Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.
– How Harry Potter Became the Boy Who Lived Forever
It has come to my understanding that many of the major CS Lewis webpages and forums officially “disapprove” of fanfiction. Which is kinda strange, since CS Lewis once wrote to a young reader who asked a bazillion questions like “what happened with this character? what happened after that happened? how did this happen? and etc.” that he, really, didn’t have answers for those questions, but that the reader should write their own stories to solve those gaps.
However, that doesn’t please everyone. As one grumbler said:
The suggestions Lewis made – to children – were for filling in the gaps in his stories, not for continuing the story of Narnia after it had already finished and the protagonists gone to heaven!
The idea that young adults, or teenagers, fifty years later, would turn up and write soppy medieval/sub-Tolkienian stuff using his characters, locations and concepts, would have worried the dear man.
And his suggestion was for them to write for their own pleasure and creativity – not to publish it internationally!
The same person also categorically stated that fanfiction is illegal.
You can’t please everyone, but there are a few facts here that should be straightened out.
First, it is completely ridiculous to create a distinction between “writing for one’s own pleasure and creativity” and “publishing internationally.” One can do both, or either. CS Lewis does not ever talk about either one.
Second, Lewis never specified that writing should be limited to children. He was, after all, an adult when he wrote children’s stories. A great number of adults write Narnia stories too.
Third, one could suppose that “publish internationally” means “on the internet.” What Lewis would have thought about the internet, or putting fanfiction there, is impossible to say.
Finally, fanfiction is not illegal. Fanfiction falls under the “Fair Use” clause of copyright law. Some author’s may declare that they do not want any fanfiction of their works, in which case the major fic archives will refuse to host stories based on stories by that author. But there is nothing to stop fans from making their own websites and posting fanfiction there. The author may send the web owners a C&D letter, and if that didn’t work the author could sue the owners to take down the webpage, but most intellectual property specialists believe that in a court case the web owners would win.
tl;dr: Fanfiction is legal, and the estate of CS Lewis hasn’t said they don’t want any anyways.
I would say all this in direct response to the poster, of course, but the forum is now closed.
Basically, though, the author seems to believe that all fanfiction is crap, though she refuses to read any, therefore it is stupid to even talk about it.
However, many people have pointed out that Fanfiction is just another form of Literary Criticism. Fanfiction is a way to explore not just the “what happened then?” that the young reader once asked Lewis, but “why?” and “how?” I remember when my brother and I were young and first read the Narnia books that the two questions my brother had were, “how did the Pevensie’s feel after they fell out of the wardrobe at the end of LWW, wouldn’t they have kept all their adult knowledge?” and “did the Pevensie’s go to church?” Since the books themselves offer no information on these matters, there’s no really good way to answer those questions except by fanfic. One may disagree how a fanfic writer answered the question of what the Pevensie’s went through after they returned from Narnia, but hopefully your disagreement leads you to consider what you do think is plausible. Fanfiction is also a way to “fix” a perceived problem in a text. The problem may be nefarious, or just mundane. Did the Pevensie’s go to church? Yes, but they were just a bit slow on the uptake, so to speak, is one answer.
It is this form of criticism which spawned my first Narnia fanfic, Aesop’s Foible. I half-jokingly subtitled it in my mind, “In Which All the Problems of the Narnia Universe Are Solved, Except Mrs. Beaver’s Sewing Machine.” But it wasn’t until after writing it that I fully grasped the Longstanding Issue I had with the Narnia books. Which was, believe it or not, Fauns.
I am not a “Classicist” but I took a fair amount of Ancient Greek once upon a time. One can misconceive a reading course in Ancient Greek as a dry and largely philosophical class in which Plato and other High Ideals are read in the original. But it’s really not like that at all. You read the historians, mostly. And it can be dull wars and speeches by statesman, but then you come across something which just makes you throw your textbook against the wall in horror and go “Oh my God!”
I can imagine that when Lewis first read his draft of LWW at Eagle and Child, everyone thought it was very charming until Lucy went through the wardrobe and met Tumnus.
Someone coughs on their beer.
Another person drops their rasher.
Yet another exclaims “I thought you weren’t into the occult stuff anymore!”
And another, the very wisest of them all, says “My good fellow,” in all the seriousness of telling a first-year that their thesis topic is utterly wretched and unsavory, “you just created this lovely character of a young girl, and now you expect us to accept that she and this faun will have a long-standing relationship in which nothing untowards will occur?”
“I won’t read a book like that to my daughter,” mutters another in agreement.
I don’t think a lot of people today know much at all about Greek mythological creatures, but after I learned about them, their presence in Narnia just rubbed me the wrong way. Talking Animals, sure, fine. But Centaurs and satyrs and fauns and minotaurs? Errr…no thanks. What was Lewis thinking anyways?
This doesn’t seem to bother other people, but it bothered me. So I wrote a fanfic in which I solved it, in my mind at least. And yes, I “published it internationally” on the internet. Because maybe other people feel the same way, and may find my answer helpful.
I do think that fanfiction is a lot like Sturgeon’s Revelation. Ninety percent is crud, ten percent is amazing. I don’t know which camp my story fits into, those who read it probably know. But all of fanfic does provide information on how people interpret the source material, what problems they see with it, and how they think it’s best to solve it. To simply ignore all this evidence as “nonessential” to the ongoing dialogue the source text is having with the world seems to be the ignorant putting on of very large blinders. Just because a response is in narrative form instead of essay form does not make the response any less valid.