Archive for the 'Fanfic' Category

Yenta Sue

Sunday, February 8th, 2004

I’ve been following a kerfluffle about a writer who mentioned an unfavorable review to her fans, who in turn went forth and challenged the review. The kerfluffle itself is fairly simple - I’d never tell my mailing list about an unfavorable review. I think it’s iffy enough telling them about contests I’m entered in (because the implication is go and vote for me), but I figure that if they like my fic they’d like similar fic. It’s a public service announcement.

The kerfluffle led to a couple of discussions of what a Mary Sue is. Everyone can spot your basic Flaming Mary Sue: purple eyes, flowing locks, super powers, beloved by all, saves the ship, dies tragically at the end, etc., etc. But other definitions of Mary Sue are more controversial. To some people, any OC is a Mary Sue (or if male, a Marty Stu) by analogy, because all OC’s detract from the canon characters to some extent, just as Flaming Mary Sue supersedes the canon characters in all respects.

To me, canon characters can themselves be Mary Sues: when Seven saves the ship without needing anyone else’s help, she’s a Mary Sue for Brannon Braga. He didn’t want to deal with an ensemble show, so he tossed Seven in there and everything after that happened in relation to her. Likewise Wesley Crusher, to whom Gene Roddenberry gave Marty Stu superpowers so that eventually he had to ascend to a higher plane of geeking. And that’s just in canon - fanfic writers can also take the canon characters and turn them into authorial insertions.

Speaking of which, I don’t consider “authorial insertion” to be the primary definition of Mary Sue, and for that reason I don’ t think Yenta Sue (the name is from Rana Bob’s Field Guide to Mary Sues), the matchmaking Mary Sue of slash fandom, is a Mary Sue at all, unless she befriends all and saves the ship while she’s matchmaking. I’ve written too many matchmakers into my fic (both alien and canon characters) to disown them now as Mary Sues.

Yenta Sue is clearly an authorial insertion. My purpose in writing schmoop fic is to match up two characters (of opposite sex, but I don’t think the slash case differs in any important respect). Anyone who participates in the matchmaking activity, be it Tom Paris or Seven of Nine or Q or a convenient planetful of matchmaking aliens is acting transparently on my behalf as author. Calling Yenta Sue Crewman Pereira or Jemiminika the Alien doesn’t make much difference.

You might say that Jemiminika the Purple-eyed Alien is an authorial insertion while Tom Paris is not, but I don’t have purple eyes or superpowers and I don’t save the planet on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis. Real authorial insertion isn’t that common in fandom, though you do find the authorial narrative voice in those annoying inline notes (i.e., Isn’t Legolas SO cute!!!) and author-turned-character in I’m Janeway’s Teenage Daughter fics.

So there are three different sorts of Sue here:

  1. Flaming Mary Sue: the impossibly perfect character
  2. Yenta Sue: the character who acts on the author’s behalf
  3. Me Sue: the direct authorial insertion

I don’t think they overlap nearly as much as they’re made out to. Of all of them, only Flaming Mary Sue is prima facie bad writing, because the character is by definition all out of proportion to the milieu and genre. Yenta Sue is merely a stock character there to push the plot along. Me Sue could be anywhere - how would you know? Do you know the author so well that you can tell when she appears in her own fic? I don’t.


Monday, October 13th, 2003

Word count: 2,700

I’ve found that I write many more words when faced with a deadline (like BRAD) than when writing for fun. Whether they’re better words is another issue entirely.

My BRAD fic is a 10,000-word (64k) Voyager/Stargate story which will appear here soon. I’m sad to say that SG-1 overran what was intended to be a fair and balanced, serious yet shippy crossover and turned it into a slapstick comedy-of-wormholes.

Better luck next time, I guess.

BRAD 2003

Sunday, October 12th, 2003

Word count: 3850

In just a few short moments it will be October 13th, otherwise known as Beta Reader Appreciation Day. Say you care with fresh fic!


Thursday, October 9th, 2003

Cool Halloween link: cat bowling
Word count: 1200

Jamelia mentioned the Return of the King trailer, leading into a discussion of what exactly constitutes a cinematic adaptation of someone’s else’s work. To put it simply, a adaptation for the screen should, where necessary, change the events (no Tom Bombadil) and even the cast list (Arwen plays Glorfindel in her spare time), but it should not change the characters’ character (evil Faramir and angsty Aragorn).

The challenge of adapting someone else’s work - whether from a book to the screen or from a show to a fanfic, is to keep the characters in character and the spirit of the original alive. Lazy writers fail in the challenge, and people who dislike the original intentionally undermine it. ENT is a prime example of intentionally altering the spirit of Trek, though fanfic writers do it frequently as well. (The question arises, if you wrote ENT fic in the spirit of the other Treks - with good Vulcans and less whiny humans - would it be good Trek fic but bad ENT fic?)

