Amazon Worlds – A Step Forwards For Fan Fiction?

by LimebirdCat

The world of fan fiction has been thrown a new bone in the onward slog to be recognised as perhaps more than a niche writing underworld.

Amazon Worlds, available only to the US for now, has been something of a breakthrough for those of us who love reading and writing fan fiction.

PD James’ ‘Death Comes To Pemberley’ is, in my mind, fan fiction at its absolute most public and accepted. Because it is written by a well-known author of some repute, it is easy to forget that what you’re reading is, in fact, fan fiction. So why not extend that in some way to more but unrecognised writers?

The definition of fan fiction, for me, is essentially taking a story someone else wrote before you, acknowledging that fact and taking the story and the characters further and in different directions. The ideas you come up with are also uniquely yours and in my opinion, just as laudable.

If you’re writing in one of my favourite areas for example, The Phantom of the Opera and you send the Phantom on a beach holiday in Benidorm for two weeks – that is your idea and your property (although of course, any bits the Leroux came up with still absolutely belong to him). It wouldn’t have occurred to Gaston Leroux to send his character there, I’m rather certain. Therefore, you are lending your own original input and your own legitimacy as a writer to an established story.

I suppose it’s like turning up to a party and bringing some beer or food. It isn’t your party, you didn’t create it or arrange it, but what you’ve brought to the table is still absolutely yours and recognition is still due.

It doesn’t make you less of a writer because you did not pluck these characters or plots from mid-air like the original author, it means that you have just as much of a valid imagination as they do and have the capacity to engage imaginatively.

Having your talent and work recognised by something as big as Amazon is a healthy step forwards in my view. You don’t have to be terrified about infringing on copyright as they’ve started brokering deals with companies as big as Warner Bros so you can publish away, earn some profit yourself and be able to share with the world what you’ve done with these characters.

Of course, it’s not for free and there are catches. You only get a proportion of the sale (which is normal practice anyway for publishing) and Amazon will take the global publication rights to your work.

However, the trade-off is that you get to have your work published online by a well-known brand and your work is subsequently offered a more public platform to be shared.

Personally, I don’t think Amazon Worlds is about to rock my world any time soon. It has only secured the rights to a few shows and is in its mere infancy. Sites like fanfiction.net that have led the way in publishing online fan fiction and will continue for me to be the place to go and get your fix of fan ficcery and for  free, as well as the ability to engage constructively with the author.

It has a long way to go, but it’s an improvement on things. I’ve often found through my work in coaching new writers, that fan fiction can be very helpful in getting people into writing. This opportunity presented by Amazon Worlds may just add to that all important confidence boost that so many new writers need and help them on the way to creating and ultimately publishing original works.

Those of us who have been writing for a while and have published, will find it to be, no doubt, another open door to getting work out there.

What are your thoughts on this?

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13 Responses to “Amazon Worlds – A Step Forwards For Fan Fiction?”

  1. Hmm, I hadn’t heard of this before today, I think I’ll look into it a bit more. I do enjoy fan fiction, so will be interested to see where they go with this. Interesting post Miss Cat! 🙂 B

  2. Hmmm, I tried to write some once about the Firefly series. It was really cool in a way, having the character and all of her flaws already thought out in advance. All I had to do was make sure she stayed true to the character I’d seen on tv…
    I guess that’s the main thing, isn’t it? I would really want it to conform to the original character traits, etc., or it wouldn’t seem authentic. It would feel like I had been cheated.
    As for availability ~ Amazon adding an area for fan fiction is kind of like the Olympics. They’re adding all kinds of new things as qualifying sports all the time. It’s a matter of opinion, right? Some of them actually qualify in my head, and some of them I just can’t believe they made an Olympic sport out of it! (Fan fiction would qualify!)

  3. An interesting article.

    I’m not sure that the Amazon move is really needed, one can publish individual stories as e-books on Amazon (and in a non-exclusive way) and I guess that you can still tag it as fan fiction (although there may be problems with the copyright holder, which may be why the Amazon deal is needed…) Also, as you say, there are already sites such as fanfiction.net

    I’ll keep an eye on developments…

    You may be interested in reading my short story Mechanicals in the Midsummer Wood which is in the collection I published last year. A pdf of the story can be downloaded at http://dennislanebooks.com/#/short-stories/4544651062 I think that it would probably count as fan fiction as it is a mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sherlock Holmes [although I substituted Holmes and Watson with Joseph Bell (the inspiration for Holmes) and Arthur Conan Doyle (the author)].

    • I personally think the move is a good thing… just because fan ficcers are handcuffed by copyright in a way no other genre writer is. It’s been seen as a back alley fiction group for a long time because formal publication can easily mean copyright infringement, unless the work is in the public domain and free from that. Amazon has put its legal weight behind FF to get it licensed, meaning the writers no longer have to be terrified of copyright (the amount of copyright warnings you have to get through at the beginning of a story from terrified writers, before getting to the actual writing, is a long known issue for frequent readers and writers). Here, I feel we’ve begun to remove the legality as a worry and opened the door for writers in a way not seen before – let’s hope that door keeps on getting wider!

  4. Interesting. I think at the very least, Amazon getting behind it in some way gives it some credibility, or it might make people who had previously discounted fan fiction to give it a second look. I think the term ‘fan fiction’ doesn’t do itself any favours really, it makes it sound very much peripheral and lightweight, rather than something to be admired and recognised in its own right. It’s the word ‘fan’ that’s the problem I think! If it was called something like ‘adaptive fiction’ it might command a bit more respect. Anyway, a good move by Amazon I say.

  5. Fan fiction? I’ve had no idea of this term. Are Scarlett (can’t remember author) and The Phantom of Manhattan (Frederick Forsyth) considered to be such? They are sequels and I found the main characters true to the originals.

    • They are indeed forms of fan fiction! As are other published works like PD James’ “Death Comes To Pemberly” which is a sequel to ‘Pride and Prejudice’. There is quite a bit of more ‘formal’ fan fiction out there and we tend not to notice it sometimes because it’s been published in paperback. It still abides by the same simple premise in that another author has taken someone elses ideas and reworked them a bit into a new original work.

  6. I hadn’t heard about this. It seems kind of strange to separate this out as a completely different genre. But if we do want to give it a name, how about calling it “intertextuality” to make it sound ever-so-official. Although I like the term adaptive, in the U.S. this can refer to activities that are adapted to individuals with various types of disabilities, and I don’t think you want this genre to be considered as having limitations. Just think of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, for example, a brilliant book.

  7. Nice article, Cat! I, too, enjoy my fan fiction (I still write it; it’s a great joy for me to continue the stories of characters from Doctor Who or Borderlands in a way that relates specifically to me), and I think Amazon putting its massive global weight behind it is potentially a good thing. Many property owners encourage – or, at least, don’t discourage – the continuation of their characters and universe beyond what was represented in the canon story. I believe the original “Star Trek” folks, for example, saw the proliferation of fan fiction as a good thing, a way to keep the universe alive. Most fan authors that I’ve known have no misconception that they are using someone else’s work and taking it in a new direction. They’re not looking to infringe, just to express their own unique joy for that world and those people.

    I’m curious to take a look at what Amazon’s offering, even though I, too, will likely keep my head down over at FanFiction.Net for a long time, yet. 🙂

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