In case you hadn’t heard: Amazon is launching a platform to help fanfic writers publish/sell their work. It’s called Kindle Worlds. And it’s not OK.
Fic is for fun not for profit. End of story.
The commodification of fandom is not OK. From corporate conventions to queerbaiting for ratings to fic publishing, it’s all the same profit-drive game. All these things are trying to fold us back under capitalist control. The fantastic part of fandom is that we’re NOT passive consumers. We purposefully transgress and subvert the conventional media social systems in order to create stories that engage, entertain, resonate with and, yes, titillate us. Fandom is a stance against the norm, an act of love, a way of thinking differently about media and narrative and the world. It’s modern-age mythmaking.
And remember gift culture? Remember how we make friends by writing each other things and indulging each other’s whims and kinks FOR FREE? Kindle Worlds (and any similar endeavor) is the opposite of that. It’s the exploitation of fandom’s talent for its own profit, when the self-imposed denial of profit has been a standard of fandom since its inception. It’s asking fans to pay for something they can already access for free, while also removing the comment culture of fandom (which is already suffering enough thanks to Tumblr and AO3). Comment culture, by the way, is also what gives us power as a collective against these kinds of machinations. By eliminating communication with one another, these platforms are reducing our ability to disseminate ideas, form coalitions and friendships, and further resist the normative standard and corporate control.
Here are some worst-case scenarios to consider:
1a) If selling fanfiction is successful and profitable for Amazon and for the original authors, then some authors could start requiring any fic writer to pay them to use their characters. The end result will probably be less sandboxes for us to play in, unless we want to be sued. (Amazon says it’s acquiring more “licenses” even as we speak.)
1b) Some archives could be sued as well, for posting content featuring the characters without paying the corresponding royalties.
2) Less privileged fans (talking about the readers here) will no longer have access to fanfiction for those books/shows.
3) The relationship between the fanfic writers and the fanfic readers would be altered by introducing money into the equation. (More distant and less based on joy and mutual appreciation, I imagine.)
For more information on what a raw deal this is for fanfic writers, see Scalzi’s Whatever.
I’ve already heard the counterargument that “Kindle Worlds will never take off because it’s not allowing the publication of porn, lolololol.” The point, my friends, you have missed it. There is a MUCH greater stake here. This sets a precedent. What happens when a platform that does allow porn comes along? Fandom is a transgressive, progressive, experimental, collaborative space and any attempted intervention, even—or especially—under the guise of of “helping” fans, is infringement on free thought. It’s an attempt to subsume us back into the profit-driven capitalist system that we’ve deliberately and successfully acting outside of for decades. And it should not be tolerated.
So fuck you, Amazon. And Yahoo, for that matter. Stop interpellating us. Stop making us play by your rules. WE ARE LEGION. And we refuse you.
NOTE: It’s come to my attention that there’s been some criticism of the this post’s the-sky-is-falling! tone. From where I sat at work the morning the news was released, it did feel a bit that way, and clearly the post was an emotional response written in anger. But I stand by the underlying principles touched on here—we should be vigilant about our fandom participation, our rights as fans, and the way our media system uses us—and I think the broad-strokes imagining of a dystopian future for fic can serve as a warning to protect what we do have without actually believing that these events will necessarily come to pass as a result of Kindle Worlds. I made the post thinking of it as a call to arms rather than a reasoned critique. To all those who apparently said pointed and hurtful things I have not read, though, thanks for any concern over my mental stability and intelligence!