RPG's, Fanfiction or some mutant hybrid?
April 4, 2007 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Journal-Based RPG's. They range from Buffy to X-Men, and everything in between. Some are short lived, some have gone on for years and spawned fan-communities of their very own. This is the Livejournal RPG. Not all of these are on Livejournal, many are on LJ-clone sites, but the name has stuck. Want to find one? There's even sites designed to advertise the games. Want to complain about a really awful one? Or a bad player? Or a bad mod? Or a bad ANYTHING? There's a place for that too. A note of my lack of bias - I play in one of these, but the one I'm in is not represented in this post. That would be Bad.
posted by FritoKAL (56 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
And, okay, the X-men one isn't really X-men, it's mixed-comics-media but finding a X-men RPG that doesn't make me want to cry (or, uh, isn't a self-link) was impossible. (See: "Biased")
posted by FritoKAL at 3:06 PM on April 4, 2007

Livejournal itself is, in fact, an RPG. Even in real life, if you're talking to a livejournal user, you never really know if he's speaking in character or not.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:08 PM on April 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've always felt the same way about MeFi, and been flamed for it, RTR.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:10 PM on April 4, 2007

Sometimes you just can't roll to save, s-o-l.
posted by cortex at 3:11 PM on April 4, 2007

RTR, you could say that about the entire internet, really.
posted by FritoKAL at 3:12 PM on April 4, 2007

posted by roll truck roll at 3:13 PM on April 4, 2007

Did you just call me a douche?
posted by serazin at 3:25 PM on April 4, 2007

Natural immunity here, cortex. Keep your dice.

On topic: I'm a former tabletop RPG player. I ran a game store for a bunch of years. I've written for the industry. I've got the cred.

Journal-based fanboi RPGs where the perpetually pale pretend that they're schtupping Willow strike me as one of the lowest rungs in the hierarchy, barely beating out Vampire Furry LARPers.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:44 PM on April 4, 2007

On the other hand, a lot of actual pen-and-paper sessions are no better, though not necessarily at the fault of the designers.
posted by cortex at 3:48 PM on April 4, 2007

Journal-based fanboi RPGs where the perpetually pale pretend that they're schtupping Willow strike me as one of the lowest rungs in the hierarchy, barely beating out Vampire Furry LARPers.

Wow that role-play community got burned just then. Harsh. They will be crying fake tears of blood over this, I have no doubt.

Dare we nerds in glass houses throw stones… I mean what if we crit-fail?

By and by what color is your cape?
posted by French Fry at 4:10 PM on April 4, 2007

Why do you think this is 'lowest rung' of RPG? In this version, people are actually writing. In my book, writing is a good thing. It's more creative than, say, posting links here on metafilter.

So what if the subject is shtupping Willow? I've seen great writing on subjects that to me felt mundain, and plenty of crappy writing on highbrow subjects that are deemed important by the world at large.

I say, right on Journal-based RPGs!
posted by serazin at 4:34 PM on April 4, 2007

Real gamers know what it is to punch out die cut cardboard counters all afternoon to play a game that will take 3 weeks to finish simulating something that happened in under 2 hours.

or has played a game where the rules were 3 ring binder and mimeograph. Not photocopy, mimeograph!
posted by Megafly at 4:36 PM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who is massively addicted to these. She keeps something like 20+ characters in play in each. I've done it once or twice, but I consider it a writing exercise more than anything else. When you have that many characters, though, I don't see how it can be anything but a drag. And to keep track of ten people who each have 10+ characters? No way.

