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The Robin Hobb thing - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Robin Hobb thing
Apparently, a writer named Robin Hobb doesn't like fan fiction. She has managed to re-depress me by stressing that what I do isn't real writing and is in fact the opposite of writing.

I've never read her books (in fact, this is the first I've heard of her) so this doesn't hit me quite as personally as when Orson Scott Card advanced similar views (in a less insulting tone of voice).

First, Ms. Hobb suggests that fan fiction is identity theft, because it attaches the author's intellectual property with ideas not the author's, and which may in fact be inimical to the author's. "This is what you did wrong," she hears it saying. "I'm going to fix it."

I find it difficult to argue with this as a problematic premise--as a writer (and I do write original stuff, Ms. Hobb, thank you very much), I don't like to be misinterpreted or re-written, and I do think fan writers should stick to fandoms where they like the original material enough to keep it faithful to the spirit of canon. That said, there's a quite a lot of fanfic out there that does exactly that. It's telling side stories that are rightly left unaddressed in the original, because they don't fit with the format (POV stories like Harry's) or are outside the scope of the timeline, or are simply not relevant to the immediate, tightly written story the author has chosen to tell. It's thinking out loud and wondering, "What's around that corner?" So while I agree with her that it's problematic to be "re-written," it's absurd to class fan fiction as a whole as something which is out to undermine the original.

As to the identity theft issue--that's a very odd analogy. I can see it with Real Person Slash or whatnot... that is actually using the identities of real people and making them behave the way an author wants them to behave. But just writing in a fictional universe?

I'm sorry, but isn't the point of creating a universe to make it so real to readers that they feel it has its own existence? Isn't it part of the natural life of a good story when it comes to life in the reader's mind, and inspires questions like, "What if that happened here?" or "What would happen if so-and-so had done such-and-such instead of thus-and-so?" How anyone can read a book--at least a book that s/he likes--and not turn over questions like that is a complete puzzlement to me.

Ms. Hobb suggests that these questions should be applied to creating a new world instead. We have a phrase for that: "Filing off the serial numbers." And people do it all the time... I rather suspect that a lot of bad knock-offs on the shelves are fanfic writers who have filed off the serial numbers and thus robbed their stories of the theme and character resonances that make good fanfic work. For myself, I prefer to be honest, because honestly... if I scraped all the serial numbers off of Father's Heart and just made it into a story about an adopted princess whose birth father is on the other side of a war and has some real impulse control problems, I'd give myself bleeding ulcers wondering when Lucasfilm would sue me for trying to sneak it by them. I'd feel very guilty and slightly dirty for being dishonest.

As to the assertion that fan fiction doesn't help with learning to write because it doesn't involve world creation or new ideas, I think that can be pretty much summarily dismissed. All writing helps to teach writing. It's arguable that fanfic is developing some strengths at the expense of others--I probably should put in some serious time practicing the world-creation skill set--but the notion that it's not real writing is patently absurd. Having written both fanfic and original fic, I actually think the characterization work in fanfic is more complex and layered, because you have to take into account not only the needs of your own story, but the canonical behavior of the characters you're using and the moral rules of the universe you're writing in.

World creation is a specialized skill-set, and one that I would like to work on strengthening, but it's not writing per se. Worlds are just worlds. Writing is what takes place when you get there. And plenty of pro writers never created a world in their lives--most "realist" fiction just uses the world outside the window the same way fanfic writers use Hogwarts or the GFFA.

Ah, I can hear from the anti-fanfic folks, but they're using their own ideas. Their own characters.

On the idea question... fanfic writers, clap your hands if you write without getting an idea?

:listens to dead silence in cyberspace:

Characters? This is where the difference in skill-set is. It's not a lesser skill to use someone else's characters, just a different one. I've often said it, but I'll say it again because I like to repeat myself: Fanfic characterization is a skill more related to the theater than to the page. We read our scripts, learn our characters, and then get called to the stage to improvise them in a new situation. And of course, you do create original characters in fanfic... but again, it's a more complex process, since they have to stand on their own, but also be so integrated into the canon universe that they don't feel jarring. This is very difficult and often not achieved, as is evident by reports on deleterius, pottersues, and the many other sites that tear out their hair over horrible OCs and bad stories.

