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Can someone explain this to me?

So, here's something that I've been thinking about for the past few months and I still don't understand. It'll take a bit to explain, though.

I work for a company that makes games, and so we have an art department with some amazing artists. We're all fairly geeky and we follow our own fandoms, and many of the artists like to draw their favorite characters. They'll draw just poses, or they'll do little comic strips, or they'll do crossovers. One of them recently drew a picture of about six female characters from the X-Men and posted it on her Facebook page, and it got picked up and featured by some big fan website. And that was fantastic.

And of course, you see this all over the Internet. There are tons of very talented people (and tons of not-so-talented people, too) exhibiting their fan art. There's deviantart, of course, and on YouTube, there are people making fan videos, both with original fan art or clips from the actual shows. There are people remixing the music from the shows, or doing their own arrangements, and posting that. It's wonderful to see how much creativity people have, and how their fandoms inspire them.

The reactions to these things, in general, are positive. If a work isn't good, then people won't say it's good, but no one ever questions people doing the art in the first place. No one ever says, "Hey, that's a copyrighted character! You can't draw your own version of him," or "Isn't it a bit weird that you're drawing this fictional character?" (Note that I'm not talking about people making money off their fan art, though that seems to happen a lot, too.)

But then there's fanfiction. There are three reactions I get when I tell someone I write fanfiction. A few people are impressed and encouraging. Then, there are the ones who assume all fanfics are Mary Sues or wish-fulfillment stories, and they kind of look at me weird, then change the subject. And then, there are the ones who say, "Can you really take someone else's copyrighted characters and write your own stories about them? That's not right."

And that's what I don't understand. What is the difference between drawing and writing that makes it ok to draw someone else's character but not ok to write them? It's not like fanfic authors are inserting their stories into the universe's canon, or looking to make money off of them. I think (I could be wrong) that in general, most fanfic authors simply want to express themselves while also exploring their fandom, which is the same thing that fan artists are doing. Is it simply that the audience understands and therefore accepts art more easily than it does fiction? Meaning, a person can look at a drawing of the Eleventh Doctor and immediately appreciate its artistic value, while to understand a story about the Eleventh Doctor, it actually takes time and effort.

I go to the fan sites and there are always tons of posts "Look at this great fan art!" but never any recommendations of great fan fiction. There seems to be such a stigma associated with being a fan writer, even though, at least in my fandom, the fan writers are the ones who ended up running the show. I just don't understand this.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2014 11:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's always bugged me, too. But it is a lot like sportsfreaks vs scifiers. Sportsfreaks are considered normal, okay and desirable by society as a whole, whereas scifi lovers are considered weird, nerdy and picked on for their love (especially if it is just as intense).

Art VS Fic

Sports VS Scifi/Fantasy/Horror

And yet, fic is the main staple of fandom and scifi is the biggest money-maker in the entertainment world. Mind-boggling, yes?

Jun. 19th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
Definitely mind-boggling.

It's gotta be something more, though, because while sci-fi has been a niche interest until relatively recently (as opposed to sports, which has always been popular) and thus is considered weird by established society, both art and writing have long, illustrious histories. So why should people appreciate fan artists and look down on fan writers?

I think it might have something to do with the perception that writers are trying to insert their creations into the fandom. I'm not sure how to explain what I mean. If I draw a picture of the Doctor, it's considered a tribute to the Doctor. If I write a story about the Doctor, it's considered an attempt to add to the Doctor's story, and perhaps that's what people object to, either consciously or subconsciously. They think that we writers are trying to commandeer the fandom to our own purposes.

Jun. 19th, 2014 08:08 pm (UTC)
I think some of it (and it may sound crazy) is because an artist can be 'seen' creating. You can watch the process and see how it all comes together and you can see they are not 'taking the character and making it their own' even though (in a way) that is exactly what they are doing.

With writing, you can't see the process. Also there is the idea that anyone can draw but not everyone can write. None of this is true of course, but the inability to 'see' the creative process; the involvement in the piece (as perceived by the reader/observer) of fiction and how long/short that may take (as opposed to just LOOKING at an artwork which supposedly 'tells the whole story at a glance'); the use of their own visual imagination as opposed to letting themselves be lazy...there are so many elements that go into this. A lot of them contradictory, learned and blatantly untrue - it could take several articles (like a newspaper) just to explain one tenth of it. The above is the fastest, the easiest way to think of it and process the information. But you are right, that's not even close to skimming the surface, really.
Jun. 20th, 2014 05:43 am (UTC)
I was poking around on the figment.com fanfic forums (just found that site, not sure I'm interested in getting involved there at all, though) and I found a thread about fanfiction. One of the authors there said that she didn't think fanfiction was a valid art form because (paraphrased) "all fanfic authors are doing are telling the same story over again, and no one wants to read that." I guess if writers have that attitude, then there's no hope for non-writers.

As a side note, the other reason she gave for thinking that writers shouldn't write fanfiction was that "you can't make money with fanfiction." Maybe she isn't someone I really should be considering the opinion of. :P
Jun. 20th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
Och...yeah, if they are in it for money, I certainly do NOT consider them a fan. Or a voice that is reasonable. *Headdesk* Oy.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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