I just filed a column for the SCBWI New England newsletter on the big publishing corporations’ newfound respect for fanfiction—because it’s a way to make money. Big firms are checking fanfiction sites for authors who can craft a story (Sourcebooks), licensing fictional universes (Amazon), and commissioning latter-day sequels from big-name authors (practically every major children’s publisher in the UK, it seems).
Right on cue, the Children’s Choice Award for Author of the Year went to Rush Limbaugh for his historical fanfiction picture-storybooks, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims and Rush Revere and the First Patriots.
Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post recognized the hero of these books as a classic Mary Sue author stand-in back in December, quoting such lines as:
- “A fine answer, Rush Revere,” said William [Bradford], smiling. “Are you sure you don’t want to be governor?”
- Liberty [the horse] again whispered to me, “William really put you on the spot with that question. I couldn’t have dug you out of that one. Nice job answering him! Maybe you should get your own radio talk show. You know, callers call in with questions and you give them advice and stuff. I’d totally call you!”
- “You are always thinking of the future, Rush Revere,” said William, smiling. “I like that about you.”
“You know that at Manchester Middle School we have the smartest and most educated teachers. It is my pleasure to introduce you to your substitute, Mr. Revere.”Of course, these books are also commercial ventures. Debbie Reese noted that Limbaugh’s own website describes his company buying “10,000 or 15,000” copies to give to schools. Such bulk sales are a common way to jumpstart books onto bestseller lists, where they benefit from increased visibility. But these books aren’t just product in themselves: they also help to sell Rush Limbaugh’s other goods, with an illustration showing his branded iced tea.
Limbaugh’s two books are the only juvenile titles that Simon & Schuster’s politically conservative Threshold Editions imprint has published, and two of the very few fictional books. So the editors there may not have recognized the fanfiction for what it is. Then again, with guaranteed sales and a heavyweight author, they probably didn’t care.