But enough about me.
I just reread this story--from an old fandom, by a writer who isn't likely to be reading this, so anyone who *is* reading this can put away their paranoia--which is good. It has a well thought-out plot, moves organically, gives proper characterization, and contains authentic details that clue you into all the author's research. It's long and meaty, but there are no extraneous scenes. The language is clear, precise, and descriptive. Overall, it has the stamp of canon. It's also a boring story. Reading a story like this is like watching a competent episode of your favorite show where nothing drastic happens to any of the characters, and we don't learn much about them we didn't already know: they converse, they copulate, they have small relationship insights, they eat meals, and we get to watch them clean the potatoes and grill the fish. Professionally, they do everything by the book--they don't drop their guns or kill anyone by accident, and their remarks about a case/mission/demon-hunt are more intelligent, detailed, and pertinent than you'd ever get in canon itself. If they get kidnapped, they try to reason with their captors. As a reader, you can never really fault the characters for what they do or say. If there's an argument about something, the tension is put to bed by the end. Emotions are...tidy. Sex comes at the end of the story, like clockwork, like punctuation. Even when it's slash, it feels like gen. Or maybe I should say: it feels like the dryest kind of gen.
So, there's nothing wrong with gen. I mean, for most shows, canon itself is "gen." It's written for a general audience; romantic relationships exist but might not be the primary thrust or A-plot--the driving mechanism--of a given episode or story. But I sometimes wonder what drives the authors of stories like this. (Of course, I should note again that this particluar example was a slash story; it just lacked the edge I usually associate with slash.) It's weird to me when fan stories seem to be taking fewer risks than the shows themselves; I've read stories by authors so scrupulous that they never color outside the lines. They're usually very good authors in terms of writing and plotting mechanics, but I can skim 90k of a story without once having my attention arrested, without tensing, without breaking a smile or snerking. I skim and skim and skim, and finish the story in seven minutes, and I don't feel like I've missed a thing.
Comedy excuses anything of course. If a story's funny, there's your point in writing it. But when you've got an interesting plot, it's usually only *really* interesting when it's working on the characters. And if you've got a relationship woven into the story, where's it going?
I'm not talking about shorter stories with a one-trick premise, or PWPs--nothing wrong with those--but the stories that obviously have ambitions to replicate canon, but lack spark, where the author is so careful to adhere to the creators' vision that she barely presents any vision of her own. There's no imprint of passion. No kink. (Gah. I can always drag the k-word into a discussion.) Fans can be more playful, and I think they should be; because with a show, we're at least getting real actors--we're getting their physical presence and their actorly nuances; we're seeing the story brought to life. In a written story, if you just replicate the bare, dry bones of a moderately interesting canon episode, but add no twist...what's the point?
If the point is *solely* to supplement a show, because we're hungry for more of the same, or because the show is off the air and we want it to continue indefinitely, I'm not sure that's enough. More of the same, without anything new and different, is like night after night of TV dinners. Filling, gets the job done, but no thrill of surprise.
Of course, sometimes it's just the writing qua writing. Sometimes the writing is just plain, has no new tricks. Transparent, competent, no-frills writing is serviceable for a lot of stuff, but if the writing is full of garnish and spice, it can disguise the more predictable elements of stories. Or dialogue--take early BtVS for example: some of those plots are ludicrous, but the dialogue shapes the characterizations and the episodes snap and zing.
It is raining, it is twelve o'clock, it is three and a half days till the weekend. Sigh.