I've written original fic, profic (licensed), and fanfic (unlicensed). Original fic is slightly different, but there is no difference in approach between profic and fanfic, so I'm not sure where Ms. Hobb comes off thinking that there's some huge qualitative difference between a Buffy novel and a well-written Buffy fanfic. Yes, there's a legal difference, and yes, the novels get bound up in a lot of rules that are made for marketing purposes (and to keep the universe from changing too much for the next writer), but the writing itself? The level of respect shown? Sigh. The real difference is that in the fanfic world, there's no vetting for quality, so more of the bad stuff escapes into the world... but I seriously doubt it's worse than what the publishers of these books get in the slushpile and send back to the authors unread.

Oh, well. I'll go back to not really writing "The Hidden Face" later.
43 comments or Leave a comment
tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: June 27th, 2005 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never read her books (in fact, this is the first I've heard of her)

Perhaps you've heard of her under another name? She used to write as Megan Lindholm. Wizard of the Pigeons is a wonderful sad book about a magical homeless guy, and she also has a series under that name about some gypsy-like people.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 27th, 2005 02:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, yes. Okay, that one I know.
From: catkind Date: June 27th, 2005 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've seen a number of interesting responses to Robin Hobb's rant. If I were a writer I'd take it as a request not to fanfic her own books (which I've also not read), and that'd be fair enough. I know Le Guin also doesn't like being fanficced, and on the whole people stick to that.

Isn't it part of the natural life of a good story when it comes to life in the reader's mind, and inspires questions like, "What if that happened here?"

Absolutely. Particularly with patchwork universes like HP and SW.

On which measure, it was a good rant, because it inspired discussion?

And if writing fanfic doesn't help you learn writing, what on earth were all my school English Lit teachers playing at? At least half of the homeworks were writing what-happens-next essays, or other-POVs, or similarly fanfic-ish things.

But isn't it nice to see that a pro righter can also fall into the spellcheck trap!
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: June 27th, 2005 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
You could always go read minisinoo -- career novelist who writes fanfic on the side. Actually, considering some of her essays, you two might get along, I don't know....
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: June 28th, 2005 01:12 am (UTC) (Link)
minisinoo doesn't really keep people outside of her fandoms (X-Men, I believe) on her f-list. Well, at least she didn't use to. Good writer for X-Men, though.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: June 28th, 2005 01:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, that's no reason they can't talk. :) But yeah, X-Men of varying permutations -- I've drifted out of checking the mailing lists regularly, but that's where I started.
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: June 28th, 2005 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, naturally they can talk and they may even friend! ;D

Yes, X-Men, I first met her when I was in the fandom and lived on the mailing lists. I've completely drifted out of X-Men and mailing lists, so I'm out of the circle now. ;_;

Well, there's always SW. *glomps it and runs off with a Jedi*
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: June 28th, 2005 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Why don't I know you?
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: June 28th, 2005 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I never did much back then, and I'll be very honest and say it wasn't terribly good back then. This was years ago. I was never anyone special in X-Men.

I think I had another pen name to.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: June 28th, 2005 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
The different pen name would probably do it. *g*
humantales From: humantales Date: June 27th, 2005 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
The timing of this latest controversy is interesting. My aunt, a professor of writing and rhetoric, has just been introduced to fan fiction and is utterly fascinated with it from an academic, philosophical view. Your post is one of several on the topic I'm forwarding to her; issues of authorship are one of her areas of expertise.
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: June 27th, 2005 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I pointed to this a couple days ago, but in case you didn't see it, go look. It's by a Real, Live Author, who happens to have a quite positive view on fanfic.

Oh, and yes, see Minisinoo. "Why I write Fanfic" (from a professional author).
cynthia_black From: cynthia_black Date: June 27th, 2005 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you on all points there, Fern (not that that's a surprise really).

