Derivative Fiction and Media Tie-ins

I wrote an earlier post about how fan fiction can’t get respect. However, this is only true of so-called amateur fiction written by unpublished writers. Once the work is professionally published, it gains instant respect. These works are considered either derivative fiction or media tie-ins.

For example, “The Green Blade” is a 15-chapter novel that resides in a fan fiction archive. “The House of Silk” is a novel published by Mulholland Books. Both are well-regarded stories about Sherlock Holmes, but only one is considered legitimate.

So, am I saying the only difference between fan fiction and derivative fiction is a publishing contract? Not exactly. Authors of derivative fiction and media tie-ins are usually skilled writers well enough established in their craft to be offered contracts by publishers. With the contract comes a professional editor to help polish their prose. Fan fiction writers may have a couple of beta readers, but those are usually fellow fans who aren’t real picky about incorrect comma usage.

You may wonder what the difference is between derivative fiction and media tie-ins, so let’s discuss that.

Derivative fiction is based on another piece of fiction. There’s a lot of it out there, some of it famous and critically acclaimed. Much of it comes from works that have passed into the public domain. For example, Jane Austen has become the darling of Chick Lit, as well as horror and mysteries. Novels based on her works include “Austenland,” “The Phantom of Pemberley,” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

Dracula is another good example of a derivative fiction subgenre. Bram Stoker’s version of the Count, who was actually a prince, has inspired numerous spin-offs, including “Dracula, My Love,” “The Historian,” and “Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula.”

Other authors whose work has become the subject of derivative fiction include L. Frank Baum, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, J. M. Barrie, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare.

Media tie-ins are novels and stories based on TV shows, movies and video games. This can be a novel based on a movie, as opposed to the other way around. Often, this is a shared world scenario, where authors spin-off from the original show. The original creators have tight control over this form of derived fiction and there is usually a bible and guidelines for a selected author to work from.

Media tie-ins have been created for “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Doctor Who,” “CSI,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “World of Warcraft,” and “Dungeons & Dragons.” It is a very successful and profitable genre, yet the authors don’t get a lot of respect, perhaps because they are writing what amounts to sanctioned fan fiction. For more information about the genre and the work it takes to write these novels, check out The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

In the end, the author of a serious literary novel based on “Hamlet” does not have the high ground over the author of a novel tied in to the TV series, “Supernatural.” Both are derivative and it’s possible the “Supernatural” novel is the better story. Neither should look down on fan fiction writers since they are often beginners learning their craft. We’ve all been there. Even if your first efforts weren’t fan fiction, chances are these were based on something you’d previously seen or read.

Interested in reading the original classics? Many are available in a variety of eBook formats for free on the Project Gutenberg website. Below, I have listed several Jane Austen spin-offs, free-for-now for the Kindle on Amazon.

  Charlotte ~ Pride and Prejudice Continues by Karen Aminadra
When Charlotte Lucas married Mr Collins, she did not love him but had at least secured her future. However, what price must she pay for that future? She once said she was not romantic, but how true is that now after almost one year of marriage? Mr Collins is submissive in the extreme to his patroness, and his constant simpering, fawning and deference to the overbearing and manipulative Lady Catherine de Bourgh is sure to try the patience of a saint, or at least of Charlotte.

  Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott
Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy’s fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana’s domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana’s fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart–and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.

  So Into You (The Jane Austen Academy Series) by Cecilia Gray
Sweet and sensible Ellie hasn’t met a problem her mom’s yoga mantras can’t fix. But when Ellie’s parents threaten to pull her from the Academy just as her flirtation with the cutest boy in school heats up, will Ellie be able to keep her cool?

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Sherlockian

Sherlockian, also known as Sherlockiana and Doyle Pastiche, is a genre of derivative fiction based on the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is a wildly popular character, capturing the imagination of readers like few others. Dracula may be the only rival to Sherlock’s claim as king of derivative fiction.

The Sherlockian genre has spawned numerous books, short stories, graphic novels, movies, TV series, and even musicals. Currently, the genre enjoys immense popularity as a movie franchise starring Robert Downey, Jr. and two TV series, BBC’s “Sherlock” and CBS’s “Elementary.”

Whether published professionally or uploaded to an amateur archive, Sherlockian is fan fiction. It is derived from another author’s work and written for an established fan base. Before you decide to jump in, keep in mind not all of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are public domain and his heirs are asserting their rights when applicable. This Economist article explains the situation in more detail.

