No Bull

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Fanfiction
Title: No Bull
Author(s): Sarah
Date(s): December 16, 1999
Length:
Genre: gen
Fandom: Starsky & Hutch
External Links:

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No Bull was a gen Starsky & Hutch story by Sarah that was partially posted in four parts at The Pits, a mailing list.

It was a unauthorized sequel to Suzan Lovett's The Thousandth Man.

Part way through its posting, a fan contacted Sarah and told her her story violated the fannish custom of asking the original author for prior permission. The author of "No Bull" wrote a heartfelt apology to the mailing list, saying she was a new fan and had no idea that what she did was wrong. Many fans weighed in on the discussion, most saying that yes, permission was required, and offered up their own experiences.

One fan, Flamingo, responded with some very gracious and kind messages, assuring Sarah that her misstep was understandable, and offered to contact Suzan Lovett about the issue. Lovett also responded in a gracious and kind fashion.

The story was posted in four parts; three before the discussion and permission, the fourth after permission was given. In the end, however, the story was abandoned before being finished.

The Author's Introduction

No Bull: A Sequel to Susan Lovett's "The Thousandth Man"

First off: thanks for accepting my membership. This list is something else!!

This is a sequel to a story in the Pits archive, Susan Lovett's magnificent "The Thousandth Man". If you read this without having read "The Thousandth Man", you won't be able to make head or tail of it, so please don't. I'm not even sure why I'm posting it, except "The Thousandth Man" didn't let me sleep at night after I'd finished it, feeling there were too many loose ends. So I decided to try to tie some up. Figured someone else might have wanted to see them tied up, too…

If this stinks, I need to know. :-)

And if it's great literature, I'd dearly love to hear it!! :-D

Some More Context

Historically, the fan community has had a shaky understanding of fair use principles. See additional context at unauthorized sequels.

In 1999, the concept of remix culture and shared universes was still a decade away. As one fan remembers: "In 1999, a fan attempted to to write a story as part of the Thousandth Man same universe called "No Bull". She was roundly rebuked by the fan community for committing "copyright infringement" and violating the "author's privilege." When word of this story reached Suzan, she explained that while print etiquette traditionally required getting permission before writing in some else's universe, those rules seemed to be growing more relaxed in the Internet era. However, in the past she had had problems when she allowed others to write in her universes because the other writers' changes were simply not compatible with hers, so she eventually abandoned those universes. At time I found the situation ironic because since Suzan had left the fandom with no plans to revisit her stories, any changes others might make to her universe couldn't possibly affect her writing plans. Still, the initial negative reaction is the one that prevailed and no further sequels or shared universe stories were attempted. The author of "No Bull" never finished the story."[1]

Another fan remembers the author of "No Bull," [Sarah], stopped posting the story parts after another fan contacted her to tell her she'd violated fannish customs by not asking Suzan first. [Sarah] profusely apologized, saying she had no idea that this rule existed and that she was mortified to have violated it. Another fan, Flamingo, responded to her:

Sarah, it's perfectly understandable how things happened. Please don't feel so bad. And I don't think this is a disaster, since I know Suzan so well, and her generosity. I'll be calling her in the next day or so and will explain to her what happened. I can't speak for her, but it wouldn't surprise me if she granted you permission to continue your story. I know she won't be angry. She was a new fan once, too, and has felt that urge to continue others stories. I think the only thing that might have made her angry was if you (or anyone) truly didn't care about her feelings and did whatever you wanted with no regard to her feelings. And you obviously don't feel that way. So, give me a day or two and lets see if we can't find a happy ending to this, okay? [2]

Another post from Flamingo on the same day:

Regarding Sarah's story that takes off from Thousandth Man: I'd meant to drop her a friendly note to say hi (but of course I had no time). Some months ago a fan did write to me via the Archive and asked me to forward a request to Suzan to ask her permission to write a sequel to Thousandth Man. I can't remember the name of the fan, and thought it might be Sarah, since I only ever got that one request and never did see the proposed sequel. By the way, Suzan granted her permission to that fan.

Prior to the net, fannish writing was not so common and not produced so easily. Publishing zines takes time, money, and a great deal of labor and it wasn't unusual to wait years for a zine to come out. To say that fans took their writing and art very seriously is putting it mildly. Both Suzan's novels, The Thousandth Man and Goliath were produced from start to finish on typewriters which was very painstakingly laborous work. (In addition to writing the novels, Suzan also produced the art for them. She is a very slow writer, so producing works of that length with original art took a long time.) So, the "ownership" of fan produced work was not taken lightly.

New fans coming in through the net have not been part of that tradition. Fiction is posted on lists, on archives, it just seems to "appear." Within a month of the new Star Wars film, almost 900 pieces of fiction appeared on the net surrounding those characters. Websites for the Sentinel boast thousands of pieces of fanfic. To those of us who came up through paper zines, this much fiction produced this quickly is almost impossible to comprehend. It has spawned a different culture, and much of the fan culture many of us have taken for granted isn't understood by new fans. On VP, we've talked about mentoring new fans, something that was done with almost all new fans prior to the net. You met someone, they were interested in your fandom, you introduced them around, shared your zines, and during this sharing, introduced them to all the ins and outs of fan culture. Now, however, new fans come in through the net so they kind of get dumped into the middle of fandom without any of the mentoring the rest of us had. So, it's not surprising that concepts of fan etiquette many of us accept as a given are a whole new concept to these fans.

