Taking It Personally – When Does Fiction Become Public Domain?

Hi everyone!

In about 24 hours, the movie millions have been waiting for, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released!  In and of itself, the release of a new Star Wars in theaters is exhilarating, and given that it is the continuation of the story from the Original Trilogy, nerds everywhere (myself included) are ecstatic!

More so because George Lucas has no involvement in its creation!  ….wait, that seriously excites everyone?  The very man who invented Star Wars.  Who created the characters that has inspired generations, and invented the concept of the Force.

obi-wan_kenobi-confused

But let’s face it, over the past 20 years, in the eyes of countless fans, Lucas has slowly dismantled Star Wars and turned it into something that old-school fans despise.  I’m not one of them, mind you – I don’t love the prequels, but I don’t hate them either.  And I actually like most (but not all) of the changes he made to the Special Editions of the Original Trilogy.

Never-the-less, the fire Lucas has received has been incredibly harsh, so much so that he has been quoted recently as avoiding the internet altogether in order to avoid reading the criticism against him.

Which brings me to the point of this article…

A New Era – Fans Taking It Personally

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about how Star Trek and Star Wars seem to build upon each other’s successes.  But they seem to be linked in another way as well – the fans react quite vehemently when something is entered into the fictional canon that they don’t like.

The Jar Jar of Star Trek? (Note: I actually like Neelix :) )
The Jar Jar of Star Trek? (Note: I actually like Neelix :) )

I still can recall discussions in fan forums back during the DS9 and especially during the Voyager and Enterprise era of Trek where fans were flat out blaming Brannon Braga for ‘destroying Trek and everything it stood for.’  They were taking it personally, and with each new series, the open hatred towards the producers grew worse.

The same thing has happened with Lucas…but it hasn’t stopped there.  No, not by a long shot.  In fact, if anything, this trend of being offended by aspects of their fandom that they don’t like has only grown worse.

Remember when Daniel Craig was announced as the new James Bond for Casino Royale?  Fan and media reactions were both very harsh.  Many people criticized him as being not handsome enough, not tall enough, and any number of other criticisms.  In fact there’s still a website online, http://www.danielcraigisnotbond.com dedicated to making sure everyone knows that Craig is not a suitable Bond.

roger-mooreIn reading up on this history recently, I learned that former Bond star, Roger Moore, had a few words to say about this.  While I cannot seem to find that article again, and so cannot directly quote Moore, I recall that he was surprised by the negative reaction to Craig.  He commented how 30 years ago, no one would have reacted to such a different direction for Bond, or any other franchise for that matter.

And then there’s Mass Effect 3.  The ending of this phenomenal trilogy of video games, with such an incredibly in-depth story and amazing characters, was considered to be one of the greatest let downs in the history of video games.

In fact, it was so bad that a law suit was filed against EA via the FTC, claiming that EA was guilty of false advertising.  Reactions were so bad that EA actually released a free DLC for Mass Effect 3 that revamped the ending, adding more choices, and created a somewhat better final experience for the game.

mass-effect-3-ending

Does Fiction Belong to the Fans?

From the looks of things (and based on fan reactions to The Hobbit movie trilogy) this trend is only growing.  So as a writer, this raises a very serious question: does fiction belong to the fans?  At what point does our creative work no longer belong to us?  Should I cater to the desires (or even demands) of fans for where I take my stories?

To my fellow writers out there, I’m willing to bet most of you are going to immediately say “No!!!  Never change your artistic direction to sate fans!  Nor should you do so for commercial reasons!”  I’ve heard this stance over and over throughout my entire life, especially in college, the domain of “Literary” fiction.

But you know what?  Fans matter.  Here, let me repeat that.

Fans Matters.

This has been my stance from day one of this blog, and goes back much, much further than that.  It has always been my greatest desire to connect to readers, to engage with them, to hear their thoughts and desires and opinions about my works.

Is this me selling out?  I don’t think so.  No matter what, my stories will always be the product of my creative vision.  But I also have an active and adaptive imagination.

I’ve also put this into practice.  My old fan fiction, Star Trek Dragon, is the perfect example.  I had this amazing idea to do a crossover between Star Trek and Star Wars.  The setting was perfect, because the USS Dragon was already lost in a galaxy ‘far, far away.’  And my idea was to make it a permanent crossover.

episode-28

It was not well received.  In fact, it is safe to say that the episode titles “A Long Time Ago” is the most disliked episode of STDragon.  So at the end of Season 3, I dropped that crossover…mostly.  And took STDragon in a very different direction from what I had originally planned.

 

And it turned out better.  So much better.

mitchell-sg1This is not to say writers should cater to every whim of the fans.  Do NOT try to please everyone, because that is impossible, and you’ll only drive yourself crazy.  And do not abandon your original creative endeavor.  The original story is still your creation.

All I am saying is don’t ignore them.  And what ever you do, do not ever think of your readers as simple-minded, as stupid, or as crazy.  The majority of readers are intelligent, sensitive individuals who enjoy quality entertainment (yes, I borrowed that quote from the 200th episode of Stargate SG-1.)

I’ve Digressed – Who Owns Fiction?

This is a question I asked my friend Wayne today.  Who owns fiction?  At what point does a fictional body become the domain of the public?

After discussing it with him and thinking further on it, I’ve come to the opinion that it is both, the moment it is released ‘into the wild.’  It is still the creator’s work, and they still will be the ones to guide it into the future.  But it also belongs to the public.  You’ve inspired them.  You’ve engaged their imagination, made them think.

And do not underestimate the impact you’ve had on readers.  If they react strongly to something you’ve written, it means you have succeeded in making them fall in love with your work.  That’s something amazing, and not to be ignored.

Not to mention, collaboration between creators and fans can result in an amazing product.  Look into Star Citizen for a perfect example :)

What do you all think?  This is a pretty heavy and hot topic, and I have no doubt that opinions will vary widely on it.  Please comment below!!  (But please keep it civil!)

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

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