this is gonna be weird

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sat Nov 20 19:22:52 EST 2004


Ven wrote

>>Mind you I have the same reaction to all
>>those sequels by another hand that crop up.
>>Someone in the Guardian the other week was
>>writing about Peter Pan sequels and said they
>>thought it was akin to treating Peter like a used
>>tea bag which you were trying to make another pot
>>out of, which struck me as rather apt. And now
>>I'm imagining a great deal of indignation being
>>aimed in my direction......... it is not a matter
>>of old teabags I hear you saying but of taking a
>>recipe and making something new from the
>>ingredients........ or some other analogy
>>altogether.

and Katta replied

>It *can* be old teabags. Let's not kid ourselves. Just like sequels (whether
>by the same author or a new one), or long-running TV-shows, or whatever,
>things can run dry.

The later "Saint" books seem to me to be a classic example; they ran out of
puff quite seriously.

>But I think it's important to remember that a lot of fanfic originates from
>things like TV shows and comics, where it's in the nature of the original
>version not only to have many stories, but to have many stories written by
>different people. And when things space out (as they tend to do) fans not
>only go, "wait a minute, what kind of crack is this writer on?" but also
>"*I* have a better grip on the characters than that!"

I once had the interesting experience of inheriting the writing of a comic
in which one central character had been created by someone else and quite
thoroughly motivated by the first writer, and two further central
characters had appeared but not been quite so fully fleshed out.  I found
the central character very difficult indeed to write: I was always looking
at her from outside, as it were, rather than knowing what she would feel
about something.  The other two rapidly became people I knew well enough to
write from the inside, but she never did in the space of more than two
years.  She remained almost cardboard try I never so hard, whilst they
developed.

>It's not impossible to write fanfic based on a one-person, high-quality
>work, but it's a lot more difficult and requires a certain amount of hubris.
>My ideal source for fanfic is something I find "promising but shoddy" -
>something that *needs* to be reworked.
>Yes, damn it, I'm Ted Mallory. (Though I don't have his materialistic
>outlook. I hope.)

There are some secondary characters in some books whom I feel need rescuing
and giving their own stories.  I shan't give examples because it wouldn't
be fair, but it sometimes feels as if there ought to be a Society for the
Protection of Spear-Carriers (to take the word from Alexei Panshin's *Rite
of Passage*).

>>I've tried Buffy fanfic, some stuff by a friend
>>(who isn't on this list but I won't specify
>>further) read a few Star Trek novels and picked
>>up some of the conventions (Mary Sues, canon and
>>so on). I've even written some, way back in my
>>teens, before we knew anyone else has thought of
>>it, my friends and I used to while away boring
>>lessons with rambling stories about Dr Who and
>>Star Trek.
>
>Well, then. You've written fanfic. You obviously had some reason for that.
>*grin* Do you think, because you've since stopped enjoying it, that your
>reason wasn't somehow similar to other people's reasons?

Maybe the difference is that when it's a group of friends doing this, in
isolation and not knowing that they are part of A Movement, it is a group
activity and not being taken all too seriously outside the immediate group.
Once it starts to be a "genre" and discussed in a serious way, it gets
altogether more "important" than it really deserves?  Like people who filk
starting to be concerned about copyright and ownership of songs, when let's
face it most of what's being done is not really all that wonderful unless
you are part of the group having fun doing it, and really doesn't need
protecting because nobody in his or her right mind would bother to steal
it?  I think what bothers me is probably the potential for self-importance,
combined with a sort of "it's as good as anything else" attitude that
simply is rubbish: some of it may be but most of it isn't.

>>I'm going to fall into a trap here so I'll just
>>point out that I know it, I'm going to say that
>>if it's "proper fiction" it's not fanfic........
>>I see a difference between mnaking new fiction by
>>taking communal cultural artifacts like Norse
>>gods and the mad wife in the attic (even a
>>specific mad wife in a particular attic)  and
>>using somebody else's teabags.
>
>So you consider the Peter Pan sequels "teabags" but the Wild Sargasso Sea
>"not teabags"? How does that figure? I mean, Peter Pan is pretty much a
>cultural artifact by now. Certainly as much as Alice in Wonderland - does
>that make Coraline "teabags"?

I'm sure DWJ and you both really mean *Through the Looking Glass and What
Alice Found There*, not *Alice in Wonderland*, when putting it in the same
category as *Coraline*.  She says she thought that was what she had said,
and that they changed it for the back-cover blurb and got it wrong.

No, it doesn't, is the short answer. I read *Coraline* in draft without
ever once having any urge to say "Oh come on Neil this is just Alice given
a makeover"; in fact I failed to notice any resemblance to TtLG at all,
even given the presence of a mirror.  Coraline isn't in a mirror, she's in
a flat that is the *same* as her real one, not a reversed image of it, and
she doesn't get there by going through a mirror, she gets there by walking
through a doorway that is usually blocked up with a brick wall.  Sometimes
people aren't reflected in a mirror, and on one occasion her parents are
shown in it by the Other Mother, but that's specifically an illusion, a lie
of the Other Mother's.  There are ghosts, too, which there aren't in Lewis
Carroll's work.  And so on and so forth.  The differences are so much
greater than the similarities that it's a quite different thing.  The
really big one is that there is *no villain* in Lewis Carroll's work, and
nobody is trying to hurt or damage anyone else; which cannot possibly be
said of *Coraline*.  There is a world of difference just in that alone.

I doubt I could read one of the Peter Pan "sequels" without thinking of the
original, if it included Peter Pan himself, or Wendy, or Lost Boys.  It's
entirely possible that I might greatly prefer the newer work, being what
one might almost call a Peter Pan Anti-Fan, but I would still surely know
that it was part of the "Peter Pan Canon" or whatever, whereas I didn't,
and don't, think of *Coraline* as part of any "Alice Canon".

>I suppose in my mind it's very hard not to go "it all depends on what you do
>with it."

Well, yes, that does rather seem to be the point.  There were dozens and
hundreds of mediocre Boys' School Books, and then there were one or two
really first rate books that happened to be set in boys' schools.  If they
were all set in the same school, that would still be true (most of them
might as well be, but).  People might well read the P.G. Wodehouse and
ignore most of the rest, or feel cheated if they read one of the others
expecting it to be as good as *Mike*.

See also books set in FantasyLand!  :-)

Minnow


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