She's not PCR, but goddamn, at least she's passing us the milk rather than pissing in our cornflakes.

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Title: She's not PCR, but goddamn, at least she's passing us the milk rather than pissing in our cornflakes.
Creator: zetsubonna
Date(s): December 28, 2015
Medium: Tumblr post
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External Links: original post
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She's not PCR, but goddamn, at least she's passing us the milk rather than pissing in our cornflakes. is the last line of a Tumblr post by zetsubonna.

The post was created on December 28, 2015 and a week later, had 16,221 notes.

Some Topics Discussed

The Post

I think what probably gets me deeply into my feelings about this “JKR should have just made her students Of Color to start with, she can’t ret-con and pretend she did it right the first time” is that I grew up with Anne Rice and Anne McCaffery, two female fantasy writers who hated headcanons and fandom and sued people for deviating from their original vision or doing any kinds of derivative works without their express contractual permission.

I feel like people who get irritated with her about defending black!Hermione don’t appreciate how much healthier JKR’s attitude toward the inclusivity movement in her fandom is than theirs was. Or Moffat’s is. Or Gatiss’s. Or Whedon’s. Or Green’s. Or even, until very recently, Lucas’s.

She’s not a PCR, but goddamn, at least she’s passing us the milk rather than pissing in our cornflakes.

Comments in the Notes

[akumakawa]:
I recall in those days when you were more likely to get notices of DMCAs from authors and such that when we heard about Rowling and other authors allowing us to play with their characters we FLOCKED to them. Became devout followers of their works and love them warts (problematic flaws) and all.

The very fabric of our fandom culture is now part of the mainstream instead of hiding on skulking archive websites with disclosure forms and age restriction and an acknowledgement of legal issues on par with a dark web after we came into the light. A consequence of that is that capitalism showed them how loyal paying customers like playing with fanworks and we are an untapped market for them.

We owe everything to Star Trek, the fanzines, Xena, Joss, Rowling, SMeyer, et al for allowing us to freely be ourselves and create new fandoms and markets. [1]
[aubrys]:
I have a lot of time for JKR and the sheer level of respect she shows to fans. Her attitude and assumption of good faith on the part of fans shaped the fandom culture we now live in, and that’s pretty brilliant.

OTOH, JKR has a long habit of making authorial declarations about the HP universe outside the books. And a huge number of these specifically relate to characters’ heterosexual relationships.

I believe that she tells us these things - about the marital status of Draco, Neville, Luna, Dudley, Percy, George, Cho, Hannah Abbott, Minerva McGonagall, Dolores Umbridge, Ollivander, and even Aunt Marge - out of a genuine desire to please fans. But each time they shut down other avenues of imaginative investment. And because there’s no controlled medium of distribution for them there’s a constant sword of Damocles hanging over every fan interpretation. (Rowling doesn’t reserve statements about the HP universe for a fictional register or a ‘canon’ as we traditionally understand it. Pottermore has no fixed timeline for publication, and flits among rhetorical modes.)

This is probably true for all kinds of preferred fannish readings of characters, but it’s especially notable for anyone who had carved out a a fanspace in which to read any HP character as queer.

Which is not to criticise Rowling or the original post so much as to say that - while a fan-benevolent creator is in many ways a wonderful thing - there are limits to the scope of any fanspace that relies on the patronage of the author. Narrower limits than we set for ourselves in the absence of such intercession.

Rowling’s support of a black Hermione is an incalculable good. We just shouldn’t confuse it with permission - we never needed her permission to believe Hermione was black.

[2]
[prismatic-bell]:
Jo is actually almost entirely responsible for fanfiction being what it is today.

BUT WAIT, I hear older fandomers cry. X-Files, Star Trek, Xena, how dare you. And yes, I say to those fandomers, you held those banners first! Be proud of the paths you forged. But Jo–

Jo did something no author or creator had ever done before.

She was a household name who encouraged fanfiction.

