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In fic-related news I find it endlessly fascinating what I consider ATG/OOC in AUs (or even just UAs/canon divergences), versus what I’m prepared to go along with.

Like… I’ve read some totally wild and wacky AUs that still “clicked” for me as being Yes, That’s Definitely Still Them while others, even if they’re technically more adept, fall short because they’re missing The Things. What are The Things? We may never truly know! But they are!

This Hot Take brought to you by one-too-many interesting, well-written, very hot fics that seem to just… fall apart in the third act because they don’t address That Canon Thing (You Know The One) in a way that makes the whole thing retrospectively feel serials-filed-on-ish. Like, okay. You took Generic Romance Novella 2083, slapped some canon names on it, rewrote a few minor scenes… but couldn’t structurally alter the denouement enough to really bring things home.

And actually writing it out this way has made me realize that what I probably mean is that the AUs that work for me essentially adapt the canon’s A Plot into the fic’s B Plot (since the fic’s A Plot is usually a romance). But fics that don’t successfully manage this, even if their characterization is otherwise pretty good, just… (sad trombone sound)

2019-12-12T18:16:38+11:0030th March, 2020|Tags: fanfic, writing|

Commercial media: Explosion! Fight scene! Car chase! Character X and Character Y Let’s You And Him Fight! Now they team up! More explosions! The whole galaxy explodes! Nothing will ever be the same!!!!!

Fanfic: Old friends, Character X and Z, retire to a remote cabin because of Reasons. Thing are tense because of That Incident! Can they spend 200,000 words slowly re-learning to love themselves, and each other? Now they’re hugging. I’m not crying, you are.

2020-01-06T07:31:36+11:0020th December, 2019|Tags: fandom, fanfic, pop culture|

Random things that bug me in fic.

Greatest Hits from Random Things That Bug Me In Fic:

  • Fics set in New York where people constantly brush up against each other.
  • Pinching. Of any kind.
  • That’s not how encryption works!
  • That’s not how RFID works!
  • That’s not how the government works!
  • That’s not how the military works!
  • That’s not how computers work!
  • That’s not how the Vikings worked!
  • That’s not how skyscrapers work!
  • That’s not how the publishing industry works!
  • That’s not how Michelin-star restaurants work!
  • That’s not how Australia works!
  • That’s not even Russian, bro.
  • THAT’S NOT EVEN COFFEE BRO!!!!!

And how could I forget my All-Time Ultimate Nitpick OTP:

  • That’s not how pronoun-antecedent agreement works!

 

2019-08-06T10:06:23+10:005th December, 2019|Tags: fandom, fanfic, writing|

Hot Tips For Writing Tech in Fic

RFID

RFID tags are not GPS devices. Most of them (passive RFID, i.e. the sort in your credit cards and pets) don’t “broadcast” per se and require a nearby reader to operate.

Powered RFIDs require a separate battery and antennae, generally have a fairly short range (few hundred meters, max), and are orders of magnitude larger than passive devices.

Cryptography

There’s no such thing as “military-grade encryption.” There are military standards for encryption (most notably FIPS 140), but they generally just specify algorithms and configurations. In this the Year Of Our Annuit Cœptis 2019, most modern consumer-grade technology comes with FIPS-compliant crypto configurations by default (e.g. Windows Bitlocker, macOS FileVault, iOS, etc.). It’s very difficult to “hack” but if you put a shit password in front of it, you’re still boned.

Incidentally, the “military-grade cryptography” thing is (asides from being a marketing buzzword) a hold-over from the pre-2000s era, when the US government did have export restrictions on certain cryptographic algorithms, effectively to deny anyone who wasn’t the US access to crypto the US could not hack.

These restrictions (mostly) ended when tech activists started getting tattoos depicting restricted crypto code, usually RSA implementations, effectively turning themselves into “restricted munitions” and tl;dr the laws got challenged and rendered unenforcable. Also, the internet happened.

Nowadays, some restrictions do still exist, but they’re fairly specific and almost never what anyone who uses terms like “military-grade encryption” is actually talking about.

2019-06-26T14:36:17+10:0028th April, 2019|Tags: fanfic, profic, tech, writing|

Market fandom.

So I’ve mentioned before in various places that I do, in fact, actively write fanfic under a Sekret Alias1 that I keep separate for Reasons. The main relevant thing about Sekret Alias is that it’s my relaxation space; it has pretty much no social media presence, and I do nothing to actively promote the fics I write and post there, to “network” in fandom spaces,2 or whatever. Because all of that stuff is the stuff I find exhausting and disheartening about profic, so gods know I don’t want to do any of it in my downtime.
(more…)

  1. I’ve mentioned the name of it in public, out loud, exactly once. And if you think you’ve figured it out, and ask me about it in private, I’ll confirm it, probably. No one ever has. []
  2. I do respond to comments on AO3, mostly, and emails and asks and similar direct communications. []
2019-02-13T10:58:39+11:0013th February, 2019|Tags: fandom, fanfic, profic|

Nonflict.

