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Received an interesting email question today from a young writer who's a listsib (a person who is also subscribed to a mailing list I am subscribed to, for those not fluent in listspeak). She wanted to know when "too much explicit detail is too explicit". I advised her that I wasn't the person to ask since I've been criticized from both sides of the spectrum. What follows, however, is the rest of my letter to her. I'm sharing it here with permission...

I've written before about a Wiseguy fan novels writer whose hackles arose visibly when I approached her to introduce myself. You could literally see the chip forming on her shoulder. Her partner fell in line soon after (she had once written me a very nice LOC) and started describing my novels as "good, entry-level Wiseguy slash" as opposed to her lady's more sophisticated novels filled with buzzing buttplugs, I suppose. lol I'd always liked her novels (the first one anyway since I didn't read the others) and respected her right to write them however she pleased without me knocking her but she certainly didn't seem compelled to return the favor.

My Wiseguy slash was a lot of things ... weirdly-worded, long-winded, grammatically hazardous, occasionally purplish (though not nearly as bad as my Blake's 7 "made beauty a poor cousin to the truth" stuff) ... but "entry level", I don't think so. Still, everyone has a right to an opinion ... even me.

I also received an email from someone saying my slash was "too explicit" ... that I wrote "porn" (as if that wuz a bad thing) and not "erotica". When I dialed down the heat for my Northern Exposure erotica (because that fandom doesn't tolerate adult fic well), I was told by my slash readers that the novel was "very tame" and "too mild".

Ah, well, you can't please everyone so you got to please yourself ... as somebody at a Garden Party once said. This illustrates that there's always somebody with an idea about what you should be writing. There is no one right answer, however, except for the one you give yourself. I take the input into consideration if it comes from someone whose writing I admire but if you listen to all the input too much, you stop writing your own stories and start writing someone else's.

I do strongly recommend you get a good beta and editor, though. (All hail, Annie the Booker and Lyn of Townsend, my betas and birthday trips) They can really help you not look like an ass at times.

One last thing, the emailer also wanted to know "when it was okay to call herself a writer". It seems some of the fannish hierarchy (primates are so cute) have been perplexed over the issue in recent days. So here goes --- Amy, you're a writer. Someone who writes is a writer. It's that simple. And it ain't like canonization, folks. We're not doing brain surgery.

Speaking of which, poor Natasha Richardson underscores all that is really important ... the moments we have now with our friends and family. The rest is just set decoration. It all goes by too fast to worry about stuff like this. Write your own stories. Nothing else matters.


Mar. 18th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Your point about "good writing" is exactly what I feel. My aim is to please the individual reader, whomever that is. If somebody else in some group dynamic likes it too, that's fine, but the important relationship for a writer -- imho -- is the one he/she has with the individual reader.

I write fan fiction and my own worlds. Most fan writers do. And in many ways, my translation of that fan world is my own world. I bring to it my sensibilities, my perspectives, etc. My Blake is different than xBryn Lantry's "Blake" which is different from EPS' "Blake" (gosh, whatever happened to old EPS ;) ... etc. The constraints are only those of something we love in the first place so they aren't really limits but guidelines.

I suspect the experience of fandom is something uniquely individual. It's kind of like a love of a certain type of music. If you don't get it, you don't get it. Musicians love playing their own stuff but they also love playing songs they have a special feeling for. That's all fan writing is.

That said, I don't write lit fic with the one exception of "Sherlock Holmes" and everybody writes Holmes ... even the pro writers kvetching about fan fic write pastiches. The Vampire John Lennon was mistaken as Anne Rice fan fic by the puritan enclave that took over GAFF, primarily because they were not sophisticated enough readers to get that "The Vampire so-and-so" is a common title for any vampire. As to the question of Real People Fic, it's only Beatles fan fic in the abstract sense(based in a holographic world spun out of their movies). Even so, the Beatles have been used in fictional form in over thirty professional novels and short stories. In the words of Sir Paul, at least the Beatles slash writers have the decency to call it fiction ... unlike various supposed "biographies". lol

I have no trouble with other people writing lit fan fic. People will always muse about scenarios in their own minds ... why not share them? To try to limit expressions seems on the edge of becoming thought police. I've had people write in my own universes. It doesn't bother me. I have pro writer friends who actually are touched when they read fan fiction (I haven't talked to her in a good while, but at one time L.J. Smith used to amiably correspond with her fan writers). I certainly think we should respect the wishes of writers who don't want people playing in their universes, though.

