Reading Fan Fiction May Be Hazardous to Your Health

As much as I complain about tag abuse on AO3, tonight I may have found the best tags ever. A Yu-Gi-Oh fanfic bore the tags “Allergen warning: Contains milk” and “May not be appropriate for those with a lactose intolerance”.

As I am lactose intolerant (a side effect of that oh-so-lovely hypoglycemia), I appreciated the warning.

But I skimmed the description, which ended with “Cheese inside”. And then I was torn. I refuse to let lactose intolerance take cheese or yogurt away from me. (I take a pill to eat ice cream…and I’ve just realized that’s probably why I haven’t felt well all evening. Heh. Oops.)

I ended up skimming on, but still. That might just be the best use of tags and description I’ve ever seen on a fanfic, and is certainly far less disconcerting than some of the trigger warnings I’ve seen.

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The “Fake” Fan and the Enduring Fandom 

A couple of weeks ago, an Instagrammer I follow in part because of her charming Harry Potter shots was the victim of a troll bashing her for having a large collection of Harry Potter memorabilia despite having only discovered the books a couple of years ago, claiming she was a fake fan. (We won’t get into how not Potter that behavior is.) The Instagrammer in question is a college student (and I’m fairly confident the troll is younger than at least the very first book), most likely born within a year or so of the first book being published.

It got me thinking, because I was just barely born into a world without Star Wars in it, and then had to work with people who had no idea Episode 1 was released many years after Episode 6. And then I taught kids whose idea of  Star Wars consisted of Clone Wars. And now there’s the new movies. As I wasn’t quite two when Star Wars itself was released, I can’t make any claims to remember the world before it, but it was an integral part of my entire childhood. It was the same for others who grew up around that time.

Those discovering the Star Wars movies today are experiencing a different fandom than the one I grew up with, mainly because they’re growing up in a time that’s nothing like the time I grew up in and fandom cannot escape the effect of the society around it. Does that make them fake fans for coming to the series later on? No. Of course not. I look at the little girl who’s fallen head first into a fandom that existed before her parents were born, and think it’s super cool that she can run around pretending to be Rey the way I ran around pretending to be Leia when I was her age.

Harry Potter is the same way. The first book is just over twenty years old. So many children have been born in those twenty years, and are coming to Hogwarts for the first time. And they’re falling in love with it, and the fandom, and the general culture. As long as those books are in print, they will gain new fans who didn’t even exist when the series began. Does that make them fake fans? No, of course it doesn’t, no more than the girl cosplaying Rey is. With a long-running, long-lasting fandom like that, the newcomer is just as valid a fan as the one who’s been there for years.

That’s both the blessing and the curse of the fandom that spans generations (and there are so many out there) – There will be the elders who have been around since the early days; there will be the newcomers who just stumble in one day and never succeed in stumbling back out. And they’re all there because they love the fandom, and they all celebrate the fandom in their own way. In a way that’s often culturally appropriate to when they discovered the fandom. There’s plenty of room for everyone. Trolling newcomers is just ridiculous and against the spirit of fandom.

Writing Fan Fiction When You’re New to the Fandom

So, I’ve spent a lot of my free time this month marathoning Critical Role from the beginning, finding all sorts of little gems I’d either missed or forgotten about, and reading the fan fiction. And right around the time I got to Episode 45, I came across a fanfic written in response to all the fanfic that have Vax mercilessly punching Percy to a literal bloody pulp. The writer, admittedly a relatively new fan, had written their kinder, gentler version because the trope bothered them, and they just couldn’t see Vax going after Percy at all.

As I type this, there are sixty-seven episodes of Critical Role. It takes roughly 260 hours (Thanks, critrolestats!) to marathon them. So, a new Critter (a Critical Role fan) is forgiven for not necessarily wanting to go back and catch up. On the other hand, a new Critter wanting to write what they believe to be canon fan fiction without doing a little research (even if that research is just turning to another Critter and asking, “Why are people so obsessed with Vax punching Percy?”) should probably stop themselves and just go ahead and put in the time.

Maybe it’s the fact I came across this fic while watching Episode 44 that made me scrunch up my nose at the author’s complete unawareness of the punch or the events that led up to it, but that single punch is canon (and an amazing show of restraint on Vax’s part).

