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Lesser evil: Fanfic or porn?

This has been on my mind lately:  Which has less artistic merit, fanfiction or porn?

Let’s have your answer first, and then click "read the rest" if you want to read my thoughts.

Which type of creative work has LESS ARTISTIC VALUE, in your opinion?
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For my part, I’m a lifelong hater of fanfiction-as-artform. I’ve had the argument with writers of the stuff for years, and I’m aware that my view is not terribly popular, among writers at least.

But come on, artistically speaking, fanfiction is just lazy.  Is it possible to do it well, sure, of course it is, but simply by virtue of being original and well-done, we stop calling those pieces "fanfiction" — ever heard Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight books referred to as "Batman fanfics"?  NO!  Because they’re full of original content and creativity and skill, the lack of which seems to be the benchmark for 99% of everything in the fanfic world.

I’m not saying that writing fanfic can’t be fun.  It’s fun to drive someone else’s Porsche too, but that doesn’t make you yourself one of the elite in the car-world, now, does it?  What I’m arguing against is the insistence, usually made by writers with creativity "issues", that fanfiction should be considered valuable as art, exactly as though it were a creative work.  To which I say, if you’re such a good writer, if you think you’re an artist, why can’t you write your own stuff?

I pair off fanfic against porn sometimes to show how important creativity is to the existence of something as art.  Erotic fiction (we’ll ignore other porn for the moment; I want to compare apples to apples here) is often derided as having the basest of motivations, and that’s quite correct most of the time.  But there isn’t much argument that reasonably well-done erotica is artistic, and that’s because it is the creation of an artist.  Fanfiction is not. 

To answer one last argument I hear a lot in favor of dreck fanfiction, yes, it’s a big deal that you stole the world that the story takes place in (and usually some of the characters too).  "But the plot is mine" doesn’t equate to you having written a story any more than "I picked the carpet" means that I designed my house.  That’s not to say that plotting is unimportant; but a story, like a house, is a large unit that’s overall more than the sum of its parts.  Create any handful of parts you want; that  doesn’t give you the ability to say you created a story.  A story is a whole, and you either wrote it or you didn’t.  (A flipside proof of this is that almost every story "rips off" another story in some element or another, yet, if the artist actually created the story as a whole, this similarity of parts doesn’t matter.) 

In the case of porn, whatever you think of the content or its purpose, it is a creative work, brought into being through the creative process, by someone who loves and understands stories — i.e., a writer.  But with fanfiction, the creative process is missing large chunks, and the person who created it is not (in this instance) a writer, because he/she has not created a story; only taken an existing story and slapped new bits on it.  The one activity is creative; the other, derivative.  Derivative activities can be art in some wild cases, but those cases almost exclusively involve deriving from more than one source and adding an element of "meta-creativity" — i.e. changing or crossing genrae or media, or completely repurposing a work.

Fanfic can be used as a writing exercise, sure.  One could even do it for fun, I suppose.  (I don’t think it’s fun, but hey, some people think pretty odd things are fun.)  And much as I allow NASCAR and hot-dog-eating competitions to exist, I won’t complain much.  Just don’t try to tell me it’s valuable as art, and we can all get along.  ;)

5 comments

1 Dan { 05.28.07 at 12:37 pm }

For a particularly influential and artistically damaging piece of fan fiction, cf. The New Testament.

2 puredoxyk { 05.29.07 at 9:55 am }

*rofl*

3 Psuke { 05.30.07 at 1:52 am }

It depends…I mean, in some ways you can call some reworkings by serious authors of stories by their heroes “fanfiction.” Like “Lost Girls”, or Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald.” Not to mention the collection of short stories based on the Endless.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of atrocious fanfiction there, and a lot (I mean a *lot* of bad porn. Sometimes they even go together. On the other hand, when a story or world speaks to you, it speaks to you.

4 puredoxyk { 05.30.07 at 7:38 am }

I knew I could count on you to remind us of the ambiguity, heh. ;)

Of course that’s true, but personally I think it’s telling that it’s literally possible to count the instances of “good fanfiction” on two hands, while “good porn” is quite a bit more reachable. It says something that you pretty much have to be Frank Miller, Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman in order to write good fanfiction!

5 Renegade { 06.02.07 at 10:46 pm }

Well, I’ve known people with some serious “creativity” in porn, which i will not elaborate for the sake of any younger readers, or readers my age (13),

BUT

what to say with women doing the same poses? From what I here, playboy can be a bit redundant, with the same poses etc. depicted within it.

There is some creativity in fanfictions though, not much however, for the person has stolen the entire outfit and put extra stuff here and there.

I agree with you.

BTW. l0l, 4\/\/350|\/|3 !!!1!