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19 January 2010 @ 04:07 pm
Shark Jumping - A Rant  

 

There is a lot of bad fanfic out there but since I’ve stopped actively participating in IYFG and no longer feel the need to read at least one chapter of all nominated fics I spend most of my reading time reading good stories. This is mostly because after years in fandom I have a lot of good authors on notify, know whose recommendations to trust, and have gotten pretty good at screening stories based on the summaries.

I have also developed the self-discipline to bail on a story after a page or so if it looks as if it will not live up to the promise of the summary. Actually, I have gotten to the point that I have ditched a story after two or three chapters  instead of feeling as if I’ve gotten that far and must finish like I used to do.

Sure, I may miss a pretty good story because the summary isn’t well written, or the first page wasn’t the greatest, but most of the time if an author grows that much in the course of writing as long fic I’ll discover her work with one of her later stories and give her earlier stuff more time to prove itself when I attempt to read it.

Most of the bad!fic I end up reading lately though started out great and then jumped the shark. There will be a really great first chapter, possibly followed by a good but not great second chapter and maybe a readable third chapter, followed by OMGWTF??? What drugs are you ON woman????

Or maybe it’s a series and the first story or two (or three) is really good but then suddenly you realize that you've wasted hours of your life you could have devoted to Torchwood reruns when the author introduces something that completely eviscerates her plot thus far

Do some authors think that if they have established an AU series that all of their stories for a particular fandom have to fit that series no matter how much damage they do to their structural integrity when they shoe horn the new story in? Do some just get bored and decide to shake things up?  I see it in professional fiction too so it’s not just a fanfic thing. Yes, I’m looking at YOU Russell T. Davies.

There has to be a term for these stories other than just a story that jumps the shark. We need a short term like “Mary Sue” or “Rape!Fic” to apply to these when warning off others. Anybody know if there is one? Maybe shark jumper?

Anyway, the post I made a few weeks ago at Weeping Cock sprang from one of these stories. The first chapter wasn’t great but it was good enough and set things up to be interesting. The second had some elements that were a bit dicey as far as characterization and canon were concerned but wasn’t too bad given the context from the first. The third??? Indescribably bad. It had detailed descriptions of everyone’s Hot Topic outfits, OOC behavior, angst, really bad and cheesy dialog, and a disconnect with how things work in the real world that is a sure sign that the author is under the age of 18.

Did you know that all you have to do to get into a club if you are underage is to wear the right clothes and give the bouncer attitude? He totally won’t check your ID. I didn’t know that either.

That chapter was so unintentionally funny that I read the rest of the story simply to mock it. I kept feeding quotes from the best of the worst to Christina on chat and making the cat look at me funny when I would suddenly start giggling maniacally.

Unfortunately the series I’m currently reading didn’t become bad in an entertaining way. The first 3 or 4 stories were pretty good and, except for an odd quirk of language that makes me wonder if English is the author’s first language, I would have no problem recommending them to someone looking for a decent read. These were longish stories for the most part, not one shots, so it took a few days to read through them.

THEN

One story ends in a way that would make a really satisfactory end to the series as a whole and the next story picks up 10 years later. It includes elements that are completely out of left field that not only screw with canon characterization but with the characterization of characters as established in earlier stories in the same series. It includes an original character getting pregnant by a main character (but that’s okay, she dies tragically so she can’t sue up the place too much), a couple who are telepathic with one another suffering through a Grand Misunderstanding that drives the plot even though you’d think if anyone would be safe from that sort of thing it would be telepaths, rape, torture, two resurrections from the dead after dramatic death scenes (Way to milk an idea. There was already once such scene in an earlier installment), a character who was a sympathetic ally becoming a bitchy villian, and the sudden introduction of the concept of “mating marks” along with lots of angst surrounding them.

I could do a whole rant just on mating marks in general and the way this author handles them in particular.

If this had been the first story in the series I would never have spent several days reading the others and I can’t seem to get myself to stop reading in the hopes that somehow the author will dig herself out of the pit she has written herself into even though it just keeps getting worse.

There really is no way to avoid stepping in something like this and the fact that the author is capable of better just makes me want to hunt her down and beat her.

 

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Abraxasdr_abraxas on January 19th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
there there....in can only get worse. let's just say my powers of squick took a beating with this. ready?

http://www.toplessrobot.com/2010/01/fan_fiction_friday_sherlock_holmes_and_watson_in_t.php

the author took the story down, I saved a copy although I don't anyone will be reading it.
ranuel: Do Not Wantranuel on January 19th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
Oh. My. God.

He...

No

I had to start scanning after a bit. I thought regular reading at WC had toughened me up but it's not the grossness, I've cared for dying relatives and work in a hospital, it's that the sheer badness of that can not be understated.
Abraxasdr_abraxas on January 20th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
for me it was the size of it - 13,000 words! that takes a lot of time and effort.
ranuel: Spock Logicranuel on January 20th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
And a serious preoccupation with bodily functions.
miket61: No one wants to see that...miket61 on January 20th, 2010 07:06 am (UTC)
I'm assuming that most of the stories you're talking about are shorter than the ones that came to my mind - Alexandra Ripley's Scarlett: The Sequel to Gone With The Wind and Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full.

Scarlett uses its first chapter to clear out any plot points that were in the first book that weren't in the movie (like her kids with Charles Hamilton and Frank Kennedy). Toward the end of the book she gets impregnated by Rhett, moves to Ireland, presents herself as an unmarried woman, and restores her family's anscestral home before her baby bump starts showing. Then she delivers the baby on Halloween night, during a thunderstorm, on the kitchen table, with the local witch as a midwife.

A Man in Full is about a real estate developer whose life is falling apart. Who decides to give everything away and become an itinerant preacher.
ranuelranuel on January 20th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC)
Actually, I can't remember how thick Scarlet is (it was a doorstop, wasn't it?), but the prime offenders I have in mind are pretty much all at least short novel length. With a short story, even if it goes bad, the time loss isn't as annoying.

Looking at the two I can remember well enough to locate quickly right now one is 110,000 words and crapped out in the last chapter. The other, the one that sparked this rant is 227,000 words long all together and self destructs about 80,000 words before the end. That's taking the official posted word count and rounding to the nearest thousand.

I finished that one last night and the author seems to have realized what she had done because we get a hurried deus ex machina ending(with real gods and everything)tacked on that attempts to fix things by doing things like saying that the ally turned villain was trying to do the right thing but totally misunderstood the situation. 'Cause you know, people put the spouses of the people they care about most through several years of emotional abuse out of the goodness of their hearts all the time.

Anyway, I did sort of watch the mini-series of Scarlett but I was multi-tasking and missed a lot so I don't feel as gypped as I would have if I'd tried to read the novel.
miket61miket61 on January 20th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
I think Scarlett was over 700 pages. So was Man in Full.

110K is probably in the normal range for an adult novel; 227K is rather long.

[T]he ally turned villain was trying to do the right thing but totally misunderstood the situation.

Something like this worked in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, but there's got to be some foreshadowing and irony so that the viewer/reader expects something.
ranuelranuel on January 20th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah,you can do almost anything if you set it up in advance.