I used to have this problem when reading Yu-Gi-Oh fan fiction where it became obvious rather quickly that someone had written a fanfic, not of the original story, but of someone else’s fanfic. Yu-Gi-Oh had been around for a few years before I started reading the fan fiction, and so there were cases where the fanfic of a fanfic ran layers deep, and had problems not unlike what happens when you run a copy through an old mimeograph machine, and then run that new copy through the mimeograph machine, repeating the process several times. The copies eventually contain some of the same elements, but are faded so far as to be unrecognizable next to the original.

Being a newer fandom, Critical Role doesn’t have that deep of a problem yet, but moments like these are a sign of things to come. It’s odd to be in a position to watch it begin. But to the new fan wanting to jump in, I still say connect with the original first so you won’t find your “original” story has unnecessarily reinvented a wheel.

BBC Sherlock: An Intersection of Adaptation and Fan Fiction

To get ready for the Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things (SherlockIoT) MOOC that’s just started, I’ve been re-reading all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. It’s something I’d been meaning to do since I read Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, because Sherlock Holmes is considered the original fandom. That is, it’s the first property that historians and anthropologists agree exhibited a lot of the activities we associate with fandom today.

Re-reading the stories has been interesting because between the last time I read them and this time, BBC has released a rather fun adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes world, bringing the famous detective’s world into our own times. So as I’ve read, I’ve marked up places where showrunners/writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss directly lifted material, and where they wove in something that caught their attention or that they felt was important for whatever reason. (I’ve also rewatched the last season, because it’s amazing how much I don’t remember those episodes. Heh.)

As I’m fascinated by the practices of adaptation and fan fiction, working through the stories with this eye towards analyzing how someone else adapted the material while thinking about how I was going to adapt an object for the class has been educational. Being able to see what Moffat and Gatiss chose to call out and how those elements were used in BBC’s Sherlock provides a bit of insight into what the two self-proclaimed fan boys felt was noteworthy from the stories. But then they layered in original elements, like the OC (original character) Molly, who was a wonderful addition to the modernization of the tale. Sherlock is a great example of what you can do while adapting material and how fan-created elements can co-exist peacefully within an adaptation.

I’ll be spending the next couple of months hanging out with the Sherlock Holmes stories, so there may be more meditations as I really think about what I see in the series against what we’re creating in the MOOC. It’s amazing how much you can see working with material and seeing how the people around you are interacting with that same material. (I think that’s part of why I enjoy reading fan fiction when I can.)

Friday Five: Eclectic Writer Edition

As so many of us do at the end of the year, I spent time last month cleaning out various physical and digital spaces. You know how it goes when you clean out spaces you haven’t touched in a long while – you find all sorts of garbage and treasures long forgotten. I found a nice little pile of links I thought strung together nicely, both with each other and with my goal for fitting a steady writing practice into my voiceover schedule this year.

There are posts here for the undiscovered, the newly published, and the veteran, so enjoy!

1. John Scalzi, past SWFA president and friend to writers new and established, wrote this great article almost two years ago (a really long forgotten treasure!) explaining to new writers facing their first contract just how powerful their position is in negotiations. If you’re pursuing publication, you will want to sit down, read this, and mark it up.

2. Many writers have their own method for organizing their writing. Some prefer physical notebooks and binders; others digital notetaking apps. But I’m always interested in hearing how other writers organize their work because you can often pick up a trick or two you may not have thought of before. Wendy Van Camp’s Novel Reference Journal isn’t anything new to me. I do the same thing digitally on Evernote. But it’s a great, relatively simple method for keeping information organized and quickly accessible.

3. I like Sherlock Holmes. I like adaptations. I’m a feminist. And I’m currently re-reading the Sherlock Holmes stories in my free time (heh), trying to take a closer look at how Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are adapting the stories for Sherlock. One of the problems in the series, and in pretty much every modern attempt at retelling Sherlock Holmes, is that no one seems capable of presenting Irene Adler as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did. It almost always feels like you’re seeing, in fanfic terms, Irene Adler (OOC). (OOC means “out of character”.) I’m not the only one who’s noticed this…

4. You hear so often people thanking talent scouts, agents, or other people in similar positions for taking a chance on them. Athletes and creatives are especially bad about this. But here’s the deal: Those scouts, agents, and what-have-you are all businessmen. They aren’t “taking a chance”; they’re pursuing what they see as a reasonably secure business risk. It’s very calculated, and the article does a great job laying this out.

