Why Trek Fic generally is pretty hot stuff

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Title: Why Trek Fic generally is pretty hot stuff
Creator: Laura Hale
Date(s): December 9, 1999
Medium: online
Fandom: Star Trek
Topic:
External Links: at alt.startrek.creative; archive link
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Why Trek Fic generally is pretty hot stuff is a 1999 post by Laura Hale at alt.startrek.creative.

Topics Discussed

  • tie-in books vs fanfiction
  • betas
  • why Trek fanfiction is better than other fandoms' fiction
  • a dig at an unnamed fandom
  • pimping another project Hale was involved in, GAFT
  • some fannish flattering of BNFs
  • mentoring
  • lack of fannish culture and interest among younger fans
  • the laziness that younger fans and their computers illustrate
  • the quality of Paris/Torres stories
  • Hale's personal distance from an age group she is very close to
  • a plug by a fan for her tie-in Trek novel site

Excerpts from the Original Post

Late night phone conversations. They are truly gifts from God and inspiring as to what they can inspire you to think of. It’s like those random conversations I’ve had in college where one second we’ll be discussing our favorite band and then we’ll move on to the meaning of life. I’m rather a phone junkie. I value the discussions I have with people I admire and respect. I value the ones with my friends where we disagree on things and because the phone can get tone across… well… things are better understood all the way around. Anyways, I digress. It was during two of the aforementioned phone calls that the topic of why my friends and I are so passionate about Trek and why we keep coming back to it despite it’s problems that I felt inspired to write about it.
One of the observations that a friend of mine made that put Trek above par to other fandoms she participated in was that Trek fans continually put out finished pieces of work. There was not an abundance of stories that were part four of unknown with unknown date to finish. She also noted that most of the authors she ran across had their pieces beta read and spell checked. The authors with Trek spent more time making their pieces work then other fandoms. These small things are important and heck, make being a reader that much more enjoyable. Having been subjected to works in another fandom that were never complete and the authors had no idea where they were going or when they would end, I appreciate this quality in Trek fan fiction more than I can express.
One of the other observations made by another friend was that the Trek fan fiction writing community has been around since the early 70s if not the late 60s. Back in those days, from what I’ve been told because I wasn’t alive back then to verify this myself, it took time, effort and money to bring a piece of Trek fiction into existence so that the masses could read it. Because of this, the amount of fan fiction was in limited quantities. You had to have the desire to put out this stuff. The quality thus, as a whole, was pretty high because you didn’t want to waste the time, money and effort with out something good to show for it. Now though, anyone with access to a computer can, in the space of an hour, write a story and post it to the internet so the masses can read it. The great thing about the Trek fandom is that we have a solid base of hard-core fans who write consitently good fan fiction that for twenty some odd years people have been able to model them selves after. We have, as a group, a deep history that’s been molded and defined and the writing philosophies have been established and some practices aren’t done because over the years, our models have showed us that is not the way to do things. People like Laura Jean Vazques, DangerMom, Tara, Joe Macadeon and many others before them have set for the new writers to the fandom a precedence that people still model today because these are established writers, established fan fiction writers have done it and proved that these philosophies work. Other fandoms aren’t as fortunate as our because they don't have this precedence and have to work in the dark. Some of these fandoms are largely based on young people, adults who have never been on the internet before or never been to a zine convention. They are filled with people who have a desire to write but don’t know how and are surrounded by people with the same affliction. You have people that don’t know what a Mary Sue is, a beta reader is etc. These fandoms aren’t as fortunate as we are because we have those people with years of experience that should we need help, we can seek it out from.
It’s my opinion that sub fandoms with in the Trek Universe, especially in regards to the p/t fandom, aren’t the most respected of the lot. The reason for this is probably because at first glance, when surfing the net for p/t web pages and fan fiction, you run across a large number of pages run by teenagers, net newbies and people who have only now have just discovered the joys of Trek and its fandom. You have people who haven't until this came along, ever read fan fiction, have never written it, and aren't looking at the models we that some of us who have been around longer have had. This group of new fan fiction writers doesn't know what all these people have done. They aren’t seeking it out because the p/t fandom is largely composed of all these new fans. They find each other and the sub fandom and end up away from the main stream Trek fan fiction writing circles. It's why recommending good fan fiction to this group of fan is so key. They need to be exposed to the good. On the flip side though, showing them the shitty stuff is also important. It will help these people see where style, plot, characterizations have flopped and made for a bad story. This gives these new writers a point to which to base their perceptions of good and bad. It gives them examples that they can imitate.
We should keep in mind though, that these new writers shouldn't be expected to turn out quality fan fiction on the first shot. They will need time and guidance and we should, if the opportunity arises, help them. We shouldn’t out undue pressure on them to right quality fan fiction on the first shot. That might stifle the potential explosively good authors who haven’t started out yet. We should though, point these folks to the fan fiction that is universally agreed upon as good stuff even if we don’t agree with the stories message. These people should see the material of some of great out there Captain Jinx, Gabrielle Lawson, Tara O’Shea, Danger Mom and many others. They should be guided to sites like GATF and places with essays about Mary Sue's and the Turkey Lexicon and the page by Merlin which gives detailed information on fan fiction that if read and partly assimilated will undoubtedly help them improve. It is unfair of us to assume they will be able to write like the greats right off the bat. It's also unfair to future writers.

Excerpts from the Comments

[Lisa Marie C]:
Amen--that's exactly what got me addicted to this newsgroup and rekindled an interest in Trek years after I had stopped watching the spin-off series to TOS or reading the books. At it's best I like this stuff far, far more than the pro-fic stuff for several reasons.

