How John Scalzi invented fanfic

So the other day John Scalzi posted on his blog that he is writing a “reboot” of H. Beam Piper’s science fiction novel “Little Fuzzy”. He says:

Why did you do this?

Because as far as I know it’s never been done before. Science fiction TV and movie series are rebooted all the time — see Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek for recent examples of this — but I can’t think of a significant, original universe in science fiction literature in which this has been done, at least, not by someone who is not the original author. So I thought, hey, this seems like it could be a fun thing to do. So I did it.

If your eyes aren’t rolling enough already (because, hello, fan fiction?), melannen pointed out to me that Ardath Mayhar, a female author, had even written a professionally published retelling of the Little Fuzzy story (a fact that’s mentioned on the Wikipedia page for Little Fuzzy, so it’s hardly obscure.)

Is it time for another round of How To Suppress Women’s Writing?

  • She didn’t write it.

(But if it’s clear she did the deed. . .)

  • She wrote it, but she shouldn’t have. (It’s political, sexual, masculine, feminist.)
  • She wrote it, but look what she wrote about. (The bedroom, the kitchen, her family. Other women!)
  • She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it. (“Jane Eyre. Poor dear, that’s all she ever. . .”)
  • She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (It’s a thriller, a romance, a children’s book. It’s sci fi!)
  • She wrote it, but she had help. (Robert Browning. Branwell Bronte. Her own “masculine side.”)
  • She wrote it, but she’s an anomaly. (Woolf. With Leonard’s help….)
  • She wrote it BUT. . .

When women do it, it’s just fan fiction. When men do it, it’s a reboot. Right.

ETA: I’ve been pointed at a subsequent post in which Scalzi admits he’s writing fanfic.

For those who are new here, I’d like to point out that we have a comment policy which asks you to “Be at least one of: feminist, friendly, amusing, or perspicacious. Two is even better.” Comments along the lines of “She wrote it, BUT…” (it wasn’t commercially published, it wasn’t called a reboot because we hadn’t invented that word yet, she didn’t have permission from TPTB…) will be bitbucketed.

11 thoughts on “How John Scalzi invented fanfic

  1. John Scalzi

    Actually the next entry on the site directly addresses the issue of whether Fuzzy Nation is fanfic (short answer: yes):

    As regards “Golden Dream,” it’s definitely a retelling of the established “Fuzzy” story from another point of view; “Fuzzy Nation” on the other hand does not follow the storyline established by Piper, but creates an entirely new one, which is why I called it a “reboot.” What Mayhar’s done in the Fuzzyverse and what I’m doing are somewhat different things. It’s not to suggest that “Golden Dream” is not in itself good work.

    1. Skud Post author

      Thanks, John. Someone else pointed me at your second post and the streams crossed, so I was adding a link to yours even as you commented.

        1. Skud Post author

          I think it’s rather like when big-L-Literary types think they’ve invented SF. “Oh, I don’t read in genre X, but I totally invented the idea of a time travel loop/multiple dimensions/robots with souls! It’s so creative and groundbreaking!” SF fans quite rightly pound their heads on their keyboards.

  2. Rebecca Ore

    There have been other professional “reboots” of earlier s.f., also, and I would make an argument that Le Guin’s The Word for the World is Forest is also a revision of H. Piper Beam’s universe, though not acknowledged. Beyond that, any number of people have played in other writer’s universes, both as professionals and as amateurs. I may or may not be the first writer to deliberately write fan-fictionable fiction with explicit permission given to take my characters out to play.

  3. Yonmei

    In the intro to Orson Scott Card’s novel-of-the-film The Abyss, Card outlines how he based the novel on the film itself, rather than writing it from the script, and how the first three chapters are backstory for the three main characters. He appears to feel he’s doing something unique and special, because he likes the film so much.

    I’m afraid John Scalzi isn’t even the first man to claim to have invented fanfic…

  4. JakiChan

    As far as women’s writing goes: Bujold. Tied for most Hugos for best novel. There is a reason – it’s some of the best SciFi going. (Why she’s not better know is left as an exercise for the reader.)

    1. Skud Post author

      Err, what? I’m not sure I understand your context. Are you telling us that Lois McMaster Bujold is a woman and a writer? If so, what makes you think we didn’t already know?

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