5. This week’s final link is a nod to my weakness for cool toys and games that enable storytelling. Rory’s Story Cubes is a set of dice, an image on each face. The goal is to roll them, and then tell a story that connects all of the images facing up. I can see this being a lot of fun with a group of friends or strangers, and I can see this as potentially being useful for breaking through writer’s block.

All right, so…another week down. If you’re enjoying these posts, feel free to let me know. If you find something useful in these links, let me know. If you just want to say hi, feel free.

Passing the Reins or Developing Fan Fiction?

I am a huge Brandon Sanderson fan. I’ve read nearly everything he’s released. Everything except The Rithmatist and the Wheel of Time books. The Rithmatist is on my to-read list. The Wheel of Time books are not. While I adore Sanderson’s work, I’ve never been able to get into Robert Jordan’s. When it was announced that Sanderson would be completing Wheel of Time after Jordan passed away, I was excited for Sanderson, but bummed because there were suddenly going to be these two books in his body of work that I was never going to read. From what I have heard, Sanderson is a Wheel of Time fan, and was not only delighted to be asked but dedicated himself to finishing the series in a strong manner, basing the work on Jordan’s own notes.

Contrast this with what happened when Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry passed away. I grew up with Star Trek. I loved Star Trek. By the time Roddenberry passed away, creative control of the franchise had passed to Rick Berman.  Granted, Berman was groomed to take over the Star Trek franchise, but it became clear fairly quickly that he either didn’t get Roddenberry’s vision or simply wasn’t interested in it. Now, J.J. Abrams is running things as the director of the rebooted movie series, and it’s not entirely clear what of the original vision was passed on to him.

When Les Miserables came to the big screen last winter, Disalmanacarian tweetedCan’t wait for the sequel, Les Mi2. On the one hand, it reflected the current movie production culture where movies, regardless of how well they’ve done, get a sequel. In this case, though, there’s no material to base a sequel on. Victor Hugo has been dead for over a hundred years. Any sequel would have to be created out of thin air, effectively making it fan fiction. Not that this stopped Disney in the 90’s and 00’s, but it can have mixed success.

The practice does encourage an interesting question: When does carrying on someone’s creative legacy stop being a change in leadership and start being fan fiction? Is it the level of success? The training and pedigree of the person tasked with continuing the story? The recognized authority of the person conferring the right to continue the story? Because when you get right down to it, someone else taking over a creative franchise is going to bring their own vision to the party and the late creator is not in a position to say, “Yes, this is canon,” or, “No, you fool. That would never happen. Where did you get that?”

Remind Me Why I Like Teaching Teenagers

Tonight I ran down to the grocery store. When I came out, I discovered that someone had pulled in “beside” me. I use quotes because they weren’t really beside me as they were behind me. And there was a car in front of me, so I couldn’t go that way. While I was sitting there trying to figure out how I was going to escape, the driver of the other car came out, some teenager and his buddy. I thought, This is great! He’ll leave, and I’ll be able to leave. Yeah…no…he sat there and talked on his cell phone for a bit. I had to figure out how to maneuver my car out of the spot.

So then I get home and sit down to read fan fiction. One of my biggest pet peeves (certainly my biggest pet peeve where fan fiction is concerned) is when people write for a fandom that they’ve never actually experienced. I ran into one of those tonight. He wrote this horrible AU Yu-Gi-Oh fanfic…and then asked at the bottom if anyone knew Bakura’s last name. I knew I was already a bit short-tempered from dealing with stupid teenagers so I wrote out a scathing response and then deleted it rather than post it. If he’d asked what Pegasus’ last name was, I’d have completely forgiven that. But no…it was Bakura! Lord love a Kuriboh! *facepalm*

Please understand that I have definitely worked with some kids that have left me wondering what they fried themselves out on, but none of them has ever left me wanting to literally smack some sense into them. Except maybe the Andersons…

I’m finding myself more and more frequently saying, “Wow. Your education failed you.” Not really what a teacher should be saying. Amazingly, I’ve never said it to any of my students. (Then again, I tend to get the students who are in Sylvan because they know they’ve been failed by the local education system and want to correct that.)

On the more positive note, someone I helped prepare for her GED is taking it Monday. Given how close she’s been to passing (and realizing that most her errors are really computational), I think she’s got a great chance of passing it. We’ll see.

