Archive for January, 2004

Link Day

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

Rather than spend another entry talking about Sam/Jack fics that everyone else in the fandom has already read, I think I’ll clean out my random links folder. So, in true weblogging tradition, here are the links:

On Contests

Monday, January 12th, 2004

Contest of the day: The Stargate SG-1 Fan Awards

The Awesome Author Awards are happening again. I wrote the KK to say I wasn’t entering because I’ve retired from Trek, but I have a few other reasons for not entering this year. I’m one of a handful of writers (Dakota, KJ, Sängerin, Sheri) who have entered in all three years, and it was my personal (not contest) policy to enter different stories every year. Last year, especially, I figured that I wouldn’t win or place but that the contest would be a way for people to see my new stories, since I don’t participate in mailing lists anymore. This year I have no new J/C stories to enter, so there’s no point to my entering on that account.

One reason so few other J/C writers have entered for three years running is that winners become ineligible. This policy is also used in the ASC Awards for the Alara Rogers (Best Author) award. It’s an approach that can bite you in the behind after a few years - I call it the last one to leave ASC turn out the lights and pick up the Alara Rogers award effect. It’s not so gratifying to win an award once the real competition has become disqualified or left the fandom entirely.

I know there are people who aren’t picky about how they get their awards, but I’m not one of them. I don’t want an award that I’m the last one left in the fandom to pick up - I’d rather just move on to fandoms that are still active enough to generate new competition. Moreover, even eligible authors still active in the fandom are avoiding AAA this year, compounding the last one out effect. I know of several writers who aren’t entering AAA this year because of unrelated incidents within KK (of which I have only second-hand knowledge), and others who won’t enter on suspicion that the contest itself is being rigged or abused in some way.

Personally, I don’t believe that there is any internal corruption of the contest in favor of KK members. In any contest, people will know certain authors and therefore be more familiar with their fic and more likely to vote for it, but this effect reaches beyond KK members. If there’s a big pro-KK slant to the winners, I’ve never noticed it. As for external attempts to cheat in AAA, I have no first-hand knowledge of it but from my perspective, such cheating has no visible effect - if person X places ahead of person Y because X cheated, but I don’t think either of them writes well, then for me the cheating is irrelevant.

To put it more simply, if I don’t like the fic of writer X but she has a hundred friends who love it, and if I don’t like Y either but she has a hundred friends who are willing to stuff the ballot box for her, how can I tell the difference? The friends of X are voting in good faith, and those of Y in bad faith, but if I don’t know either X or Y, to me it looks like two mediocre writers got the same number of votes.

So for me as a fringe member of the fandom, with nineteen days to go to my Trek retirement, the only standard I can apply to a contest is whether the best fic (in my opinion as a reader) wins. Fanfic contests are therefore almost always a disappointment to me, because the stories and writers I think are the best rarely win. That’s setting aside the fact that I don’t win, which is certainly a disincentive to entering contests but is not my complaint. I can always assume that my own fic is not as good as I think it is, but I’m not the only one not winning AAA.

When I vote in a contest, I look at every story in the contest (except NC-17 and slash), or if, like the ASC Awards, the contest is too big for that, I make sure to look at every story in the categories where I’m voting. I say look at rather than read because if a story is downright bad, or clearly worse than other stories I’ve already read in the category, I don’t finish it. As a consequence of this policy, I have looked at every PG story in AAA for the past three years. Because AAA is so huge, I had to keep detailed records of whom I was considering voting for. So I know exactly how far off the results are, in each case, from what I thought they would be.

For comparison, I’ll give the lists of who won in each year, and who I voted for. AAA placements are in order of winner, runner up, and honorable mentions. People equally ranked, in my opinion or as honorable mentions, get slashes between them. My rankings are determined from the number of categories I voted for them in, and ranking if there was ranking involved.

2001 AAA results: Shayenne, EJ, Cassatt/D Kent/KJ
Jemima’s ranking: EJ, Clare009, Shayenne, Lady Firebird, Karma, Alicia/Claudia/D Kent/KJ, Ammo/Sangerin/Turtlewoman

The first year was a big year, so I have a bunch of people in my list who got only a vote or two from me. EJ was far and away the best of the bunch, even better in 2001 than in the next when she won, but Shayenne is a good writer - I can’t complain that she won. I voted for two people off the Honorable Mention list, in only one category each. This was, by comparison, a good year. [I confused Dakota with D Kent at first - sorry about that.]

