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A Random Evil - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
A Random Evil
Wow. So people think the anagrammatic point of "Romilda Vane" is "I'm A Dan Lover." Okay. I guess the letters work. But I kind of suspect, if there's any anagram point to it at all, it's "A Random Evil," which fits what she does. I mean, yes, she fangirls Harry (who is not Dan), but her function in the plot is to accidentally make Ron crazy, leading to his poisoning. A totally random bit of evil. I'm just sayin'.

I have to say, I'm wondering about accusations that a bit of canon (in any fandom) "reads like fanfic." I know that the insult means, "It reads like fanfic that I don't like," but I have to wonder at the concept of the thing, really. Fanfic writing and canon writing are, well, writing. They come from the same place. We write about what interests us, JKR writes about waht interests her. Sometimes they coincide. Sometimes they don't. There's not some mystically different approach that one takes when writing canon (known among we mere mortals as "original fiction"), except for the fact that the canon writer is creating the original scenarios as well as speculating on them. (And yes, you speculate in original fiction as well as in fanfic. You have to. I came up with a scenario I liked in The Gods in Time, but speculating on it didn't interest me much, so the story fizzled out. I just didn't have anything to say after the initial set-up, even though I liked my guys.) So yes--of course some canon is going to read like fanfic, because at some point, some fan writer is going to have speculated on something that the canon author was also interested in speculating on.

The use of "It's like fanfic" as a criticism strikes me as particularly puzzling when it comes from fanfic writers, who know the process of writing (and even know that there are times you just push through a plot point because it has to be done). Canon writers are just the writers who happen to write canon. They're people. They go through the same writing process as everyone else.
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sophonax From: sophonax Date: September 14th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
The main distinction I make between something that "reads like" fanfic and something that has a proper canon feel to it is the kind of story that's being told, not the style of prose. Fanfic, to me, generally feels like filling-in-the-cracks type of stuff that goes on outside a main story--when well done, of course, it can feel like its own main story that everything else is centered on, but it's fundamentally peripheral. I can't imagine anyone thinking that, say, the next installment of HP (for any temporal value of "next") feels like fanfic, because it's so clearly continuing to tell the main story that the first books started.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: September 14th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh, and re: Romilda Vane, why can't it be both? I like your point, though; it's always worth reminding that normal teenage obnoxiousness isn't entirely harmless.
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: September 14th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Anagrams. Are. Silly. :)

Thank you for making the "fanfic" comment. People said the same thing about OOTP, and they're saying it now, simply because (I suspect) they can't quite accept that canon changes and grows, and the new material feels foreign to them. What, dare I ask, would real canon read like, according to these people? Beyond being good and convincing and obviously Jo's, would it emit some kind of otherworldly JKR glow? Are there mystical canonical experiences I've been missing out on?
scarah2 From: scarah2 Date: September 14th, 2005 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
We were trying to make it spell "Am Olivander," but there is only one L in Romilda Vane. :)

Ron: Avid Male
drunkandinlove From: drunkandinlove Date: September 15th, 2005 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
wait, doesn't Am Olivander work?
duncatra From: duncatra Date: September 14th, 2005 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I see 'like fanfic' as maybe going a little too far in terms of giving the fans what they think they want. There are things one expects in fanfic - like 'shipper fic - that maybe aren't incredibly suited to canon. A good story is a good story, but sometimes fan service ends up going overboard. It's like if Rowling decides that the seventh HP book will suddenly became about nothing but everyone's sex lives.

The X-Files did that every once and a while with Mulder and Scully - there were several episodes that were so shipper-heavy, even in the early seasons, that you didn't have to know about the fandom to get the anvils. Xena did quite a bit of that too, with all those episodes that were set in the 'present day,' mostly dealing with reincarnations of the main characters, but the worst was one where you literally had modern-day Xena fangirls somehow bring the characters into the present day.