1) With a few exceptions I doubt those people are really fans of the series--just genre hack writers or a pretty good sci-fi writer who are making a quick buck before returning to their own universe--and it shows. Especially in the early profics I read the authors would get such details as eye color or Kirk's middle name wrong--and forget nuances of character. We live and breathe these characters and know them down to their blood-type. And in terms of raw talent--well I wouldn't exactly be shocked if some of these guys wind up as pros themselves--only I suspect they'll have better to do than submit themselves to the prescriptions of TPTB.

2) The profic novels have to play it safe. I read somewhere that they even heavily revised one book "Killing Time" because they er...thought Spock showed too much affection for Kirk in that one. Let's face it--they're written to a G audience--you aren't going to get risky themes here. In fact I thought the original series was far more politically, socially, and philosophically provocative and far more sexy than any profic I read. Pro-fic is dumbed-down Trek.

3) They can't have the characters change too much or that would interfere with the franchise so you can't have them grow or introduce anything really original into the Star Trek Universe.

When fanfic is bad it may very well be just awful. But when it's good it's damn addicting.
[Kat Hughes]:
Yup. Have to agree there. Can't help thinking I'm a teensy bit biased and that it may have something to do with sheer volume (Trek has 33 years, The X files has 6) But it is generally good stuff, generally.

As for finished works and good grammar, punctuation etc (which I don't think I posess [1]) it's almost faux pas not to isn't it? Especially in the days of spell checkers....

And [a long history] can also be a bad thing. History and tradition are all well and good but it doesn't make it easy for people to break out of the mold.

But having a precedent helps, if only it lets you bend the rules....The good stuff does float to the surface, eventually, and Sci Fi genres particularly have fans very well versed in computer literacy. Actually I think it must be quite liberating to be able to set the precedent rather than have so many already made connections and set-in-stone philosophies to act as barriers. To have the freedom of say a competent Buffy writer is a great gift and although they may still be learning the ropes and not have the grandiose History of Trek they can make their own rules; and then break them....

I do believe that most good Trek fanfic has been writen by an author who's tested the water and seen what is out there, good and bad. But they don't need telling. Rather than sending them to GATF just point them in the direction of a comprehensive archive, anywhere and let them read up a little. So, they can decide what's good and bad. This way they know how they *feel* and can make stronger deviations away from that in their writing. That's where my problem with fanfic review, GATF and other sites in a similar vein lies, I know it's a bit of fun but writing is so subjective. Just because I can't stand Bridget Jones doesn't mean that Helen Fielding's books are bad because of the characterization....

But do we need to "breed" new authors? Do they need to be force fed ideas? Writing is something you love to do, it's a joy every word you write. But yes, pressure on new authors is bad but when they hit on that story that really is worth shouting about, in your opinion, then shout about it. I don't believe in nurturing but I believe in a system where new, good, fanfiction can be showcased by an impartial person, even if it is not the general consensus.

But that doesn't mean I'm saying that if you think a piece of writing is bad then you don't tell the author. Far from it, if you haven't liked something then it's best to send that E mail (Rather than the apathetic "well it might need some work") and more importantly point out "why" you think that. That is personal feedback and incredibly important for the writer in seeing audience reaction. After all that is who the writers write for, the slightly obsessive Trek hungry audience.
[Loretta M. M]
I also like to think (and maybe this is the librarian in me) that folks who love Star Trek are readers. I've watched Star Trek all my life from TOS up and I've also been reading sci-fi since I was eight. Readers, lover of words, make better writers because they have higher expectations for what they choose to read and expect that they're audience will to. Plot, trueness to character, punctuation and finishing what you start are essential to them.
[J. Winter]:
Where else do you get such a well-defined sandbox to play in? And what's really incredible is the little blanks that get filled in. I've also noticed that, over the years, original characters (at least on the group) have gone from flat author surrogates and cheap plot devices to really useful tools to flesh out the established characters or damn good characters in their own right. That's the beauty of fanfic. You can explain why Kirk was so hot for Janice Lester or give him a drinking buddy or make the Dominion the good guys a century earlier or later than DS 9. And after an author's played around a bit, s/he usually can make such things more believable than the televised product.

I'll be honest, I can't bring myself to spend money on a novel anymore because, quite frankly, I'd rather read about Suzanne Brandt's ongoing relationship with Kirk or eagerly await the Infinity's entry into the Dominion War. You can see DS 9 season 8. And on this group, you know for a fact that Voyager WILL get home if TPTB drop the ball. (I'm not saying they will, but it'd be a huge disappointment, and I don't even like Voyager.)

And that's what I love about fanfic.
[Ruth Stout]:
I would like to say a few words in defense of the profic novels. I have only been reading fanfic for the last six months or so. This means that for thirty years, the profic books have been my main source of feeding my Star Trek addiction outside the TV episodes and movies. And for the most part, they have been very satisfying. They have established backgrounds for the characters, and for the Star Trek universe as a whole.

You must remember that profic authors have awful constraints placed on them. They have to adhere to strict guidelines to keep the stories in sync with what is occurring on film. And if there are lapses in character study, or contradictory plots, I for one blame the editors, not the authors. But I can live with it. I can live with a lot to find a good Star Trek story. And though some of you may not want to believe it, there are some real gems to be found in the ranks of the profic books. It would be a shame to miss them just because you happened to be prejudiced against profic in general. For you daring souls out there who would like to take a chance, I would recommend the following:

[big list, and plug to website: The Novel Experience]

References

  1. ironic typo