Bootlegs and Fan Fiction: Moving beyond the Artist’s Concept of the Artist

In my basement, a 1995 hardcover dwells:
Clinton Heylin: Bootleg (Hardcover)
A riveting documentation of a world long gone, yet full of prophetic clues as to how the music industry’s appetite for self-destruction would lead it straight into the tar-pit quicksand.

Page 372: “Vinyl is more of a craft thing whereas a CD is mass-produced. …now they have CD recording machines so people can always copy someone’s CD and have…something that’s 98 percent of the original.”

“Craft.” The very reason why Hipsters collect vinyl. Pressing a run of actual vinyl records and printing full-color jackets requires dedicated, expensive machinery that is still far beyond the affordability of recreational hobbyists, preserving vinyl records’ ‘collectible artifact’ status to this day.

Computer CD-R drives became affordable by 1998. Overnight, the retail music dynamic was changed forever. College campuses, previously the best neighbors for record stores, suddenly became the worst locations for a record store to be near. Disc sales dropped from “the whole dorm” to “one per dorm” (if that), and then Napster began its rise to prominence.

The major labels of the music industry could have bought Napster at that point and used it as the perfect one-stop distribution center for MP3 files. Their failure to do so gifted Steve Jobs with the world of iTunes, served on a silver-iPod platter. The industry’s myopia also led it to ‘kill’ Digital Audio Tape (DAT), the one product for which a widespread adoption would have significantly slowed the onset of the CD-R revolution of the late 1990’s. By mandating technological restrictions on a product that could make digital copies only at 1x playing speed, the music industry left the path wide open for CD-R drives (which reached 52x recording speed by 2003) to dominate home recording. The equivalent of hiding the keys for a old Volkswagen bus from your teenager, and having them end up discovering the keys for your Dodge Viper instead.

As anyone reading this is well aware, the Digital Age has shaken up the old guard of the publishing industry, in the same manner as it did the music industry. You might be wondering how a nearly twenty-year-old book documenting the “bygone” culture of music bootlegging could be relevant to the world of fan fiction.

Page 392, quoting Lenny Kaye: “I think that bootlegs keep the flame of the music alive by keeping it out of not only the industry’s conception of the artist, but also the artist’s conception of the artist. There’s that self-editing thing and, with all due respect to great artists, a lot of times their own instincts aren’t as righteous about the music as someone else.”

Bootlegs and Fan Fiction both exist to satisfy the desires of the hardcore fans who want to go beyond the official “edited” product, and experience artistic works as an entire extended, unexpurgated universe; seeing as much as possible of the creative vision, beyond what the original artists may have ever envisioned.

Fan fiction has been around for decades, and even centuries. The Digital Age took fan-fiction out of its xeroxed and mimeographed shadows, into the mainstream and even to #1 on the New York Times Best-Sellers List. The world has sound reason to be sure that Stephenie Meyer never foresaw her Twilight Saga as being the ideal platform on which to base BDSM-themed fiction; in this case Meyer may have been so blinded from her own love for Edward Cullen that she could not visualize him as “Christian Grey.” No matter, millions of others not wearing Bella-colored glasses saw the controlling, manipulative aspects of Edward Cullen (whether they liked the Fifty Shades books or not). Those who were attracted to this aspect would naturally gravitate toward an Edward Cullen persona, taken to its logical extreme in Christian Grey.

We, the authors, need to keep possible fan fiction interpretations of our work in mind when writing our sagas. Some authors will try to sweep all fan fiction under the rug, others will celebrate the visions of the fans; but all authors writing in the Digital Age must take heed of fan fiction, regardless of how we personally feel about it. If Stephenie Meyer had considered the more unsavory aspects of Edward Cullen’s ‘character’ at length, she might have changed him to be a ‘better person’, more in line with her own Mormon views as opposed to being potential (and now proven!) BDSM erotica fodder. This would have also nullified the numerous criticisms accusing Edward of being a Grade-A stalker (which he was!). Does any author want to write a character that millions people interpret as being a 180° opposite from what the author intended? Edward Cullen, intended by Meyer to be the embodiment of old-time courtship and an advocate for abstinence until marriage; became Christian Grey, a man who compels Ana Steele into a signing a contract for a non-romantic submissive sexual relationship in which Ana is not allowed to touch Christian or make eye contact with him.

I’m not proffering moral judgments here. My own character Damien Tepesh has been cheating on his wife Lilith for more than two centuries, to the point where Lilith now keeps his current mistress under her control. And his extramarital liaisons will take an extreme twist in my second novel, “Vampire Conspiracy.”

Damien is an unrepentant skirt-chaser, but no one is going to interpret him as a guardian of moral platitude. In a similar vein, it would be exceedingly difficult for anyone to re-cast my protagonist Jack as being anything but a hero, without a ground-up alternate universe styled re-write. An ounce of prevention during invention is better than a million books of an ailment you can’t cure anyway, the “disease” of misinterpretation.

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Writing Prompt’s Greatest Hits

Theme Songs Writing_Prompt_353
Jack:

Damien:

Zetania:

Lilith:

Music Soothes the Savage Characters

Music Soothes the Savage Characters
©April 6, 2011 by Daven Anderson

I’ve been using music (and song lyrics) for my “character building” exercises. Choose three songs that you think represent a particular character. The songs you pick can give you insights into your characters (and even yourself! ) that would not be obvious from any other approach.

