I was at the Palo Alto Borders yesterday and saw that it had a “Gay Book Club.” Well, being the fag hag that I am, I took a look at the book list and a particular title caught my attention: Never Tear Us Apart. From what I can tell, this book along with the others in the series contain original storylines based on the characters from the television show, Queer as Folk. Um, isn’t that fan fiction? And if it weren’t for the fact that the show is already about gay men, it would certainly be slash fan fiction.
From my experience, fan fiction writers (along with their other fan culture counterparts) have always existed in this underground realm, exchanging stories via homemade zines and now, thanks to the Internet, via chat rooms and the Web. And thankfully, most of the time, The Powers That Be in the entertainment industry usually just look the other way. While most of these works are considered “derivative” and ride the fine lines between fair use, parody, satire, and flat out copyright infringement, they are usually expressions of deep love for the originating works (not to mention the original producers responsible for those works) and drive the growth of a deeply committed fan base that, in the end, only strengthen the success of the original television series, movie, etc. The first recognized fan fiction grew out of fan love for “Star Trek” and despite what some may consider prurient use of Star Trek characters and storylines as slash fan fiction embraced the homoerotic subtext between Kirk and Spock, I would certainly argue that the Star Trek franchise has only had greater success and sustained the test of time better than any other franchise thanks to the “derivative” work of its dedicated fans.
But how strange to see a formally, officially published version of what could only be called fan fiction! Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened– lots of entertainment franchises publish “supplementary” books, like reader guides for the Harry Potter series or the young adult novels for “Smallville.” But these, along with Quinn Brockton’s Queer as Folk books, are somehow christened and blessed by The Powers That Be and allowing them to, get this, make money off of the derivate work that thousands, millions of devoted fans have been doing underground and for free for decades! Now that’s capitalism. Too bad we can’t lift the stigma, not to mention occasional litigation, placed on the other “rogue” fiction writers who were not so lucky to have made a quick buck on their love and dedication to the actors, artists, and characters that visit our homes and grace our television screens every week.