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seun
11-15-2012, 06:44 PM
A few years back, I subbed to a particular small publisher and ended up on their mailing list. I've just received an email inviting submissions for an anthology of horror stories all linked to a particular film which is in the public domain. All the stories have to take place in the world of the film so they can be from the POV of the major characters as the film takes place or the story of what happened to so and so before he meets the others.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is basically just fan fiction, right? The publisher might see it as a tribute to the film but it's still people using someone else's world and characters to tell a story. Am I being a party pooper in not being able to get excited about a collection of fan fiction?

Maryn
11-15-2012, 07:03 PM
Party pooper! It seems you've never read really good fanfic, which can be amazing when in talented hands. Yes, you're building on canon you didn't create, but the limitations thus imposed can challenge your creativity, and the few who rise to meet or exceed the challenge produce some pretty awesome stuff.

If I had the interest in the specific film, I'd certainly think about it.

Maryn, who's written fanfic

seun
11-15-2012, 07:10 PM
Oh, I'm not denying there's good fanfic by any means. It's just...this doesn't sit comfortably with me.

elindsen
11-15-2012, 07:21 PM
For the gist I'm getting, it could be ff, but doesn't have to be. The world of horror is a strange place ;)

shadowwalker
11-15-2012, 07:21 PM
Most fanfiction is a tribute to the original - people care enough about the original to write about it. Since this film is in the public domain, no reason why a tribute anthology shouldn't be done. But if you don't feel comfortable about it, don't contribute.

RichardGarfinkle
11-15-2012, 07:34 PM
The distinction between fanfic and tribute is at best difficult to state.

I would say it lies in the respect the author gives to the source material even if the author is jumping a mile long shark.

For a piece of genius tribute to two different sources, I recommend Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald, which he has available as a free PDF.
http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Cool_Stuff/Short_Stories

Terie
11-15-2012, 07:53 PM
I'm not sure why fan-fic of something in the public domain would make you uncomfortable. After all, that's essentially what the monster-mashups of Jane Austen and so on are.

seun
11-15-2012, 07:56 PM
I'm not sure why fan-fic of something in the public domain would make you uncomfortable. After all, that's essentially what the monster-mashups of Jane Austen and so on are.

I see those books as more affectionate piss takes of the clashing genres than basic fan fiction. Going by the email I got, this plan is basically - you've already got the story and characters so most of the work is already done.

amrose
11-15-2012, 07:56 PM
A bit of a party pooper, but if you don't like books like public domain mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and all the other revamped classics put out in the last couple of years it's no big deal. Not your thing.

If everything is in the public domain there doesn't seem to be a legal issue right (I don't know, someone correct me if I'm wrong)? So, is it your personal author ethics being tweaked?

ETA: Dang it! Beaten like a naughty child!

veinglory
11-15-2012, 08:05 PM
There is plenty of fan fiction that is good literature going back to Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood or arguably Jesus. I think it should be judged on it's merits.

seun
11-15-2012, 08:27 PM
So, is it your personal author ethics being tweaked?


More than likely now that I think about it.

Terie
11-15-2012, 08:36 PM
So, is it your personal author ethics being tweaked?

More than likely now that I think about it.

Copyright expires for a reason. Some (myself included) argue that it lasts longer than it should. (Personally, I think 50 years after the creator's death is more than adequate.)

Once something is out of copyright, it's fair game. That's just how it works, and is how it should work. Otherwise, many more works would die forever than already do.

Just think, if copyright never expired, and if whoever held the copyright to Pride and Prejudice wouldn't let anyone use it, we wouldn't have the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth BBC production. And that's just for starters.

Sheryl Nantus
11-15-2012, 08:43 PM
Is this "Night of the Living Dead"?

Ah, zombies... they never go out of style.

Rhoda Nightingale
11-15-2012, 08:44 PM
Meh, if it makes you squicky--just don't do it. I've seen this done before for anthologies. Not specifically for a movie, I don't think, but there are "tribute" type collections based on the Cthulu mythos, or the Hellraiser mythos, or Sherlock Holmes all the time. But bottom line--if you don't want to be part of that, it's no big deal, right? Just don't submit anything.

Phaeal
11-15-2012, 10:09 PM
To me, a tribute would be Peter Jackson (The Return of the King) shooting the approach of the giant elephants in a manner that recalls the approach of the Imperial walkers (The Empire Strikes Back.)

