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When is fanfiction not fanfiction?

(8 Posts)
mimsythemoocher Fri 06-Sep-13 10:03:14

Just canvassing opinions, really.

The subject of my interest is a novel that has long been in the public domain. It has been very famously adapted, but the novel itself remains relatively obscure.

I begin to research the period about which it was written, and from this a new project has emerged - a sort of companion novel. I shared my idea with a friend, who remarked (rather sniffily) – “You mean like fanfiction?”

Admittedly, her reaction pissed me off slightly, but it did get me thinking.

What about, say, Wide Sargasso Sea or Death Comes to Pemberley.

When does fanfiction become … legitimate … for want of a better word?

mimsythemoocher Fri 06-Sep-13 10:04:10



Trills Fri 06-Sep-13 10:14:34

Jane Austen sequels were the example that I was going to use.

The answer is that there isn't a line, it doesn't stop being fanfiction and become real writing. It can be both fanfiction and real writing, or be one or the other depending on who is looking at it.

AuntySib Fri 06-Sep-13 10:18:55

Well, the difference is in Wide Sargasso Sea and Death comes to Pemberley. One is a classic book in it's own right, the other is fanfiction.

So for me, it's about the standard of the writing, the input of new ideas. Would your book stand alone - by which I mean, if the reader hadn't read the original, would they still be able to access yours sensibly? For example, Melissa Nathan has adapted very well-known plots and updated them successfully, whereas some of the Jane Austen ' sequels 'are just shudderingly bad.

It's a very interesting question, hope this thread develops!

LurcioLovesFrankie Fri 06-Sep-13 10:39:58

I remember another thread where someone rather brilliantly suggested that the Aeneid was Virgil's fanfic for Homer! There was an interesting discussion of whether it's better thought of when it's done by men rather than women (e.g. Faulkes' new Bond novels, done with the sanction of the Fleming estate). But lots of examples spring to mind. Thackaray being so pissed off with the ending of Ivanhoe (where he marries the wet and weedy Rowena rather than the fantastic, fabulous Rebecca) that he wrote a sequel (it's not very good). Would Malory's retelling of the Authurian legends count as fanfic? Could you file "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead" under the heading of "transformative works"?

(Confession time: I write fanfic as light relief - and read it. Like other genres, it has its good and excruciatingly bad examples. I can think of one writer who I think is actually better than the author she's borrowing from - won't name names as such things tend not to go down well with the original author).

Trills Fri 06-Sep-13 11:08:28

I can think of one set of fanfiction that are definitely better than the original too smile

Trills Fri 06-Sep-13 11:10:45

The real question is "does it matter if it is fanfiction or not?"

If it's a good and engaging story, and if it is good to read even without having read the original, then does it matter if the world and the characters are not original?

Many authors set their stories in "the real world" so they have not created the world that their story is set in.

Many authors use historical or legendary characters, or character that are stock archetypes that they cannot really claim to have "created".

LurcioLovesFrankie Mon 09-Sep-13 15:17:01

I think the answer is context:

Starry-eyed teenager/bored middle aged woman with no particular literary talent => fanfic

Established and talented literary writer => "re-telling", "reinvention".

Howard Jacobson and Margaret Atwood to re-write Shakespeare

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