What is it about Sherlock Holmes that is so appealing? Is it his cold, analytical personality balanced with an enjoyment of disguises and a Bohemian lifestyle that includes an unfortunate addiction to cocaine? Holmes is deeply brilliant, heroic and flawed, making him a larger-than-life character that can be hard for readers to relate to.

John Watson may be Doyle’s true stroke of genius. Watson’s ordinary intellect and heroic inclinations, combined with a loyal personality, allow the reader to place herself in the good doctor’s shoes, being alternately astonished and aggravated by the unconventional Holmes. Sherlock is the amazing friend who sweeps you off to an exciting adventure.

While much of the genre puts this winning combination to good use, there are many other novels and stories that do not. For example, in Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, Watson is mostly out of the picture as Holmes takes on a young female apprentice who later becomes his wife.

Other stories and novels put the focus on secondary, minor and fictional characters. These include:

The two links below will give you access to extensive lists of professional Sherlockian fiction.

If all this puts you in the mood for the real deal, you’re in luck. Many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and stories are available to download for free, in a variety of formats, on the Project Gutenberg website. Click here to go to the Sherlock Holmes archive.

A special note of thanks goes to my good friend and Sherlock Holmes fan, Teacher Jennifer, who provided me with lots of helpful links and information.

Food and Romance

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a freebies list. I haven’t downloaded much, either. I’ve been reading actual, physical books. *gasp!* I blame it on my trip to San Francisco, where I spent some quality time in the most excellent Borderlands Books. If you love speculative fiction and are in San Francisco, you’ve got to go to this bookstore. You can thank me later.

Now that my Kindle has had a chance to cool off, I decided to check out the Amazon freebies. I found lots of new stuff, which is always nice. Several yummy-looking, free-for-now cookbooks caught my eye, particularly one based on the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

I also noticed that Harlequin is releasing ten free romance novels on April 1. Hopefully, they’re not fooling with us. LOL! *cough* Anyway, keep in mind that when you click the link, you will have “bought” the book, but it won’t download until April 1.

All these books are listed below. Enjoy! And have a great weekend.

  The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games
Savor the post-apocalyptic world of Panem one dish at a time with The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games. Offering 187 recipes, this cookbook serves fans an authentic taste of the Hunger Games trilogy, whether foraged for in the impoverished District 12 or devoured at the lavish banquets of the Capitol.

  The Parthenon Cookbook: Great Mediterranean Recipes from the Heart of Chicago’s Greektown by Camille Stagg
This collection of terrific Greek recipes, from old favorites to unique house specialties, is also a tribute to the oldest restaurant in Chicago’s fabled Greektown, a landmark innovator of legendary dishes like saganaki and the first gyros in Chicago. Filled with colorful history and lush photographs, the book features 40 of the restaurant’s most popular recipes from all courses, appetizers to desserts. They include Feta a la Soto, Marathon Salad with Shrimp, Moussaka, Sokolatina, and more. In addition, Greek wine pairings are included as well as full Greek dinner menus with tips for entertaining.

  1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes by Sue Spitler
This new edition of 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes is completely revised to reflect current food trends and cooking preferences. The introduction will adhere to American Heart Association guidelines and will include the new FDA nutritional guidelines, with comments on the importance of exercise as part of a total healthy lifestyle. In general, recipes will be easier and faster to prepare with fewer ingredients and more concise cooking methods. Recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less will be identified throughout the book with an “express veg” icon. The “super foods” that boast high nutritional, antioxidant, and phytochemical qualities will be emphasized in recipes—blueberries, kiwi, pomegranate juice, melons, citrus fruit, edamame, leafy dark greens, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, beets, tomatoes, bell peppers, beans and legumes, nuts, flax and hemp seeds, whole grains, and soy and dairy products.

  The Apple Cookbook by Hillbilly Housewife
“An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away” I’m sure you’ve heard that saying a time or two. Apples are a great fruit that’s not only healthy, but also very versatile and frugal. I can almost always find some great apples on sale at the store. Occasionally we’ll also buy a big box of apples from a local orchard and store them for use in the winter. Apples keep well in a dry, cool place, but with all the cooking and baking, the never last very long at our house. In this apple cookbook, you’ll find recipes that range from sweet to savory.

Harlequin Free Books (pre-order now, will download April 1)

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Fan Fiction

Fan fiction could be considered the redheaded stepchild of literature. The genre has often been sneered at, considered the work of amateur writers without the skill or imagination to create their own characters and worlds. Yet to sneer at these writers is to alienate the very people that creative professionals rely on: the fans.

