Dear Amazon, A letter from Fan Fiction Readers and Writers

Dear Amazon, stop creating spectacularly poor platforms for writers. I just want to be able to buy books and pogo-sticks from you. Is that so much to ask?

In case you haven’t heard, Amazon has recently announced their intention to create a new platform connected to their self publishing program, called Kindle World. What is it for? Well, that remains to be completely understood, however, their intention is to bring fan fiction to a whole new level. The kind of level where you get paid to write and pay to read that is.

Am I the only one a little confused with how they are going to get away with this? Fuck. Where to begin? Let’s start with the proposal.

Essentially, Amazon will acquire licensing from various authors, publishers, film studios etc. for books, tv shows and films. So far, you can write fiction for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries… I’m just going to come right out and confirm that only one of those is actually decent, and I’ll give you a hint. It doesn’t feature bitchy, whining, rich girls. I know, I know, baffling isn’t it?!

Excluding the poor choice of available series, there are a few other factors that will enter into your writing plans. Namely, the restrictions on what you can write. If you’d like to see your stories on Kindle World, they can’t include, graphic or violent material, pornography, foul language or cross overs. Come on Amazon. No violence or sex? There’s a reason why people watch HBO (and pay for it) and it’s not the commercials.

So assuming you get your story past Amazon publishing’s powers that be, you may submit and may get published. Why do you care? Well, if you manage to jump through these hoops, you’ll get a cut of the royalties from the sale of your fan fics. But it’s not just you. The authors, or creators of the original piece also gain royalties for your work. Sound like the best of both worlds? Wrong. 

Let’s take a look at what this means for original authors and creators. First of all there are a lot of authors who don’t approve of fan fiction and have publicly spoken up against it . Namely because the content of these fics, is usually either unsavory or completely out of line with cannon. Even without these details, it hasn’t escaped my notice that none of the series Amazon has acquired the licensing for, were negotiated with authors. They’re licensing was for the tv shows. Big surprise. Just because they might make a little extra money on the side, does not mean that authors are clamoring to rent out their hard earned creations.

Now putting authors and their finicky opinions aside for a moment, let’s talk about fan fics in general.

I like so many other writers of the last twenty years, began writing “seriously” *ahem, with fan fiction. And while the days when I explored just how Professor Snape might make you serve detention are over,  I’ve continued reading fan fics for a long time and I’ve got to say… Sex.

What ridiculous percentage of fan fics are just pwp? That’s porn without plot. Seriously it’s a thing, look it up.

But come on Amazon… The majority of fan fics exist to produce more sex for existing relationships or to explore the losing side of love triangles. It seems like this idea of making money on fan fiction is partly the fault of 50 Shades of Gray. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this “book” was originally a Twilight fan fiction. It should surprise you less to learn that it’s well ridiculed both on and off the internet for it’s bad writing, sex, and badly written sex. Why? Because it was a fanfiction! That’s practically the definition of fanfiction.

Sure there are some really great fics out there that are incredibly well written, detailed,  moving, etc. But at some point or another, they all converge on one topic. You guessed it, sex. With my experience of about 12 years of reading and writing fan fiction, I would estimate that about 95% of it revolves around sex of some kind. And considering both the naughty and the tame sides of genre, about 3% are worth reading. Whether you’re looking for Harry Potter, Star Trek, Hunger Games, Xena the Warrior Princess, or Alice in freakin’ Wonderland. Very few fan fics are worth reading and telling your friends about. And chances are, if it is, it’s still got sex. 

Why you might ask? Why does fan fiction focus so heavily on what goes on between the sheets, on desks, in plane bathrooms, and behind slightly open doors? Because legitimate fiction refuses to go there. How many times have you been reading a book, and whether romance or relationships was the major plot or a secondary one, when the characters finally get together, they take of each other’s shirts, kiss a little and close the door on the reader? Whether you’re a fan girl or not, this is frustrating. Which is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone when fan girls and guys recreate or re-envision their favorite characters doing the nasty. 

And while most will claim that it’s only girls writing about Edward, Jacob, and whatever other half built, shirtless man is popular at the moment, there are plenty of male oriented fan fics as well. And rightly so. I don’t know anyone who watched Star Trek Voyager and didn’t fantasize about what Seven of Nine looked like out of that cat suit. It was practically a theme of the show. What is she wearing today?

So yeah, there is a lot of gratuitous sex in fan fiction, and with good reason, but selling publishers and original authors on this fact, is exactly why fan fics are disliked.  

It seems to me that the idea behind this whole program was the idealistic goal of eliminating pesky, dirty fan fics/making money. I’m about 99% sure that they aren’t going to do a whole lot of either. 