Rachel Manija Brown on story without conflict.

I’m always really (a-har) conflicted by these sorts of posts, because on the one hand I agree—I love quiet scenes and cutrainfic and so on—but, on the other, I think in some respects they sell the notion of “conflict” itself short. Yes, there is an over-emphasis on superficial external conflict (e.g. violence, arguments) in a lot of media nowadays, see pretty much every action movie, for example. But, also, I think it’s possible for subtler forms of conflict to exist within a narrative, including metatextual conflict between the narrative and itself, the narrative and other works, or the narrative and the reader.

Brown mentions the “secret garden” genre, for example, as one that tends to be without conflict. But I’d argue that the attraction of the secret garden is, in fact, rooted in a metatextual conflict in this latter sense. That is, it’s the conflict between the reader’s unfulfilled desire for their own secret garden and the fact that the protagonist has one that the reader, by the very action of reading, intrudes upon and eventually takes over (by subsuming the book, and thus the garden, into their own memories).

Curtainfic, meanwhile, is a work that’s almost always in conflict with its own source material. A solid third of all fics tagged curtainfic on the AO3, for example, are in the Supernatural fandom, with the next biggest chunk coming from the MCU. These are not canons known for their fluffy domesticity! As someone who loves a curtainfic, and particularly loves its Villains Out Shopping subtrope, I can assert the fun in both reading and writing these scenarios is definitely in exploring the conflict their quiet mundanity presents against either the canon or the characters. (See also: why villain/antihero/antagonist fandoms tend to be full of “fluffy” memes.)

Like Roadhog and his pachimari.

For another, related, example, see any time anyone trots out kishōtenketsu as a “story without conflict” trope… and then proceed to give a handful of examples all of which include some kind of conflict. The fact that the conflict is usually framed as the story presenting contrasting narrative elements, with the conflict between them occurring within the reader’s head as a kind of dialectic—as opposed to direct “on the page” action—does not, in fact, actually mean the narrative is “without conflict”. But, like. Good luck getting anyone to admit that.

“But, Alis!” you might be thinking. “What you’re describing is contrast, not ‘conflict’. You’ve even used the word multiple times!”

Yeah. And what I’d argue is that, in almost all circumstances, when people talk about “conflict” in the context of narrative what they actually mean to talk about is contrast (a.k.a. tension). Two random characters having a fight is conflict, but it isn’t narratively interesting unless you’re one of those people who nuts to mechanized descriptions of fight scenes.1 Two characters having a fight over differing ideologies, on the other hand, is interesting, particularly when each side has some valid points and the audience themselves is engaged with attempting to determine who to root for and why. This is also why so many “popcorn villains” are so flat and kinda bullshit.

Think about, say, Strickland in Shape of Water, for example, who is pretty much the epitome of an uncompelling antagonist. This isn’t the fault of Michael Shannon, who does great; it’s because in the context of the narrative Strickland is just a one-note bad guy. He’s a bigot who hates the fish man! Okay, well… good on him, I guess. But the reality is Strickland could be replaced by literally anything else—including nothing at all—and the film’s conflict would remain the same. Why? Because the conflict in the film isn’t “oh no gubba gonna getcha fish, gurl”. It’s “ahaha in every other story like this the fish guy is either evil, or dies, or turns human at the end”. It’s a metatextual conflict, in other words, between the audience and their expectations for the genre. This is also, incidentally, why I thought the film was kinda meh; because I read a lot of monster romance, I have no genre expectation of the narrative going in any way other than “girl fucks fish man”. Because that’s how monster romances work!2 Which means the actual narrative itself felt empty in the “superficial conflict no contrast/tension” way.3 Also, the romance was really flat. Like, really flat.

I did look pretty, though. So… there’s that I guess.4 Also, it won a bunch of Oscars, which just goes to show why narrative conflict is such a minefield, since it leans so heavily on being able to anticipate the mental/emotional states of your audience…

  1. No judgement, you do you. []
  2. Except when they’re, like, “boy fucks fish man”, or “girl fucks eldritch horror”, or “enby shares non-sexual intimacy with demon”, or whatever. []
  3. Also see: the Obvious Hints that Sally is also, in fact, a fish monster. Meaning the story isn’t even “girl fucks fish man”, it’s “fish woman fucks fish man” which… eeeeeh. []
  4. Though don’t get me started on the whole “sassy Black best friend with deadbeat husband” and “tragic queer uncle” tropes because, ugh. What is it about del Toro films and throwing intersectionality under the goddamn bus? []
2018-11-26T08:10:31+11:0023rd September, 2018|Tags: fandom, fanfic, film, pop culture, writing, xp|
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