The More You Know

…the less you can tolerate.

When I was at the tail-end of high school, I read fanfiction for the first time. It was mostly uninteresting, except when someone I respected (and probably still would, if we’d kept in touch, so that’s saying something) recommended a Harry Potter fic to me. Although thinking on it now, it had a lot of things I ought not to have liked, it was incredibly well-written and managed to make things like Ron the Death Eater work in a story. Which is actually pretty funny since I like Ron much, much better than Harry.

Anywho. I thought since I had liked that, I should try other things in the same vein. The very second HP fanfic I ever read was something that these days probably would have made me turn up my nose and walk away with bored disdain. At the time, I was fascinated with how little it delivered in the name of the author’s self-indulgence. It was a rather new concept for me at the time.

It had a songfic element in it, a homeless American female author insert, and a confrontation with Draco Malfoy that was simultaneously taken nearly verbatim from the book and a clear indication that the fic writer had not understood the scene. I still find this curious and a little funny, rather than irritating.

Finding fanfics irritating came later.

I found pottersues in the early days–pretty much all of this went on during the long wait for The Order of the Phoenix. This was where I learned the term “spork” in its connotation of riffing or otherwise ranting about a work, as well as “pepper jack cheese”. Basically a bunch of Mary Sue rant/reviews in the Harry Potter fanfic universe. I actually got tired of Harry Potter during this wait period and moved on to other things. Like my own work. And Dune.

But that introduction to Mary Sues and the treatment thereof stayed with me. A formative experience, one might say. I also love MST3K, so you’d think I’d always be in for a good riffing/sporking.

I’m so not.

It’s… Just being angry at a work and going on and on about how dumb it is… I’m sorry, but that’s boring. Think of your favourite MST3K quotes. Are any of them just declarations that the movie sucks? I’m willing to bet they aren’t. None of mine are. My favourite quotes are things like, “Why is there a picture of a hamburger on my wall?” and “Would you–another nice day!”

So why are all the online sporkings of anything (especially written work) just illiterate angry people? No type of writing is easy to do well, I guess. These are so unfulfilling, though. They aren’t funny, they’re just lines like:

  • Oh my gosh my eyes are bleeding
  • [quote from fic] *kills with hammer*
  • [expletives with little to no purpose]
  • This is gonna be a long sporking. How shall I ever survive?

The last one is actually annoying. It’s so far from amusing that it takes you out of whatever reason you might have to read a spork attempt. We all know that the writer chose to write this. Complaining about it like it’s some evil chore from hell that they are under some geis to complete. What even is this? A call for sympathy? An attempt at some kind of humour? It isn’t funny. It just sounds stupid.

I should think that the point of sporking a fanfic is to provide some insight in a humorous way. This doesn’t include pointing out the bad spelling and grammar–we can tell they made mistakes, and unless they happened upon an inadvertently funny typo or misused word, there’s no joke in saying “this is spelled wrong huuuurrrrr”.

I dunno. I’ve seen so many of these sporkings, riffs, “MSTing”s, what-have-you that have a fair idea of quality between them. This happens through getting tonnes of anything in your system. I don’t really seek them out, so I’m not actively adding to it. After being linked to one yesterday, I might start turning them down.

Although I still like pottersues. The community has shrunk considerably, but it’s all still going on. Harry Potter fanfiction is a load of insanity in any case.


If I could write fan fiction

There are not a lot of fandoms that would call to me. My friend Umiko once asked me to write her into Harry Potter, but probably a week later, she was writing herself into something Tamora Pierce, so that never went anywhere.

Generally, when I want to write fan stuff, it’s because I love the world, the premise, or some vague or abstract concept introduced in the original work. I liked the soldier Gardens (and the ease with which I could invent theme jargon) go Final Fantasy 8, even though the story was incomprehensible and the characters unrelatable cardboard.

One that I did do something with, though I didn’t actually write anything, was for Kingdom Hearts. At first, it was sort of like what I’m sure everyone did–pick a couple of favourite characters from video games and Disney movies. That was the drive of the original game, wasn’t it?

I had played the game a lot, so I found myself thinking inside the constraints raised in the game, both in mechanics and in storytelling. And marketing, a little. Re: mechanics, I constrained my “party” to three people. The central and original protagonist, a video game character (from an Enix-published game, which is really grasping when it comes to the SquareEnix distinction) and a Disney character.

Mine were Magnet, my original thief character, Will of Illusion of Gaia (post-game’s-end), and Huey Duck.

Another thing that came from the mechanics of the game was that, although it only really shows up in the picture, items are represented by a sort of Faberge-meets-Rubik’s-cube thingamabob. The crate was really just the only nod to background I was willing to draw, but those are in the game as well.

