Back Into the Fold

So I apologize for putting on the mod hat yesterday and kind of quelling the conversation that was going on in Wep's rant thread.  I feel there is a very important distinction to be made, and we were veering very close to a line I don't want to cross at Castle Inanity.  Is that censorship?  Oh yeah.  Do I care?  Yeah, I took about ten thousand media classes in college as a Mass Comm major and if I never get into a debate about censorship again, it will be TOO SOON, so any comments left about that will probably be ignored by me.  The argumentative guy that sat behind me and just liked to cause trouble for the sole purpose that he was a chaos vampire and kind of a d-bag besides has ruined it for all of you, I think, so my apologies on that.

But anyway, the rant on CI a couple of days ago led to an interesting conversation I found on Twitter (and it wasn't even Darth Razor--okay, no, I'm not calling him that, I refuse to besmirch the honor of the Sunnydale mascot...insert your own hyena joke here), so now I'm going to do a pro and con post.

My topic: is fanfiction insulting?

Wait, wait, wait, Frea, that's not right.  You're totally biased, and your audience is, too, since chances are, they came over to the blog as a fan of the CIA.  Excellent point, Frea's conscience.  Ooh, I could quote some people from Twitter...and now I'm just insulting people by being condescending.  I'll just try to be as fair and balanced as I can, but the bias IS probably going to come down on the side of fanfiction.  Feel free to leave any points I miss in the comments.

Is Fanfiction Insulting?

Yes - the characters aren't technically characters written by the writers of the show.

Frea's addendum - Man, I really, really, really don't want to keep insulting the writers of the show.  If you haven't seen my rant on the writers of S3, go search through the archives of ChuckThis for Ernie's post on Stories and Plots and Journeys.  

This is going to be hard.

Yes - the situations, characters, and everything created within is technically "wish fulfillment," as in something that would probably never happen on the show (ignoring the wonderful Morgan fic that was written between episodes 1 and 2 that was pretty prophetic...and actually a better alternative, in my opinion, to getting Jeff and Lester back.  Oh yeah, I went there).  Some people might find that insulting because "You're not happy with the show?" or "The show is not enough for you?"

Yes - Some fanfiction writers (none in the CIA) claim that they write the show characters better than the show writers. 

Frea's addendum - And it makes me facepalm to see that.  It's not a competition.

No - A lot of fanfiction writers write their stories because they love the show so much/the show has sparked an interest in them that they're telling fun stories based on the universe the writers have created.

Yes - I take constant potshots at the writers, although the best potshot of all time is from Tynianrex's Chuck vs. the Pond.  My favorite pot-shot at the writers from my own body of work is from Truth, Lies, and the CIA when Sarah claims that joining the CIA is not like joining a gang.  HA!

Frea's addendum - Whoops.  I said I wasn't going to insult the writers, I said I wasn't going to insult the writers--Final Exam--gangs--Red Tests--five year old intel being important enough to send Chuck on a first class ticket to Paris with Hugo Panzer for, bwhahahahahehehee.  Dang it, Frea, no insulting the writers!

No - No money or revenue is being made from fanfiction.  Castle Inanity, since it does post fanfiction up on the blog, has decided not to monetize their blog at all out of fairness to the show.  I can't say other blogs that write about the show/post reviews do that.

No - Fanfiction is a community.  Though we gripe about some writers and their treatment of our characters, for the most part, I think Castle Inanity and the forum boards on ff.net and the threads over at ChuckThis really do show that this is a community of writers that for the most part is interested in helping each other improve. Most of the fanfiction writers serve as a beta reader for others--I beta the wonderful Chuck vs the Simple Twist of Fate, mxpw betas for half the section.  At the end of the day, we're all here because we love the show.

There's about a thousand other points to be made, but I need to go and get ready for the day (yes, I just woke up, give me a break, it's Saturday).  I personally feel that as long as the writer respects the show (which I do, despite my inability to not insult Season Three, Seasons One and Two ROCKED), doesn't claim to be better than the writers, and isn't written solely to punish a character for things he/she felt were wrong with that character, fanfiction isn't insulting.  We're not replacing the show, we wouldn't want to.  Fanfiction writers are right there alongside everybody else, doing Chucktoberfest, buying Subway sandwiches, and watching the show on Monday nights to get ratings.

What IS insulting?

Saying all fanfiction writers suck.  Way to generalize, people.  Those are my friends you're insulting.



