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I just learned that Sarah Rees Brennan, formerly known as Maya and Mistful, has not only taken her fics down and requested that those who have downloaded her master fic file not share it with others, but she has reportedly deleted her own stories from her hard drive.

I felt sick to my stomach when I read this.

Her stories have meant so much to me, given me such joy, that I really cannot express the effect they've had on my life. Maybe that sounds weird, but it's no different to me than the effect H.G. Wells or Ursula Le Guin has had on me. Good authors, no matter their subject, illuminate life and what it means to be human, and I deeply feel that SRB has done this as well as many more established authors. To know that these stories, which she must love, are lost to her and lost to all that didn't get the pdf in time or who lack the network to track someone who has the file, just makes my heart hurt.

I know the reasons why she did she took the stories down from public view. They make a certain amount of sense professionally and legally. I still can't help but feel that violence has been done to some great works of art, that by permanently removing them from her world she has symbolically  repudiated and negated those works. In a way, it is an insult to her readership.

I'm not angry with her, by any means, but I do feel deep sadness and yes, somehow betrayed.

Just in case someone reads this and misunderstands, I do not dispute her right to do as she has done. I just needed to express how I feel about it.

Date: 2009-07-20 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mahaliem.livejournal.com
I didn't know that she'd deleted them from her own hard drive. That's like throwing away your love letters from old boyfriends after you get married. You may not care right then, but in twenty or thirty years, you'll wish you had them.

Date: 2009-07-20 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goseaward.livejournal.com
Did she delete them out of, like, pique, or is it a defense against future legal action...?

Date: 2009-07-20 06:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oceaxe.livejournal.com
The attempt to get the stories off the internets as much as possible is likely more about her reputation than fear of lawsuits from JKR. Still, it's completely understandable. The rumored deletion of the stories from her hard drive is what is really making me feel a welter of complex emotions that fall generally under the rubric "sad."

I have no idea what her reasons would be, if that rumor is true.

Date: 2009-07-20 06:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goseaward.livejournal.com
I meant legal action on the hard drive--if somebody sued her they could, like, take it as evidence? Maybe? Or something?

Date: 2009-07-20 06:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oceaxe.livejournal.com
Oh! Well, IAAL, and I've studied copyright law extensively. No, I don't think it's remotely related to legal considerations. There's no evidentiary question that SRB and about a million squillion others have infringed on JKR's copyright. The files on the hard drive are not necessary to prove that SRB infringed, the proof is ample and easily obtainable. More importantly, if Ms. Rowling did take a wild notion to pick SRB out of the mob to C&D, it would be sort of a moot point now. It's C'd and D'd. Gone. Vanished. There would be no legal reason I can see for her to delete her own copies of the stories.

Date: 2009-07-20 06:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goseaward.livejournal.com
Ah! That makes sense, then. :)

I have a hard time understanding her mindset at all--I mean I keep everything on my website, even the really shitty fic I started out with. *shrug* Would be different if somebody connected my username with my real identity, I guess.

Date: 2009-07-20 04:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blamebrampton.livejournal.com
I 'get' how you feel. And yes, while I agree that it is entirely within her rights to do so, it's also a very sad thing. I think mahaliem is exactly right as to why.

I think she may have crossed a little into wanting the best of both worlds when she sought to remove her fanworks while still trading on her reputation as a fanwriter, but again, it makes perfect sense why she would choose to do so. It's just a sad thing.

Date: 2009-07-20 06:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oceaxe.livejournal.com
I appreciate Mahaliem's analogy, but it's not so much that I feel she's going to regret that she deleted those stories. She may, but she may not. I described the situation to my boyfriend thus: Imagine Francis Ford Coppola decided, for a valid but undisclosed reason, that he did not want The Godfather to be sold in stores anymore, nor did he want copies rented or passed around via filesharing. People who owned a copy of the movies could watch them as many times as they wanted, but could not invite people over to watch. Then, it is revealed that he has destroyed the original film stock and he himself will never view the film again. How, I asked, would that make him feel? His face fell. He said, sounding surprised, that he wouldn't like that at all. We explored why that would be... after all, he could still see the movie. The movie didn't change.

We both flailed around for awhile, and finally he formulated this:

The stories, and the movies, made us feel strong emotions. The creators' apparent (and in once case, completely theoretical) rejection of their work in some way invalidates those emotions.

Robyn Hitchcock wrote a beautiful song titled Autumn Is Your Last Chance.

