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Why are we all standing in the dark? Lumos! - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Why are we all standing in the dark? Lumos!
Oh, look, a fad to rant about that's not "Ugh, smut."

I don't even know what finally pushed me over the edge, but I'm sick to death of "dark" being somehow synonymous with "quality," or at least a step in that direction.

I don't dislike dark stories--you don't get much darker than Lord of the Flies, and it's one of my all time favorites. But the tones of reverence that go along with, "Ooo, this going to be so dark......" or the tossed off, "She's not shying away, it's going to be DARK..." are just starting to drive me mad.

So, taking a hint from Tonks's book, "LUMOS."

Yes, it's true that some things go south in life. That doesn't make it "more truthful" when a fic goes dark, because let's face it, it's just as true that there are happy endings out there. (I'll grant that I haven't had one, but oh, well. I've seen them. Honest.) A fic that doesn't go dark is not inherently less truthful or of inherently higher quality.

There are heroes in the world.

There are good people in the world.

Love exists.

Fate can be kind.

I'm going to go chew on nails now.

I feel a bit...: lonely lonely, bored, cranky

33 comments or Leave a comment
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: August 31st, 2004 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
From: magnolia_mama Date: August 31st, 2004 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm going to go chew on nails now.
While you're at it, you might as well spit a few too. You could almost turn this into an "Ugh, smut" rant since "dark" so often seems to be an excuse to write "ugly smut."

I'm such a Pollyanna when it comes to fanfic. I don't think I write stories with happy-happy-joy-joy endings (though I have been tagged with the dreaded "fluff" epithet more times than I care to admit, but that's a rant for another day), but I do like to end a fic on an upbeat and hopeful note, and I don't mean I do that *after* dragging the characters through Dante's 9 circles of Hell. I like hope. I like optimism. I like an upbeat ending. Dark in measured doses is fine, but sheesh.

Eh, maybe the Arizona sun has baked my brain. :-)

sophonax From: sophonax Date: August 31st, 2004 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
And, of course, anything *not* dark is derisively termed "fluff."

Who *are* these people who think that "real life" is nothing but horror and depression and angst and fear? Have they actually, like, lived?
mafdet From: mafdet Date: August 31st, 2004 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interrupting my posting to say "KEETIN! CUTE KEETIN!"

Ahem. My surmise is that many writers think that if it's "dark" it's "hip" and "cool" and "cutting edge" and all Charles Bukowski-like. Writers of "dark" fic have loads of street cred and, presumably, are devilishly attractive, whilst writers of "fluff" are frumpy, wear sensible oxfords and collect Precious Moments figurines.

That's how my jaundiced eye perceives things, anyhow.
ashavah From: ashavah Date: September 1st, 2004 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I'm going wrong somewhere, it seems. I write a dark fic! Where is my magic street cred and beauty? Why am I still an overweight geek?

Gah. I agree. While I see some use for dark fics, there should be a reason. And there should be balance. Like you said, Fern, life is not just dark. There's lots of good stuff out there, too.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: September 1st, 2004 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
SQUEE! Bilby! Cute Bilby! :D

I would never accuse you of poseur-dom, and you are a good writer. Not all "dark" fics are bad nor are all their writers hipster wanna-bes; I've just run into all too many who are. They sorta remind me of the pre-dot-com Mission District (San Francisco) hipster scene, all too painfully, as I've BTDT and still have some of the T-shirts.

I think that writers should write what they want, instead of courting popularity or status, and let the chips fall where they may. If that means fluff, then write fluff. If that means dark fic, then write dark stuff. I just hate to see writers court popularity or affect a "literary" style or worst, attempt to be a Very Bad and Edgy Girl or Boy. It's not the "darkness," it's the insincerity and posing that make my teeth itch. Good stuff - like yours and ashtur's "Cry Havoc" - can be as dark as it wants and I will read it.

And none of this applies to you or to anyone else on the Quill, really. This is yet another reason to love the Quill.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: August 31st, 2004 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I so agree with you. While I don't think stories should necessarily be wall-to-wall fluff (though that has its place) I love happy endings and good things as well as bad happening to characters.

Honestly, why people put ostensibly beloved fandom characters through torture after torture beats me.
malabud From: malabud Date: August 31st, 2004 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
So, so true. In fact, it takes more skill as a writer to write a happy story (or, at least, one with a happy ending that works) than a so-called dark story. Anyone can pile on the angst and the depression, but it takes a truly talented writer to write happy characters and to make that happiness convincing. JKR shows her skill in that she can write it all: happiness, comedy, tragedy (MWPP, anyone?), darkness, angst, and fluff.

