Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fan Fiction: Not the Devil

"What's that?" you say, eyes aflame. "Are you promoting non-canon uses of others' works with no potential for profit involved?"

Yes.

And no.

In spirit, and often in practice, there is absolutely nothing wrong with fan fiction. Nothing. Don't give me that look. Fan fiction is, without digging any deeper than the very surface, a great vessel for learning some of the finer points:consistent character voices, plot that adheres to the worldbuilding, voice. Things we need to develop as writers, if we wish to work in any sort of professional sense.

Now let's go one level deeper. I bet you can tell where I'm going: companion novels. The Star Wars expanded universe, Star Trek novels and stories, the Myst books--they're all fan fiction, and don't try to tell me they aren't. Here's the difference: they're able to be sold, and are (normally) considered a part of the canon. It's like the difference between a patented design and the same design without the fancy stamp. but, for whatever reason, that stamp makes people assume that this thing is okay, whereas anything without the stamp is pure crap.

One level deeper. The first year I went to SpoCon, I went to a panel. I have no idea what it was actually about anymore, but at some point the subject of mythology came up. All the panelists espoused what a great source of stories. And they are completely right. Then, maybe ten minutes later, the subject of fan fiction came up. Two of the three panelists, intelligent people, immediately called out fan fiction as wrong, since you weren't pulling the story from your own mind, but rather from an outside source.

The other panelist poked up her head and pointed out that taking material from mythology is the same exact principle. Those two nay-sayers shut up about the subject. That's the third level, here: nothing is new.

So, in less than polite terms, everyone needs to pull the stick out and realize that fan fiction isn't evil. It's actually quite good and, as much as anyone might wish to deny it, not that uncommon, when you start thinking about myth and legend.

Voss

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Plumbing the Cultural Depths

As writers, we play God (or Goddess, as it were). It's in the job description. We play God(dess) and, if we want to write a good story, we often have to flex our divine muscles to change probability to something a little more interesting. In speculative fiction in particular, we're divine--we have created a world.

Hot damn.

But, there's something worth remembering amidst all of that worldbuilding we lovingly do: you have to follow every thread out to the very end, at least as it applies to the elements you're dealing with in your book.

I'll give you a recent example form my own work. I'm currently worldbuilding (mostly culture building, at this point). The culture is designed to deter prejudice and dishonesty: everyone wears full body veils, covering everything but the eyes, and rings that signify socioeconomic standing, profession, marriage status, and number of children. You can't lift the veil in public.

Here's the issue: I'm writing a very strong romance thread in this book. So I had to go in up to my elbows and figure out a new system for public displays of affection. Then I cam to the realization that I had no way for unmarried couples to eat or drink in public, since they would have to lift the veil off of their face and risk showing themselves. So I had to design new chairs.

These were all issues that came up because of one relationship. Between two characters. Lord only knows what else I'll find before I get to the writing stage.

When you write a totally invented culture, it's necessary to think it all the way through. Even the smallest difference between their culture and ours can cause huge ripples, and you don't want to ignore them. Somewhere along the way, someone will go to the fridge and, while looking for a beer, figure out that something in your book doesn't make sense. Okay, maybe it's not a sure thing, but are you willing to take the risk?

Embedding myself in culture,
Voss

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

News!

It's been so long since I've been able to make a regular posting. My blog feels so out of sorts, like a long-lost friend that moved to Slovakia, then came back for a visit. But, with my jump into the world of high-speed Internet, I can return to you in full, glorious, fabulous force. And I will.

Starting with this. I, just yesterday, received my fully signed and completed contract from Evolved Publishing for their upcoming anthology, Evolution Volume 2 (slated for release in mid-August). I was one of six authors chosen outside of Evolved Publishing's author stable, and that's always fun.

And, in more fantastic news, Hall Brothers Entertainment has finalized the files on Wandering Weeds: Tales of Rabid Vegetation, a fantastic little antho about evil tumbleweeds.

Good news, yes?

Voss

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Drugs in the Air Ducts

Well, I guess it's a week ago now, but I just returned from Westercon 65 in Seattle. I can't say that I've been to a huge number of conventions myself. All of three, counting the most recent, but this one was, shall we say, different. I think it was either happy drugs in the air ducts or some sort of subconscious trick with the patterns on the walls and floor, but everyone was nice. Quite nice. Unbelievably nice. So nice that I did not want to leave, and that's a rarity at a convention. It was very nice, and very clean.

You see, at most conventions, there's this sort of deep divide between the pros and the fans, as though the fans are thoroughly unworthy and the pros are royalty. Not here. Here, we actually had dinner with the prose. You could stop in the halls for a long while and have a conversation with a professional. You can sit in the hospitality suite and have breakfast with fans and pros, at the same table. At any other convention, that wouldn't be a possibility, I promise you that.

Maybe I'm wrong. I would love it if this was the new convention atmosphere: no superiority complex, nobody looking down any noses, nothing of the sort--just a good, honest rapport between two parties that aren't that different. Maybe the scene as a whole is finally going to take a leaf from the fans. Writer fans, reader fans, costuming fans, gamer fans--we all can sit down together and talk, or play a game. Maybe, just maybe, in this strange, new world of writing, we'll finally see the barriers broken down almost entirely. I can't honestly hope for an entire breakdown, and I don't think I would want one, but this last convention opened my eyes to what could be.

And I like it.

Voss