The Ten Commandments of Crossovers

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Title: The Ten Commandments of Crossovers
Creator: Lucy Gillam
Date(s): January 2001
Medium: online
Fandom: multi
Topic: crossovers, The Sentinel, Everyone Is Gay
External Links: online here; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

'The Ten Commandments of Crossovers is an essay by Lucy Gillam.

The essay was linked at Essays: Rants and Rambles and was a submission for The Fanfic Symposium.

Some Excerpts

Thou Shalt Not Cross Sources Just Because it Would be “Neat” ("Successful crossovers, however, go beyond just “wouldn’t it be neat” to “what can I do with this that I can’t do with the individual sources on their own?” Bringing Methos and Blair together, for example, allowed the writer to bring out and explore the unrequited love they feel for their two partners, basing it on the similarities in the personalities and situations. Although the story is little more than a PWP, it’s filled with character explication and development.")

Thou shalt know and represent both thy sources equally ("The trick is that knowing one source well sometimes convinces writers that they can fudge on the second. These stories are usually characterized by lopsided detail – they almost always take place in the locale of the better-known material, and the less-known characters often seem like OC’s with the serial numbers etched on.")

Thou Shalt Avoid the Reciting of Mighty Deeds ("If you’re less sure about your readers’ knowledge, give the characters enough knowledge of each others situations that they’re talking about it instead of explaining it. I’ve read several TS/Due South crossovers have accomplished this by making Frasier one of Blair’s early test subjects (and often former lover, natch). This fits both series, since we know Blair had case studies of people with one or two enhanced senses, and Benton has certainly displayed evidence of one or two senses that are above average. Moreover, rather than Blair or Jim having to explain the whole concept of a Sentinel, Ben and Blair are able to discuss Blair finding someone with all five senses in a way that lets the reader who doesn’t know the concept figure it out without putting the reader who does know it to sleep.")

Thou shalt not egregiously mix thy genres ("I want to clarify first that I’m talking about genre, not medium. While I’m a huge believer in Marshall Mcluhan’s notion that the medium is the message (one of the reasons I think so few movies based on comic books have been successful is that concepts which work beautifully as a series of still pictures look, frankly, silly when acted out by real people), I do believe that a fan writer can cross sources from different media. In fan fiction, you have one advantage working for you: for the most part, you’re already shifting media from visual (live action movie/tv, usually, but also comic books and cartoons) to written. Since writing is one of the more flexible media (witness how many other media are novelized), this shift can let you combine stories from different media that wouldn’t necessarily work otherwise.

So mixing media can work. Mixing genres almost never does.")

Thou Shalt Not Mix Contradicting Universes ("There are very, very few Star Wars crossovers. Ever fewer good ones. Why? Because the universe is completely incompatible with pretty much every universe in existence. Besides that “a long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away” thing, you’ve got species, planets, and technologies that just plain don’t exist in any other source. We’re not talking about a “our world in the future” like Babylon 5 or Star Trek; this is never was and never will be land. You just can’t have Jedi walking into a bar in Cascade – the whole place would cease to exist from paradox.")

Thou Shalt Not Randomly Mix and Match Pairs ("We all know the standard formula for slash crossovers: Blair/Daniel/Frasier meets Bodie/Mulder/Methos; often they were good friends/lovers at some point in the past. They have a brief fling, or reminisce about their previous fling. All this makes Jim/Jack/Ray/Doyle/Skinner(Krycek)/Mac jealous, and causes everyone to fall into the Divinely Appointed couples.")

Thou Shalt Not Assume Everyone is Gay ("Slash fiction is based on one rather large suspension of disbelief: that two men who are, at least in the surface, heterosexual are either gay and so far in the closet they’re actively dating women to hide, or bi and so far in the closet that they not only don’t date men, but never look at them, or essentially heterosexual, but love each other enough to overcome decades of social conditioning.

Now, for some, there is more disbelief to suspend that others, but we’re still talking about a leap of faith, here (to grossly mix my metaphors).

Slash crossovers almost always require the reader to make that suspension not once, but twice. That is, we’re not only supposed to accept that Jack and Daniel, who’ve both been married and both expressed sexual attraction to women, could be attracted to one another, but that Jim and Blair are likewise other than the generally heterosexual men we see on screen.")

Thou Shalt Not Base Thy Crossover On Trivial Coincidences ("West Wing recently had a guest character named Congressman Skinner, a gay Republican who met with Josh to discuss an anti-gay marriage bill.

Now, where in Washington D.C. have we seen the name Skinner before?

Never mind that we’ve never heard of Walter Skinner having a brother, much less one in the legislature (you could argue it was several seasons before we heard he had a wife, although I think a brother in Congress would have been more likely to come up). Never mind that they’re not the only Skinners on television (I dread the day someone decides Seymour Skinner of Springfield has a brother in D.C.). Perfect chance for a crossover, right?

Wrong.")

Thou Shalt Mingle Thy Mythologies Sparingly ("Our story opens in Cascade, Washington. Duncan MacLeod (or Methos, or Richie) is in town for some reason or another, and just happens to run into one Blair Sandburg. Naturally, they hit it off, and Blair introduces Duncan/Methos/Richie to his roommate, friend, and partner, Jim Ellison.

Now, everyone who doesn’t know that Blair, or Jim, or both will turn out to be immortal by the end of the story, raise your hand.")

Thou Shalt Leave Long-Lost Relatives Lost ("If there’s any crossover more common than the “Daniel and Blair were lovers in college and now they’ve met again” theme, it’s the “Walter Skinner is Blair’s father” story. Actually, I’ve only seen one where he was Blair’s father, but that image made a later story in which he and Blair are lovers … interesting.

Blair has had any number of crossover fathers: Starsky (Candy Apple) [1], Ray Doyle/Alan Cade (Brenda Antrim), MacGyver (Cindy Combs) [2], Magnum (Alyjude) [3], Skinner (Brandy) [4], Vincent of Beauty and the Beast (saraid) [5], Control (Tae), and Joe Dawson (Mona Ramsey) [6].

Meanwhile, Jim has encountered his long lost twin/half-brother Mack Wolfe (of One West Waikiki) any number of times.")

References

  1. Outside Influences
  2. MacGyver and Sons
  3. Homeward Bound
  4. His Father's Son
  5. "Past Storms Touch"
  6. The Shadows Fade