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Received an interesting email question today from a young writer who's a listsib (a person who is also subscribed to a mailing list I am subscribed to, for those not fluent in listspeak). She wanted to know when "too much explicit detail is too explicit". I advised her that I wasn't the person to ask since I've been criticized from both sides of the spectrum. What follows, however, is the rest of my letter to her. I'm sharing it here with permission...

I've written before about a Wiseguy fan novels writer whose hackles arose visibly when I approached her to introduce myself. You could literally see the chip forming on her shoulder. Her partner fell in line soon after (she had once written me a very nice LOC) and started describing my novels as "good, entry-level Wiseguy slash" as opposed to her lady's more sophisticated novels filled with buzzing buttplugs, I suppose. lol I'd always liked her novels (the first one anyway since I didn't read the others) and respected her right to write them however she pleased without me knocking her but she certainly didn't seem compelled to return the favor.

My Wiseguy slash was a lot of things ... weirdly-worded, long-winded, grammatically hazardous, occasionally purplish (though not nearly as bad as my Blake's 7 "made beauty a poor cousin to the truth" stuff) ... but "entry level", I don't think so. Still, everyone has a right to an opinion ... even me.

I also received an email from someone saying my slash was "too explicit" ... that I wrote "porn" (as if that wuz a bad thing) and not "erotica". When I dialed down the heat for my Northern Exposure erotica (because that fandom doesn't tolerate adult fic well), I was told by my slash readers that the novel was "very tame" and "too mild".

Ah, well, you can't please everyone so you got to please yourself ... as somebody at a Garden Party once said. This illustrates that there's always somebody with an idea about what you should be writing. There is no one right answer, however, except for the one you give yourself. I take the input into consideration if it comes from someone whose writing I admire but if you listen to all the input too much, you stop writing your own stories and start writing someone else's.

I do strongly recommend you get a good beta and editor, though. (All hail, Annie the Booker and Lyn of Townsend, my betas and birthday trips) They can really help you not look like an ass at times.

One last thing, the emailer also wanted to know "when it was okay to call herself a writer". It seems some of the fannish hierarchy (primates are so cute) have been perplexed over the issue in recent days. So here goes --- Amy, you're a writer. Someone who writes is a writer. It's that simple. And it ain't like canonization, folks. We're not doing brain surgery.

Speaking of which, poor Natasha Richardson underscores all that is really important ... the moments we have now with our friends and family. The rest is just set decoration. It all goes by too fast to worry about stuff like this. Write your own stories. Nothing else matters.


Mar. 18th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
Quite often it's an urge to "make it better" - I know this was why I wrote Blake's Seven fanfic. Also to take the characters where the writers dare not take them. In the case of Harry Potter fandom, I understand that there is a strong urge to make some sense of the originals!

Slash is just fannish 'porn' of a form that women, in particular, prefer - words rather than pictures. The reason they like to write about homosexual relationships is-argued-about. However, it has to be said that the Japanese have been catering professionally for this market for some time.

I've recommended before that you take a look at some of the academic work if you really want to gain any sort of understanding of these genres. Henry Jenkins's Textual Poachers, though out of date, is a good and sympathetic place to start.
Mar. 19th, 2009 12:08 am (UTC)
Well said. Often, it's a wish to fix a sad or unfinished ending (as is often the case with B7). Sometimes fan fic is written out of a vision of a specific relationship that won't be tackled on the show itself (or has been handled in an unsatisfying manner).

And yup, women tend to like word porn (or story porn) over picture porn so ergo slash and erotic het fan fic.

Edited at 2009-03-19 12:09 am (UTC)
Mar. 19th, 2009 08:42 am (UTC)
The fanfic genres as a whole have no personal appeal to me. As I said above, media fiction I understand and sometimes like. But your comment above on HP fanfic sums up the key reason I don't like that particular genre.

I've dropped in and read some slash, some of it is beautifully written. Since much of it strays so far away from the characters in the books/films/TV I don't know why the writers just don't change the names and make it fully original. I have seen very little (that is: None) that sticks to the characters as portrayed in the books, films etc.
Mar. 19th, 2009 10:16 am (UTC)
You might take a look at our hostess's House/Watson slash...

Or, for that matter, Harry Potter fanfic by A.
J. Hall. (Who used to be on my flist under another name, and is a casualty of Racefail '09.)

Edited at 2009-03-19 10:34 am (UTC)
Mar. 19th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you, my friend.

And John, you might take a look at anything your sister writes. She's one of the best fan fic writers I've ever read.
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
I don't know why the writers just don't change the names and make it fully original.

They do. It's known in the trade as 'filing off the serial numbers'. If you'd like a list of professional authors whose work still bears the file marks I'd be happy to oblige...
Mar. 19th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
I've read a lot of very in-character slash. Of course, "in character" is in the eye of the beholder.

And as other folk have told you, fan fiction with the names changed to protect the innocent is extremely common. I have a friend who won an Edgar award with one. It's still fan fic whether or not one changes the names.

The first stories of any kind, by the way, were invented within the bounds of others' universes.

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