Anyone who knows me knows that I love my
Sterek fanfic. For those who don’t know me but have somehow stumbled upon this
post, Sterek is fanfiction based on the slash pairing of Stiles/Derek from the
TV show Teen Wolf. I’m also quite fond of Steter, which is Stiles/Peter. And
I’ve read a few Stisaacs I totally enjoyed, which is Stiles/Isaac. You guys
have all spotted the common denominator right? Yeah, I just love Stiles. And
But back to the shitfight.
Lately, a lot of enthusiastic readers have
been adding Sterek fanfiction to the Goodreads database. This has upset some
fanfiction writers. I don’t know how many, and I don’t know how representative
they are of the fanfiction community.
Fair warning: I may be quite vague in this
post, because I’m not going to name names, and I’m not going to link to Tumblr
posts. Why? Because I’m writing this post to get my thoughts in order, not to
call out anyone whose opinion may be different to my own. I welcome discussion
or debate wherever you find this post, but I won’t be taking it to anyone
else’s virtual doorstep.
Initially, it seemed like some of the
fanfic writers thought that their works were being uploaded to Goodreads. This
is absolutely not the case. Goodreads is a catalogue, and any published work
including work published online can be added by users. And, once it’s in the
database, any user can review any work. That review is then shared on a
timeline with the reviewer’s friends. It is also visible under the work’s main page.
Users can like reviews, and comment on reviews, and reviews show up in our
timelines. I found a lot of great Sterek fics because friends raved about them,
and I’m not going to apologize for that.
One thing I will say about GR is that it’s not just meant for
professionally published and edited works. It’s meant to be a database of,
well, everything, from Shakespeare and Chaucer to web comics to fan fiction.
What was added to author profiles and book pages?
Here’s the part I’m not clear on. I understand that artwork was
added as covers to fanfic that was either unattributed, or wasn’t intended for
that fic. And that’s wrong, and shouldn’t have happened. A simple email to GR
support or a request to a librarian would have sorted it out in minutes though.
There’s also been some talk of writers worrying about being
outed, and stories of people who’ve lost jobs and custody of kids for writing
“smut”. Erotica writer here, you’re preaching to the choir. But I don’t think
that linking from a GR author page to an AO3 profile is suddenly going to bust
the whole thing open. How could it? If any information other than that was
added, then yes, that was wrong. But I’m not aware of any incidents where that
happened, and I’m not sure how it could
happen if the information wasn’t already available online anyway.
You read Sterek? You recommend Sterek? You
spend a lot of time at A03 leaving comments and kudos for Sterek? Surprised to
find you’re not part of the fandom? So were many of us.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people in private groups who are absolutely
gutted, because all the Tumblr posts going around about “fanfic is for the
fandom only” make them feel like they’re not allowed to be part of the club
when their only crime was to love something they read and want to share it with
I can’t pretend to be an expert on the
fandom culture, except to say that I’ve seen enough posts in the last few days
from writers who have no problem with their works being added to the GR
database to suspect that the writers acting as the gatekeepers of fandom have
no mandate to do so. And, as one prolific fanfic writer put so eloquently: Fandom is where fandom goes. Well, here
I understand that the fanfic community is very different than
the one on GR, but most of the people reading and reviewing fanfic on GR are
doing it because they love the fandom. It may be accepted practice on AO3 not
to offer any criticism, constructive or otherwise, and I have some sympathy for
writers who have checked out their works on GR and suddenly discovered they
have star ratings.
But that’s how we do things here. That’s how we approach what we
read. And as a writer, you can’t actually control how readers interact with
your work. To those of us on GR, reviewing and recommending fics here is no
different than doing it when we connect on Facebook or Tumblr or anywhere else
online. GR is how I’ve found so many wonderful fics that I otherwise would
never have read. And that is why they were added to GR – because people were so
enthusiastic about them that they wanted to share them with their friends.
that reads gay fiction and goes to GR is not the same as someone from the TW
fandom that reads gay sterek fic with mpreg on AO3”
actual quote from an actual Tumblr post. Google it if you want to find it. Like
I said, I’m not linking. And I’ve only got one thing to say in relation to that
statement anyway: Bullshit. Bull-fucking-shit.