Some of the XF ones have aged pretty well - the episode where Mulder and Scully pretend to be married used a fanfic staple, but it was still a good XF episode, even though it annoyed me at the time. But the Xena fangirls? If that's not fanfic, I don't know what is.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 14th, 2005 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
There were some moments in Xena that were definitely fan influenced--to the detriment of the show, as it became a severe angst-fest--but I wouldn't say "like fanfic." (It did it's best fanficcy show in "The Quill is Mightier..." imho).
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 14th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

from Violet Azure

I've always taken the comment of canon feeling like a fanfic to pertain more to the canon author's writing style more so than JKR, or another canon author, not writing what I wanted to happen so therefore I don't like the canon author's new stuff. As much as I love JKR and the Harry Potter books, JKR has her strengths and weaknesses. She's quite excellent at plotting and at inserting humor and at creating new and wonderful things, but I sometimes find her prose a little weak. She made a huge leap forward with HBP {"several sunlit days" and "like a rope, like a fiery snake" were some of my favorite lines) but she's not a typical "novelist". A Harry Potter book by JKR will never be written like "The Corrections" or like a book by Margaret Atwood. However, there are some fanfic authors whose strengths are JKR's weaknesses and vice versa. I tend to like a lot of fanfic authors who have a very "prosy" style and are writing fanfiction as seriously as they would an original novel. I respect that. I don't mind as much if they don't create new inventions or have an ultra-twisty plot and when I go from reading about HP characters written in a style that's quite good to JKR's style, it can be a little jarring.

Also, I don't know about other fandoms, but JKR herself does a lot of things fanfic authors get flamed for. Her books have *a lot* of Flints: the James/Lily wand order in GoF, the ages of the Weasleys, Marcus Flint convieniently repeating a year, dates in the books not matching up with dates in real life like when Sept. 1 is always magically a Monday. You hold the author to a higher standard because s/he created the world. JKR also glosses over some things in the books and I'm really glad that she takes the time to answer questions on her website. I don't like it when people are like, "Oh, JKR made Harry and Ginny get together instead of Ginny with Draco. Her book is so typical of fanfic and I love Draco and Boo-Hoo I'm going to keep writing Draco as sexy and hawt and he's going to get together with Ginny, who still acts like an innoscent little girl from CoS."

That kind of whining I can't stand, but I do understand where some of the "canon feels like fanfic" comes from. At least with JKR, we've come to expect the unexpected from her. The first 4 books had such amazing plot twists and I had to go back and re-read everything for clues. Books 5 and 6 have been radically different narrative styles compared to the first 4 books. They're more linear, less red herrings and there are less "surprises" at the end, which is how a lot of fanfic authors write. Fanfic writers have been "predicting" for certain couples to get together and have been "predicting" certain events and they tend to be over used. The whole "Harry-breaks-up-with-Ginny-to-protect-her-from-Voldemort" story has been written in fandom since GoF so when it happened in HBP, no one was really surprised and that's always been JKR's greatest strength as an author: to keep her audience guessing. Very few fanfic authors come up with truly original plots and instead focus on characterization and writing style, sooooo when JKR, who we expect to give us a great plot twist, doesn't deliver, we're more likely to critically examine her style and characterization and say, "Oh, I read a fanfic with Harry and Ginny getting together and it was much better than what JKR wrote." Yes, but that's all the fanfic author wrote. JKR has much bigger plans for Harry. Still, I would probably read that woman's grocery list.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 14th, 2005 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: from Violet Azure

I guess I never really thought of the main arcs of the story as being particularly surprising or unpredictable--Ginny/Harry was a pretty obvious pairing intention, so a lot of fanfic authors picked up on it. R/T was less obvious, but a lot of us still saw it coming. R/Hr... doesn't really need much explanation! Had she failed to follow through on any of her set up ships--or other points she has set up in canon--that would be bad writing. We're at the seventh book--everything should be set up by now, all the fuses contentedly burning, and the fireworks should go off as scheduled.
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: September 14th, 2005 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I think a lot of fanfic has a definite aesthetic that gives it a very different feel from anything in the HP books. In general, fanfic develops romantic relationships in exhaustive detail and tends to undervalue platonic ones, focuses heavily on characters' emotions and internal development rather than external conflicts, privileges darkness and seriousness over humor, etc. (There are, mercifully, plenty of exceptions, but the type of stories that get admired and imitated most often is reasonably consistent.)

