Strange New Fanfic

Strange New Fanfic

It seems like I’ve been voting for the whole month of April. On the one hand, the big contests have been a good chance to catch up on the VOY fic I’ve been ignoring since the series ended a year ago. On the other hand, it’s been a lot of slogging through categories full of uninspiring fic, only to discover that the writers I’ve always thought were very good are still getting all my votes, and the writers I used to think were at least good for a few kilobytes’ amusement just don’t do it for me anymore.

I don’t blame them. The more I write, the more I beta as I read and little sins of characterization and style I once overlooked have become showstoppers for me. I rarely finish a fic for the plot the way I used to, if the writing doesn’t hold up.

I ought to be sorry for my loss. It’s not just fanfic, either - I’m finding it hard to dig up good scifi these days, and I used to read anything I could get my hands on. I was in a used bookstore last week (Avenue Victor Hugo on Newbury Street, if any locals are looking for used sci-fi - there’s more there than at Pandemonium in Cambridge) and didn’t find much that appealed to me. On a whim, I picked up Strange New Worlds IV - I don’t buy pay-per-fic, but in this case it was used so Paramount hasn’t made any money off me. (Sorry about the royalties, Penny. Tell me how much you would have gotten and I’ll mail it to you.) I was hoping it would shake me out of my fanfic doldrums.

At least the stuff was well-written, with a few minor exceptions. There was only one story in there that made me glad I’d bought the book - it was Personal Log by Kevin Killiany, a story about the EMH. Of course, Penny’s story was excellent, but I can have more and better Penny at the click of a link. I would give the awards out differently, too. Sticking to the pattern of at most one per series:

  1. Personal Log (VOY)
  2. A Little More Action (TOS)
  3. The Promise (TNG)

None of my pics actually won a prize, and I didn’t care for the stories that did win, especially the first place winner. The VOY prize recipient was one of the few crew stories in the book, and it wasn’t bad, though rather rushed and disjointed. I’m still not sure what happened - it was very much like an episode in its technobabble, plot holes, and brief, pat dialogue at the end.

What struck me most about the book, and therefore, I suppose, the contest, was the topics of the stories. They were mostly character vignettes, and they leaned heavily toward very minor characters, skirting, and often breaking, the contest rule that stories should be about main or familiar characters. Just to drive home the point, I’ll make a character code list of the main characters in SNW4:

TOS: an OC from the gangster planet with some Kirk, Spock and McCoy; David Marcus; tribbles and crew; a Horta; the Enterprise herself; Kirk; Scotty; McCoy

TNG: an old robot with some Picard and company; Kamin (Picard’s persona from “Inner Light”); Ro Laren; Ian Andrew Troi; Lt. Hawk (don’t ask me who that is)

DS9: Captain Proton; an OC doctor from the 1950’s (this story won, probably for its PC content)

VOY: A Borg Queen and Q (this was a TNG story); Gretchen Janeway (was she ever on VOY, or is she just a Jeri Taylorism?); Trevis (of Trevis and Flotter fame); Paris and Kim; the EMH; the crew; the crew

The structure of the stories was also weighed towards the unusual, with a third of the stories written in the first person, one with a tense shift, one in Borgvision, one in the POV of a heretofore inanimate object, one too terse to make sense, two written as journals, and even a Captain Proton script. I get the feeling the editors are as jaded by Trek stories as I am, and are going for the exotic like some third-year fanfic writer getting into slash.

I take this as evidence that SNW isn’t about fan fiction. No one would sit through these many OC’s passed off as non-MIS stories in a fanfiction forum. What it is, is more pay-per-fic - stories without any meaningful personal interaction between the main characters (with the notable exception of the Paris and Kim story), which branch off into OC’s because that’s the only way to slip a real story with real character development past Paramount.

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