andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
I just added the first instance of the tag sex in a cave to the AO3. I have a hard time believing there aren't other instances of this in the archive, so maybe it's being tagged as something else? There's one for 'cave-in' but the cave in my story is perfectly intact - the characters are just in there to hide from the dinosaurs outside. And have sex.

I wasn't surprised that another story of mine is the only thing tagged 'robot waterspots' (... don't ask) but I am disappointed that fandom is making it difficult for me to find characters in caves!
andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
I was reading Joannie's post on the R&R today, and flashing back to what I hope will always remain the worst years of my writing career. Because, boy, did I *hate* writing between the ages of fifteen and twenty.

In those years, I finished one short story. Maybe three or four poems that I didn't immediately screw up and throw away. I've heard people say that there's no such thing as writer's block - that anyone can sit down and type out a thousand words - and in my case at least that's always been true. I've got no trouble getting some words down, it's fighting my way through to the end of the story and - especially - the editing process that get me.

You see, when I was fifteen I noticed that I was not Shakespeare. Now, this is a pretty obvious fact, but I'd subconsciously assumed up until that point that I would be. From being completely confident and unselfconscious about my writing, I became extremely criticle of it, to the point where I wouldn't let anyone read anything. (I still loathe reading my work aloud, or hearing it read. Only thing that really gives me stage fright.)

Writing made me miserable. Not writing made me even more miserable. So in the end all there was to do was write.

On the holidays between my second and third years of university, I promised myself that I'd finish *something* and delurk on OTL. So on my twentieth birthday, I posted Distant Voices, and stewed overnight waiting for feedback, the nectar of the gods. Lo and behold, people - writer's I respected like queenB and Benway and K-Nice - were there to tell me that it did not suck. That I did not suck, as a writer. The drought broke.

I think I came out the other side of that time a much better writer than I was when I went in. I think the scribbling I did while it was going on taught me a lot, and some of it wasn't anything like as terrible as I thought it was at the time. The first X-Men fic I wrote that has a beginning, middle and end isn't bad - it's about the very early days of the X-Men, and reconciling Stan Lee's Xavier with Claremont's - and I might work it up and post it some time soon. I also think it's good to know that you're not Shakespeare.

But I'll never forget the feeling of sitting at a desk day after day, writing stuff that I knew would never reach an audience because it was crap. And being compelled to *keep* writing, in spite of that.
andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
OK, so I feel horribly guilty for spending what was left of my afternoon after the daily dose of work and packing were done finding a shiny new Farscape fanfic list and posting to it rather than answering all the stuff piled up in my inbox. Sometimes you just need a break, right? I'll get back to you guys when I've got some enthusiasm.

Anyway, free add for a cool list if you're a Scaper: "Leviathan" on yahoogroups is a new list attached to an automated archive, for fanfic and discussion. Quite high membership for a general Scape list, and pleasantly active on the discussion front so far. And they gave me feedback, which is a bonus. I can't actually *read* much of the fic since it's mostly choc full of Season Three spoilers, but I can see from a cursory glance that there's more to it than mushy J/A angst.

They were having a discussion on slash, so I thought I'd chime in. I usually stay out of that debate in comic fanfic, but I thought I had a good outside perspective. Here's my post, unedited, since it used up my ration of intelligent thought not directly related to Petrarch for the day:

I like slash, but it's one of those topics on which there is a huge division between Andraste the Writer and Andraste the Reader.

I've written the odd slash story, and I plan to do more, but it's not a genre I write a lot. This is largely because I don't often see it in canon, and I am a canon addict. I have one slash pairing that I come back to over and over again in X-Men fic, because I *do* see it, because they're my favourite characters, and because I think they're fascinating together. In the first version of X-Men continuity I ever got interested in, they were practically a couple, to the point where the plot made more sense if you presumed they'd screwed like crazed weasels in the past. So I write them. However, they're the only slash pairing in X-Men fandom that I've ever actually posted stories about,because they're the only pairing that jumps out at me.

