Friday, February 13, 2004

A matter of character

As one of my hobbies, I write SF/Fantasy stories. Three years ago, I started a new longish (by now well over the 40k word limit that SFWA considers to be novel length - even if 100k is more like what appears in books these days) story, and it's now getting to the point where the two separate narratives running through it were supposed to meet. The storyline, set in a rolling "next October" has survived the significant world events, but is proving more susceptible to the way the characters have developed. In particular, the one main character who knows how to bring the two strands together now has a strong plausible reason for moving rapidly in the opposite direction. *sigh*

It's at this point that I saw (and succumbed to) the lure of fanfic - the characters are already well established, and can be taken as given, so you have a much better idea from the outset how to set things up so that they will respond appropriately. It also saves the writer all the overheads of establishing character - something that also makes works in this genre incomprehensible to those who've not partaken of the original source - and being free-standing, I could knock up in a single Sunday afternoon a piece that is as long as the second half of a chapter I've been bogged down on for months.

While familiarity is part of the appeal of fanfic - you've exhausted the official material, so you provide yourself with more of the same in simple extrapolation, there is of course interpolation as well, as in the most notorious of the first Star Trek fanfic, in the "slash" sub-genre - not that it's been kept to the activities of the Captain and his First Officer. I remember with amusement a couple of years back when the BBC Radio 4 early evening arts programme, Front Row, did a feature on Harry Potter fanfic (to coincide with the release of the first movie) including a slightly boggled mention of Harry/Draco slash fiction. [Mind you, that boggles me too...].

And while women are amusing themselves writing slash, one then stumbles across the flip-side in the form of shoujo-ai or yuri. The introductory manifesto on one such site does make a pertinent case for the popularity of the form - romantic fiction where it's not Hugh Grant/Ben Affleck/etc. ad naus. that ends up with the girl.

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