Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fandom, part two

I don't read Kristen Britain anymore.

Not because I don't like her writing: Green Rider was excellent, First Rider's Call was a delight to discover a couple years later, and The High King's Tomb left me hungering for more in the series.

Because I wanted to know when I could get my hands on the next in the series, I checked out her website. All authors should have websites: especially ones that they update with the release dates of their next books. As I browsed around, looking for extras like Sherwood Smith has on her site (she has maps!), I found Kristen Britain's FAQ, and her response to fan-fiction.

It confused me, at first. Fanfiction does not affect your copyright as the author, since, uh, you created it first, and everything is automatically yours. Most fanwriters will prominently label their works with at least the name of the original work, if not your name, because they want other fans to be able to find it. They label them as fanfiction. Of course, anyone trying to sell fanfiction is doing something illegal and violating your IP and should be reported, but non-commercial fanfiction is generally treated as falling into slim grey fringes of Fair Use.

But that's the legal stuff, and has very little bearing on my decision.

Fanfiction is, at its core, a love letter to the original work. People write it because they can't get enough of the world, they want more, they want to explore an aspect of it that won't be further explored in the text (like someone's ambition to become a pirate which is derailed by plot). Saying that it's all unwelcome seems very much a denial of your fans' emotional investment in your work. Obviously they will never be as connected as you are as the creator, but does that mean no one else is allowed to fall in love with it?

I thought that was king of the point of writing. Kristen Britain's answer to the question of fanfiction struck me as very much a refutation of the validity of fans loving her work. Anne Rice behaved very similarly and was higher-profile, but I stopped reading her for other reasons, so this is prompted by Kristen Britain's stance. From what I've read, we're supposed to buy her stuff, read it, and care about it only as much as necessary for us to buy the next one and not one iota more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Half Price Chocolate Day

Today is one of two iterations of my favourite holiday of the year: Half Price Chocolate Day. The other is November first. Apparently there are other holidays preceding these two days, for which people pay full price for chocolate. I do not understand this logic, and will comfort myself for my lack of understanding with offensive quantities of chocolate for which I paid very little money.

Oh, right, I also have a guest post up on my friend Patrick Thunstrom's blog. It's about linguistics and word choice again, since that's one of my favourite topics. If you like that sort of rambling, you should also check out Speaking Human, the irregularly-updating sociology, linguistics and signalling blog I contribute to.

Tumblr is something I've been getting more involved in recently, though my initial impressions of it still stand: it's much more functional as a tool for connecting and getting involved in a community than it is as a tool for sending forth material into the world. Blogger's archives are significantly more easily navigable unless you are tracking a specific tag on a specific tumblr. Once you're caught up, though, I find Tumblr's dashboard much nicer than Blogger's Reading List. This could be simply because the only time I look at the Reading List is when I'm on Blogger's back end, instead of on Google Reader.

They are definitely different modes of communication. If you're thinking about starting your own, or an additional, blog, I'd recommend examining your goals and your style as well as all the options out there.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pop Culture

As writers, we deal in stories. Regardless of genre or medium: whether we're writing episodic non-fiction for our blog or screenplays or children's stories for the iPad or novels we want out in every format known to Man, including dead tree, we want to have a story that makes people come back for more.

How do we figure out what makes them come back for more?

Obviously, knowing who you're writing to is key. Writing letters to our grandmother is different than writing letters to the IRS agent who just completed our audit. Writing to a group of people can be a little more difficult. I talked last week about romance novels: in some ways, they're probably one of the easier genres to write, because readers are vocal about what they want. Steampunk has a similar strength of readership, though feedback there is more direct: forums and fan letters as opposed to simple numbers (did you know that romance novels account for 55% of total paperback sales? There are a lot of numbers there).

But what about other genres, or maybe those not as well defined? Those can be more difficult to pinpoint an audience for, to determine who you're speaking to. What's winning literary awards or flying off bestseller lists can be a good indication of the sort of stories that are engaging to people, but when we look at books alone we miss out on a lot. Many people - I'd even venture to say most - in North America also find a lot of the stories that engage them on television. Which means that, for anyone who generates stories, television, and pop culture in general, are invaluable tools for researching story structure.

I'm not saying we should all be writing magical children going to boarding school. Far from it: derivative is not exciting or intellectually stimulating. But if there are several shows with real science taking a reasonably prominent role (NUMB3RS, Criminal Minds), then maybe that's an element we can draw on when writing our own works.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gareth Gaudin: The Graphic Novel as Literature

The first Wednesday of the month brings another Victoria Writers' Society general meeting. This month, we have Gareth Gaudin, owner of Legends comic shop and creator of Magic Teeth, an ongoing comic series.

Eight years ago, he started doing a daily comic strip. He's made himself do a comic every day since. Creating every day based on what he's done has lead to saying "Yes" to a lot more - like speaking here, or being a pallbearer. It's an interesting phenomenon, that there are a fair number of people who put themselves out there every day who feel obliged to be interesting and try to stay that way.

The difference between a comic and a graphic novel was brought up, and Gareth's answer was simple: "Nothing," and then elaborating that the term originated with Will Eisner, who was having a hard time selling his serious comic relating to the death of his daughter and rebranded it to get in past the door.

He talked about publishing the daily strips, and having to move on when it's done, and we digressed into creators who come up with the pictures and words at the same time, and circled around the idea of drafting. In comics, especially daily, you create and move on. It's interestingly opposed to the frequent approach in writing of drafts and edits and drafts again.

It was a fantastic presentation.