To me, it’s a matter of taking pride in your work.
As Picasso said, all artists borrow. Great artists steal. But there is — or has been — an implied requirement of originality. As Heinlein said, you have to file off the serial numbers. All it really takes is to change the names of the characters. If you don’t have at least that minimum pride in your workmanship, you’re not an artist, you’re a wanker, engaged in derivative masturbation.
Look. Dolly is Xena fan fic. What the bards in the X:WP-verse used to (and may still) call an uber. We transport the characters into a contemporary setting and tell stories about them. If we’re at least a little creative, we give them different names. If we’re even a bit more creative, we give them a different appearance, different quirks and speech patterns, different histories, loves, desires, greeds, and hatreds.
And, at some point in that continuum of change, your work is no longer a derivative tie-in, but becomes something original. Something wholly new. Which is what I am now doing with her stories. The first novel in what will be called the Dolly Apocrypha is based on a novella which bears only a superficial resemblance to what will be the completed book. And about the only element that remains from that original story is that the protagonist is named Gabrielle Dolly.
When I set out to seek professional publication for the Dolly stories, I realized that I would have to remove those elements which were not mine. And there was more than just tributes to the television show Xena: Warrior Princess. There were bits and pieces of other writers’ work that had been incorporated into the stories of the Apocrypha, because they were written in a different milieu for a different purpose.
But that’s what creation is all about — originality. Sole ownership on the part of the creator.
I have the same problem with similar tropes in music. When rappers asserted that copyrights limited their creativity, I just about exploded. THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT, NUMBNUTS! Somebody already did that. If you don’t want to be judged as a derivative wannabe or a thief — DO SOMETHING ELSE! Jeeze!
I freely acknowledge my debt to the creators of X:WP — and not just the Powers That Be who created the Canon, but also to myriad assorted fan fic authors who proposed alternative story lines, such as Missy Good, whose alt-fic very nearly overtook the Canon — did, in a lot of minds in Xena fandom. But I have also done my damnedest to make dead certain that there is no cause for anyone to say the whole thing — while owing the original — is anything but original itself.
And that, to my mind, is the way it’s supposed to be.