Hi guys, welcome to Book Munchies’ Musing about Things: A Discussion (Post). Inspired by memes such as Should Be Reading‘s Musing Monday & Caffeinated Book Reviewer‘s Caffeinated Confessions (etc.), this is a Book Munchies discussion post, where I’ll be rambling about (mostly) book-related things and hopefully you guys will join in on the fun too! This week it’s Kim taking over for Cyn.
“There’s no such thing as a new idea.” I’ve heard so many people say this, which is a bit discouraging as someone who loves to read and works in publishing. However, it wasn’t until I went searching that I found a Mark Twain quote that this came from:
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
That’s a beautiful sentiment I think. Now, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it but I love to read fanfiction. I know now that fanfics is becoming more of a widespread and accepted part of fandom. Sometimes I just love those favorite characters from a TV show or book so much, I can’t let them go. So I find solace in fanfics when I can re-watch or re-read no more.
What makes fanfiction fanfiction?
As Twain said, there is no new idea. All characters might be able to trace it’s origin or start to a different character. With fanfiction, it’s obvious where the characters or story come from. It’s inherently going to be obvious to the reader, because that’s why they’re reading it.
Fanfiction have a bad stigma to them sometimes, depending on what crowd you’re querying. Some people think it isn’t a legitimate mode of creating because it’s plagiarism or someone else’s intellectual property, whereas there are others (like myself) who love it. One of the issues with fanfiction is that there’s just so much crap to wade through before you’re able to find that one good fic. In my experience, it’s something like 1:50 or 1:100 ratio of good fic to bad. (It’s also fandom/pairing dependent. Good writers all seem to flock to the same ones.)
It’s those good fanfics that make me question this stigma. They have taken these base characters and stories and turned it into something amazing, worthy of publication. If only it wasn’t already someone else’s property, right?
It’s such a large part of the YA book world now to see at least one retelling on a TBR or in a bookstore. Epic Reads even put out this “Epic chart of 162 Young Adult retellings”. That’s a 162 books published that base their stories and the characters on a different work of literature.
What is a retelling? These are books that exist because of another, older piece of work. The ones on that chart have four major categories these retellings are based on: mythology, fairy tales, Shakespeare, and classics. Within each category, there are multiple subcategories. And within each subcategory, there are multiple books. Each one of these books takes their base characters and stories directly from another work, and, like fanfiction, it’s obvious where it comes from.
So why is it that retellings are a “yay” in popular culture but fanfics are a “nay”?
Here comes Fifty Shades of … Wait, what?!
I’m not sure there’s anyone who doesn’t know what Fifty Shades of Grey is. If you don’t, you’re either illiterate (and therefore can’t be reading my blog) or live under a rock. When Fifty Shades of Grey first hit mainstream media, flooding the airwaves and bestseller lists, it didn’t come easily. Sure there were plenty of people flocking into the bookstores for a copy of their own (as a bookseller, it was a little frightening how popular it was), but there were also plenty of people out there disparaging it.
One of the biggest scandals that surfaced for this book was that it was originally written as a Twilight fanfic. Le gasp! Developed as an AU (Alternate Universe) fanfic, the story plucked the characters out of their original stories and put them in a whole new one and different situations. What stayed the same were the core characterizations (or so you’d hope). Then as E.L. James noticed the popularity of her series, she decided to edit the story a little bit and substitute all the names with different ones to separate itself from the fandom. And it was a hit.
The big question I’m focused on is how do you (the public) define fanfiction and what makes something a retelling? And is a fanfic still a fanfic if you change the names, settings, etc.? There are some people who don’t mind the idea of reworking fanfiction for original fiction. There is an ethical question in all of this. What makes it okay to rework someone else’s characters and stories? Wait till copyright is up? Do it for fun as fanfiction? Don’t do it at all?
As someone who loves fanfics, I want to know: is there a right or wrong way to approach fanfics vs retellings vs books like FSoG?