Arcana

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Fanfiction
Title: Arcana
Author(s): Emily Brunson
Date(s): 2005, WIP
Length: 14+ chapters
Genre: mpreg, crackfic, crossover
Fandom: NCIS/Harry Potter
External Links: Arcana at Emily Brunson's Dreamwidth

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Arcana is a Harry Potter/NCIS crossover by Emily Brunson. The pairings are Gil/Nick and Nick/Snape.

The author's header: "Rating: NC-17, Warning: mpreg, WIP. Summary: The crossover that launched a thousand crits."

The fic was written for a Nick Stokes mpreg challenge and posted at oh_no_nicky, although it has since been deleted there.[1] It was also archived at Chance's Slash Archive until the site went offline.[2]

Controversy

It was nominated by Liz Henry for a James Tiptree Jr Memorial Award [3] ("for SF/F that explores and expands the roles of women and men, juried") at WisCon in 2006, and this generated much controversy.

Some people who directly commented: Elizabeth Bear, Cathexys, Shalott, Rivkat, Cesperanza, Coffeeandink, many others.

Some of the points of contention:

  • the legitimacy of fan fic
  • the work was a WIP
  • the work was written for a crack challenge and therefore has been nominated without context
  • it’s not a good fanfic of its type
  • the work was fanfiction and therefore inferior
  • the work was fanfiction and therefore unlawful
  • it is not "tiptroid" enough and does not expand or explore gender, but instead confirms traditional gender roles
  • this nomination would bring legal attention to fanworks
  • if the fic won, the author would get prizes and cash and that's wrong for fanfiction
  • the nomination cheapened the award
  • the fic wasn't written for a general audience, not even WisCon attendees
  • cherry-picking a "weird" fic to highlight fanfic's strangeness
  • perhaps nominating the fic without permission from the author
  • bringing attention to a fic and fan for the purpose of making a political point
  • the fic was mpreg, and therefore, stupid

Fan Comments

Just a guess, but I bet that whoever it was who nominated "Arcana" to the longlist for the Tiptree awards wasn't a slash fan, didn't ever read much fanfiction, and had never encountered an Mpreg slash story before.

I haven't read "Arcana". Unsurprisingly, the author appears to have removed it from the website where she was posting it (it was a WiP, I gather). I think I probably would too, if something like this happened to me. But, from the reports I have heard of it:

It was a Harry Potter/CSI crossover, in which Snape rapes/impregnates a character called Nick Stokes from CSI, about whom I know nothing (not a fan of that show). It was probably being written a section at a time for a circle of fans who were enjoying it for its own sake - it is the kind of kinky crossover I cannot imagine being written except by someone who was happily surfing the Id Vortex. (I may be wrong about all the preceding, or over-identifying, but it is at least probable.)

Then, suddenly, someone not a slash fan bounces in, reads the story, and - wholly unfamiliar with the conventions of slash and of mpreg slash - conceives the idea that this is some really cool and innovative gender-bending stuff: look, there's a macho cop who's really a hermaphrodite! Look, there's a wizard who's making this macho cop pregnant against his will! Look, there's the macho cop getting all freaked out because he's pregnant! Gosh. How thrilling.

(And, if that's how it happened, that's how one can tell that the nominator didn't get out much.... at least, not where they needed to be to find out that this is neither unusual nor innovative, but a fairly standard example of a well-known sub-genre within slash.)

Possibly I'm traducing "Arcana". Maybe it was unusual and innovative and different. Anyone get to read it before it vanished? Was it?

Update: there's a quote here from it. Doesn't look like it.

Update 2: If there was to be an award for the best mpreg slash story - however "best" is judged: the most imaginative, the best-written, the most canonical, the most genderbending...? then the people making the award would have, if it was to be taken seriously, to read a large array of mpreg slash stories. The jurors would have to have a reasonable familiarity with the genre and respect/liking for it when done well.

That isn't what happened here. What appears to have happened here is the equivalent of someone reading their first-ever science-fiction novel, being overcome with excitement at all the radical and interesting concepts - words from an invented language being dropped casually into the dialogue! - a species with three genders! - human/nonhuman genetic crosses! nominates the novel for a prestigious literary award, citing as a reason for the nomination the radical and interesting concepts the author of this novel used. Science-fiction fans, blinking a bit, point out that the novel is the middle novel of a projected trilogy, is not especially well-written, and the concepts are nothing new. The jurors for the literary award point out kindly that the concepts are so refreshing and exciting that the roughness in the writing of the story is less important... and generally appear not to understand that for this novel to be nominated to the longlist for a prestigious literary award is not, in fact, especially flattering to science-fiction writing as a genre.

Update 3: I owe the author of "Arcana" an apology.

I broke one of my cardinal rules: never criticise a story you haven't read. I was wrong to do so. I hadn't read "Arcana". I shouldn't have criticised it.

With reference to the en masse criticism heing launched at it by people who don't like fanfic, slash, crossovers, or mpreg: When people are launching potshots at a story that they haven't read, the writer has a damn right to ignore their criticism. And, furthermore, when negative criticism is coming from people who have read your story but in general do not like that kind of story, the writer can pretty much ignore that criticism too. Good criticism comes from people who are familiar with the genre being written in and like the kind of thing you're aiming to write. [4]

Further Reading

References

  1. ^ oh_no_nicky community memories: Fic: janissa11: Arcana (HP xover; mpreg). (Accessed 31 July 2017, archive.is capture. Entries listed have been deleted.)
  2. ^ Arcana - Chapter One at Chance's Slash Archive, archived 20 March 2016 by the Wayback Machine. WebCite.
  3. ^ "James Tiptree Jr. Award Winners". 
  4. ^ comments by Jane Carnall: Arcana, Tiptree, and some neo who'd never read an Mpreg (May 23, 2006)