It is no more than 61 degrees in this library. Jenny is wearing her coat. I'm wearing the Slytherin scarf Ma Cedar made for me and my extra sweater, and am seriously contemplating gloves. I hear it's even colder upstairs in the children's department. Fingers stiff. Typing interesting.
Every time I take that Which HP character are you? quiz I get different results. Four tests have my results as two Rons, one Remus, and one Snape. Draco tends to score second or third. Of course, like the half-Slytherin I am, I like to slant the test to get what I want. Guess that makes me Lucius Malfoy?
I forgot yesterday was Wednesday until Mr. Cedar went to watch The West Wing, so today is Fandom Wednesday Which Is Actually Thursday. Many ideas.
1) Thinking about this "list of HP fandom classics.": I don't like classics lists. I don't like them for books, I don't like them for movies, and I don't like them for fandom. Why? A classic is in the eye of the beholder. How much debate do we have over what books are good, what's a classic, what should/should not win awards? It's true that there are books/movies/music that stand the test of time, that people are still reading/listening to years after their debut, but there's also Mark Twain's view: "A classic is a book that everyone wants to have read and no one wants to read." I also think some of the fics on there are terrible (but some are good). My argument: The fandom is still in a state of heavy flux. It's huge, and more and more new readers and writers are joining every day. This fandom is only, what, four years old? Five? That's not long enough to determine what's really a classic. Often-recommended, by the way, is not the same as "classic." Often-recommended is something that can be counted, something with hard facts. How do we judge what a "classic" is? Hit count? Recommendations? Fanlistings? Number of people on the authors' mailing lists? Without looking at that list, I knew what was going to be on it, but who judges what a classic is? Personally, I think the best is yet to come of this fandom. I think if people look back on this fandom in 20 years, they'll see "classic" fics that haven't even been written yet.
I did add suggestions of two of my favorite fanfic authors in the comments (mmm, hypocrisy!), but I think that three pages of comments so far really shows that we don't yet know what a classic is in this fandom. It's not a matter of talent or plugging; it's a matter of time. It's also a matter of the unnaturally large size of the fandom. Everyone's got their favorites and everyone has their own definition of BNF, good writing, etc. Would I argue if someone thought one of my fics was a classic? No. That's their opinion. (Note: They haven't, and no one is going to because let's face it, second-person Lucius/James, Peter gen, and Percy learning the Killing Curse aren't exactly "classic" material, but I didn't join this fandom so someone else could think of my fic(s) as "classic.") However, I think at this point the fandom isn't in a position to choose its "classics." Wait another few years, or at least until Book 7 is done.
2) Why Fanfic is Fanfic.
There are obvious answers to this statement. Fanfic uses someone else's characters, settings, etc., and the author tells what she thinks might happen. I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about bad fic. (Bad fic: YMMV.) Disclaimer: All views of JKR's characters are my own, and you may not agree.
I started thinking about this a long time ago, when I was talking over lunch with jennycarolyn about varying degrees of canon adherence. I am not a fan of fics where I feel the author has written whatever she wanted and stuck in two people named Harry and Draco. When we as fanfic writers take on the task of writing fanfic, I feel we have a duty to the author of the original work to keep her characterizations and settings in tact. Yes, it's possible for a character's personality to change, but again, the duty of a fanfic writer is to provide background/argument for the change. If people want to write wildly AU things, go for it, but explain, if possibly, why the universe is the way it is. If you're going to make Remus Lupin into a wuss or Severus Snape into a hopeless romantic with squeaky-clean hair, then 1) sorry, I won't be reading your fic unless you can explain within the first chapter why they're acting that way and 2) if you don't explain, you've got no business writing fic.