Fan-fic would have been Peter Jackson putting the Imperial walkers into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

(Aragorn's ghost army would still have kicked their asses. ;))

What you're talking about, I'd define as fan-ficcish (doesn't meet my technical definition of fan-fic, because it's up for grabs.) If I liked the source movie, I'd participate, because I don't mind good fan-fic or post-copyright borrowings.

seun
11-16-2012, 12:26 AM
Is this "Night of the Living Dead"?

Ah, zombies... they never go out of style.

Yep, that's the one.

As for participating, my interest was taken as soon as I read zombie in the email, but then when I realised the score...well, I guess this isn't one for me.

kuwisdelu
11-16-2012, 12:30 AM
Would you feel guilty about writing, say, Shakespeare fanfic?

Plenty of respected authors have, after all.


The distinction between fanfic and tribute is at best difficult to state.

Ehh, the distinction is the state of the copyright.

seun
11-16-2012, 12:43 AM
Would you feel guilty about writing, say, Shakespeare fanfic?

Plenty of respected authors have, after all.


Guilt is too strong a word. I just wouldn't feel comfortable.

LeslieB
11-16-2012, 01:28 AM
Don't tell yourself it is fan fiction. Tell yourself it is a pastiche. Much classier sound to it.

fredXgeorge
11-16-2012, 02:50 AM
Copyright expires for a reason. Some (myself included) argue that it lasts longer than it should. (Personally, I think 50 years after the creator's death is more than adequate.)

Once something is out of copyright, it's fair game. That's just how it works, and is how it should work. Otherwise, many more works would die forever than already do.

Just think, if copyright never expired, and if whoever held the copyright to Pride and Prejudice wouldn't let anyone use it, we wouldn't have the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth BBC production. And that's just for starters.
And then we wouldn't have Colin/Darcy in a wet shirt and that would be a tragedy for the world.

DancingMaenid
11-16-2012, 08:00 AM
If you're just not interested in using existing characters or an existing canon, that's fine. If you're not interested, you're not interested.

I don't see this as any different than any other situation where the genre or theme isn't to your liking. If I saw a submission call that looked promising, but then I saw that it was romance, I'd lose interest, too. Not because there's anything wrong with romance, but because it's just not a genre I write.

I don't think it needs to be any more complicated than that.

crunchyblanket
11-16-2012, 11:38 PM
It's fanfiction in a very loose sense - using the world, but not necessarily the characters or established canon. That kind of fanfiction requires more "original thought" since you still have to build your own characters and story. Granted, most of the background work is done for you, so it's not on par with "original" work.

As for discomfort - fanfic ain't for everyone. For me, fanfic's my chocolate cake. Original work might be my (vegetarian) meat and potatoes, but every now and again I need a little sugary treat, even if it ain't high in nutrition - fanfic is that treat.

blacbird
11-17-2012, 12:14 AM
I'm curious about a film being in public domain. In the U.S., for written work, nearly everything published post-1922 is still protected by copyright, unless it somehow lapsed into public domain under provisions of earlier copyright statutes, or the copyright holder explicitly released the material into public domain. That date got frozen for 20 years back in 1998 by the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, successfully lobbied for by Disney in order to protect early Mickey Mouse material from losing copyright protection.

For a time earlier in the 20th century, the statutes protected a property for 28 years, with an option to renew for another 28 years, so a few things occasionally slipped into public domain through failure of renewal. But not many. Not many movies made before 1922 seem fodder for such fan-fic stuff. What film are we talking about, and what assurance was given that the "public domain" claim isn't just a baseless assertion?

caw

Pup
11-17-2012, 12:51 AM
I'm curious about a film being in public domain.

I was curious about that too, and wondered about fan fiction centered around Nosferatu, but the film was identified up-thread as Night of the Living Dead, and sure enough: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Living_Dead#Copyright_status

shadowwalker
11-17-2012, 01:08 AM
Yeah, a couple of articles mentioned something about the notice being missing, along with a lot of legalese...

blacbird
11-17-2012, 02:33 AM
Thanks for the copyright clarification. Just as a minor suggestion, it really is useful to be a bit more specific in these threads. Naming the film up front would have helped.

caw

seun
11-17-2012, 02:28 PM
Not sure how naming the film as NOTLD would have made much difference to my original point and question.

bearilou
11-17-2012, 03:56 PM
Not sure how naming the film as NOTLD would have made much difference to my original point and question.

Seriously.

