Imitate More, Not Less

“Hack writers do not sub-create a world; they simply rearrange furniture in a glibly assumed (and largely unexamined) prefab world. If necessary, they make it an ‘other world’ fantasy by having two moons in the sky or by naming their protagonist something like Shambilar. But this is just moving things around on the surface.  There is no deep structure to it — the author is not exercising enough authority. He is being too timid. There is not enough deep structure because there is not enough deep imitation” (From The Romantic Rationalist, pp. 76-77).

Leave a Reply

5 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
5 Comment authors
rlsChris DuncanJane DunsworthJon Swerensrls Recent comment authors

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Sounds like the author doesn’t care for fan fiction.

Jon Swerens

Actually, fan fiction can improve on the source by caring enough about the deep structure to build it out in ways that the originator never even considered. Exhibit A: Every Star Wars book ever.


Right, good fan fiction that builds on the existing world and retains more than the funny names and magic tricks is much better than bad “original” stuff that just renames stuff, but keeps it essentially like the author’s own narrow real world, and thinks it’s creating an original world, which I think is his point. Exhibit B for good fan fiction is Pamela Aiden’s “Mr. Darcy, Gentleman” series which entirely immerses itself in the world of Pride and Prejudice as Jane Austen created it, using the characters as Jane Austen created them, while imagining Darcy’s point of view on the… Read more »


Found this quote some time ago: “Saul Bellow has defined a writer as ‘a reader moved to emulation’” (Thomas Mallon, Stolen Words, p. 3). I suppose this could apply to all writing in general or specifically to non-fiction or fiction. I also suppose that being moved to emulation is not always conscientious and deliberate, but sometimes it is. Who would even want to unknowingly (or knowingly) emulate a hack? Unless the primary focus is remuneration at the expense of [fill in the blank]. And this one: “Many books that are well-written are not worth reading, and many books that are… Read more »


My personal favorite fan fiction stories can be found at Valerie_j wrote some of the best XMen stories written. My.02