I totally agree that darkness does not equal truth. Truth (not facts, but Truth, with a capital T), by its very nature, is a positive quality.
isiscolo From: isiscolo Date: August 31st, 2004 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
So, I keep hearing about "dark fic being automatically considered more worthy", but I never actually see these discussions wherein it is. Can you point me?

(No, I rarely write dark fic, but I don't feel that my light fizzy humour fics are at any sort of disadvantage for not being dark.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I think I got set off about this by a Steve Kloves comment about how he liked GoF best because it was "so Dark" and book 7 would be much "more dark" and...

gmth From: gmth Date: August 31st, 2004 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I was just about to ask the very same thing. I'd love to see the discussions where fluff is denigrated, too.

Not trying to be snarky, fernwithy. Honest inquiry, here.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's actually more real life than fanfic where this happens. (I'm a YA librarian, land of the problem novel, remember?) ;)
gmth From: gmth Date: August 31st, 2004 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ahh, ok. So do kids all want to read dark stuff these days? Do they slag off on the lighter stuff?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
No... the kids go for lighter stuff, like Harry Potter. It's the damned grown-ups who praise "brave" dark books up to the roof and put them on the summer reading lists.
gmth From: gmth Date: August 31st, 2004 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh! Well, that's certainly something to keep in mind as my son gets older. Thanks for the insight. I'll try to help him achieve a balance. :-)
mafdet From: mafdet Date: August 31st, 2004 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
You'll love this: In one of my local weekly papers, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the "Lit" section had a column praising "realistic young adult fiction," the example offered being a story about a girl and her mother who become homeless and have to live in their car. Whee. Fun. I'd rather read The Narnia Chronicles or A Wrinkle in Time or even those crappy "juvenile romances" any day.
From: magnolia_mama Date: August 31st, 2004 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. Did you read Laura Miller's commentary on summer reading lists in the New York Times too?

persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: September 1st, 2004 06:13 am (UTC) (Link)
I wonder if this was the one that prompted Cedar to gripe that the kids at her library always did go for the "dreadlit"?

I can believe quite a few do, of course. Somebody has to be reading and writing the Draco-angsts-and-jumps-off-the-Astronomy-Tower pieces and their ilk, after all.
From: magnolia_mama Date: August 31st, 2004 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
It seems to me that, in Potterfic at least, the converse seems to be more true than what Fern is arguing: that fluff is automatically assumed to mean "brainless," which means that fluff's antithesis (i.e., dark) must therefore equal quality liter-AH-ture. I can't point you to any specific discussions extolling the virtues of darkfics (mainly because I don't read much darkfic to begin with, so I'm not exactly inclined to follow discussions about it *g*), but I think one place to look might be your average fic review. How often do you see a reviewer write, "This was good *and* fluffy"? It's usually something more along the lines of, "This was fluffy, but good" or, worse (imo), "This was good, but fluffy," as though "good" and "fluffy" don't quite belong together in the same sentence. I don't see that same qualification in positive reviews of dark fics; "dark" itself is assumed to be a description of quality. I see similar patterns in recs I run across: "You simply must read this, it's so deliciously dark," as opposed to, "It's rather fluffy, but I think you should give it a read." I'm even seeing "fluff" used as a warning!

And I confess somewhat shamfacedly that I've been known to use "fluffy" as a qualifier when reccing fics. Eep!

gmth From: gmth Date: August 31st, 2004 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
How often do you see a reviewer write, "This was good *and* fluffy"? It's usually something more along the lines of, "This was fluffy, but good" or, worse (imo), "This was good, but fluffy"...

I have actually never seen this, to be honest with you. Perhaps it's because I don't read a lot of fluffy fics, but I do read fics other than darkfics and have never seen anyone qualify their review that way. Not saying it doesn't happen, just that I have never seen it.

rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: August 31st, 2004 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Dark" is one way to provoke a strong response in the reader.

There's some terrific dark stuff out there. There's also a lot of really crappy dark-for-its-own-sake stuff. Not to mention "oh-look-at-me-I'm-so-dark-I-rule" stuff.