I've read all nine of the books Robin Hobb has written under that name, as well as two Megan Lindholm ones (which were inferior to the Hobb ones). The Liveships trilogy in particular is really intricate and rich in characters - well worth a read if you get a chance. It's just a pity they lend themselves so well to fanfiction...
texasmagic From: texasmagic Date: June 27th, 2005 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
The rant you referenced struck me as an emotional response from a writer who doesn't like others to tinker in her world. So be it.

Your rebuttle was well thought out, and I think does great justice to motivations behind fanfiction. As a teacher of writing for young kids, I find it's often necessary to separate out the elements of writing. Fanfiction helps with that tremedously, as we can isolate a character, a time, or a setting, and focus on one thing. Need work with dialogue, go right a fight between the Trio and Draco and Co. Sequencing? Explain how Hermione brewed the potion required for their latest adventure.

The one valid point Hobb makes is that fanfiction can, and often does, de-evolve into a way to indulge in fetishes and explore themes that the author would rather not be associated with their work. Fanfiction admittedly provides very little control over this aspect and I can see how it would frustrate an author to see their world being used in this way. The only recourse they have, I suppose, is to make a public statement that they don't mind fanfic, as long a it doesn't.... in their world. Then they can only hope that the fanfic writers will respect their wishes.
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: June 27th, 2005 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Those are very good points. I love fanfic because it's a way of filling in the holes left by canon and exploring what isn't there. I read a lot of AUs, but generally speaking, that's not rewriting canon. It's playing with it, seeing where it can go. The worst AUs are the ones that throw characterization out the window and make it up as they go along. You have to base things in canon, iirc, for them to be good.

I really do think that you can tell a lot about a fandom by what kind of fic there is. During first season of smallville, I went trolling for any kind of fic and half of what I found was Clark/Lex slash. And that was on mixed or most-gen archives, too. There are things that are there or hinted about in canon that people want to explore, especially, when it comes to slash, when you know that it's never going to happen in canon. You tend to get a lot of fic in large universes, where you just know that there are things going on behind the screen or just to the left, that are never going to get written about. Take Lord of the Rings. There's just so much in canon and only four books. There are things to write about in Gondor, in Rohan, in Mordor, etc. And in Harry Potter, you have the whole world that Harry isn't seeing, that he can't see, because he's still in school. There's so much to write about, and I think that we write what we want to read, and, well, why not? I don't think fic harms anyone, and, frankly, I think that if it bothers people, they just shouldn't read it, not condemn it. As for ownership and all...I've never had anyone write fic with my OCs, so I don't know, but I'm used to writing fic. I'm used to sharing characters with the world. And when you write a book and people read it, isn't that what you're doing it? Aren't you letting the chracters worm their way into someone else's head and get them into the story?
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: June 27th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Actually, a lot of her analogies struck me as just a little bit... off, which didn't add anything to the fact that basically her rant just feels like an overemotional lashing-out at something she doesn't like. Your rebuttal is rational, logical, and something I can agree with. (And I'm really looking forward to reading your new fic, although I might wait till I've returned from my trip next week to get really involved in it. :))
darreldoomvomit From: darreldoomvomit Date: June 27th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
your mona lisa is so much better than the original. i finally understand what she is thinking! bless robin hobb for giving you such an inspired idea.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: June 27th, 2005 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know. I like mine so much better than the original that I think the next time I'm in Paris, I will break into the Louvre and make my modifications permanent. It's a dumb analogy, because clearly lots of people HAVE modified the Mona Lisa for "artistic" purposes... or advertising purposes or whatever. It's probably one of the MOST modified paintings around. Geez.
darreldoomvomit From: darreldoomvomit Date: June 27th, 2005 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
when i first heard about this, from a friend who adores her books, and so was really miffed at her comments, i thought, well good. i personally think that what she writes, at least under the name robin hobb, is crap. pretty much as stock fantasy-ish as you can get, with protagonists that you just hate and pretentious and annoying secondary characters, it just isn't good enough to have fanfiction written about it. but that doesn't mean i agree with her, in fact, i think you make many very good points that you've already made so i don't need to repeat any of them.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: June 27th, 2005 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Couldn't agree more. I think fanfic writers who write young Leia and Alderaan (like us :-D) do get some practice at the world-building, because we don't know that much about Alderaan at all. (Although I totally admit to just bunging in the conlang I've had since I was about 16 for insta-realism.)
It's as much as most pro, set-in-contemporary-Western-society novels do.
From: isabela113 Date: June 27th, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
You make a number of excellent points, one in particular that caught my attention:

Fanfic characterization is a skill more related to the theater than to the page. We read our scripts, learn our characters, and then get called to the stage to improvise them in a new situation.

As someone who trained in theater, and now teaches it, this is very much how I approach fanfic. Taking in to account what is known, and what is reasonably surmisable, I create an interpretation of the character use it in my writing. I in no way consider my characters, or any scenes I may create superior or preferable to canon, just as I would never consider my interpretation of a dramatic character "definitive." It simply reflects a point of contact between me and the text.

I also strongly disagree with the idea that fanfic does not improve your skills as a writer. As someone who writes recreationally, with no real ambition to publish fiction, I use fanfic as a way of flexing specific muscles. I can focus on dialogue, or imagery, or what have you, and not worry about the creation of an entire original world.

It is disappointing to hear that Ms. Hobb feels so strongly against fanfiction, but it I suppose it is absilutely her right to do so.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 28th, 2005 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I also really agreed with that point you made. I do theatre too, and have always considered writing, especially fanfiction, to be related.
stephantom From: stephantom Date: June 28th, 2005 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Whoops, forgot to sign in.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: June 27th, 2005 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love these responses to her rant. They're all so good.

I don't know whether she actually feels threatened by fanfic or whether she's just only seen the badfic. I don't know whether there are SQuesque RH sites, but if she saw them I hope that she'd change her mind.

At least she says that she can't be rational about fanfic. If she were trying to pass off her rant as a rational opinion (Lee Goldberg), then I'd be angry.

I'm just glad that Jo and Neil are so good about it. I mean, Neil Gaiman has said that there wasn't any Aziraphale/Crowley written into Good Omens, but there is far and away more A/C fic than anything else in the fandom -- and he doesn't tell people to stop. *wuvs Neil*
(Deleted comment)
kelleypen From: kelleypen Date: June 27th, 2005 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Card insulted you? Have you explained this all to him? I'm a huge Card fan. I'd love to take his workshop, but my friends who know him personally say he's a bit arrogant, so I've used my poverty as an excuse not to become disillusioned with him.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 27th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, not presonally. He just doesn't think all that much of fanfic. He's considerably nicer about it than Ms. Hood, though. I've met him a few times and used to be involved in Virtual Battle School, and he's always struck me a pretty nice man, for a celeb.
kikei From: kikei Date: June 27th, 2005 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

I kind of just wrote an essay in response in your comments. And then decided not to spam your lj and posted it to my own. Long rant short: *sigh*

and a WTF for good measure.

the entire text can be found here if you're interested.

cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: June 27th, 2005 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Any chance of unlocking it? I'd like to read your essay, but can't access it.

kikei From: kikei Date: June 28th, 2005 09:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops. *smacks self* I'm so used to flocking my posts I forgot >.<

Have unlocked the post :) although, I warn you, it's not too academic. More ranty. oh well.

bluedragon716 From: bluedragon716 Date: June 27th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
While I can see how someone, looking through fanfiction quickly or for the first time, would get a very poor impression of it. Personally, I think most fanfic out there is completely and utter crud. However, like you said, there are exceptions. But how is that different from published fiction? There's the good and the bad; the stuff that you read and wonder if the author had any original ideas at all and the stuff that makes you say "wow. just - wow." So to blame fanfic for posessing the same characteristics is unfair.