  1. Anonymous16.10.10

    You just woke up? I'm eating breakfast right now, so I really cannot judge. Beside my record for waking up late is 6 PM, so you'll get no judgement from me.

    Now, about the topic of this post. Someone said that all fanfiction writers suck? Who said that? We should gang up on them and scare them with our wit and obsessive randomness. What's that? CI is not a gang. I say if the show writers can forget that kind of minor detail, we can too.

    It's true that there is a lot of bad and mediocre fanfictions out there (mine included), just like there is a lot of bad television (a lot of reality shows come to mind) and a lot of terrible books and movies. Obviously thought it is not the case of all fics or I would not be posting here. There are gems out there too, you just have to dig for them.

    To me, unless the content of a fic is somehow offensive (racist, anti-semitic etc), that fic even if it is badly written is a great compliment. It means that someone took the time and energy to pay homage to your original work. How can this be insulting?

    Great post as always. Oh and happy belated birthday! Your a libra, just like me. Libra rock! As you can tell, I am a completely objective person.


    P.S.: The progress bar for chapter 41 is killing me ;). So near and yet so far away... Gah, I can't wait!

  2. you make me happy, that is all...and I'm glad you're feeling better by getting this off your chest & in doing so have made me happy...which I've already said :)

  3. I didn't realize there was a little Twitter controversy going on about fanfiction until I read this. And now that I've seen it, I'm a little insulted myself. Generalizing that all fanfiction is atrocious is just plain degrading. I feel like half the people who come to that conclusion have either had bad experiences with fanfiction or never found (or maybe never even bothered to find) the gems that make it all worthwhile. Making the assumption that all fanfiction sucks is basically saying that something you put a LOT of time and effort and thought into is completely worthless. Maybe it's not aimed directly at you, but it still stings. And that's why generalization sucks.

  4. Yey! Somebody noticed my little rant on the writers of the show, using Casey to vent some frustration! I nearly take that remark out of the original draft, I didn't want people to think that I consider myself a better writer than anyone (which I'm not) or that I can make a better job than the writers of the show (which I can't). I was originally going to add a little remark from Casey, stating that since the 2.0 appeared, the quality of the scripts sere decaying, but it was forcing the fourth wall a bit too much, even if it worked in the context of the fic.
    As for the twitter controversy, since I don't use twitter, is there a way of reading said controversy?

  5. Anonymous16.10.10

    Oh for Heavens sake! some people need to grow up. If they don't like fanfic then they shouldn't read it! Of course some of it stinks! A lot of it doesn't. So long as it is properly rated (and I get a warning if Chuck is a ghost...ahem... Nightmares from that one!)

    I would buy a book written by Frea or mxpw, for example, without hesitation. People learn to write it is not something they are born knowing. Fanfic is a good place to practice the craft!

  6. Argh, just deleted my huge rant.

    okay basic gist of it cos I am NOT retyping it.

    1)Chuck is a TV show. It is desgined to entertain. If you are not being entertained you can complain to a friend, complain online, or take it that huge leap further and write up a whole story about how you want it to be. I don't really see the difference.

    That being said:

    2) Fanfic is reactive writing. We are given characters then use them. Therefore no one can ever claim their fic is better than whatever the show's producers are cranking out because tough cookies you didn't imagine Chuck.

    Overall, you need to remember when you read a fanfic that someone has taken the time of day to imagine up new situations and post it, so regardless of whether or not it's comletely self indulgent or written like a 3 year old, it's a product of someone's passion for Chuck.

    My original rant was more eloquent, but I type slowly and frustrate easily, so this is as good as it gets.

  7. Anonymous - Whoa, really? In that case, hold on, let me dig through my archives... :P

    In all seriousness, thank you. And you are right, fanfic IS a great place for a writer to practice writing. It should not be the only place or tool they use to learn, but it can be very beneficial. Plus, it's one of the few ways a person can get criticism from an impartial reading public.

    I will never understand the people who insult fanfic. And the irony of one group of obsessive nerds insulting another group of obsessive nerds is terribly amusing to me.

  8. @mxpw you make a good point. I am reading some things on writing, but what else would you suggest.

  9. Ayefah17.10.10

    Alana, you hit the nail on the head. Fanfic isn't a competition with canon or done in contempt, except perhaps for very rare cases of utterly vicious satire. It's an outgrowth of the show, existing alongside it and making the show better for the fans who participate in it. The experience of watching/reading canon becomes deeper, more detailed, and more meaningful because it's become a social one.