I Guess We Know What Episodes You Watched…

A couple of weekends ago, I got a hold of the boxed set for one of my favorite anime, Descendants of Darkness. I was quite thrilled. Each disc contains one story arc, both in Japanese with English subtitles and dubbed into English. They also have some interesting (and sometimes amusing) extras. I’m really quite pleased.

…for the most part.

If I had to make a guess, I’d say whoever U.S. Manga Corps hired to write the summaries on the back of each disk had a relatively incompetent friend watch the series and got their information from that friend’s summary. There’s only one that’s remotely close!

Let’s go in order. Disc 1 is the Nagasaki story arc. Nagasaki explains how the main character Tsuzuki met both his partner Hisoka and his enemy Muraki. Somewhere in the middle of all these meetings, Tsuzuki and Hisoka track down a vampire who is being manipulated by Muraki to kill people.

All right, so let’s go to the insert, shall we (corrections will be marked as we go): A vampire is on the loose, and it’s up to dashing supernatural detective Tsuzuki (Okay, let’s clarify. Tsuzuki is a Guardian of Death. His job is to help the souls of dead people find their way to the Underworld so they can be judged for the sins committed in their lives. He really isn’t a detective, but occasionally has to chase down people who aren’t aware they’re dead yet or who have managed to stay alive past their expiration date. He himself happens to be dead.) to stop her! But are good looks, charm, and preternatural powers (Tsuzuki never uses his good looks to get him out of anything, and spells and animal guardians can hardly be considered terribly preternatural.) to bring this fiend to justice? Tsuzuki may have bitten off more than he can chew, and the Ministry has sent him a new partner, a volatile young man with a mysterious past (The closest Hisoka gets to volatile is when Tsuzuki backs him into a wall in the Ministry; and his tragic past is revealed in the second episode.). Together, they’re on the most dangerous mission of their afterlives. (Somehow, I find the rest of the series far more dangerous than Nagasaki…sorry.)

Next up is Disc 2, the story arc built around the classical piece “The Devil’s Trill” and its lore. A young man recieves an eye transplant, only to discover the previous owner made a deal with a demon that was transferred to the boy when he received the eye. The demon is trying to kill him through a series of accidents, and the young musician develops a bit of a crush on Tsuzuki when Tsuzuki and Hisoka try to save him and the donor’s daughter.

The insert says: A musician inherits a haunted violin, and his skills increase to superhuman levels (Please see above. The skills come with the eye long before Kazusa gives her father’s violin to Hijiri.) Detective (No, seriously. He’s a Guardian, not a detective!) Tsuzuki is called to investigate, but before he can vanquish the demon, he himself is possessed. Now it’s up to his brash young partner to solve the mystery and destroy the cursed violin…before it claims Tsuzuki as its next victim. (Where do I begin? Watari figures out the situation with the contract before Tsuzuki is possessed. In fact, by the time he becomes possessed, the mystery is solved, and they’re just trying to call out the demon so they can vanquish him. Really, Hisoka’s only shining moment here was to recognize when Tsuzuki was possessed and then to play a small switching game with Hijiri to keep him safe. Oh, and the violin has absolutely no interest in Tsuzuki. The demon only goes after him because he gets between the demon and Hijiri.)

Then there’s Disk 3. People who should be dying are suddenly outliving their expectancy, and the cause is tracked down to black market tradiing centering around a certain luxury liner. Our favorite team of Guardians gets on board just in time to discover Muraki is on board, and then to witness an odd series of serial murders. Each murder has a tarot card left at the scene, and Muraki ends up one of the victims.
This time, the insert got it mostly right: Supernatural detective (Again, see my earlier rants on detective vs. Shinigami) Tsuzuki tracks a murderer (He and Hisoka are sent there. They aren’t the ones who uncover the situation.) to a cruise ship, where there is no escape. But which passenger is the killer? Time is running out, and everyone is a suspect as the voyagers begin to die mysteriously, with nothing but a macabre tarot card left as a clue. Occult forces are brewing (Outside of the appearance of tarot cards on each victim, there’s nothing terribly occult brewing here.), and our hero (Don’t you love how Hisoka has been left out of each of these? It’s a team effort, writer!) must unravel the mystery of the Tarot Curse, or no one will reach the shore alive. (Given how the arc ends, I’m not actually certain anyone who isn’t main cast makes it out alive.)