Additionally, a lot of these are multi-fandom, which is fine. But then they get these weird concepts going like 'reincarnates'. That's when you're, say, a 12 year old boy character or a 37-year-old single mom, but s/he's ACTUALLY the reincarnation of Osiris or Jack Bauer or something. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

That being said, my partner and I have both done real RPing in the past, and that's totally superior. I say this in part as an inveterate die collector.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:53 PM on April 4, 2007

I confess I did one of these once. They can be a great way to meet chicks, if you go in for the kind of chicks who enjoy dressing up in costumes and pretending to be scifi/fantasy characters (which, ashamedly, I admit I once was). I joke, but I did make some good friends out of it who I still talk to regularly. But the gaming experience itself was one of the worst I've ever been privy to. We had a weak GM, who, in his defense, had never GMed anything in his life. And the personalities and the egos; it's very hard to get a group where no one tries to project their own insecurities into creating a "perfect" character who's everything they're not. I came into it looking for a pure character-based writing experience (oh, and the chicks thing). Boy, was I out of place. But when they're done well, they can be really fun to read.

I did a PBEM once, through a listserv, and that was heaven compared with the LiveJournal 'RPG' experience. But it was a Star Trek RPG, which allows for a slightly older member base than your average Harry Potter, which is something I should have realized. (Anyone from the old DeepSpace3 list still around out there?) But there was actual role playing going on, characterization and plot; whereas the LJ thing just sort of seemed like a mix of "watch me quote my favorite character, spend 18 hrs customizing my journal, and never post again" and "here is my new character, completely made up, who is dark and/or mysterious, is the greatest wizard ever, and everyone likes (or hates)." Part of the fun of playing Ron was that he was a screw up.

So, there. I feel like I've just "come out" to MeFi. Will you still respect me in the morning?
posted by Eideteker at 5:04 PM on April 4, 2007

Wait, what was I thinking? "Still"?
posted by Eideteker at 5:04 PM on April 4, 2007

PS I totally called Ron going out for Quidditch.
posted by Eideteker at 5:16 PM on April 4, 2007

Eide - Hey, I posted the link, and I'm in one of these. It was definitly a big ol "OMG, I am admitting to being a giant nerd!" feeling.

As to the 'lowest rung' aspect - well, in my defense, well-written, no furries unless you count Wolverine and Wildchild and Wolfsbane and no vampires. Unless you count Emplate.

It's group-fanfic, and so if you hate fanfic, you'll hate this more. But it's oodles of fun.
posted by FritoKAL at 5:19 PM on April 4, 2007

Well, except that it's not just fanfic any more. Fanfic looms large here, but it's a genuinely new, grassroots approach to roleplaying -- one that grows in popularity while traditional pen and paper RPGs are not what they once were. In fact, I'd say that some traditional gamers find this new style more than a bit threatening for both its rejection of their community's values and its growing popularity compared to playing non-electronic rpgs.
posted by mobunited at 5:44 PM on April 4, 2007

Oh yeah. There's quite a few non-fanfic LJRPG's out there. I'd forgotten about that one - it made one of the comms I watch a bit ago and I did a kind of dive under the covers hide from it.

I will say that the LJRPG is at once both vastly different from fanfic, and from the pen and paper RPG's - which I've both done. Still do the pen and paper, actually. It's like some mutant hybrid, like I said in the title.

And good GOD, I need to stop commenting here before I explode into a bloody mess of self-linking. I want to show off SO BAD. I will be good. I will be good. Count to ten, deep breaths.
posted by FritoKAL at 6:05 PM on April 4, 2007

Roll for nerd........6!
posted by Wonderwoman at 6:16 PM on April 4, 2007

6 what? On a D6? Are you presumptuously assuming some kind of D20 system? Do JBRPGs even use dice?

Off to rtflj.
posted by abulafa at 6:22 PM on April 4, 2007

Some of them do for adventure-type plots. Most that I have seen (in my VERY limited expierence. I avoid many of the larger genres.) don't.

And I get a crit-success on the "Is she a nerd" die roll, by the way.
posted by FritoKAL at 6:33 PM on April 4, 2007

Just to establish a bit of geek cred, I'll start by saying that I've played D&D/AD&D, ShadowRun and various GURPs for years. I've logged my time at the table, all right? And, although there is nothing comparable to the experience of growing fat on beers, snacks and candy with my dudes and a bunch of dice, I found what I was looking for in LJ-RPGs.

