Friday, February 26, 2021

February is Fantasy Month: Fandom VS. Fandom


So, today's post (and last week's post) was supposed to be about spoilers. Specifically, it was going to be about how spoilers affect how much someone enjoys a story. I did not finish writing that post. Instead, I started second-guessing myself, and in the end, I came to the conclusion that one analysis-type post in a month is enough and that the spoiler thoughts can wait until I have my thoughts in better order.

Instead, I'm tackling two of the Fantasy Month prompts at once and taking on some of the biggest battles in fandom — or, rather, between fandoms. We've probably all had to answer the Marvel or DC or Star Wars or Star Trek question or something similar at some point. And for this week's post, I'm taking on five such questions (three of which were helpfully supplied by my wonderful friends via text and Instagram), rapid-style. Which fandoms will prevail? Let's find out!


Fandom vs. Fandom

  1. Marvel vs. DC? In most cases, I am an MCU girl through and through. I don't have time for unending angst and grittiness in books, much less movies, and Marvel gets that. Plus, they have Thor, Captain America, and Doctor Strange, who happen to be my three favorite superheroes. The exception? If you compare the two fandom-favorite "families" — which is to say, Irondad/Spiderson and the Batfam, the Batfam wins every single time by virtue of having a reasonable amount of canon backing and being delightfully chaotic and dramatic. (Granted, I've never actually picked up a Batman comic book or watched the animated series, so it's technically a secondhand fandom, but I've read enough of the actual comics reposted to various internet sites that I practically feel like it should count as a proper one of my fandoms at this point.)
  2. Star Wars vs. Star Trek? Firefly. The answer is Firefly. Is this a cop-out? Maybe. But Firefly is my story, and I'm sticking to it. And it basically has the elements I like best from each of the other stories (the unpolished-ness and adventure and action and underdog/rebel narrative of Star Wars; the variety and exploration and some of the philosophicalness of Star Trek) wrapped up together with heists and found family — and, look, Han Solo is awesome, and I like Jean-Luc Picard, but Captain Mal Reynolds is where it's at.
  3. The Lord of the Rings vs. Narnia? First off, I didn't think this was a competing fandom set, but it was suggested to me twice, so I'm going with it. Technically, I should probably say LOTR — when people ask me for my top three favorite series, LOTR is always in my answer, and Narnia is almost never. But I've also lived much more in Narnia than I have in Middle Earth, in that I've known it longer and read and listened to Narnia many more times. I suppose I'd have to say that LOTR is my favorite in terms of story and world — but Narnia is still, in many ways, home.
  4. Disney/Pixar vs. Dreamworks? I wasn't going to do this one because I couldn't think of any Dreamworks movies I'd actually watched. And then I decided to double-check that and realized that wait a moment, Dreamworks did How to Train Your Dragon??? And that put enough weight on Dreamworks' side of the scale that the question was worth answering. Disney/Pixar still wins by virtue of TangledBeauty and the Beast (the original one, not the live-action one), and Big Hero Six. Also by virtue of not being responsible for a certain stupid movie about snails. But, if I actually watched all the animated movies I've been meaning to see for, oh, going on ten years now*, Dreamworks would have a very good chance.
  5. Harry Potter vs. Percy Jackson? I'm pretty sure these aren't competing as much as they did similar things for consecutive generations, but I do know that both fandoms are still very active, so! I prefer Percy Jackson (specifically, Olympians and Heroes of Olympus; I didn't read anything after HoO ended) . . . mostly because Harry Potter uses a particular trope that just rubs me all the wrong ways, while Percy Jackson got an initial boost from my enduring love of mythology. Plus, I just like the PJO/HoO characters better than the Harry Potter characters. 

What's your position on any or each of these debates? Are there any big fandom vs. fandom questions that I missed? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

*This is list is also known as "All the movies that my friends/the internet were obsessed with back in 2013 or so.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Fantasy Locales I'd Love to Live In

 It's week TWO of February is Fantasy Month! This week's topic comes from Jenelle Schmidt's #fantasymonth challenge; specifically, we're answering the question what fandom do you love enough to want to live in that world? Astonishingly, I've never written on this topic before — I did a post about worlds I'd like to visit ages ago, back when the Underground was still green, I'd just discovered the Books of Bayern, and we still thought Christopher Hopper was going to write a sequel to The Sky Riders. And, yes, if you look at the question from the idealistic point of view, the list of fantasy worlds I'd want to visit and fantasy worlds I'd want to live in is pretty much the same. But if you look at it from a practical standpoint, taking into account not just how cool the world is and how interesting the people are but also what it would be like to actually live there, well, that's another question entirely with very different criteria and substantially different answers. So let's get to answering it — and before you ask, yes, the following answers are in rank order.

