Fan fiction is something of a murky world and treads a difficult line. The author automatically owns the copyright of a work, and publishing anything which purports to be related to it breaches that copyright. I could not write another book in the Harry Potter series, for example, because JK Rowling owns the copyright to Harry, Hogwarts and even the word "Muggles". And if you're thinking that you've seen a lot of Jane Austen inspired works (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for example) that's because Jane Austen's copyright has expired.
These days "publish" is a relative term. When I finish writing this blog I will click a button labelled "publish", and anyone copying and pasting this very same blog under their own name has breached my copyright. So when fan fiction is uploaded to a website, is it breaching the author's copyright? And with so much of it around, is there anything the author can do about it?
As a published author myself, I tried to think how I would feel to be the "victim" of fan fiction. How would I react if strangers took my stories in directions I had not planned for them to go, or had characters I created say things I never intended them to say? And I'm something of a pedant; how would I feel to have a sequel to Easterfield published online and discover it to be full of incorrect apostrophes, spelling mistakes and poor use of language?
Are you kidding? I'd love it!
- I'd love knowing that someone has enjoyed my book so much that they can't bear for it to have ended.
- I love knowing that I had inspired someone to write, or to improve their writing ability or style.
- I'd love seeing the extra publicity (and thus sales) that fan's devotion was likely to bring me as they proclaim and disseminate their appreciation for my books.
- I'd love reading what they've written to see what extra insights it gives me into how my readers perceive my books, and I might even get a few ideas for sequels myself.
I'm planning to add a page to my website which will have some of the short fan-fiction stories I write. And one day I really hope I can also post stories which fans have written based on my books. I think then I will really know I've achieved something worthwhile.