Fan Directions

Cover of Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887, f...

Image via Wikipedia. Sherlock's first episode? "A Study in Pink"

1 Fan fiction is not inherently evil

If you get at all attached to series characters who are so much bigger than the stories the creators actually offer, you want more. Commonest among longer book series or television shows (both where character development often happens behind the scenes), there’s plenty of room for hole patching. Or the character are just so engaging you don’t want to give them up. Some people invest enough emotion and thought into those characters and create for them whole new stories. From which the less invested fan can gain some satisfaction, while knowing it just isn’t the same…which admittedly only serves to draw her in further. Good for the original creators, not so much for the fan’s productivity.

2 Fan fiction is inherently a waste of time

At least as much as the original show. You’re not supposed to read genre fiction (which is where you find most series books) or watch television, because neither is “good” for you. Television is TEH EBAL, according to Them (those of They Say fame) and while books mostly equal good, only if they aren’t much fun to read. Odd, because most of what They consider Good, survived because such works were read for fun.

But They make it un-fun, because those are just weird dead people.

3 And fan fiction, being the creation of the commoners, is doubly worthless.

While a few gems reveal some real life hidden truths through someone else’s universe, even the majority of what could objectively be called “good” is self-indulgent gooeyness. Much like the chic lit genre.

The Colt with thirteen original bullets

Image via Wikipedia

Self-indulgent gooeyness doesn’t take up a lot of time, so I still say worth it. Last weekend, lusting after Supernatural (because I still haven’t seen the 4th season!) I read through some 100 of my “favorites list” and more than 2 million words—and I used my calculator for that, so yeah—in not even two days. But it’s approximately the equivalent of 20 genre novels. Which I can’t read that quickly. Unless they were romance novels, but I don’t enjoy reading those. If I’m reading a book, I don’t want to be reading one I can skim.

Yes, fan fiction is a waste of time. But at least it’s not drugs, however similar the effects may sometimes be.

    Originally, when I started this post, I was not planning to say more than a few words on fan fiction, as an introduction to Sherlock, the newest Sherlock Holmes BBC series, only this one is set in modern-day London.

    And Watson still fought in Afghanistan, just as he did in the 1800s!

    Hardly progress. Nonetheless, the show aired the three episode season in the UK, even offered reruns online. Which, from the UK website, is not allowed in the United States. It wasn’t airing over here either. I only found the show because after I finally saw the 2009 movie back in, what, August? September? I got enthused enough to go back and read over my fan fiction list, much as I did with Supernatural.

    And what was this? Now they keep dropping his last name, and there’s something about cellphones and sociopathy. What could it be? (What cooould it beeee/ that coooomes over meee…*)

    By the time I track down the actual show, from an interview with the actor who plays Watson (who is somehow famous, so naturally I don’t know his name) with a clip of Watson first accepting Holmes’ invitation to a crime scene,

    had me all aquiver with anticipation. Just the news of a second season, without the opportunity to watch the first sent me into paroxysms of joy. (Admittedly, I fall into paroxysms of joy on a fairly regular basis, because happy is a good way to live your life anyway.) Whether or not they’d allow me to watch through their website, I was determined to find a way. A way that was not illegal, because that’s just how I roll.

    Anyway, I figured I’d just wait impatiently for my brother’s Netflix, as I do with so many things—including Supernatural—when, lo and behold, I read my mom’s copy of Parade (the newspaper insert) in the Herald and News). In the past I refused to read in the car, because as a child it made me nauseous. Though apparently I’ve outgrown that side effect, I still tend to avoid it. But it was dreary and rainy and I got sick yesterday with a stuffed nose, so I read. And Parade has a calendar of art-type things (books, movies, etc) to look out for—PBS is showing Sherlock!

    Sundays at 9 EST, check your local listings.

    When I got home I looked for it first thing and couldn’t find it. Fortunately, Brother had his computer out and found it listed under Masterpiece Mystery or something. What can I say, I don’t watch PBS.

