Fan Fiction is a very controversial issue in the book industry at the moment. Fan fiction is where fans of a book or series write their own stories set in that universe. This is something that has been going on forever. I’m sure many people out there wrote their own Famous Five stories or Superman adventures or version of their favourite book. I can remember trying to write my own version of Roald Dahl stories when I was a kid. The difference of course now is the internet and fan fiction stories are being published for everyone to read and some authors are making money from their fan fiction.
Two high-profile authors used it to launch their careers, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey evolved directly out of Twilight fan fiction she wrote. Cassandra Claire, author of the Mortal Instruments series, wrote Harry Potter fan fiction that she published online but has taken it all down since publishing her own series of books (which have no similarity to Harry Potter in any way).
Some high-profile authors like George R.R. Martin and Diana Gabaldon believe fan fiction is morally and legally wrong and have spoken out against it.
Where does plagiarism begin and fandom end?
Can an author legitimately use characters from other literature?
Jasper Fforde has a series about a literary detective who travels in and out of the classics such as Jane Eyre. Is that fan fiction or postmodern fiction? And what about all the Pride & Prejudice sequels?
Most stories are derivative in one way or another. From Stars Wars to Harry Potter new stories can’t help being influenced by the stories that preceded them. This is famously demonstrated by The Hero’s Journey or Monomyth which shows that there is a basic pattern found in many narratives around the world.
But Fan Fiction does cross a line. Fan Fiction takes characters and worlds that another writer has imagined and created. I think if fans want to write their own stories and share them with their friends, that is all part of loving a great book or series. But to turn that fan fiction into something that is sold, then I think you entering the world of plagiarism and you aren’t just borrowing someone else’s idea, you are stealing it.