Temeraire and Transformative Works

I recently finished Empire of Ivory, the fourth novel in Naomi Novik‘s excellent Temeraire series. It’s set in the time of Napoleon and Nelson and in an universe with dragons. Temeraire is a dragon.

His human sidekick, William Laurence, moves from the navy to the aerial corps when the newborn Temeraire becomes attached to him, toward the start of the first novel, His Majesty’s Dragon. The blend of fantasy and alternate history is wonderfully executed.

A further reason to applaud Naomi is that she is the founding chair of the Organization for Transformative Works, a pro-fanfic nonprofit. The T in OTW requires some explanation.

Transformative works are creative works about characters or settings created by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creators. Transformative works include but are not limited to fanfiction… A transformative use is one that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the [source] with new expression, meaning, or message.”

The bulk of my fanfic involvement came about a decade ago, when I read some X-Files fanfic, some of it very good. I also wrote some. The first act of Two Agents of the Bureau, my blank verse drama, seems to have survived. The other four acts were never born.

Were I to write Temeraire fanfic, I’d start at the end, with how I think the series should end. It should do so with the death of Laurence, and with the grieving Temeraire wondering where he now belongs: with his friends in the aerial corps, in China, the land of his birth, or… Temeraire takes to the sky, and… roll the titles.

That said, I’m in no hurry for the series to end. It has yet to take us to the Russian front, or to the New World, and I suspect that Temeraire is due for a visit to each of them.