Also, I tend to view fanfic as a writing challenge. It's like any workshop or class assignment when you have to write something that fits within certain boundries. Whether those boundries are a number of words, a setting, a first/last sentence or the characterization of Hermione they still represent a challenge to the author. Presenting oneself with a form within which to write is not be unoriginal. The myriad of poetic forms can attest to this - where would Shakespeare be without the sonnet form? But I digress. Basically I see fanfiction as something more difficult than original writing because of the restrictions it places on the writer in order to be done well.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: June 28th, 2005 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: June 28th, 2005 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Good response. I also see fanfiction as an exercise in "What if?" Much like the "What if?" Marvel comic series. What if something was this way? What about this character and their back story? What if so and so got together and did this? I see it as a tribute, rather than an insult.

I wrote an entire original novel, before I decided my writing (the technical aspects) were inferior and now leave it to rot on my hard drive and read it to humble myself. I can build a plot. I can build a world. I can build an entire system on how the world works. However, details like you learn on the details of characterizing characters that you only have a guide (canon) to go by, rather than all the details you would possess on an OC. Ithelps you add to your own skills in characterizing, honing it. My technical skills were also off, and now I can proudly say my technical skills have VASTLY improved since coming back to fanfic. I think it's a very important exercise, and I also take all writing seriously. It's an exression of an idea. Fanfiction is modern folklore, imho.

Robin Hobb? I very simply disagree with her and think she's wrong. *shrugs* However, out of respect, if an author gets all bent out of shape like that, I won't write fanfic for their fandom. Then again, I have no idea who the woman is and such a close-minded and (in my opinion) incorrect view on writing very much makes me not interested in her work. She doesn't understand fanfiction, which is fine, she's not into it. But her lack of understanding skews her ability to objectively speak against it. I know plenty of published authors who are flattered and fond of it (including JKR and Steven Brust). In fact? Steven Brust, an author I've personally spoken to, doesn't mind slash at all or anything we write in his world. He's also the best fantasy author out there, imho. Much better than JKR, even. I'm far more looking forward to his new book than HBP.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: June 28th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Fern, for this rebuttal. I read the Robin Hobb article and was deeply unimpressed, for all the reasons you gave here.

I actually think the characterization work in fanfic is more complex and layered, because you have to take into account not only the needs of your own story, but the canonical behavior of the characters you're using and the moral rules of the universe you're writing in.

Yes! Absolutely true. And this, I think, is why I keep writing fanfiction, even while I'm doing my best to get original work done too. I get to practise the finesse of characters, of prose style, of setting and dialogue within strict boundaries--and those boundaries make my creativity soar.
laureate05 From: laureate05 Date: June 28th, 2005 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Here's my opinion, as a person whose childhood was ridiculously informed by legal matters having an attorney and an executive for parents: she wants to sue some one.

She really wants to sue anyone who wrote fanfiction about her world, but she can't because she has almost no grounds for suit, would be laughed out of court, and possibly admonished for bringing frivolous lawsuits. So, she came up with an incredibly warped plan that exposes her for the but she is. Phase 1-She strongly discourages people from writing fanfiction using her stuff. Phase2-She encourages people to legitmately violate her copywrites with her "authorly advice" (filing off the serial numbers, as you so cleverly call it). Phase 3-She waits for such a thing to be published. Phase4-She files suit and takes some poor sod for all he's worth.

Personally, I'm never going to buy anything this woman produces. Though I may steal one of her books to make an art piece criticizing her closed-mindedness. She's driving me to shoplifting! If only I could make myself dislike a bookstore enough to deprive them of their money.