    The fandom hive mind can come up with theories, speculation, and canon explanations that no one person could figure out on his or her own. And for heaven's sake, it's a community formed out of a shared love, no different than any other hobbyists' club.

    The whole thing is a cycle of gifts - the artwork gives the audience the gift of inspiration, the audience gives fellow audience members the gift of fanwork, and the fandom gives gifts of fic and reviews back and forth, forming connections that have nothing to do with pecuniary interests and everything to do with that originating love. As long as the gift keeps travelling all around, the community bonds grow deeper and stronger and wider, making them more and more emotionally meaningful.

    So yes, we obsess about our shows. We yell at the TV and scream our outrage when the writing goes wrong. But we'll also squee like crazy people when the writing is good, and even on an ordinary day we'll be talking and writing and growing that fandom web of interpersonal connections, because we love the damn show. Our whining is an act of devotion, dammit. :P

    Eventually the show may stop giving the gift of inspiration, and that's when a fandom can descend into wank or just dry up and fade away. (Or if it's closely bonded enough, it might just keep going on its own on the love it's generated over time.) But don't tell me I'm not allowed to talk back to my TV - the best thing fandom has done for me is making me refuse to be a TV-watching zombie, just taking input without thinking for myself. Why should I? Because TV writers are my overlords or something? As Harry Dresden would put it, "And again I say unto thee: bite me."

  10. BDaddyDL - It may sound trite to say, but the best way to learn to write is really two things: You must practice and you must read. If you do those two things, and you do them often, you will gradually improve as a writer.

    I've been reading incessantly since I was like six years old. I haven't really stopped. It's why I studied English in college. It's why I became a writer. I learned so much just from reading (spelling, vocabularly, sentence structure, etc.). Through reading I learned about writing. You pick up aspects of style, you get inspired, you discover new techniques, all by reading books by other writers. So if you want to be a better writer, you need to read. Pick a few authors you really like and admire and study what they do.

    Then practice. Like anything, really, the only way to get better at something is to do it over and over again. Write constantly. Fanfic, original stories, letters, whatever. Always be writing. And, this is important, revise! The only way to get better is to write something, and then to revise it. That's part of the practice aspect.

    And that's why fanfic can be so beneficial, especially to a writer newly starting out. For the newbie, fanfic can kinda be like riding a bike with training wheels at times. The characters are already created, the plot is established, a lot of the work is done for you. It's not so daunting for a newbie to write fanfic. It's good practice. For somebody like myself, fanfic can also be a challenge, for all the same reasons it can be a benefit to a newbie. I have to figure out how to tell the story I want to tell, while dealing with the fact that a lot of my playground is already built. A person with more experience can see fanfic as a way to study character (learning the ins and outs of a character, mastering their motivations), experimenting with plot, learning how to tell a good, coherent story, being consistent and working within the constraints of a universe (this is an important lesson for any person hoping to write fiction), etc.

    I don't really have any books to recommend you, DL. Search the Internet. Pay attention to Frea's Roundups, where she posts links to writing blogs, read other authors, practice, study your own habits and find out ways to improve upon them.

    Ayefah - Don't really have any comment other than "Yeah, what she said." Also, plus ten points for a Harry Dresden reference.

  11. Anonymous17.10.10

    I'm just going to go ahead and throw out a point here, based on comments and quips I've heard people say in 'real life'; Don't a lot of people generalise based on *who* they think is writing, not *what* is being written.

    I didn't see the twitter conversation (link?) but a fair amount of people (who haven't ever read fanfic) generalise based on their perceptions of who is writing (and to be fair, if you weren't in the fanfic 'loop', as it were, it's probably fairly easy to form an opinion on people who spend their time writing stories based on imaginary situations... online) and don't bother reading the stuff.

    It's certainly not fair to say that all fanfic writers are bad, but then I don't think all fanfic writers join fanfiction because they enjoy writing - some just really enjoy the show/film/book and want to extend that universe. A form of escapism, if you please. But then surely, this is fantastic! It encourages people to take up another form of art, to develop their writing and read that of others.

    I'd have to agree with Ayefah, in that the very fact that fanfiction exists shows a devotion to the show/film/book, and that in itself is a compliment, whether or not the writing sucks.

