It's over now, of course. Looking out at the trampled field of letters, computer chips, egos and the like, I can't help but remember exactly how it began.
The Fanfiction Wars have, of course, been raging for a long time. There are huge armies drawn up on both sides, the Purists and the Fangirls, Goodfic and Bad. It was in one of the main centres of Purist activities that the cascade towards this devastating battle began.
It was innocent enough, the sentence that began it all. In a quiet corner of the Godawful Fan Fiction board, someone who shall remain nameless wrote 'I was surfing around, following a bizarre series of links too convoluted to be remembered, when I came across the blog of a guy named Lee Goldberg.' They proceeded to detail how Mr. Goldberg, a professional TV scriptwriter, had come across a piece of mpreg fanfiction based on Diagnosis Murder, and was, in the words of that same poster, 'now looking for sporks'.
And there it might have ended, with a short discussion between the denizens of GAFF fading from memory, save for an unknown sequence of events that led Mr. Goldberg himself to the thread, to post this:
'The big difference between me and a "fanfic" author is a) I've been authorized by the copyright holders to write stories using these characters and b) I was the executive producer of the show.
I am not stealing the intellectual property of others which is what "fanfic" authors do. You are writing about characters you neither created nor own.'
And thus it began. After a few exchanges with the GAFFers, hardly more than thrown rocks compared to the carnage to come, Goldberg proceeded to leave the field and return to his own base, where he wrote a scathing entry in his blog declaring his hatred for fanfiction in general. Seeing his retreat, the GAFFers followed him, taking the fight right to his front door. The Battle of Goldberg had begun.
The early skirmishes were mostly centred on Mr. Goldberg's belief that fanfiction was illegal, copyright-violating, and plagiarism. Both armies gradually increased in size, with Goldberg supported primarily by David Montgomery, with some assistance from Bill Rabkin and Jim Winters. Indeed, it was Montgomery who first typed the fatal phrase that morphed the initial skirmishes into an all-out bloodfest: 'It boggles my mind that anyone would want to waste their creative energies writing such derivative stories.'
Facing the allegations that fanfiction is a waste of time – that it teaches 'laziness and stupidity' – the Purists of GAFF pulled out all the stops and called in their allies. Within a day, representatives of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, the Barrowdowns, OFUM, Henneth Annun, Riddermark, the Gathering of the Fellowship, Fiction Alley and The RPG Duelling league, not to mention sundry other smaller enclaves, were gathered on the sweeping plain of the Internet, battering at his walls and receiving little in return. Indeed, Goldberg and Montgomery seemed, for a time, to have been slain – the only efforts at resistance came from a person by the name of 'Phil', who forsook all form of rational debate and began to flame instead, stating that every fanfiction writer was 'a guy who is never gonna get laid....except by some other big fat fanfiction loser with bad skin and a too-tight Lucasfilm t-shirt.'
By this time, the Battle had spread to engulf four separate blog posts, and had messengers rushing frantically between it and the Purist strongholds to keep all and sundry up to date. It was then that Morgul realized that a powerful potential ally had been forgotten. Although the Purists were out in force, nary a peep had been heard from the Fangirl and Badficcer hordes.
Although loath to enter the realm of her sworn enemies, Morgul nevertheless put aside her prejudices for the good of all fandom. For the first time since the Fanfiction Wars began, emissaries from the two sides met in peace. For the greater good, differences were forgotten for a time, and plans were made for the Fangirls to fight side-by-side with the Purists.
Before they could arrive, however, proof was provided that Goldberg was both still alive and as obtuse as ever. He set upon the fanficcer hordes with a single post that repeated points he had made hours before, as if still somehow believing that all would see his wisdom and bow to it. Needless to say, his attempt failed.
At this time, one of the greatest assets of the Purist forces raised her banner. Siofra, as a lawyer, was able to single-handedly destroy the defence that fanfiction was illegal and in violation of copyright. Not content with this, she also produced a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien himself, stating that 'The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds, and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.' With the Master thus firmly on our side, we fanficcers had no doubt that we would win.
