Kindle Worlds: Genius Idea or Bad For Fiction?

Posted: June 9, 2013 in Living and Life, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

If you haven’t heard, then here’s a news piece that’ll at least raise an eyebrow on your forehead: Amazon has announced their intentions to create a new publishing platform for Kindle called Kindle Worlds. The exact nature of this platform is for authors to publish fan-fiction and make money off of it. Yes, you read that right. People can now make money off of fan-fiction.

Naturally, this has set off a storm in the publishing and literary worlds, and a whole lot of discussion across blogs and Internet boards. Fan fiction is, by definition, fans of franchises making up their own stories based on these franchises and display it online or in writing groups for all to see. For many years, fan-fiction, or fanfics for short, have been hidden in the Internet closet. But with this announcement, fanfic writers can now post their stories–some trying to stay true to the original franchises they are based on, some showing unexplored romantic connections between characters, and some of those downright erotic in nature–on the Internet and make money on them.

Of course, there are a few catches. There’s no exact date as to when this platform will be available, and at this moment only certain franchises–The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, etc.–are confirmed as allowing their work to be used by Kindle Worlds. In other words, unless the creators give the okay, you can’t publish a short story or novel based on a franchise unless the franchise owners are okay with it. The ones that are confirmed as allowed are franchises with already-large fan bases who write their work regularly in secret and in the Internet version of public. In addition, the owner of the original franchise gets a cut of the money, so they stand to gain too.

However, many authors are seething. Anne Rice is famous for being against fanfics of her work, and the same goes with George R.R. Martin (sorry GoT fans). I’m of this camp, simply because I feel that my stories and the characters within are like my babies, and I don’t want people taking my baby away and telling it what it should or shouldn’t do like it was theirs.

Yeah, he’s not allowing fanfic of his work. I’m not surprised.

Other authors however, have outwardly allowed fanfics of their work. Sci-fi franchises such as Star Trek and Star Wars have always had fanfics, the former at one point having an official fanfic magazine, and the latter creating a specific set of guidelines for fanfics based on the galaxy far, far away. JK Rowling was quoted as saying she was “flattered” that people wanted to write stories based on Harry Potter, while Stephanie Meyer has set up links from her website to fanfic websites where Twilight-esque works are featured.

There are arguments for both camps that each have valid points. For the sake of this post, I’m going to list a few points from both camps. For the pro-fanfic group, here is why they say fanfics are okay:

1. Fanfics encourage reading and writing and imagination. In this digital age when attention spans are short and people are reading less, fanfics allow people to return to reading and writing by giving them the opportunity to read and write things they already love, be it books, TV shows, or movies. If this is encouraging people to guess at what might happen if so-and-so happens to such-and-such character and they read about it or write it down, why should it be discouraged?
2. Good stories can evolve from fanfics. The famous (or infamous) 50 Shades of Grey started out as a BDSM Twilight fanfic. If such a crazy bestseller can result from fanfic, why can’t a best-selling YA series result from a kid in Omaha doing a Naruto fanfic, or a woman in Cardiff create a new type of espionage novel when she has James Bond take on villains with codenames based on The Wizard of Oz, or a new literary novel that has reviewers crying at the end arise from a teen in Johannesburg imagining himself having conversations with Captain Kirk, Darth Vader, and the Doctor and then writing them down?
3. Fanfics could be good source ideas. It is entirely possible–particularly for TV shows with ever-changing storylines and characters–that fanfics could be a source for new material. Perhaps fanfic writers will one day be commissioned to write scripts for new episodes based on a story they wrote when they were exploring a new possibility for a character in their favorite franchise. It could happen.

And now for the opposing camp:

1. Legally, this could be a crime. Many writers don’t approve of fanfics, and in the United States, you can sue a fanfic writer if they created a fanfic based on your work without permission, and the fanfic writer could pay dearly for it. And since most fanfics don’t constitute as fully original works or parodies, they can find themselves at the mercy of a very angry novelist or screenplay writer, especially if the fanfics were sold for money.
2. Fanfics may discourage writers from doing original work. There may be plenty of talent among fanfic writers, but if they spend too much time creating fanfics, how can they achieve their full potential by creating original stories? We may have the next Faulkner, Paolini, or Sparks on our hands, but they may be too busy writing stories based on Scandal or Harry Potter or Friday the 13th to create an original work. Heck, they may be too scared to do an original work, thinking no one will like a story with original characters or that fanfics are the best they can do.
3. Fanfics may create false expectations. You hear of shippers, those people who are rooting for two characters to get together on a show or in a series and talk about it online and write fanfics about it. What if by reading those fanfics, you come only to expect that somehow, some way or another, those characters will be in the relationship by the end of the show? And what if the creators of those characters have other plans? We’ve heard of how some fans were angry about how Charlaine Harris’s final Sookie Stackhouse novel ended and threatened her for it, and years ago when Books 6 and 7 of Harry Potter came out, Harry-Hermione shippers complained that JK Rowling had willfully ignored them or shot them down, particularly in that one scene with the locket Horcrux and Ron holding the Sword of Gryffindor. It’s entirely possible this could happen if fanfics become mainstream.

To do fanfics, or not to do fanfics? That is my question for you right now.

As the debate rages, we may see more and more authors joining the Kindle Worlds platform. Or we may see a retraction, as certain authors launch campaigns against Kindle Words (could happen, you know). I certainly know that I don’t want people making fanfics out of my work, but I can’t speak for other authors.

How do you feel about fanfics? Would you allow fanfics based on your work?

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