I've tried to stay out of this, seun. I tried. So hard. :kiss:

*backs out the door again*

Rhoda Nightingale
11-17-2012, 05:28 PM
Film about zombies that's now in the public domain--seriously, how many of those are there? But here's where I need to remind myself that I'm a geek for these things, and maybe it's not as common knowledge as I might think...

shadowwalker
11-17-2012, 06:09 PM
Even after the knowing the title, it was "Huh? Ohhhhh - that one!" :tongue

Tedium
11-18-2012, 10:35 AM
Sounds like fanfic, whichever way you cut the cake. It doesn't matter to me personally whether the work is under copyright or not. You are still dealing with characters/event/worlds that are not your own. So, in my mind it is fanfic. As much as I enjoy the Cthulu Mythos, I can't seem to get past the fact that all of these modern authors working with it are on the same level as Cassandra Clare and her Harry Potter fanfic.

If you are uncomfortable with it there is not much you can do except not participate. Doesn't much sound like my cup of tea either.

GeekTells
11-18-2012, 01:19 PM
Seems to me that this is the very purpose of creative works falling into the public domain—the public will be creating something new from the work. Revel in it!

I'll add that having the anthology professionally curated separates the result from straight fanfic, which is fanfic in part because it's just fans getting their fandom on.

bearilou
11-18-2012, 05:07 PM
I'll add that having the anthology professionally curated separates the result from straight fanfic, which is fanfic in part because it's just fans getting their fandom on.

I think this is that dividing line for me. It's in the public domain AND it's professionally curated, so it's easier for me to tease it out of the current culture of fandom, and writing fanfic for pleasure and to participate in the fandom culture.

Still, I'd have trouble writing for it. :/

Phaeal
11-18-2012, 05:08 PM
As much as I enjoy the Cthulu Mythos, I can't seem to get past the fact that all of these modern authors working with it are on the same level as Cassandra Clare and her Harry Potter fanfic.


The difference is that the Cthulhu Mythos functioned as a shared world during Lovecraft's lifetime and has functioned as such ever since, with other writers freely using his concepts and characters and props in publications for profit.

Try using Harry Potter for profit. G'wan, I dare ya.

:D

crunchyblanket
11-18-2012, 05:28 PM
The difference is that the Cthulhu Mythos functioned as a shared world during Lovecraft's lifetime and has functioned as such ever since, with other writers freely using his concepts and characters and props in publications for profit.

Try using Harry Potter for profit. G'wan, I dare ya.

:D

Alright, I'm going to write 50 Wands Of Grey - an erotic thriller in which a young, naive girl wizard finds herself learning more than just spells and potions when an emotionally stunted, abusive billionaire Dark Arts teacher takes a shine to her and...ugh....no....I can't do it. I just can't.

Tedium
11-19-2012, 01:44 AM
The difference is that the Cthulhu Mythos functioned as a shared world during Lovecraft's lifetime and has functioned as such ever since, with other writers freely using his concepts and characters and props in publications for profit.

Try using Harry Potter for profit. G'wan, I dare ya.

:D

You don't think she'd mind? Really? :partyguy: <---That's me partying because of all the mad-phat cash I'm going to make.

seun
11-19-2012, 12:57 PM
I've just received another email from the publisher. The project is cancelled. Two of the people involved in NOTLD (not Romero, funnily enough) have asked the publisher to not do it. So although the film is in the public domain, this is a no-no.

Tedium
11-19-2012, 01:13 PM
I'm a little slow when it comes to legalese.

Are they not doing the project just out of respect?

seun
11-19-2012, 04:09 PM
Based on the tone of the email, they're not doing it because they know it'll get legal if they do.

shadowwalker
11-19-2012, 04:32 PM
I've just received another email from the publisher. The project is cancelled. Two of the people involved in NOTLD (not Romero, funnily enough) have asked the publisher to not do it. So although the film is in the public domain, this is a no-no.


Based on the tone of the email, they're not doing it because they know it'll get legal if they do.

Obviously didn't see the email, but if they were asked not to do it, and the film is in the public domain, there's really no "legal" to it. Sounds more like the publisher is cancelling it to respect the feelings of those two people, not because it's somehow a 'no-no'.

Tedium
11-19-2012, 05:29 PM
That's actually really cool. It's good to know that there are still respectful people in the world.

Pup
11-19-2012, 07:05 PM
Obviously didn't see the email, but if they were asked not to do it, and the film is in the public domain, there's really no "legal" to it. Sounds more like the publisher is cancelling it to respect the feelings of those two people, not because it's somehow a 'no-no'.

