Monday, May 4, 2015

Introduction to Fanfiction, Part 4: Tropes and Content

Welcome back to my Introduction to Fanfic series. Now that we've gone over all the confusing lingo and abbreviations, we can talk about common fanfic tropes and types of content. Despite the obvious differences between fandoms, there are some tropes that are common across the board.

Content

Fluff vs Angst: It could be argued that fics can be separated into two main categories: fluff and angst. Fluff fics are generally happy, cute little stories with very little sadness or death. Angst fics are the opposite, often dealing with dark themes or featuring arguments, violence, or character death. Of course, many fics mix these two elements, with characters going through periods of turmoil and pain to arrive at a fluffy happy ending. It's important to know whether a fic is mainly fluffy or angsty before you read. There's nothing worse than going in expecting a happy love story only to have everyone die at the end.

MCD, CTV, DubCon/NonCon, and other warnings: Fics, especially those on AO3, often come with content warnings. These warnings allow readers to know what they are getting themselves into before they begin reading. Since these can be important trigger warnings, I want to go over some of the more important ones in depth here.

Major Character Death (sometimes abbreviated MCD), means that one of the major characters dies. So, if you don't want to read a fic where your favorite character gets killed off, skip this. Authors will often tag minor character death as well.

Canon Typical Violence (sometimes abbreviated CTV) means that a fic contains the same kind of violence that is typically seen in canon. So, while in a Harry Potter fic this may only mean a minute or two of the Cruciatus curse, in a Walking Dead fic this may mean extreme gore and violence.

DubCon and NonCon both refer to the sexual content in a fic. DubCon means dubious consent, while NonCon refers to clearly non-consensual sexual acts. For obvious reasons, this kind of content is nearly always clearly tagged with multiple warnings.

For your own mental and emotional safety, please read all tags and warnings carefully before starting a fic. Now that you know what kind of content to expect from a fic, let's go over some common tropes.

Tropes and Common AUs

Fake!Married or other pretend relationships: For some reason or another, the characters have to pretend to be in a relationship for a period of time. Maybe they need cover for a case, maybe they want their family to quit nagging them, maybe they don't want to go to a wedding without a date. For whatever reason they pretend to be in a relationship, and somewhere along the way things get complicated. This is a perennial favorite fluff fic trope. It's just as cheesy as it sounds, and I love every second of it.

Coffee Shop AU: These fics take place in a coffee shop. Maybe two characters work there together, or maybe one is a barrista and the other is a regular customer. Either way, it's a perfect excuse for characters to meet and interact regularly.

SoulMate!AU or SoulMate!Verse: These fics take place in an alternate universe where soul mates are a fact of life. There are a couple common types of SoulMate!AU. Characters may have counters on their wrists that count down until they meet their soul mate. They might have their soul mate's name on their wrist, or the first words their soul mate says to them. They might only see in black and white until they touch their soul mate, when the world suddenly bursts into color. No matter the details, you can imagine the possibilities.

Genderswap: One or more of the characters are a different gender than they are in canon. There are two types of generswap fics: ones in which the character has always been that gender, and ones in which the character changes genders during the fic, often due to a magical spell or curse.

High School AU (HS!AU): All the characters are kids in a regular high school. Is your favorite character a jock, nerd, band kid, or something else entirely? Do they do well in classes? This is an incredibly popular AU no matter the fandom.

Hogwarts AU: Imagine all your favorite characters from another fandom going to Hogwarts. They take classes, learn magic, have adventures, and put up with professor Snape. These fics usually take place at a different time than the events of the HP series, and therefore do not usually feature Harry and the gang. Sometimes I think half of the fun of these stories is sorting characters into the proper Hogwarts houses.

Everyone Lives AU: A canon-verse fic in which no-ones favorite characters have been killed off. Usually these fics take place in the canon universe, but ignore the deaths of characters for various reasons. Hey, they might be dead in canon, but they live on in our hearts.