Unfortunately, we underestimated Goldberg's stubbornness. Rather than admitting his mistake, he continued to use the arguments of illegality that he had fought with since the beginning. In an attempt to increase the power the Purists could bring into play, and perhaps still bring the Battle to its final end, a PPCer by the name of Jocelyn invited Goldberg et al to change the field of battle by coming to the halls of yet another Purist haven – the PPC Board. This offer was met with silence from Goldberg and Montgomery.
After a time, with no sign of Goldberg either seeing reason or coming over to the PPC Board, and also no news of the promised Fangirl reinforcements, TZA of the PPC unearthed a new weapon to use against the enemy: a sample of one of his own much-vaunted original works.
We dare not duplicate it here, for the destruction of the mind it might cause would be unacceptable. However, Leto Haven provided an apt summary: 'I have never read a more flat, whining Marty Stu angsty trash in my life. The first couple of paragraphs had me running for my spork.'
This new weapon, known as 'An excerpt from 'Beyond The Beyond'', was to be used only as a last resort. None were to reveal to Goldberg and his allies that we knew of its existence unless absolutely necessary, lest he find a way to counter it.
Although the battle now seemed to be dying down, one last Purist stronghold entered the fray. F_W, a community devoted to mocking the biggest idiots in fandom, formed their own discussion of the issue. However, with the general level of tension dropping rapidly, the appearance of Montgomery on their board did not cause the stir we would have expected, but merely a few lines of lighthearted banter.
The next day, something unexpected happened. A challenge was issued to Goldberg, to point out the flaws in his 'fanfiction is easy' argument. He was asked to write a short piece of fanfiction, for any fandom. The challenger had no real hope that he would do so. All we could do was wait. Or was it?
While the wait dragged on, with none of the opposition even deigning to notice the challenge, despite two other Purists bringing it back into the light, new information was revealed. It was not fanfiction that Goldberg despised – it was, in fact, fans in general. Almost a month prior to the outbreak of the Battle, he had posted in his then-peaceful blog on the subject of millions of so-called 'clueless morons', whose only crime was to wish for a Battlestar Galactica film to be made with the original cast. Several of the same 'arguments' were made – notably that the 'morons' were wasting time and effort.
All our forces were prepared to fight harder against the army of Goldberg, in light of this new data, but finally, four days after the war had begun, something utterly inexplicable happened: Goldberg surrendered.
In the infamous Declaration of What I've Learned from the Fanfic Debate, Goldberg presented an almost complete retraction of his views. True, he retained the belief that adults seeking to become professional writers should write original, and that slash – and especially mpreg – are wrong. But on practically all other points he acquiesced.
And thus it ended, the Battle of Goldberg. Where it once raged, now the fields are filled with crushed arguments, broken egos, and silicon chips. The Fangirl reinforcements never showed, thus leaving the Battle a Purist activity all the way through. Although we claim the victory, it in fact belongs to one person: Morgul, who managed with a single post to achieve what thousands of words from the rest of us could not. And thus, in a fitting end to this tale of battle and woe, I leave you with the words that shook the heart of Lee Goldberg, greatest opponent of the fanfiction cause ever known.
'Would you be so offended if, in one of your episodes one of the characters died of cancer, a fanwriter chose, instead of writing the Slash and MPreg you are so fond of mentioning, to write about that person when they realised that they were going to die? Or perhaps go AU and make that person live a year longer, exploring what that character would chose to do with that time?
Because, if you had an episode in which a character died of cancer, you'd get truly Godawful stories that would tell how true love will conquer all and be boring, but you would also get some amazing stories about how the character's family coped with that loss, or even how the nurses and doctors that looked after the character reacted. You may have to sift through dirt, but there are gems out there.
That's what we're trying to get across to you here. The people who are taking the time to tell you what they think are the people that truly care about their fandoms and would never desecrate them like the people who use fanfiction as a form of masturbation.'