Brace yourself, literature buffs: Amazon is now letting anyone write and publish fan fiction - but not just any kind of fan fiction. Amazon's Kindle Worlds publishing arm has gained the right to (ready for this?) allow fan fiction writers to contribute to the extension of Kurt Vonnegut's biggest titles.
If you're thinking 'Slaughterhouse 5, 6, and 7?' you're not off-base. Sadly, Amazon will publish any fan fiction that has to do with any of Vonnegut's works. In the future, you will see lots and lots of extensions of Vonnegut's works - but it won't stop there, either.
Why, Amazon, Why?
The obvious answer here is: to profit from classic authors like Vonnegut. The other reason is to help legitimize fan fiction. Amazon didn't start with Vonnegut (the company has been publishing fan fiction based on 'Gossip Girl' and other books, movies, and TV shows for some time), but Vonnegut's works are the first classic works to be touched by the likes of fans.
You don't have be a great writer either. Amazon will publish any piece of fan fiction. You could write about your mother, aliens, or fruit, and link it to Vonnegut, and have your piece of fan fiction published. Okay, to be fair, this isn't the first time in history that fan fiction has been published - but publishing houses used to have standards.
Now, clearly, those standards have been thrown out the window. Soon, very soon, anyone with a keyboard will call themselves an author - or, worse, a Vonnegut specialist. Yikes.
How Can Amazon Do This?
In order for Amazon to make such a big leap into the world of books, the company has to gain permission from the estate of such authors as Vonnegut. Since certain estates (Vonnegut, Pynchon, and others that I can think of) probably aren't making much dough during the time of bookstore closings and Kindles, those estates are happy to help out a company with lots of cash like Amazon.
So, Amazon does have permission from Vonnegut's estate to let fans publish fiction in his name. Would Vonnegut approve? Probably not. It takes years to become a classic writer, and few writers ever reach classic standards before they die. Vonnegut is one such writer, and it's really a shame that any kind of work relating to his original works will be immediately associated with the author.
Imagine: you flip through Kindle and you see Slaughterhouse 8: The Final Frontier. It's a scary thought - one that becomes scarier when considering the fact that some people may actually think a Slaughterhouse 8 exists. But, I will digress. Some good might come out of this. Some fan fiction writers may actually write something decent, it's been done before.
A Fighting Chance
Amazon's new foray into fan fiction does give would-be authors an edge when it comes to publishing. After all, it's not easy to get published by a legit publisher these days. Still, Amazon is stepping on some toes here. Regardless, if you love Vonnegut and have excellent ideas for his characters, you can whip up some fan fiction and have it published on Amazon now.