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One man's meat ...

Posted by Kirok, 16 October 2009 · 154 views

fan production
Just got back from a great holiday! Got home and flew straight to my beloved computer!!! I'll never leave you again!!!Posted Image Addiction? I can give it up any time ... Meh! Who'm I trying to fool!Posted Image

I've been involved in a very fruitful discussion recently about the value of fan produced work as against original work and I thought I would distil my thoughts into a more cohesive form here. I'll not link to the original forum because I don't think it would be fair to point these guys out as "the opposition". Far from it. They're people with very reasonable concerns with regards to their work and its relative value compared with fan productions. However I have come across this type of thing time and again and I think it might be a good idea to get my own position straight in my head.

When you start thinking about creating any sort of fan production I think you need to get two things straight in your head right from the start and the first is a simple question: Who are you doing this for?

Fan productions in their base form are productions made by fans <duh!> for a variety of reasons but usually it is to recreate the fan experience that they had with the original. The best way I've ever heard of describing the phenomenon was on The Website At The End Of The Universe where it was likened to resonance. Ever seen a tuning fork vibrate in 'resonance' to another? Fan productions are works that fans create to try to recreate that 'vibe' that they got when they first experienced the original, they are trying to re-live the experience they first had with the object of their fandom.

It is primarily for their own enjoyment which usually means that it fellow fans will also enjoy it. Commercial (or sometimes, alas, creative) considerations just don't come into the equation for them at all. How they do it ranges from the inane to the sublime.

Sometimes it is because they want to do what is called a "self-insertion" This is where they write something that is basically themselves inserted into the fictional context. At its worst it could be a shallow "Mary Sue" but at its best I would put it on a par with any other work. The biggest problem with this type of thing is that it takes a brave writer to gives their alter ego a fatal flaw or have something really bad happen to them. Giving your self-insertion flaws, insecurities or having them suffer emotionally or physically can be almost masochistic but, trust me on this, it is this type of personal challenge that makes fiction interesting.

Other types of works put the characters into situations that the writer finds amusing/exciting/titillating and have them react in a way that suits their own purposes. Making a character (and I include institutions and alien racial types here as well) do things that would be unbelievably 'out of character' for them in their canon roles is called character rape and frankly it is on a par with the Mary Sue. This is an opinion that I'll defend later, but basically if what you produce doesn't rings true to the original then I'd call it satire, parody or pastiche but NOT a fan production.

The salient point to all this is that with this type of production, whether it is an audio production, machinima, fan fiction or whatever, is that the author is writing for themselves and if you or anyone else don't like it they could care not a fig!

If however you want to appeal to other fans in general, or a mainstream audience, you need to consider it from the viewpoint of your target audience. Your work needs to be on a par with other amateur work and the best way of doing that is to learn from the experiences of others by networking with your peers. They could be your peers in fandom, in which case I can think of no better place than TrekUnited :rolleyes:, or they could be people who are working in the same medium as you, for example fiction-writing, audio, video or gaming. Without this kind of supportive sharing of knowledge and experience you will need to learn from trial and error and believe me, its much easier and quicker to learn from other peoples mistakes than your own!

THIS is why the standing of fan productions is important. The quality of fan production in any media - whether it is film, fiction, audio or needlework! - will never rise to approach that of amateur work in original productions until the amateur creative community recognises that quality is not dependent on content. Until that happens, fan productions will continue to be marginalised because of their choice of content.

Why do I write fan fiction? Why am I trying to expand into other media on the back of something that I can never own?

I make no bones about the fact that I am a fan of Star Trek – so much so that I have found myself describing ethical and moral problems to my kids in terms of the plots of certain episodes! The parables of Star Trek! It's not unique to Trek either for I've noticed that my son does the same thing with parables from The Simpsons and, more recently, from The Matrix and World of Warcraft!

Over the years Trek has grown into a vast mythology of archetypal characters and world views. It quite frankly represents an immense playground for the imagination that I just do not have the willpower not to dabble in!

In the course of parenting my two children I have had to think carefully about the life concepts that I have passed on to them and this has often made me question long-held beliefs: Adulthood, manhood, tolerance, social justice ... Tales of Death And Honour was written as a series that could deal with the themes of aggression, bravery and honour and I could think of no better framework to build my premise on than the diametrically opposed cultures of the Klingon and Vulcan in Star Trek.

This shrinks the universality of my message marginally because it means that a knowledge of the basic world-view of Star Trek is vital. For example my readers must understand what a Klingon is. It just won't make sense otherwise – who are these people and why have they got such a topsy-turvy attitude towards life and death?

