Alec Peters, you asked for it and you got it. A set of fan work guidelines for the Star Trek universe that pretty much kills everything except maybe Lego animations. (Which are fine for what they are, but…)
I don’t personally do fanfic, fan films, fan art, etc., I’m sufficiently happy to stick with the originals, lament the lack of “more of the same”, and to spend some time dithering over whether or not I want to invest in the latest whatever released by the franchise holders.
But maybe that’s because I’m an old school fan with old school ideas about how one goes about engaging with someone else’s property.
Back in my day, you expressed your love of a franchise by attending conventions, getting autographs, buying approved merchandise (when you could afford it, lusting after it if not), writing about the subject (reviews, critical commentary, odes to, why X is the best character of all); maybe wearing a costume, maybe drawing some scenes you’d like to see and maybe – way off in that dark corner over there – writing some slash/fic because you just couldn’t help yourself (and knowing that a lot of the rest of us were laughing even as we were titillated).
But making your own episode? Writing your own adventure novel? If nothing else, it was time totally wasted, time that could be devoted to creating your own characters, your own future worlds, alien races, starships. Borrowing? Absolutely. What space opera author doesn’t have an empire or a federation or aliens that represent the best and worst of humanity?
There were, back in those dark days before the internet (when we actually thought the internet would be something cool to have) back then there were only two ways to engage with a franchised property: 1. get work with the actual owners of the franchise, or, 2. consume the offerings provided by the owners of the franchise (perhaps including bootlegs and counterfeits, if you were morally ambiguous).
If you really wanted to get involved on a non-professional, non-commercial basis, maybe you wrote letters to show producers, or started or joined a club, engaged in obsessive collecting, or compiled information in a supportive way. A small handful might take things so far as to write and perform a radio play, or a “skit” at a convention, maybe an 8mm home movie. Your “reach” was limited by both the technologies of the time AND (emphasize AND) social convention.
That social convention can be summed up as follows: don’t do something that will piss off the owners/creators, because we want them to keep on creating for ALL of us.
The addendum to that convention was: don’t do something that will piss off your fellow fans, because we’re all family and family feuds suck.
On some happy occasions, that addendum is followed by a realization that fans are creative types and by putting their heads together (as Fans are wont to do because it’s fun) they just might find a unique, creative, interesting and non-problematic way to express themselves in a satisfying manner that doesn’t involve pissing people off.
In many ways, the problems with Axanar are cut from the same cloth that the problems with puppies are cut from: an erosion of the social conventions within fandom (or perhaps, “fans” never becoming familiar with them in the first place).
That erosion expresses itself largely as an inversion of the relationship between the individual and fandom. TruFans (and I use that word deliberately) recognize that they are a part of Fandom, with Fandom placed in the superior position.
TruFans place the health and well-being of Fandom before their own personal desires. They are willing to modify their dreams and goals in the face of logic, out of a desire to support the community and out of a desire to ensure that Fandom’s perception of them is a positive one.
They do not place themselves ahead of Fandom.
These other “fans” seem to take the approach that Fandom is a tool, a market they can use to advance their own personal desires, rather than treating it as a culture of which they are a part. They take from Fandom rather than contributing to it.
This is not a case of “hey kid! Get off of my lawn”; it’s a case of Vogon’s building a Galactic off-ramp over my lawn, my house, my street, my neighborhood, my county, state, country, continent, planet. No matter that there are people living here. I want, I shall have.
We can save the arguments about fan works supporting and enhancing franchises for another day; right now, we need to address the fact that “fans” who have no connection to the cultural imperatives of fandom can and are doing things that are screwing all the rest of us over, because they simply don’t know how to be a Fan. It’s taken the adults in the room to put their feet down (as CBS/Paramount just did and as Fandom did at last year’s Hugo Awards) and no one is ever happy with the results when that happens. Take too many unauthorized cookies from the cookie jar – and yes, we know about every single one you took when you weren’t supposed to even if we didn’t say anything at the time – and the cookie jar gets taken away.
No more cookies for anyone.
I, for one, do not want to live in a cookieless future.
CBS/Paramount’s guidelines for fans can be found here.