Do you read fan fiction? Do you write fan fiction? I have to say no to both questions but it seems to me that I'm among an increasingly diminishing minority.
So what is fan fiction? FanFic can be described as stories based on characters or settings from original works of fiction, but instead of being written by the original author, they're written by fans.
A suprirsing number of popular authors got their big break from writing fan fiction. For example, E.L. James, the writer of Fifty Shades of Grey first attracted attention writing Twilight FanFic based on Stephenie Meyer's best selling series.
Interestingly, the FanFic movement is gaining momentum, with growing numbers of websites dedicated to amateur writers, who are continuing the lives of their favourite characters in short stories, and uploading them to the internet for others to read.
So is FanFic the ultimate form of flattery or is it a case of, go find your own characters?
I recently was on an author's website just checking out her latest information, and noticed she'd posted a note saying: please don't send me your fan fiction. I can see where she's coming from.
I've not - to my knowledge - had anyone write fan fiction based on my characters but I'm not sure how I'd feel about it if I had. After all, these are my characters and they are owned by me. I have very definite ideas about who they are, how they think, feel and behave. How would I feel if someone wrote about, say Patrick, and he was entirely different from how I created him?
I think I'm alluding to one of the greatest pieces of FanFic ever written, that was published, marketed and sold to millions around the world and it turned out to be a massive flop.
I'm referring, of course, to Scarlett, the sequel to Gone With the Wind (GWTW). Alright, I'm probably being a bit loose with calling Scarlett fan fiction because it was written by Alexandra Ripley under license by Margaret Mitchell's estate, so it was all above board and properly authorised.
However, the story begins the day after GWTW finishes with Melanie Hamilton's funeral and Scarlett in tatters over Rhett's rejection - and it's all downhill from there.
Scarlett was described in 1991 by Janet Maslin, a writer for The New York Times, as "stunningly uneventful". I couldn't agree more. I don't remember being as disappointed by any book as I was by this one.
Considering that during her lifetime, Margaret Mitchell was regularly asked, and always refused, to write a sequel to GWTW, it's curious as to why her estate would approve what amounts, to me, as some 800 plus pages of not very entertaining fan fiction.
Twenty-five years after Scarlett, we're seeing budding writers build a career on FanFic. In an interesting connection, after E.L. James got her start writing FanFic for Twilight, another writer, K.M. Golland has similarly forged a writing career after creating FanFic based on Fifty Shades.
Fan fiction is not limited to novels. I once stumbled across a FanFic piece based on the television series Supernatural. I think I read about 200 words before I decided this particular fan should go and ... oh, I don't know, do something else perhaps?
In anycase, love it or hate it, fan fiction is here to stay. It seems to me that in a world where everyone is after their 15 minutes of fame - aided and abetted by the internet and our ability to upload every piece of trivia about ourselves - fan fiction is just another form of vanity publishing.
Okay - so I've had a bit of a whinge this week and I suppose you can glean from this that I'm not a fan of fan fiction. If you enjoy reading it, I applaud you as I believe reading is so important that you should do so regardless of your subject matter.
If you write fan fiction ... well ... let's just leave it at that.
Until next week, love my characters, or make up your own ... just saying.