Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Jazz Fiction

Just updated the Fan Fiction page to reflect the new stories being released, and I saw Lyn Perry’s comment on the page about what it would mean if I started writing fan fiction within the fan fiction. And this got me thinking about what fan fiction reminds me of. It’s jazz. The literary equivalent of jazz.

Most people have a positive reaction to fan fiction. I’m aware that some (mostly other authors) frown on the stuff. I’m not sure why. One of my favorite albums is Diana Krall singing the greats. She’s singing other people’s music, a common practice in Jazz, but giving it her own spin, her own voice. I remember looking at versions of “Summertime” a while back and finding out that there are hundreds of recordings from various artists. I was tempted to collect and listen to them all.

Some talented writers are playing around with the silos. I could easily see myself jumping in their world and playing with them. How is that different from five or six musicians hopping on stage for an impromptu jam session and riffing off one another’s works (and the works of those not even present or perhaps not alive)? Literary jazz. Some might hate on this; everyone else is tapping their feet.

13 replies to “Jazz Fiction”

I’m a musician first and a writer second (this may change as it’s ridiculously difficult to break out into the music scene). Nice post Hugh, very appropriate analogy.

Grab your instruments everyone, let’s jam!

I completely agree with that analogy! I love jazz, and I do regular cabarets with my husband, also a singer and a trumpet player (though here he’s in the audience in the left forefront, watching). Here’s a YouTube video of me singing “All of Me,” at a little church gig we did a couple of years ago. That’s my stepson on bass, and some very talented sax players.

There is indeed a lot of me here! (It’s the camera, I swear… though there’s not as much of me now as there was then.)

You are so generous to share what you’ve created with others. Not only have you created a ‘safe zone’ within the broader writing community that empowers aspiring writers, but now you are sharing your own creations with others. Hat’s off to you!

BTW – every time I walk through our apartment building’s garage I think of Wool…the concrete pillars, chalky walls, pipes tinkling with dripping water…I cannot help but think of the silos!!! LOL – great fiction seeps into the mind and takes root :) I love it, thank you.

I just heard a cover of “Come As You Are” at the end of a recent episode of Defiance that made me feel stabby. Some covers are amazing, “All Along the Watchtower” jumps to mind, but that is not the norm.

BTW – Miles Davis’ version of “Summertime” is the best. You can stop looking. Honorable mention goes to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s duet version.

Yes. Fan fic as jazz, improvisation. Started reading The Maltese Falcon today. Thought after reading your post, maybe fan Sam Spade? A quick Googlization found two examples. Haven’t given it much thought but it seems fiction is hardly a zero-sum game. Fan fic takes nothing away from its source. It may well be an indication of the original’s success. Did Nina Simone diminish “Since I Fell For You”? For crying out loud, look what we’ve done with the wheel.

I’m a mostly retired jazz musician (piano, bass, trumpet, sax). Improvisation of a standard tune in mainstream jazz is an alternative interpretation, neither like nor unlike the original. It respects the melody and lyrics. There are rarely changes to scene, characters, or plot. Mac the Knife (hate that tune) still stabs people irrespective of who plays/sings about him.

Old musician’s joke:
Q: How many chick singers does it take to sing Stormy Weather?
A: Apparently, all of them.

Sustitute Summertime, Feelings, and Route 66 for Stormy Weather in the above message. Get me started…

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