Fanfic

Jun. 18th, 2009 08:10 am
watervole: (McCoy)
The trouble with getting into a new fandom (and thus getting back into reading fanfic again) is that you run straight up against the fact that so much fan fic is not terribly good.  (although there are some excellent ones in among the dross, and I'm probably in a relatively good fandom as far as the average standard goes)

There are so many things that grate (and they're pretty much the same for every fandom).

Incorrect Facts - the writer simply hasn't bothered to check things, or has mis-remembered details (I noticed this most just after the Star Trek movie came out.  I remember one story that looked good at first glance but turned out to be chock full of mistakes when I watched the movie again.  Unfortunately, the entire story was built around those particular details)  AU stories are fine, but I hate it when facts are wrong because of carelessness rather than intent.  Although, to be fair, this fault seems to be relatively rare in Star Trek fandom, probably because there is such a mass of online reference material for the original fandom that most stories referencing the original series seem to get it correct.

Lack of Originality - the facts are correct, but there's nothing new.  If Spock was seen eating plomeek soup on screen, then that's all he ever eats in fanfic.  The fact that Vulcan must have an entire cuisine to experiment with is wasted.  Similarly, any back story involving Captain Pike is all too likely to feature a horse called Tango. There is so little known of his back story that writers keep using the same bits over and over again.

Bad Use of Military Setting - Characters address one another by first names in situations where they would use 'Commander', 'Ensign', etc.  Lots of other flaws tend to occur of a similar nature.

Poor Writing - Okay, so the writer can't really help this one (apart from finding a beta who can help with the writing skills), but I find I'm abandoning a lot of stories after reading a couple of paragraphs. (the really annoying ones are the ones that are good enough to tempt you into reading an entire page and then causing you to drop out with a bit of bad exposition, whatever)

Short stories - One thing I really notice about Internet fic, as opposed to the old paper zines, is that the average story is much shorter.  I do miss longer stories that take their time to develop a real plot. Which is not to say there aren't some excellent shorts (or the occasional long one), because there are, but I miss the variety.

No Use of the Setting - this applies to so many fandoms.  If I read Stargate fic, I'd really like an alien culture with a connection to Earth history/religion in the story. If I read Star Trek, I'd like a new planet to explore or some actual space science.  If I read a Sherlock Holmes story, I'd like a mystery.  If I read a Life on Mars story, I'd like some police work.  Half the appeal of these, and so many other shows is the world/genre they are set in.  Take the characters out of their world (by virtue of largely ignoring it and setting all your fic in the hours they aren't working) and you have a pale imitation of the story that could be written.  My favourite writers are those like [personal profile] aeshna_uk  who can use the series background (Torchwood in her case) to write a story that tells me something I didn't know before and also develop the character by bouncing the character off the background.  (Her skill is showing the time traveller in different places in history and making that history feel real.  I suspect there's a lot of research behind her short stories) 

The Same Plot - Please, please find me a plot that doesn't boil down to "character A gets in a sticky situation from which s/he is rescued by character B at great personal risk to character B, thus showing us all (as if we didn't know already) how much B cares about A".  Originality is wonderful! ([livejournal.com profile] kerravonsen , I still want to know what happens to Jo and the Master...)

Wasting Half the Cast - this is a problem that tends to develop because of the average story length and the two-person plot.  A good ensemble show suddenly spawns hundreds of stories in which half the cast have no more than walk-on lines or are totally absent.  I'd like to see more stories that have good parts for all the cast.

Trashing - Thankfully, I've seen a lot less of this in recent times. Even the Star Trek Kirk/Spock slash stories seem to part Spock and Uhura by gentle mutual agreement.  I haven't yet seen one (though I've yet to read a large number) that make Uhura nasty to Spock in any way or trash her personality.  Likewise, the Spock/Uhura stories that I've read don't seem to need to trash Kirk.  (Though I do recall Stargate fic that could be pretty nasty about Sam in order to remover her as an obstable between Jack and Daniel, and Blake's 7 used to be (but not in stuff I've read recently) notorious for bashing either Blake or Tarrant).

Bad Science - If a story has science/geology/history/psychology/etc. then do the research and get it correct!  There's no excuse for a story that makes mistakes in basic physics.

I'd love to have fiction recs for fandoms I'm familiar with that avoid the above problems. Anything for Stargate, Torchwood, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Blake's 7, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Holmes, Whimsey, Vorkoskiverse, Babylon 5, etc. that tells a good story.  I don't really care if it's gen or het or slash as long as it has an original plot and makes creative use of its setting.

I'm always grateful for the recs that [livejournal.com profile] selenak puts in her journal. I find she often picks out stories that I enjoy.

I just don't have the stamina - or the typing capacity - to wade through the junk for long.  I've dipped into a couple of new fandoms in the last couple of years, but the process is getting to be familiar. Find an LJ community, enjoy it for a few weeks while I'm so starved for new stories that I'll read almost anything while looking for it. Then the critical faculties kick in and I start to tire of wading through the junk (and the neck pain kicks in as well), and it's only a few weeks more before I drop the community and go back to just reading the journals of my friends.

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Judith Proctor

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