katallison talks about the tribulations of tight POV, as for instance when you're writing third-person POV for Benton Fraser: do you keep referring to him as "Fraser" or do you use "Ben"? (Or to put it in BtVS terms: do you write "Giles" or "Rupert"?) I think it can be hard on a reader to accept "Ben", because we almost never hear people calling Fraser "Ben" on the show. You kind of have to decide whether to please the character by using his self-identity markers as you imagine them to be (Benton Fraser would think: "I am Benton." or "I am Ben."), or pleasing the reader, who is not really on a first-name basis with Fraser.
Do we even think of ourselves by our names? In our heads, I mean? I don't go around thinking of myself as "Anna." It's like how we often don't use the names of people we're close to--spouses, relatives, friends. The familiarity is so profound that we don't need to mark identity by constant affirmations of address: "Betty, could you grab that plate? Thanks, Betty! Oh, Betty, I know what you mean!"
Of course, in fiction it's all just stylistic convention or the nature of the beast--in third-person, you have to make a choice. In first-person, you move right into a character's brain, and get that nameless "I, I, I," which is one-size-fits-all.
By way of metablog, there's a link to a post by lolaraincoat, with the question of what defines fan-fiction. I think the definition placing it in the current cultural context of copyright issues is a good and alliterative one, but it does remind me that copyright isn't meant to be permanent, and that there may be areas of slippery overlap for "derivative works" and "literature" and "published works" and "fan works." Like, who's to say a fan work might not be more literary than a published work--there's literary fan-fiction out there--and what if the Supreme Court suddenly decided that copyright expired in one decade instead of seven, and what if a writer's "fan-fiction" was merely defined that way because it was amateur and hadn't been published yet?
I don't know if these thoughts have any real significance. I mean, despite all this, I'm not sure I've seen any fan-fiction that's comparable, in a historical and literary context, to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Has anyone else? I mean, seriously--I know there's Bible slash and other fringe stuff out there, so it's not as if some people aren't tackling high-end source material.
Mintwitch has written more QAF, a piece called insouciant, and is giving me happies.
Deb talks about writing, and quotes Laura Shapiro about "messy vidders versus clean vidders," a concept that may be fuzzy but which translates well to fiction. We've probably all seen those discussions before: the ones about writers who write from the gut--who, if successful, grab you by the balls and don't let go--versus writers who execute professional plots and adhere to canonical standards. I'm creating false dichotomies with that word "versus" of course. People can in theory do both. But having personally written stories in both styles (messy = Subtleties, clean = Sidelines sequels), I do think there can be a difference.
I want people to tell me: what type of stories do you think you write? Or do you write both, and if so, which are which? Or are some stories both at the same time? How? Who are some other "messy" and "clean" writers? Stories? What do those terms even mean to you, or are they meaningless?
At a slight remove from my friends list, ivyblossom thinks aloud about why she writes slash. acadine, in response, talks about the responsibility of writers, especially slash writers, to own their writing and to work against stereotypes (with a rather provocative tone to the post, to say the least, so beware her warnings), and in a three-degrees-of-separation response, alara_r is prompted to post a somewhat mistitled "slash rant" (she's not anti-slash, so untwist your knickers ahead of time) about staying true to characterization, no matter what the gender.
It's all a big kerfuffle, waiting to happen! Whee!
I'm kidding. I hope. I thought there were interesting thoughts sprinkled throughout all the posts.
In particular, acadine had some good points--most of them buried within the dense thicket of her anger, which I'm going to ignore because it'd just drag down discussion. But this comment grabbed me:
No one really seems comfortable bringing up the notion that, perhaps, the reason many female readers aren't interested in female characters is because they don't like females or don't like being female; or that just maybe the reason these straight women like the idea of slash so much is that, really, they'd kind of like to have a dick and be able to fuck people with it and get blowjobs. These are not arguments I have seen very much of.Me, I know lots of people who have echoed these ideas; some on private lists, some on public mailing lists, some in LJ, some at fan cons. Not so much the misogyny, of course. I think we probably all have it to some degree--like racism, homophobia, and xenophobia, misogyny is one of those cultural attitudes that gets baked into our personalities as they form, and can be hard to dig out without causing the whole self to crumble--but we don't want to admit we have it, because it's a provocative declaration, easily misunderstood. And it's so complex that not many of us want to drag the topic into everyday chat. Misogyny is an attitude you can only self-reflect about or discuss with your therapist. Yeah, other people can analyze your writing and try to demonstrate your misogyny, but in the end it comes down to you.
