Icebox Radio Theater

News, events and doings surrounding the Icebox Radio Theater of International Falls, Minnesota.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fan Fiction: A Discussion

Hi All:

Looking back through the previous posts of this blog I now realize things haven’t come together exactly as I’d hoped. This blog was meant to be a discussion form on Art Through Sound, not just a dumping ground for IBRT press releases. So, I begin to make amends with this post.

I’ve wanted to write on the subject of Fan Fiction for quite some time. For those of you not in the know, Fan Fiction refers to works of fiction written by fans of a particular science fiction or fantasy universe, TV show, or movie. For example, I might sit down and write a story starring Captain Kirk with a situation, setting and plot entirely of my own design. I might then post my Captain Kirk story online for other fans to comment on, respond to, or praise. The idea is for fans to participate in the fiction they love not as passive audience members, but real creative contributors. In this way, fans exercise control over the universes they love instead of surrendering them to the hard realities of box office totals, TV network politics, and sagging ratings. It is, for the most part, harmless fun intended for the amusement of the creators and their friends. And I should point out that imitation is often a primary step in an artists’ development. Before many currently published writers were creating their own worlds, they were star-gazing kids, filling spiral ring notebooks with stories about Han Solo, The Robinson Family from Lost in Space, or even “Marshal, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition…”

All of this, it should be pointed out, is mostly illegal. Television shows, films and the characters that inhabit them are copyrighted to within an inch of their lives, and are not even generally owned by their creators, but by the studios that pay for them. Contrary to popular belief, violating a copyright has nothing to do with realizing income from it. Copyright is about ownership, and you can no more ‘borrow’ someone’s copyrighted creation than you can borrow someone’s car without permission. You might mean no harm, but the car’s owner still has the right to bring you up on charges. His permission was the requirement for taking the car, not your benign intent.

Now at this point, I sound like a bad guy, defending big business, a soul-less corporate system, George Bush and all other manner of evil creatures. But in truth, I’m just trying to get both sides of this issue into this initial blog post to spur responses. Why? Because this is a discussion I’ve wanted to have for a very long time.

Every year, I attend a con in Minneapolis (well, Bloomington, actually) called CONvergence. This is the con where the Mark Time and Ogle Awards for excellence in audio drama are handed out, and it’s become kind of a family tradition to go ever summer and recharge in an environment of pure creativity. The first year I went, I found myself at one point standing on a mezzanine over looking the pool area right after the masquerade, the moment when the maximum number of costumes are on display. With my was my friend and Great Northern Audio producer Kris Markman, a college professor in real life who studies how people interact with media, especially new technologies. I was a young audio producer, probably feeling the hubris from my first Ogle Award, and I made a sharp, and ultimately unfair observation about fan culture. That it was, well, a waste of creative energy. And that the hundreds of people in costume beneath me (geographically speaking, that is; I was on the mezzanine, remember?) would be better off creating their own worlds instead ‘stealing’ someone elses. Kris took me to task for this, and we ended up going around and around the point for the rest of the evening.

I honestly do not remember where that particular discussion ended up, but it did plant a seed in me that has continued to grow to this day. Fan fiction fascinates me. But I’m not sure it ultimately is a good thing, or even a harmless thing. Hence, this blog thread.

This post has gone one long enough, but I want to close it with a few questions. These are the interesting ponderables to me.

- Do we in Western Society need to rethink our whole concept of copyright and the ‘Idea Ownership’ at its heart?

- Does the fact that fan fiction has evolved to include movies, audio and even TV shows change the equation at all?

- On a scale with ‘Creative Artist’ being a 10 and ‘Pathetic Loser’ being a 0, where would fan fiction creators belong?

- Does it matter that few, if any of these artists are trying to make money from their creations?

- Doesn’t all gene art, by definition, involve imitation?

- Doesn’t all art?

That’s all for now. Write back soon and often.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Yes! Now on YouTube!

Never one to let the latest internet fad pass by, I've decided to try something new to get the Icebox Radio Theater a little international exposure. The first episode of Snowbank is now online at YouTube.

What's a radio show doing on a video site you ask? Well, I created a slide show in Powerpoint from snapshots of IBRT productions and photos taken in the International Falls area. Then combined that video with the Snowbank audio and TaaDaa! You've got a 'Video' of Snowbank. Here's a link to part one:

Could this be the future of audio drama online? Good Lord, I hope not, but it's fun in the interim. So tell your friends, and lets make the little slide shows go viral!