There’s a lot of fan fiction around these days. Some of it is published professionally- not only official Star Trek novels and such, but books based on original classic novels and approved sequels. Stephen Baxter’s Time Ships is, for example, an approved sequel to H.G Wells’ The Time Machine(personally, I prefer David Lake’s The Man Who Loved Morlocks and short story “The Truth About Weena”)
And then there are web sites crammed with fan fiction based on everything from Star Wars to computer games! Take your pick, universe of your choice. Rainbow Rowell’s wonderful novel Fangirl takes us into the world of on line fan fiction. More of this anon.
I enjoy fan fiction; I used write it myself and have book cases crammed with media fanzines. We started writing this stuff, way back when, because our favourite TV show - Star Trek, in my case - had been cancelled and this was the only way to get more. As we were dealing with scripts rather than novels, there was always something that we felt could be developed. There were plot holes we wanted to fill. Sometimes we created our own characters to have adventures aboard the Enterprise. Some people pretty much created their own universes within the universe of Star Trek - they developed entire cultures for Klingons or Vulcans, not to mention languages. That, of course, was before spinoff TV shows and films came along, bringing details that had not been there before. Then it became Alternative Universe.
I have no doubt that there were those who thought their versions were better than the originals, like the heroine of Fangirl. In case you have missed it, Cath is a fanwriter of a book series rather like Harry Potter. The last volume is about to come out and Cath is hurrying to finish her own version before it becomes non canon. She actually has her own fandom with thousands of followers loving her on line fan novels. Because of this she comes to think her work is better than the original author’s.
Which brings me to the next point: the fans who think they own the material. “I love it, so it should be the way I think it is. If the author does it any other way, they have betrayed me!” Like the ones who are carrying on about the Doctor being female. Or the woman who told me on line that “JKR is a hypocrite and we are entitled to our black Hermione.” She never said why JKR was a hypocrite and this was the response to my having said that JKR was fine with the black Hermione in Cursed Child. Hmm, according to this entitled fan, this wasn’t good enough, it seems. Hermione belongs to the fans, not to her creator. Yeah, sure. I pointed out that JKR had given us Hermione, but was fine with this, and left it at that. She never replied - for all I know she may have muted or blocked me.
Ah, that old fannish entitlement! There are plenty of real-life Caths. My main reason for this post is a Twitter discussion among authors I generally respect, one of whom has recently published a novel based on a classic written about 150 years ago. I’m reading her novel now and yeah, it’s amusing, but mostly, for me, the entertainment lies in working out which character corresponds to which original character and which event corresponds to one in the original book. This author can write, yes. But I’d rather read the original. In fact, I’m rereading it now and having a good giggle.
Personally I don’t know why this author did it when she writes such very good original fiction, but there you go. However, I was irritated to read posts by other authors(one of whom has done her own fan fiction) telling this one that her novel was better than the original.
Huh? No way! I read the original in about two days, all 650 pages, and loved it. I am still ploughing through the fan novel. The original has been read and loved for a century and a half, been dramatised over and over, has inspired other work - other work that didn’t simply take an entire novel and play with it - and it’s not as good as someone’s revamp? I could suggest that if this revamp is still getting read and loved even a few years from now let alone 150, it will be doing well.
However, I didn’t respond, as it would have just upset all the people discussing it, with no positive result. What would be the point? Which is why I’m not naming the book or the people here.
What do you think, readers? Have you ever come across a derivative story you thought better than the original?