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Vision of a Fan Works Economy

Last time we talked about the Studio/Publisher side of the new marketplace.  Last year, Clive from Fan Cinema Today and I went back and forth about the merits and flaws of Creative Commons system in Dream of a Fandom Economy and Fan Works and Creative Commons.

The Importance of Fan Works

The Studios/Publishers have to understand that they do not own the media franchises like they used to.  If they allow their fans to have a sense of ownership over franchises under their care, we will feel a greater sense of responsibility for the future of the franchise.  Fan works are the strongest way fans connect with the franchises they love.

The amount of time it takes to produce a fan work ties the fan to the franchise.  Lately, the best trailers for many films have been fan made, not to mention the T-shirts, posters, and desktops.  The problem is the studios/publishers have not found a way to bring in the fan works in a way that benefits them and the fans.

The studios/publishers need to license their works in such a way that fans understand what they can do and how.

Licensing Fan Works

A license like this is important for both the studio/publishers and the fans.  What would this offer the studio/publishers?

  • They empower their fans to give them free promotion through derivative fan works.
  • They allow their fan base to become more involved with their franchises which will allow them to become more involved and deeper connected to the original work.
  • By allowing their fans to produce derivative works, they are able to fill in the gaps between releases at no cost to them.
  • They increase their footprint which will help them to convert more casual readers/viewers into fans.  An increased fan base will increase sales.
  • With fans providing them free advertising, they will be able to focus their efforts more on content than marketing.

Fans would benefit from this approach nearly as much as the copyright holder.

A Fan Works Economy

Towards a Fan Works License

I approached the Creative Commons Foundation with a proposal for a Fan Works License:

Some of the rights holders I have talked to are reluctant to use the CC because they are concerned they are giving up too many rights to their works.  A Fan Works License would allow rights holders to clearly state what they will allow others to do with their characters, content, and settings.

It would be a bit more complicated than a standard CC, stating whether others may make original text, video, music, or art projects based on their works.  It would also allow them to set the content rating they would allow fan works to have.  This could be aligned with the MPAA ratings or the ESRB ratings system or an original system.  The reason for this is so a young adult novelist could set a max rating of PG-13, allowing others to know what standards they would apply to determine whether a fan work is legitimate or not.

The other terms would be the same as in the standard CC.

You may not think something like this is necessary, but the current state of fan works is hazy.  While few have been sued in the last couple years, at any time, rights holders could decide to start suing again.  By creating a license that covers works with the same characters and settings rather than a particular book or movie, I believe we could get more rights holders to use the license to allow for the creation of fan works, which is a step on the road to open up works to the commons.

They responded with a simple, “CC probably isn’t going to be expanding the license offerings, and in fact, over the past few years CC has been reducing the number of licenses.”

This type of license may not be the best, and it is by no means the only way to move forward, but it is the best way to end the tyranny of copyright and by showing the fans that they are a part of the franchise.

The d20 Model

One alternative is for the studio/publishers to institute something like the d20 License.  The d20 License allowed registered participants who followed the strict rules to produce for profit tie-ins to Wizards of the Coasts' games.  Rights, responsibilities, and penalties were clearly laid out.

Wizards made money by requiring that the licensed works refer back to their works and not retell certain aspects of the setting and system.

This is not the best solution, but it is one that has already been tried.

An Improved Music Licensing Model

The music industry allows for music to be licensed through an overly expensive but easy to use system.  The studios/publishers could attach a licensing fee and rules for each possible use of the material, then they could earn a royalty and the fan work can be made.

The Best Solution

The best solution is probably one that has not been developed yet, but it won't if we don't start the conversation now and keep it going until the answer is found.

The market in all forms of media will not be restored until the studios/publishers and the fans are brought back into balance in a way that is mutually beneficial and forward looking.

Next on the agenda, Fandom Strikes Back!

Literature of Change

We have discussed What Speculative Fiction is, What makes it Progressive, and Why it is important that it is progressive,  but now it is vitally important to clarify some key points about the nature of Progressive Speculative Fiction.  There are two equally disastrous paths we can take from here.  As with everything in life, we have to find the middle path between the opposites:

  • The Light Side: Everything is great, and will only get better.  The future will be a universally happy place.  We are heading towards a utopia.
  • The Dark Side: Entropy rules the world and things are only getting worse.  The future will be a gloomy and sinister place.  We are heading towards a distopia.

Both are extremes, and neither can ever paint a valid world that has any grounding in reality.

Does Speculative Fiction have to be gloomy?

