Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lee Goldberg's war on fanfic

The February edition of Reason has my column on fan fiction, "The Fan Fiction Phenomena: What Faust, Hamlet, and Xena the Warrior Princess have in common," in which I discuss fan-written stories based on television, film, and book characters. (As I mention in the column, I myself have been writing Xena: Warrior Princess fanfic for the past six years.) I also discuss some of the critiques directed at fan fiction. One of those critics, writer Lee Goldberg, now argues on his blog that I misrepresented his position.

Here's what I wrote in my column (for context, I give the full paragraph):

The concerns that anti-fanfic hard-liners express about the appropriation of their characters are understandable. But Hobb’s idea that readers may mistake Robin Hobb fan fiction for her own work borders on the paranoid, and some arguments advanced by fanfic’s foes make little sense. Thus Hobb exempts from her scorn professionally written Star Trek novels licensed by the copyright owner—even though the license comes from the corporation, not the creators of the characters. (Corporate-licensed works are also hobbled by content restrictions that favor blandness.) The vehemently anti-fanfic writer Lee Goldberg, who blogs at, is the author of several authorized novels based on the TV shows Monk and Diagnosis Murder—a contradiction he defends on the grounds that he does it only for the money.

Says Goldberg:

I have written extensively on my blog about fanfiction, particularly my view that the practice of publishing it in print and on the Internet infringes on the original author's creative rights (not to mention the trademark and copyright issues). I've argued that fanfiction writers should get the permission of the author or rights holder before distributing their work. If the original author or rights holder has no problem with fanfiction based on their work, then I don't either. I have also said that licensed tie-in fiction, which I have written, differs significantly on ethical and legal grounds from fanfiction because it is done with the consent, participation and supervision of the original author or rights holder. At no point have I *ever* expressed the views that she incorrectly (and I have to assume deliberately) attributed to me.

Now, I assume the views I have allegedly misattritubed to Goldberg are, (1) that he is vehemently anti-fanfic, and (2) that he has defended his authorship of tie-in novels on the grounds that he only writes them for the money.

On the first count, I think that a read-through of Goldberg's blogposts on fanfic will suffice to prove my case. While Goldberg does in fact state in a number of posts that in his opinion, fan fiction violates copyright and intellectual property, he devotes far more space to jeering at the moral degeneracy and weirdness of fanficcers, focusing on such fringe phenomena as kiddie porn fanfic, a fan who surfs the Web searching for masturbation fic, male pregnancy fanfic, one fan's fantasies about Roy Orbison and cling-wrap, real-person slashfic in which actors, singers, and other celebrities are depicted in homoerotic sexual situations, and the like. (By the way, it's hard not to notice that Goldberg seems especially incensed by gay-themed fanfiction.) He constantly engages in gross generalization; a post about a self-professed Harry Potter smut aficionada is entitled "The Fanfic Mind." If Goldberg has ever said anything positive about fanfic writers in fandoms where the copyright holders and creators have explicitly allowed and even encouraged fan fiction -- such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter -- I have found no evidence of that on his blog. I have, however, found such statements as:

Money and copyright aside, what an incredible waste of creativity. Why toil on characters you don't own in a world that's not your own? It's not even literary masturbation. It's more like the literary equivalent of having sex with an inflatable woman who looks like Halle Berry.

In another post, mocking an email correspondent who asks him for a link to some fanfic he has mentioned, Goldberg says that it's "sort of like asking a Jew to direct you to some really rocking anti-Semitic screeds." Wow, Mr. Goldberg. Tell us how you really feel.

It was not my intent in my column to extensively discuss Lee Goldberg's views on fan fiction, or the debate about fanfic and copyright/intellectual property laws (an issue I briefly mentioned in my discussion of fantasy writer Robin Hobb's attack on fan fiction). I would say, however, that "vehemently anti-fanfic" sums up Goldberg's stance pretty well.

Now, on to the second part. Did Goldberg ever defend his tie-in novels on the grounds that he only writes them for the money? Sure he did, on the very same blog where he now claims to have been misrepresented. In fact, he devoted an entire post to this point on June 16, 2005:

[S]omeone asked what the difference is between someone who writes tie-ins and someone who writes fanfic... beyond the fact that tie-ins are written with the consent of the author/right's (sic) holder.