Well, now you know pretty much everything you need to know to find the kind of fanfiction that will make you happy. No matter what you like, what fandom you're in, and what you ship, there is a fic out there that is perfect for you. Go forth, friends, and read!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Introduction to Fanfiction, Part 3: Lingo

Welcome to the third post in my very basic introduction to fanfiction. We've already gone over why fanfic is awesome and what shipping means, so we're ready to talk about lingo specific to fandom and fanfic culture. When I first started reading fanfic I was daunted by the number of words and abbreviations I didn't understand. Hopefully this will help you all understand fic descriptions so you can pick fics that are right for you.

AU: Alternate Universe. These fics take characters, themes, and sometimes events from canon and transport them into an alternate universe, treating them as if they had always been there. Maybe the Harry Potter crew are in a normal, non-magical high school, or Sherlock and John are fellow soldiers in the war.

CanonVerse: The opposite of an AU, these fics take place in the world of canon. They may take place between canon events, or be a speculative “what might happen next” fic. Some canonverse fics start with a canon event and then diverge from there, rewriting a portion of canon as the author sees fit, while still conforming canon norms and themes. These fics are called alternate-canon fics.

When describing a fic, authors will often use the format Modifier!Noun. So, for example, if an author writes an alternate-canon fic in which Harry Potter was sorted into Slytherine, they might tag it with Slytherine!Harry. If they write a fic in which Voldemort's spell left Harry Deaf rather than scarred, they might tag it with Deaf!Harry. This is also true of AU descriptions, so you might see CoffeShop!AU if the characters all work in a coffee shop together.

Crossover: A fic that mixes two fandoms. So, if you write a fic in which Sherlock Holmes runs into The Doctor from Doctor Who (like these), or where the angels and demons from Good Omens interact with the angels and demons from Supernatural (like these), you're writing a crossover. (PS: If someone wants to write me a Supernatural/ X-Files crossover, I would love you forever.)

OneShot: A one-off fic that is usually short (one or two chapters), and doesn't have any sequels.

WIP or wip: Work in Progress. These are fics that the writer has not yet finished. Sometimes authors abandon a fic halfway through, so it's best to check the last time it was updated before you start reading a wip. You don't want to fall in love with an unfinished fic that was abandoned in 2009.

Crack!Fic: A fic that is crazy, weird, funny, and/or a little ridiculous. It might not be totally serious, but you can have fun reading it anyway.

OOC: Out of Character. This means that, either purposefully or not, the fic writer didn't do a good job of making the characters true to canon.This doesn't necessarily make the fic a bad one, but if you're looking for canon-accurate characterization you may want to avoid these.

OC(s): Original character(s). This fic includes characters that the author made up. They are not present anywhere in canon, and yet may play an important role in this fic. Sometimes written as OFC or OMC for original female character or original male character.

AO3: This isn't a fic description, it's a place: Archive of Our Own. AO3 is probably the most popular fanfiction site around, though fanfiction.net is a close second.

Now let's put that all together. If you see a Hunger Games fic described as an Everlark HS!AU OneShot wip on AO3, you know that it is an unfinished short high school alternate universe fic that features Katniss/Peeta as the main ship and can be found on Archive of Our Own. Don't worry, usually there aren't so many descriptors strung together, so it's a little easier to understand.

Now that you've go the lingo down, next time we'll go over common tropes and types of content. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Welcome to Night Vale

I'm going to take a brief break from my wildly successful (What? I can dream.) series of posts on fanfiction to write a review of my favorite piece of currently-happening storytelling, Welcome to NightVale. Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast that takes the form of a fictional local community radio broadcast. Here's the description from the website: 
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.  
Turn on your radio and hide.
 Welcome to Night Vale is set in a little town which is probably located somewhere in the Southwest, “a friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.” The podcast is surreal, funny, a bit creepy, and features excellent voice-acting. The best way I've found to describe it is if Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett got together and wrote an episode of The Twilight Zone. The first few episodes are a little kitschy, kind of standard surrealist strangeness, but as the show progresses it becomes a genuinely compelling, intelligent, masterfully done piece of storytelling.

Long story short, I think Welcome to Night Vale is one of the best things happening right now, in any format of storytelling, anywhere.

