Authors and FanFiction: Complex Positions

This is a continuation of a camping exercise I am using to better understand how published authors think about fanfiction. My camps are:

The first two camps’ names come from Charlie Stross, author of “Down on the Farm” and “Trunk and Disorderly”:

“I am not a precious sparkly unicorn who is obsessed with the purity of his characters — rather, I am a glittery and avaricious dragon who is jealous of his steaming pile of gold. If you do not steal the dragon’s gold, the dragon will leave you alone.”

To keep this interesting, I’ve included quotes from each author on fanfiction. Here they are:

Complex Positions

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series (as if you couldn’t name 25 characters she’s written in a minute), allows all non-profit fanfic as long as it’s not what her agency calls “x-rated”:

“JK Rowling’s reaction is that she is very flattered by the fact there is such great interest in her Harry Potter series and that people take the time to write their own stories. […] Her concern would be to make sure that it remains a non-commercial activity to ensure fans are not exploited and it is not being published in the strict sense of traditional print publishing. […] If young children were to stumble on Harry Potter in a an x-rated story, that would be a problem.”

This is distinct from Glittery and Avaricious Dragons camp in two ways.

  1. Without a formal declaration of support, all of her fans remain in a distinctly insecure legal position. All they have is Rowlings whim to rely on because I was unable to find a formal statement–like these–permitting fanfiction as these authors provided). It feels to me like a mistress situation: Rowling  loves her fans, and will support them, but only
  2. Given the historical difficulty of defining obscenity, it is troubling that Ms Rowling’s lawyers have been so aggressive towards fans who post smut (here is one of their cease-and-desist letters).

Mercedes Lackey (a member of the first camp) takes a different path:

  1. She gives her fans formal permission to write within the Creative Commons structure, which gives them legal protection.
  2. Rather than banning smut, she asks that:

“If it is anything other than PG-13, please take all the proper precautions to stick it somewhere that innocent souls won’t be corrupted. Do not scare the children or the horses.”

In this way, Lackey is using the protections most responsible fans already use to keep R and NC-17 fics away from younger readers. To my mind, this makes her a more responsible author than Rowling.

Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders of Pern series, provides her fans with a formal statement, but is unclear whether R and NC-17 fics are allows. Given that her statement is 824 words long, and in legalese, here is the first of her 5 Rules, 2 Guidelines nad 4 Caveats:

1. Fan Fiction, Fan Art, and online RPGs based on any of my literary works will now be permitted so long as they occur on a non-commercial basis.


5. Pornographic sites, based on any of my literary works, are expressly forbidden. But I’m sure you know that. I’m a grandmother, after all.

Like Rowling, McCaffrey sees it as her legal right to 1) grant people the privilege of writing fanfiction and 2) restrict what they write and where they write. These positions are more open than those of the Precious Sparkly Unicorn camp, but not so permissive as the Glittery and Avaricious Dragon camp.

Concurring Opinions has a great discussion about how authors might come to their (inaccurate) views of copyright. The issues of whether Anne Rice (in the Precious Sparkly Unicorn camp), McCaffrey and Rowling actually have the legal power to restrict what others create is, like all law around fanfiction, up in the air. Their lawyers clearly think they do. The Organization for Transformative Works does not. More on fanfiction and the law later.

That’s it for my three camps–if  you know of a particularly passion, articulate, or popular author who has a strong position on fanfiction, let me know in the comments section.


I collected these authors’ names by reading everything I could find (mostly news articles and blogs, all online) on authors and fanfiction, clicking through every reference I could find (praying they wouldn’t involve Hogwarts and the squid thing, or Luke Skywalker and a velociraptor but clicking anyway), and then slogging back to original sources for good quotes.

Basically, I did the research in the only way I know how to do research, on anything.

Inspirational Quote:

Fifth Doctor: [staring the Tenth Doctor straight in the face] Who are you?
Tenth Doctor: Take a look.
Fifth Doctor: Oh. Oh, no.
Tenth Doctor: Oh, yes.
Fifth Doctor: You’re… Oh, no.
Tenth Doctor: [smugly, nodding] Here it comes, yeah, yeah I am..
Fifth Doctor: [sighs] A fan!
Tenth Doctor: Yeah… [beat] What?
Dr Who, Time Crash, Special Episode, Season 5,


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