There's a big difference.

I was hired to write DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK novels. It's something I am being paid to do. It's not like I woke up one morning with a burning desire to write DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels, wrote one up, and sent it off to a publisher (or, as a fanficcer would do, posted it on the web). The publisher came to me and asked me to write them.

I would never write a book using someone else's characters unless I was hired to do so. It would never even occur to me because the characters aren't mine.

Given a choice, I would only write novels and TV shows of my own creation. But I have to make a living and I take the work that comes my way...and that includes writing-for-hire, whether it's on someone else's TV show or original tie-in novels based on characters I didn't create. Ultimately, however, what motivates me as a writer is to express myself...not the work of someone else.

That's the big difference between me and a fanficcer.

Given a choice, fanficcers "write" fanfic.

(The numerous italics are all in the original.)

More recently, Goldberg returns to this theme in a September 20, 2006 post, "Am I a Fanficcer?" While he does stress that his TV show-based novels are published with the consent and involvement of the owners, the "I'm only in it for the money" defense rears its head again:

What I do isn't comparable to fanfiction -- which is using someone else's work without their consent or involvement and distributing on the Internet. I don't do it as my personal artistic expression -- it's a job, one that I do to the best of my ability.

Like a fanficcer, I am writing about characters I didn't create and that are not my own. But, as I said before, unless approached to do so, I would have absolutely no interest or desire to write about someone else's characters. Why? Because...and let me repeat this... the characters aren't mine. I didn't create them. They don't belong to me. I much prefer to write totally original work and if I could make my living only doing that, I would.

In fairness to Goldberg, I should have said that he defends his tie-in novels partly on the grounds that he only writes them for the money. I singled out this argument because I found it particularly bizarre -- it's the first time I have seen paid hackwork held up as morally superior to an unpaid labor of love -- and because I had already mentioned the "fanfic is intellectual theft" argument in my comments on Robin Hobb. If that gave a misleading impression of Goldberg's views on fanfic, I will readily offer my apologies. However, I certainly did not put any argument in Goldberg's mouth that he did not repeatedly make on his blog.

Since we're on the subject, I will answer a question Goldberg poses in his September 20 post:

What I have yet to see any fanficcer explain why they won't to ask the creator or rights holder for permission before posting and distributing their work. Or why fanficcers adamantly refuse to follow the expressed wishes of creator/rights holders (for example, Rowling has approved fanfiction based on Harry Potter as long as it's not sexually explicit...but that hasn't stopped thousands of people from writing and posting Potter slash, disrespecting her and her wishes ).

I know the answer, of course. Fanficcers are terrified of officially being told NO... and identifying themselves in case they decide to blithely violate the author's wishes anyway.

On the second point: I and most other fanfic writers and readers strongly disapprove of Harry Potter (or any other) fanfic featuring underage characters in sexual situations. I also personally believe that the wishes of any writer who has asked people not to write fan fiction based on his or her work -- or has set specific guidelines for such fan fiction, like Rowling or Anne McCaffrey -- should be respected. (Since a pro-Goldberg blogger indicts me for "absconding with characters" created by others, I will mention that the producers of Xena actually hired one of my fellow intellectual thieves, fanfic writer Melissa "Missy" Good, to write scripts for the show.)

On the first point, I can only say: Is Goldberg kidding? He knows perfectly well that his "ask for permission first" requirement would mean the end of fan fiction, and NOT because copyright owners would say no. Would original fiction writers be willing to spend hours every day answering emails asking them if it's okay to post a fanfiction based on their work? With movie- and television-based fanfiction, the situation would be far more complicated. Does Goldberg expect studios to hire a staff just to field requests for permission to post a fanfic? And to whom should the request be directed anyway? The corporation? The creator of the characters? What if the characters have multiple creators? (In the case of Xena: Warrior Princess, it was apparently unclear at one point who owned the rights to the characters, holding up a possible big-screen movie project.)