When I first began writing fanfiction in 1998, it was common practice to preface your fic with this massive disclaimer about how you weren’t selling it, and it was for fun, sometimes quoting the Fair Use part of the Creative Commons act, and even begging authors not to sue. Because in those days, that was a very real danger. Eleven-year-old me had reams of fanfiction on floppy disks I didn’t dare send to archives because I might get arrested and taken to Plagiarism Jail.

And then there was Jo. And no, Jo said, this is not a private amusement park at which you may stare longingly from the other side of wrought-iron gates. It is a giant sandbox. Here are my pails, here are my toys. Come sit and play with me. Eventually you may decide you like some other sandbox better, and all I ask is that you leave my toys here for others to play with, and not try to take them with you. But why should I lock you out of my sandbox? It is, after all, far more fun to play in a sandbox with many people than by yourself.

People were boggled. They didn’t get it. They thought she was crazy. And the fans? They kept loving, and writing, and drawing, and creating, and Jo kept loving them back. Potter Puppet Pals, A Very Potter Musical, Potter!, Remus and the Lupins, all stuff Jo just kind of went “whatever, they’re having fun.”

And attitudes began to change. And then someone else threw her lot in with Jo, someone who doesn’t get a lot of credit for contributing something massive to fandom culture and should:

Stephenie Meyer.

Yeah, you read that right. The goddamn author of Twilight, who refused to sue teenage girls who just wanted Bella to end up with Jacob. (And who is way more gracious than I would be about Fifty Shades.) She actually has a fanfiction archive right on her website! I’m serious: Smeyer has links to a personally-curated list of Twilight fanfiction she personally enjoyed or found interesting. Whatever you may think of her writing, that loving attitude of “we’re all here to have fun, I love that you love my world and my characters, please enjoy” was such a departure from the days of C&D letters and page-long disclaimers.

These two women changed the face of how fandom works forever. Yes, their work is flawed. They are products of their time and upbringing. But just the fact that they embrace the concepts of “my world as I see it and my world as you see it are not the same, and that’s not just okay, that’s good” is something to be celebrated. [3]
[atomicheavybike]:
This is fascinating and all credit to Meyer and Rowling for being so instrumental in changing the culture. I do just want to add that the producers of Xena actually hired a fanfic writer to scriptwrite on their final season. As it often did (with a female TV action hero, with a musical episode), Xena helped to point the way. [4]
[hannasus]:
Look, I don’t want to minimize Rowling’s contribution to fandom culture. I think she’s terrific, honestly, and kudos to her in particular for being so awesomely outspoken on issues of class and race, as the OP pointed out.

But I simply don’t accept that she’s the be-all end-all when it comes to creator support of fan fiction. Certainly the sheer enormity of the HP fandom has had an impact on the evolution of fanfic and fandom in general, but Rowling’s support is far from the only factor in that.

The very nature of the internet itself has changed dramatically in the nineteen years since the first Harry Potter book was published. Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds that we never could have imagined in such a short time, and we’ve seen the rise and fall of web sites and social media platforms that have each impacted the way people band together and interact online. To ignore theses seismic shifts in the global social and mass media landscape is to see only a very small piece of the picture.

J.K. Rowling didn’t originate the notion of supporting fanfic, she simply carried on a tradition that had already been in place for years before she ever wrote her first word. The tradition of the very people who inspired her to become a writer in the first place.

She and Meyer and James are merely part of a very long and illustrious line of authors who have openly supported fan fiction over the years, including (but not in any way limited to): Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold, S.E. Hinton, Bernard Cornwell, Jim Butcher, Ellen Kushner, Meg Cabot, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, John Scalzi, Lev Grossman, Cory Doctorow, N.K. Jemison, and of course Naomi Novik. (It’s nice that Meyer has a fanfic archive on her site, but I assure you she’s far from the first author to do so.)