Yeah, I know that's a really serious claim, and obviously it's just my opinion, but there are a lot of reasons that I feel the way I do.

First of all, the storytelling and character development is amazing. Cecil, the host of the radio show and our narrator, is an amazing character. At the beginning he's a bit disconnected from the audience, the sonorous voice that tells us the calendar and announces the weather, but as the show progresses more of his character peeks through the radio script, and we get to see him as a person. I absolutely love Cecil, and I look forward to learning more about him with each episode. He's an unreliable narrator, but not in the Poe way, just in the way that every person will tell the story from their own point of view. The fact that a great majority of the show is told from his point of view can lead to some interesting moments where the audience suddenly sees things (events, other characters) from a different point of view. Many characters that start out as background characters develop into fully-fleshed people as the show progresses. Really, even if the plot weren't as great as it is, the characters alone could carry this show.

Luckily for us, that isn't the case, and the plot of WTNV is absolutely amazing. While the early episodes are mostly one-off, monster of the week type episodes, a larger underlying story starts to take shape as the show progresses, gradually growing in importance and depth. There are moments where I have been literally sitting on the edge of my seat, staring intensely into space, listening to the story and holding my breath. Not only is it incredibly compelling and often suspenseful, the plot is also steeped in social commentary and philosophical ideas. Issues of community, capitalism and economic worth, the value of human life, the nature of love, all of these are explored through the intense action of the plot. It's hard for me to describe without using any spoilers, but trust me, this is one of the most interesting stories you've heard in a long time, and somehow it just keeps getting better.

There are a lot of great stylistic elements in WTNV that I think deserve recognition. The use of surrealism is totally convincing, while also managing to be both funny and creepy, often at the same time. More than that, by making surrealism the everyday life of the town, the writers can make what we see to be everyday occurrences seem highly surreal. The weirdness of the show, then, is often used to highlight the weirdness of everyday life. Similarly, the traditional symbolism of shadow vs sunlight is often reversed, with shadows being comforting and safe, while sunlight is harsh, bright, and revealing. It's a great reversal, and is done so convincingly that I didn't even realize it was happening until a good way in. Again, changing these symbols can highlight the disturbing elements in what we usually consider good. WTNV isn't just a great story with relatable characters, it's a really finely crafted work of art.

The upcoming novel. I'm so excited!
Welcome to Night Vale has an incredibly diverse set of characters and voice actors. Recently, the book world (or at least the parts of it I care to frequent) has been pushing for more diversity in reading, publishing, and award lists. Well, WTNV may not be a book, but it's definitely got the diversity you're looking for. In the very first episode, a new man moves to Night Vale, and Cecil immediately falls in love with him. From that first episode on, there are main characters who are women, non-binary, LGBTQ, disabled, voiced by actors of color (and therefore often assumed by the audience to be people of color, almost none of the characters are actually physically described in canon), etc. All of this representation never feels “forced” or “like you're just checking off boxes,” as so many critics of diversity often claim will be the case. Each character is natural, a human being with motivations and feelings, not a stereotype or a box to fill. The best part is that diversity seems to be a defining feature of the town. When Cecil falls in love with a man, or when a young girl uses a wheelchair, or when a different young girl is born with a body consisting only of an adult man's left hand, no-one attacks them for it. They're all just citizens of Night Vale. Sometimes it's nice to have a story with diverse characters that doesn't focus on tragedy or bigotry.

Welcome to Night Vale has the complete package. It has great characters that are believable people the audience can try to understand and become involved with. It has a riveting plot that will have you begging for the next episode. It has really deep, subtle social commentary, which is aided by the highly crafty use of stylistic elements and the diversity of both characters and cast. WTNV has been going strong for years, and I can honestly tell you that it is only getting better with time. Not only is the podcast amazing, they also have a book coming out in October. If you take no other recommendation from me, please, go listen to Welcome to Night Vale. I promise you won't regret it.


