All Your Fanfiction Belong To Us: What The Fuck Is Kindle Worlds?

Amazon is now monetizing fan-fiction.

I mean, I guess?

The press release (with scads more detail) is right here.

I am of two minds on this. Maybe three minds. MAYBE A ZILLION MINDS.

I’m generally pro-fanfic. Like, I know some authors get their browneyes puckered over other people splashing around in their kiddie pools, and I understand that gut-level reaction — but me, I think if you have an audience willing to write fan-fiction about your work, you’re pretty fucking lucky. And it’s always half understood that fan-fiction is fan-fiction. Non-canonical. Utterly apocryphal. Yeah, whatever, sure, Spike and Angel can fly the Serenity through the Stargate and they can fight Darkseid and 69 each other on a bed of glittery vampire dust.

Woo! No problem. High-five.

And this appears to be a way to sanction fan-fiction — it’s not like, Amazon deciding to just allow people to sell it wantonly. It appears to have author (or at least publisher) approval behind it. And authors get paid! I like when authors get paid. Because mouths! To feed!

So, my concern here isn’t actually financial — like, this isn’t theoretically that different from someone licensing your work and your world to, say, the comic book space. Or to an RPG or video game. Or even to film or TV. (Though the percentage here seems likely far less.)

The weird thing is what happens to that comfortable space that separated canonical from non-canonical. Like, one assumes that the fan-fic remains officially non-canonical — and yet, people are paying for it. And getting paid in return. Which lends a kind of intellectual and emotional legitimacy to it. And allows for a very weird thing to happen: it lets the licensed fan-fiction to become, in theory, bigger than the material that spawned it.

And even if it doesn’t become bigger it still grants it a kind of territory in the canonical space. Someone might read Book 3 of the Miriam Black series, The Cormorant, and say, “But this doesn’t refer to that time when she time-traveled back to the Old West in that novella, Booby Nuthatch.” And you’re like, “That wasn’t real, though, someone else wrote that.” But then they say: “I PAID FOR IT SO IT FELT REAL TO ME” and then they sob into your shoulder and you wonder suddenly how they got that close and should you call the police? Probably.

That’s a pretty serious shift in authorship and authenticity.

Which is breaking my brain right now.

How much say does an author get?

How much veto power does Amazon or the publisher get?

Does this place too much power in Amazon’s hands (HAHA TOO LATE)?

Or does this put more power back in the original author’s hands?

Does this further remove legitimacy from unpaid fan-fic?

Do these pantaloons make my thighs look fat?


Like, if I had to make a judgment, I’m 51% this being a good thing, 49% this being a THING I CANNOT WRAP MY HEAD AROUND FUCK IT I DON’T KNOW

*detonates the Internet with the push of a comical red button*

Anyway. Interesting. Say what you want about Amazon, but they’re some crafty-ass trilobites.

What are your thoughts, Oh Goggle-Eyed Readership?

169 responses to “All Your Fanfiction Belong To Us: What The Fuck Is Kindle Worlds?”

  1. […] The big news this week is Amazon’s Kindle Worlds—the rise of licensed, for-sale fan fiction. Mixed feelings abound. Jami Gold wonders if Kindle Worlds is a good idea, and Chuck Wendig waxes philosophical wondering whether Kindle Worlds will blur the line between canonical and non-canonical works in a series. […]

  2. This is something of a tangent, but: I think fanfic, as mutated and accelerated by the internetz, is becoming a potent force in some weird ways, similar to how the ability of anyone to remix anything is affecting the music industry. I am currently working on a piece for an upcoming compilation, the spec of which is essentially “write fanfic that doesn’t suck, because 50 Shades ruined it for everyone and we’re taking it back.” Which is odd for me, as I think I may be the only budding scifi writer online who has never written fanfic up to now, but regardless, the fact that someone felt that point needed to be proven indicates _something_ about what I am tempted to describe as an increasing relevance of fanfic.

  3. This may be a little late coming to the party but copyright infringement has already started to occur in regards to this. Close to the same time the Amazon announcement was made, some “author” decided to post for sale, a fanfiction of a Harry Potter book (cost is $2.99 and it is labeled as a Harry Potter fanfiction). I perused the free sample chapter and with mentions of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, it is clearly guilty of intellectual property stealing and copyright infringement.

    What happens when the idea gets out and there are other nimrods that jump on the bandwagon and decide if one person got away with it, they can too? Fanfiction anarchy and a lot of salivating intellectual property attorneys? Perhaps. A crackdown on all self-publishing to try to prevent future infractions? It’s certainly something that crossed my mind. What JK Rowling decides to do, should she find out, will set a precedence on how future cases of this are handled. She already has a reputation for being litigious.

    My concern would be over the young upstarts that follow in this wake that think it’s okay to do because somebody is already getting away wit it. “I didn’t know any better” and “Why are you picking on me, I’m not the only one that did it” are not valid legal defenses. I have a feeling that there is more to come with this and more and more illegal fanfictions will be posted for sale on Amazon because some writers will think that just because it has been sanctioned for some works, it means that it is legal for all.

  4. I’m glad to know you’re not against fanfiction, Chuck :} I don’t understand some writers’ aversion to it. Honestly, whenever I see a writer being clingy to their characters, all I can think of is “my precioussssss”, which is not very flattering. But I digress.

    As a (unpublished) writer and as a fanfiction writer, I’m more concerned about Amazon’s legal terms on the Kindle Worlds than people confusing canon and fandom. Do people actually confuse the two? There are a lot of canon/non-canon things out there and people still seem to have a pretty good grasp on it. Well, regardless, KW is not really something I’d try out, but at least I hope it works, for the sake of everyone.

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