The Fanfic Model for Sci-Fi Franchise Betterment

Anyhow, moving on.  I seem to be getting my blogging inspiration from Kottke this week (which isn’t a bad thing seeing as he usually has good stuff on his blog) and so it was this Kottke post that has led me to writing this.  The brief post (as are all Kottke posts) brings up Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, and entirely fan based and made Star Trek series that ran for 50 episodes (each episode around 35 -40 minutes long). 

As a nerd, and a big fan of pretty much all things Science Fiction, I found this really interesting.  Reading a bit more and visiting the Hidden Frontier website I get the impression that these Trekkies did a pretty great job at embodying the feel and quality of the whole Star Trek universe.  That is impressive, considering they are not directly associated with the series as a whole, but I do not think that it is all that surprising.  Allow me to explain further.

A lot of popular science fiction goes the route of a franchise.  Some of the better known of these ar shows and movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, etc. (and yes, there does seem to be a “Star is a good word to include in the title somewhere” theme going on here).  There are lots of other science fiction franchises as well.  There is a reason why the franchise model is so popular.  Science fiction in particular of all different genres of fictional narrative seems to attract some of the most loyal and enthusiastic fans (the fantasy genre shares in this fandom some too).  As such, there are a large number of people, who are very interested in the expanded worlds in which these stories take place, and are more than willing to dish out large amounts of money to enjoy more and more of their stories of choice.  All around this need not be a bad thing, as it provides audiences with a lot of , generally, fun entertainment.  It also provides production companies and rights owners with huge masses of dough.

Ideally this model should be able to sustain for a very long time, with more stories and material being produced and the audience actively consuming more.  Sure, great, how very lovely and capitalistic and all.  However, there seems to be a real issue that just about every sci-fi franchise seems to face eventually, and that is that as the stories continue, their quality, especially in the critical eyes of loyal fans, tends to diminish, to the point which the newer stories may actually alienate and drive away fans.  There is a simple reason this happen I suspect, and that is because the producers are not all that interested in the stories anymore, but still want to make a buck.  As such the quality of the stories stagnates and declines, the fans are left disappointed, and eventually, in many cases, the franchise burns out.

I propose that there is a solution, that could, with a little work, solve this issue while still providing adequately to both parties involved.  I call this the Fanfic Model of Franchise Maintenance. 

Fans of almost any science fiction story usually have a lot of ideas about what is going on in the worlds and universes in which the stories occur.  A lot of fans even take a stab at writing and creating their own stories.  Certainly a lot of this fan fiction is non-canon garbage (simply because a lot of people are poor writers and just not nearly as creative as they think they are.  Sorry for the bluntness, but it is true).  On occasion though some fan or group of fans will create something of real quality.  This looks to be the case with Hidden Frontier.  What I suggest, is that production companies and owners of franchises, utilize this quality fanfic, because it is made lovingly and seriously to better the franchise as a whole.  And with a little (very minimal mind you) involvement from the producers, these fanfics can reach a much broader audience and also turn into revenue.

Real loyal science fiction fans are easily turned off by weak plot devices, poorly created characters, or overall inferior developments.  As such, they are people who are more apt to put a lot of thought and consideration into stories that they themselves make for any franchised narrative.  Utilizing their enthusiasm and love, seems more likely to produce further interesting stories and characters, as well as keeping the audience directly involved.  If there is one thing that I’d like to say to most producers of entertainment (whether they be books, movies, TV, video games, whatever) it would be “listen to your fans.  Sure you may have some ideas you want to see happen, but if you piss off your fans, you’ll never live it down.”

I’d love to see what loyal and hardworking fans of a wide variety of science fiction franchises can do.  In the day and age of the Internet, cheap computers, and relatively easy video software, it is not hard for fan fiction to develop a life of its own.  I hope that production companies and franchise owners are not too stupid and decide to try ceasing and desisting these efforts by loyal audiences, because, in the end, with a little effort it is in their best interest to let it be.

~ by Nathaniel on September 30, 2011.

One Response to “The Fanfic Model for Sci-Fi Franchise Betterment”

  1. While I applaud the creation of fan content and enjoy the stuff when I find it, I think there are a lot of people who could really do better not only for themselves and the rest of the world if they just – I dunno – wrote their own stuff?

    Yeah, Battlestar Galactica’s cool. So is Star Trek – and Star Wars. But you’re starting out with a world somebody else has already puzzled out and worked all the wrinkles out of, and the exciting work has all already been done for you! Where’s the fun in that?

    What about starting something new? One of the things we as fans dearly love is to get in close to the heart of the creative fire that spawned those cool things we daydream about, that consume us with the fervor that can only come from a beautifully crafted story with memorable characters and stuff you can make yourself that helps you keep that emotional tie to that other world. But what if we make something new, something exciting, ourselves? You can’t get closer to the center of that creative fire than by being the very person who creates it. I’ve known so many insanely creative people, and I meet more all the time – but so many of them just replicate what others have already done.

    New adventures await us all, and it’s time for the real sparks in fandom to start writing them!

    – Gene Turnbow
    Krypton Radio

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