noracharles: (Default)
Good, short fanfic is like the TARDIS, bigger on the inside.

I'm enjoying reading fic for some beloved small fandoms in the Yuletide archive. I was particularly thrilled to see fic for Connie Willis' time travel series. I love Willis' world building, plots and high concepts, but she has a problem with the human element, so I need and want fic to bridge that gap.

Anyway, compare these two fics:

The Season of Grace, 7527 words
The Toll of History, 575 words long.

The first fic is 13 times longer than the second fic, and yet, they're about the same topic.

Both fics are about a character named Kivrin, who is a time traveling historian. In The Doomsday Book, Kivrin is accidentally sent to the wrong time when she goes on a research trip, and ends up in a small village where she experiences the tragedy and horror of the plague. She grows close to the people who live there, and doesn't have the comfort of sharing her grief for them, because to everyone else in her home time they've been dead for 700 years.

The first fic is long, very rich in detail, a fic you can climb into and experience. Kivrin's experience of the village is vivid and visceral. There's suspense and humor, and it's impossible not to feel Kivrin's physical sensations and her emotions with her as they are described. It's the emotional argument of The Doomsday Book brilliantly condensed, and a fic I wish all readers of the book could read as an epilogue.

The second fic is short. It has only three scenes, but they're stark and vivid, and they say everything. You can't climb inside this fic. The first fic you could read, knowing only what I wrote in my summary of the book, and while you wouldn't get the full benefit, you would think, yes, I want to read more in this fandom, and you would understand why it was both sad and cathartic.

The second fic, you can't read on its own. It is perfectly condensed and pared down, and it calls on canon in all the right ways that bring both the emotion and the plot of canon back to mind as you read; where the first fic could have been an extension of the book, this fic is a pinhole image of it. It is the perfect example of the art of derivative, transformative work, supporting itself on the original work and unable to function on its own, but at the same time adding a completely fresh, new perspective on it.

I wouldn't want to do without fics of the first kind, that expand and build upon original works, and take on life of their own. They're the foundation of fic fandom, and so rich that you can subsist on them alone, allowing canon to take shadowy shape in your mind, a far off ideal you need to know for reference purposes, but don't care to experience directly. The second kind of fic is insubstantial, a luxury fandoms can survive without. They're not very accessible, and they don't pass the time and entertain you for more than a few minutes, but the elegance goes through me like the sun breaking through the clouds and illuminating everything for a few seconds and stuns me with its beauty and clarity.
noracharles: (Default)
I keep going back to the TWoP boards for all the witty and interesting entries, and keep leaving in disgust because of all the annoying, offensive and just plain dumb entries, which sadly in the topics that interest me most tend to outweigh the intelligent ones.

Then Estepheia, the wonderful, talented author of "Things Present - Things Past" and other great stories recommended the "no cookie for you: bad Buffy fic!" thread, and if there's one thing I like, it's snarky badfic bashing ^_^

The posters don't always have smart, insightful things to say, but boy are they funny. And even if they weren't, the snippets they quote from the horrible stories they find can make you laugh 'til you cry. I love this thread! I can't get enough of it, and I heartily recommend it to all of you.

That doesn't mean I'm not annoyed by it of course. There is no such thing as a public posting board that does not occasionally irk Nora Charles. The idiots will always find a way in I tell you, always! A text area with a submit button is to idiots what leftovers are to roaches. That's just the way it is.

Most people who post to the "no cookie for you" thread make fun of bad (or completely absent) plot, characterization and grammar, and amusing/confusing malapropisms.

Some just like to showcase their own ignorance, when they accuse authors of using a word incorrectly when it was just a less common usage, or a Briticism, or of writing dialogue out-of-character when the author is in fact quoting an episode word for word, but I can forgive that. Honest mistakes, and while they should check their facts before complaining, sometimes you can be wrong about something and still be so sure you're right it never occurs to you to look it up. That happens to everyone.

No, what really annoys me is when they seem unable to distinguish between "this was such a badly written fic it was all but incoherent, and therefore I dislike it" and "I dislike this fic because the author has kinks that squick me, and therefore it was a bad fic".

