My favourite new word is usufruct. As well as being funny to look at, it means "The right to use and enjoy another's property without destroying it. " It's a legal term usually applied in terms of land.
To me, it also defines what fan fiction is.
(This post began as a thorn on the side of the previous post. I figured that it was too much of a tangent, though, and detached it so that instead of a thorn it might be a...I don't know, a pointy thing with an independent nature of its own.)
The discussion here is going to be simply "Is fan fiction wrong?" Is it really possible to "use another's property" without "destroying it"? As someone who writes the stuff in most of my available free time, I basically have to say that it is. But what of the question of copyright? Aren't derivative works infringing on another author's ideas?
What about the numerous spinoffs of things like The Wizard of Oz? In this case, the text and world are in the public domain because the text is of a certain age or, as Cracked.com said, the author has died of the plague.
For me, the moral issue is usually bypassed. Do I think George Lucas might be miffed that I'm using his world? Maybe. But I'm having fun. I'm not making money either, although yes I would very much like to. Nor am I overstepping his strict content boundaries.
What it comes down to for me is whether I would mind if someone wrote fanfic based on my work.
I'm not sure. I know I would want that work to adhere to my own moral standards. Let's clear something up here. I'm not for bowdlerization. I'm for morality, but I don't go around telling people they can't do things either. (At least, I don't any more.)
Now, I haven't heard of anyone else who holds this opinion, but it's alway been my unspoken assumption that fan fiction should hold exactly to the moral standards of the canon that it is based on. Meaning, since you don't often see blood in Star Wars, you shouldn't often see it in Star Wars fan fiction. Since you see blood relatively often in Halo, it's fine to see it in the fanfic as well. Same goes for the level of nudity etc. in whatever fandom you're writing for. Keep it to the original; that way, you're not overstepping the bounds the author created. Those bounds exist in terms of morality as much as they do in terms of other kinds of content. For example, excessive gore in the Zoids universe is, in my opinion, just as strange as excessive Jedi in the Zoids universe.
The argument can be made that canons like Halo, Mass Effect, and Harry Potter do not have moral standards because they exist in an alternate or future version of the real universe, which does not itself have a moral standard.
Star Wars, however, is different in many ways, one of which that it takes steps to distance itself from the real world. "A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" is the analog to the fairy tale beginning "once upon a time". It really means that there are no physical or temporal connections between that universe and ours. The Expanded Universe reinforces this by making up as many thinly-veiled ripoffs of real analogies as possible. George Lucas does this by insisting that all of the EU follow his moral standard. And you know what? I'm okay with that. The derivative material, regardless of whether it is authorized or not, should be on the same moral level as the original.
So, assuming that the moral stuff in terms of content is out of the way, would I mind if someone made money off of my ideas? Again, the instant first response is I have purchased unlicensed fan art. Therefore I have to say no. But regardless of that?
I'm not sure. I'm not in a position to react to that. But my immediate response is this:
Not if I had a work popular enough that there was a huge, money-generating fandom around it. Mostly, I want to be remembered. And fandom guarantees that. It is memory in action. It is inspiration in action, ideas that you can watch being transferred from one mind to another, and changed to fit that mind and what it alights on-- fandom is a tracking system for how writers think.
This is one of the reasons why I love it.
If the canon is a piece of land, we the writers are just using it according to usufruct -- not possessing, just using without destroying.