Damien G Walter at the Guardian wrote a fascinating article about the utopian and distopian sins of Science Fiction (read it here).  He asks the basic question that I would love to paraphrase: Does Speculative Fiction have to be gloomy?

From the recent releases, you might assume the answer is a yes, but it doesn't have to be.

Gloomy has its place in any story, but if that story only strikes one note throughout, then it become boring, and the audience looses interest.  We can see this trend with Lost and Heroes, but shows like Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica, and Sanctuary show that it s possible to strike a happy median.

Sometimes a story has to be bleak and gloomy throughout to make the point, like 1984 by George Orwell, but more often then not writers take the gloom to an unnecessary extreme.

The challenge for writers of science fiction today is not to repeat the same dire warnings we have all already heard, or to replicate the naive visions of the genres golden age, but to create visions of the future people can believe in (The Guardian).

Must SF fix the worlds problems?

Kathryn Cramer at Tor had an interesting take on Damien's post (read it here):

I view science fiction partly as a set of perceptual tools we take with us into the world. I don’t think SF can be held responsible for finding solutions to all the world’s problems, but I think it is SF’s task to help us understand them (Tor).

Whether or not the writer understands or believes it, all fiction is a perceptual filter that shows their readers/viewers the world from a certain point of view.  People are influenced by these perspectives to differing degrees.  The quality of the fiction plays a part in that, but so too does the structure and discipline of the reader/viewer's mind.

It is too much to ask any writer to solve the world's problems in their work, but they have to understand that they are responsible for show the cost and consequences of their character's actions.

For example, we like to believe that people are born good or evil, and that it is alright to be amoral from time to time.  This is why so many people reacted negatively to George Lucas' edits of the original Star Wars Trilogy and the addition of the prequel.  He clarified Han Solo's morality and showed how a good person can become evil.  In fact, it has been argued by C. S. Lewis and others that their truly is no such thing as evil.  There is only vile, horrible, and misguided attempt to do good.  If you look at most of the "monsters" in history, they are people who thought they were doing good even though they wrought horrors on the world.

It is the job of every writer to show that every action has an effect.

A Positive Science Fiction Platform?

Jason Staddard over at Strange and Happy put forth his Stranger and Happier: A Positive Science Fiction Platform.  While it is well intentioned, I think it swings the pendulum too far in the other direction.  Let's go through the planks in the platform.

Positive science fiction starts with acknowledging that there are positive things happening, now (Strange and Happy).

Is this necessary? No.

Often an SF writer will start here, but others will start with the fear of the current situation or from the perspective that the current state of affairs in beyond saving, and impose a new solution to avert the mistakes the present state could lead too.

  • Star Trek starts with a world war and global catastrophe that nearly brought about another dark age.
  • Lestat saw the system of mandated belief an filial duty as corrupt and corrupting.  It wasn't until he became a vampire that he started looking for a better way.

That does not mean we should ignore this plank, but simply take it as advise rather than a rule.

Positive science fiction is about the possibility of positive change (Strange and Happy).

Absolutely.  In the Project: Shadow Manifesto, I call this simply "hope for the future."  Things can get better, but that doesn't mean they are destined to.  If there is no hope, there is nothing at stake for the characters and no tension in the story (What is Progressive SF?)

Positive science fiction has a protagonist or protagonists that can effect change (Strange and Happy).

Definitely.  This is the problem I have pointed to time and time again with SF media, and why I didn't like Battlestar Galactica for a long time.

This ties directly into hope.  If it is impossible for a character to affect change, then there is no tension.  The villain will win.

Positive science fiction isn’t afraid to look at challenging definitions of “positive (Strange and Happy).”

This is where the writer has an important question to answer.  "For whom is the change positive?"

Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side is necessary to bring balance to the force.  There are many ways to take this, but it is fundamental to Progressive Speculative Fiction.

Positive science fiction inspires people to act and influence positive change (Strange and Happy).

So long as it is not preachy, I agree.  If the story inspires the reader/viewer to make a possitive change within themselves, then the story succeeded.  There isn't enough time or space for me to list all of the stories that have influenced me positively.

Literature of Change

There is a common thread weaving through this discussion.  Jetse de Vries on his blog, In the Plane of the Ecliptic found the middle ground between gloom and naivite, the answer we have been looking for:

I disagree with the cliché that SF is the literature of ideas (they help, but they're not the core): to me, SF is the literature of change.

Roughly speaking, there are two kinds of change: things change for the worse, or things change for the better (I realise life is much more complex than that: some things improve, other things worsen, and some things don't change very much. I'm looking, admittedly roughly, at the net result here) (In the Plane of the Ecliptic).