Ditto, but it's also possible they're canceling it because defending oneself, even when there's a 100% chance of winning, is expensive and troublesome, and if the other side has deeper pockets and more time to waste...

shadowwalker
11-19-2012, 07:42 PM
Ditto, but it's also possible they're canceling it because defending oneself, even when there's a 100% chance of winning, is expensive and troublesome, and if the other side has deeper pockets and more time to waste...

Well, in this particular case, there's very little chance it would get past the filing. Public domain = no case = dismissed. Costs = deductible business expense.

bearilou
11-19-2012, 09:59 PM
Well, in this particular case, there's very little chance it would get past the filing. Public domain = no case = dismissed. Costs = deductible business expense.

All speculation considering the email apparently didn't include the details for their decision.

Rhoda Nightingale
11-19-2012, 10:09 PM
Huh.

Well, seun, your Spidey sense was right! From now on, if I ever have a squicky not-sure-about-this feeling about a writing project, I'm running it by you first. ;)

shadowwalker
11-19-2012, 10:36 PM
All speculation considering the email apparently didn't include the details for their decision.

Yeah, I already noted that in my earlier post. I'm just saying that a lawsuit over a public domain film would have little to no merit.

Shadow_Ferret
11-20-2012, 12:52 AM
I used to be vehemently against fanfic in any form. But the more I thought about it, I started to wonder where the line is drawn between fanfic, tribute, satires, and authorized novelizations.

Because what's the difference between Robert Jordan writing a Conan novel and some fan? What about all the Star Wars and Star Trek novels? And people have been building upon Lovecraft's Cthuhlu mythos for decades -- are those authors, some very well respected, writing fanfic?

kuwisdelu
11-20-2012, 12:55 AM
I used to be vehemently against fanfic in any form. But the more I thought about it, I started to wonder where the line is drawn between fanfic, tribute, satires, and authorized novelizations.

Because what's the difference between Robert Jordan writing a Conan novel and some fan? What about all the Star Wars and Star Trek novels? And people have been building upon Lovecraft's Cthuhlu mythos for decades -- are those authors, some very well respected, writing fanfic?

I threw it all out the window when I started hearing fans call the original creator revisiting previous work in ways they didn't like as fanfic.

bearilou
11-20-2012, 01:01 AM
Yeah, I already noted that in my earlier post. I'm just saying that a lawsuit over a public domain film would have little to no merit.

Perhaps. But still getting dragged into court to have the judge throw it out (if that is what would be the outcome, we don't know since we don't have all the pertinent information) is going to cost someone money and time. So it's not like that even though a 'case' couldn't be made, having to go through the expense of proving it could still be costly. Enough to make the organizer rethink their project and pull the plug.

Pup
11-20-2012, 01:24 AM
Well, in this particular case, there's very little chance it would get past the filing. Public domain = no case = dismissed. Costs = deductible business expense.

People often talk about deductable business expenses as if that means they're free, but it just means a company can deduct them from its income for tax purposes. If a small company is in a low tax bracket, that might reduce every $1,000 in costs to $800 in costs and it'll never reduce it below around $500. That's still going to hurt.

shadowwalker
11-20-2012, 01:54 AM
People often talk about deductable business expenses as if that means they're free, but it just means a company can deduct them from its income for tax purposes. If a small company is in a low tax bracket, that might reduce every $1,000 in costs to $800 in costs and it'll never reduce it below around $500. That's still going to hurt.

Yes, but if the suit is thrown out, they can still publish. ;)

Polenth
11-20-2012, 06:31 AM
Because what's the difference between Robert Jordan writing a Conan novel and some fan? What about all the Star Wars and Star Trek novels? And people have been building upon Lovecraft's Cthuhlu mythos for decades -- are those authors, some very well respected, writing fanfic?

Quite possibly, but does it matter? If you enjoy it, and there aren't ethical considerations (like whether it's taking money from the original creator), does the label make that much difference? A label isn't going to change how well the piece is written, how original the handling of the elements are, or whether it holds together as a work in its own right.

A lot of the online fan fiction isn't very good, but it doesn't become better if the serial numbers are filed off or it gets picked up as an official part of the franchise. The label changes, but the writing doesn't.

seun
11-20-2012, 02:27 PM
Huh.

Well, seun, your Spidey sense was right! From now on, if I ever have a squicky not-sure-about-this feeling about a writing project, I'm running it by you first. ;)

Ha. I wouldn't do that. I know diddley about jack.

Phaeal
11-20-2012, 05:54 PM
Whereas I know diddley about squat.