Fan fiction. Good or evil? You decide!
So….I get asked about fan fiction a LOT. Fan fiction, for those of you who don't know, is fiction written by people (other than the original author) who enjoy a film, book, television show, or other media work, using the characters and situations developed in that work, and developing new plots in which to use these characters (this definition courtesy of Wikipedia).
Fan fiction can generally be found posted online at various fan fiction websites.
While I personally think fan fiction is a good thing (although I know a lot of authors who think it's evil), my answer to the question I get asked most frequently about fan fiction–Do you/will you read fan fiction based on your own books?–is still no.
I myself used to write Star Wars fan fiction when I was tween. I think writing fan fiction is a good way for new writers to learn to tell a story. The good thing about writing fan fiction is that the characters and basic plot are already set up, so new writers can concentrate on dialogue, or further plot development. Basically, the author has already created a world for the new writer to play around in, and that is a great way for new writers to learn the skills they will need in order to create their OWN universe (which I hope they will do someday, because the world needs more good stories, and it would be a shame if someone who might have some decent stories of her own to tell was depriving us of them because she was spending all her time writing, for example, Star Wars fan fics. Ahem).
While I don't have any problem with people writing fan fiction based on my books (so long as they don't try to pass it off as an original work—or worse, as “satire,” as one writer famously did several years ago—and make money from my characters), I do have a problem reading it, for the following reasons:
1) It's not my vision. It's someone else's. But it's using my characters. So reading a fan fic based on one of my books is like watching someone I know and love do something totally out of character. It makes me VERY uncomfortable. Even slightly nauseous. And
2) I could be sued if for some reason something that happens in a fan fic later shows up in one of my books, and the author of that fan fic can prove I read her work.
I have heard fan fic authors complain that authors always say this (that they won't read fan fics based on their own work because they are afraid of being sued), but that no one in the fan fic community would ever sue, because they would be “flattered” if an author used their idea.
I know this may be true for many fan fic authors, but not all of them. I know this because an author I know was sued by one of them! I personally know that the author had never read–nor had she ever even had the opportunity to read–the material the person who sued her claimed she'd stolen. But she got sued anyway. And getting sued—even if you're proved totally innocent, as the author I know was—is expensive and time-consuming and totally un-fun.
So the chance that I am ever, ever going to click on a fan fiction (or read any unagented material sent to me by anyone) is one hundred percent zero.
However, when authors of fan fics finally feel confident enough in their own writing to create their own universe, with its own characters, and then get an agent and a publisher, I will TOTALLY read their stuff–if I have time to spare from creating my own!