a vestige of thought...
Monday, August 07, 2006
F is for Fanfiction
In the wee hours of the Blogathon I made a comment to the effect of, "All fanfiction should be outlawed." This outburst came after, while doing a search for the name of a guest actor who looked familiar, I came across this Sue Thomas: FBEye fanfiction story. The others in the forum were not much better. I immediately condemned any thing of the sort. Furter reflection, however, led me to believe I may have been a bit hasty in my judgement. After all, it was this, now much subdued, fanfiction website that led me to meet my good chum Heather.
A Google search to find out of others agreed with my negative assessment of fanfiction turned up this essay, which argues just the opposite. The author, Elizabeth Marsh, states, "fanfictions are a worthy alternative to hours spent in front of the television, giving the viewer a chance to use what they learn from the media to further their writing ability." I admit that stretching one's creative muscles, even with characters and settings one did not invent themselves, is a better way to spend one's time than staring at a glowing box. Writers wonder 'what if this thing had happened instead of this other thing?' and then [sometimes] toughtfully work their way through the situation. When watching television, this work is done for them.
Still, I can't quite praise the popular phenomenon. There is a reason that screenwriters are screenwriters and others are just... fanfiction authors. Much writing from the latter is just plain bad. (That's not to say that all screenwriting is good, though certainly a higher percentage of it is.) My problem is not so much that the writing is bad, but that people celebrate it as good. If fanfiction is- as Elizabeth Marsh claims- a way to further writing ability, constructive criticism should be as much a part of the responses as praise.
I also find it frustrating that fanfiction stories are rarely consistent with the shows they were inspired by. Flirtatious glances in one TV episode often lead to steamy romance scenes in a subsequent fanfiction story. Violence and drama are often taken to disgusting or rediculously cheesy levels in an attempt to captivate readers. Many fanfiction boards now require a rating to accompany all stories. But if a show is popularized with a rating of PG or PG-13, why do fanfiction authors think that raising that rating to R+ will make their writing more attractive?
Though I could go on and on about my particular dislikes of fanfiction writing (like how writers consistently botch the personalities and morality of well-established characters), I suppose that overall it is a matter of personal preference. No one is forcing me to read any and, upon completion of this post, I don't anticipate ever doing so. If you are a fanfiction... uh... fan, then maybe you will be lucky enough to improve you writing skills and, as my fifth grade teacher used to say, earn some new wrinkles in your brain.