I’ve read in the past that Peter Jackson admitted to modernizing the books, but even if you assume he did it innocently, his is still a failure of adaptation. A better movie would use the real Faramir.

Canon Is So Canon

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

Word count: 1300

I wasn’t going to blog because I’m busy writing, but Seema wrote about canon relationships and I couldn’t resist the topic.

My interest in canon pairings began with C/7 - just hearing the rumors undermined my will to JetC, and I went on to write C/7 stories. (I’m writing a new one at the moment.) Though I’m fond of J/P, I’ve never been able to write much of it.

I also love AU’s. What I can’t do is take an AU characterization or a counter-canon relationship and put it into a normal fic. While Voyager was in the Eternal Voyager Now, mixing and matching characters was no great stretch, but in seventh season the P/T became sadly irrevocable and the J/C undertone became a C/7 overtone. I’m not apologizing for anything I did in the Eternal Voyager Now; it wasn’t me who changed but the show.

In Stargate, I haven’t even scratched the potential of canon. The AU’s are canon, too, so if I ever feel like something out of the quantum mirror why should I bother to pretend it happened on this side?


Wednesday, September 10th, 2003

Cool link of the day: Every Fan’s Canon Primer by Steve Roby

So as of a couple of days ago, I’d written 20 drabbles in my first month as a Stargate fan. At first it was a challenge to come up with something to drabble about for every episode, but lately it’s been easy. I’ve also been trying to edit some old fic - part of the Seven Saga and also a couple of TOS stories - without much luck. Maybe the muse has moved on to Stargate permanently, or maybe drabbling has spoiled me for fics of over 100 words.

Actually, I’ve found writing drabbles a much more useful exercise than I ever intended it to be. It’s a pure art - come up with an interesting idea and then express it in 100 words. The hard part is coming up with the idea; rearranging words until you hit 100 is more like filking, and that’s always fun.

I’m looking forward to getting back to my first real Stargate fic, though. It’s for Beta Reader Appreciation Day, so I have until October 13th to finish it.


Friday, August 1st, 2003

Word count: 750

I used to play this game of matching Trek characters across series: Chakotay was equivalent to Riker, Spock to Data, etc. If I tried, I could match up the whole cast of one show with another. This wasn’t just a recreational activity - it also said something about the function each character would have in a story, and was thus related to the find-and-replace theory of badfic. (If you could find-and-replace Mulder and Scully with Jack and Sam, the fic was probably badfic.)

So, when I go looking for Tom Paris in all the wrong places, it’s because I need someone to do what he does in my Voyager fic. Xander was a kind of Tom Paris, and I’m thinking that Colonel O’Neill himself is the Tom Paris of Stargate. (It’s clear that Teal’c is Anya/T’Pol/Spock/Data/Odo/Seven.) I would have expected a more minor character to play Tom - I can imagine that it’s difficult (from a plot perspective) having your male romantic lead also being your rebellious smart-aleck outsider - who is going to snark about his non-relationship with the female lead, if he’s busy angsting over it? You lose a bit of elbow-room that way, but there are also benefits to not having so many separate characters to juggle.

The Best of All Possible Fandoms

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2003

There are fandoms that are a threat, and fandoms that aren’t. When someone (namely, Seema) gets interested in X-Men or JAG fandom, I don’t worry. On the other hand, when someone (namely Jerie) gets into SG-1, I know I’ll never see that fan again.

Least threatening of all are the TV dramas and comedies like JAG or Friends. West Wing was the biggest thing there, and it seems to have come and gone. The appeal of real life is clearly dwarfed by the appeal of…dwarves. For me, a show needs the element of the surreal to hold my interest, and that seems to hold across fandom.

Fandoms based on a couple of movies combined with books or comic books (Harry Potter, LotR, X-Men), while huge, don’t scare me. I don’t see myself being tempted by that kind of fixed canon, and so I don’t worry that my favorite writers will be lured away. Maybe they will be anyway, but how long can it last? The difference between a fix every week and a fix every year is too great. Note that there is no second tier of fandoms here - other movie or book-based fandoms are either too to notice or short-lived fads.

What pushes a fandom over the edge into greatness? I think it takes a long-running TV series (or series of series) that’s about science fiction or the fantastic. So the big fandoms are Star Trek, X-Files and Buffy, with Stargate and Smallville the new contenders. They have both allure and staying power.

I’m even afraid I’ll end up in SG-1 fandom.

Beta Inflation

Saturday, July 12th, 2003

Word count: zero

Seema wrote Behind every good writer is an absolutely awesome and patient beta reader. Now this is so clearly untrue that it won’t take long to debunk. Behind some writers there are five or ten unexceptional and impatient betas. Other writers have no betas at all.

