All authors eventually form an opinion of derivative fanworks. Some, like Mercedes Lackey and Anne Rice, shun it, forbidding fans to share fan creations on the internet. Others embrace it. For instance, Sarah Ash encourages fans to send her artwork, and the Dragon Age Creative Team recently held a writing challenge. When an author receives a piece of fanwork, can it be viewed objectively, or does the ego get in the way?
The picture at the left was given to me by my roommate. When I received it, I thought it was great. Still do. But as my friend is quick to point out, it’s just a doodle, one done at 5 am at that. So why did I “ooh” and “aah” over it so much like it was the next Mona Lisa? Because it was a sketch she did of one of my characters, and the first fanart I ever officially received in my e-mail. My ego grew so inflated I was quick to ignore the fact she doesn’t have hands or much of a body shape.
I don’t think this goes away the more one interacts with fans. Our egos always like to be fed and stroked, like an overactive puppy that just wants to know that someone loves it. Anything that appeals to our egos is likely to get more praise regardless of the actual quality.
Even when an author rejects the idea of fanfiction, the ego is still coming into play. Some authors get their feathers ruffled at the notion of someone else playing in the sandbox they created. David Gaider admitted he was hesitant about judging the contest because he was uncomfortable at looking at all the fingerprints other people left on his creations. Like if people were allowed to touch oil paintings and the artists came back later and saw all the smudges that had been made in them over time. I admire both his honesty and his willingness to take on what must have been a difficult task.
I believe that while it may be hard, we just have to content ourselves with the knowledge that someone likes our sandbox enough to want to jump in it and try to build a sandcastle of their own. Unless, of course, someone tries to profit by selling our sand as their own, which is both disrespectful of the original creator and illegal. Those fans deserve an epic smackdown.
*No disrespect meant towards any authors mentioned in this post. I have enjoyed all their works and support their professional decisions.