Furthermore, both writers and studios or other corporations which have no objection to fanfiction based on their characters and settings may well be skittish about actively granting their permission for the publication of specific stories. "Authorized" stories would appear to have the writer's or owner's imprimatur. Moreover, the writers or the studio personnel would have either to read the stories submitted -- which would be not only incredibly time-consuming but legally problematic -- or to authorize them unread.

I do think that it would be an ideal resolution to the legal dilemma of fan-created works if the authors or creators/copyright holders were to state upfront that they do not object to non-commercial fan endeavors -- be it fiction, art, or music videos -- and, if they wish, to stipulate rules by which they want the writers and artists to abide. (Or, if they do object, to issue a "no fanfic" directive. The vast majority of fans will respect it, for both ethical and legal reasons.) In the absence of such explicit statements, given that the widespread existence of fan fiction is by now no secret to anyone, I think that silence may be presumed to equal consent.

Finally, since we're on the topic of misrepresentation: In a post on October 12, 2006, Goldberg suggests, on the basis of a New York Times profile of fanfic writer-turned-pro Naomi Novik, that Novik has revised her previously "liberal" views on fanfic and copyright now that she is a commercially published author herself. As some of his commenters point out, Novik has in fact specifically said that this is not so. Goldberg has yet to issue a retraction in the body of his post or even to acknowledge his error in the comments, despite having posted in the comments thread several times.


Dustin Ridgeway said...

Why does so much /fanfiction focus on ostensibly straight Literary/TV/Film Characters having gay sex with each other? I see no problem with slashing but I always found this phenomenon odd. Particularly when written by straight women.

Anonymous said...

Dustin, all slash fanfiction involves sexual relationships between characters, usually of the homosexual variety. It's the defining trait that makes slash slash. As to why, who knows? Why is yaoi such a popular genre of manga in Japan, when its fans are almost exclusively heterosexual women? Everyone has their preferred taste in entertainment, and reason rarely enters into it.

colagirl said...

Actually, Dustin, that's a really good question--I've seen a lot of different answers to it, ranging from assertions that it's easier to write two men in a relationship of equals, to the assertion that by writing male/male relationships, women authors can get away from stereotypical dynamics of heterosexual relationships, to the simple assertion (and the one I find most convincing) that it's similar to why men supposedly like girl-on-girl action: if one man is hot, two men together are hotter.

I suspect there is no one single answer, but I find it a really interesting phenomenon.

Stefanie Bean said...

Hi, Cathy: Found your blog through LJ and have been following the Reason articles on fanfiction.

What didn't get mentioned by Goldberg were characters and story scenarios based on historical books (Huck Finn, Phantom of the Opera, Pride and Prejudice) where the original work is no longer under copyright. I'm sure the producers of "Big River" would be amused to know that they were really the dreaded "fanficcers."

I agree that "silence gives consent" is probably the best thumb-rule for material still under copyright.

Thanks for an interesting series of articles.

J. Mark English said...

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:

If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.


Joel said...

I've run into this from time to time, but -- so far -- I've been fortunate enough that my own readers have honored my request to make sure that any fanfic based on my stuff never gets where I can see it. (That may mean that there's never been any, but there have been queries about it, from time to time.)

I don't have a problem with fanfic per se -- not my thing, as reader or writer (although I really, really would like a shot at doing the fourth Edmond Hamilton Starwolf novel) -- but I'm more than a little squicked out by the notion of other folks playing in my sandboxes without permission.

ViolaceousEuphonia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ViolaceousEuphonia said...

Congratulations, you've made Fandom_Wank!

I read your Xena fic long before I knew you were a columnist. I am a bit surprised that you don't maintain anonymity in fandom. Has that ever caused problems for you professionally?

Anonymous said...

Find and download what you need at Rapidshare Search Engine.
Top Site List Free Proxy Site Free Download mp3 Michael Jackson song All Michael Jackson Lirics Oes Tsetnoc Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa Download Mp3 Gratis

Anonymous said...

design outsourcing | booklet design Outsourcing | folder design outsourcing

Anonymous said...

poster design outsourcing | sticker design outsourcing

Anonymous said...