(As a note, I'm disqualifying any world that is explicitly "Earth, but magic." Picking one of those worlds feels like cheating.)

Fantasy Locales I'd Love to Live In

  1. Amara (Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles). I'm pretty sure that, out of all the fantasy worlds I've read about and love, Amara (and its neighbor, Chiril) would be one of the best, if not the best, one to actually live in, whether you're an adventurer or just an ordinary person. You've got a pretty good standard of living even if you're not in a city, a slightly higher technology level than that of the average medieval fantasy world, and an actual stable, functioning government and society with laws based on solid theological and moral principles (which is unreasonably rare). Also, there are so many dragons. Specifically, so many friendly dragons, including minor dragons (who are small and adorable and have I mentioned lately that I want one) who live and work alongside not just adventurers but ordinary people. It's not like everyone has a dragon, but you don't have to be an adventurer to have one. Even if you are an adventurer, though, the casualty rate on quests tends to be low, the average wizard you might meet is probably friendly-ish and reasonably helpful, if decidedly quirky, and thanks to the magic of hollows and, well, magic in general, you'll probably have better food and more comfort than you would on adventures in most other worlds. All in all, it seems like an excellent place to live.
  2. Glause or New Civet (W.R. Gingell's Two Monarchies Sequence). These are technically two neighboring countries, but I don't know what their world is called, so . . . we're going with it. In any case, this world feels a lot like Ingary from Howl's Moving Castle, but a little more modern and even more magic-rich. And I reeeeeaaaaaally like magic-rich worlds. I mean, if you're going to move to a fantasy world, you might as well pick one where magic is as common as technology is here. And while I certainly wouldn't want to get mixed up in the high society of either country, I think I could manage quite well as an ordinary person.
  3. Era Two Scadrial (Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series). A lot of Sanderson's worlds meet the main criteria for this list (decent standard of living even if you're not rich, functional government and society (bonus points for a non-corrupt government), reasonably good food, magic-rich, good odds of indoor plumbing). At that point, I go back to how interesting the world is and how much I think I would actually enjoy living there, and that question got me down to a tie between two options: second-era Scadrial or present-era Roshar. Both would be very interesting places to live, and I think I'd have a decent chance in either place of making a living by writing. (Novels on Roshar are common enough to be owned even by lower classes; Scadrial has its newspaper serials and probably also novels. Side note, I really wish newspaper serial stories were still a thing, both because I'd like to read them and because I think they'd be fun to write, and no, posting a week-by-week story on the blog is not the same.) That said, Roshar has the distinct disadvantage of having been at war basically forever, and that is . . . not my jam. Plus, living in a country where half the population is literally illiterate might drive me crazy. So, Scadrial wins out by virtue of no war and smart men.
  4. Innsjøby/Solorele (my own The Midnight Show). (Technical note — Solorele is a country, not a world. But I can't remember if I named this world yet, and I don't feel like digging through my notes, so we're going with it.) Is this cheating? I feel like it might be cheating, but I genuinely think I would have a great time living in the world of The Midnight Show, whether or not I had author powers when I was there. Innsøby, the specific city in which the book takes place, would be a lot of fun — it's a very colorful city, it's a significant center of arts and culture where there's always something new to do or see, and as anyone who read The Midnight Show knows, it offers a lot of good food. It's also the only other place on this list besides Scadrial where I'm confident I could make a living primarily as a writer and designer . . . plus I'd never have to deal with the frustration of waking up just when a dream got interesting, since I wouldn't remember I'd been dreaming.
  5. The Spires (Jim Butcher's The Aeronaut's Windlass). It meets all the criteria, and it has airships. Airships aren't as awesome as dragons, but they come pretty close. Especially these airships, which take that term far more literally than most interpretations do. Granted, if we're being truly realistic, I'd be very unlikely to ever get to ride in an airship — travel between Spires doesn't seem super common — but a girl can hope.

