Sometimes I struggle for hours on topics for these entries. Other times, they fall right into my lap.* Very often, these latter kinds are instances of professional stupidity so grand, I can't NOT mention them. Such is the story of Lori Jareo.
Lori's story comes to me via Teresa Nielsen Hayden, an editor at TOR Books and one of the better SF/F industry bloggers. (Her husband Patrick shares the blog; he's nice, too.) It seems Lori, like about a billion fans before her, wrote a mediocre-to-awful piece of fan fiction. In this case, the offender is titled "Star Wars: Another Hope." Unlike many of those fans, she owned her own self-publishing company, mostly dealing in poetry, and used the company to publish the book, supposedly in order to give a few copies to friends and family.
And then she put it on Amazon.
At last count, the casualties from the onslaught of George Lucas's law-ninja included Jareo's site and the Amazon listing. Fanfiction.net is in a state of heightened alert. Google still has parts of Jareo's site cached, including this rather ridiculous fake interview that confirms that, yes, Ms. Jareo really is this dumb.
If you know me, you know I have more media tie-in work in my personal book collection than is probably healthy. Star Trek novels bridged the gap for me from juvenile to adult fiction, as a matter of fact, and I buy tie-ins to this day (although I'm at least more discriminating these days). And, truth be told, I'm more or less for fanfic in general; it's the heart-crushingly awful crap amongst it, and the attitude that such work is "just as good" as the source material, that I have trouble with. Fanfic serves its purpose, helping neophyte writers hone their craft, and, in the best cases, providing an interesting viewpoint into fictional universes that the original authors may not have been able to see. It's also good for disappointment catharsis; I wrote a reaction to the Batman crossover "War Games" that helped me deal with and move past my feelings of revulsion for that particular story. (Although then they went and did "War Crimes," and I just said to myself, "fuck it, someone has to die.")
So, me and media tie-ins are cool. Me and fanfic are, for the most part, cool (although I generally avoid it, just because it's not worth sifting through a million awful fics to find three gems; I'd rather spend that time downloading pornorgraphy, as there's a better chance of me having something to show for it when I'm done).
But, in my informal study of these genres, I've learned that there are certain rules, particularly with professional media tie-in fiction. These rules exist, more or less, to separate the two worlds. And I'm a firm believer in separation between the professional and amateur ranks. This is not because of vanity or elitism. After all, as of this writing, I fit squarely into category two. Furthermore, this separation, in my mind, casts no aspersions as to quality. I hardly need to remind you of the stunning levels of absolute shite that passes for professional writing, in all genres.*
The rules for media tie-in fic boil down, really, to three:
1. Be good.
2. Go through the proper channels.
3. Rule 1 is negotiable; Rule 2 is not.
These rules are necessary to protect the integrity of media tie-in fiction and fanfic alike. Copyright law as it stands pretty much demands that there be a difference between licensed MTI work and unlicensed, and, most importantly, that the latter is not monetarily compensated. Lucas has gone on record saying that fanfic is fine with him, as long as no one's selling it for profit. (This, one would presume, exonerates independent fanzines that publish fanfic, which have print runs in the double digits and, to my knowledge, have never shown profit.) Simply put, as long as no one writes, publishes, and prints Star Wars books unless Lucas says they can, everyone's OK.
Which is why Ms. Jareo's dumbassery is so glaring, as it might ruin it for everybody. Leaving aside her violation of Rule 1 (along with Rule 1 of writing, period, which is "Never gauge the quality of your work by how much your family likes it"), her decision to take a steaming dump all over Rule 2 is, as an Amazon reviewer put it, "Weapons Grade Stupidity." You want to write a fanfic about what would have happened if Luke and Leia's older cousins had to save the galaxy instead? Go right ahead. You want print up a few copies for friends and family? Sketchy, and it's probably not smart to use your own publishing company, if only for the fact that no writer should be her own editor. But to put it on Amazon.com, not only where Lucas's lawyers can find it, but where you charge money for it? What the hell were you thinking?
By the way, the Amazon posting pretty much rules out the whole "friends and family" excuse. I know if I wrote something meant only for view by my friends and family, I sure as shit wouldn't charge them for it! "Hey, Mom, I wrote this story where Mary Jane Watson becomes a Green Lantern!*** Gimme $10, and you can read it!" Even I'm not that big an asshole.
One can't help but wonder if Jareo is even aware of the existing MTI line of Star Wars books, published by Del Rey, or comics, by Dark Horse. She certainly doesn't mention them in her defense of her idiocy. She does use the word "Infinities" to refer to What If? style stories, but is apparently unaware that the name derives from a series of comics by that name. (They're pretty good, too; I recommend picking them up, and look forward to a line of prequel Infinities.) Which makes her boundless egotism all the more ridiculous. People like Tim Zahn, Dave Wolverton, and Matt Stover have made livings, or at least part of their livings, at this for around 15 years now, but screw the work that went into making that happen, because this homemade printing press abortion needs to be seen by the world.
That's another thing: People spend time and money deciding what is and isn't worth publishing professionally. Even if they make missteps, they still put in the hours, and that alone should be respected. So this kind of end-runs sticks in my craw for that reason as well. As I note above, It's A Real Job, not some silly egotistical broad's hobby.
I'm ranting now, so I'll sum up: If any idiot can violate copyright and publish a bad MTI story, it dilutes the work of the people who went to the trouble of writing, editing, and publishing the stuff that's actually good enough to read, and makes it not worth doing financially, and media tie-ins go away. And, if Lucas has to crack down on one fanfic writer, he has to crack down on all of them, and fanfic goes away. Either way, a lot of good people lose.
Plus, the bitch stole my fake interview bit.
*Of course, then they usually require me spending several hours of online research into the matter so I don't look like an utter 'tard, and I end up posting the entry late anyway, because I can't get that research done any later than Saturday. But, such is blog.
**But, because I'm an asshole, I will do just a little bit of reminding, for fun's sake: Laurel K. Hamilton.
***I actually have written this one, or at least a full outline and a few chapters, here and there. I may post them at some point, for the hell of it.