Best of the West: Bonanza Fan Fiction

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Archive
Name: Best of the West: Bonanza Fan Fiction
Date(s): appears to have been last updated in December 2008
Archivist: Mardi Quinn
Founder: Mardi Quinn
Type:
Fandom: Bonanza, plus some Ponderosa
URL:
Best of the West: Bonanza Fan Fiction
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Best of the West: Bonanza Fan Fiction is a online archive of Bonanza stories. It also includes some writer resources.

"The Best of the West: Bonanza Fan Fiction As It's Meant To Be! Literate Writing about the Cartwrights We Grew Up With."

The site's fiction was chosen by an anonymous committee, and there were a lot of rules.

About This Site: Who, What, Where, Why & How

WHO: First off, we're not going to tell you who actually chooses the stories because we want the stories to speak for themselves. The person responsible for most of the site design, actually asking most of the authors for their stories and the posting of the non-story pages is Mardi Quinn who can be reached at mardi@williamsmith.org. Randy Saavedra donated the server space and also does some of the design and formatting [which is nice of her because Bonanza isn't even her main fandom as you can see by the domain name]. The actual story selection committee for the Best of the West Bonanza Fan Fiction site has decided to stay anonymous, partially to avoid the inevitable pressure from friends and strangers who want us to post stories that don't meet the standards we want to honor. We also want to have the stories we select judged on their own merit, not on the basis of who selected them.

WHAT: This site will honor and make accessible the best written Bonanza fan fiction on the internet.

WHERE: Right here. Thanks to Randy with a fansite for her favorite cowboy/biker/villain actor, William Smith [Laredo, Wildside, western guest shots, Falconetti in Rich Man, Poor Man, biker flicks, horror flicks, blaxploitation, etc.] we have lots of server space for a quality Bonanza fan fic site. [A bad link will default to the Big Bad Bill home page - don't be frightened.]

WHY: The quantity of Bonanza fan fiction has increased geometrically over the past few years. Because posting on the internet is so cheap and easy compared to printing in fanzines, there's a lot of -- how do we say this politely - of stuff we don't want to read. This includes stories with characters not recognizable as the Cartwrights we grew up with, stories written by writers who never heard of beta readers, stories by authors who want to live their own fantasies or address their own psychological needs by writing about characters with the name Cartwright but without the personas of the characters gifted to us by Bonanza creators. There should be a place for writers who care enough to produce quality writing and to honor the source material.

Of course, no one has to read anything they don't like, but it's gotten difficult to wade through the mud to get to the grassy picnic spot, to rake through the chaff to get to the wheat, to push aside the swine to get to the pearls - well you get the picture. Sometimes it's hard to pick out the good writers in the mob. Or a reader might miss that one really topnotch story by a writer who is otherwise still struggling to hit the right note most of the time. Readers might have dismissed a writer based on her early work and missed the good stuff that came later. We want to make sure all those good stories don't get overlooked.

In any fan fiction world, there is a need for several types of posting sites. An all-purpose site is needed, where almost anyone can post a story, no matter how good or bad and be very accessible to the reading public [e.g. BBAB where Kathy maintained a vast library in a very readable format and the current Bonanza-Legacy which appears to be on its way to gathering its own large library]. But, there's also a place for other types of sites, more controlled, such as sites that allow no major original characters or stories of only limited length or no AU's or AR's or WHN's or have a content rating limit (e.g.. Grotto Café or Women Writers Block). It's also valid to have a site where the selections are judged to be the best of what's available, so that as a new fan develops discriminating taste or when the fan has very little time, she can find the better stories without wading through miles of garbage. That's where we come in.

HOW: The first 100 stories selected were chosen by an anonymous committee of fan fiction readers who are very familiar with Bonanza characters/canon and the principles of good fiction writing. We are getting recommendations for additional stories/authors from the selected authors and will eventually get some from readers. [1]

Selection Standards

The Obvious: What we learned in school:

The first required element is, of course, basic application of the rules of good grammar, spelling and style. We don't need to explain -- we hope. While that doesn't mean every story will be flawless, the authors are people who care about their writing.

The Non-negotiable: Characterization - Them Cartwrights and their friends:

The crux of fan fiction writing is always, always, always keeping the canon characters in character. A reader of any Bonanza story who grew up with the series should be able to recognize the characters not just by name and description but by all those characteristics developed through the synergy of the series' writers and the actors. The joy of fan fiction is that writers can take these characters and put them in situations unavailable to writers bound by the strictures of network television. However, putting a character in a new situation doesn't change the character, it simply explores the way that character will deal with a new situation.

This requirement doesn't mean every story has to portray the character in exactly the same way. Writers are entitled to make their own reasonable assessments based on what they saw in the series. What is not acceptable is presenting an unrecognizable character and slapping the name Cartwright on him to fit the character to a pre-conceived plot, to work out the writer's psychological problems or to give her a fantasy lover.