We don't know a lot about many of JKR's characters. We like it that way because it allows us some breathing room in fanfic, and she likes it that way because, well, we're going to keep reading her books. Some things, however, seem pretty hard and fast. Peter Pettigrew was trusted and turned out to be a shitty friend. Percy Weasley has a freakishly strong sense of self. Draco Malfoy couldn't snark his way out of a paper bag. Sirius Black had no sense of mortality. When writing fanfic, we have an obligation to note these characteristics and incorporate them. Otherwise, who are these characters and why do we insist on writing fics about them? How many fics have I read where I got to the end and thought, "SFW?" I know that variations are possible within a character's personality, but why do some authors insist on ignoring their core traits?
I find that the worst offenses against characters occur in shipfic. Yes, I write shipfic and yes, I like a lot of shipfic. I am not saying by any stretch of the imagination that shipfic destroys characters. In fact, I think shipfic can be a great way to explore character aspects that we don't see in the book and in most cases will never get the chance to see. I can see the argument for Snapeslash, for Marauderslash, for Harry/Draco, for Hermione/Ginny. (The only ship I really can't see any justification for is Harry/Hermione, but that's for another time.) Within this realm of shipfic, we still have to consider who the characters are. We can't just put two characters together because they look pretty. I kno some do that. That's their prerogative. If I set out to write shipfic, I have to establish to the reader the elements in the characters' personalities that can make this relationship work. There are many different ways to see the same character, and there's nothing that says that multiple opinions can't be right. My job as the writer is to share with the reader my opinion and establish clearly to the reader why my views will make my story work. For all my opinions, though, I have to ultimately have canon to base them in. If I'm going to call what I write Harry Potter fanfic, then I owe it to JKR to use her characters as I see them in the books. I can write mushy romance that involves a man with greasy dark hair and a hooked nose, but I don't get to call him Snape.
Setting is an issue in fanfiction, too: We have Hogwarts, we have the Malfoy house, we have all kinds of places, but most importantly we have magic. I have at least two fanfics that don't directly involve magic...come to think of it, I think only one of them </i>does</i> directly involve magic...and part of me feels guilty for it. The whole premise of the books is that they take place in a magical world. I don't mind fanfic where the characters don't directly make use of magic, because to me the characterizations are the most important element of the writing, but to completely ignore the magical world is to write, um, nonfanfic. Yes, I know we have alternate universe fics. See "explanations." Part of me wonders why I should bother setting a fic in a magical place if it doesn't involve magic, but another part has more fun with the characters than the places.
There are many possibilities within one realm, and the realm of HP, lucky for us, is wide and full of gaping holes that are just begging for fanfic. In our quest to fill these five-feet-by-five-feet holes, however, we can't lose sight of the source material. Some may say that fanfic loses sight of the source material as soon as the author starts writing it, but I disagree. I think fanfic writers have the greatest sight of the source material of anybody. They just need to remember what that sight is.
3) We Have Really Bad Sex!
Yeah, I bet you all skipped to this one.
Everyone who writes porn needs to read this article in Salon immediately (get a free day pass and watch the dumb ads), if not sooner. I stood up at the ref desk (the library wasn't open yet) and yelled, "I TOLD YOU IT WAS SPELLED C-O-M-E, NOT C-U-M!" But seriously, it shows that grammar is important everywhere, and bad grammar and word choice can make or break a sex scene. It's like the Aunt Josephine of smut, or something.
themostepotente asks us for the WORST anti-euphemisms EVER. I think those that submit letters to Penthouse would do well to read the responses. Then they can la-la in their kitchens on the floor.
Two-and-a-half years in fandom and I still don't have an answer to the "How to write sex?" question. I've got a few porny fics to my name, and at least two more are, er, coming, but I still marvel at the ease with which this fandom turns out porn. To me, sex is the hardest thing to write, much more so than gen, which I think requires much more attention to characterization. I think it's that everyone expects porny fics to be hot, and when you go into a fic knowing what people will expect of a sex scene, the indimitation factor quadruples. How do you know what your audience will find sexy? I know by the time I'm done revising anything remotely sexy I write, it's sure as hell not sexy to me anymore. But that's why (let's chorus) there are beta-readers.