Therein lies the great advantage of using the Star Trek fictional universe though: the series is so pervasive through Western Society and beyond that there would be few who can read the English language who would not have a working knowledge of it!

Am I being creatively honest, am I being true to myself artistically, by using someone else's world-view rather than my own?

If you view your work as a personal artistic expression then there is a lot of soul searching that needs to be done even before you start. Why are you doing this? What do you want to say? Who is your audience? How are you going to get your message across that gap between you, as the creator, and your audience?

The depth and richness of your characters and locations, their society and backstory, are not just the background scenery against which you will be painting your picture but the very fabric of your canvas! Without an immersive world for your drama to unfold within, your message will be flat and two-dimensional.

In this respect, I have to admit that the creator of a fan production has not had to put the same creative juice into their work as the creator of an original fiction because creating an original, fictional world is far more challenging than extending on someone else's.

Does this mean that my work, based as it is on the Star Trek universe, is automatically "worse" than someone else's which is based on their own imagination? Not necessarily. The original world in question might not be as well constructed or original as that created by the professionals working for CBS / Paramount. In that case, the fan fiction could actually be more effective as a vehicle for getting your message across, but more creatively "honest"? I think the author of original fiction automatically scores points in that respect that a fan producer has to match with the originality of their interpretation of the canon.

Originality in world-building is only one tool in the writer's workshop though, albeit one of the essential requirements of a good story. Personally I value originality of world-vision highly but it is after all only one contributing factor towards the effectiveness of a piece of fiction. The vast universe of imaginative worlds created for the Star Wars saga for example were staggering but were they effectively used?

Your style and craft as a writer and the skill with which you weave your plot are other aspects that, if not addressed, can scuttle your work far more effectively than any lack of originality in world-building. I contend that originality in world-building is creatively desirable but not absolutely essential for a work to be exciting, entertaining and thought provoking.

I HATE that I haven't read this until now! 1)You have been sorely missed Kirok! 2) I couldn't agree with you more about fan productions. I see them as being original works in an existing genre - no different from anyone who writes/creates/develops and gets paid for it, and in many cases, tend to be more true to the spirit of the genre than those who do.

Sure there are the self-inserts and the Mary-Sues. You're right in that they're writing pretty much solely for themselves. Heck - that's how I started. But then I realized I wanted to be "truer" to the genre and while I admittedly write as it's my own creative outlet, my focus has changed in that I really want to write to share it with other fans and hope that I can appeal to the majority of them. That is now what provides me with more satisfaction.

I wholeheartedly believe that your work, as well as mine is original - it's just that we use a world that was already created. Your original characters are just that - original, they just happen to be of a world created by an amalgam of other people. When I write for a canon character I bust my ass to make sure they remain IN CHARACTER. I would never have them doing something I wouldn't believe they would do on the show. That is a challenge unto itself and really presses my own creativity to find ways to use true-to-form characters without compromising the creativity of the tale.

You might be right - by me playing with Trek characters, I don't rely on having to create a "new" world that other fiction writers might. But really - I haven't seen that much in the means of "new" out there anyway.

Sci-fi and fantasy fiction aisles are replete with technology vs. nature -

How many books contain faires, elves, dragons, orcs, swords, armor and chivalry? How many sci-fi books contain worlds of robots, starships, planets, androids and aliens?

The trick to originality is making any genre "feel" new to the reader/viewer/listener.

I don't see your audio work as being any less original because they involve Klingons than someone who would have had to work to tell the same tale with an honor-bound tribe in South America. It's the heart of the story that makes it worthwhile.

I think your work is just as "honest" as someone who uses any other set of mythos/fables as the vertebrae of their work. :)
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Ah! The weekend yawns a'fore me once again! I live for weekends! The rest of the days are just an annoyance in between! Yes, Its getting towards that time of the year again and someone was foolish enough to open the coffin and remove the stake from my heart! >_<

Thanks for the read and the comment Terilynn, I must admit that the writers we published last year - yourself included - were in the forefront of my mind when I was talking about honesty in fan production. Yourself, Steph, Sam and the others truly stunned me with the quality of your work and Steph's editing and publishing ... I am really looking forward to what she is going to come up with to top that!

I believe in fan productions as a viable form of self-expression and, whilst I respect those who can and do create original material, I will defend to the death (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) our right to be recognised for our efforts.

------------------ batlh pothl law` yIn pothl puS ------------------
---------------- Honour is more important than life ----------------

Kirok of L'Stok
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