2002 AAA results: EJ, Brianna, Jemima/KJ/Sheri
Jemima’s ranking: EJ, Seema/Rocky, Monkee, Jade, JinnyW

In 2002, things began to get funky. EJ won, perhaps because she’s the kind of writer that crosses boundaries between what I like and what the general AAA voting population likes. Note, however, that I did not vote even once for any of the other people with Honorable Mentions (including myself). I did consider voting for Brianna in one category, but she didn’t quite make it. Most notably neglected in 2002 was Monkee, considering her fame in J/Cdom and abroad.

2003 AAA results: Brianna, MaquisKat, Kadi/KJ/Sylvia
Jemima’s ranking: Seema/Rocky, JinnyW, Jade/Caffey, Sylvia, Brianna/Diane/Morgan/Yael

This time I did vote for Brianna in one (and only one) category, as my third choice. Even Sylvia did better - she was my first choice in one category. Otherwise, I didn’t vote for the winners at all. The lists are nearly disjoint. I knew Seema and Rocky were doomed after the results of the previous year, but I’d at least hoped for a showing for JinnyW. No such luck.

None of this is intended to get down on Brianna. If you write something and other people enjoy it, that’s great. I don’t like a lot of the stories that make it into SNW, but the ability to sell your work, either literally or in terms of hits and feedback, is what counts. Writing to the market is more important than abstract literary qualities. As the man said,

“The public does not like bad literature. The public likes a certain kind of literature, and likes that kind even when it is bad better than another kind of literature even when it is good. Nor is this unreasonable; for the line between different types of literature is as real as the line between tears and laughter; and to tell people who can only get bad comedy that you have some first-class tragedy is as irrational as to offer a man who is shivering over weak, warm coffee a really superior sort of ice.” –G.K.Chesterton in “Charles Dickens”

So I have to conclude that AAA is not my market. They want coffee and I’m selling ice. All my favorite authors are also selling ice and losing along with me. ASC is my market. I don’t look at the ASC Awards results and think who voted for these people? I know who they were, I know what their feedback said, and I know they’re looking for what I’m looking for in fic.

And in nineteen short days when I retire from Trek, the Stargate SG-1 Fan Awards will be my market. Fortunately they’re by nomination, so there’ll be none of this considering whether or what to enter.

Kiss the Snob

Sunday, January 11th, 2004

Yes, I am a huge fic snob. I don’t mean to be - there are times when I’d like to know how a story turns out, but for reasons of quality I just have to close the window. For Jerie’s sake (since she can’t figure out what to recommend to me), I’m trying to figure out my exact fic-snob requirements.

The biggest component is raw quality of composition. I wasn’t always a writing snob, but once I started writing myself (three and a half years ago) my pleasure in badfic was ended. Whenever bad writing is getting in my way I close the window - I don’t care how good the concept is. By bad writing I don’t mean bad plot, bad style, or bad characterization - those are all mistakes that can be made in a well-written story. It’s not necessarily the simple technical mistakes, either: if I know how a word should be spelled or where a comma is supposed to go, I can overlook the error. I enjoy the occasional said-bookism and I’m slipping back into third person omniscient in my own writing.

I was looking for a good example of bad writing from The Slash Fiction Hall of Shame (since I figured few to none of my readers read slash in those particular fandoms so no one would be offended) but it turns out that bad writing is more than any particular paragraph I could find to typify it. Bad writing isn’t any specific problem, but the overall result that the reader cannot tell what’s going on in the story. If there’s an AU Sam around and I can’t tell which of the two Sams is talking at any particular point, that’s bad writing. If the team visits a new planet and I get no sense of space or time in their explorations, that’s bad writing. If there are fits, starts, and jumps that lose the reader, that’s bad writing.

The next requirement on my list used to be, and possibly still is, quality of plot. I won’t read a story with good writing but an AWOL or all-angst plot. All-angst plots are the sort that don’t have any external events or action driving the story - characters Have Talks and Meditate Upon Their Pain, but nothing happens. I’m not asking for gen here - I don’t care how much kissyface there is in the story as long as there’s also a story. Here’s a hint - if your characters never fire up the stargate, your story may lack plot.

I’m pretty forgiving of small plot problems, though - for example, there was an unnecessary bit of whipping in Until the End of the World by Ruth M. King, which was part of an evil-general-up-to-something-mysterious plot thread that was overdone and never resolved, but I persevered and enjoyed the story. It wasn’t a groundbreaking work of literature, but the plot kept rolling along steadily with actual external events, so I kept reading. (That’s practically the entirety of the craft, right there.)