When I'm writing, I am a continuity junkie - even if I'm contradicting canon I'm doing it in a systematic and organised fashion. There are moments when I wander off into an AU where what I say goes, but they are rare and brief. In "Farscape", I just don't see slash potential for me as a writer. I don't see UST between John and D'Argo (which doesn't mean it's not there from your perspective.) I really can't see either of them getting involved with Crais, and I dislike noncon which kind of leaves Scorpius out altogether. (Pause for a note to the Scorpius fans in the audience: no, I don't think it's especially odd that someone would want to sleep with Scorpy - I'm sure he's very interesting indeed if one is into leather - I just don't think that Crichton, D'Argo, Stark or Crais would be inclined to do so.) Now, John and Stark . . . if I had the slightest interest in John as a subject for my fanfic, I suppose I could make that work. The point is, though, that I'm unlikely to write Farscape slash at this time because I don't see any exploitable m/m dynamics in canon. That might change after I see the rest of the eps, of course.

When I'm reading things are completely different. Firstly, I don't think that a fic necessarily has to be believable before it can be enjoyable - silly humour and PWP are both fine in my book, and quite a lot of slash falls under the heading of "fun, if implausible." I first got into slash based on the "one naked man good, two naked men better" theory, and that still works for me.

Secondly, I learned long ago that a good author can make me believe anything. For some reason, X-Men fandom is full of excellent stories based on what should be stupid ideas. The most popular slash arc in our relatively small genre is about two characters who have barely spoken to each other (Gambit and Iceman), and yet the author managed to make it real. In part, this is because many of the readers and writers in X-Men comics fanfic have been calmly ignoring canon for years now, so people can go play in their own little worlds without anyone objecting. On those grounds, I can imagine someone making me believe John/D'Argo, or any other het or slash pairing, for the duration of a story.

On a slightly different point, "but Insert Character Here is straight" is not a objection that often enters my head when I'm reading slash, especially science fiction based slash, probably because I'm a history student specialising in gender. I know that 'straight', 'gay' and 'bi' are labels that a particular society happens to pin on people in a particular time and place, not solid definitions of real things. In a setting like "Farscape", I'm inclined to applaud anyone who chucks that system out the window, insofar as it applies to people who are not early 21st century earthlings. If John is sleeping with a man, that's an issue for him. If Zhaan and Chiana are sleeping together, who's to say that Delvians and Nebari have the same expectations and prejudices as John? One of the nice things about science fiction is its ability to unsettle people's expectations of culture, society, technology, gender . . . stuff, in other words.

There. That's my ration of eloquence for the week.
andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
I'm a bit late leaping onto this particular bandwagon, but I haven't got time for a real post today. (Xander, your post was fascinating, and I don't mind that you took the question out of e-mail in the least :-). My feelings on the subject are quite different to yours; I'll get back to you tomorrow.)

What fandom(s) do you read/write in?

So far? X-Men is the biggest one (comics, movie *and* the original animated series, and I'll probably do Ultimate as well pretty soon. If I ever see someone or something worth writing about on X-Men: Evolution, I'll let you know.) I've also written Sandman, Astro City, The Authority, Ultraviolet, Watchmen and Farscape. There are more than a dozen other fandoms in my notes that have a potential story attached to them. I'm mercurial with my affections :-).

What characters do you prefer to read about?

I'll read anything with Charles Xavier in it. Not sure I'd say I prefer to read about him, though - I've waded through a lot of crappy fic for that man :). Magneto is my second favourite; beyond that, almost anyone, in any fandom. Xavier aside, I'm more likely to follow authors than characters.

What was the first story you . . .

Read?

Gee, that takes me back :). I stumbled upon Hawk's Archive, and pretty much started from the top. The first one I *remember* (for all the wrong reasons) is the infamous "Mhairie." What?

Wrote?

Started, or finished? The first one I started, I don't want to talk about. The first one I finished was a little piece about Xavier set in the very early days of the X-Men. I dug it up recently and decided it wasn't so bad, at least in essence. I'll probably re-write and post it when I have time.

Posted?

Distant Voices.

Who/What is your favorite...

Author?

You want me to pick *one*? Um. OK. I'll pick three.

- Dr. Benway has to publish a real book so I can force it on my family and non-ficcer friends and make the world a better place.