Were you surprised by the worlds that made my list? What fantasy worlds would you want to live in if you could, either idealistically or practically speaking? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Giving Fanfic Some Credit

Y'all, I think fanfiction (and fanfic authors) deserves a little more credit. True, some of it (even a lot of it) is . . . decidedly not great. But you could say the same thing about published literature, even books published by established, traditional presses. But while the great published books and authors tend to get noticed and celebrated, great fanfiction and fanfic authors — which do exist; I've read quite a few of them — get looked down on because they're not original fiction. And I think that's a shame. So, since this month's February is Fantasy Month theme is fandoms, I think it's a great time to share some reasons why we should give fanfic and fanfic authors quite a bit more credit.

Giving Fanfic Some Credit

  1. Fanfiction brings new people into fandoms and keeps them there. You know why I read Harry Potter (or, the first four books, anyway)? There were a lot of reasons, but one of those was the fanfic I kept running into and enjoying. You know why I stayed a Star Wars fan in the years between when I first discovered the stories and when the new movies came out (and even to this day)? Fanfic, both in traditional narrative form and in the form of text-based roleplaying games into which people put insane amounts of time and effort. (Caleb, Matthew/Dmitri, I'm looking at you. Not that you're probably reading this, but if you are, hi. I've read actual novels with less drama, less emotion, less careful craft than the stories you created.) Sure, a fan who comes into a fandom by way of fanfiction may come in knowing spoilers — but as I said not too long ago, depending on the stories, that may not be as bad a thing as we often act like it is.
  2. Fanfiction helps writers (of all experience levels) grow their skills. There's the obvious way in which is true — writing more is the best way to get better at writing, whether what you're writing is a totally original fantasy epic or a Star Wars fanfic showing the climax of Return of the Jedi from the perspective of Clone Trooper #3054. More than just that, though, fanfiction can allow a writer to really focus on specific aspects of wordcraft, especially characterization and writing voice/style. In that story about Clone Trooper #3054, sure, the plot and world are already built for you; all you have to do is make sure what you write is consistent with what's established. But that allows you, forces you even, to put more thought and energy into characterization. How do you really show who Clone Trooper #3054 is in this scene? How do you really get readers into his head and make them feel what he feels? Or maybe you're writing about an original character and story, but you're using the world and style of an established author. Consciously or unconsciously, in trying to imitate that author's style, you're going to be analyzing it and figuring out its strengths and all the little pieces that make it unique, and your own style will probably improve from the experience.
  3. On a related note, fanfiction helps writers think of the "what if?" Arguably one of the most valuable non-technical writing skills you can have, especially as a speculative fiction writer, is the ability to ask the question "What if?" well. Almost every story starts with a "What if?" What if there were fae and wizards hiding among us in real life? What if you jumped into a swimming pool and came out in another world? What if Rapunzel was deaf and stuck in a clock tower? That's true of fanfiction as well, and asking and exploring the what-ifs of an established story (What if Petunia had chosen to love and care for Harry? What if the Jedi had made Anakin a creche master instead of sending him off to fight?), again, allows you to do it better in original stories too.
  4. Sometimes, the fanfic is better than the original story. A lot of the best fanfics, in my opinion, are the ones where the what if the author pursues is fixing something that detracts from the original, whether that's the stupid choices of characters who are canonically supposed to be wise but whose actions are anything but or adding complexity to characters who didn't get much in the original tale and deserved more. Or sometimes they don't fix any actual issues but they're genuinely better written and more enjoyable than the original. These authors said, this story is good, but it could be even better, and we're going to make that better version exist. And we should appreciate that more than we probably do at the moment.
  5. Fanfic is a labor of love made to celebrate something well-loved. Look, at the end of the day, very few writers of fanfic are getting a lot of tangible reward out of what they're writing. They're improving their skills, they may be getting some compliments and likes, but what they're making — they can't make money off it. They won't get much recognition for it outside of fan communities. But many, many still choose to put just as much time and effort and energy into it as writers of original fiction put into their stories. And they do it to celebrate stories and characters they love — even if they're writing a story that "fixes" the original, you don't write fanfic for a story and fandom you hate. You do it because you care about it very much indeed. And if that kind of labor of love isn't commendable, I don't know what is.

Now, it's entirely possible that I'm preaching to the choir here, since most of the people who read my blog are the kind who probably genuinely appreciate good fanfic and may have even written some themselves. (In fact, I know some of my regular readers have written fanfiction that I've very enthusiastically enjoyed.) But I hope that even if you already love fanfiction, I've given you a new insight or two into why it should be appreciated.

So, what are your thoughts on fanfic? Are there any fanfics you like better than the original story? What's your favorite fanfiction you've read? Have you written any yourself? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!