The Fan Fiction Rant

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Title: The Fan Fiction Rant
Commentator: Robin Hobb
Date(s): 2005
Medium: online essay
Fandom: pan-fandom, Fanfiction, Pornophobia, anti-fanfic
External Links: The Fanfiction Rant via Wayback Machine and as a WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.


The Fan Fiction Rant is an essay written by science-fiction author Robin Hobb and posted on her own website (since removed)[1].

Robin Hobb, author of Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies, is outspoken in her dislike and disapproval of fanfiction. In this essay, she explores why, pointing out what she's been told in favor of fanfic, and what she finds wrong with each of those points. She defines fanfiction as "fiction written by a ‘fan’ or reader, without the consent of the original author, yet using that author’s characters and world," and:

  • claims it is identity theft
  • says, "the original author really screwed up the story, so I’m going to fix it"[2]
  • fanfiction is to writing what a cake mix is to gourmet cooking
  • is infringing on copyright
  • and "At the extreme low end of the spectrum, fan fiction becomes personal masturbation fantasy in which the fan reader is interacting with the writer's character. That isn't healthy for anyone."
  • and ultimately: "When I write, I want to tell my story directly to you. I want you to read it exactly as I wrote it."

Similar Controversies

Fan Reactions

Several fans have been outspoken in their disagreement of Hobb's definition, examples, and conclusions.

  • "If Hobb doesn't want my "impression" to be changed, she should ban reviews. Hell, she should even ban me from blogging my impressions and interpretations, because *gasp* they might affect the ideas of others! ...there's nothing really wrong with writing masturbation fantasies, being an Elvis impersonator, or making things out of cake mix." [3]
  • "I don't think it's at all unreasonable to assume that a reader can simultaneously value the original story and wish to indulge in "what-if" games with it. Fanfic writers who have the Fellowship pause for a brief man-on-elf orgy before setting out from Rivendell aren't insisting that Tolkien fucked up his own work by not including such a scene-- they're just mixing the mental flavors of two things that appeal to them. Buying into Hobb's presumption here strikes me as akin to saying that writers of alternate history are dishonoring real historical events with their conjectures.... "[4]
  • "Oh, and let me say that yes, writing fanfiction *can* be used as a way to improve one's fiction writing abilities. It's all to do with how you take advantages of the particular challenges and opportunities it provides, in addition to other ways of practicing writing. The statement that "You will learn more from writing one story of your own, no matter how bad it is, than the most polished Inuyasha fan fiction that you write" is very, very false."[5]
  • "There's a very capitalist, very Protestant mindset behind this: even if they're not making money off 'my' characters, they shouldn't be able to have that much fun with them, dammit! They're MINE!" [6]
  • "Curiosity is human nature, making new discoveries is a joy. One should judge a fanfic upon its own artistic merits, by completely twisting and turning its original source material can be considered creativity and innovation, is that not? You condemned fanfiction for their lack of originality, and thus being nothing more than 'watered down' versions of the originals." [7]
  • "And why is it only fanfic that corrupts the "pure" experience intended by the author, while discussion with friends, reading reviews, thinking about what I've read, or even just reading the blurb on the back of the book (which is generally outside the author's control) doesn't? Or would Robin prefer that I never even think about anything of hers that I read? That my experience of the book begins and ends with the words on the page? That the book means so little to me that it never impinges on the rest of my life?" [8]
  • "In the fanfic realm that I frequent (I won't say which), I lately find myself sympathizing with her position more than I do with the insistence that she is somehow full of herself and arrogant and angry. Why should an author, who spent long hours creating a world and characters out of her own imagination, be thrilled and flattered when other fanfic writers come along and take characters he/she loves and drag them in the dirt? Why should this writer, who made certain characters his/her main protagonists and clearly made them the hero and heroine of their book or show, be happy when another fanfic writer decides that, in *their* work, they are going to turn one or more of these characters into monsters, making them the villains of their piece? What is so wonderful about that?" [9]
  • "I find quite a bit of Hobb's little rant ridiculous, but above all this thought: She's never wondered "and then what happened?" after her favorite book/movie/whatever ended? Or she just has no imaginative curiosity? And if so, how did she wind up writing fantasy fiction? Or writing at all?" [10]
  • "So I'm afraid that, contrary to her own claim, she is attempting to stifle people's creativity by denying them a harmless outlet. Fanfic isn't a free speech issue, or a copyright issue. It's about the innate need of people to tell each other stories. When our culture has replaced its own huge variety of stories with one official version owned by one person, that leaves the rest of us very little recourse but to re-appropriate what would have been common property in an earlier day and age and put our own spin on it. In the Information Age, this has become blessedly easy once again. Stories, like information, want to be free. Fortunately, authors can still make money on their versions while the rest of us sit around our electronic hearth and share ours for nothing." [11]
  • "Totally understand and agree with your sentiments. Like taking a child and giving him/her plastic surgery here, nips and tucks there, until he/she looks nothing like the child. Might want to have the "rant" edited to remove the typos, though." [12]

Further Reading


  1. The Fan Fiction Rant on, accessed 2010-5-17
  2. Some fans (ie, me, Betty) speculate Hobbs' aversion to fanfiction may stem partly from critical fan reaction to the ending of her Tawney Man series.
  3. Robin Hobb on Fanfiction by worldserpent, journal purged and deleted
  4. On Fanfic and the Ownership of Imaginary Experience\reference link by scott_lynch
  5. Robin Hobb/reference link by sigelphoenix
  6. In Defense of Fanfiction by Guestblogger Justin/reference link
  7. In Defense of Fanfiction by Guestblogger Justin, comment by The Great Swiftly/reference link
  8. In Defense of Fanfiction by Guestblogger Justin, comment by rmsgrey/reference link
  9. In Defense of Fanfiction by Guestblogger Justin, comment by Anonymous/reference link
  10. In Defense of Fanfiction by Guestblogger Justin, comment by Meri/reference link
  11. Blogorrhea, Lee Kottner, General Mischief Branch, In Defense of Fanfic/reference link, posted March 20, 2006, accessed July 1, 2013
  12. NO FAN FIC (or suggestions) PLEASE by Robin Hobb RoseMary Bellamy, posted May 4, 2009
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