People who write fan fiction are often a work’s most ardent supporters. They love the characters and world so much, they want to keep the story going, or change it in some way to suit their view of how it could have gone.

Fan fiction is also known as fanfics, FF and fics. It encompasses a wide variety of media, including novels, television shows, movies, musicals, comic books, anime and video games. It has an enormous following with many writers and many more readers. Fan fiction is usually written as short stories, but can be novel length or even a series of novels.

Modern fan fiction is believed to have begun in the 1960s with “Star Trek.” After the show’s demise, fans wanted to keep the series alive and did so with fanzines, newsletters written and distributed by fans, containing news about the show and the actors, as well as fiction. Fanzines for other TV shows soon sprouted up, many of which also contained fiction.

The advent of the Internet caused the boom in fan fiction, making it a worldwide phenomenon. It has developed a unique, extensive terminology used by its readers and writers. I’ve listed several of the most used terms below, using the “Big Bang Theory” as an example, and yes, there is BBT fan fiction.

Canon. True to the original work in terms of characters and world. Example: The BBT gang go to a Star Trek convention and wind up in a hotel room next to William Shatner.

Non-canon. Deviates from the canon. Example: Sheldon is actually William Shatner’s illegitimate son.

AU or Alternate Universe. Sets the characters in an alternate universe. Example: Penny, Bernadette and Amy are the highly intelligent main characters into gaming and comic books, and the men are their satellite boyfriends.

Mary Sue or Gary Stu. A writer inserts herself into the cast of characters in a very flattering light. Example: Penny’s prettier and more outgoing cousin, Lori, comes to visit. Leonard and the rest of the guys fall for her. A Mary Sue is placed in the story as an OC, an Original Character, but not all OCs are Mary Sues.

Crossover. Crossing one fandom with another. Example: Sheldon and Leonard go to London and find a dead body in their hotel room. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson get involved in solving the murder.

Ship or Shipping. Short for relationship. These can be canon relationships, such as between Leonard and Penny, and can also be non-canon, like creating a relationship between Amy and Raj.  You would then say that you ship Amy and Raj. Shipping is typically between heterosexual couples.

Slash. A romantic and/or sexual relationship between same sex characters. It’s called slash because of the slash between the names. Example: Sheldon/Leonard, Raj/Howard, Penny/Bernadette.

Fan fiction can be highly sexual and even pornographic, and has gained a reputation as being simply that. It’s important to note that a lot of fan fiction is general storytelling in an established world with beloved characters.

Now to the elephant in the room: should fan fiction be tolerated? Much of it can be considered copyright infringement. Does fan fiction harm the bottom line of authors and other creative professionals?

Some authors, such as Ann Rice and George R.R. Martin are known fan fiction opponents and will not tolerate stories based on their characters and worlds. Other authors take a more relaxed approach. Basically, you can play in my sandbox with my toys, just don’t tell me about it; I won’t read your stories because I don’t want to be accused of using your ideas.

Confession time. I have written fan fiction. In particular, in high school I wrote a “Star Trek” story for a creative writing class. I got an ‘A.’ (fist pump) I don’t think I hurt anyone’s bottom line since only my teacher and a few friends read the story. Fan fiction can be a great story form for new writers learning their craft. Writers can stretch their imaginations in a known world, and learn about character and story arcs.

Much of fan fiction is online and readily available to millions of readers. As such, it is a double-edged sword for the original work. Fan fiction can build and maintain a fan base with what amounts to free publicity. Badly written fan fiction can turn away potential fans if this is the first they’ve seen of that work. There is also the issue of creative control. Authors may object when discovering their characters have been placed in relationships or situations outside the original story’s boundaries. Then again, it can be flattering to know that your story and characters have gained enough popularity to illicit a creative fan base.

There’s no easy answer here and it’s up to the creative person to decide how they want to feel about and deal with fan fiction.

Fan fiction is by and for fans and should never be published for monetary gain. Except for the fact that there’s plenty of sanctioned, professionally published fan fiction out there. I’ll go into that in later posts.

For further reading about fan fiction, check out the links below.

Friday Bargains and Freebies

I’ve been posting a lot of writer news lately, but this is also a blog for readers. I love to read and I have an eReader packed with all kinds of good stuff from both traditionally published and independent authors.

The reason I usually post Kindle freebies is because I have a Kindle and the Kindle app is available for all kinds of devices. I don’t want people to think I’m Amazon biased and I do look for other eReader resources. Part of the problem is that Amazon is nicely set up for bargains and freebies. They’ve made it part of their business model. Barnes & Noble, not so much. It’s hard to find the cheap thrills on their website. Apple has gotten a lot better in that regard, but it’s hard to include those links since iTunes isn’t web-friendly.