Mpreg, genderbender, incest, non-con, death, underage sex, Mary Sues, real persons, there are a lot of some people's kinks or preferences that are not merely uninteresting but actually disgusting and squicksome to other people. Fair enough. I don't like everything, and I don't expect other people to like everything. And if they dislike something which I like, I don't expect them to be quiet about it either, I think they have the right to bitch and moan just as much about it as I do about my dislikes. In fact a good snark amuses me even when I disagree with it.
But I do get tired of having my kinks slammed again and again, by people who never bother to explain why something is so very, very bad, evil and gross that it automatically converts any fic that features it into badfic no matter how tastefully, sensitively and artistically written.

Take mpreg. I enjoy stories about mpreg. I freely admit that most mpreg stories suck ass. I've wondered why that is, and my theory is that it is a relatively rare kink, fewer people write it, and thus fewer talented authors write it. Furthermore, people who crave mpreg in a story enough to want to write about that specifically get so focused on that particular aspect they don't pay enough attention to plot and character development. This is true of all marginal kinks, and once they become more mainstream the quality of the stories improve dramatically. Take RPS, F/F and BDSM.

I understand why most people wouldn't be interested in mpreg. I understand why people might even find it repulsive. But when these people complain about it, they don't say "mpreg grosses me out, so I don't want to read about it". They say "mpreg is unrealistic, and therefore badfic".
Vampires aren't unrealistic? Sentinels aren't unrealistic? Witches and wizards who practice real magic and fly broomsticks aren't unrealistic? I think an author has to make an effort to make the mpreg fit the mythos of the universe she's writing in, but she has absolutely no obligation to make the mechanics of it realistic in relation to RL. Obviously mpreg just won't work in all universes, and if you really, really want Dan and Casey to have a baby together, well, too bad for you. But if Minerva McGonagal can turn herself into a cat, I see no reason why Severus Snape can't turn himself into a woman.

The anti-mpreggers say "mpreg always has bad characterization, and employs every offensive stereotype about pregnant women ever". What, most people who have written mpreg so far have done so badly, so all writers of mpreg past, present and future are bad writers?
You can show a statistical correlation, but you can't prove a negative. You can't prove that noone will ever write a good mpreg fic. It is not logical. You can say that noone can write an mpreg fic that you would like to read, since the very thought of it makes you nauseous.

Only a certain percentage of writers write well, and only a certain number of people are into mpreg. And the portion of mpreggers who are also good writers is depressingly small. Furthermore, the few good writers who enjoy mpreg, being good writers, don't often write fics for the sole purpose of indulging a kink. There has to be more to a story in a good writer's mind. Sure, they may say "oh, this is nothing but a PWP, it's meaningless fluff really, I just wrote it on a whim" but it is not true.
When you read their fic it turns out to have engaging, realistic and subtle characterization, beautiful language, wit, erotic and sensual sex, etc.
And if it doesn't, they are not good writers. Or they are at least inconsistently good.

(Disclaimer: In the above rant, please keep in mind that I am speaking specifically about people whose poor discussion skills get on my nerves, not on anyone and everyone who disagrees with me, or who happens to identify with any of the labels I put on the people I am complaining about, even if my choice of words makes it sound like I am making sweeping statements about all anti-mpreggers. Most of my fannish friends, whose good taste and high intelligence I have the utmost respect for, are anti-mpreggers, and they have never exhibited the behavior or prejudices I complain so much about here.
I hope that was clear from the context, but I would hate to hurt anyone's feelings.)

Mpreg recommendation:
Nine months by Scorpio
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike/Xander. Humor.
Very amusing fic, good characterization. Rather silly, and lots of stereotypes about pregnancy and hormones, of the "men are weaker than women, and so much more prone to hysterical and/or wimpy behavior" school of thought.

Sadly I can't think of any other mpreg stories that are actually good. I know there have been more that I have enjoyed, but mostly in the "I know this is awful, but it's still fun" way. I have a vague memory of reading an okay Sentinel mpreg fic, but I no longer remember the plot, and there was a Harry Potter fic that wasn't too shabby. None of those were good enough that they'd be worth the trouble of looking up the link.

If you know of any enjoyable mpreg fics, please let me know. They don't have to be good, they just have to be entertaining ^_~
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