Recently Amazon debuted Kindle Worlds, a platform for publishing authorized fan fiction. Rights holders allow fans to play in their creations, and fan fiction writers get to legally make money off their work. It's the new post-creativity paradigm, where you don't invent anything, you just smash together things people better than you invented.
If it sounds like I'm anti-fan fiction it's because I largely am. And so, it turns out, is George RR Martin, the writer of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, which have been turned into the hit TV show Game of Thrones. Don't expect to see Westeros joining the Kindle Worlds anytime soon, as George hates hates hates fanfic. When asked by an Australian TV interviewer if he would ever license his universe out to spin-offs or continuations, he said:
Not while I'm alive,. But eventually I will not be alive because Valar Morghulis - all men die. I don't think my wife, if she survives me, will allow that either. But one thing that history has shown us is eventually these literary rights pass to grandchildren or collateral descendents, or people who didn't actually know the writer and don't care about his wishes. It's just a cash cow to them. And then we get abominations to my mind like Scarlett, the Gone with the Wind sequel.
I've always admiredTolkien and his immense influence on fantasy; although I've never met the man, I admire Christopher Tolkien, his son, who has been the guardian of Tolkien's estate who has never allowed that. I'm sure there are publishers waiting in the wings with giant bags of money just waiting for someone to say "Yes, go ahead, let's write Sauron Strikes Back." I hope I never see Sauron Strikes Back written by some third rate writer who leaps at the opportunity.
Somebody's going to bring up Alan Moore in the comments. They always do whenever fanfic comes up. I'm going to let you guys hash it out as you always do, but I think it's disingenuous to compare Alan Moore using culturally significant stories in ways that comment on the stories and they're cultural significance with people who write about Harry Potter putting his wand in Draco Malfoy's butthole.
What's interesting is that some of the headlines I've seen about this say Martin 'won't share' Westeros. But he is. He's writing about it and sharing that with us. That's how it works. Obviously we can take his writings and, in our heads, do what we like with it, but they're his works. We don't have the right to demand he give us free reign to write our own crummy versions of his stories. Fanfic is lazy, he said at a recent convention, and I agree. Take inspiration from what he's writing and create something of your own. Don't just take what he's done and rearrange it like furniture in your fantasies.