Truly a nice blog! Thanks for your great work! Wish you a nice day!
cheap puma shoes
cheap sport shoes
ed hardy ugg boots
ed hardy love kills slowly boots
ed hardy love kills slowly
discount puma shoes
nike shox torch
nike tn dollar
cheap nike shox
ed hardy polo shirts
ed hardy love kills slowly shoes
ed hardy wear
cheap nike shox shoes
nike shox r4
ed hardy love kills slowly shirts
ed hardy trousers
ed hardy jackets
puma mens shoes
cheap nike max
discount nike shox
ed hardy t shirts sale
ed hardy womens t shirts
ed hardy boots
cheap puma ferrari shoes
nike mens shoes
nike shox nz
ed hardy womens clothes
ed hardy womens shirts
ed hardy clothes
discount nike running shoes

Anonymous said...

discount nike shoes
nike shox shoes
ed hardy outerwear
ed hardy womens
ed hardy womens jeans
cheap nike shoes
nike sports shoes
puma running shoes
puma sneakers
ed hardy bags
ed hardy winter boots
ed hardy t shirts
nike shoes kids
nike women shoes
nike running shoes
ed hardy womens shoes
ed hardy t shirts for men
ed hardy mens jeans
wholesale nike shoes
nike shoes
nike air max tn
puma cat
ed hardy mens shoes
ed hardy womens hoodies
ed hardy mens tees
puma shoes

Jack said...

uk viagra
buy viagra uk
generic viagra uk
viagra online uk

Neha Shekar said...

I really liked your article. Keep up the good work.
Canada flower shops

Larah said...

So attractive! I impressed.
jobs to work online

Anonymous said...

Microsoft Office
Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010
Office 2010 key
Office 2010 download
Office 2010 Professional
Microsoft outlook
Outlook 2010
Windows 7
Microsoft outlook 2010

Anonymous said...

Harga Mobil Bekas | Tempat Casting Film | Ramalan 2011 | Foto Pernikahan Pasha dan Delia | Update Status Romantis | Tante Girang | No HP Tante Girang | Daftar Harga HP Bekas | Bug Pada Game Point Blank Online | Biro Jodoh Online | Ramalan Bintang | Ramalan Shio Zodiak Tionghoa | Point Blank Online Indonesia | Status Keren | Harga HP Android | Point Blank Online | Cara Daftar Point Blank Online | ucapan valentine 2011 | Makanan khas natal 2010 | Film terbaru 2011 | trend model gaya rambut 2011 | | Ramalan tahun kelinci 2011 | Car review | New Car Release | Blog berita terkini | Charlotte auto insurance | TV Online Indonesia | Mivo TV | Puppy Dog Food Store | Debby Ayu Bugill | Indonesia Vs Filipina | Juara Piala AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 | Kumpulan berita baru point blank Berita terbaru adidas online store

happyoutlet said...

Fund garrisonchi flat iron for the lender for a loan of $ 31500000 mezzanine. In November, Harrison lien on the title to exclude the owner of the building.chi flat irons When negotiating

Expansion pledge $ 107 millionCHI Camo Collections for construction of the garrison in Chapter 11 did not.

Chika said...

Media Syalifa, Intips Berita 2011, Revarius opinion, resep kue lezat, Resep Coklat Valentine, , Coklat Valentine, SMS Valentine 2011, , Koleksi SMS Valentine 2011, SMS Valentine terbaru, Kumpulan SMS valentine

Peter said...

nice share thanks a lot :)

download free pc games
affiliate review

Friday said...

All the cheap christian louboutin heels and louboutin heels for retailing inside our store can be to offer solutions of first-class quality. The christian louboutin evening complete great deal could possibly be the fine and fashionable one.They take place in fascinating design and layout and fashionable appearnce.The colourway also is quite popular. These christian louboutin pumps are luxury and noble.The christian louboutin peep toe show formal, a complete great deal extra show its gorgeous gloss and honour. hold into some mysterious alluring taste! This pairs of christian louboutin 2011 sandals attributes a quite considerable component for women's fabulous whole system figure, show their fabulous figure and fashionable gesture. Louboutin heels is a good choice for you, welcome to our Christian louboutin store!