No one ever brings up the idea that, well, if you are so uncomfortable writing about "your" sexuality because it's so "personal", it just might not be your sexuality after all, or you might not be so comfortable with it, or that might not be the person you are anymore.
Anyway, the second point was discomfort with one's own sexuality. And as mentioned I've seen plenty of slash writers admit to this. A lot of us know that we're self-removed from what we're writing about, and that this might reflect something about us. But then again, it's all about how you want to look at it. Maybe for some writers, slash is a vehicle through which their negative sexual issues get expressed. But a lot of people might simply write slash the way they'd write any other type of fiction; not all fiction that gets written is a thinly veiled autobiography of self-insertion--or self-omission. Writers don't necessarily choose to write a male protagonist to erase their own female identity, or write a children's book because they can't face adulthood, or whatever. And even if they are expressing something about themselves, it's in the nature of writing itself to do so to some degree, to reflect yourself, because you write all your characters as an expression of your own experience, human nature, and empathy. And acadine in fact affirms this point well.
Aside from that though, as I think I've said before, I personally am coming to believe that writing erotica can itself be an erotic expression, a kind of orientation or sexual preference--maybe I'm scriptosexual before I'm bisexual. Maybe that's my primary pleasure, by de facto lack of a "real" sex life, or by subtle choice, in the way I construct my life. Does writing erotica have to say something about my sexual "lack"?
Of course, slash is an erotic genre, in large part. So the sexual issue becomes something we think about. But do we really want to make a practice of analyzing every slash story with a view to how it reflect's the author's own sexual issues? I for one would say: hell no. If it's a good story, I don't think of the author at all. If it's a bad story, that's usually a writing issue, and I have plenty of other grounds on which to dismiss it. If it's a story that says: "Here is my BDSM agenda thinly disguised as a story about Jim and Blair, through which you can see, as through a pane of clear glass, exactly what I do in the bedroom with my husband," then okay. I'm scared now. But I don't run across a lot of stories like that. I choose to run away instead.
But okay, leave squicky sex aside. It's probably the more subtle forms of socio-sexual discomfort that we're familiar with: the way some writers will cast female characters in the role of best supporting harpy, for instance. My impression is that most of us will take such bad writing examples on a story-by-story basis, without doing a critical analysis of slash at large. Does that make us to any degree complicit? Should we be political and socially conscious about our hobby, our fun, about fandom? I think it's okay to talk about it, actually, to be critical--I mean, of course it is. But for me it's always going to be about how you present your ideas. If you throw the term "shitty writer" around, you're basically just another monkey flinging its poo, and people aren't going to be interested.
The third point, that women might want to have a dick and fuck a guy--that's a non-issue for me. So what? I get the sense that acadine would say the same, that we all might have this fantasy now and then, but that the real problem is with writers who can't admit to that, and who have a case of Freudian thwartedness, of classic penis envy, and who are therefore filled with bitter rage against their deficit bodies, and who thus must go forth and write crap slash fiction.
But since we aren't telepaths, and we aren't professionally therapizing each other for fifty minutes each week, I think theorizing along those lines and taking one's conclusions seriously is pretty specious.
Well, that was fun.
Meanwhile, beth666ann makes oodles of popslash recs, many of which I haven't read, so now I've got a reading list, because the excerpts look great.
runpunkrun wrote a new Smallville story, Domestic Relations, which is, um, also on my reading list because I'm at work! Yes, I'm at work and I'm writing this, but I am going to make myself defer reading until later. Plus, I was here at work until after nine last night, so anyone who works in my office who is reading this, stop making me feel paranoid! You're driving me frickin' crazy! (Oh, wait, that's just my brain. And P., who is like an extension of my brain and who keeps walking by my desk while I'm slacking off on the job. Cut it out!)
anaxila thrashes and mocks the badness of a tie-in Queer as Folk novel. I had no idea there even was one. I can't quite wrap my mind around it.
And to conclude...this randomness, I've added josselin and silviakundera to my list, discovering that they're into QAF and are writing a lot of interesting posts about it, which you should go browse through.