Monday, April 6, 2015

An Introduction To Fanfiction, Part 2: I Ship It

Welcome to part 2 of my series, An Introduction to Fanfiction. Last time I went over all the reasons I love fanfiction. I'm going to spend the next few posts going over lingo that you may come across on your search for the perfect fic. Today's lingo lesson will focus on that most central and strange aspect of fandom, shipping.

Wait, what? A boat?

Sometimes fans decide that two characters are perfect for each other and really need to be in a relationship together. When that happens, that relationship is referred to as a ship and the people who want that relationship to happen are the shippers who ship it.

For example, the two main ships in the Hunger Games fandom are Katniss and Peeta vs Katniss and Gale. Ships are often shown with a slash, Katniss/Gale, or with a mashed-up Brangelina-like ship name, like Everlark for Katniss/Peeta. (No, not KatPee, Everlark)

A great majority of fics include the author's preferred ship, either as a main plot point or in the background. Fics that include ships are often called slashfics (the name comes from the slash between the character names), and very often include explicitly smutty content. If you're not interested in reading smut, you may want to stay away from slashfics in general.

When talking about ships, there are some abbreviations that are good to know.

OTP: One True Pairing. This is the relationship in the fandom that you have decided is the one truly correct relationship, or at least the most important one to you. So, people who ship Bella/Edward and not Bella/Jacob or any other Bella/whatever ship would call Bella/Edward their OTP. Everyone has their own OTPs, and they tend to be really important to people. Like, really important. So, while you can (and most likely will) disagree with someone's ships, you should never bash an OTP. (In case you're wondering, my #1 OTP of all time is Mulder/Scully from The X-Files. They are perfect for each other and you will never convince me otherwise.)

NOTP or NoTP: The opposite of an OTP. This is a ship that you 100% do not ship at all, eww. You don't want to look at it, read it, or even think of it, because it just isn't the right interpretation of those characters at all. For example, while Hermione/Draco is a relatively popular ship, a lot of people consider it their NoTP because of Draco's pureblood prejudice. If a ship is your NoTP, you probably want to avoid fics that feature it, obviously.

BROTP or BroTP: This means that you ship those two characters only as friends. You think that they are just the perfect friends ever, and their friendship means a lot to you. Sam and Frodo, Legolas and Gimli, and Merry and Pippin are all examples of popular BroTPs. (The Doctor and Donna, anyone?)

CrackShip or Crack!Ship: This is a ship that you know is ridiculous, but you kinda sorta halfway ship it anyway. Or at least you think it's fun enough to write or read about. Maybe the characters hate each other. Maybe they never actually meet in canon. For whatever reason, it's completely impractical, and yet here you are, reading a fic about it and laughing to yourself at three in the morning. Examples range from the simply implausible, like Ruby/Anna from Supernatural, to the downright silly, like Whomping Willow/ Giant Squid from Harry Potter (Ok, I just made that one up. But honestly, it's probably out there somewhere.) Sometimes it's good to have fun.

M/F, M/M, F/F, or any other combination you can think of: These tags describe the genders of the characters being shipped, M for male, F for female. This can be a helpful sorting tool if you're looking for a certain kind of relationship in the fics you read.

Ok, now that you've been introduced to the weird world of shipping, (and let's be honest, it's not that weird, we all do it), you're ready to learn more about fanfiction specifically: how it works, what kinds of fics there are, and common tropes. Stay tuned for all of that and more in the next installments of the series. Until then, please tell me all about your OTPs in the comments. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

An Introduction to Fanfiction, Part 1: What? And Why?

Hello dear readers, and welcome back to the blog. I took an extended unannounced leave of absence, (sorry about that), but I'm back with an exciting series of posts exploring one of my new hobbies:

Fanfiction

Yes, you heard me correctly. I, Emily, the English major famous for writing 2000+ word reviews/analysis of classic literature, read a ton of fanfiction. I'm hooked, and I can't wait to get you all hooked too. This post series will serve as an introduction to the genre for those who have, for whatever reason, never delved into that portion of the internet. This first post will answer the question that I assume is foremost in all of your minds:

What is fanfiction?

Fanfiction, or fanfic, is when authors write stories using the universe and/or characters from already established works.

