Anne Rice, perhaps the horniest author of all time, passed away over the weekend. Don’t think that means you can write about her characters mourning her, though.
Rice’s legacy as an author will be both storied and complicated. Interview With the Vampire, her most famous novel about the vampires Lestat and Louis, is truly beautiful, with an iconic film adaptation to match. Longtime fans also know that she passionately loved her characters—so much so that when it came to fanfiction, she was unabashedly against the practice.
In 1995, Rice told Compuserve her stance on fanfiction. In response to the question of whether or not she was interested in reading it, Rice gave a full-throated “No.”
“I'm very possessive of my characters,” Rice said. “I think it would hurt me terribly to read anything with some of my characters. I hope you'll be inspired to write your own stories with your own characters.”
By 2000, her position on fanfiction had become even more aggressive. Rice was not just possessive of her characters, but also willing to use the legal system to make sure that no one would disregard her wishes. Fansites for Anne Rice would say they had received legal threats from Rice’s lawyers; eventually, popular fanfiction site Fanfiction.net would disallow fanfiction based on Rice’s work, and while some fics have slipped through the cracks, there still isn’t a category on site for Interview With the Vampire.
“For years a disclaimer was used in front of all Anne Rice fanfics which mirrored the disclaimers successfully used by other fandoms, namely one which pointed out that the fanfic in question was a ‘non-profit, amateur effort not intended to infringe on the rights of Anne Rice or any other copyright holder’” the authors of the site wrote. “While this disclaimer has worked well in other fandoms, Anne Rice considers it unacceptable. According to Christine Cuddy, Anne's lawyer ‘Even when done on a non-profit and/or amateur basis, such use of [Anne's] characters without Ms. Rice's permission constitutes copyright infringement.’”
“Know what you're getting into,” they continued. “The threat of personal harassment is very real. Anne Rice does not want you writing fanfiction and she has the money to make you stop. Do you really want to try this?”
Rice’s position wasn’t all that unusual in the world of mass media when use of the internet was still a nascent, niche hobby. Fox sent cease and desist letters to writers of X-Files fanfiction and JK Rowling used her lawyers to threaten writers of sexually explicit Harry Potter fanfiction. But Rice’s reasoning differed from other authors, many of whom seek mainly to avoid a situation where they would get sued for plagiarizing fanfiction they had never read. It’s one of the aspects of her writing that makes her bizarre, horny and bloody books come so alive.
“It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters,” Rice wrote on her personal website in 2000. To her, Lestat was always as alive as any other person, living or dead.