't like and do not encourage fan created material of copywrited products/ideas - its not because they don't like the fans or the content, but its because it infinges on their copywrite. Let me give an example

You write a book and get very very popular - fans flock to you and fanfiction abouds - then a group get together and make a big RPG game of your story (or heavily based on it) using some existing software (say NWN2 editor). Now they don't charge for this, its all free and fan created.
But now a company approaches you and offers to make a game of your franchise - now here is a problem the fans have made it already for free so why should the company also pay for its creation? Ok they are going to turn a profet but they won't be the soul owners of the rights thus they are likley to pay far less than they would normally. Ergo the writer has to make a hard stance against the fan created material.

That is what I have always understood was the main thrust of Hobbs argument - along with her view that people should get out and make their own worlds and their own stories - rather than stunt their creativity building off anothers.
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
10,648
Location
West Sussex, UK
Yes of course it would be better if they wrote their own stuff, but what we're talking about the vast majority of the time is kids mucking about - I really don't see why any author would feel threatened by that. Does Robin Hobb also ban them putting up drawings of her characters on DeviantArt or wherever?

But OR, I take your point about the RPG, and there are probably other areas where my simplistic (and devil's advocatish) analysis falls down.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,884
Location
California
Yes of course it would be better if they wrote their own stuff, but what we're talking about the vast majority of the time is kids mucking about - I really don't see why any author would feel threatened by that.
Actually, it's just as likely to be a fifty-year-old grandmother who writes soft-core porn using other people's characters -- like the one I had this discussion with a couple of years ago.
 

manephelien

Transmural Feline
Joined
Oct 15, 2006
Messages
744
Location
Alpha Quadrant
It really is up to the author to decide this one.

Creating a brand-new world is hard work, as anyone who's ever attempted it can attest. So yeah, I can understand an author feeling unhappy if others mess about in his or her world, making ready-created characters behave in ways the author wouldn't approve of (say, slash fic using demonstrably hetero characters).

That said, I do think there's a difference between using a world as a setting for an original story with original characters, and using an author's characters. Some authors permit the former but ban the latter.

Some people who get their start writing fanfic and getting good feedback eventually get inspired to write original work.

There's also the problem of possible plagiarism. Say, an author writes a story, a fan writes some fanfic, and the original author then goes on to write a plot that resembles what the fan wrote. It's going to be almost impossible for the original author to prove that he or she wrote the story independently even if they've taken good care to ensure they never see any fanfic related to their own stories, and this can lead to all sorts of nasty things. The original author can't just claim derived works as their own in cases like this, even if it might seem justifiable since the author was the creator of the characters and the world... This problem obviously doesn't exist if the author's dead or no longer writing.

Some authors, like Hobb, are very restrictive and won't allow any fanfic at all to be published. Others, like Marion Zimmer Bradley, positively endorse fanfic, even to the extent of getting it printed (Friends of Darkover) and the authors paid for their writing that goes through the same editorial processes as her own work did. Friends of Darkover started long before the internet made fanfic publishing easy, however.
 

Xoanon

Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
Messages
12
Even if you ignore the legal aspects, I can sympathise with the notion that an author might feel offended by the idea of a load of lonely teenage girls and overweight houswives flicking themselves off to porn that features characters and places that you have invested a lot of time and effort in creating.
 

Overread

All Hail Skaven!
Joined
Aug 22, 2007
Messages
3,915
Location
Hunting in the woods
I do agree with manephelien's point with regard to possible future stories - often a series might be leading in a certain direction, one which can be predicted to a certain extent and if a fan goes and write a fanfic to cover that event before hte author does things get ugly and messy (many fans will start to abandon ship can will call out the author for copying the innocent fans work for their own gain). It certainly sounds horrible.
Also it places a horrid pressure on the author not to read fanfic - for risk that they will see great ideas and want to use them, that is only natural.

As for endorsing fanfic I think the thing is creating a fantasy world is a very personal thing to many writers and characters are often just as cherrished. Now if someone starts to use those characters and world for their own fun, stealing the story away, I can well understand that whilst it is a form of flattery that it could also be a painful thing. Some authors might not be so attached to their world, or the fanfic might simply be in a different timezone to the original story (tale of hte past or future) - in the end that comes down to the indevidual author.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,884
Location
California
I can sympathise with the notion that an author might feel offended by the idea of a load of lonely teenage girls and overweight houswives flicking themselves off to porn that features characters and places that you have invested a lot of time and effort in creating.
I'm detecting a hint of disparagement toward those overweight housewives, which I hope was not meant.

Yes, I do believe that most Slash is written by women (although I'm betting that a significant portion of the Slash centering around popular children's books is written by male pedophiles). But writers of Slash that I've met in person have all been professional women. And I think that the idea that it's merely an outlet for the young, the lonely, and the frustrated is unwarranted. Many of the people who write it are old enough and sophisticated enough to know that what they are doing is a violation of copyright and likely to offend the writers they profess to admire.

In fact, all of the writers of fan-fic that I've met were adults, and pretty much half and half as to gender. So the idea that fan-fiction in general is mostly written by geeky teenage boys is false, too. But I think that's merely a convenient fiction used to make them look like sympathetic victims being picked on by greedy old authors.

manephelien, you mentioned Marion Zimmer Bradley. I think what she was doing by publishing the anthologies was to some extent controlling it, and of course making money from it as the editor of the anthologies. At the same time, she was able to help out a lot of new authors who then went on to be successful. It is possible they would have gone on to be published without her, but her early encouragement was undoubtedly valuable.

But not all authors want to take the time (nor should they be expected to take the time) to edit anthologies, and wade through mountains of ghastly drivel in order to uncover a few stories worth publishing -- which is what all editors of magazines and open anthologies are obliged to do.

Also, I don't think authors can condone fan-fiction based on their work and then switch course and say no to Slash, or anything else with sexual content or other use of their characters that they find offensive. I think it's a yes to all or a no to everyone sort of thing.
 

digs

Thicker than water
Joined
Mar 14, 2007
Messages
727
Location
Cheese!
My general thought, to get the ball rolling, is that once she publishes, they're not solely hers any more. If she wants to keep them purely the way she imagines them, she should keep them in her imagination. She obviously can't stop her readers manipulating her creations in their own minds, so it would seem to be the sharing of the results she objects to. Which seems, to me, a pretty pointless distinction.
I completely agree. Unless an author somehow manages to ban all imagination or discussion regarding her characters, I think they've got to accept that their creations will be appropriated in whichever way the audience sees fit (provided people don't start claiming that they are the author or attempt to benefit financially from their fanfiction somehow).

I think this applies particularly to SF/F, where people immerse themselves not just in stories but in entire worlds. No author could ever create a world as detailed as the real world - all they can do is construct the bones, stage their story, and let the audience fill in the blanks. It's part and parcel of the process. If people took characters I created and started to play around with them, once I got over the initial shock of being published and good enough for people to care about my writing I would be delighted. Audiences aren't completely stupid - if someone writes something that's terrible or deviates markedly from the story, its world and its characters, they'll deride it accordingly. If someone writes something great then that's awesome, they've understood your work in the way you intended - not that that particularly matters - and started something of their own.

Hobb still 'owns' her work. She's the only one who can create 'true' adventures in her world, or with her characters. I see the scenario as something like giving a kid a Barbie and telling them not to take it out of its little funhouse - it's now how it was intended!
 

chongjasmine

Formerly chongjasmine
Joined
Aug 2, 2009
Messages
391
Personally, I see no harm in fanfiction so I cannot understand why an author will want to be so hard on it.

Still, I guess, it is the author's choice in the end.
 
Top