- Alicia McKenzie's talent and production rate make me green with envy. Wish she'd write more Authority, though :).

- I still wanna be Alara Rogers when I grow up.

Honestly, though, there are something like thirty people on my "must read everything this person writes" list. That's the tip of the iceberg.

Single story?

That one's surprisingly easy: Alara's "Body and Soul." She makes Magneto breath and bleed in that story. And Charles has an absolutely brilliant scene in Chapter Three, which I started betaing not long ago :). Beyond that, check my Xavier list from a few days ago and anything I put up on the Itty Bitty X-Men Archive.

Story arc?

Um . . . drawing a blank here. There's so many. Valarie Jone's Betrayal Arc is the thing that made me stay in X-Men fanfic at a time when a lot of the stories were unappealing to me although I loved the central concept, so I'll pick that.

Archive?

Chuck Amuck, obviously. And the IBAs - always my favourite general archive, and now I'm part of the fun.

Mailing List?

OTL, without hesitation. We don't know how lucky we are to have it.

How do you feel about...

Slash?

One guy good, two guys better :). I like the central point of slash, even if a lot of the individual stories don't appeal to me, and I've written some myself. Plans for more in the future.

Stories featuring real people?

Um. Shades of grey, here. Are we talking historical fiction? DM's "Superman and Man"? Boyband slash? Help me out.

Subreality?

A fascinating concept I've got no objections to, but at the same time not something I've ever gotten into.

Shared universes?

That reminds me, there's an XXY fic I should be working on . . . Depends on the universe, really.

Round Robins?

Again, not something I'm into, although I'm enjoying my first taste in the current Aussie RR. I don't usually play very well with others :).
andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
The latest stoush on the R&R board seems to be over before it really started, which is good to see. I like it when we're surprisingly mature and polite. However, it did get me thinking. It seems to me that I've had a surprisingly smooth ride in the year and a half or so since I first started posting. I've won an award, written for the CBFFAs, become a content editor for the IBAs, been archived on numerous websites, and received quite a lot of feedback. I've made some good friends and no enemies that I know of. So what did I do right?

I doubt that this will reach it's target audience here - the only newbie that I know reads my journal seems to have worked all of this out all by himself :) - and the tiny minority who need it most would probably just call me a mean dino for daring to advise them at all. but I felt the need to get it off my chest. Anyway. These are just my opinions, some of them rather close to rants, but this strategy seems to have worked for me. Come to think of it, there are some dinos who could try this too ;).

1. Subreality does not owe you a living.

Or much beyond basic politeness, actually. Now, I know that a lot of newbies feel that dinos don't treat them with respect, but that's a two-way street. You have to earn respect. The pillars of fanfic were once newbies like you, but since then they've written stories and feedback, built web pages, and generally done a bunch of stuff to create the community you want to join. That doesn't mean they're allowed to treat you like a doormat, but it's something to keep in mind. Fanfic always needs newbies, but more specifically it needs creative, polite people with something to say. If you want the admiration accorded to an established writer or archivist, get off your backside and do the work.

2. Don't take things so personally.

Here is a newsflash: the world does not revolve around you. If it's your first post or your first day in chat, no-one knows who you are. Whatever they say is directed at your behaviour, not at you. If someone tells you off for breaking the rules or pushes one of your buttons, they probably didn't mean to upset you. Similarly: if you didn't get feedback, or people ignored you in chat, or someone didn't reply to your e-mail, it may have nothing to do with you at all.

Sooner or later, someone is going to say or do something to make you sad or angry, deliberately or unwittingly. You can posture, cry, act like a drama queen and threaten not to post any more, or you can suck it up and deal. If you do the former, you're the one who loses.

3. Try lurking for a bit.

You're reading the words of a woman who discovered fanfiction in 1997 and first posted in 2000 :). That's probably excessive, but I think that having a fair idea of what the structure and rules of the place were before I plunged in helped me make fewer silly mistakes. That goes for actual writing as well as the meta stuff - the first four stories I finished are still sitting on my hard drive, unposted. Get the lie of the land before plunging in.

