Fan Fiction and Fuzzy Nation

By John Scalzi

Last year I announced on my Web site that I had written a novel called Fuzzy Nation, which was a “reboot” of the 1962 Hugo-nominated novel Little Fuzzy, by H. Beam Piper—which is to say that I took some of the characters and situations of the Piper novel and cast them into a new story which has similarities to, but it ultimately quite a bit different from, the original iteration of the story.

When I did that, I had people say to me, “OMG, you know what you just did? You just wrote fan fiction!”

And my response to that is: Yup, I pretty much did.

I don’t assume that anyone who subscribes to a science fiction publisher’s newsletter doesn’t know what fan fiction is, but I also like to cover all bases, so, if you don’t know, “fan fiction” are stories, written in the universes of popular books, movies, television shows, etc, by the fans of those things, not the original creators (or their authorized collaborators). It’s what happens when someone loves something so much they can’t wait for the next official installment and instead write up their own in a grand game of “what if.”

Some creators get annoyed with people who write fan fiction in their universes but I tend to look at it as a positive thing, because it usually means those people really really really love the worlds you’ve created—love them so much, in fact, they’ve made them an important part of their lives. As an artist, that’s a high compliment; as a business person, it means you’ve got a committed audience. Both are good things.

I think to some degree most creators start off as fan fiction writers—when I was a kid I imagined myself whirling around with lightsabers and battling cylons (and sometimes battling cylons with lightsabers—crossing the streams!)—playing those games of “what if” and as a result building up our own imaginations to venture out into meet the characters and adventures we would create on our own.

When I sat down to write Fuzzy Nation, for various I had been a little burned out on the work and business of writing—what I really wanted to do was play “what if” again. And that’s what I did, writing fan fiction in Piper’s universe. When I was writing the novel, I wasn’t planning to sell it or any such thing (all that came later); all I was doing was writing, and enjoying the act of writing, and having fun with a book I had loved by putting my own spin on the adventures within it.

It was fun. And my take on the Fuzzy tale, I think, reflects that: the fun I had in making it, and the fun I had exploring Piper’s work again, as a fan and as a creator in my own right.

So, yes: I wrote fan fiction. And I’ll you what: Fuzzy Nation is better because I did.

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0 thoughts on “Fan Fiction and Fuzzy Nation

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  3. Awesome, and so true! I love when writers I love so clearly write fan fiction in this way. Makes me feel like all those Star Trek and Alien Nation stories I wrote when I was 12, and the Caprica stories I’m writing now weren’t/aren’t a complete waste of time! :)

    I wonder, though, about how you got Fuzzy Nation published re: rights to Piper’s original novel? How do permissions work for something like this? Do you need permissions? Does it depend on the individual contracts of each individual author?

  4. I loved the Fuzzy books, so I’m really looking forward to reading this. Next will be the Scalzi take on Buffy, right? Or were you going to go straight to Gor?

  5. Now that makes things clearer. When I saw Fuzzy Nation for sale as “New”, I couldn’t figure out why – after all, the stories have been out for years. Think I will get FN – always loved those books.

  6. I can’t wait to read this! I’m a big H. Beam Piper fan and a big John Scalzi fan!

    @Teresa, H. Beam Piper died in 1964 and the copyrights have run out. Most of his work is available free from Project Gutenberg.

  7. @ schambers,

    It’s true that the copyright on the original work ran out. However, Scalzi went through the full process of getting official permission and approval from the Piper estate before even announcing that the book had been written and was going to be published. How’s that for class?

  8. I have not read H. Beam Piper, but I read everything Mr. Scalzi writes!
    I hope the Old Man series isn’t over. I’ve done several reviews of Scalzi
    novels, all good of course.