My favorite part of roleplaying is the storytelling, not the die. Take away the die and add a limitless environment with no DM/GM, and it's just group storytelling.

There are clinkers on LJ, sure, but there are also clinkers with tabletop gaming. My first character in D&D, Jacinthe Milquetoast Thunderpussy, was a Sue of the highest order... I mean, for crying out loud, she was a half-elf rogue with huge breasts ...and sexually speaking, she was voracious! I played with guys who had 8-foot tall fighters and mystical tattoos. We were Sues and Stus and it was great. Until it wasn't.

I've been on LJ-RPGs for over three years now. Some were limited games — existing with a shared plot and environment, mirroring the experience of tabletops (but with a mod instead of a DM), generally working as 'tagfic' — but what I really wanted was a broad universe, where I could really get to develop and explore a character, and bounce them off of other people's characters (and yes, sometimes literally).

First, I was drawn to Milliways, a pan-fandom gathering place where people interact in the comm itself, but also in their own journals. Then, I went to Theatrical Muse, also pan-fandom, but there, the comm is driven by topics. You reply to the topics as your character, through first person, or fic. That's the fic aspect. The result, however, of getting all these ridiculously creative and self-involved people in one spot, is that they wind up interacting. And then, from within character journals, they interact.

Seriously, don't be so quick to dismiss this format. I'm not lying when I tell you that it's some of the most gratifying writing, not to mention roleplaying, that I've ever done. It took some effort and some weeding-out of the chaff, but I've met dozens of excellent people and made actual, real-life friends from it.

I'd link you to some of my journals, or my friend's journals, but as much as I don't mind outing myself, I don't want to shame anyone else. Plus, fine, okay: smut happens. Not all the time, but as I have less and less time to plot stuff out, it happens sort of a lot for me recently. Plus, I'm one of those deviant slasher-types. I don't want you mefites dissecting my porn.

Other pan-fandom comms I like:
Fandom High = all your favorite pop culture characters in high school, down to in-class RP
Tabula Rasa = all your favorite pop culture characters on a deserted island

There are more, but alas, I've said too much.
posted by not_bitter at 7:13 PM on April 4, 2007

I used to play those games! I was mainly part of the RP RPGs, where you role play a celebrity (though I was Parvati Patil once, and the PM of Malaysia in another cracked-out version). Depending on the game, it can be either really boring or really funny. Sometimes it's hard to coordinate threads when you have the rest of your life to deal with, and the people who think you are the real deal can be a bit annoying at times, but it was fun while it lasted.

I was also on Sages of Chaos, a major multi-fandom RPG that had a Ask Mefi-ish structure. My friends and I would have multiple characters on there, and came as ourselves too - real people were allowed to participate as themselves. Often chaos broke out. Last I heard, infighting and politics tore it apart though, so I'm not sure.
posted by divabat at 7:28 PM on April 4, 2007




Can't be any worse than a MUSHy MOO.
posted by loquacious at 8:13 PM on April 4, 2007

Oh god. Fandom high. I... um.. may have apped a character for that, and then my main RPG exploded into 11 plots at once and I had to drop poor Cypher.

Which is okay, really, because the Cypher in my main RPG is much cuter.
posted by FritoKAL at 9:59 PM on April 4, 2007


GURPS is not plural. It's "Generic Universal Role-Playing System".
posted by jiawen at 10:16 PM on April 4, 2007

Sorry, my mistake. GURPSes. Thank you, rules lawyer.
posted by not_bitter at 10:28 PM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Live Journal and PBEM and all the different roleplaying excursions out there all rock for those who dig them. Nothing wrong with it. ...Well okay. There's all kindsa things wrong with it, but to each their poison. I did this briefly over at fireflyfans.net a few years ago. Got to play the part of Wash. I played him like he was going crazy. It was fun. Totally not canon. In hindsight not in character at all really. I tried but... I sucked at it. Quit while people were still at least pretending they liked what I was doing. Leave'em wanting more is what I say.