In third place but gaining fast is quality of characterization. I don’t mind if the events of the story lead to Wedded Bliss, but at the beginning I need to see everyone acting more or less like themselves. Now back in my Trek days, I didn’t mind bad or superficial characterization because I didn’t have a real feel for the characters as broadcast (with the exceptions of Tom and Seven). I know other people have set ideas about Janeway, especially, but to me most of the crew were kind of hazy to begin with and TPTB didn’t help by neglecting several of them. My Voyager experience could be the adverse effect of having a large ensemble cast (as opposed to 4 major and 2 minor characters in SG), or it could just be that I didn’t get to see the show all that often so I couldn’t tell if the dialogue was off. Nowadays, mischaracterization of the Big Four will turn me off a fic pretty quickly, although the superficial approach may slip past me.

Last on my list is style. Though I like to see different styles, plain, clean prose is so much to ask for that I’m not going to make demands in this area. If the fic experiment is making my head hurt, the window gets closed. On the other hand, if I get some good style for free, I’m willing to overlook flaws of plot - for example, Once in a Lifetime by Michelle V. had such a lovely style that I didn’t realize until the end that I was never going to find out what the plot was. I’ve seen a lot of that sort of figure-out-your-own-ending writing in Fantasy & Science Fiction. It’s surprising to see it in fandom; I know from personal experience how readers will get on your case for sequels if you leave them hanging at the end.

I think my fic standards are reflected in my writing. I try to write well, which is, clearly. I’m torn between creating a nice plot in which (non-canon) things happen and keeping the characters somewhat in character. Style is the least of my concerns and I almost never experiment with it - at least, not successfully. If that makes me a snob, then I’m a snob with a heart of schmoop.

Nose in the Aether

Sunday, January 11th, 2004

big snob
You’re the epitome of snobbishness!

Are You a Fic Snob?
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Season 4

Saturday, January 10th, 2004

Mars link of the day: Blue sky over Spirit (thanks to mike)

Jerie warned me that season 4 was good, but she didn’t say how good. Although I agree that “Window of Opportunity” is probably the best episode ever, my personal favorite is “Beneath the Surface.” I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic Rasta-tech beefcake episodes, and shippy memory loss is just a big fat bonus.

The muse is having a Stargate attack, which isn’t good. She’s supposed to be revising Colony or writing something saleable; it would be one thing if she were in time for the samandjack fanfiction awards, but she’s not. Now she (technically, he) has a thing for ice planets.

And it’s been forever, but I read a fic: This Cannot Be Happening by…well, I have no idea who it’s by. Stargate writers tend to leave their names off their fic. But whoever that masked writer was, her story placed in some awards that I was skimming for AU fic. It was an enjoyable read despite the idiot plot element that became clear partway through the story - one of those if you’d only told me X, none of this angst would be happening now. But if you ignore the angst, there’s a nice quantum mirror and Sam/Jack friendship story there.


Friday, January 9th, 2004

Research link of the day: Ancient Scripts. (T’Other Liz recommends OmniGlot.)

St. Ignatius didn’t give me as much help as I wanted, so I decided to try storyboarding. You’d think there’d be more links about it on the net, but I haven’t found all that many useful ones. Here’s the short list:

The net didn’t help much, but the basic concept seemed clear enough - storyboarding is making quick sketches of scenes from your story to visualize them for the camera (or for the writer with visualization problems). You don’t have to be able to draw (though I can) as long as you know what the squiggles represent. It’s a lot like going through the Writing Exercises, except of course without taste or smell.

So I dug out my old contè crayons and nupastels (this involved a search of the entire apartment and the basement storage area), and popped down to The Art Store for paper and pencils, and now I have some small sketches for the off-world gate scene in the Stargate novel I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. Of course I should be thinking about other things, but while I was editing Colony I started wondering whether I could convert it into a Stargate novel with Jack, Sam and Daniel taking the places of Chakotay, Torres and Janeway - and why I was slaving away at an old, unsuccessful novel when a new, promising idea was eating away at the muse. But I persevered and got a bit done on the ancient albatross…

The Writing Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Thursday, January 8th, 2004

Fatality of the day: a Bostonian finds himself unexpectedly deceased, but recovers quickly.