The puzzling part, for me, is that many of the people who are complaining that HBP was "like fanfic" really seem to mean that it wasn't enough like fanfic when you try to pin them down to specific examples. The claims that Harry didn't spend enough time mourning Sirius and that the romantic pairings were insufficiently foreshadowed and developed, for instance, strike me as attempts to apply fanfic standards to canon. (Also, I suspect that the real problem many of these people have with the canon pairings is that they were played for comic relief, while romance is Deadly Serious Business in fanfic.)
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: September 14th, 2005 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel the same way; I tend to think people just don't realize it.

It amuses me to no end how some peeves have become canon, though....
narnian_dreamer From: narnian_dreamer Date: September 14th, 2005 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I felt it read like fanfic too, because fanfic has always been overly interested in shipping even peripheral characters, compared to HP canon where romantic relationships, even those involving Harry like Harry/Cho, always got less attention. Then in this book, the relationships went nuts!

But I think that was for two main reasons. a) The way wartime makes people want to get involved, like Molly Weasley mentions and b) Harry's sixteen, which means not just that dating is becoming big in Hogwarts, but that he's noticing it outside of his own crushes. So it makes sense, but the resemblence did make me giggle while I was reading it.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: September 14th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your observation that canon writers are also mere mortals was a minor a-ha moment for me. Not that I don't know it, but you know how it is. I've written just one novel in my life (a Nanowrimo one, so it sucks), and I tend to automatically think of real novelists as demigods. And as someone who has actually accused HBP of being "like fanfic", I'll admit that the demigod syndrome was part of the reason why I said that.

But that's not all of it.

Now, one of the driving mysteries of the 6th book was the identity of the HBP, and this plot thread was exactly like fan-fiction because of its role in the overall plot.

Canon exists to tell a good story, and that's it. Fan fiction exists to speculate about the mysteries and characters in canon. This plot thread was very like fanfic, because it was an exercise in pure speculation about a canon character, as the identity of the HBP had nothing whatsoever to do with anything. It kept the story moving on the basis of a fan's interest in figuring out the identity of the Prince, which is supposed to be an end in itself. That's OK in fanfic (could actually be good if it's a well-done one-shot), but not in canon.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: September 14th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
.. (wanted to add thoughts on shipping)...

I disagree with people who say that HBP was like fanfic because of all the shipping in it. Romance was a legitimate, and major, plot thread in this book, that's all. It was given a nice arc of its own and a good conclusion when McGonagall quotes Dumbledore with the "more love in the world" line.

There's no reason why romance should not have been a big plotline in this book. It's certainly been built up to, what with all the tension between Ron and Hermione, and Ginny's crush in the first book, etc. That has not only clued us into what pairings to expect, but also that romance is not absent in Rowling's world. I think it's unfair to yell 'foul' at it becoming a major plotline instead of remaining an afterthought, simply because fandom has overdone the romance thing. Rowling, in keeping with the tone of the previous books, kept the romance decidedly clean, subtle and behind the scenes, except for when the plot required it to be open - and she always had a good reason (to wake Harry up properly to his feelings for Ginny, or to show the whole Lav-lav + Won-Won debacle).

lizbee From: lizbee Date: September 14th, 2005 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
What worries me is that one person told me that my fics were "like canon". Now they're complaining, endlessly, that HBP is "like fanfic". I really don't know what to say to that; it's an entirely meaningless complaint.
tiferet From: tiferet Date: September 15th, 2005 12:02 am (UTC) (Link)
No, it isn't; people who liked HBP just don't like hearing it. HBP reads 'like fanfic' in the sense that even the very best fanfic ever sounds different from what the canonical author does--and the best fics acknowledge that and work with it instead of trying to ape the canonical author.