“Beta reader” is a strange term for an editor. Like all weird fandom terms, it covers a huge range of activities and attitudes. I suspect its origin is “beta tester,” that is, someone who tries out the beta version of new software and (ideally) reports any glaring bugs. That’s what I want out of a beta reader - I’m not looking for awesomeness or patience or heavy participation in the writing (programming) process.

I’m not against editing, but I think being a good writer means, among other things, being a good editor. A second pair of eyes is always handy but shouldn’t be an excuse for the first pair’s laziness, especially among people who for whatever reason are trying to improve their own writing skills.

Let’s Play “Name That Theme”

Sunday, June 15th, 2003

For the purposes of this meme, a story’s theme is an abstract idea about which any story might have been written and which happens to come through in this particular story’s plot. A theme doesn’t have to be emotional (”the sorrows of star-crossed love”); it could be concrete (”life among the Borg”). You should be able to say how the plot reflects the theme, but the plot itself should not show up in the theme.

I’m assuming most fanfic writers are like me - that they don’t start writing with a theme in mind, and perhaps never stop to think about what the theme of their story was. I usually start with some kind of interesting sci-fi situation, not even a full plot, and write the beginning before I know how things will turn out. This approach has generated several incomplete Voyager stories, and far more corpses of original stories. It had to go.

Now I’ve repented of my unstructured ways and in the future I plan to think about both a detailed plot and a theme before plunging head-first into a story. The first two tales to which I’m applying this new method are The Wrong Novel and (my rewrite of) Colony. I haven’t quite figured out what the theme is of Colony, though I have decided that the necessary subplot will involve Starfleet. Previously I had vague ideas about using the Borg, who we all know are the last refuge of hack Trek writers everywhere (but especially at Paramount).

Being stumped for the theme of Colony, I started thinking about some of my other stories and assigning them themes. This sport (which I originally thought to name “Let’s Play English Class”) can be applied to other people’s stories, too, but I’ll stick to a few of my more popular stories for the moment. I list the theme first, with a bit of how the plot brings it out. It’s all made up off the top of my head, just like I used to do in English class.

The Dance (Tunkai): “the quest for an ideal”

At first the crew believe they’re taking up a hobby for Seven’s sake, but Seven is incapable of treating anything that lightly (the ideal). Likewise, Chakotay’s anthropological interest in Tunkai becomes more than just a hobby (the quest), and turns him into the local authority on the matter. Tom gets involved because he does not want to lose B’Elanna to the ideal; he has no personal stake in the quest until he stumbles (pardon the pun) across another ideal which he finds equally threatening. At that point he resolves to undermine Tunkai, with mixed success.

At a couple of other turning points in the story, one early on and one at the climax, someone says “This is not our version of Tunkai.” These statements concern allegiance to the ideal, something which Seven and Chakotay are concerned to maintain, Tom to undermine, and the Captain to conceal because she has an overriding ideal in Starfleet protocol. The ideal is achieved for one hour at the climax, but because of its new nature (and Starfleet protocol) it cannot be reproduced. The conflict between Tom and the ideal is thus resolved.

The Museum: “the conflict between duty and mercy”

I was surprised when the idea of mercy came out in resolution, because there are very few cases in the series where mercy wins. In “Choose Life,” Chakotay talks Janeway out of her clear duty not to reproduce (making this the only light story in the series, and the least popular), but in “Mirror, Mirror,” Chakotay is as frustratingly duty-bound not to get involved with Janeway as she has been with him in the real timeline. “Home Front” and “Logic Dictates” are narrow escapes from the implacable human machinery (duty) of Section 31; in “Once More Unto the Breach,” Tuvok doesn’t escape it. “To Perish in that Howling Infinite,” “Ambassador,” “Mushroom Soup,” and “Your Wish is My Command” show Seven and various Maquis acting as they might have had they been more dutiful drones or terrorists, respectively.

“The Museum” is a series with a unifying subplot. The wild, dark, or in some cases (say, “Endgame”) ludicrous events of the timelines affect the “real” crew, so that Janeway feels them drifting apart from her. In most cases they feel simple survivor’s guilt because real life is already better (more merciful) than the alternatives seen, but Janeway and especially Tuvok, the only two serious advocates of duty, are influenced by their milder selves in the direction of mercy.

The Lamne’rau: “the offspring of scientific hubris”

I mean hubris in the sense of reckless passion rather than excessive pride (though Magnus has some of the latter, too). The Hansens are too curious for their own good, and their unhealthy interests are reflected in their daughter. They are carelessly ignorant of the true danger posed by the Collective, but the reader is not; this contrast, rather than the actual events of the story, makes for most of the chilling effect (or so people tell me). This story began as a simple fanfix of some bad stardates in Seven’s childhood, but the final result can be summed up by a line of hers from one of my filks: “He who seeks out the Borg the Borg find.”