A while back I blogged about the stated preferences of Stephenie Meyer (author of the Twilight series of books) with respect to online uses of her unpublished manuscripts. While trolling various authors’ official websites, I found another interesting comment by a vampire book writer about unauthorized uses of her work, this time with direct reference to fan fiction. Readers of this blog may remember that Stephenie Meyer’s concern was with unauthorized publications/disseminations of early drafts of her own work – which led to some comments in response about how authors might feel about fan fiction, although this was not Meyer’s stated concern.
I understand that views vary on the extent to which an author can or should want to control fan fiction activities, and I’m not specifically commenting here on the extent to which the law should support (or not support) authors in having this kind of control. What interests me is what authors seem to think the law is with respect to fan fiction and how they feel about it in the sense of their own authorial investment in the creation of their works.
The following is an extract from the FAQ section of Charlaine Harris’ website. She is the author of the popular Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Series, which has been turned into a successful TV series, True Blood, on HBO.
“Q. Can I post my cool story about Sookie on this site?
A. No, and I’ll tell you why. No fanfic can appear on this website. Not only does it make me feel strange to have other people use my characters, but there are legal issues to consider.
Here’s an example:
Enthusiastic Reader: Wouldn’t it be great if Sookie adopted Hunter?
Would be okay.
TooEnthusiasticReader: Wouldn’t it be great if Hunter came to Sookie’s house and said, “Aunt Sookie, can I play in your attic?” And then Sookie let him, and Hunter came down and said, “Did you know there’s a ghost in your attic?”
This is NOT okay.”
Harris seems to be unclear as to what the “legal issues” are that she is referring to. I’m not sure that I understand what law would allow the comments of “Enthusiastic Reader” but disallow the comments of “TooEnthusiasticReader” in her example.
I do understand her comments that she doesn’t want to allow fan fiction on her official website because it makes her feel strange to have other people use her characters. And she certainly doesn’t say that fans are not allowed to use her characters on other websites. But her notion of what fan fiction is (and isn’t) seems strange to me if her examples are supposed to exemplify unobjectionable versus objectionable fan fiction. In actual fact, neither of her examples seems to me to qualify as “fan fiction” at all – they’re just comments about plotlines fans might like to see developed.