    Sherlock is just as awesome as I’d hoped, and funny too. I’m going to watch again, not only because of its awesomeness, but also because I was not entirely focused, due to the distraction of figuring out how to make $11/hr a living wage in downtown Sac—by the way, pleading poverty might just work with the government.

    The British just do everything better. At least when it comes to television.

    *at times I can’t mooove/at times I can hard-lyyy breeatheee

    (I used to be obsessed with him too.)

    This Time I’ll Use Quotes

    I should trust my instincts.

    I passed over this book twice in the library: taking note, but not making the commitment. It caught my eye when I pulled it from the new collection first, and then again when I was shifting the fiction section.

    When I finally went back and checked it out, I had high hopes. Romance can work, and magic is almost always fun, right? And, hey, knitting!

    This book isn’t even powerful enough to make it a wall banger. I still couldn’t finish, but more out of exasperation than any passionate hatred. But it was bad enough that even though the whole experience was more than a couple of months ago at this point, I simply can’t let it go without at least talking it out.

    Casting Spells is a book about blonde (don’t forget) Chloe Hobbs and her magical knitting shop in her magical town with her magical friends, where nothing bad, especially crime, ever happens. But when a voluptuous (remember–voluptuousness=wantonness) blonde is murdered, handsome cop (remember good-looking and crime-fighter) Luke MacKenzie must come to town and mediate on how odd everyone is…you might they’re magical but of course they’re totally not because I know better. And then together they will fall in love and solve the mystery. (Or is it the other way around? I didn’t get that far.)

    Well, first I have to introduce the main character’s knitting shop with a quote from the book:

    Blog posts about the magical store in northern Vermont where your yarn never tangles, your sleeves always come out the same length, and you always, always get gauge were popping up on a daily basis, raising both my profile and my bottom line.

    What a way to make me resent your character. Knitting is perfectly easy if you have magic! I don’t have magic thank you very much, and dangnabbit, that’s just not fair. So why am I supposed to think that she actually works at this, that she ever actually had to learn knitting? I’m not sure I am.  So know I can only think Mary Sue alert! And this supposedly has a side of murder-mystery to its romance, so of course the male lead is an out-of-town cop who also has to comment on the heroine’s shop:

    Her shop was a top link on websites and blogs from neighboring New Hampshire to Malaysia with all stops in between. Okay, so maybe it was like reading Sanskrit (apparently knitters had their own language), but I was able to translate enough to know Chloe’s shop was something special…
    …According to the posts I read online, Chloe was Elvis and Sticks & Strings was Graceland, which I would probably chalk up to being a suburban legend if it weren’t for the fact that the noise level at the front of the store could cause hearing loss.

    Which quite fortuitously leads me to point number two (especially since, well seriously, “hearing loss”???).

    Yes, the story is told in alternating first person. I’ve found I’m a little iffy on first person in the best of times (positive example: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison), but alternating first person should be forbidden on pain of death. Okay, so I think many things should be forbidden on pain of death, but fortunately I’m not in charge of these things, nor will I ever be. Anyway, alternating first person=bad. Yes?

    Because when it’s used, especially in romance you get gems like these:

    They were all vying for the attention of a tall, skinny blonde, one of the disheveled types who always seemed on the verge of a meltdown.

    That’s how Luke first observes Chloe—by they way, she’s actually mayor, which is why he has to opportunity to give this description—as he thinks ‘that’s totally not my type’. Totally. Like, never would I be attracted to a lady like that in a million, zillion years. Ever. Sure, I believe him. Seriously, Ms. Bretton, talk to your publishers. This is marketed as a romance, so as soon as we get Luke’s point of view, we know that he’s going to fall in love with her. If she’s observing that he doesn’t act attracted to her on a physical level, that’s fine. But when he does it? It’s just…just…ugh.

    And not even fifteen pages later he finds Chloe asleep and snoring and doesn’t even try to wake her (as we also learned in Twilight, that’s not creepy at all) and tells himself this little gem:

    Cops notice things. It’s an occupational hazard. Noticing details about a woman’s appearance was part of a detective’s job description. It didn’t mean anything.
    Not even if the cop in question found himself standing there with a stupid grin on his face.

