Adapting copyrighted static fiction?

Every now and again my mind wanders back to the 1974 novella A Song for Lya by George R. R. Martin and what a great piece of IF it would make. I think I’d like to make it one day. I suppose no one would stop me. It’s freeware. I think it pretty unlikely I’d get a cease and desist letter from a dragon show millionaire for adapting a novella no one’s heard of into a medium no one’s heard of. Not that stranger things haven’t happened.

So, let’s say, hypothetically, for the sake of argument, I made that game. What stance does the IF community at large take to adapting copyrighted fiction? Is there even an easily generalizable stance? Would the game be admissible to any comps? What kind of press would it get?


There have been fanfiction entries in past comp (see this year’s SpringThing with Baldur’s Gate 3 inspired games), and a sequel to HHGG was submitted to the last IFComp (Milliways). Whether an adapted copyrighted piece is accepted in a comp will depend on the comp themselves (you should as the organiser directly).

There’s probably a more grey area in the fan-fiction type of games compared to taking a published book from a (still living) author and adapting it into a game (without their consent/approval). As in, you’d probably not get into troubles if the game somehow blows up if you do the fanfiction kind.

I’m not sure if the community as a whole has a set stance on this, honestly.
I personalty would not touch it with a 100m pole… If it’s not public domain or you don’t have the approval of the author/copyright author, it’s probably not a good idea.

(iirc GRRM is pretty much against fanfiction, so it would surprise me if he would be ok with unapproved literal adaptation of his work into a new medium…)


Here I go emailing George then. I’m sure he’ll get right back to me. :laughing:

You’re right, though. He’s against fanfic (hypocritically, i’d add, considering he wrote Marvel fan-fic as a kid), and the safe bet would probably be leave well enough alone as an authorization is a pretty unlikely prospect.

Edit: I’m interested in this general topic though, not just as it pertains to GRRM specifically.


Yeah, agree with Manon. All the events have slightly different rules, but IF Comp probably has the most fleshed out rules on this: - here’s a relevant bit:

Pursuant to IFTF tradition, an entry may be a transformative work, such as a parody, critique, or fan-fiction. You may, for example, enter a game involving the further adventures of the characters from a novel, song or play that inspires you. You may not, however, fill your game with dozens of paragraphs of descriptive text copied word-for-word from that same Prior-Created Content, unless you have obtained a license from the Prior-Created Content’s copyright holder as such a usage would be too extensive to fall under fair use.

So if you did an adaptation with the same title and plot but didn’t use any of the actual prose, maybe it would be allowed? But it feels pretty close to the line if not over it, at least in concept.


One way to go about it, i guess, would be to “file off the serial number” as i believe they say in the fan-fic writer to published author circles, and just remove all incriminating character and place names, and terms specifically related to GRRM’s scifi universe. But i don’t know, that seems sleazy to me somehow. I think I’d rather not do it at all.

You might as well just start your story from scratch then…

so yeah, your options are:

  • full on fan-fiction, knowing the author’s stance, using maybe some characters and places for the setting/as references, but not the story/title of the book.
  • contact the author to get approval and work on the official adaptation (unlikely unless you have money to buy the copyright?)
  • still go ahead with the unlicensed adaptation, running the risk of getting into legal troubles (and in the worst of worst case putting a target on IF, lol)
  • be inspired by the work, but create your own world, story, characters (essentially what a bunch of us are doing here :joy: )

Yeah… oh well. Guess I’ll put that one to rest, then. Luckily ideas are among the last things I’ll be running out of. Besides, I have my hands more than full currently so this was never exactly topical anyway.

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I did technically write fanfiction (Milliways), but it was certainly similar enough (characters, places, things were very similar) … And long enough and difficult enough to be considered a definite (although unofficial) sequel… But it really depends on where you submit/show it, how much of the actual original text (writing, script, etc.) you use, and how similar things are.

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I wasn’t super sure if it was or not, since you did update the original project, so I kept it apart :joy:

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I’d be down for writing my own prose (although matching GRRM’s dialogue would be a very tall order) but I wouldn’t be writing a sequel or a spin-off but a full-on adaptation. It’s how the story (in my mind’s eye) lends itself to IF as a medium that’s inspiring about it, not the setting.

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Yeah, I’m not sure either. It did include two or three pieces of text from the original demo, but it was pretty different. Though yeah, it’s meant to be a direct sequel.

Hides tab with fanfiction parser game he’s been working on for ages

Yeah, who would do such a thing!


This is in the Publishing category, so maybe you’re planning to publish it, possibly commercially, in which case the above conversations apply. But if you’re making it for yourself, just for fun, I don’t think there’s any harm in making an unofficial adaptation, as long as you credit the original and state that this was not approved, etc. I could be wrong though; please correct me if I am.

Definitely not commercially! I’m not dumb, I don’t think. But certainly, as a creative, I would like eyes on something I put effort into.

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This is Heliopause, for what it’s worth. I adapted GRRM’s Thousand Worlds setting – which includes Song for Lya. I didn’t try to adapt any particular character or story, only the feel of the universe and the prose.


oooooohh, i should give it a try! A worthy project if I ever heard of one! I love 1kW

Oh, huh, I’d never realized Heliopause was an adaptation! That’s neat.

In principle, I sort of agree with the criticism against fanfiction. I think it works as a starting point, though.

Creating a new world with its own characters frees you of the expectations of the audience. Writers who create sequels to their own works sometimes struggle with this; the reader has already crafted an idea of what Alice looks like, and now in the next book you’re telling me she has brown hair. If you’re writing fanfiction, you risk the ire of the original creator AND the loyal audience.

This is how I found out one of my fav authors was against fanfic. Drives me crazy because I’m such a big supporter of fanfic and remixing. He sent me a cease-and-desist, ahaha. I wasn’t even posting it or profiting from it. I was sharing it with a few friends and thought maybe I’d get some feedback from the original author on how one character in particular was written.

I kinda sorta did this, but mostly because there were so many explorations and details that I thought were missing in the original work, and my explorations caused my fanfic to deviate far enough from the original to become its own thing in the end.

Which I’m quite happy about because the underlying premise that it shares with the original story is so deeply fascinating and exciting to me, and it seemed like nobody else was bothering to give the idea a fair shake.


Even authors who are pro-fanfic usually say “don’t show it to me or tell me about it”. There’s too much potential legal hassle.