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The Economist on Fanfiction! - Dumbarton Gal — LiveJournal
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The Economist on Fanfiction!
Fan fiction

Making it up as we go

Jul 20th 2011, 17:14 by E.G. | AUSTIN

THIS past weekend marked the release of the second half of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"—the last of eight films dramatising J.K. Rowling’s seven-volume series about a boy wizard who has a doozy of an adolescence. This means the world has once again been swept up in Harry Potter fever. You can hardly open a magazine or leave the house without finding a person in a wizard costume. In a coffee shop in Mobile, Alabama, last week I was surprised to find the place packed with teenagers competing in a startlingly specific Harry Potter trivia contest.

My favourite Potter-inspired piece thus far comes from Time magazine, where Lev Grossman takes the moment to look at the wildly fecund world of fan fiction, or fanfic. This mostly online medium sees readers write stories featuring the characters of certain popular novels or television shows—everything from Pride and Prejudice to Star Trek. These vignettes pay tribute to the original stories by filling in side narratives or imagining different circumstances. Harry Potter is a prized subject.

Though fanfic writers proceed from someone else’s premises, the effort is a fairly pure form of creative self-expression. There’s no potential for money or fame here. The benefits are in the fun of writing, the pleasure of knowing what happens next, and the satisfaction of seeing characters behave in ways that remain unconventional on the big screen. As one anonymous writer in Mr Grossman's article explained:

MGM is too cowardly to put a gay man in one of their multimillion-dollar blockbusters? And somehow want me to be content with the occasional subtext crumb from the table? Why should I?”

But a lot of authors can’t stand the idea. Orson Scott Card, Anne Rice and Ursula K. Le Guin have evidently tried to ban it. They object that these characters and stories are their babies, and it’s not fair for strangers to simply claim and reimagine them, particularly if these reinventions are pornographic or out of character. This puts fanfic at the forefront of a long-running debate over how much control authors should have over their original work. Do the ghost-written books count as proper entries in the annals of Nancy Drew? Should you always read the book before watching the movie?

The Harry Potter series is an instructive example here. When it was first announced that the books would be adapted for the screen, there was the usual grumbling that the films would dumb down the books and kids would never read again. The complaints dissipated after the films turned out to be fairly good—a different but complementary achievement. (Ms Rowling notably had some measure of input.) The films don’t change the source material, but merely offer a different perspective. So too with the fanfic. I say let a thousand lurid flowers bloom.
11 lovers or spread the love
(Deleted comment)
woman_of_ From: woman_of_ Date: July 21st, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, and I think the article agrees with you.
curiouswombat From: curiouswombat Date: July 21st, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
How interesting - the second positive article in such a short space of time - hurrah!
woman_of_ From: woman_of_ Date: July 21st, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's good to get a bit of valudation!
love_jackianto From: love_jackianto Date: July 21st, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great article. I think Paul Gross put it best:

"I suppose the character is public ground. If you're willing to bring it into people's houses every week, the [fans] are entitled to certain liberties, where ever their imagination is carried by those characters."
--Paul Gross (character Ben Fraser), Executive Producer of due South, quoted in the Toronto Globe & Mail, August 8, 1998
woman_of_ From: woman_of_ Date: July 21st, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great quote!
love_jackianto From: love_jackianto Date: July 21st, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep. It's one of my favorite quotes because Pual really does get it, so to speak.
melodious329 From: melodious329 Date: July 21st, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm just disappointed some of my favorite writers disapprove, not that I've ever played with their particular toys, but...
woman_of_ From: woman_of_ Date: July 22nd, 2011 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Neither have I. One I played with most was Joss', and he openly approved!
strangexgirl From: strangexgirl Date: July 26th, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of the reasons I dig JK Rowling so much is that she not only 'puts up with' fanfic, but encourages it.
woman_of_ From: woman_of_ Date: July 26th, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
*nods, JW is the same.
11 lovers or spread the love