Amazon has some big news for fan fiction authors and readers alike this morning, announcing the launch of Kindle Worlds.
The e-commerce company's latest project is an online platform for fan fiction authors (writers who use characters or settings created by someone other then themselves) to publish — and sell — their creations. On Kindle Worlds, these new works will be licensed, with profits shared by the fan fiction authors and original creators.
The launch is specific to certain fandoms — Warner Brothers Television Group's Alloy Entertainment division's Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars. While these franchises are all teen focused, Amazon anticipates adding more licenses "soon" so perhaps we will get adult centered worlds.
But handling more mature audiences can lead to problems. A close look at Kindle Worlds' terms include a guideline about "pornography," stating: "We don't accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts."
Considering that a lot of the repurposed fan fiction we've seen so far has been firmly entrenched in the erotica realm — EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey and Christina Lauren's Beautiful Bastard, just to name two — this guideline is probably the one being talked about the most online right now. (As a side note, it is important to point out that both James and Lauren's works are not licensed or endorsed by Stephenie Meyer, the creator of the YA Twilight series which the Fifty Shades and Beautiful series are based on.)
Since fan fiction has already shown a propensity to skew 'hot', where will the bar be set at for "pornography" or "offensive" when it comes to sexy times? Is it safe to assume that EL James' infamous tampon scene wouldn't have made the cut? And what about slash (homosexual) fan fiction that's prevalent in fandoms ranging from Star Trek to Teen Wolf? We probably don't need to ask about Supernatural's "Wincest," though, do we?
So once we deal with the sex issue, where will that leave authors? Romance author Tessa Dare wondered if it could create a new marketing tactic: "Rejected by/Too hot for Kindle Worlds". And if this type of fiction does sell, does that mean publishers have a new, legal avenue to sue authors of erotic fan fiction? Only time will tell, but I for one will be watching Kindle Worlds closely.
As a former fan fiction author, I'm conflicted. Greatly. Amazon getting its fingers in this pie could be setting a legal precedent no one wants to confront, and could conceivably jeopardize online fan fiction archives like FanFiction.net and Archive of Our Own. Then again, this barn door has been not only left open, but burned down with the number of former fan fictions that have been put out by major publishers. If licensing by the rights holders sets some guidelines — for argument's sake, let's say around the idea of things like torture porn — and allows the rights holders to allow the practice of writing fan fiction to continue without the legal gray area that's been widely debated in online forums since the publication of Fifty Shades, I can see the pro side of this development.
What do you think about Amazon's new Kindle Worlds? Let us know in the comments. And get more publishing industry news here.