I wonder how many do this sorta thing for the audience and how many are just masturbating to the alphabet.

I think most people who play in these things think they're sticking to the character but then they go off on tangents or get their own internal monologues mixed in with it or whatever and the end result makes you wonder why the hell did this guy opt to play Mulder when what he really wants to do is dress Mulder up in pink tutus and dance the chacha?

I used to wanna find a group of Buffy roleplayers who were all dead-set on sticking to the voice of Whedon. Really wanted to do justice to the whole Buffy world, and continue on the stories as if there were a season eight. Many have tried this. Many have failed. It's a no win scenario. If you don't try to be like Whedon in the tone and plot and characterization, you take two steps forward and suddenly it's more like Wizard of Oz than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or it's more like Bunny the Vampire Layer. Or it's more like Gilmore Girls. And you're like why the hell are we trying to make Buffy when we're not doing Buffy at all we're just writing internal monologues that Hamlet would choke on, about stuff that never woulda happened on the original show in a million years.

If you go in the opposite direction and try to force everyone down the Whedon road, it stops being fun. You end up creating 'guidelines' for everyone to follow and what season will everyone's stories take place in cuz if it's after the series than no one gets to be half the characters cuz they're all dead or gone and Xander's only got one eyeball and no you can't have Oz reappear all the sudden and have Willow and Oz get back together cuz Willow's gay now and then Kennedy would have to shack up with Anya oh wait is she dead or not and what's Xander gonna do then, huh? Get with Dawnie? That's just gross and no Xander can't ever get with Buffy cuz Whedon woulda never done that besides she'd accidently break him in half the first time they had sex. Although he did survive a night with Faith but maybe she had a cold...

...I need therapy.

Ultimately that's what fanfic is for most people. It's cheaper than therapy. I think it's done a lot more good than harm to those who embrace it, and if for no other reason than that I applaud it. Could be worse. At least these people aren't going out in public and expressing themselves as mimes.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:40 PM on April 4, 2007


I actually had a crappy stint in both Fandom High *and* Tabula Rasa... but I suspect it was because my heart wasn't into such highly structured games. I know a bunch of people who swear by them both, but they just weren't my jam. To be fair, I'm not even in Theatrical Muse anymore, because they had, you know, posting requirements. It happens to everyone, I guess, when RL supersedes RP. I miss it.
posted by not_bitter at 10:40 PM on April 4, 2007

Pssst, FritoKAL, self-linking in comments is okay. Just not in FPPs.
posted by jokeefe at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2007

@not_bitter - that's one of the things I love most about my game. We've got a buttload of structure, but about a third of it is in place to allow for real life knocking us down.

Which makes for an interesting question - when does something start being too rule-based to be FUN?
posted by FritoKAL at 8:09 AM on April 5, 2007

Divabat: There were a bunch of people who left Sages and made a different comm on LJ with the same kind of format. It's mutating a little, though, slowly over time.

FritoKAL: bar loves us all. Just in weird ways.
posted by mephron at 8:24 AM on April 5, 2007


... Please tell me I didn't express some serious self-restraint last night for nothing.


posted by FritoKAL at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2007

Wasn't the Sages blowup due to their mod being a psycho? I remember catching that on the comm I listed about that talked about awful RP...
posted by FritoKAL at 8:28 AM on April 5, 2007


I just got tired of feeling guilty about not roleplaying enough. Life's too short to pay more attention to my imaginary life than my real one, you know? That said, I still roleplay a ton, but not in organized games, just in little random one-offs or IC tags, in-journal. I find it manageable. The highly structured games are fun, but a global time-suck. If yours has built-in safeguards for RL smackitude, that's really good. Well developed, if you know what I mean.
posted by not_bitter at 9:25 AM on April 5, 2007

not_bitter typed "Life's too short to pay more attention to my imaginary life than my real one, you know?"

That's the same argument people always say about Second Life, and it always makes me cringe a little.