Ok, so why should I read or write it?

Wouldn't it be cool if...”: We've all had these thoughts. What was Gimli's trip to the West like? What were the marauders like back in their Hogwarts days? What if Rue had been the one to survive instead of Katniss? Fanfic lets us imagine these scenarios and share our ideas with other fans.

Practice writing: Writing fanfic has a lot of benefits for writers. It allows them to be creative and practice good writing without having to build an entire universe or original characters. Since readers already understand the universe and basic character traits, the writers can work on things like dialogue, description, plot, pacing, and convincing action.

Audience: Another great thing about writing fanfic is that there is a big audience for it. Writers get a group of readers that will both enjoy and critique their writing.

The story is never over: We've all wanted to keep reading a series after we've finished it. Fanfiction gives you nearly endless material to enjoy in the fandom of your choice. You can keep on enjoying a book or series long after it's really finished.

Fix it: If you don't like where a TV series went after a certain season, you can re-imagine the plot and write your own ending. If you think the epilogue to Harry Potter was awful, write your own!

Diversity please: Fanfic writers often respond to the lack of diversity in mainstream media. It allows them to take universes and characters that they love and make them more diverse, inclusive, and reflective of how the world actually looks. I've seen more LGBT characters, characters of color, and women in fanfic than in most TV shows or YA novels, because fanfic authors don't have to worry about ratings or angry parents. In some ways, the best fanfic serves as a model for what truly inclusive storytelling can look like.

When you think about it, fanfiction is amazing.
There are literally thousands of young authors writing millions of stories, with no hope of publication or reward except the love of writing and the enjoyment of other fans. When you look at it that way, it's a beautiful thing, and I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to be involved.


Now that you're excited about fanfic, you're probably wondering where to start. Stay tuned for my next post, which will go over the lingo related to fanfic's biggest (and arguable strangest) component, shipping.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Great Bloomsday Read-A-Long Celebration


Hello dear followers, and welcome to our Bloomsday celebration. Today, June 16, is the day the events of Ulysses occur (yes, that whole huge awesome terrifying book takes place in one day). In honor of this momentous occasion, and in celebration of the characters Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus, we will be holding an incredibly relaxed, no-pressure, do-your-own-thing readathon.

Here's the plan:

We will spend the day reading Ulysses, and we encourage you to do the same. There is no pressure to read the whole book or anything like that, just read a bunch and enjoy yourself. Lori and I will be making sporadic posts throughout the day talking about our experiences with the book, our progress, and really anything else we want to talk about. If you would like to join us, please read the book and post about it, and then link up your posts here. Or, if you won't be reading but still feel like posting something about Joyce today, feel free to link that up too. Are you going to be celebrating at all? Did you once go to Dublin for Bloomsday and have a bunch of pictures you want to share? Do you out have a lot of feelings about Molly's chapter that you are just dying to rant about? Let us know!

Basically, if it's Joyce-related, we want to see it.

We hope that you will take some time out of your day to read at least some part of this monumental book, and that you will join us in celebrating both Joyce and his characters. We look forward to reading your posts. Happy Bloomsday!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ulysses Read-Along: Episodes



Hello all, and welcome back to the Ulysses read-along, hosted by me and Lori. How is the reading going so far? I know that I have personally been slacking off in a big way, mostly because I spent a week on my wedding/honeymoon (!!!) and am now working on moving into a new house (!!!). As you can probably guess, I've been a bit busy. But, have no fear, there is nothing that's going to stop me from rereading this book.

This week's vague and totally optional discussion topic asks you to focus on one episode. Which episode has been the most difficult for you? Which one has been the easiest? Was there one in particular that you really loved and enjoyed? Is there one that made you want to give up? If there's an episode that you need to talk about, now is the time to do it.

I don't know if I could personally pick a favorite chapter. I do remember that Oxen of the Sun nearly killed me the first time I read it. It's a famously difficult chapter stylistically, and it took me ages to even understand what was happening. It's one of those chapters where Joyce shows off just how talented of a writer he is and how much he knows about everything, making it difficult for us mere mortals to keep up. (Of course I had to give a presentation on it the next day, which didn't help.) so yeah, watch out for Oxen of the Sun. On the other hand, both the Circe and Eumaeus episodes made me cry, so you have that to look forward to as well.

