Recently, Amazon, the world’s leading online retailer, announced a plan that can potentially change the publishing world forever.
Called “Kindle Worlds”, this new form of indie-publishing would allow the everyday fan to take already established characters and stories from books, television and comics and put their own spin on them, also called “fan-fiction”. In return, the fan makes some money and Amazon takes a percentage of every sale and creates the opportunity to find the next E.L. James, writer of the phenomenally successful “50 Shades of Grey”, her own “fan-fiction” based on the, also, immensely popular “Twilight” novels by Stephanie Meyer.
So far, Amazon has secured the licenses for three properties: “Gossip Girl,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Vampire Diaries.” All three of which are owned by Warner Bros. Television.
These shows have the added benefit of an established fan base who craves more tales about their favorite characters than 8 or 12 episodes a year television show can satisfy.
The involvement of Warner Brothers, who also owns DC Entertainment, has fueled speculation in the comic book community that, perhaps, one day the “Fan-boys” will be able to write their own stories based on their favorite’s super-heroes, such as, “Batman”, “Superman” and countless others.
Though a start-up date has yet to be announced by Amazon for “Kindle Worlds”, the implications of this type of publishing are as ground-breaking as they are worrisome.
Kept in the closet of the internet for many years, fan-fiction has been praised by those who write it as a means to an end and vilified by those who see it as an infringement of their creative and intellectual property.
Anne Rice, author of over 30 novels, including “The Vampire Chronicles” and “The Lives of the Mayfair Witches”, whose new book, “The Wolves of Mid-Winter”, is a follow-up to “The Wolf Gift”, her first foray into werewolf lore, has long been a staunch opponent of fan-fiction.
Here are some of her thoughts on the subject:
“I can’t license anyone to write about or with my characters. They are copyrighted, and I don’t want to share that copyright with others. Period. It disturbs me to even think about it happening, some one writing a story with Lestat, or the Mayfair family. But I have found it entirely simply to ignore it over the years. —-
Amazon has obtained legal licenses from several writers in order to publish fan fiction. So they have gone about it in a legal and proper way.
I think young aspiring writers do best for themselves when they create their own stories, their own characters, and their own voice. If fan fiction has been a good exercise for some of them fine, but I do hope they move on to an affirmation of their own vision.”
According to the “New York Times”, “Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to both the rights holder of the original work and the authors of the new works. The standard royalty rate for authors will be 35 percent of the net revenue for works of at least 10,000 words, and 20 percent for short stories of 5,000 to 10,000 words. The remaining profits will be split between Amazon and the rights holder in terms that the company has not disclosed.”
As a writer, the idea of someone adding to characters and stories that I creatively gave birth to is as appalling as someone telling my child to do something other than what I told them to do. However, as someone who has also spent hours and hours bemoaning the lack of ideas in my head and wondering what would happen if “Batman” had killed the “Joker”, down to every detail, I can also see the attraction.
Also, when does intellectual or creative property end? Does it die with the creator, leaving new and old fans to wonder what might have been? Or, as in the case of “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, and “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, do we allow others to carry on those legacies?
I’m not sure what to think. However, I am a huge fan of Gregory Maguire and his “Wicked” series of books based on L. Frank Baum’s original “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. But, for anyone who has ever read those books, can they really be considered fan-fiction or a great re-telling of a wonderful story that will never be looked at the same way, once read?
Whatever your opinion of fan-fiction, it looks like, with Amazon’s help, it’s no longer the play-ground for fans of every genre to share their sexual fantasies about Kirk and Spock. Now, we might finally and for once and all find out what happened to Ana and Christian Grey’s sex life, after marriage and a couple of kids and no secret room.