You never stop being in real life. Playing a character in a game is just as much a real life experience as going to the bar or whatever. There seems to be a lot of fascism associated with pronouncements of what is and is not "real life," and an unending amount of insipidity and simplicity in the activities prescribed as real life. (i.e., "All these overintellectual poets; why aren't they writing about real life?")

The only online gaming I've ever really been involved with was this. Silly as it is, I thought it was great fun. I wish I could find the forum archives, but they seem to be completely gone.

By the way, every time someone in this thread has used the word "roll," I've thought they were talking to me. I guess that shows how little I understand about RPGs.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2007

Yes, the Sages blowup was about the mod being a psycho. The place that split off from it (full disclosure: i am one of the moderators of it) has rules in place about what the mods are allowed to do, what sorts of proof we're supposed to give if we do anything, and generally a set of rules about how to minimize both players and mods being asshats. So far, we're doing pretty well, I think.

Yeah, you'll get random asshattery and stuff. But sometimes, you'll get brilliant moments that make you go "...wow." One community, in a 'school' setting, has someone playing Captain Jack Harkness (from Dr. Who and Torchwood), and he's the sex ed teacher. In a 'multiversal' game. It would be incredibly easy to turn it into a Porky's-movie sort of thing, but the player is playing it like straight education, not letting the jokes get out of hand. Fine line to work there, and some of the players have said that it's made them think a little about the 'meat world' and what things mean out there.
posted by mephron at 2:05 PM on April 5, 2007

Heh. Seperating 'real life' from 'the game' gets harder and harder - we're... mumblemumblefouryearsinmumble and I think I've met almost all our players now.

Is it 'real life' or 'fantasy' if I'm writing a plot for the game? Fantasy, right?

What about if I'm socializing in a pub in Toronto with friends? Real life.

... what if I'm doing both? Because I did that in August. Plotted for The Game in the pub in Toronto before watching the house band and getting up and dancing.

(I write well. I dance badly.)
posted by FritoKAL at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2007

Heh. Seperating 'real life' from 'the game' gets harder and harder - we're... mumblemumblefouryearsinmumble and I think I've met almost all our players now.

This weekend, some people I know from the game are passing through NYC, and I'm meeting up with them and showing them the City. I expect it'll be very interesting.

(I write well. I dance badly.)

No one's prefect except Ford.
posted by mephron at 2:30 PM on April 5, 2007

not_bitter sez:
I'm not lying when I tell you that it's some of the most gratifying writing, not to mention roleplaying, that I've ever done.
Needless to say this has nothing to do with the art of writing fiction for a wide audience. 'Gratifying' in fanfic-writer/RPG terms is essentially unrelated from 'gratifying' in readerly terms; the former's to do with enjoyment of the process and (sorry) self-centered experience, the latter with a reader/writer contract predicated on quite a different sort of generosity.

Immense self-link on that and related topics. NaNoWriMo and fanfic have the same problem with mode-of-desire confusion; it'd be funny if it weren't already depressing.
posted by waxbanks at 3:11 PM on April 5, 2007

mephron: What's the community? I've a feeling I've heard about it but I forgot now.
posted by divabat at 5:20 PM on April 5, 2007

@ roll truck roll:
I respectfully disagree, although I sure get your point. Real life doesn't stop, true, in the way that regardless of what I'm playing out, I still have to eat and shit and pay taxes, but when I'm staying up late roleplaying out some huge party thread with a half a dozen people all over the world, instead of going to a local party with friends, in an uncontrolled environment where I might meet new people and develop my real life/real time friendships -- I'd say that gaming is intrusive to the rest of my life. I found myself over-obligating myself to staged interactions. It's a personal issue, maybe, but my marriage really started suffering because I was spending so much of my hometime on the internet, roleplaying. Instead of maintaining my offline relationship(s). Side note: I also have investigated (read: spent about 30 hours in) SecondLife. While it was enjoyable, I didn't get very involved and I experienced no storytelling at all. It was a big, slow-to-render chatup... which there's nothing wrong with, but it's not what I'm looking for.

