Giles Foden argues that Annie Proulx shouldn’t get huffy about x-rated fan fiction starring her chilly-handed/warm-thighed cowboys because she already ceded creative control to a film production.
“There are countless people out there who think the story is open range to explore their fantasies and to correct what they see as an unbearably disappointing story,’ she told the Wall Street Journal. ‘They constantly send ghastly manuscripts and pornish rewrites of the story to me, expecting me to reply with praise and applause for ‘fixing’ the story. They certainly don’t get the message that if you can’t fix it, you’ve got to stand it.”
The complaint is well put, though I suppose one must see the 2005 adaptation of Brokeback Mountain itself as a “fixing” of the story. In more ways than one, too: under one light, film adaptations tend to concentrate a literary text, reducing it to a supposed core, often based on some idea of psychological essence or narrative structure. What was unusual about Brokeback Mountain the film is that it expanded the original. This isn’t necessarily a virtue either. As my friend John Mullan said to me after seeing it, “Long film, short story”.
In another light, adaptations fix a story in a negative sense: they set it up for commercial exploitation, “affixing” it to some preprepared notion of film as product rather than artwork.