September 20th, 2003

bear by san

"Comedy no-one objects to isn't usually all that funny."

Just heard that line on Weekend Edition in an interview with two New Yorker humor writers--discussing 9/11 and the holocaust as suitable topics for joking--and I'm thinking of my own oft-repeated claim that there's no good book that hasn't bounced off at least one wall. If you can't talk about something, laugh about it, it's beaten you--hasn't it?

I'm reminded of Kurt Vonnegut and Dresden, somehow. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, go read Slaughterhouse-five. I'll still be here when you get back. It's a short book.) And that got me thinking about one of my favourite topics of consideration: the folk process. And fanfiction, and how fanfiction, I think, is probably the truest modern representation of the folk process, along with, perhaps, role-playing games and other forms of interactive storytelling.

I'm a big proponent of strong copyright laws. And I'm also a big proponent of those copyrights not being extended into infinity, because the folk process needs something to work on. I couldn't have written the books and stories I've written without the freedom to use the poetic and prose eddas, old folk and blues tunes ("House of the Rising Sun," "Stagger Lee"), the Elizabethan and Jacobean canon, ideas out of Lovecraft and Mallory and Yeats, ballads like "Tam Lin" and "Thomas the Rhymer," and so on, ad infinitum.

That's the secret. We like to pretend that fanfiction is somehow lesser than original fiction: what fan fiction really is is a thing born out of the same urge that makes The Greatful Dead rewrite the ending of Stagger Lee and give it a rock and roll sensibility, that makes Pete Seeger take an old Slavic folk song and turn it into the stunning, elegaic song "Where Have All The Flowers Gone." That gives us wonderful conversation between Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh in "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd." That gives us old Irish and Scottish ballads adapated to the hills of Appalachia and gives us the kind of passionate dialogue about the nature and validity of war that emerged in science fiction with Starship Troopers and The Forever War and continues through Bill The Galactic Hero, Ender's Game, Warchild, and "Hardfought"--and into the future, to stories published now, to stories that will be published in twenty years.

Professional writers write fanfiction too. We just are a little more adept at filing the serial numbers off and telling a different story using the same conceits, and we call it a 'pastiche' or an 'homage'. My story in Shadows Over Baker Street is unabashed Lovecraft/Conan Doyle/Kipling fanfic. For which I was paid pro rates, because I know the secret of filing off the serial numbers, and unlike many writers who 'only write fanfic,' I have professional writing ambitions and so I don't write in trademarked universes.

It's all part of the folk process. The creative dialogue. The evolution of legendry. The compulsion that makes people want to claim and own and recreate a little bit of the story of Star Wars is exactly the same as the process that makes them want to claim a little piece of King Arthur, or Tam Lin, or the life history of William Shakespeare (*coughs into hand*) or John Henry Holliday or Lao Tsu or Shaka Zulu.

I've certainly written works inspired by other writers, and seen characters inspired by things I've written turn up in wonderful work by other writers in my crit group, and a writer with whom I beta just gave me a lovely little non-canonical crossover story between her universe and mine that made my whole week, because it was such a gift of love and comradeship.

And I personally think that seventy-five years after my death is more than long enough for my heirs and assigns to maintain complete control of my work, and at that point in time I would love to see Muire and Jackie and Whiskey and Jenny and Garrett and the rest of my creations go forth into the great soup of human unconsciousness, there to multiply and grow and feed the need of legendry.

Otherwise, where are our new Peter Pans and Robin Hoods going to come from?
  • Current Music
    NPR--Weekend Edition
bear by san

I've heard about him, but I never dreamed he'd have blue eyes and blue jeans.

I got about 1,190 words this morning, and I'm going to go do something else for a while and probably come back and see what I can write this evening.

I finished rereading the first part of Tamburlaine the Great last night. I had forgotten what a kickass chick Zenocrate was: she's about the sole voice of reason and justice in the play, for all she has her bad moments too. Marlowe did write strong, sympathetic women pretty well. Especially compared to how he wrote most of his men.

nomail today. They're saving all the rejections up for my birthday.


Nobly resolv'd, my good Ortygius.
And since we all have suckt one wholsome aire,
And with the same proportion of Elements
Resolve, I hope we are resembled,
Vowing our loves to equall death and life.

--Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great Part 1, Act II scene vi
  • Current Music
    Anne Murray--Somebody's Knockin'
bear by san

(no subject)

1900 words, and Kit is refusing to get his ass in gear and do anything constructive beyond this point. So I may hang it up for the night. Or I may take a break and come back later. I'm almost done with Storm Front, anyway: I may as well finish it. I just got to the big climactic fight.

And the boy is getting pizza. Nice boy.

My friend Stella just made her first pro sale, to Strange Horizons, on a story I betaed and loved. I am so pleased I can't stand it.

Also, some wonderful person just gave me six months of paid livejournal time. And thank you, mysterious benefactor, whoever you are. *g*
  • Current Music
    The Jam - Going Underground / The Tubes - Don't Touch Me There