    These two characters switch viewpoints several times a chapter (but only after the first fifty pages or something) so it’s only a matter of hours from “totally not my type” to “omg hawtness”.

    Actually, if the alternating first person were between Chloe and her “best friend” whatshisname (call him Elf, because he is, naturally) it might have worked. Because Chloe’s been stringing him along since forever—because all male, non-gay best friends must be in love with the main character—and I would like to have seen him get with some nice girl of his own in a real relationship based on something more than lust. Maybe that happened later in the book? But not from his point of view. No, we get Luke’s, so we can see everything twice.

    Wait, I haven’t gotten to the squicky yet.

    That poor Chloe, from a long line of witches, has no magic herself but was raised by the village. Sweet right? Chloe thinks so. Except her family line (at least the women—WOMAN POWAH!!!) are in charge of this ancient spell that protects the town from exposure to the pedestrians. And she has to give birth to a girl by thirty-five or something to keep the spell going. Or get magic herself, idk. But the locals totally raised her out of the goodness of their hearts and just love her so much.

    At that point, I really did feel badly for Chloe. In that whole setup she’s definitely the victim, and her so-called saviors are only exploiting her. But was this explored? Well, not in the part I read. She never questioned anything they’d done.

    But she does tell Luke about her parent’s death, and of course this changes him. See, he’s a cop (in case you forgot—didn’t I tell you that it was important?!) and often hears sad stories, but hers touches his heart. As does she. Because she’s just so stoic:

    She told her parents’ story without embellishment or self pity.

    I’d rather hope so. She was, what? a few years old at most? Firstly, she shouldn’t know any embellishments, and at this point in her live, self-pity would be rather pathetic (now, if she ever seemed like a rounded character or even thought about her parents). We’ve had her first person. We know that she doesn’t have any reason for self-pity.

    But this is Twu Wuv.

    My hand touched his, and we both jumped back as silver-white sparks crackled through the space between us.

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    There is No Try

    So, I actually tried to finish reading that book, referred to in the post before the last post.

    No, I won’t clarify that, you can figure it out. Good practice, I’m sure.

    Anyway, the book referred to was the apparently Edwardian mystery. And I tried to pick it back up again. I didn’t give up when the male main character suddenly became a hero in the papers because he was conveniently in a train crash where he was not supposed to be, and saved some man’s son, who naturally thought to ask his name as he’s running off.

    I did not–quite–give in when the two villains of the novel, after being caught entrapping and blackmailing the heroine’s secondary gay fiance of convenience (no, don’t try, that really won’t ever make sense), are themselves held at gunpoint and forced to kiss each other in front of a secret male brothel. By the first (straight) fiance of convenience, who thereupon uses that evidence to apparently integrate himself with the heroine’s stodgy father.

    However, I could not make myself go on when the private detective (I was mistaken before–the hero is a private detective, though apparently with official ties to the police–turns out there are two earlier books–which I will not find) goes with the officer from the official police go to speak to one of the blackguards (previously referred to as villains).

    Yes, they are getting an interview where they are underhandedly showing their hand, or showboating, or whatever it is called when the detectives collude with the officials and confront the villains halfway through the book before there is an official arrest forthcoming.

    No, it’s when the official, thinking about the gross upper-class (fat) lord begins to fantasize about being the head of a revolution and executing said lord by firing squad.


    Not entirely unforgivable, especially considering how the rest of the book (and the first half of the other–I was hoping the other might be better) but no, no, he was not finished.

    He yelled fire. In the middle of the conversation. And then excuses himself, and apparently gets away with it.

    Of all possible English revolutionary leaders, I would not choose him.

    For the Title Alone

    Yet another post because I came up with a title I liked.

    This is definitely the opposite of when I try to write fiction, when I can be just as incoherent, but cannot create titles. At all.

    But you know I’ve been reading this book  by M.C. Beaton, which she is writing under another name that I have not bothered to remember, in her same genre–mystery–with the same unlikable characters.

