5

How have authors integrated fanfic into their canon?

Eric Flint's 1632 / Assiti Shards universe includes material that was originally developed as fanfic (he strongly encourages fanfics and promotes research for the; finds some fanfics he likes, edits and publishes them, and integrates them into his ongoing storytelling).

I know that Flint is a big time experiment builder in general (he seems to be one of the - if not the main - driving forces behind Baen's Free Library concept).

Therefore I was wondering whether he was the first to treat fanfics in this way (as full fledged publishing-quality material worth including in his own ongoing canon), and where he stands vis-à-vis the trend of this development in Speculative Fiction publishing?

  • Is Flint following the trends of other authors in this integration of fanfic?
  • Is his treatment revolutionary compared to how other popular and established S&SF authors treat fanfics, or is it just an evolution that's slightly more accepting than other experimentalists?
  • Is acceptance and integration of fanfics by the original author a growing trend?

By "fanfic", I'm looking for work produced by what anyone reasonable would genuinely consider an amateur fanfic creator. I refer to literary works produced by people who:

  • have not been commissioned by a publishing house/owner associated with the universe

  • have not written their works with the expectation of being officially included in the universe (e.g. people writing a Star Trek episode script to submit to Paramount in hopes of being made into an episode are not fanfic writers).

  • did not create their work as a result of a request by the owner/author of the universe.

  • aren't an established author creating a crossover tribute by agreement.

9

Original authors using fanfic is definitely a trend. It's a big enough thing that TV Tropes has a page on Ascended Fanon. It's not a new thing, but it's growing. And I think Flint is extending the integration of fanfic with canon.

HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos may not fit precisely within your definition, but it oozes up to the outside wall and slithers squamous tentacles in through the windows. In the 1920s and '30s, HPL corresponded heavily with the "Lovecraft circle," several of whose members wrote mythos stories. I don't know how much influence went from the circle in to Lovecraft, but there was some: in "The Haunter of the Dark" Lovecraft based a character on Robert Bloch (and killed him off). I suspect someone who knows HPL's work better than I can come up with more substantive examples.

One of the best-known examples of an author involved with fanfic is Marion Zimmer Bradley and her Darkover series. One academic article says

From the 1970s through the early 1990s, Bradley actively engaged with her fans by editing their stories and publishing them in fanzines, holding contests for fan works created in her universe, and finally professionally publishing, with DAW Books, 12 anthologies of fan-written stories. . . . In a few cases, she would even say of a story that it was now part of the canon of Darkover

Unfortunately, MZB's involvement with fanfic ended badly. Many writers cite it as the reason why they either avoid fanfic or discourage it.

I think Eric Flint's use of fanfic in the 1632 universe is an evolutionary step in author involvement. He seems to involve outsiders more heavily than MZB did (before her last decade, at least, when she needed co-authors and possibly ghostwriters). And he appears to have involved others earlier in the life of the series, since he encouraged fanfic from the beginning.

3

Some fanfiction authors do read the occasional fanfiction.

Others have been adviced by their lawyers not to, because of the trouble that could arise when the original copies off the fanfiction.

Most would probably not even be aware of fanfiction, especially not the masses since only some universes have really big collections of fanfics; and to these who do, some might be appalling (when AO3 came out, most of it was smut, because “proper” stories could still be publised elsewhere; luckily, this has changed, but FFn’s C2s are a good pre-filter to find “good” or themed stories, so…). On the other hand, they might gain insight and honestly use it to improve their work… but then, maybe not, because they might need to contact the fanfiction author asking for an OK, which some may use to invite legal trouble, again. So there can probably not be a single good answer.

I write my fanfictions under a BSD-ish licence, as all my stuff, with added disclaimers about the original work and possible rights reserved by others (e.g. trademarks), so they would be free to take what they want with merely giving credits, but I’ve yet to see other, especially prolific, authors to use an OSS licence on theirs…

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.