Me too. I met my best best RL friend through LJ-RPG, and have also met tons of co-players offline. I think it's awesome, the crossover between roleplaying and my real life. When something that was happening in-game started really affecting me (seriously and profoundly making me sad and unhappy), I decided that I was having a hard time with IC/OOC separation. So I took a big step back. AND THAT IS MY CROSS TO BEAR WOE.

I forgot how defensive MeFi makes me, because I read your comment as: You are a wanky, masturbatory hack. I'll be honest, some of my shit is wanky and some of it is masturbatory, but that's due largely to the fact that it's free-writing and not-for-publication. I'll also admit that it's rare that I want to read other people's RP or tagfic, but it's not NEVER. A notable percentage of writers that I've found in those forums are fcuking fantastic and worth reading as serialized short stories. I follow them like I would a TV show. In turn, some people (usually co-players) followed my writing. Finally, as a professional reader (I'm an editor), I feel that have a grasp on reading for gratification, as well as writing for self-gratification... so stating that it was some of the most gratifying writing I've done was a considered statement. Benefits include immediate feedback, direct interaction, real-time beta reading, and best, variables that I wouldn't have immediately considered in my independent writing. And now, I will go and read your very long treatise, because it looks awesome. Also, it's goddamned Buffy that got me into this whole mess sub-culture.
posted by not_bitter at 8:25 PM on April 5, 2007

"By the way, every time someone in this thread has used the word "roll," I've thought they were talking to me. I guess that shows how little I understand about RPGs."
posted by roll truck roll at 2:19 PM on April 5

I tell you once again for the last time: "roll" is what you use if dice are involved. You can't "roll" up a character if there's no dice involved. If it's a creative exercise or a diceless RPG, you are "roleing" up a player. That includes computer MMORPGs where 'dice' are replaced by the processor.

It's been this way since the 1980s. If people adopted this RULE, poor Roll Truck Roll wouldn't be so confused now.

With THAT said...

"Which makes for an interesting question - when does something start being too rule-based to be FUN?"
posted by FritoKAL at 10:09 AM on April 5

About five minutes before you realize you have to ask that question.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:59 PM on April 5, 2007

I recognize you from Whedonesque, and also (I think) from Fireflyfans.net. I will own up to RPing as both Mal and Saffron, in my past. Geek the fuck out, what!
posted by not_bitter at 10:33 PM on April 5, 2007

@everybody using the damn at sign to address people:

Stop doing that. Please. It's ugly and annoying and until recently a wholly unprecedented form of address on metafilter.

For god's sake.
posted by cortex at 10:50 PM on April 5, 2007

Actually, cortex, it makes it easier to find replies in a long thread. But, if it really offends you, I'll stop. It's an old language, anyway.
posted by not_bitter at 10:54 PM on April 5, 2007

The way I see it, a mefi thread is a priori a series of replies—finding them should be no difficulty when reading thoroughly before responding, which in my curmudgeonly way I consider a prerequisite to good conversation around here.

But this isn't fiat, it's annoyance, and it's a specific typographical neologism (with apparently diggish roots, and, I assure you, very much a new development on mefi) that bugs me a great deal because it's such a jarring and (by proof of history) unnecessary import. This is the one time in fifty that I haven't held my tongue. Don't take it personally; and I do not mean to create a big dust-up here. But, yeah, I would be thrilled if you (and the other handful of people who've been doing it) would consider cutting it out.
posted by cortex at 11:04 PM on April 5, 2007

I live to thrill.

