Courtesy of Merriam-Webster
How much of a piece of fiction belongs to the audience following the publication?
How much authority do the creators keep? Should an author be able to add to canon following publication?
Obviously, in legal terms, a piece of media is owned by the creator via copyright laws, which allows for the right for a piece of media to be owned by one single person or a company, but this is only the legal view. The ownership of a piece of media is complicated when it comes to the relationship between the fans and the actual media/author.
It is, in my opinion, that the media after it’s been released into the world, is as much the fan’s as it is the creator’s. By this, I mean that once something is published, the consumers/fans can take that media and interpret it in any way they can. Media is meant to be interpreted. Things like books and movies are meant to have different meanings derived out of them by those who consume them. It is truly the reason why we consume media: to find things that we connect with and find aspects that reflect their lives.
Many authors have objected to fans doing things like writing fan-fiction, which is a sub genre of writing that entails someone writing about a work that they are a fan of, or having opposing interpretations to what the writer thinks. For example, Anne Rice, author of Interview With The Vampire, took a hard stance against fanfiction, even suing fanfiction.net to remove all stories related to her characters. She is, unfortunately, not alone in this stance, sharing it with people like Twilight author Stephanie Meyers and A Song Of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin. There are a handful of authors who support fanfiction and even encourage it, amongst those including Good Omens author Neil Gaiman, who has said that the writing of fanfiction can help improve the writers skills. It is with authors like Gaiman that I agree with because I think that fans should be allowed to make fan material based on someone’s work because it can be seen as a form of literary analysis.
I think that authors as well shouldn’t add to the canon, or the fact in their media, of their pieces, while not showing it in any future works. I feel like the worst culprit of this is Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling. Rowling has added plenty of material to her original seven novels using things like social media to “reveal” said information, such as the fact that the magical headmaster of Hogwarts, Dumbledore, was in fact gay. The problem with this kind of addition is that Rowling has never shown it in her future works such as the Fantastic Beasts movie series, which is all the fans ultimately want. Once a work is published, I think that this kind of authority is somewhat compromised and that authors can’t expect fans to just accept these facts.
In conclusion, the media should be allowed to be interpreted by the consumers and authors relinquish a certain level of authority over what is fact in the work. This matters because if fans are not allowed to have some amount of authority over what they consume, the media loses much of what makes media fun.