Peephole In My Skull

Fanfiction, Corelings, and Conan

Amazing fan art by Lussyvitt

Hey everyone, it’s me, Peat.

I’ve been letting Meg do most of the blogging these last few months as I focused on finishing up The Daylight War. We work together on the topics and posts behind the scenes, so I always have my hand in it, but now that the book is in another court for a bit, I am planning to try and post as myself a bit more often. I have so many half-written posts, you have no idea.

Meg will continue to do morning posts most days of contests, fan art, upcoming events, con-coverage, interviews, and the like. She has a lot of great stuff coming up.

I want to assure people that even if my correspondence has flagged in the last year or so, I am still the first person to see every contest entry and piece of reader email. They go right to my ipad and are usually read immediately. I have been overwhelmed by the number of incredibly supportive and encouraging messages as I struggled through a difficult time. If I don’t respond swiftly, please never doubt how much I appreciate it. Thank you, everyone.

Speaking of which. The Create a Coreling Contest.

The entries have been amazing. Seeing people have such incredible creative outbursts based on my work really brings home the feeling that this imaginary world I have created is a real place in their minds, perhaps one they likes to revisit sometimes, even after the books are read and done.

The contests entries always floor me, but what makes this one special is how it grew organically into something of a fanfiction contest, with many readers submitting short stories to give flavor to the new demons they created. I love the entries so very much.

There are some writers—people who I respect immensely and whose work has inspired me greatly—who have come out against fanfiction, most notably George RR Martin. Some of this has spurred hubbub and debate.

Take a second and google “GRRM, fanfic”, if you’re interested. I’ll wait. It’s a conversation worth reading and thinking about. I really understand both sides of the argument.

I think the authors make a very solid case for conservatism, much like stern professors giving you tough advice for your own good. In addition to the very sensitive issues of intellectual property rights and their value to the creator—both economically and emotionally—they are essentially saying creativity is a muscle, and muscles need exercise. Writing in someone else’s universe can be a crutch that allows the writer to avoid having to come up with worldbuilding of their own. This is, I agree, a skill that is essential to a good writer, and one that needs to be developed from as early an age as possible.

I just don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I started writing in grade school, and was always creating my own stories and characters, but I couldn’t deny the influences of the stories and characters I loved. How many GI Joe epics did I write, playing with my action figures in the back yard? How many new ways had Marvel’s orginial Secret War played out? Or the endless battles with the Empire that took place on my Hoth and Dagobah playsets? How many pictures did I draw of Spider-man or Batman when I was bored in school?

Even when I began running games in Dungeons and Dragons, I was creating characters and places and full stories, but it was still all in a D&D backdrop, which their religions, geography, monsters, and magic system. You could play with it, but only so much.

My first unpublished novel, An Unlikely Champion, was a present-day science fiction/fantasy mash up with all original characters, but even that stole a bit of its magic system from D&D, and plenty of it’s science fiction elements from Star Wars. But who cares, right? I was in High School.

I did, however, need to outgrow that crutch for the final press towards professional writing. In my early 20’s, I began writing a novel about one of my D&D characters, Aldun Orion. It started as a hobby, but as I began to take the book more seriously, I realized how stunted it had become. I had thought I could sell it to TSR as a Forgotten Realms book or something, but I realized I didn’t want to just write shared world books. More, I realized, I could never publish the book elsewhere, because the foundation was not mine.

I went back into that book, and the two sequels that followed, throwing out huge portions of the story, breaking the magic system and replacing it with something new, creating a new unifying religious theory to explain the existence of the gods, and changed their relationship with their followers. Magic had to be channeled like energy, and some metals could help, hinder conduction. I went back into source myth for faerie archetypes, monsters, etc, replacing dwarves with huldrefolk, and calling the elves “aelves”.

I know. Bad ass, right? Hard to believe those books didn’t sell.

Actually, it wasn’t. There was some good shit in the Aldun Orion books, but they new world was still built on the ashes of the old to fit the pattern of the previous story. Even after all that work, I was still trapped by a template that had grown too restrictive.

This was when I began The Warded Man, started from scratch. Every element my own.

Well, almost every element. We are still all products of what we have seen and read, and those things can influence us, sometimes without us even realizing.

Until, of course, we are reading old Conan comics, and it suddenly slaps us across the face:

Posted on May 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm by PeatB
Filed under Contests, Craft, Create a Coreling, Daylight War, Desert Spear, Fan Art, Fans, Meg, Musings, Warded Art, Warded Man, Writing
2 Comments »

2 responses to “Fanfiction, Corelings, and Conan”

  1. Thanks, Peat, for the glimpse into your creative process. I actually followed the exact same route. My system of choice at the point of my revelation was Vampire: The Masquerade.

    When I realized I couldn’t ever publish anything I’d created, I decided to build an RPG system from scratch. My buddies and I played in the world, then I wrote a book.

    Posted by Jeremy Toburen, on May 20th, 2012 at 12:06 am
  2. [...] witness. You can read some of his thoughts on all the fantastic entries in his earlier blog post: Fanfiction, Corelings and Conan. And it’s not just the quantity of entries, the quality has been blowing our socks [...]

    Posted by Peter V Brett :: Peephole In My Skull, on June 7th, 2012 at 8:01 am

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