Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Why not publish Alexandra Quick?

Alexandra Quick and the Stars Above now has a banner!

Alexandra Quick and the Stars Above

Banner by the very generous and talented JCCollier, who is the author of one of my favorite fan fiction stories, Marissa and the Wizards. JCCollier also made the banners for AQATLB and AQATDR.

Writing progress

AQATWA is going... slowly. I am up to 46,000 words. And I'm on chapter ten, and the plot hasn't really begun yet. Oh, there is foreshadowing and some encounters that will Mean Things later, but mostly I am cataloging a whole bunch of Pritchards while I try to figure out all the usual things I am trying to figure out when I am not yet even in the middle of a book. Now and then I have a burst of inspiration — "Aha! That's where that MacGuffin will come from!" — but mostly I have a bunch of... conversations, and Alexandra is being more introspective than in previous books.

As for the OF novel, I have been punting on it. I am pretty sure I need to rewrite the first part. I may have to rewrite the whole thing, and I don't want to. And I can't work on it and AQATWA at the same time. Well, I can, and will pretty soon since I joined a private crit circle, but basically no real progress so far.

Filing the serial numbers off, redux

So, another person has asked me why I don't publish the Alexandra Quick series, and while I've talked about this before, let me teal deer about it some more below the cut.

Coincidentally, this came after jhestia85 asked me a similar question in a survey, but sneakyeyes posted the following in a review (very slightly edited):

The Alexandra Quick novels as original YA fiction?

...I wanted to ask a question about the Alexandre Quick novels, and I wasn't sure how best to go about it. The question is simply this: why not "convert" the Alexandre Quick novels into original fiction novels?

The Alexandra Quick novels are wonderful uncut diamonds that deserve to exist as more than Harry Potter fan-fiction homages, and this is because their worth comes not from what they borrow from Rowling's works but from the fresh ideas and interpretations that Inverarity has used to enhance this much loved material. So remove what is borrowed and replace it with something else; let the AQ novels achieve their potential, because the American wizarding world of AQ that Inverarity has created, and the compelling characters who exist within it, deserve it.

Well, thank you, sneakyeyes! Believe me, I am very flattered when people suggest this, and the idea that some readers actually think my Alexandra Quick stories are publishable is enormously gratifying when I am gnashing my teeth over the novel I am hoping to get published and trying to convince myself I am not delusional.

I'd be lying if I said I have never, ever even considered the idea of "filing the serial numbers off" of Alexandra Quick and trying to publish it as an original YA series. Especially nowadays with self-publishing and published fan fic losing much of the stigma it once had.

That said, while now and then I toy with the idea, I don't really see it happening. There are a bunch of reasons, so let's tackle them in no particular order.

First, of course, there are the legal issues. Just how much "filing" would I have to do? No one has ever really pushed J.K. Rowling's tolerance of fan fiction to that degree, but I am not sure she'd be as forgiving as Stephenie Meyer was over 50 Shades of Gray. If I were trying to sell AQ to a publisher, I'd undoubtedly have to do a lot of filing. Enough to convince a publisher that there is no way Rowling could sue. Which might not even be possible, because no matter how much I reworked the stories, they'd still have their origins in fan fiction, and it's exceedingly unlikely that could stay a secret even if I tried (which I wouldn't), which means there would always be a liability issue there.

No one wants to try Rowling's or Warner Brothers' lawyers.

If I went the self-publishing route, I could probably get away with a little bit less obfuscation, but publishing AQ as written would still be a lawsuit begging to obliterate me.

And that's purely the legal angle — morally, there has been a long-standing "unwritten rule" that Thou Shalt Not Try To Profit From Fan Fiction, and for the most part, I agree with that position. Now, as I will go into more detail in my SBD post tomorrow, I don't actually think E.L. James is a horrible no-good evil person who has shat upon fandom for publishing 50SoG. So do I think that publishing "original" fiction based on fan fiction is unequivocally, unambiguously a Very Bad Thing? No. But you should, at the very last, put more than a veneer of plausible deniability over it. I think G. Norman Lippert is pushing it a little with the heavy marketing of his popular James Potter series and his attempts to parlay that into sales of his original fiction. So I'd be hypocritical to try to do the same thing with Alexandra Quick.

So let's suppose I tried to turn Alexandra Quick into an "original" series, with all traces of Rowling erased. What would it take?

