Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fan Fiction Goes Mainstream

I've always found fan fiction fascinating, not enough to actually read much of it nor write it, but I like the idea of fans being so into a character or fictional universe that they want to tell their own stories about Star Trek, Superman, Harry Potter, or whatever.

And "whatever" is the word for it.  If a cultural construct has any level of popularity, then you can bet you'll find some fan fiction about it.  Always thought professional wrestlers Rowdy Roddy Piper and Ric Flair should have had a gay love affair?  There's a story for you.  Sad that Douglas Adams is deceased and can't keep expanding The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy trilogy?  Here's 537 stories for you.  And it goes on and on into the infinity of imagination.

It's certainly easy to make fun of fan fiction between all the wish fulfillment and bad grammar found in much of it, but, despite the detractors, it seems to have become more respectable as of late.  Perhaps this is due to the extraordinary success of the 50 Shades book series, which began as Twilight fanfic.

Apparently, now "real" publishers are engaging in fan fiction themselves.  Thus, we have the DC Comics release Before Watchmen, comics featuring the characters created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons for Watchmen, one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comic books of all time.

Moore and Gibbons are nowhere to be found in these new Watchmen comics, and Moore has objected to them (Gibbons seems content to perhaps just make some extra money).  A vigorous debate over the ethics of the new Watchmen comics has been going on among comics creators and fans with people arguing that the new comics are fine since the Watchmen characters are based on old Charlton comics characters (funny then that DC didn't just put out another Blue Beetle comic instead), Moore does the same thing with his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics (as far as I can tell, no author, most of whom are long dead anyway, has complained about Moore's use of her or his character), and that DC owns the characters anyway (actually, Moore and Gibbons got cheated and only Moore's decision not to bother suing likely allows DC to get away with the Watchmen prequels).

All in all, if it's Watchmen and not by Moore and Gibbons, then it's fan fiction, albeit corporate fan fiction which doesn't even have the charm of a fan's enthusiasm. I guess ultimately one would call it a cash grab before the comics industry goes more or less completely bellyup (according to a Superman comic I have from 1968, the average issue of Superman sold 649,300 copies a month; in 2012, the latest issue sold 59,081 copies--you can plot out the rest of the trajectory yourself).  I loved Watchmen, but I won't be reading these comics.

If I want to read more Watchmen, then FanFiction.Net has 925 stories available.

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