  12. For the record, I'm not going to post the twitter conversation that started this. One, I'm not deliberately writing it at those people and I don't want to attack anybody at the blog, I just wanted to write a general post and got snarky toward them a little bit, and two, I'm pretty sure they don't care, so bothering them is pointless. Three, I don't want to give them space on my blog, honestly.

    However, I love the points everybody is making because I completely agree. Also, I want Ayefah on my debate team if I ever form one.

    Like I said, it really just makes me sad to hear "fanfiction writers suck!" or "fanfiction is insulting to the show!" For precisely all of the reasons listed here.

  13. Ayefah17.10.10

    Also, I want Ayefah on my debate team if I ever form one.

    Woot! Professional arguing school pays off at last!

    And don't be sad, Frea. Fandom is so enormous now it counts as its own mainstream. The deliberately ignorant "ew, nerds" types are being left behind.

    I actually have mixed feelings about the increased visibility of fanwork, but it's more because of copyright and the danger being posed to the deliberate countercultural bent of fanwork than because some a-holes are laughing at us. At the end of the day, we get it and they don't, and when we watch TV we're having way more fun than they are.

  14. Ayefah17.10.10

    And because I can never, ever stop talking, a few more things:

    Yes, people laugh at fanfic because of who they think is writing: Teenage girls. Well, fuck that sexist noise. And fuck the mockery of stereotypical sci-fi and comics fandom based on contempt for geeky boys.

    I was writing before about fanwork existing in tandem and thriving because of the mass media work it's based on. Well, that doesn't mean we love the culture it's coming from. Most of this stuff is being written by WASP guys from a culture of WASP guys that can sometimes get pretty insular. Sure, it speaks to the rest of us anyway, but fanwork is also about making it speak in our voice. It's about reclaiming characters who are female, non-white, LGBT, disabled, or otherwise marginalized, or even adding in those characters if none exist. It's making this media part of our world, not just a transmission from Mainstream-Land. It's about putting our voices in there because they aren't represented in the first place, and making these shows and books and movies our own.

    So yes, a lot of the instinctive fear and derision is about who's writing the fic. Because we aren't supposed to be the writers; we're supposed to be the subject of the writing, and the invisible and compliant readers.

    That's why the mainstreaming of fic sometimes bothers me - because fandom is our world, a place where ideally, we don't have to explain ourselves or constantly fight against the constant tide of Dude-dom that exists in the outside world. Fandom exists because it's outside and counter to the mainstream cultural talk that it appropriates, and by its nature needs to stay there.

    What bothers me when outsiders laugh at fandom isn't their opinion - they're assholes anyway - but the fact that they're entering our radar in the first place. Fandom is deliberately built to be a place where we can get away from that crap. They shouldn't even be part of our conversation, because we have nothing to prove or justify to them.

  15. Sparky18.10.10

    Frea,i'm going to disagree with you because you still didn't post 41 :)

    TPTB occasionally showed the darker side of Chuck's world. CIA and NSA, ordered his termination at least once.

    If James Bond has to kill 2 poeple to attain 007 status,it's plausible that there is a red test. Granted,it wasn't a direction i liked-angst,more angst! Gah!- but consistent.

    Though the red test is pointless in Chuck's case,he will refuse to follow orders.So it really was useless as a plot device. Luckily for him, the theme of the show became lighter.We haven't seen any "red op."s.

    The uncertainty of the show's future is probably cause of the theme change.It wasn't just Chuck: Sarah changed her outlook on spy life too.

    Fanfiction world has insulting regions. In some fandoms,a few writers dislike the-Buffyverse comes to mind- producers but afaik,that's it.

  16. Anonymous18.10.10

    When I read all this trash talk the only person I can think of who could possibly bad mouth fanfic would be Magnus. I've read better fic in the last year than anything that was ever written on the show. Magnus, for whatever reason, has a particular hatred towards anyone either fanfic related or what he calls "crazy shippers". Which don't really exist, IMHO. His blog and webcast are probably the dumbest things on the web to date. His "crazy shippers" that he refers to are probably all of ten people and probably most of him are generated by his crackpot posts. Anywho, keep up the good work Frea and friends.


  17. Ayefah18.10.10

    I have to disagree there. Crazy 'shippers do exist and they are deeply terrifying. Chuck fandom is totally amateur at that, though. You're not really crazy until you start breaking f-lock, cry oppression when someone doesn't agree with you, and publishing your opponents' RL names and contact info.


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