Hugh Howey. Chances are, you’ve heard of him, he’s been in the news a lot lately.
Howey is the latest self-publishing success story. His self-published science fiction series, Wool, was so popular it allowed Howey to dictate the terms of a major print deal, a deal that allowed him to keep the digital rights for himself. In other words, he’s managed to keep his cake, and eat it, too.
(He’s also the latest author to run afoul of Little Brother, having written a blog post at the beginning of April that showed, at the very least, poor humor and even worse judgment. It has since been taken down and apologized for—twice—but it’s out there if you choose to look. And, yeah, after telling you all to beware of Little Brother, this is me playing Little Brother. The irony is not lost)
He’s also taken an unusual position regarding fan fiction. From an interview with blogger/author, Patrice Fitzgerald:
“When readers got in touch to ask about fan fiction, I not only gave my blessing, I insisted that they charge for the work. Even if it’s just a dollar…I’m making enough money. It warms my heart to see Ben Adams selling Wool prints and keeping 100% of the profit. The same goes for fan fiction.”
I’m not sure how I feel about this. As a writer, my mind balks at two points. First, the idea of piggybacking to such an extent on the work of others. It just feels wrong. I’m not saying it is wrong, and I’ve done it myself (of course, I was like ten years old), but there comes a point where it seems you should just break away and do it on your own. If you can come up with a good plot and proper dialogue and all that, you can come up with all the elements to make a good, original story. Go for it!
|“Don’t even think about touching my stuff!”|
The second point is the more irrational one. It’s that possessive streak I have. I would be flattered that someone might be so inspired by my work that they create a spin-off or extension of it. But there’s also a fierce beast inside that would want to stand guard over it. “Leave it alone,” that beast snarls when someone gets too close. “It’s mine. MINE!” And when you add money into the equation, it gets worse.
The fact is, once something’s published, it’s out of our hands. People are going to do whatever they want with it. And if they want to put two characters together who would never in a million years get together, or write a pre-story story, or write about what comes next, or ten years later, or transport them to Moonbase Alpha, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
Is there a danger to it? Can fan fiction hurt the author? Is Howey potentially shooting himself in the foot by encouraging this level of fan fiction, or is he a genius for extending the life of his series? I guess time will tell.
What do you all think?
Photo by Princes Milady