Man, this site. I'm already feeling the burn... and I've only been back for about 24 hours.
posted by not_bitter at 11:26 PM on April 5, 2007

Wait wait wait. Cortex. Are you on LJ? I feel like you're familiar. I am also from Portland, but not currently.
posted by not_bitter at 11:29 PM on April 5, 2007

not_bitter sez:
I forgot how defensive MeFi makes me, because I read your comment as: You are a wanky, masturbatory hack. I'll be honest, some of my shit is wanky and some of it is masturbatory, but that's due largely to the fact that it's free-writing and not-for-publication.
Sorry about that - I didn't mean it as an attack. Rather I meant it this way: we are all wanky, masturbatory hacks. I think the basic unit of creative bravery is subjecting one's work to the criticisms of those who have no investment in the identity of the creator; the audience for fanfiction isn't an art-audience, it's something else, cast in a social form that actually mandates a certain kind of short-time-horizon (and to an extent short-imaginative-horizon) satisfaction. I find Fandom, this complex of interlocking text-fandoms characterized by variants on the same geek aesthetics, absolutely fucking maddening - but I'm clearly a fan of several texts/creators by any measure. The decision re: whether to write fanfic lies along the same line of separation: it's a social gesture, not a literary one, and I neither want nor (to my mind) need it. I need other things, some equally shameful. :)
I'll also admit that it's rare that I want to read other people's RP or tagfic, but it's not NEVER. A notable percentage of writers that I've found in those forums are fcuking fantastic and worth reading as serialized short stories. I follow them like I would a TV show. In turn, some people (usually co-players) followed my writing.
Here's where our experience differs most radically, I suppose: I've never read a single piece of fanfic - and I've tried, I've taken recommendations, read dozens - made of interesting prose or working according to a structure that was itself interesting. The questions a piece of fanfic sets out to answer aren't generative in the same way as those that prompt a piece of original writing. Why is most (published!) fantasy writing even worse than the low bar for most (published!) literary fiction? Because for the last half-century most popular fantasy is a particular kind of escapist (Tolkien) fanfiction. That kind of parasitic worldbuilding impulse is just plain problematic, not in itself, but because there's basically no incentive to couple it with the extrinsic gratifications of communicating-with-others. Owning a world like that, obsessing over its details, it becomes so hard to kill one's darlings.

Which we all know is the bare minimum requirement for writing workable fiction (along with basic grammar/spelling knowledge and so forth, which disqualifies almost every LJer anyhow!).

Fandom lowers our standards because it's so easy for us to fill in, in other people's writing/opining/etc., what we're so carefully conditioned to want to hear/read/see. Fans know so much trivia, so much plot, and that's a huge weight to bear. I find that it gets in the way of story...
Finally, as a professional reader (I'm an editor), I feel that have a grasp on reading for gratification, as well as writing for self-gratification... so stating that it was some of the most gratifying writing I've done was a considered statement.
Roger that. But I still put a lot of weight on that consideration, i.e. who is the ultimate recipient of satisfaction here? If it's not an imagined Reader - and in fandom, simply put, it just almost without exception isn't - then it's not about serving narrative logic. The desire-logics of fandom do not serve narrative construction well. (cf. NaNoWriMo, my hated hobbyhorse!)
Benefits include immediate feedback, direct interaction...
For a whole mess of reasons I consider both of these hindrances as much as benefits. Briefly: 'immediate feedback' does for the creative mind (the mechanism for aesthetic judging) what 'putting numbers in your cell phone' does for the memory - it outsources the work, fragments the stored-in-memory whole. That's a whole different kettle of discursive fish though, maybe for later. As for direct interaction, similar trouble: I'm not sure direct interaction with people who're in the fan-reader position is particularly helpful to the author. Not during the writing, anyhow - because they're not conditioned to want what's best for the story. Indeed, definitionally so: they're not capable of that kind of externalization and dispassion. That's not a fan position. It is specifically uncritical. Critical analysis/evaluation is this whole other imaginative stance, and it's a rare bird who can do both things at once, in my fan experience.

Are you reading the end of Joss's run on Astonishing? How's it going, in the end?
posted by waxbanks at 6:06 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have never tripped the light livejournalistic, no.
posted by cortex at 7:01 AM on April 6, 2007


All right. There's something about you that is so familiar, in reading your profile. It'll come to me.

