In my last few posts, I’ve been talking about the connection between my original science fantasy serial, The Foxes of Synn, and Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power. There are a couple of arcs in my serial which I consider homage to MOTU/POP, but the elements I kept were all things I created or conceptual tropes like “forgotten moon colony” and “barbarian hero.” My world has many influences from ancient myths and fairytales as well, so He-Man and She-Ra are in good company. Hardcore He-Man/She-Ra fans may find a few Easter eggs in my work, and I hope they’ll regard them with nostalgia and affection.
There is plenty “new” stuff to be found in my stories. In fact, there’s as much “new” in my fanfiction as there is in my “original” fiction. To me that’s the whole point of writing a story — to take an idea or a concept and invest it with myself and my interpretation. It’s impossible for me to engage with certain tropes or character types without thinking of the examples I’ve encountered in other stories. Man-At-Arms and Obi-Wan Kenobi have permanently colored my interpretation of “the wise one” or “mentor.” Queen Marlena, Princess Leia, Jessica Atreides, Disney’s Snow White, Wicked Queen, Maleficent, Aurora, and Nala embody female power and authority to me. I can’t write a likable scoundrel or an antihero of any kind without shades of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. Still, it would be unethical for me to take those characters, strip them of recognizable external elements or backstory and implant them into a story I’m claiming is original. I’ve seen professionally published authors do that, and they probably think no one can tell.
It seems to me that a lot of people who criticize fanfiction are assuming fanfic authors lack the ability to do more than copy from others whom they perceive as more creative. That’s simply not the case. There’s a lot of bad fanfiction on the internet, but there are also richly complex, worthwhile labors of love that you might enjoy reading.
I interact with writers who range in age from 12 to 80. It’s my experience that most of us start out either writing fanfiction or writing stories that are mostly derivative works. I was fortunate that I had more experienced writers in my life who challenged and encouraged me to find my own stories and recognize the (admittedly blurry) line between accepting that my work is influenced by what I read and actively taking from another piece of fiction. The need to create stories that begin as patchworks of the stuff we read and watch, when all of our characters are some iteration of our favorite literary figures and our ideas are largely reactionary does fade, but it never entirely goes away. We develop the skills and sensitivity to be more purposeful in what we create. We gain life experiences to draw from and learn how to weave those things into our tropes and plot devices. There’s still going to be some “borrowing” because that’s the nature of fiction. I think the fanfiction naysayers are people who know, deep down, that their own work isn’t quite as “original” as they want it to be. Fanfiction writers are generally the people who are comfortable with that and just want to tell a good story. As an author, I think the obsession with “originality”overblown.
Rose B. Fischer is an avid fan of foxes, Stargate: SG-1, and Star Trek. She would rather be on the Enterprise right now. Since she can’t be a Starfleet Officer, she became a speculative fiction author whose stories feature women who defy cultural stereotypes.In her fictional worlds, gender is often fluid, sexuality exists on a spectrum, and “disability” does not define an individual. She publishes science fiction, science fantasy, horror, and biographical essays. To find out more, visit her website or her Amazon Author page.