So, eBook retailers, if you’re out there, please note: free and bargain books have made me purchase more books than I ordinarily would have. They have pointed me at authors I might not have noticed. If I like a book, chances are I will buy that author’s next book. If I really, really want a book, I will probably buy it at full price.

Today, I have two websites to share for readers and writers, but particularly readers.

The first is Indies Unlimited. This is a website for readers and writers of independently published books. Every Thursday, they host Thrifty Thursday. In the comments section of that day’s post, independent authors can add links to their books costing $0.99 or less. Every Friday is Freebie Friday. In the comments section of that day’s post, independent authors can add links to their free-for-now books.

The links for this site are below. The links for Thrifty Thursday and Freebie Friday are only good for those dates, i.e., 3/14/13 and 3/15/13. You must visit the main site each week and click on the new posts for that week.

The second is BookBub. This is a free service that sends daily emails containing lists of free and bargain eBooks. You can choose which genres you want to receive and you can also choose the format, including Kindle, Apple, Kobo, B&N, Sony, etc. If you don’t want to receive an email, you can also find book deals on their website. I’ll have to say that while I don’t like retail email, I do look forward to my daily BookBub message. The links are below.

To receive information and deals throughout the day, you can like Indies Unlimited and BookBub on Facebook and follow Indies Unlimited and BookBub on Twitter.

Random House Controversy Update

On Monday, I posted about the controversy between the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and Random House. The publisher recently launched several digital-only imprints and the SFWA voiced concern about the terms of their contract.

In particular, the SFWA refused to accept Random House’s Hydra imprint as a qualifying market for a writer to gain membership in their organization because this imprint didn’t offer an advance against royalties. However, the SFWA, Writer Beware and other writer groups also voiced opposition to other terms of the contract, including how the copyright reversion was handled and the profit sharing model, which expected authors to pay for production and marketing of their novel.

Today, I’m happy to report that Random House has changed the terms of their contract for these imprints, and they are now more favorable to the writer. Rather than paraphrase content, I suggest reading the two articles listed below. The first was written by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. The second is a special message from Random House posted on their digital-only imprints home page.

Random House Announces New Terms at Digital Imprints Hydra, Alibi, Loveswept, and Flirt

A Special Message from Hydra, Alibi, Loveswept and Flirt

This is great news, not just for writers, but also for Random House. An attractive contract is incentive that draws quality writers. Surely they want the best novels they can find to launch these new imprints.

For writers, this is great because it shows that when we band together and voice our concerns, change can happen, positive change that benefits both parties. I feel I can once again recommend this market and suggest checking out their guidelines.

Random House Digital-only Imprints Submission Process and Guidelines

Harper Voyager Update and Random House Controversy

For those writers who, like myself, have been waiting to hear back from Harper Voyager regarding publication in their new digital imprint, there is an update on their website dated March 4, 2013. It states in part:

We have now responded to 2905 submissions that were not right for our list. 851 have been marked for further reading/consideration, and 787 are still to be read (1638 in toto).

You can find the full post here.

Of course, the best thing we can do while we wait is to keep writing, working on other projects and submitting other work. Which brings me to the Random House controversy.

Several months ago, I noted that Random House had also opened a new digital imprint and I included a link to the submission guidelines. You can find the original article here. I found out this weekend, thanks to an Examiner post by a writer friend, Nicole LeBoeuf-Little, that the contract terms of the digital imprint have stirred the ire of the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.) When the SFWA speaks, writers of all genres should listen. After all, they are the source of the cautionary writers’ website, Writer Beware.

Main points of the controversy include no advance royalties, profit from a book first going to pay for producing that book, and Random House owning all rights to a book, in all forms, for the life of the copyright. The story has gone viral, making it to the virtual pages of The Guardian, Forbes and Publishers Weekly. In the article linked below, Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware restates the SFWA’s position and provides a response sent by Random House.

SFWA De-Lists Hydra; Random House Responds

However you feel about the controversy, this should be an action call to all creatives. If you are offered a contract, read it carefully. If you can, consult a lawyer. Remember that you can offer counter terms, i.e., if you don’t agree with something in the contract, you can state how you want it to be changed. If you and the other party can’t agree to the terms, walk away.

Writing a novel is an art, selling that novel is a business. Creative people need to hone their business skills in order to be successful.