Even the simplist horror and fantasy deals with the nature of authority and friendship.  Change is the only constant in the universe, and Speculative Fiction is the literature of change.  Writers ask themselves, "What if this happened?"  The answer is usually, everything would change.

How writers explore the changes is the difference between and great and a mediocre story.

Boom in Teen Readers?

Wayofart-1 I was ecstatic when I read at Newsweek that the teen reading phenomenon is not limited to just the Harry Potter books, but I have reservations about their findings.

Levithan and others cite several reasons for this perfect storm for teen lit, the most obvious two being the increasing sophistication and emotional maturity of teenagers and the accompanying new freedom for writers in the genre to explore virtually any subject. Another is that bookstores and libraries are finally recognizing this niche and separating teen books from children's books (Newsweek).

I am sure this is all true, but the article never answered by core question: Is the rise in sales of Teen lit a result of teens buying more books or because more adults are buying Teen lit?

I hate to say this, especially as a writer, but I have not bought as many books lately as I used to. The majority of the books I have read in the past year have either been classics (at least in my eyes), franchise fiction, teen lit, or something I found on Podiobooks.com. And I know I am not alone. Most of my friends have also become turned off by the "gritty," hyper-sexualized, overly violent, and amoral books that have come out recently.

Just last month I put down a "bestseller" half-read because I couldn't take all of the unnecessary sex obsession that all of the characters suffered. I am not a prude, but I was interested in the political intrigue and was put off my the constant references to every character's sexual prowess and fantasies. Sometimes these accent a story line, but when they are overdone they just turn me off.

I also like imaginative stories that transport me into a world or life that is very different from my own. I feel like adult fiction is too often defined by its lack of imaginative settings and characters. Teen fantasy often builds imaginative settings and characters without feeling the need to coddle the reader by constantly winking at them to show that the author agrees that the setting is beyond the limits of the real world.

Hopefully, more young readers have discovered the alchemy of a good book, but I am afraid that their is not going to be anything available to carry them into adult reading.

More writers need to remember that the art of writing is not about the words, or even the story, it is the experience of the characters, setting, and the story shared with the characters. We cheer, we cry, we hope there is nothing lurking around the corner and for those glorious hours enter another world to live with or even sometimes as another person, sharing their triumphs and sorrows. This experience is essential to Teen lit, but is often secondary to the dulling sophistication and adroitness of the characters and the too oft tragic nature of the setting in an adult novel.

I hope more are reading, but we writers need to get beyond our cleverness and create characters and settings people will want to visit.

There is hope for those like me that have been disaffected by modern literati, Booklamp, is trying to build a "Pandora for books," that should make it easier to find books that more closely match up to our individual tastes. I just hope that new teen readers will keep their love affair lifelong and not loose the faith as so many do.

Project and Personal News

Greetings, symposiasts, guests, and friends. Life has been sort of hectic around here lately. I have been working hard to get the Levitz Paradigm for the up coming audio series finished, we are fixing up a house to move into, and I have been walking 3.5 - 4.0 miles a day (I have lost 29 pounds in last 3 months). Sorry, I haven't had the time to blog about more personal things lately, but I will try to do better.

Yesterday, my official Amazon.com Author Profile and Blog went live! It will share career information with my readers at Amazon.com.

The Levitz Paradigm for the Audio Series is finished, I will start writing chapter one this week!

The house is looking very good. It should be livable soon.

The walking is showing results. Will share more on that later.

Hope you all are doing well! Blog more tomarrow.

Ghost Dance is now in the Top Ten!

by C.E. Dorsett I'm speechless... I know I am probably blowing this all out of proportion, but I have to celebrate while I can. I have one song in the top 10 on the progressive rock chart on Amazon.com! It gives me hope that there just might be a place for someone like me after all. Here are today's standings.

  • Motion
    • Alternative Chart- 89 {UP (from 133)
    • Electric Blues Guitar Chart- 45 {UP (from 62)
  • Ghost Dance
    • Progressive Rock Chart- 9 {UP (from 15)
    • Goth & Industrial Chart- 51 {UP (from 62)
  • Mission of Love (Ultimatum)
    • Alternative Chart- 194 {UP (207)
    • Progressive Rock Chart- 26 {UP (from 31)

Can you believe two songs in the top 40? It's at times like this I wish I had some friends to celebrate with, maybe someday... For now, I have you, my loyal readers, and those who got here by accident.