Friday said...

The christian louboutin outlet heels can help you become sexy and elegant. Cheap christian louboutin sandals are regarded since the symbolic representation of attractive and elegant.Christian Louboutin Ankle BootsIt is especially suitable for the women who wear theChristian Louboutin Collection 2011 shoes at the first time.These Christian Louboutin Heels 2011 combine top quality, reasonable price and fashional design, which is your best choice Artist who promoted his collection of luxury women's Christian Louboutin Peep Toes in earlier 90s. No 1 can disregard the existence in the style world, World-famous red-colored soles and Christian Louboutin Pumps Sale are shaped features. However, you can by no means overlook the beautiful. You do not even need to go inside environment, as well as your slim, gorgeous and graceful legs may be effortlessly discovered in people's eyes! Welcome to our louboutin mall to buy discount louboutins heels.

dsadf said...

Bill dressed in his / her conventional dark accommodate along with reddish tie upOrganization officers mentioned their own statements have been misunderstood, and also Pruessing pledged Ed Hardy Shop in which teams would certainly begin strolling your Yellowstone coastline right after the inundating pond recedes to watch out for put essential oil over the finance Burberry cheap institutions"We happen to be utilizing Asian Navy blue government bodies and also the Oughnet assessments this legitimateness of movie star weibos and contains certified this Radiohead Cheap Air Max weibo since true-based publicist for that wedding ring wouldn't promptly reply to a contact looking for opinion "We aren't looking to advise by any means that Air Max 2011 this is the limit connected with direct exposure This doesn't happen talk about reasons or even provide a time"We happen to be utilizing Asian Navy blue Cheap Air Max Shoes government bodies and also the OughWe were looking at delivered to any center for checkups, and then for their lodge, Pineda explained"It has been enjoyable to air jordan clearance see as well as a little nerve-racking I need to confess, particularly the people this individual ended up being flying and came up right down" Patton Air Max Shoes explained

Movies Gallery 2011 said...

Thanks for the share. It was very informative. Keep posting. I follow you.
Money Talks| Money Talks News|

Nevermore said...

Your Nike air Max 90 infrared was at first referred to as your Nike air flow most effective level III until sooner or after it turned out reissued jointly with rebranded through yr 2000. That it is most current producer emanates from 4 seasons this particular well-known shoes was introduced in 1990.Your nike air max 90 selling ended up getting truly developed using a producer new capable second, produced suede, jointly with produced buckskin. Dazzling coloration permutations,convenience jointly with clean up collections developed this Nike air Max 95 design a instant reach.Your buckskin jointly with capable 2nd pledges quantity of many years donning as well as cozy experiencing. Your air nike max 90 persists to be to turn out to be critically selected precise now with many different modern color ways. It is only a an amazing performance runners.Capable 2nd as well as a considerable air flow most effective level method within rearfoot would make all the nike air max shoes really cozy pertaining to jogging.

jimmywang said...

Thanks for sharing your ideas. Keep on blogging because we will benefit from your articles. thx a lot!
Burberry Bags Outlet
Cheap Burberry Bags
Burberry Bags For Sales
Burberry Bags

cicy said...

anyone can hate. It costs to love.It’s nice to be important,Tera online
Tera gold
Tera items
but it’s more important to be nice.i’m not perfect. you are not perfect.Runescape gold
buy Runescape gold
we are not perfect. so be contented what you have.
Tera gold
Tera Item
Tera account

Anonymous said...

Hey you have a very nice blog
Download gta iv

Movies Gallery 2011 said...

Nice post. Great blog.
Web Design Company| Clone Script|

Hair Transplant in turkey said...

Comments made ??about the issues impressed me. I like your site.
Fue Saç
Diş Doktoru

ealperin said...

Hey there, Ms. Young. Just letting you know that you linked up Missy's site incorrectly. It's ;)-ealperin

Seacanoeist Mark said...

Welcome to website to buy RS Gold, offer a lot, of course, Diablo 3 Gold or Diablo 3 Gold Kaufen and WoW Gold, to be purchased at any time, at any time shipment, and look forward to your visit!