Obviously, all HP canon terms would have to be changed/removed. That wouldn't be hugely difficult. There is at present only a single reference to a canon character in AQ (a mention of Voldemort in book one). The magic system would require more effort. It's not just that I'd have to get rid of the obvious Harry Potter spells; I'd have to get rid of the entire wands-and-fake-Latin magic system and replace it with a new one. Depending on how "original" I make the new system, some major plot points (like the Fidelius Charm Abraham Thorn cast on infant Alexandra) would need rewriting in a big way. Then there would be all the magical creatures: Thestrals and jarveys and other canon creatures could be replaced pretty easily, but I'd also have to do something with house-elves and goblins and so on. Rowling obviously did not invent elves and goblins, but house-elves who can apparate and do magic in a particular way, are bound to their wizard masters until they are given clothing, with the particular appearance and speech patterns they have in Rowling's (and my) books? That would all have to be changed. Ditto the goblin bankers. Etc.

And then I'd still be left with the Rowlingesque wizarding society. Yes, my American wizarding world is different in a lot of ways from Rowling's British wizarding world, and Rowling, again, did not invent the idea of a secret magical society living hidden among Mugglesordinary people, but the way in which it is implemented, with the sometimes serious and sometimes whacky suspensions of disbelief, the parodies of Muggle society, the completely ridiculous economy that does not bear thinking about too hard, and the education of young witches and wizards at wizarding boarding school? (Okay, Rowling didn't invent that either, but... you get the idea.)

It would take a lot of rewriting to make the AQ-verse sufficiently different from the Potterverse that its origins aren't glaringly, blatantly obvious.

And even then, I'd still be left with the story of a witch going to magic school and growing up in a secret wizarding society while facing increasingly serious threats from dark wizards, so it would always and forever be marked as derivative of Harry Potter.

Now, you can write derivative works — lots of authors do. Most epic fantasy, heck, most science fiction, is pretty darn derivative. I do believe there is still room in the world for more bildungsromans about young witches and wizards, even if they will always be called "Harry Potter rip-offs" just like every epic fantasy series in the past century has been called a Tolkien rip-off. So what's to stop me from making my own contribution?

Ultimately, I think Alexandra Quick would lose too much by stripping too much of its origins away. It's not just that people started reading it largely because they specifically wanted to see what an American wizarding world would look like — a lot of the humor and twists and plot elements deliberately draw on Potter references, even if some of them are subtle.

I do find it very flattering that people think Alexandra Quick can stand on her own — saying that my writing is good enough that people would be willing to read about Alexandra even if Harry Potter wasn't the entry point. Maybe she can; maybe it is.

But there's yet another issue with trying to revise and sell AQ: even if copyright issues weren't a factor, the AQ books really aren't publishable in their current form. Yes, I appreciate that some people think they are, and I will even admit that I think they are better than some published novels I have read. But those were really crappy novels.

In my AQ rereading series, I have been critting my own work, and pointing out all the weaknesses I have found in the first book (so far). It's bloated, the pacing is uneven, there are some noob writing mistakes, some just a sentence here and there and some pervading all my writing. Yes, I'm still quite proud of AQATTC, but in an imaginary world where Harry Potter doesn't exist and AQATTC is a wholly original work of fiction, I'd still need to revise the manuscript a lot at a very basic level before I'd consider it ready for submission. (And for the current YA market, the word count would have to be chopped in half. At least.)

Now, that was my first book, and I think my later books are better. But they still would all need a lot of revision, and some massive cuts.

So the effort it would take to do the necessary amount of rewriting would be pretty much equal to writing an entirely new series. And if I am going to do that... well, if my writing is good enough to be publishable, I'd rather try to sell something that is clearly and unambiguously mine.

So, that's why I am not going to try to publish Alexandra Quick.

That said, is it conceivable that if I ever become a published author, I might write something... oh, inspired by Alexandra? Sure!

And, you know, if by chance a publisher happens to read my fan fiction and says, "Hey, this is really good and how would you like a seven-book deal and don't worry we've already cleared it with Rowling's lawyers," hell yeah I would totally be down for that!

Hey, I can dream, can't I? :D

But seriously, not gonna happen. I hope you will continue to enjoy my Alexandra Quick books, which I will continue to offer non-commercially, free of charge.

As usual, the poll below is purely for entertainment purposes. Seriously, I am not "floating the idea" and am not going to change what I said above even if a gazillion people say "Yes! It's publishable!" I just like silly polls. And a lot of you never comment but will click a poll, thus telling me that at least someone reads my bullshit. :P

Poll #1891058 Do you think Alexandra Quick is publishable

Do you think Alexandra Quick is publishable?

Yes! C'mon, if E.L. James can do it, why can't you?
If you did the necessary revisions, it could be.
Not really. It's good enough for fan fiction, but it's not good enough to pay for.
Even if it were good enough, it's just wrong to try to sell fan fiction.
Maybe it is, but you should try writing something original.

(And for those of you who follow my Saturday Book Discussions, I intend to make "published fan fiction" the topic of tomorrow's post, as well.)
Tags: alexandra quick, fandom, i can be real writer?, polls, writing

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