I read gay
fiction. I read and write m/m fiction (not the same as gay fiction BTW.
Ironically, m/m fiction has its origins in slash). And I also read gay Sterek
fic with mpreg, A/B/O, and whatever other tropes you want to throw in there. I
love them all.
And so do
the hundreds (possibly more, I haven’t counted) of other GR members who are
part of the various fanfiction groups. But you just go on worrying that we
don’t understand the tropes you’re using because apparently fanfic is a
different language that we can’t possibly, you know, pick up by reading it.
Like you all did.
You do not own fanfiction.
In the past few days I’ve seen a few
writers claiming their “intellectual property” is being shared without their
permission. And here’s where I have a real issue. Yes, you wrote your fanfic,
but you don’t own it. In the case of Sterek, MTV owns those characters.
Sidenote: I also saw a particularly
hilarious disclaimer on A03 that stated:
do not give permission to this work being read aloud and/or shared with the
press, or anyone working on said production of Teen Wolf, including but not
limited to cast, crew, writers, or producers. I also do not give permission
share this work on third-party websites such as Goodreads, which I believe is a
resource intended for published works outside of fandom.”
it aloud anyway. Like the fucking rebel I am. Again though, here’s the
misunderstanding of what Goodreads is. Goodreads is for any published works,
and yes, that includes works published online. And yes, that includes fanfic.
I absolutely believe that
fanfiction only exists because studios and copyright holders allow it to
exist. It's an act of goodwill, and most copyright holders recognise the fact
that fanfiction, in all its forms, is good for their bottom line. I know that
I've dropped money on the Teen Wolf DVDs because of Sterek, and I'm sure I'm
not the only one.
I also believe though, that once
fanfic writers start calling fanfiction their "intellectual property"--something
I've seen thrown around in a few places the last couple of days--it will cause
copyright holders to sit up and pay attention.
If claiming ownership will cause
copyright holders to sit up and take notice, it will be P2P that might just
force them to take action. In my opinion, fanfiction writers who think they own
their fanfic and who pull it to publish will be more damaging to the fanfic
culture that anyone reviewing and sharing recs on any platform including GR
will ever be.
Interestingly, one of the most vocal of the
fanfic writers is a writer who is publishing a non-fanfic book soon. This book,
which will retail for around $12 on Amazon, is a former Glee fanfic that has
been pulled to publish. Except last time I checked it hadn’t actually been
pulled, it was still on AO3. In short, she has an issue with people sharing
fanfic recommendations on Goodreads, but no issue attempting to make money off
something she built using someone else’s intellectual property. And it doesn’t
matter if the thing is as far removed from the original as Fifty Shades was
from Twilight. In my opinion, it’s ethically wrong.
Maybe a Find & Replace of all
the names is actually legally enough to get the work considered transformative.
Legally and ethically aren’t always the same thing and, personally, I hate P2P fanfic
and refuse to purchase it.
on, isn’t Goodreads removing fanfics?
it is. Despite their own guidelines, GR has been removing fics at the request
of fanfic authors. They don’t have to, but they are. Which means that all of
those lengthy reviews with hundred of comments and gifs and pics are also being
removed. And people are upset about that.
On GR we
make friends over the reviews were share and the books we love. Those reviews
and those conversations are now being deleted. Some people have lost tens of
reviews, if not more. That’s a lot of hours of work, and you know why they did
it in the first place? Because they loved a story and wanted to share it.
I write fanfic too.
Yeah, I do. Just started, but it’s going to
be a thing for me. Because it’s fun, and I like to share it with people, both
on AO3 and here. And I know a lot of writers who do the same. AO3 and GR aren’t
oil and water. They aren’t matter and anti-matter. You don’t have to pick a
You’ll find me on AO3 as Discontented
Feel free to share, recommend, or rate my fics
any way or anywhere you like.