From there, it’s on to the last CD, which contains the Kyoto arc, my favorite of the four. Hisoka and Tsuzuki discover that Muraki is involved in a cloning project at a local university. Little do they realize that he’s really looking for a way to kidnap his beloved Tsuzuki to transplant his body to the head of Muraki’s late step-brother so that Muraki can kill him for killing his parents. The circumstances surrounding Tsuzuki’s death are revealed, and Tsuzuki is driven mad. Desperate to end his undead existence, he tries to destroy both himself and Muraki. (I’d tell you how it ends, but you really ought to watch it for yourself. It’s quite touching, even with Dan Green’s little mis-adapted line…)

The insert tells us: A mad scientist stalks Tsuzuki, seeking to cage him and clone his supernatural powers. (I can only assume this refers to Muraki’s litlte flunkie, since Muraki has no desire to clone Tsuzuki…just kill him.) Trapped in the diabolical doctor’s laboratory (For whatever reason, we’ll ignore the first three episode in the story arc where Tsuzuki is slowly losing his mind trying to protect a student at the local prep school, or where we get to meet an old college friend of Muraki’s.), Tsuzuki comes face to face with his oldest enemy, a vengeful immortal who has hunted him throughout his afterlife (There is nothing to suggest Kazutaka Muraki is immortal. In fact, he continually says that his interest in Tsuzuki stems greatly from when the undead man was a patient of Muraki’s dearly deparrted grandfather. The evidence from both the manga and the anime suggests that Muraki started stalking Tsuzuki in Nagasaki.). Now his brash young partner must rescue him from the killer’s underground lair, before Tsuzuki loses his soul and sanity to the demon, and is forced to make the ultimate scrifice. (I hate to say it, but this is pretty far off. Tsuzuki wants to kill himself, and Hisoka wants to stop him from doing it.)

It’s funny…in my experience, Descendants of Darkness fan fiction writers tend to get it right. Perhaps they should have hired one to write the summaries of each story arc…

Fandom Riff

I’m thinking about doing some informal research. I want to explore the phenomenon of fanfic writers who have zero first-hand experience with the fandom they’re writing for.

I write for the Yu-Gi-Oh fandom. I edit and review for it, too. Those who flock to my stories or ask for my help often tell me how nice it is to find someone in the fandom who actually has some grasp on the actual characters themselves. At first, I found the comment odd, and then I started reading the Yami no Matsuei fandom for fun.

For whatever reason, the Yu-Gi-Oh fandom seems to suffer from this huge group of writers (mainly in their teens) who are writing original stories with original characters that share their name with the Yu-Gi-Oh characters. I’m sure other fandoms suffer the same problem, but Yami no Matusei really doesn’t for the most part.

It got me to thinking. There have definitely been writers in the Yu-Gi-Oh fandom who I’ve wanted to contact and ask if they’ve ever read the manga or watched the anime. Some of them are actually asked by other writers, and it’s funny to watch them react. They usually create a huge drama scene that boils down to the fact that they have never actually had any contact with Yu-Gi-Oh. They just read a story they liked by a friend, which led to them reading other stories because they thought the fandom sounded interesting. They then construct some terrifying fanfic built around what they’ve read. Right down to borrowing phrasings. It’s terrifying.

I do actually review and edit for someone that I’m convinced is part of this group. I’ve tried to gently steer her characters back to their true selves, but given her take on what she’s read, it’s been a real challenge.

I want to research this, find the answers to some questions, nail down the cause for this odd trend.

Do you read any fandom? Do you write for the fandom? Have you seen/read/listened to the actual series/musical group/etc you are fanficcing? If not, what got you to write for this fandom? Do you have any intention to ever check out the actual show/book/musical group for yourself?

There’s riffing, and then there’s reinventing poorly designed wheels.

A Neat Use For Storyboarding!

I’ve been trying to catch up on my cartoons from the weekend, and just watched the Avatar episodes from Saturday. One of the things I love about how Nickelodeon presents Avatar is the way they include special features. Sometimes, they have a behind the scenes break where an animator will show how to draw one of the characters from the show. Other times, they’ll have kids act out various scenes from the show.

The best may be what I saw with these two episodes, though. They took some of the fan art that has been sent in for the show, and created a story from them. It was entirely clever, and a great, authentic way to show off these talented young artists!