I walk through the heather
Underneath the sky
The leaves have never looked as good
As now they're going to die
But I know why

I smile in the heather
Where we used to stroll
The dew on the cobwebs
Shines like gold
But I don't care
If it shines all year
'Cause you're not there and
I don't care and
You're not there

That song strikes very close to me, to certain feelings and experiences I have had. The song has made me feel less alone. Or rather, it's made me feel that others have been alone in the same way, the same desperately hopeless way, and that knowledge makes me feel less alienated and tragic.

There's a live version of him playing the song, and he prefaces it by saying something derogatory about the song, something to the effect that he no longer sympathizes with the person who wrote those lyrics. It was like a slap in the face.

I guess maybe I feel like Falstaff, hearing that Prince Hal has to put childish things away and go be king now.

Date: 2009-07-20 10:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarahtales.livejournal.com
I'm very sorry you feel betrayed or sad. I've done my best to get the fanfiction to everyone - I warned for a year, put up the file for a month, and emailed it out to everyone who asked for six months. I wanted to do the best I possibly could for readers, and show them the affection and respect I have for them.

I'm stunned by people saying I want the 'best of both worlds'? It hasn't helped and has in many ways hurt my professional career by owning up to writing fanfiction. It's something I have to answer awkward questions and deal with weird looks about all the time. (Which is fine: I did it to myself and I accept the consequences, but it's astonishing that people think there aren't any.)

I also don't know why nobody seems to recall that I said there would be no fanfiction ever again before my book deal, and after the release of Deathly Hallows. I had a huge revulsion of feeling after that book, realising that the world I was playing in was not one I wanted to be playing in, and this feeling lasts to this day. (Uh, it is naturally a total over-reaction, but nobody said writers weren't a little crazy.) I wanted to tear it all down then.

Part of the reason I deliberately linked my author self with my past fandom self was to have the takedown date, which would force me to finish the fanfiction I had on the go, something I'm sure I would not have done without it. It was very hard to write it, both because I didn't want to and because I was very pushed for time, undergoing personal problems as well as all the high stress of the book coming out. Which is not to whine, I wasn't forced to do it: it's just to show that I wanted to show respect and consideration for my fan audience, and would never mean to insult them. (I hoped they might buy my book as well, sure, but I always knew that was a gamble and it was certainly never my primary reason.)

It's very hard to disentangle your feelings from a work and the experiences you have around them. People in fandom have been very kind to me, giving me confidence and sending me lovely emails, and that was why I wanted to finish the fics, make the PDF, and so on. But it's also made sure I've spent a difficult last two years doing work I didn't want to do while exhausted and upset, receiving regular hate mail and assurances people would never read the book. (Which makes one feel, much better to be a strange new author than someone whose writing style apparently people liked. And much easier, too.)

I don't know, if I was transported back in time, what I'd do knowing how things were going to be. There were only ever two choices: leave it all up and unfinished and flee, or do what I did. I'd feel so horribly mean to fandom if I hadn't finished, but personally and professionally it would've been indescribably easier for me.

I think, though, I'd still do the same thing. Because I would never have wanted to insult people who did me the honour of reading and caring about what I had to say. I'm grateful to my readership for that, and I tried to express it the best way I know how: again, I'm very sorry you feel sad or betrayed. That was the opposite of my intention.

Date: 2009-07-20 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oceaxe.livejournal.com
Sarah,

I guess I've been mostly ignored in this fandom so long that I never even imagined you'd read this spur-of-the-moment venting. Which is all that it was or intended to be.

I'm honored that you would write and explain. I never knew how DH had affected you. I can understand now why you'd feel, well, betrayed by JKR and how it would make you feel about your own stories. This makes perfect sense to me (me, someone who has had relationship-ending arguments over whether an author can betray their own work).

I recant on the word "betrayed" in this case. It's hard for me to convey to anyone, much less you, how much I love your writing. Because it's not just your writing that I'm reacting to. You don't just have "talent," the means to communicate artfully and effectively. You have something to communicate that comes from your soul, and I find it beautiful. This obviously means that I find _who you are_ beautiful, and that's humbling and awe-inspiring and I hope it doesn't make you feel awkward for me to say it to you.

I understand why you took the fanfiction down, I really do. I think it was right choice, and I also see how you probably felt there was no choice about it. Although you haven't confirmed that you deleted the stories from your hard drive, I can see much more clearly why you might have done so, and I... my heart hurts for you. Thank you for finishing the stories.

I should say at this point how much I love The Demon's Lexicon. I am forcing it on everyone I know and I can't wait for the story to unfold. When I was little, I used to want to talk to a demon because I was convinced that I could probably save it's soul- with my pure heart and devilishly eloquent tongue. So you know I clutched your book to my heart at a certain point and just beamed with joy and delight.