I'd love to read all about your favorite / least favorite chapters. Please feel free to write up a post and link it up here on our I linky list. I look forward to it.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ulysses: Halfway Point and Encouragement


Hello all, and welcome back to our Ulysses read along. We took a small break last week because I was busy getting married (!!!), but now we're back with a vengeance. This week is our hypothetical halfway point, so we're focusing on encouragement, strategy, guides, and generally discussing our progress.

I know that Lori has been moving a bit slowly recently, and I personally have been so busy with wedding and honeymoon stuff (!!!) that I haven't really made any progress this week either. So please, share your progress with us. Where are you? How are you doing? Do you have any tips or tricks for those who are moving a little more slowly? Have you found a guide you particularly love or hate? Link up and let us know. In the mean time, please feel free to check out my post on guides if you are looking for a little something to help you through.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ulysses Read-Along: Surprises



Hi everyone, and welcome to week 3 of our Ulysses read-along. This week we're discussing anything we've found surprising so far. If you'd like to join us, please feel free to link up your post over at Lori's blog.

The thing that surprised me most about the beginning of Ulysses is how funny it is. I know that sounds weird, since it's a difficult and beautiful book and all that, but Joy is really a very witty guy, and it shows. The first two chapters are especially funny, mostly due to Buck Mulligan and his interactions with Stephen Dedalus. For instance, when looking out from the top of the tower that they live in, mulligan describes the ocean as "The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea," which is both a great description and a great parody of Homer's famous "the winedark sea." Later, when Stephen accuses Mulligan of insulting him earlier, Mulligan claims not to remember the conversation, as he can  "only remember ideas and sensations." But Stephen, the grumpy, artistic, depressed, pathetic, cynical, sad, lonely Stephen, can also be funny, in his own dry way. When asked his views on religion he answers, "You behold in me...a horrible example of free thought."

While the early chapters are the most likely to make me laugh, the chapters are also very funny. Near the end of the book Bloom and Stephen end up in a little coffee shack, where the coffee is apparently pretty bad. Here are the ways the narrator describes it:
"...a boiling swimming cup of a choice concoction labelled coffee..."
"...the cup of what was temporarily supposed to be called coffee..."
"...his untastable apology for a cup of coffee..."
"...his mug of coffee or whatever you like to call it..."
All of those are just tossed into the narration without any fuss. That's how the humor works in this book; it's subtle and witty and brilliant. There are so many instances of dramatic irony, inside jokes, neologisms, malapropisms, and just general weirdness, that despite the difficulty and complexity of the text, it never gets boring. There are lots of things that surprised me about Ulysses, but the humor has been what stands out to me the most.

Well, thanks for reading. Please feel free to make your own posts and link up over at Lori's blog. Keep on reading, and we'll see you next week!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ulysses Read-Along: First Impressions


Hello everyone, and welcome back to our Ulysses read along. This week's totally-optional discussion topic is first impressions. So, if you are reading this book for the first time, what are your impressions so far? If you've read it before, what did you think when you first picked it up? What are your thoughts upon picking it up again?

I can tell you that when I first read it, my first thoughts were a mix of "oh my gosh this is weird" and "but it isn't as weird as I expected, maybe I can do this." I also remember being struck by the beauty of some of the prose, especially in the first three chapters, which feature aspiring poet and generally mopey artist-type Stephen Dedalus. Joyce has this amazing ability to make his writing just sound good, on a purely auditory ear-pleasing level, and that really struck me at the beginning of this novel. Another thing that I noticed is that this book is secretly really funny. Joyce was incredibly witty, and it definitely shows in these first w chapters. Buck Mulligan especially is a really funny character.

But hey, enough about me, what about you? Let us know about your first impressions (or about anything else really, we aren't picky) by linking up to our little linky list.
I can't wait to read about it!