Never check your Twitter feed when you wake up in the middle of the night. Oh it’s tempting. Somewhere, it’s not the middle of the night, people are running around and being all interesting. Twitter is fun.
Sometimes it tells you this.
I agree with Adrienne. But I have a different story to tell.
I’ve written fanfics. I’ve put some of my original characters in them, and now I’ve pulled them back out. I pulled them back out because at a certain point, in the very quiet world of Asterix fanfics, people started telling me they loved Phyllis. Inserting her in a fanfic helped me build her and several other characters as well. And seeing them receive love made me want to do more.
One day, about a year after I ended my last fanfic someone, after favouriting and reviewing, asked me whether they could write a bit of a one-shot sequel for my main romance, picturing their first time.
I thought about doing that myself. I wrote a ‘first time’ scene, but eventually left it out of the fanfic because I felt it didn’t fit the story. That it was premature. I decided to leave the eventual, post-story romance development up to the reader’s imagination. Which, apparently, worked.
The request I got was very respectful, we chatted for weeks. She offered to send me the entire one-shot, but I said it wasn’t necessary since that’s not what fanfic writers do. We credit. We do not make profit. We hope the original authors will be happy. That’s about it. I most certainly wasn’t about to play angry author over Phyllis.
The published piece was sweet, well-researched in terms of Beltane traditions. I liked that. It was in no way offensive. Just a sweet vanilla, slightly heteronormative first time.
Phyllis was not my Phyllis though. She is enough of a bitch no one can really cage her in a one-shot but still, of all the adjectives to give her, please don’t make her sweet. And I missed party banter.
Of course I got tempted to have my own go.
By that time, I was doodling pieces about Marcus and Phyllis, and swapping back and forward some thoughts about how to rewrite Cornelis. All my own characters.
So I threw Marcus into the mix and had some naughty fun. I made one big mistake (sarcasm): I did not make the fun straight.
And when I (on polite demand) shared the piece, said person never talked to me again. Which was a big wake-up call.
LGBT content MAY not have been the trigger. I’m not sure. The words: “Ah sorry but I’m homophobic as fuck so I will never talk to you again,” were never spoken. But it’s my gut feeling. I have since tried to be as open as I can about my colours and my values. Because the simple fact is that IF you are homophobic, or racist, I don’t want you near my stories. I don’t want you near my friends, I don’t want you near my kids. I don’t want you near me.
We all have stories like this. Characters get whitewashed. My writing uncle Dan has been told that his gay mystery crime novel would have been so much more fun if Jake was Jacqueline.
And particularly that last one has convinced me that if I ever decide and manage to publish my series, the copyright will be as tight as I can possibly manage.
For Roberts, Spufford’s novel shows that UK laws of copyright, which give authors the exclusive rights to their work for 70 years after their death, are no longer fit for purpose.
The big difference between fanfics and published novels, for me, is that it’s canon. Fanfic my characters all you want. Judge my stories all you want. But the canon is mine. The canon is my safe space. The canon I will protect with my heart and soul and share only with those I love and trust. For them I will make adaptions, try to represent some characters better. To them I will perhaps say one day: do as you please.
For Jake to turn into Jacqueline, 70 years isn’t long enough. If anyone thinks they’re important enough to challenge copyright law, that is what they attack. Trust has to be earned.
Copyright protects the right to make money of a product and that’s a good thing. But it protects more than that. A writer who calls upon the public in their hope to bypass that, will never, ever, earn my trust.