In the meantime, I'll try not to take it personally that the one in fifty times you spoke up about the @user stuff occurred in my first thread back on MetaFilter.
posted by not_bitter at 8:37 AM on April 6, 2007

Interesting stuff, waxbanks. But could you clarify this?

The desire-logics of fandom do not serve narrative construction well. (cf. NaNoWriMo, my hated hobbyhorse!)

I understand what you're saying with respect to fan fiction, but how does this apply to NaNoWriMo? Are you saying that the competitive/amateurish aspects of it are, in themselves, a kind of fandom? The literary equivalent to stodgy English guys going out to hunt quail?

Maybe I would understand better if I'd ever read anything produced as a part of NaNoWriMo, which I haven't.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:51 AM on April 6, 2007

roll truck roll:

Take a look at the NaNo fora: all over you see evidence of the kind of self-satisfaction vs. generous-communication confusion that characterizes fanfic at its worst. All these would-be authors insisting that the characters speak to them and prevent them from telling stories with structural integrity ('zomg my MCs wont fall in love like their supposed to'), this weird belief that outlining hampers creativity (because it's 'not really writing'), the near-total lack of anything like critical evaluation among participants...

Almost no one on the NaNo fora talks about prose, because to do so would undercut the central tenet of the exercise, which is that 'being a novelist' is coterminous with 'stringing 50,000 words in a line.' Or, perhaps too neatly to be sufficiently precise: a NaNovel is fanfic about novels in general. The majority of these novels don't set out to solve problems of storytelling (the Discipline of writing) beyond the incidental; the social structure of NaNo places too much importance on the satisfactions of taking part and no importance at all on the artifact, the text. Which if nothing else would provide a meaningful metric for evaluating the experience, you'd think. 'It's shit but I actually finished it!' isn't a risible attitude unless you don't actually care about the writing being shit. Which is sort of the NaNo problem.

All of which is building up to a bit of nasty self-criticism that I'll spare you - I've got my Own Goddamn Blog, after all. :)
posted by waxbanks at 9:17 AM on April 6, 2007


Wanky and masturbatory. Redundancy works for me! Ask me how. But seriously, I enjoyed your treatise very much. I read it all even though it took some effort on my part. I've definitely caught the tl;dr virus, probably from Fandom (that dirty ho)... and I've never enjoyed literary criticism. Or cinematic criticism. Or musical criticism. Or art criticism. (Political criticism, however, I do like. Why? Possibly because it's not at all "my bag"?)

It's possibly that we've had such different experiences with fanfic because of this: I like my reading enjoyment to be magical and mysterious. I don't want to see Oz, I don't particularly enjoy deconstructing text and I don't want to consider how I've been conditioned as a reader -- I really just want to magically enjoy the story, the novel the movie, the painting, the poem. I have enjoyed so very many pieces of fanfiction. Possibly hundreds of pieces, out of the thousands that I've probably read at this point. I don't feel ashamed for enjoying them, but I do feel sort of bad that you haven't. Different strokes, obviously -- but I am glad that the cards fell this way for me, because I'm never short of good stuff to read.

Re: NaNo, I've written several unpublishable, unpolished novels (read: total crap) in my life, and have attempted NaNo (and failed) twice. I look at NaNo as exercise and consider it intrinsically good in that way, because whatever gets people writing is, you know, good. How's that for pedestrian?

And yes, I've been enjoying Astonishing. And look forward to S8 of Buffy, having just read the first issue. I thought about this a bunch the other night, after reading your blog and realized that I was perfectly happy not knowing what happened to Buffy (post-S7), or to Angel (post-S5). It was the universe and ensemble that I loved, not the individual plots, not the specific characters. This is possibly another reason why I can and do enjoy fanfiction, when you do not. I'm content to wonder idly and to survey other fans' estimations of where the story went next. I don't need or particularly want the answer, but I enjoy the search for the same.
posted by not_bitter at 11:19 AM on April 7, 2007

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