Since we are already appropriating the property of Spelling-Goldberg and Columbia to write our fanfic, and since we do it our of sheer love for the guys, it may seem confusing to some why we can't treat fanfiction the same way. That's why we call it "fan etiquette," just like there is "net etiquette" now over other issues. Generally speaking, it is considered fan etiquette to ask for permission before using any original characters, or specific settings, or plot lines that were introduced by another fan. It's not a matter of legalities, but a matter of respect for another fan's creativity. Whether the fan says yes or no is entirely up to that fan, but if the answer is no, then the appropriate response is to pout, kick a few trashcans, cuss up a storm or express your displeasure in whatever way satisfies you, then forget about it. Suzan herself has written sequals to other fans' work. Her story on the slash archive, "A Fine Storm," is a sequal to [April Valentine's] short story, "Between the Hours of Four and Nine," which is in the zine, "No Pants, No Badge, No Gun." Suzan loved that story so much she wanted to continue it. Of course, this was during the paper zine era, so contacting Martha and discussing it with her was easy. Martha agreed, and when Suzan finished her story, Martha liked it so much she wanted to write a sequel to the sequel! That was "The Sweetest Taboo" which is also on the slash archive. However, when Suzan wanted to write a slash sequal to the gen A/U story, "Decorated for Death," the author said no. Suzan had already created 5 different art pieces for her sequel, a story she was dying to write. However, when the author said no, she abandoned all work on it. We are all the poorer for it, but Suzan did the right thing.

Sarah shouldn't feel bad about this. She's new to all of this, and didn't know. Obviously, she loved Suzan's story so her work was a testament to that. Suzan is only peripherally in SH anymore and is unaware of this, but when she finds out (and no doubt she will) I am sure she will be flattered that Sarah cared that much about her story and will understand why Sarah felt compelled to write the sequel. Suzan has always been very encouraging to new writers and artists. While I hesitate to speak for Suzan, since she speaks so well for herself, I suspect she, like myself, might be a bit confused that Sarah (or anyone) felt the need to write a sequel. There already *is* a sequel to Thousandth Man and it is the S&H episode, Sweet Revenge. Again, some of this confusion undoubtably comes from the difference of having watched the show in first run and then over and over again in syndication (when Suzan was involved in the fandom), or coming into the fandom now when the show is not on the air and we all depend on the kindness of other fans to get episodes. Most of us only end up with a handful of eps, don't know what order they go in, and as result often miss the significance of fiction that is canon-dependent as 1,000 Man is.

Suzan realized this before we posted the novel and told me to write the explanatory note at the beginning of it. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading this story, you might want to skip the rest of this post as it will have spoilers. Thousandth Man entirely depends on the fact that the episode "Starsky vs Hutch" (the Kira episode) was pre-empted from the slot where it was supposed to have been shown (somewhere in mid-season) and placed, instead, inappropriately, after Targets Without A Badge and just in front of Sweet Revenge (the last episode of the series). The entire supposition of Suzan's novel is that it begins after S&H exit the bar after dumping Kira and it ends *during* the teaser of Sweet Revenge. Dobey's dialog takes place during the ping-pong game S&H are having, after which they go to the parking lot and Starsky gets shot. The actually sounds of the shooting are in the next to the last line of the novel, which Dobey hears, and not understanding what they are, he goes to investigate. (I read 1,000 Man for the first time without having seen but a few eps, none of them having to do with this story, and I didn't get the significance of the ending until I'd seen SR. After that, the ending hit me much harder as I finally understood its powerful irony.)

I have not had time to read Sarah's story (I haven't had time to do anything fan related in a while :-( ) so I know nothing about it, but I would have to assume it begins either during or immediately after Starsky's recovery from being shot. In that case, any sequel is possible. Heaven knows, there is more post-Sweet Revenge fiction in this fandom than almost any other kind. The sky's the limit, as they say. But any 1,000 Man sequel will have to take in the actual ending of Suzan's novel and deal with Starsky's shooting. I'll be interested to see how Sarah handled it, if I ever have any free time again! ;-)

There are other issues I'd like to discuss surrounding the use of other fan's characters, plots, universe, etc. but this post is long enough, and those issues really aren't specific to the situation with Sarah's story, so I'll save that for another post.

I hope, Sarah, that you haven't been discouraged from writing in this fandom. S&H fans are the friendliest of all, and all of us start out in this strange new world of fandom feeling our way around. We need writers in SH, so welcome, Sarah! Have fun with us! Pretty soon, you'll be explaining the ins and outs to the new fan who's just wandered in and can't find her way!" [3]

Lovett replied to [Sarah] via Flamingo and very graciously reassured [Sarah] that no harm was done, that she herself had "borrowed" from the original show: "Safe to say if there's a sin here, mine far outnumbers yours. It's fan fiction. We're all using borrowed characters, situations, etc., and I see nothing that should make mine holier than, say, the first writer who went: two street cops, this Nordic type and his more ethnic partner.... I have never, not once, not *ever* refused anybody *any* creative follow-up on anything that was done by me. I also have to ask other writers permission to write sequels to their stories and I *know* how it feels to have these ideas that are churning but have to wait to be given outlet. 'Do unto others' is *still* a good operating procedure, far's I'm concerned." [4]

References

  1. Morgan Dawn's personal recollections, accessed May 27, 2015.
  2. from "Re: Copyright infringement," a post by Flamingo on The Pits, December 25, 1999, used on Fanlore with Flamingo's permission
  3. from "Re: Copyright infringement," a post by Flamingo on The Pits, December 25, 1999, used on Fanlore with Flamingo's permission
  4. "Suzan's comments", a post on The Pits, used on Fanlore with Flamingo's permission (December 25, 1999)