I used one location–the hub town called Traverse Town, which is kind of a non-place where things just ended up when worlds ended.  And I used the concept of travelling between established worlds on a quest to find someone.

Now that I’m thinking about it again, and looking at it, it looks like I used a lot of elements in the game. Huey, for example.

Each character had a backstory and an arc of development. In the game, Donald’s nephews had a shop. I went with that.

Huey worked himself up into preparing for journey to look for his uncle, leaving the shop with his brothers, when he caught a thief in the shop. He didn’t want to go by himself, so he traded his silence about the break-in for her assistance on his trip.

Magnet wound up in Traverse Town after her world ended and became a thief to survive. She intended to just drop Huey like a stone once he had her out of Traverse Town, but he foiled this plan by making magic tokens that would transmit their locations between each other and send out an alarm if they were ever on different worlds.

Before they could leave Traverse Town, they were beset by one of the many random attacks by Heartless, and saved by a Jack of All Stats warrior–Will. He was as homeless as either of the others, and insinuated himself into the party by being amiable and knowing a bit more about what was going on.

No idea why I never wrote this. Discomfort over the concept? Or maybe, considering when I came up with this, I was in the middle of writing some novels and I think I left the country.


Angry Parodies Don’t Often Work

Lately, I’ve found myself doing a lot of accidental reading. I do not commonly consume any kind of fanfiction, nor do I concern myself with any of the actual text of Twilight (haven’t tried to read it in ages). But I read tropes when I’m stuck somewhere and don’t have the energy or time to find my place in a book.

That’s one of the places where I reach my accidental reading. I found some Twilight fanfiction that had the express purpose of making fun. The book bored me, I can relate.

But some of the people poking fun are even worse.

Before I get started though, I want to explain what I mean by my post title. An angry parody is, in my opinion, a parody that hints at a list of ills that the fan/anti-fan has with the original work. They are each addressed, often with a heavy hand. And a person who has an agenda or wishes to attack details in the original, is more likely to accomplish these petty goals than to write something interesting.

Unless the retelling or parody is inherently silly with no intention of doing anything but mocking. In these cases, you can get by with talent and a knack for humour. Even then, it can be a crap shoot. (my favourite is still TMPBITWW)

The (possibly famous) fic “If Bella Were Sane” starts out well, rather interesting if formatted quite poorly. It’s a short fanfic, so I suppose it’s too much to expect more than a brief snippet for an entire day’s fictional diary entry. And they did get longer.

They also got further away from the goal of “improving” the original story. Given the missive, “rewrite Twilight or otherwise retell the events as if Bella were not a manipulative sociopath,” I would think that some of the events would actually have to change.

Day Twenty

Went to Port Angeles with some friends. It was going fine until Jessica and Angela somehow disappeared and four guys started following me.”

You can’t just nullify the reasons or thoughts behind an action and expect the original action to still make sense. It takes more work than, “um, I’m not a moron in this version, so that important story event just happened!”

Why can’t the Sane!Bella have argued with her friends? Teenagers do that. It doesn’t have to be a good reason to fight. She could have also stayed behind to pay for something and then gotten lost. It’s not that complicated. When you’re actually using the phrase, “somehow disappeared…” I don’t wish to finish that thought.

This same piece also seems completely unaware of the fact that Bella already knew Jacob before she moved to Forks. I didn’t even finish the book and I know that. Maybe it isn’t necessary to read a work you intend to parody, but if you get something like that wrong, people who are better acquainted with the original work will look down on you.

The other parody/rewrite I read is a little more illustrative of what I think made both of these fics fail to different degrees. Luminosity, dubbed a “re-imagining” is, sad to say, even more painfully boring than Twilight.

Its premise, rather than Bella simply being “sane”, is that Bella is introspective and self-examining. Unfortunately, the story is quite clearly a third party catechisation. It never sounds like a first person account, despite the use of the Almighty I. Her behaviour is being analysed and commented on by someone else using a blank character.

She is also still a Mary Sue in Luminosity. I gag whenever I read stories about a character who fills up notebook after notebook. You can’t even defend that it didn’t come from you, writing a character who is obsessed with writing.

I know it’s impossible to turn Twilight into a real story without giving Bella hobbies and interests, but writing does not lend itself well. Something that you can slip in without much upset would suit so much better. One of the few flashes of character I saw in what I managed to read was excitement over owning a vehicle, and I think she restores a motorcycle.

Having seen a rewrite that failed worse than the original, I feel a deeper appreciation for successful parodists, and even the original work in this case (did not think that would happen). It’s not easy.

And I’ve probably rambled on enough and annoyed someone or everyone. Time to wonder why the Garrett Files and the Dresden Files are like twins separated at birth.