I also think the writer of Brokeback Mountain needs to realize that the fan fic isn't written in her universe. The people are ficcing the film, not her novella. Her caterwauling comes off a bit like ignorant drama queening to me.

Media fans are encouraged by most intelligent media producers. The smart producers realize that we're creating viral advertising that will only push their product. The producers of "Monk", for instance, actually created a graphics site to help fans build their own web sites. The producers had a directory of fan fiction, too.

I would point out that some of us "have gone on" and yet still write fan fiction. I've written pro novels and non-fiction books. I still write fan fiction. I consider my fan fiction as important and serious as my pro work ... in fact, in many instances, more so. I certainly have more readers overall for my fan work than I did for some of my novels. lol (Remaindered is my middle name)

Edited at 2009-03-18 11:40 pm (UTC)
Mar. 19th, 2009 08:47 am (UTC)
I think if fans sought the permission of the writer to extend their worlds I would be much happier about it.

That said, pro-writers are mainly interested in the bottom line and a fan buying a book to extend it is still a sale.

As I've stated above, media and film are different in my mind at least.

The thing in my mind is all about courtesy, respect and honour to the creator of a work.

But then I'm very old fashioned
Mar. 19th, 2009 10:10 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, as I've always heard it, asking permission is counter-productive. Copyright holders are required to defend their copyrights or risk losing them.
Mar. 19th, 2009 10:28 am (UTC)
I can name you a number of highly successful novels that started life as fanfiction, some acknowledged, some not. There's the best first detective novel Silver Dagger winner that started life as a Starsky and Hutch fan story, and one of the most beloved and successful SF series started life as a Trek piece, and a later novel in the series features versions of Avon and Servalan, while there is a fantasy novel that is well known to be an Avon and Vila piece - indeed, it is dedicated to Paul Darrow under his middle name.

There are a number of successful writers who also write occasional fan fiction, and many like to read fan fiction based on their work but, for good legal reasons, they cannot acknowledge this! Certainly, most Blake's Seven fan fiction written in 1978-1981 was circulated on set. Oddly, the porn usually rose to the top, or so we were informed by David Jackson. Rowling has few problems with fan fiction, though she would prefer people kept to canon.
Mar. 19th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
I just had one of Melanie Rawn's books come across my desk. *g* (I work for the library.)
Mar. 19th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)

Oh yes. She's another.
Mar. 19th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
See also Tanith Lee lol

I'm not at all surprised the porn rose to the top and I'm happy to hear David Jackson admitted it. Of course, Mr. Darrow ordered it immediately delivered to his dressing room. (Oooh, sorry, that was evil)
Mar. 19th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Read it! Hell, David wrote (or, to be more precise, taped) his own satiric R-rated fic, though I felt very privileged to hear the tape, as there were only a couple of copies, the original being made for the fan (Anne Harding) who he later married.

The reason there was no B7 slash published in the UK until after the show finished was, in part, due to Pat Thomas promising Gareth Thomas that she wouldn't allow that kind of thing. You didn't cross Pat!
Mar. 20th, 2009 05:03 am (UTC)
I love it. Would that all performers were that wise about the subject.
Mar. 19th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
All writing is, is the transference of thought into symbol set form to be shared outside your head. People muse about things like this all the time. If you tell a friend about a story, outlining your thoughts about a character, how is that different than writing down those thoughts in symbol systems?
Mar. 19th, 2009 10:42 am (UTC)
My Blake is different than xBryn Lantry's "Blake" which is different from EPS' "Blake" (gosh, whatever happened to old EPS ;) ... etc.

EPS created EPS so she could write out-of-character angst and slash. [grin]

You never know, Ermentrude may turn up again some day...

Edited at 2009-03-19 10:43 am (UTC)

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