    Which is weird, I usually only like books with likable characters. Books, TV, movies, ect, if I don’t like the characters I just don’t bother. Or I bother everyone else about how terrible and or ridiulous the book/show/movie is. But anyway, Beaton’s characters are unlikable, and irritating. But in high school, I read most of the Hamish Macbeth series…all, in fact, of the books my library owned, and enjoyed them. Recently, during the summer, I went through this libraries collection of Agatha Raisin books, tried a Macbeth mystery, and couldn’t stand it.

    When I’d read the Macbeth in high school, I couldn’t stand Agatha Raisin, who is middle-aged, heavy-set, ursine with beady eyes.  See–it’s a memorable description, but so very mean.  That was the part I didn’t like.  All her characters too, seem to have love troubles throughout their series. But they are so ridiculous about it I get fed up, and give up. Admittedly, the characters are no more stupid than real life people doing the same thing. But I lose patience with them too. So I’ve liked the Agatha Raisin books recently enough that I could pick them up again despite the characters. (I must say, the characters are not badly drawn, just irritating, annoying, and mean. I don’t like mean. They’re generally unlikable, as far as I can tell, even to their friends.)

    But like I said, I picked up a Beaton book, under another name, for another series.  And why does an author write under a pseudonym when just underneath, it has the author’s real name? This is a new series. And it’s “M.C. Beaton writing as ___!”  I just don’t get it.

    Anyway. This new series takes place in Victorian England. Naturally.  Where else could you show off how delightfully ahead of her times the heroine is? Urgh.  There were plenty of intelligent women during Victorian times, and many of them were more enlightened than the period wished women to be. Nonetheless, there was a culteral reality to their attitudes, which most modern authors blow right past. Admittedly for mysteries especially, most authors will not probably spend years on their research, but is it really that hard to at least relate to histories realities?  In the subject of history itself, I’m not a fan of cultural relativism, but I think genre literature might benefit from at least a touch of it. Then again, it was the Victorian era, maybe today’s authors are attempting to emulate the gothic, lurid romance adventures of the day.

    At any rate, the main character of this series is basically an upper-class, young, attractive Agatha, only she’s just as irritating. Lady Rose, is of course, a female activist horrifying her parents with her politics. To not be sent to India, she’s formed an engagement of convenience, whose other half she is conveniently in love with. Pardon–not so conveniently, neither will admit it. Oh, and he’s a policeman. (Um, Anne Perry?)

    Now that was mean.

    Still very typical of the modern day Victorian mystery. There are conventions of the genre, and even in 43 pages most of the highlights have been hit. Perhaps the trouble I’m having is that this particular book is not the first in the series. I’m not sure how far in it is, but we’re still being bombarded/smacked in the face with poor Lady Rose’s tribulations in being an activist during Victorian times…and the victim of an attempted assissination! She just can’t catch a break. And her companion, who I can’t quite recall, is either a former prostitute or a former actress–Victorian times, does it really matter–however, this at least, doesn’t seem to bother her parents. The parental units, by the way, are of course fully and foolishly intergrated into socities norms, and therefore not worth the words. Fortunately, Lady Rose managed to rise above her beauty and upbringing to be smart.

    Back to the mystery. Never mind, I don’t want to talk about that because it’s kind of ridiculous actually. Only lady lovelier,  than Rose in her first season, the daughter of a Parson, is murdered looking like Lady of Shallot, and because she asked Lady Rose for help, someone is trying to kill poor Lady Rose while she shops for hats.

    Ahh.  I’d almost forgotten the impetus for writing this today, at only 43 pages.

    For Lady Rose’s protection, she and her companion are shipped to somewhere else in England that I cannot recall. They are fortunate to be able to catch a nap in a Pullman sleep car.  And we get a lecture on Pullman lasting a paragraph, complete with quote by Ambrose Bierce, about what happens when he dies. I really don’t care. No matter how quotable Ambrose Bierce may be–and he is very quotable.

    Note: Wiki’d it.  Turns out this is an Edwardian mystery.  Who knew?  Still don’t like it much, and I still think it reads like a Victorian mysetry.  Ah well, I still intended to read it. Maybe it’ll get better. I’m at  nine hundred words and I don’t care to think about it anymore.