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Fandom: Is Inspiration a Crime or a Compliment?
by Dawn-Earth Maloney

When I say “fandom” what does it bring to mind? Perhaps you think of ‘trekkies’ all decked out going to cons, or maybe a line of elves and warriors waiting to see the latest LOTR movie. For some people, fandom is a source of inspiration. When this month’s theme was decided, one of the first things that popped into my head was the story of Dee Dreslough, the poor unfortunate that was harassed by Anne McCaffrey’s lawyers when all she wanted to do was heed the muse in her head that was inspired by things she read and saw. The second thing that came to mind was Elfwood’s very own FanQuarter, home to a plethora of characters, writings and beasts all created by people whose love for particular artists or writers inspired them to create. This has lead me to ask the question, “Fandom, is it inspiration or crime?”

From time to time you hear of stories like Dee’s and you wonder what you would do if you were in a situation like that. You also wonder how you’d feel if it was your own creations that people were copying and adding to. To be fair, one can certainly see how copyright infringement and idea theft is definitely a problem in society. But there are also instances of people throwing their worlds open to the public, happy that so many people are so interested in what they’ve created. An excellent example of this is Marion Zimmer Bradley’s World of Darkover anthologies that she edited and published. It’s obvious that there is no one true answer to my question, so I’ll take it piece by piece.

Over the years, millions of people have been inspired by other peoples’ works. As a matter of fact, it is common for art students to painstakingly copy works of the acknowledged masters as a part of their curriculum. Works by these students are often sold to people who obviously can’t own the original but don’t want a poster or print. In these cases there is never a question of criminality. It is obvious that these students are inspired by the masters and only wish to pay compliment while learning their chosen trade. Arches abound in architecture, yet the Italians don’t file lawsuits because the ancient Romans built them in the first place. This may sound ridiculous, and it is, but humor me. If every person went sue-crazy that had ever had a good idea of theirs get copied, this world would be ridiculous. It would be like telling Jiffy that they couldn’t make peanut butter because someone else did it first. I know a lot of people out there that would be rather upset with that.

On the other hand, I as a writer and artist would be terribly upset if someone “ripped me off.” It takes a lot of time and energy to create something original. It becomes a part of you, almost like having a child in many respects – a brainchild that is. Had someone copied the Mona Lisa right after it was created and signed their own name to it, would it be as famous? If there were two leaning towers of Pisa would we even care about it? It’s something to think about. Granted, these are extreme examples, but to many people that create – intellectual theft and/or copying is as extreme as… well, as extreme as say… stealing their child. Think about it. If you are a person that creates you will understand. If you aren’t I can only hope that you at least have a conscience and will apply it to the situation to have a better understanding of it.

In the end, it all comes down to specific people and specific circumstances. Some are more than happy to share their worlds with fans and consider it the highest form of praise possible. Others, unfortunately, are not so open-minded and won’t hesitate to prosecute if it comes down to that. I can only advise to use your head as well as your heart when it comes to fandom… oh yeah. And don’t copy Anne McCaffrey.

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