4. Play by the rules

Ignorance of the law is no defence. Whatever mailing list, message board or chat room you find yourself involved with, it will have rules. Find out what they are. Pay close attention to the way others behave, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

5. Try writing some fanfiction.

You'd think this would be obvious, but apparently it's not :). I've got nothing against people who want to hang out with the fanfic community as readers/artists/RRers/chatters/etc, but I also think it's wise to recall that stories are where the whole thing started. Generally, it's easier and quicker to establish yourself as an author than it is to get to know people without fic to back you up. Besides you might get feedback. And feedback is the nectar of the gods.

6. Try writing some good fanfiction.

I'm not going to sit here and type out a definition of good fanfiction - there are plenty of writing tips out there if you need a hand. Try getting a betareader. And for heaven's sake, use the bloody spellchecker.

7. Try writing some fanfiction that people might read.

This is where Andraste gets controversial, and you should probably treat this as a suggestion rather than a rule. Like it or not, some characters, ideas and genres are more popular than others. I'm all for artistic freedom, but you owe it to yourself to give yourself a fair chance, with characters people have actually like. I'm speaking here from personal experience - although Charles Xavier is my favourite x-person, his name doesn't appear in the header of my first story. He doesn't even have a speaking part. This was a calculated move, taken because I didn't want to shoot myself in the foot first time by putting an unpopular character in the spotlight. By labeling "Distant Voices" X-Men instead of Xavier, I got a better idea of my own ability as a writer.

Also, if you're an inexperienced author you might want to leave the fifty-chapter epics for later - make sure you can crawl before you try to run. Oh, and while I'm at it, readers are more likely to welcome your "new character joins the X-Men" story if you've established yourself as a good writer first and they trust you not to inflict Mary Sue on them.

Bear in mind that I'm not saying you *shouldn't* do any of the above things, just that it might take longer to get known if you do. Think about it, and pick and choose your story ideas with care 'til people get to know you better.

8. Leave the revolution for your second year.

Often, people see fanfic, see something they don't like or an unfilled niche and immediately declare that *they* will be the one to change the world for the better. Often, they fail. Someone who's just walked into fandom probably doesn't have the stamina or support to create their own large general archive, hubsite, shared universe, etc. Give yourself some time to adjust to reality before you try to remake it.

9. Get involved.

Every second mutant is a mindreader, but the other writers aren't. If you want to be involved in any particular aspect of the fanfic community, it's your job to take the first step. Write stories, send feedback, help out with archiving, do some RRs, go into a chat room. Talk to people. Contrary to popular belief, most dinos are quite friendly - they wouldn't be involved in the community if they didn't want to meet other writers - but they don't know you from a bar of soap. And remember, a little politeness goes a long way.
andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
This is really a tangent from the discussion I'm having with Xander et al over a post I made about online identity, but I made the mistake of mentioning the question of how a fanfiction writer's identity comes through in their stories, and saying that it was a whole different kettle of fish. Then Xander asked if it really *was* a different kettle of fish, and opened a can of worms :). I didn't have room to go into this in my brief addition to the comments there, so I thought I'd drag it out here instead. It's probably more interesting than what I would have written otherwise, anyway.

So. The issue of author identity in a non-autobiographical piece of work is a vexed issue [1]. The issue of author identity in fanfiction is even trickier - most of the time we don't create our own characters, although of course we choose and embellish them. Working with materials that others invented, do we impose our identity on the source material, or does it impose its identity on us?

I'm not given to creating original characters often, and in one of the cases where I did I was extrapolating a woman who had to exist in canon, not pulling things out of the air or my own innards. In my year and a half or so of posting fanfic, my narrators/protagonists have included:

- a vampire-hunting priest turned vampire himself.
- an international mutant terrorist or two.
- a naked blue woman.
- a 5th century Breton warrior fallen in among fairies.
- a mother whose child died five years ago on Christmas Eve.
- a mother who has just found out that her son has been declared irreversibly contaminated [2].
- a thief-turned-goddess-turned-X-Man
- an ex-superhero with a borderline sociopathic criminal for an ex-partner.

(And that's not even counting the multiple speakers in "Distant Voices", because none of them is technically a narrator. We're hearing the story from Charles's point of view. That may not be immediately obvious, but it's how I've always thought of the story.)