Now, like many people have said, if she had just come out and said, "no, they're mine and I love them too much", I'd be fine with her. But no. She had to go try to bring reason into it, and there is none.
From: gunderpants Date: June 28th, 2005 10:47 am (UTC) (Link)
As someone who's involved with theatre (and is intending on acting and directing as a career) I have to say that you're spot on right about how good fan fic is in terms of live or recorded performance characterisation: it really is a medium that allows you to indulge in perfecting how you see pre-created characters talk, walk and react to people around them, whereas I often find writing original fiction doesn't allow me this indulgence, or the audience. And while I'm still at a stage where I'm perfecting my writing, I need that audience to tell me what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong, and quite frankly the audience afforded to me with fan fiction is far better than my audience for my original work.

Actually, I agree with a lot of what you say on just about everything. You be the smarts.
kokopelli20878 From: kokopelli20878 Date: June 28th, 2005 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Hobb missed the point

In times past, students learning to paint would gather in an art gallery and would copy the masters. No doubt Miss Hobb would disapprove of that too. The woman does have some valid criticisms - the world would be a better place without the slash and smut PWP fan fictions of all stripe, but this genre is an important incubator for writing talent.

JEC (who doesn't want to be a real writer anytime soon, just a good fan fic writer)
angel_gidget From: angel_gidget Date: June 28th, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
"It's not a lesser skill to use someone else's characters, just a different one."

Great point. Just look at all the Star Wars books in the EU. George Lucas barely keeps track of any of 'em. I've read some fanfiction stories that are ten times better than some stuff in the NJO books, but luck of the draw declared that the NJO authors would be licenced and paid while the fanfic authors would not. As for AUs and Alternate universe fics, how is Lucas doing any differently by allowing the "Infinities" series to hit the shelves? I'm just gratful that my favorite authors haven't done anything rash like Anne Rice, and told FF.net and other fanfic communities that their work could not be used for fanfic purposes on the site.

Also, not all authors are opposed of fanfiction. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is one of my favorite writers. She often visits the LJ community dedicated to her, and she's never complained about stories written using her characters.
coralia13 From: coralia13 Date: June 29th, 2005 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
As someone who writes fanfic, and feels guilty nearly every time she sits down to do so ("Why don't you do some real writing?" my mother says), I really appreciate your grounded, straight-forward, and, I feel, very accurate view on fanfic as a craft.
darkirony From: darkirony Date: July 1st, 2005 10:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Something sticking in her craw

She seems suspiciously upset, doesn't she? I think the premise that is annoying her the most is the "you did this wrong so I'm going to fix it" This is DEFINITELY true for the remakes of episode 1 of star wars that float around the internet, because basically that DID need fixing, but I think that is one of the rare examples where this was the fans intent (conscious or subconscious). I think it is flattery, but she is free to see it as a threat if she wants to stress out :)

I personally think fan fiction is a good ground for developing writing skills. Writing involves significant skills beyond creating and populating a universe. And very distinctive skills at that. Her very complaint that the characters are taken beyond the author's original universe means that fan fiction authors ARE creating a new universe, albeit a modified one. Universe creation isn't hard in general. Coherent, complex universe creation takes a lot of time, effort, and focussed obsession, but it has nothing to do with grammar, flow, character development...

More to the point, few authors truly invent a whole new world. All fantasy authors are all borrowing from Tolkien, Baum, Carroll, Howard...tec. They can't help but do so, otherwise they wouldn't be in the fantasy genre but in something unrecognizable which they'd have a very hard time getting published because there wouldn't be a slot on the shelf for it. Everyone borrows, it is the essence of art. Those who don't borrow die misunderstood and broke like VanGogh.

Glancing at the "rant" once again, I'm struck by a few things she totally misses. One, the number of people, kids included, who dive into writing because they are inspired by an existing universe is far, far, far larger (in the range of 1000x) than those that would take a shot at writing if they followed her advice to start totally from scratch. So what she risks meaning is she can't take the competition, I guess.

