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Sunday, May 19, 2019

On Fans Claiming Ownership Of Others’ Work

This is based on recent fuss and bother about the last season of Game Of Thrones. Just so you know, 
I’ve read four of the books, but only seen a few episodes of the series. Who knew when I discovered a mediaeval fantasy novel by an author best known for being story editor of the TV series Beauty And The Beast that it would become so huge? I enjoyed it for the gritty feel of it, for the fact that the good guys didn’t necessarily survive - and I was fascinated by the weather patterns, the idea that “winter is coming” might be literal, and wondered if it was a planet with unusual seasons. George R.R Martin had, after all, written science fiction such as Tuf Voyaging, in which the hero travels around the galaxy in a seed ship, accompanied by cats. At the time when he visited Australia for a small convention I attended in Melbourne, he was working on Fevre Dream, a great vampire novel set in the pre-Civil War South,  in which vampires are not undead, they’re a separate race of humans. He talked about it at the con. In those days, nobody had heard of him except SF and fantasy fans - I doubt if any con committee in Australia could afford to invite him these days. 

And suddenly everyone had heard of him! It became a cultural phenomenon, which included people who don’t read speculative fiction, just as the Lord Of The Rings film series drew in people who had never read the books or fantasy in general. And that’s absolutely fine, even if they never do read anything else in that genre. 

For many years now, they have been having parties to celebrate the beginning of new seasons. People have invited family and friends over, some have learned how to cook mediaeval food. They have discussed it on line, argued about it, speculated on how it would end.

Well, they’re still doing all that, but ... a lot of fans are angry about what is happening in the last few episodes of the series, and saying so on line. Remember, I haven’t seen them. I don’t mind spoilers, because I’ve missed most of it. I can understand why people are upset and frustrated over the last few episodes of a series in which they have invested so much time and emotion. Absolutely their business;  nobody says you have to like it, or have no right to say you don’t. 

My problem is with the ones who have, I hear, started and signed a petition demanding that the last season be remade! That is weird! Do they seriously expect cast and crew and authors to come back and  re-shoot the lot to satisfy them? This has to be one of the sillier demands I’ve heard of! 

About as silly as Harry Potter fans who demanded that publishers should sack J.K Rowling and replace her with a fan writer! (Although if you’ve read one of my earlier posts, there is someone who has been told her fan fiction rewrite of a 19th century classic is better than the original! No, it’s not!)

These fans seem to think they own books and shows just because they love them, never mind all the author’s work in producing something they can love. 

When I was involved in media fandom many years ago, there were fans like that, and fannish quarrels, but no social media in those days, so even if you did think you owned the work, you could only argue about it in the fanzines with other fans and those rarely went beyond a couple of hundred copies. If you really, really hated what had been done to Spock, or the ending of British science fiction TV series Blake’s 7 - everyone was shot dead in the last episode of that except the anti hero Avon, who was almost certainly also shot during the credits - or the ending of Robin Of Sherwood, in which Maid Marion went into a convent, you just wrote fan fiction, either for yourself or for a small fanzine audience. And there were many, many stories in which Blake’s crew survived being shot dead or Marion returned to Sherwood - I wrote some myself! Fortunately Spock was revived in the very film after he died, so probably not much time to write fan fiction on that, but I have no doubt some did. It made you feel better, and others too. These days you can post fan fiction a lot more easily than in my time, so why don’t some of these angry fans write their own? 

Is it the availability of social media that’s encouraging this sort of childishness?  What do you think? 


Brian Joseph said...

Fascinating post. Fans do get a little crazy. In every example you gave it seems ridiculous when fans went after the creators of fiction. On the other hand, straight up criticism is of course valid. Sometimes there is a thin line between that and what you are talking about. For old franchises that are in the hands of large corporations, I am more tolerant of fan “activism”.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Brian! Criticism is absolutely valid. Demanding a remake is just silly! And anything that popular is bound to be in the hands of a large corporation...

Shannon Lawrence said...

On the one hand, it might be somewhat flattering to have created a world that people love so much that they take ownership of it. On the other, larger hand, this crazy sense of entitlement is being represented in so many different ways recently. It's funny what people will try to control. Maybe it's because they have so little control elsewhere, so they go after these fictional worlds they love.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Entirely possible, Shannon! Though I doubt I’d be flattered if someone other than my editor was telling me how to handle my own universe. 🙂 I think writing a bit of fan fiction should be enough to feel you have some control and at the same time acknowledge that it’s not your universe, it’s the author’s. Thanks for visiting my blog!

AJ Blythe said...

I think people use social media to say what before they would say to friends behind closed doors. And in doing so find other people who think similarly and then you get herd mentality.

And I haven't read the books nor watched a single episode of GoT so can't comment on the ending.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Very true, AJ! It’s so easy now to just go on line and complain. Up to you if you want to read the books or not. Plenty more to read, and I found, after a time, it was turning int9 a mediaeval soapie! The TV series, from what I hear, even more so.