For reasons previously mentioned, it should be pretty obvious that no matter what happens, the people reading and writing, dirty fics won’t be getting them from Amazon, and as such, there will still continue to be a demand for them in the free market.  But in terms of any writers making a whole lot of money? I just don’t see it.

The biggest barrier to this is, of course, the limited selection of titles on which you can write. Even as someone who is a fan of The Vampire Diaries and has previously looked up fiction for it, I don’t really give a damn if I can get it on my kindle now. I can read fan fics on my iphone which is essentially my kindle, for free. Why would I pay them for something I can find myself in less time, for no money? Short answer: I won’t. And I doubt many others will either, which means, that it doesn’t matter if you get 20% of the royalties. 20% of 0$ is still 0$.

Which brings me to my other point. There are hundreds of books that I would rather spend money to have on my shelves than fan fics any day of the week. Regardless of how well written it is, or how many people recommend it to me (although they won’t because it won’t have SEX) I’m not going to buy it. I don’t have the money and let’s face it. No one can write or create your favorite characters like the original authors, and if you’re telling me that the two things I want them to do most, ie. have sex and kill each other, aren’t going to be in your fics, then why can’t I just enjoy the show, or book, or movie as it was originally intended? 

Fan fiction thrives because it offers fans a way to express their love for series, to act out the threads or actions they feel are missing from the original material, and to hone their writing skills. None of these things are available with Kindle World. So tell me Amazon, why should I care?

-Sincerely,

Going back to reading my Harry Potter Fanfics, for free.

John Green, Harry Potter and Leakycon: They remind me to turn on the light.

So I’ve been gone awhile. Sorry. Life.

Never fret, I am still working on my first review but I’ve had some other more important novel projects to work on and the stuff that will be published (eventually) has priority. Today I’d like to talk about something else. Something nerdy.

So one of my favorite quotes of all time, is by John Green…

“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”
― John Green (I just lifted this from Good Reads btw)

This was one of those quotes that basically altered my way of thinking. It’s not that I’ve ever been really bothered by what other people say, and at least when it comes to voicing opinions I’ve never shied away from stating mine on any given topic, nerdy or not. But this quote filled me with some sort of epic power to totally throw myself into loving the things that I love and be totally unapologetic about  it.

There are only a handful of quotes which have really stuck with me over the years and have made a lasting change on my life, but this was one of them. The fact that John Green is an author makes it relevant on a totally different level. I look at his words, both in his books and in public, and I see this incredible, profound, awkward, fun loving, joyous person who, in simply embracing who he is, makes those around him able to embrace themselves a little more. How cool is that?

How cool is it to have that power, not just as an author on the page speaking through other’s mouths, but to have the support to speak openly, and champion those who are different. I attended Leakycon ( a four day Harry Potter convention) in Chicago 2012, and met John for the first time. The entire convention was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life, and since then not a single day goes by when I don’t think about it or wish I was going again this year. But one of my favorite things about it, was that collectively, whether they’d done it consciously or not, all the people (all 4,000 of  ’em) had taken to heart that quote of his.

We wore wizard robes, and carried backpacks of books around, and screamed till our voices were gone when our favorite authors showed up on stage. People made powwows in the lines for events and took out HP books or others, and discussed them. Details, characters, motivations, plots, Easter eggs. Movie adaptations, writing, creating, entrepreneurial plans. For four days, authors were rock stars, and we all acknowledged that the ideas and emotions shared in that hotel, the jump up and down joy and enthusiasm, the wizard rock concerts, and the HP musicals, all of those things existed because one woman wrote a book series that she believed in, even when it was hard. When she was poor, and didn’t have a degree in English, and didn’t care (rightfully so.)

There is another quote that I’ve turned to a lot in the past few days.

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
– J. K. Rowling, “The fringe benefits of failure”, 2008

So what I would like to leave you with today is this. Life happens. For better or for worse, the hours pass even if you don’t move. Give yourself the freedom to throw yourself at the things that make you the happiest, even if they’re impossible.

I’m unemployed. I’ve been unemployed since I graduated college 11 months ago. It’s been something that has brought me a lot of torment over the past few months. But I’m also a writer. And I write a lot. When I think about Leakycon, I spend a lot of time thinking about all the fun we had, but I also sit back and let myself think how cool it would be to be one of those authors. To be a rock star to the nerds who love things purely because it makes us feel something.

I don’t think that there will ever be another writer to create a community like J.K. Rowling did, but I know that I’m never going to leave that community behind. Harry Potter is  my home, and for all the fantastic and crazy, impractical ideas my fellow friends have, I’ll always support them. And with that, I know they’ll support me.

Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home. -J.K. Rowling.

Live your dreams people. Do what makes you happiest.

Happy Scribbling everyone.

The book which changed the course of my life.

When I opened my email this morning, I was greeted with a message to check out a new post by a blogger I follow, Cristian Mihai. His lovely post this morning is on a topic which means a great deal to me. Entitled, The book that changed everything, for me this sentiment cannot be more true.

For those who meet me in real life, the importance of this book can be ascertained from only a conversation or two with me. Seriously. I talk about it, think about it, read about it, live it, every single day of my life.

 

That book is in fact, not a single book but a series. I give you, Harry Potter.

 

Yep. All that lead up and I’m sure that there will be a few who read this who scoff at a children’s series meaning that much to anyone. But I will confess right now, that every time I read those books, every time I watch the movies, or the musicals  (did you know there are musicals?), or listen to the music (wizard rock), I cry. I cry with joy, with sorrow, in pain and laughter. I have poured my heart in soul into this book series, and what has grown since I was ten years old into a fandom of epic proportions.

Prior to being introduced to the first book, at the time there were only three out, I hated reading. I hated books. I hated sitting down and being forced to learn. Harry Potter was the first book that I read, which spoke to me. It came off the page and was real before I even finished the first chapter. I loved it and subsequently I found it necessary to seek out that realism, that emotion invoking power in literature anywhere that I could. I became that kid who went to the library twice a week and picked up half a dozen books at a time, and actually read them. A book or two a night, and soon, I had a whole collection of books which whispered to me, varied as their messages might have been, but none spoke so clearly or powerfully as Harry Potter did.

From there it was only about a year later, (at eleven years old) when I decided that even though I had found many new friends within the pages of story books, I couldn’t forget Harry, Ron, or Hermione, and I couldn’t wait for the next book. Enter fanfiction. Harry Potter fanfiction was just beginning to boom on the internet and I soon found myself creating my own, albeit poorly written, adventures with my friends. I could escape to Harry Potter whenever I wanted, and others could comment on my work, and my plots and make suggestions. Soon, I wasn’t just revisiting people and places I knew, but making up my own. I kept writing HP fiction among others, but the pile of short stories and half conceived novels had begun to grow.

In bursts and fits I continued to write and I read voraciously all through grade school and high school. Hours and hours were devoted to crafting my own stories, but I still spent a ridiculous amount of time revisiting my Hogwarts pals to find inspiration and faith in myself and the world. I even went so far as to take a community college class at fourteen in an attempt to learn more about creative writing.

When the theme park opened, I planned a trip and showed up within two weeks.  Btw, it was awesome. When I studied abroad in France my junior year of university, if I felt depressed or lonely, I watched and rewatched the Harry Potter musicals and reread the books in French. My senior year in college, my small single was covered floor to ceiling in HP posters. And two months ago, I took a Greyhound bus for 30 hours to attend Leakycon, a four day Harry Potter convention in Chicago.

Clearly, as I’ve grown older, even graduated from college, my childhood love has stuck with me more powerfully than anything else in my life. I can mark the dates of my life based around my involvement with Harry Potter events, such as book or movie releases and important Fandom events.

Even now, with a nice shiny diploma which has absolutely nothing to do with creative writing, I plan to work as long and hard as I must to publish the works that I’ve been writing for years. When adults ask me who I plan to write for, I say young adults, teens, children. Why? Because I want to do for them what J.K. Rowling did for me.

To provide an escape from divorced parents and alcoholic abuse, to give comfort when other children are mean, to develop courage when the day becomes dark and to say that with enough love and hope and faith, in yourself and the world, you can achieve anything. You can fight the bad guy, prove yourself in front of a crowd, outwit the bully, get good grades, find help and hope if you only look hard enough, and to teach them the morals which have become so deeply ingrained in me.

Maybe these are children’s books, and maybe as an adult I should grow up and move on, but I’ve seen the difference in people who have been schooled by this woman and her incredible story as I have.

A common topic between fans I met at that conference, where nearly 4,000 people were in attendance, was that no matter who you are, where you come from, and who you’ll become, we love you. Why? Because we’ve lived this crazy ride and it’s changed our lives.

My love of writing and reading aside, I personally found comfort not to crumble in the dark times of my life because of these books and they are my rock. More important than family or friends that I’ve had over the years who’ve betrayed and faded, these books are immortal and I love them.

 

Oh dear god, I’ve gone on for forever and still I think I could go on for another three hundred pages.

 

Well. Please dear reader, is there a book which has changed your life, influenced you in ways which nothing else has, please share it’s name or a link to your own post on this topic in the comments below and I hope you find happiness between the pages of a lovely book as I did.