Second, new writers want an audience. They just do. Cope with it. The way to get an audience is to feed a need others have for more a given universe. Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy, etc etc etc. This is a buyers market, which Hobbs completely doesn't get. There are literally millions of people surfing the net to feed an obsession with a particular universe that they will happily "procure" amateur versions of it. That is how strong the market is. No amount of Harry Potter notebooks, t-shirts and waiting a year for a movie or a book is going to feed that. It is EXTRA pent-up demand. So a writer, or a budding writer, perfectly logically wants readers and if they write their own universe they will get a few, but if they write in one with a high demand, they will get a LOT. And that means better writing feedback and better writing growth. So, Robin Hobb is saying, tough luck, no one should try to fill this vacuum? That makes no sense. The copyright holder isn't filling it fast enough, clearly. Hobb completely misses that the investment for the READER is lowered as well as the one for the writer. This two-way street is what makes fanfiction so vibrant and popular.

...continued, my own rant got cut off :)
darkirony From: darkirony Date: July 1st, 2005 10:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Something sticking in her craw

I think her points about copyright are mistaken but this is so in flux on the internet in general and fair use took such a hit with the Digital Millennium Copyright act that who knows? It exists, whining that the copyright holder is hurt or insulted isn't going to put a dent in it.

The other big point she misses is, no one has to read fanfiction. Not her, not Rowling (gosh, I hope she doesn't, the mere thought gives me writer's block). No one is forced to sit down and slog through all 150,000 Harry Potter stories on fanfiction.net. Pretend it isn't there if it bothers you; I'm sure there are better things to spend personal energy on.

Frankly (my rant getting turn on here) I picked up a copy of a Dick Francis the other day, a fairly recent one, a Pro novel of the kind she thinks is the ONLY thing valid, and it had A) two paragraphs totally out of place at a critical conversation in the story. I could see how in patching the storyline up at that point caused it. The character says nearly the same thing in two different places and the paste-in happened at the first rather than the second. B) It has a severe quality drop in the writing and reworking in the last two chapters as though they were the first draft, rushed and not revise. Stuff reviewers on fanfiction.net would roast me alive for. But here I am, stuck with the hardbound that was a real disappointment. Why should I buy another? I also used to avidly read Elizabeth Moon when she wrote the Winning colors trilogy then I bought two newer ones. They were really awful, I'm certain no editor touched them. So I don't buy those anymore or I would only buy them used for a dollar to avoid the risk of paying for crap. Maybe Hobb's real problem is a drop in sales and free fiction is considered the culprit? If Hobb (just like the record producers) really wants to know where their audience has gone, they need only look inside their own industry.

Having read fanfiction and profiction for 22 years I find that the fanfiction creativity is higher, not lower, partly because of the lack of corporate filter, partly because the author isn't trying for a broad audience. So I don't buy that argument at all.

Also, I've read Orson Scott Card a lot in college. He does write fanfiction, just in his own universe. Badly structured with a roving flow that keeps turning corners at his whim, very creative a bit masturbative, but it never finds coherence or a final tie-in. It is fantasy as a daydream, which is how I would define fanfction.

I agree, there is no difference between a pro novel written with permission of the universe creator and fan fiction. One has been past a committee of corporate fuddy-duddies which hardly recommends it higher. She's splitting hairs which doesn't help her overall argument. At all.
darkirony From: darkirony Date: July 1st, 2005 10:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Sorry, forgot the most important point..

Sorry for being so long-winded and posting YET again, but I forgot to say something very important:

DON'T LET HER GET TO YOU! Please don't. Her arguments are only rational in her own mind and you are responding exactly as she wants you to! She's insinuously being insulting while trying to stay above it. ARGH! That bothers me the most about the whole thing, that you might take her intent to heart.
From: ex_roomette173 Date: July 19th, 2005 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Late joiner

And surfing LJ late at night. I sincerely hope you don't mind me dropping in your journal. I find this issue fascinating.

On Robin Hobb's website, the rant is self named a "rant" and is contained in a section of the site that is designated for over the top...well....rants. It was not intended to be interpreted as it has been, point by point. I don't know how Robin Hobb's rant made it into the LJ circles, but if you read it without seeing the warning on the attic door, the madwoman waving her book about...it loses its context and a lot of its meaning.

That said, I'm really enjoyed reading your response.
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