Me? I seem to do Epic Romance. Bad stuff happens to the characters sometimes, and sometimes the bad things have lasting effects, but love triumphs in the end. Not saying that genre's better than any other... it just seems to be how the stories in my head are wired.

I've read some dark stories that are wrenching and beautiful. I've also read some very sweet, happy stories that are equally beautiful.

I think it might actually be harder to write a truly beautiful HAPPY story.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 31st, 2004 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
It ain't just fanfic that does it, unfortunately. Angst gets literary acclaim too. (And as one young reader of my acquaintance said, dismissively of the YA books "They're just books to slit your wrists by.")

There are a couple of issues going on though, in fanfic. One is that literary weight to "serious" stories, but the other is that an awful lot of fanfic is written because we have our own issues and writing is a way to work it out. (We inflict them on each other, yes, but the fourteen-year-old inside most of us needs the feedback.)

Not to mention the other big problem. Humor is pretty darn hard to write!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
(And as one young reader of my acquaintance said, dismissively of the YA books "They're just books to slit your wrists by.")

Great description of that load of dreck.
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: August 31st, 2004 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
"They're just books to slit your wrists by."


fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

I block all knowledge of Lurlene McDaniel when not actually faced with the row of "dying kid books" over in the corner.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 31st, 2004 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeh, there are always a few (mostly girls) who want the most wretchedly sad books they can find -- although even boys seem to like "A Child Called It", or at least want to read it. It must be a stage we go through. I remember reading "Karen" over and over at a certain age -- and weeping over "The People of the Deer."

Still, it wasn't the only kind of book I read, or wanted to read!
sophonax From: sophonax Date: September 1st, 2004 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)


Those. Books. Are. Porn.

Porn tries to make you feel something, without regard for the process by which it makes you feel it. Traditionally, porn tries to make you feel physically aroused; McDaniel's special brand tries to make you feel respect bordering on worship for people who DIE BEFORE THEIR TIME (cue tragic music)! In neither case is any attention whatever paid to production values or actually saying something meaningful.

ashtur From: ashtur Date: August 31st, 2004 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to say I agree with you. I can be a bit all over the place, both in my reading and writing. I can go dark (Cry Havoc is very dark), or I can do light (not too much HP stuff in that direction right now, though Bones isn't dark). Likewise, I'll read "A Song of Ice and Fire", or I'll read the Belgariad. Heck, I even like the Big Blue Boy Scout (aka Superman), and lots of people have looked down on me for *that* one.

You can make an enjoyable story either way, and a meaningful story either way if that's your goal.
angua9 From: angua9 Date: August 31st, 2004 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, there's Dark and Dark and Dark and Dark. There's morally ambiguous, and there's depressing, and there's morally wretched, and there's scary and exciting.

I think the last is what Kloves and his inquisitor were talking about. I like that kind of Dark.
equustel From: equustel Date: August 31st, 2004 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Argh! The word 'dark' has been so overused in fandom it's practically lost its meaning.

I can't stand angst for the sake of angst, because it's always in the forefront of my mind that "this is trying to make me feel a certain way..." it only works the way it's supposed to when it's unexpected. For me, at least. Otherwise... it's just not honest.
digitalmeowmix2 From: digitalmeowmix2 Date: September 1st, 2004 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)

added you
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 1st, 2004 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Jane Austen would agree with you. "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can..." - last chapter of Mansfield Park. (I love this quote.)

-Lorelei Lynn

erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: September 1st, 2004 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
THANK YOU. SO. VERY. MUCH. {{huggles}}
"se the real Lily Evans" "the dark er side of {fil-in-character}
AND DON't GET ME STARTED on gratuitous angst to add
more pain and more pain. Adding trauma to existing trauma.
Tom/Ginny. The list goes on i' mafraid (and that last one gets
my boycot. it's ALWAYS the same scenariio i.e. COS from
her poitn of view or AU-ed into adark wordl wher they
LOVE EACH OTHER WHICH THEY DIDN'T! Grrrr. Sorry. Look for me whe nI'm done with the a-to-z lists on fA. 8sigh*
there is good well-written fic with dark themes outthere but ti's dark for a well-developed well-thoguth out and significantly more intelligent reason than merel yfor the sake of getinga kick otu of writing pain in al the meanigns fo the word.
I' mdone now.
your foot makes me think of Arabella and her broken leg...
which gave me aficlet idea. I'll dedicate itto you when I have
it out of the way.
33 comments or Leave a comment