Taken from "The Passive Voice" where the Passive Guy got it elsewhere:

 

“Fanfic is seen as the lowest point we’ve reached in the history of culture – it’s crass, sycophantic, celebrity-obsessed, naive, badly written, derivative, consumerist, unoriginal – anti-original. From this perspective it’s a disaster when a work of fanfic becomes the world’s number one bestseller and kickstarts a global trend.”

(And I didn’t write it, dang!)

Morrison certainly courts publicity to himself, but in a rather class-free way.

Link to the rest here:

In the beginning, there was fan fiction: from the four gospels to F...

 

That's Ewan Morrison, by the way.  I love the terminology.  So useful and so rarely on the tip of my tongue.  :)  It fits a lot of stuff that isn't fanfic.

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Well just to play devil's advocate--and mind you, I've never read any fanfic, only heard lots about it--where would we be if artists didn't have heroes to emulate before finding one's own voice?

I was reading some early Patricia Highsmith recently, her second, and all but forgotten, novel, The Blunderer, and my lasting impression is it was sort of a minimalist imitation of Dostoyevsky.

Yes, but Eric, there is a difference.  I'm forever borrowing and retelling stories.  I'm talking about that on the AHMM blog TRACE EVIDENCE, and mentioned it recently on DETECTIVES BEYOND BORDERS.  Some of my plots come from medieval tales that do little beyond telling of a murder.  Japan's Akutagawa did the same.  My story "The Kamo Horse" (Kindle) is a retelling of a medieval tale and of Akitagawa's tale.  It's a third version of what happened and why.  There is nothing unoriginal in that because the author brings something new to the story.

There's nothing wrong with trying to emulate great writing--that's how we learn.  What you wouldn't want to do in any sane culture is emulate crap, and in doing so turn it into even worse crap.  The fact that it's now possible to get rich doing this is a sure sign of the apocalypse--a rain of frogs on literary culture. 

Good one, Eric.

It's hilarious to me that people who think they're great writers because they're doing pastiches of Carver or Bukowski or Chandler would sneer at people doing run-offs of Harry Potter or whatever.

Some I've seen is pretty good.  To clump it all into one pot, then throw stones seems like a cheap, naive shot to me.

Heavily flavored with sour grapes at times.

I don't see fanfic as a sign of disastrous times, but I think fiction writers should create their own memorable characters, not take another's. In fact, what better seal of success is there for a writer that creating a character that outlives you? I think none. 

Fanfic makes sense as a stepping stone. When someone starts to learn a musical instrument they play other peoples' music. Elmore Leonard has said that when he was learning to write he'd type a paragraph or half a page of Hemingway and then continue on his own - that sounds like Eric Clapton adding a new solo to an old blues song. Of course, when Elmore started selling stories he used his own characters and settings.

The first time I got a newspaper review that didn't compare my books to Elmore Leonard was a big day for me. I've always thought I was simply working in the same Leonard-Hemingway-Carver tradition (not surprisingly my first novel was weitten in much the same style but didn't have any crime in it so no Elmore Leonard comparisons were made).

Writing fanfic and sharing it with your friends seems like a perfectly legitimate way to learn, to me. Selling it or sharing it with countless strangers seems like something else entirely.

The difference between fanfic and a literary adaption like Ulysses, say, is that fanfic generally starts with something that's crap (Twilight) and turns it into something even worse (50 Shades), while a good adaptation starts with a familiar story and complicates, expands and reimagines it in a way that both creates a new story and alters our understanding of the old story.  50 Shades takes the cardboard cutouts from Twilight and makes them fuck (and also gives them some of the worst dialogue ever inflicted on the reading public).  As Capote said--that's not writing, it's typing.  It's also about as original as re-packaging cornflakes as kornflakes.  I guess you can give the author credit, at least, for making Twilight a little less mind-crushingly boring, although whatever points she gets for prurience are more than wiped out by the sheer idiocy of the prose.

Really, 50 Shades is the best argument I've seen for the old gatekeeper system.  And yes, it's a disaster for whatever was left of the culture.

It's bad, but I don't think it's that bad, Jon. It's right on par with popular culture across the board. Spin-offs, knock-offs, bandwagoneers and pantomimes have been around forever. Where would The Flintstones have been without The Honeymooners? Where would The Simpsons be without The Flintstones?

It's fair to discuss the merits of any given work, but I don't think something is bad on its face only because it's popular and draws from a well-worn road.

Well, shifting massive book sales to one or two authors affects sales overall.  How it affects reader taste is a whole different matter.  The rise in pornographic material has been phenomenal.

But how is that different from the history of publishing? Porn has been around forever. There have always been authors at the top.

Very different.  Bookstores may have carried it, but usually in restricted areas.  Women were never much attracted to porn.  Now it's electronic and everyone can get it privately.  50 Shades was written specifically for women.  Now, I would argue that romance writers have long since prepared their female audience for hardcore porn, and when they went electronic, the genre took off madly.  Porn tends to be mindless repetition.  The sex act isn't capable of much variation.  Again, will readers become accustomed to mindless crap?

The sex act isn't capable of much variation.

 

Dude.  Srsly?

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