Here’s a sample lyric from Devo’s Peek-A-Boo (©1982 Casale/Mothersbaugh), a song I picked for my character Jack:

If you cannot see it, you think it’s not there. It doesn’t work that way.

Jack is a vampire. When you consider that vampires are “hidden” from the normal world, this ostensibly simple lyric takes on a whole new relevance. Jack has become something the normal world “cannot see” and thinks is “not there.” Thus, the quoted lyric has far more meaning to Jack (and his kindred) than to the normal people Devo was admonishing for their lack of vision.

The 1973 Fleetwood Mac song Hypnotized (©1973 Bob Welch) would seem an obvious choice to represent my character Gl’Ag, who is of extraterrestrial descent.

Now it’s not a meaningless question to ask if they’ve been and gone
I remember a talk about North Carolina and a strange, strange pond
You see the sides were like glass, in the thick of a forest without a road
And if any man’s ever made that land, then I think it would’ve showed.

The readers’ perceptions of the character, the novel, and even the author can be dramatically widened by tying in the right song. The lyrical theme of Hypnotized is an obvious “tie-in” for an extraterrestrial-descent character. But the possible interpretations run much deeper. Does the author imply that Gl’Ag’s kind are responsible for the anomalous pond in the woods near Winston-Salem? Are their kind hiding in the “place down in Mexico, where a man can fly over mountains and hills?” Is their mothership the “something” that “flies by their window . . . out on that lawn . . . which is wide, at least half of a playing field?” Are his kind’s hypnotic powers why “what matters most is the feeling you get when you’re hypnotized”?

Connect the right song to your character, and you will find out what Aristotle meant when he said, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

There’s a tendency for authors to view their choices in music as nothing of importance. Something to put on in the background as you type. A song quoted in your pages to spice up your story, at best. This couldn’t be more wrong. Are their choices obscure? Popular? Hackneyed (such as banjo music for a backwoods thriller)? Or do they even bother with music at all? Each of these reflect very different mind sets for both the authors and their stories.

The content of this post should make it clear that each of the songs on my playlist (in my novel’s appendix) is an exercise in character development and character building. Each song I selected says something important about a particular character and makes a comment about the character’s place in my story’s universe.

My writing is intended for those who look for the hidden truths and ask the deeper questions. Yes, I’m aware this is a heavily philosophical approach for a grocery store cashier writing a vampire book. 😉

Readers of my novel who research the lyrics and songs on my playlist will be rewarded with a unique insight into my characters and the novel’s universe. If I’m lucky, a reader or two will be able to make a connection to something I missed. I dream of the time when I can make one of my readers proud at my book signing when I tell them, “You are the first person who got my intended meaning.”

Of course, novels have to stand on their own merits. The connection with music outside the novel is intended for readers who wish to expand their understanding of my novel’s characters and universe. Which leads to my all-time favorite movie quote:

Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.
Lex Luthor in “Superman” (1978)

Your novel has to stand on its own enough to satisfy those who take it simply for what it is. However, great novels should offer a universe of hidden meanings for the readers who wish to dig deeper.

The Playlist

Music to write a Vampire novel by:

1. The Fever – Cold Blooded (3:25)
2. Missing Persons – Mental Hopscotch (3:14)
3. Radiohead – Creep (3:57)
4. Slayer – Epidemic (2:22)
5. Green Day – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (4:20)
6. Stevie Wonder – Superstition (4:25)
7. The Fever – The Slow Club (4:34)
8. 10cc – I’m Not In Love (6:03)
9. Joan Baez – Diamonds & Rust (4:45)
10. The Fever – Gray Ghost (3:08)
11. Ministry – The Missing (2:54)
12. Edith Piaf – Heaven Have A Mercy (3:41)
13. Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Chile (slight return) (5:13)
14. The Blasters – Dark Night (3:51)
15. Squirrel Nut Zippers – Put A Lid On It (2:39)
16. The Beatles – Run For Your Life (2:21)
17. The Pretenders – Bad Boys Get Spanked (4:07)
18. Rose Tattoo – All The Lessons (3:07)
19. Portishead – The Rip (4:30)
20. X – Riding With Mary (3:39)
21. Linda Ronstadt – Long Long Time (4:22)
22. Bob Welch – Ebony Eyes (3:32)
23. Sneaker Pimps – Walking Zero (4:31)
24. Lita Ford – Out For Blood (2:56)
25. Arthur Brown – Fire (2:56)
26. Krokus – Screaming In The Night (6:42)
27. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues (2:19)
28. Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight (5:36)
29. Metallica – The Small Hours (6:43)
30. Simon & Garfunkel – Somewhere They Can’t Find Me (2:37)
31. Devo – Peek-A-Boo (3:00)
32. The Runaways – Waitin’ For The Night (5:02)
33. Motörhead – Shine (3:10)
34. AC/DC – If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) (4:36)
35. The Eagles – Victim Of Love (4:10)
36. Ike and Tina Turner – Only Women Bleed (4:01)
37. Spooky Tooth – Lost In My Dream (5:03)
38. Fleetwood Mac – Hypnotized (4:47)
39. Wings – Venus And Mars (Reprise) (2:05)
40. Juno Reactor – Navras (9:06)
41. Portishead – Theme From “To Kill A Dead Man” (4:24)

The Playlist – One Year Later

More from The Playlist

Music soothes the savage characters