Fanfiction, or Blatant Thievery

Fanfiction has always been sort of a sore subject with me. I don't particularly like it, for a few reasons:

1. It's usually poorly written and has absolutely nothing to do with the actual story;
2. Often the author inserts him/herself into the story and saves the day, which is ridiculous;
3. I think of it as a form of literary stealing - plagiarism of a sort.

While not outright stealing lines from parent books (sometimes yes but a lot of the time no), fanfiction writers take characters with already developed backgrounds, worlds that have already been created and the details already fleshed out by the original authors, and turn them into something they may or may not in fact be. This, to me, is not the "right" way to go about writing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through the free e-books on Goodreads and came across trio of books with a titles that intrigued me. They were about a boy named James Potter. Ring any bells? It did to me too, but I didn't make the connection at first. I thought that maybe, just maybe, this might be a coincidence. And since they weren't by JK Rowling, I thought it must be something else. I downloaded all three, and delved into book #1: James Potter and the Hall of Elders Crossing. I soon realized that my first instinct had been right - this was about James Potter, Harry Potter's son.

I looked at it in disgust. But I was also drawn to them. In truth, I had been thinking a lot about Harry Potter since the last movie comes out so soon and I finished a re-read of the books earlier this year. I read the disclaimer that this was not a JKR work and none of the characters belong to the author as they are all protected under copyright. And yet, here I was, staring at and reading a novel-length (400+ pages) fanfiction about Harry Potter's son. And others had read it too, and given it five out of five stars!

What did I do? I read it. I read the whole damn thing. I felt like a traitor, a criminal, and I felt exhilarated. I was reading new Harry Potter! I was reading new Harry Potter :( I swore when I finished it I wasn't going to read the next one. It felt dirty to me. I was betraying JKR and my beloved hardcovers of my beloved Harry Potter books. They would know the next time I picked them up that I had cheated on them.

But the book was good.

It wasn't perfect, obviously. No one's spent as much time in the head and life of Harry Potter and accomplices as JKR has, not even the most devoted of muggles. There were a lot of glaring errors, and a lot of things that didn't make sense. But I have to admit, the author did a lot right. His style wasn't on par with JKR's, but hers wasn't exactly golden prose either. But the story was interesting, and the more I read the more I wanted to read.

What the heck happened to me?!

Anyway, I finished it, marked it on Goodreads, and said in my review that it was good but I wasn't continuing the series. Then I moved on to something else, which I enjoyed immensely. If you ever want to see where some of Burroughs' ideas come from in his Barsoom books, read The War of the Worlds. I swear he must have read and been influenced by it!

Yesterday I found myself visiting the page for the second book. I argued with myself for a little while, calling myself a cheater and an endorser of forgery, but in the end my bad side won out. I downloaded book #2. It's so wrong in every way, it almost makes itself ridiculous. But it's good!

There's something wrong in my head, I know it!

I'm almost finished with it and the whole way through I've been telling myself this book is so wrong. Even the editorial in the beginning telling people that if they are sticklers for details they shouldn't read it has put me off. It's not the Harry Potter world at all, it's some shit going down in the world he lived in that doesn't make much sense in the grand scheme of things. The fact that he inserted JKR into the story as a pretty pathetic wizard literature professor who wrote the HP novels to see how muggles would react reeks of arrogance. It hit me: the guy is a dick! But I can't stop reading it!

The one thing that resonates in my mind while I'm reading this series is: If the writer has such a good imagination, and can craft such a great read, why then can't he do it with his own characters? Why must he steal someone else's hard work? If he's willing to write a 400+ page novel, and then turn it into a three-part (so far) series, why not work that hard on his own characters, on his own worlds? Is he lazy? Does he think he can do better than JKR did? Is he so obsessed with James Potter that it's all he can think about? I don't quite get it.

Until I can figure it out, don't mind the reader over here who's buried helplessly in the fanfiction. I can't believe I'm reading this...


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