Well, as advised by the writers at rasfc, I’ve given The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola a good skimming. I’m not quite hallucinating on demand yet. I’ve spared you the effort of reading him yourself by making excerpts - here’s some prime visualization advice:

FIFTH CONTEMPLATION [of the first day of the second week]
Prayer. After the Preparatory Prayer and the three Preludes, it is
helpful to pass the five senses of the imagination through the first and second
Contemplation, in the following way:
First Point. The first Point is to see the persons with the sight of the
imagination, meditating and contemplating in particular the details about them
and drawing some profit from the sight.
Second Point. The second, to hear with the hearing what they are, or
might be, talking about and, reflecting on oneself, to draw some profit from
Third Point. The third, to smell and to taste with the smell and the
taste the infinite fragrance and sweetness of the Divinity, of the soul, and of
its virtues, and of all, according to the person who is being contemplated;
reflecting on oneself and drawing profit from it.
Fourth Point. The fourth, to touch with the touch, as for instance, to
embrace and kiss the places where such persons put their feet and sit, always
seeing to my drawing profit from it.

Most of the time, though, he isn’t quite so general, although the following advice can be extrapolated to any road, cave, garden, etc.

The second [prelude to the second contemplation for the first day of the second week is], a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see with the sight of the imagination the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem; considering the length and the breadth, and whether such road is level or through valleys or over hills; likewise looking at the place or cave of the Nativity, how large, how small, how low, how high, and how it was prepared.

The second [prelude to contemplation of the second contemplation in the morning of the second day of the third week] is to see the place. It will be here to consider the road from Mount Sion to the Valley of Josaphat, and likewise the Garden, whether wide, whether large, whether of one kind, whether of another.

Most of the text, however, is so explicit as to be actual Spiritual Exercises rather than writing exercises - for example, this contemplation of Lucifer (second week, fourth day):

First Point. The first Point is to imagine as if the chief of all the enemy seated himself in that great field of Babylon, as in a great chair of fire and smoke, in shape horrible and terrifying.
Second Point. The second, to consider how he issues a summons to
innumerable demons and how he scatters them, some to one city and others to
another, and so through all the world, not omitting any provinces, places,
states, nor any persons in particular.
Third Point. The third, to consider the discourse which he makes them,
and how he tells them to cast out nets and chains; that they have first to
tempt with a longing for riches — as he is accustomed to do in most cases — that men may more easily come to vain honor of the world, and then to vast pride. So that the first step shall be that of riches; the second, that of honor; the third, that of pride; and from these three steps he draws on to all the other vices.

Is anyone else picturing Morgoth?

The Cute One

Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

Mad cow of the day: Cox and Forkum (thanks to KC)

It took me two hours from when I first did the quiz to when the answer was finally returned from Quizilla - the lamest webserver ever - but because he’s the cutest hobbit ever I’m putting it up:

Congratulations! You’re Pippin!

Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I hope to grow up to be a Time Lord.

What You Can’t Say

Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

Cool link of the day: Arabic numerals

I found Paul Graham’s article about What You Can’t Say by way of Slashdot, but it’s been making the blog rounds ever since. Since I referred to my more unmentionable opinions in a comment a few days ago, I found the article timely. My favorite thing you can’t say that Graham actually came out and said was:

It could be that the scientists are simply smarter; most physicists could, if necessary, make it through a PhD program in French literature, but few professors of French literature could make it through a PhD program in physics.

But seriously, here’s the Conformist Test; it will tell you whether you need to read the whole article:

Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?
If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you’re supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn’t.

One popular reaction to the article is going forth and giving your personal list of Things You Can’t Say. Aaron Swartz gives a representative list including endorsements of eugenics, bestiality, and racial superiority. The trouble with these lists is that they’re all the same political hot-buttons. You’d think unspeakables would come up in other areas of life.

So I tried to think of things you can’t say in fandom. I’m blogging late because I was busy chatting about whether Trek fandom is dead - but plenty of people think it is, so that doesn’t quite qualify as unspeakable.

I think it’s relatively taboo to say that good writing is an inborn talent - some people don’t have it and no amount of hard work will ever make them good writers. There are cases when you see someone working so hard at something at which they so clearly will never succeed, and you want to tell them to get a new hobby. I’m thinking of an aspiring pro writer, not anyone who might be reading this blog - but the same taboo exists in fandom. It’s related to the general myth of equal potential, but since Americans aren’t allowed to say that’s a myth, I’ll just be going now.


Monday, January 5th, 2004

Reference link of the day: MythWeb

As promised, the new Stargate schmoop is up: The Universe Survival Guide. It’s not just schmoop - it’s also humor. Nevertheless, read at your own risk. Beware of kissyface.

There are also 3 new SG drabbles: Slippery Slope (”Shades of Grey”), A River in Egypt (”Divide and Conquer”), and Resignations (”Window of Opportunity”).

Now I feel like I should write serious SG fic, if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. Schmooping has given me the feeling I’m regressing to my J/C days - though I have nothing against schmoop in principle, I still feel the schmoop-guilt. I should have been working on Colony…