Date: 2009-07-20 05:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarahtales.livejournal.com
I don't feel betrayed by JK Rowling at all: she was telling the story she wanted to tell, which I think is the best any writer can do for her readers.

The fact I thought her universe was different than it was and wanted to get away from fanfiction is about me and my crazy over-investment in what I write, which all things considered means I probably should never have written fanfiction. ;)

I'm not sure why it matters, to be honest, but yes, I deleted the file from my hard drive. I didn't want to lie to people, and saying that I don't have the file decreases the numbers of harassing emails. I still had the fanfiction saved on private in my livejournal, along with the comments which were really all I wanted to still have, but of course with the malicious deletion of my journal they're all gone now.

I'm really glad that you enjoyed the book, and my writing, and I am sorry if me turning up in the comments was awkward for you: I see everything because every day I have to comb through illegal downloads of both the fics and the book, thinking about how much easier it would've been to flee, and I guess the idea I'd betrayed people made red lights flash on and off in front of my eyes.
Edited Date: 2009-07-20 05:58 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-20 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oceaxe.livejournal.com
I would be very interested to hear what in DH disappointed you so. For me, I was not disappointed because I had stopped expecting much from Rowling. Like many creators of epic stories, it seemed she had started something larger than she could keep adequate control over. It had become clear to me that she was not going to be able to deliver on the promise of the first five books. My only hope for DH was that she allow Snape the complexity many had perceived in his character. My main emotion on reading the book was relief that her arc for Snape did not include him being an irredeemable villain, because by then I had lost all faith in her ability to do justice to her characters and her world.

I wish I had never used the word "betrayed" in either post or reply because it's the wrong word. Betrayal implies a willful malfeasance to those whom you owe fealty. An author, in my view, owes no one and nothing fealty except their creative vision. It is possible, though, that in the fulfilling of that vision, an author may seem to promise what she ends up failing to deliver. That's how I feel about Rowling... I feel that her grand vision wasn't as grand as I imagined it would be. And that's okay, because even though it wasn't, her vision still delivered a huge number of characters and situations I will never forget and enjoy thinking about (way too much, as it turns out).

This interaction has restarted me thinking about fan investment in creative works and how delicate a balance it must be to be true to your vision while facing the reality that you may disappoint people. I over-invest in characters to the point of total absurdity... but it not only brings me a lot of pleasure, it also teaches me a lot about myself. So, despite the disappointments, it's worth it.

I hope you don't think that I feel you did wrong by your fans. I never did, and I highly doubt I ever will. If I feel anything but unadulterated glee that you exist in this world and got a book deal (!), it's sadness that DH ruined your desire to continue with fanfiction, and copyright law makes it impracticable for you to continue even if it hadn't.

Date: 2009-07-20 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarahtales.livejournal.com
I'm not sure what else I'm supposed to think: what's insulting your fans but doing wrong by them? (Which is not to say: how dare you? Just I spoke up because you seemed sad and disappointed with me, and I wanted to explain that my intentions were good.)

Deathly Hallows didn't do anything but present a universe I didn't want to write in, with morality I didn't believe in: I felt the same way after Order of the Phoenix and just think it's a shame Half-Blood Prince sucked me back in for a while. I think I'm just temperamentally unsuited to fanfic - I never had a fandom before, and I never will again. I want my own characters and my own world, and I always did: that's not JK Rowling's fault or the book deal's fault at all.

Date: 2009-07-21 12:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oceaxe.livejournal.com
Just to be clear (and I wasn't in the original post), it is the fact that you no longer have the stories that caused me to post what I did... I have known for a long time that the stories would no longer be circulating or posted.

I was sad and disappointed, but at that point (lo, these fifteen hours ago) it was because I didn't understand why you would make it impossible for yourself to revisit your stories. Now I think I sympathize more and I'm less disappointed because I'm less confused.

But now I'm upset because I seem to have insulted you, and I never intended to do that.

Oh! Emotions. Sometimes I don't know what to do with them. On the one hand, I'm glad I wrote what I did because you took notice and felt moved to explain what had happened. On the other, I was careless with my words and caused offense. By way of partial explanation, I'm starting a new business and stressed out of my mind. If you're remotely curious, email me and I'll send you the website url for my music venue.




Date: 2009-07-21 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarahtales.livejournal.com
Well - yes, being told I'd insulted people did hurt.

But I understand about stress, as I am packing to go to my fourth country in less than a week, so I'll conclude with best wishes for the new business. I'm pleased if you feel less sad, and pleased you liked the book.

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