Among TV writers, Gene Roddenberry, Joss Whedon, Paul Cornell, and John Rogers, among many others, have been outspoken supporters of fan fiction. Star Trek was one of the last television shows that actually accepted unsolicited scripts, and hired a number of fanfic writers over the years (and was still seeking out fanfic writers to pen their official novelizations, last I heard). Someone above astutely mentioned Xena. And let’s not forget that The X-Files actually created a recurring character in memory of a deceased fanfic writer — and not in a snarky, Aaron Sorkin way, but as a sweet, tender tribute to the fans’ love of the show. If that’s not a strong show of support for fanfic I don’t know what is.

So please don’t tell people that J.K. Rowling was the first household name who ever encouraged fan fiction. You may not recognize all of the names above, but I assure you that others do. There are people out there writing fanfic today to whom Terry Pratchett or Diana Wynne Jones or Gene Roddenberry or Joss Whedon are far, far bigger names than J.K. Rowling. Just because she was the most important to you doesn’t mean she was the most important. The cultural impact of these other creators cannot be underestimated.

You also seem to be conveniently forgetting that Warner Bros. sent more than its share of C&Ds to Harry Potter fans back in the day, and that Rowling actually sued a fansite over their intention to publish a companion book. I’m not saying she was wrong to do so — she has every right to protect her potential earnings from her own creations — but it certainly wasn’t a triumph of fair use.

The Fair Use Project at Stanford University Law School said of the suit: “In support of her position Ms. Rowling appears to claim a monopoly on the right to publish literary reference guides, and other non-academic research, relating to her own fiction. This is a right no court has ever recognized. It has little to recommend it. If accepted, it would dramatically extend the reach of copyright protection, and eliminate an entire genre of literary supplements: third party reference guides to fiction, which for centuries have helped readers better access, understand and enjoy literary works.”

I’m just saying, she’s hardly the patron saint of letting people play in her sandbox.

As for the disclaimers you mentioned: they were never anything but a placebo, and the presumed necessity of them a fandom urban myth. The hysteria about fanfic writers being sued grew largely out of misinformation about a famous Marion Zimmer Bradley lawsuit, and was compounded by a rash of overreaching C&Ds in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Even if the threat of being sued had been real, the reality is that disclaimers bestowed no actual legal protection.

Fandom’s abandonment of these unnecessary bulwarks was the result of increased education about copyright laws and fair use, and increased awareness of rampant C&D abuse, due largely to the efforts of Creative Commons and the Organization for Transformative Works. I could argue that we owe far more to Naomi Novik, one of the founding members of the OTW, for the fact that disclaimers have fallen out of use, than to anything Rowling ever said or did.

Like I said, I’m not trying to deny that Rowling has had a significant impact on fandom culture. But neither am I willing to let other important contributions be ignored or forgotten so that she can be crowned the queen of all fan fiction. [5]
[marthawells]:
I also support any and all fanfiction for my books. I got my first fanzine around 1979 or 1980, before The Empire Strikes Back came out, and it was a huge thing for me. And fan art of any kind makes me profoundly happy. [6]
[shaman58]:
Much of the above is surprisingly ignorant.

First, it wasn’t a pioneering author who changed things, it was the U.S. Supreme Court, in its decision in the case Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. in 1994, which emphasized the notion of “transformativity” in judging the legality of a derivative work. It is no accident at all that the institution that maintains AO3 is named the Organization for Transformative Work.

Anne Rice and Anne McCaffery emerged as writers in a legal epoch where IP owners had to vigorously and aggressively defend their IP against infringement, lest by their acquiescence it fall into the public domain. The law changed.

J.K. Rowling was not uniquely special or instrumental in her commonsense approach to the inevitable appearance of HP fanfic. She just happened to be the author of books that, through the lottery of public taste, turned into insanely huge bestsellers in the time when post-Campbell copyright law was straightening out, and the additional good fortune of retaining lawyers who knew which way the winds were blowing. [7]

References

  1. akumakawa.tumblr
  2. aubrys.tumblr
  3. prismatic-bell.tumblr
  4. atomicheavybike.tumblr
  5. hannasus.tumblr
  6. marthawells.tumblr
  7. shaman58.tumblr