Where am I, in all of that?

Rossi said one of the nicest (and most perceptive) things I've ever heard about my work when she called me a literary chameleon, able to blend in with the characters and genre I'm writing. It's certainly something I strive to do - the reason that I think "Happiness" is my best-written story is that I don't see myself in there at all. Andraste has turned invisible, melted down - all you get is an uber-powerful Dutch junkie, so close you can nearly smell the smoke.

Often, I choose protagonists with whom I have little in common beyond some kind of 'hook' that lets me into the character, which can be extraordinarily tiny [3]. Most of my central characters are male (for which I have a lengthy explanation that I'll expand upon another day). Most of them are older than me, often much older. Many of them are depressed or otherwise disturbed. I pick these guys because I like to write what I *don't* know. I don't need to imagine what it's like to be a reasonably well-adjusted twenty-on-year-old white Australian woman. Writing for me is, in part, a way of trying on identities other than my own.

That aside, I meant what I said when I called Charles Xavier my avatar. I'm not going to sit here and explain why; except to say that I have too many of his faults and not enough of his virtues.

(Sometimes, I worry that my attachment to the character might damage my ability to write him well, but I suspect that the worry stems from the attachment itself. I'll never be completely happy with anything I write that dips below Xavier's surface because deep down I believe he deserves a much better writer than me :). Second best might be OK for the Doctor or Crais or Rorschach, but it won't do for Charles.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Author identity is a tricky question for fanfiction authors, especially those of us who jump around between different characters and settings like I tend to do.

So, where are *you* in your writing?

[1] ... and the identity of an author in an autobiographical piece of work is an even more vexed issue :). But not one I'm going to talk about today.

[2] For all the non-Scapers in the audience: that's a bad thing. Trust me on this.

[3] An esoteric example to illustrate my point and show that I've got "Farscape" on the brain today: I'm seriously considering writing a fairly sympathetic Scorpius story simply because I hate being cold. I can imagine all too well how *I'd* feel in a constant state of metabolic flux like that. No wonder he's bad-tempered.
andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
Thank you, Xander, for distracting me from RL. I needed something to do other than complain about feeling sick (I'm slightly better, in any case. Going to get the other half of my chapter in by the end of today, with any luck.)

So. I'm reading Xander's post about livejournals as a new fictional space, and thinking about the curious fact that I don't lie to people online. I lie to people in RL all the time for the usual expediant reasons, but I've never told a single untruth to anyone in the fanfic community, as far as I can remember. I'm a lot more honest with you people than I am with those I know in person.

It took me a good twenty seconds to notice the big, obvious lie at the top of the page.

Isn't the name up there a fiction? Well, yes and no. Back when I delurked at the start of 2000, after hanging around comic fanfic circles saying nothing whatsoever since February '97, I had no intention of using my birth name. So I called myself after a Celtic bear goddess instead. I had several reasons for this, which I'll list in order of increasing interest:

- I'd been told not to give away my real name to strangers online as a security precaution. I seriously doubt that any of you are axe murderers, and if you did want to stalk me you could probably find me pretty easily anyway, but still.

- I wanted a name that would prevent me from getting mixed up with other writers. My own name isn't particularly memorable, but as far as I can tell I'm the only Andraste who writes fanfiction of any kind. (There are some others who move in Pagan circles, but I'm not likely to run across any of them.)

- I'm a closet fanfiction writer. I don't want people I know in RL, particularly academic colleagues of the future who might type my name into a search engine looking for journal articles, to find "Close Enemies" and have heart attacks/fire me.

- The superhero thing. I *like* the idea of being a rather different person in the fanfic community from the person I am in my daily life.

The whole 'handle' thing says interesting stuff about online identities. There are people here that I know by their real names, and people I know by nicks. Then there are grey areas - I know Rossi and Kielle's RL names, but I *think* of them by their handles. I don't know Yasmin's real *last* name. I don't make any mental distinctions between birth names and screen names, and I feel no need to know the RL names of people who always go by handles. This seems to imply that people can just pick titles freely around here, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Hmmm. Interesting stuff. Does whether someone goes by a nick change the way you think about them? Feel free to discuss :).

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andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
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