A. R. Yngve responds, and I respond to that

Well, there you have it – who says the blogosphere has to be a seething pit of rage and angst? A. R. Yngve dropped me an email in reply to my previous post about fan-fic, and I replied to the points he raised. With his permission, I republish his questions and my responses, verbatim, below.


ARY: When did a writer tell the fanfiction community he or she WAS “finished” with his vision? And if the writer did, did fanficcers care?

PR: In the absence of direct communication, the community has to assume that if it’s published, it’s finished – as far as any author’s work is ever ‘finished’, that is. Did they care? I have no idea – I expect some do and some don’t. But I think you’re assuming they conflate the author and his work to the same degree that the author inevitably does. To the author, his creations are his children – to the fan-ficcer, they’re just other kids in the playground to tell stories about.

ARY: Case in point: Doesn’t seem to me that fanficcers could hold themselves until, oh, the last Harry Potter novel came out. Methinks it would be a gesture of fair play to wait at least until “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” comes out… but nope.

PR: Fair play? Perhaps not. But they don’t wait because they’re hungry for the next instalment, and in the meantime they want to keep the world/characters alive in their heads. And why should they wait, if the hypothetical author doesn’t approve of fan-fic full stop? They have nothing to lose by going ahead.

ARY: With such a nagging impatience to fanfic, why should any writer trust the fanficcers to give him/her time to finish?

PR: Why does he care what they write or when they write it? Why does he need them to leave him time? Are people going to read a rushed fan-fic sequel and then skip the real thing when it arrives? Is the author going to read the rushed fan-fic sequel and decide to change his work in response to it? If fan-fic is so inherently bad, how can it cause a problem?

ARY: But of course, I’m just one person and the fanfiction community is so many. Might makes right. Right?

PR: Not at all, and not what I meant to say. But I know a futile battle when I see one. I can understand authors not liking fan-fic, but railing against it seems not just pointless but counter-productive in terms of marketing and self-promotion. Note that I’m not suggesting authors make a point of going and reading as much fan-fic as possible! But just shrugging it off would be easy enough. If there’s no money or publicity being taken from your pocket, why worry? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say.


All very civilised, wasn’t it? I don’t think either of us ‘wins’ the argument, because there’s no defined goal to a discussion like this, but I think we’re both more aware of each other’s stances on the issue.

And that can only be a good thing – I hold to my assertion that fan-fic is set to grow considerably in the next few years, and being able to discuss the implications and motivations involved is one step toward working out how to reach a rapprochement between creators and fan-ficcers. Interesting times, boys and girls, interesting times.

2 thoughts on “A. R. Yngve responds, and I respond to that”

  1. I think some writers (not necessarily ARY) are unwilling to relinquish their special status as writers in world where the boundaries between creators and consumers are increasingly blurry. This is how an increasing number of fans are interacting with text. I’m okay with it, personally. I’d be quite flattered, and I don’t think anything a fanficcer writes for enjoyment takes away from my own text. Quite the contrary. I just don’t see it as any different than a critical essay. It’s just another way of exploring the work. In an age of interactive video games, fan fic seems quite natural to me.

    It sounds like a control/power issue to me. Not being able to let go of who reads your text and what they do with it for their own pleasure.

  2. A great couple of posts, Paul, and thanks for sharing them. I have to say I’m with you on this one, although I should disclose that I cut my teeth on fanfic.

    I think Jeremy’s point, above, about the “special status” of writers is an important one. It’s certainly a shiny gold star I’ve been more than happy to pin to my lapel when I’ve felt the need or urge to impress. And work like fanfic really does blur the boundaries.

    One issue that no one’s raised yet is that some people might dislike fanfic because, in short, a lot of it is so offensively awful. Appalling prose and horrifying storytelling. That will put people off, especially if their early encounters with fanfic are constituted by such experiences. But it should also be noted that I’ve read good fiction under the label fanfic – good enough that I returned to it many times.

    Judging by A. R. Yngve’s questions to you, I think he has a certain conception of fanfic that may not align with others, most significantly the opinions of fanfic writers. Of particular concern to him seems to be an issue of writers not being allowed time to continue writing in the milieu of their own creation. This implies an assumption that even a sizeable majority of fanfic is written as a continuation of an unfinished story arc, which is clearly not the case after even a cursory browse of a fanfic community website. People are as interested in introducing new characters to a “neutral” version of said milieu – i.e. at a point in time when the author’s own story arc will not move forwards but the fanficcer has a basis from which to tell their own story. Then there are alternative histories, character spinoffs, fic mash-ups, and so on. Fanfic isn’t necessarily about playing with your /plot/ so much as your characters, worldbuilding, and – in the best cases – your unspoken political and social assumptions. There have been examples of fanfic putting a new spin on old stories in the same was as Jean Rhys approached ‘Jane Eyre’ with ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’.

    Taking a different line of argument: some people may try and /continue/ the author’s story, sure, but even this is probably an act of impatience because they want to know what happens next. And how can this be imagined to be a negative thing? It’s an act of obsession, of sorts, and that sort of fannish obsession is something a writer should be pleased to see – not desperate to stamp out.

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