Of course, the series writers presented the Cartwrights differently in the broad comedies than in the dramas; we expect writers will do the same. Similarly, when stories take place before or after the series timeline there will be legitimate differences of opinion on the characters. What would Joe be like as a child dealing with the death of his mother? What would Adam be like if he returned to live at the Ponderosa a decade after he left? What would Jamie be like as an adult. Certainly there's no single "correct" characterization. However, a writer depicting the young Cartwrights are still bound to some extent by what they became. The young Joe could not have become the kind of man we saw as a late teen through thirty-something if he'd spent his youth strangling cats or had suffering constant beatings that constituted child abuse from his father. [Not that he didn't get a tanning now and then.] A writer depicting the post-timeline Cartwrights are still bound by what they were. The returned Adam might have suffered or he might have flourished, but unless he suffered a head injury, he didn't get stupid or mean.

The writer should also have respect for recurring and minor characters. Sheriff Coffee, Cousin Will, half-brother Clay, Grandfather Stoddard -- they all had characteristics in the show that should be respected. A character shouldn't be distorted just because a writer needs a convenient villain or dupe.

The Negotiable: Canon and History -- Honor it Unless There's a Good Reason to Violate it (just like the series writers):

There are many facts both basic and secondary that make up series canon -- e.g. the age differences between the Cartwright sons, where they were during the Civil War, how Ben met his wives, how Candy, Jamie, Dusty and Griff became part of the Ponderosa, that Joe was left-handed and the others not. Of course, we know the series writers often played fast and loose with historical timelines, historical characters, Virginia City history etc. They also contradicted facts established in one episode for the purpose of the plot of a later one. Did Mark Twain come to Virginia City in Adam's time or Jamie's? Was Joe's mother's name Felicia or Marie?

While a writer shouldn't violate canon out of ignorance or convenience, a good "what if" might violate it for the sake of a good story. Some very good stories have. Of course, when a writer strays from canon it's even more important that everyone stay in character. A crux of a story that deviates from canon is generally to suggest how a character or characters would deal with the changed circumstances.

We've accepted some stories which add characters to the Bonanza basics because they're well-written and explore interesting possibilities. If characters come in during the series timeline who did not exist in the series (i.e. wives, children, uncles) the stories will be labeled Alternate Reality [AR]. Post-timeline [PT] stories will be labeled as such and may also contain additional characters. Pre-timeline storys, [YC for Young Cartwrights] can take place anytime after Adam's birth to prior to Joe's 16th or 17th birthday when the series started. Therefore Adam or even Hoss might be a young adult. An AU (alternate universe) will take the characters to another era - modern, scifi, medieval. There aren't many of these in the Bonanza fandom, but we found a good one.

Only the Facts Ma'am: Do a little research:

Fiction writers, fanfic or otherwise, aren't expected to do exhaustive research on every aspect of a story, although some of the best writers have. But don't make an otherwise good story ludicrous with major factual errors or anachronisms. It would be a good idea to know the most important parts of a horse, saddle and gun. Don't have a hurricane (ocean-based storm) rip through the Ponderosa. Don't have a character die of AIDS or wear clothes with a zipper. If someone is suffering from an illness or injury, know a little about it and how it would be treated. If a character is poisoned, know something about the poison. And if you do a lot of research, don't feel compelled to put it all in one story.

The Elusive: A Good Story - We'll Know it When We See It:

The last "requirement" is the most difficult to define -- maybe it's a wonderful twist in a plot - maybe it's a touching look at a Cartwright in an emotional situation - maybe it's great action that keeps the story moving and the reader reading -- maybe it's an original character who brings out something interesting in a canon character -- maybe it's nonstop comedy. Every story is not for every reader, but we're betting our group will recognize a good story when they read it (at least enough of them to have it voted onto the site.)

The Don't-Blame-Us-Too-Much Disclaimer:

While we're doing our best to choose only stories that meet the criteria set out above, and we think we've done a damn fine job, sometimes individuals in the group disagree. An occasional story that a Joe lover finds to be totally in character may leave Adamites fuming and vice versa. Although we've tried to judge characterization by looking at all the characters, a majority vote may have resulted in a story being posted here where one of the characters is "off," especially in the mind of the folks who love him best. We still believe a reader will find the story to be well-written but the minority voters on the committee would also love to hear your opinion if you think a character is distorted. (We aren't above a "we told you so" to our colleagues.) And while you're at it, all other comments, criticisms, outrage and praise is welcome. [2]

References

  1. About This Site: Who, What, Where, Why & How
  2. SELECTION STANDARDS: for The Best of the West Bonanza Fan Fiction or What the Hell Are We Looking For?