Enough alphabet soup!

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Title: Enough alphabet soup!
Date(s): January 7, 2000
Medium: online
Fandom: many
External Links: online here, Archived version
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Other Essays by ljc

Enough alphabet soup! is an essay by LJC.

It addresses fanfiction, labeling, shipping, pairings, and genre.


What has happened to the state of fan fiction that when one asks for story recommendations — good fiction, with strong plots, characterisations, and dialogue, the recommendations come back in code?

Help! I can't find good Trek fic!

Well, are you into DS9, TNG, TOS, or VOY? O/K? K/S? P/T? P/K? J/P? JetC? yadda yadda yadda ad infinitum....

Now, having written 'shipper fic for many a year, I have nothing against it.

But it's only one sub-genre. Where are the dramas? The comedies? The adventure stories? The bountiful variety that fan fiction is supposedly famous for? Why is it that, as an insular enclave, we have fed on our conventions to the point where someone asks where the heck the good fic is hiding, and the response ends up looking like it's in code?
I am well aware that there are fan writers out there who write incredible stories, with well-crafted and engaging plots that do not turn on a first kiss, first intimate moment, first anything in terms of lips and hands and the like... But finding them has become like trying to pan for gold. You spend hours sifting through pans of pebbles, searching for those tiny gold nuggets, and sometimes you throw in the towel and just head home, frustrated.

And Trek fandom is not alone in this. Having discussed the matter with my editor and best friend, who has also been in fandom for almost 20 years, we came to the conclusion that something got slipped into the water in 1994 or so. Some time in the last five years, we (the majority of on-line fan writers and readers) narrowed our focus to the detriment of the literary-sub genre of fan fiction to the point where newcomers to this fertile field seem to believe fanfic is nothing but relationship-centred fiction.

I have no problem with a story having a romantic sub-plot, or two characters in a romantic relationship being shown engaging in a little slap and tickle, or what have you. The romantic sub-plot—or even close, possibly flirting friends sub-plot—can often humanise a story that is otherwise very plot-plot-plot-plot... it can make it charming and involving rather than just a solid story that's *not* as interesting. Character interaction is still key in a well-plotted story. But I'm tired of the romantic pairing being the sole focus. Even when I write 'shipper fic, I try to make sure there is more going on than boy and girl making googly eyes at one another for 7000 words. Whether or not I succeed (and I can cite a number of examples—mainly in Earth 2 and Disney's Gargoyles—fan fiction where I failed in this respect) is up for you, the reader, to judge.

Can it be that genre TV (which traditionally had inspired cultish, smaller followings) such as The X-Files and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer becoming mainstream mega-hits somehow changed the way we read and write fanfic? Certainly the sudden accessibility-to-the-masses of the World Wide Web — which coincided for many people with the premieres of both series — brought fanfic to non-convention-going and non-fanzine-reading folks for the first time. Could the influx of mainstream fans have demanded (and simultaneously generated) more mainstream stories, typified by 'shipper romance fic?

And then there's simply the change in tone and focus of television in the last decade. If the 1980s were a time for genre action/adventure (The A-Team, Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, Manimal, etc.) and action/romance (Remington Steele, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Moonlighting, Shell Game, etc.), the 1990s seemed to have been about leaving all the (sometimes excessive) fluffiness behind, trading it in for drama as well as (sometimes excessive) gritty hyper-realism and angst (Miami Vice, Wiseguy, The Equaliser, Forever Knight, Highlander, etc.) and post-modern self-aware horror and science fiction (such as X-Files, Buffy, and occasionally the overly-praised Babylon 5 — which seems a bloated monster that tried to combined the 1970s and 1980s adventures series with the dramatic story arcs pioneered by Wiseguy).