Most of the criticism behind Fifty Shades of Grey is, “Are you kidding me? This started out as Twilight fanfiction.” And I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve said that myself. But honestly, it’s giving fanfic a bad rep.
The real question is: Is fanfiction proper writing?
so I agree mostly with this post
but I guess I’m a dork and would like to problematize the argument a bit?
No one got annoyed when John Steinbeck wrote East of Eden, even though Caleb and Aron are pretty blatantly inspired by Cain and Abel in the Bible. No one gets upset over calling Paradise Lost one of the greatest works of English literature, even though that’s blatantly Bible fanfiction (let’s retell the fall of man with a sympathetic Satan!).
You can say, oh, the Bible’s sufficiently old and historic and such, so it’s okay to rip off of it and call it literature rather than fanfiction.
But then what about Wide Sargasso Sea? Or what about March? Those yoink from two 1800s novels, which is relatively recent—when does something become “old” enough to become fair game for derivative works?
Or maybe it’s not even a question of how old the work that a fanfic author is drawing from. Maybe it’s a question of getting the proper blessing, or permission. Here’s an interesting example—say I’m brought in to write for a TV show starting with season 2. I didn’t make any of the characters that were established in season 1. I’m doing the same thing fanfiction writers are doing: writing new scenarios/plots/etc based on characters that were invented by someone else. Is the stuff I’m writing somehow worthier/more like literature just because I’m doing it with the explicit blessing of the show’s producers?
Or maybe it’s just a question of how blatantly derivative the work is, and how much the work manages to express the author’s own voice despite the fandom it’s drawing from. In the case of Fifty Shades of Grey (from what I understand of the book, anyway), it’s intuitively Not OK to many people, because it’s so blatantly derivative. But hell, Eragon was pretty blatantly derivative of a whole slew of works (there were times I was eye-rolling-groaning because it was so obviously a Tolkien/Le Guin/Star Wars/etc ripoff), even though it wasn’t really fanfiction. But I’d argue there’s not much more value in Eragon than there is in Fifty Shades of Grey. That suggests the difference between fanfiction and real literature may just boil down to a question of taste.
So what makes fanfiction somehow sub-literature may be a question of age (i.e., writing stuff based on the Bible is fine because it’s so old), or it may be a question of permission (i.e., writing episodes for a TV show is legit because you’re being paid to do it), or it may be a question of quality (i.e., well-written fanfiction may well be indistinguishable from legitimate literature). But, whichever distinction you choose, I think the line’s a lot blurrier and harder than most people realize.