At the recent SF meet in Birmingham, I tried talking about… well, I’m not sure exactly what I wanted to discuss. The difference between ‘Fanfic’ (bad) and ‘Fan-made’ (good) perhaps. It was pointed out that it’s ‘Fanfic’ (good) and ‘Fan-wank’ (bad) (thanks to Simon for that one). However, labelling it doesn’t reveal the difference that’s bugging me.
You see, I read a couple of articles (thanks to David for finding them again) suggesting that Doctor Who and Sherlock were fanfic. (See http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/01/sherlock-and-adventure-overzealous-fanbase and http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2014/jan/03/sherlock-doctor-who-fans-influencing-tv – both including Stephen Moffat as writer.)
That Doctor Who episode when the Doctor recruits all his past companions to fight off Davros and the Daleks is just the sort of thing that a seven-year-old (or, to paraphrase, what’s the point of being grown up if you can’t be childish, and make up stories that would thrill you as a seven-year-old) would come up with. Now Moffat (Gattis, Abrams, Lucas, etc) are in that situation where they can, so they do. Moffat can write, any episode of Coupling proves that, Blink is a work of genius, etc, etc, but maybe he cannot resist the excited yapping voice of his inner seven-year-old… and that’s probably why I shouldn’t be allowed to write my planned sequel to The Trial of a Timelord (just to sort out a couple of issues, you understand).
But, I’m comparing this with some fan-made Star Trek, that seem to ‘get’ Star Trek more than Paramount do. The recent Star Trek reboots kind of illustrate this. Simon Pegg, who was writing Star Trek Beyond, III in the series, had issues I believe with Paramount wanting to remove all that Trekkie stuff. (“I think the studio was worried that it might have been a little bit too Star Trek-y.” – Simon Pegg.) If you are worried about making something that’s too Star Trey-y, then don’t make Star Trek. They are failing to realise their own USP.
Star Wars is another one. The original trilogy, IV to VI, was marvellous, and then George Lucas somehow didn’t ‘get’ his own series and made the prequels, I to III, that weren’t ‘Star Wars’. (Cue clip of Simon Pegg burning all his Star Wars memorabilia in Spaced.) The Force Awakens, episode VII, felt like Star Wars. (It’s only afterwards, upon reflection, that some problems became apparent.) The upcoming Star Wars Rogue One really feels like fanfic: “oooh, oooh, I’ve a theory about how the rebels got the plans in the first place.” We’ve ‘Han Solo, the Early Years’ appearing, which again has running through it like seaside rock the word ‘fanfic’.
Ridley Scott failed to understand his own Alien when he made the appalling Prometheus. Coming soon, Blade Runner II, which fills me with fear and dread.
The advice is always to write what you want to read: so writers have to be fans of their own material, surely, but then isn’t everything just fanfic?