So I ask the S&H fandom in regards to doing such a thing is: If a writer in the fandom were to take their long S&H stories off the internet and change character names, locations, time (e.g. from the 70s to the present) and then publish the stories as 'original novels', would you consider this legal/ethical? Would you support the books because of their S&H fanfic origins, or not?
Me, I definitely consider taking a fanfic, AU or not, that's been posted online and changing it into an 'original novel' for sale to be unethical. Sometimes the alterations may be enough that the characters in the published novel don't seem like those in the fanfic, but still, there's something sleazy to me about taking advantage of another creator's fanbase and their work to make profit for yourself.
ETA 1: Thanks for all the great replies! I've certainly learned something from the discussion about AU fanfics and the business of altering them into original novels.
I put forward a hypothetical situation: Say I were to write a novel about two homicide cops in present day Los Angeles called Steve and Kane. Steve is a curly-haired, blue-eyed Jewish guy with a huge grin from NYC. He's crazy about blintzes, cold pizza and skin-tight jeans, and owns a red-and-white sports car. Kane's a Nordic blond, blue-eyed guy with Hollywood looks from Iowa. He's a health freak, musically inclined, and is a Big Brother who's mentoring a young teenage boy. They work at the LAPD and have a giant of a black man for a boss, Captain Dabney. They also have a black pal called Hugo who owns a popular bar on Sunset Boulevard and is a 'man of the streets'.
In the novel, Steve and Kane, with the help of Hugo, have to catch a serial killer who's targeting the families of cops. The thing about Steve and Kane is that their physical appearance, mannerisms and personalities are exactly like Starsky's and Hutch's. They talk, behave, think, eat, sleep, work like Starsky and Hutch do on the show ... but they're called Steve and Kane. And I don't tell anyone about the connection between Starsky and Hutch and these characters in my novel.
Is the novel still considered original, or has a line been crossed into copyright infringement?
P.S. I have no intentions of writing this novel. :P
ETA 2: This article by a guest reviewer at Dear Author sums up my thoughts about the situation pretty well, particularly the 12th paragraph.