People who didn't like HBP and people who did like HBP, whether or not it had to do with shipping, were picking up on two different aspects of the text. The people who really, really hated HBP loved the first five books because of the unreliability of the narrators and the ambiguities of the text. Which Rowling is now saying she never intended to put there (well, actually she seems to think they're NOT there, even though she seems to have worked very hard on putting them in before). Now that the text is no longer at all ambiguous (except perhaps for Snape and Draco, but I really haven't much hope for them given the things she says in interviews--Snape will turn out to have been Bumblebore's pawn, yawn, and Draco will get shafted, and if I expect that then I might get a pleasant surprise) and everyone who ever thought it was has been vilified as a high priest/ess of wank on FW, a lot of people are saying, well, this reads like fanfic.

Because it does. It reads like someone on SQ wrote it, and not just because of the ships, but because of the lack of ambiguity. My loathing for this book is incredible, mostly because I loved the first four books so much. It was a huge disappointment.
cmere From: cmere Date: September 14th, 2005 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here from the Snitch, and I tend to agree. I said it felt like a fanfic at times, because some fanfic 'cliches' were present--when Harry walked in on Draco crying in the bathroom and then they fought, they were but one step away from the hatesex :) But yes, it's all writing and it all takes work, and people should acknowledge that.
penny_sieve From: penny_sieve Date: September 14th, 2005 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here by way of the daily snitch and just wanted to say this: I cannot figure out how someone can call the original author's work to be like fan-fiction. This is her world and her universe, her characters and events that she has created. The characters have evolved over the years, she's added new perspectives and new events and new ideas, but the fact is that she has created them from scratch.
A fan-fiction is exactly that - a fiction written by a fan of the original author. These authors have taken the characters, events and ideas of the original author and given them their own interpretations or have expanded on a particular plot point written by the original author.
I think it's simply ridiculous to say the original author's work, whether one like it or not, reads like fan-fiction.
unlovablehands From: unlovablehands Date: September 14th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think another aspect of this, I say, coming as not really terribly involved in HP fandom but in various others, aside from the previously mentioned that the focus is different in what people expect from fanfic or canon, is that there's... there are things people want to read about in fanfiction that they wouldn't want to happen "for real." Some 'ships are like this, various deathfics are like this, angst/dark fics. There are things that are fun to read in fanfiction (That one might actual seek out in fanfiction, even) that one wouldn't want to read in the actual canon. The appreciation is different when you know that what happens in a fanfiction story "didn't really happen" in canon to those characters. The characters and istuations remain untouched by the fanfiction, but when those same things play out in canon, they're irreversible, they have changed, the canon is different.
tiferet From: tiferet Date: September 15th, 2005 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)
This is very very true.
skelkins From: skelkins Date: September 15th, 2005 01:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that often (although by no means always) the complaint "it reads like fanfic" can be adequately translated as:

"This is the first new canon to come out since I joined the fandom and started reading fanfic."

The act of reading or writing fanfic, by its very nature, weakens the reader's sense of division between the role of the reader and that of the author. It demystifies the authorial role. So I think it's actually quite common - especially in fandoms like SW or HP, where there are long waits between canon installments - for people to have an almost startled reaction to the first book to come out since they joined the fandom. It's a kind of startled "Whoah, the author is doing all the same things I did when I tried to write my canon-accurate fic! She's...she's just another human writer!" response.

I also think that to some extent, the sort of active speculation about future canon that people do in fandom can have a disillusioning effect on readers. In order to speculate about future plot developments in a serial, the fan must consider all of the indicated possibilities, and then choose one over all the others on the grounds of plausibility, enjoyability, complexity, consistency, etc. It sets up a kind of competition between author and reader, and by doing so, destabilizes the concept of authorial hegemony. Again, it's basically a revelation of "hey, the author's doing the same things we do!" which in turn gets expressed as "she's just another fan; ergo, her work reads like fanfic."

And of course, should the author choose a plot development which the fan had considered as speculation but then rejected on the grounds that it would be fictively inferior then it can quickly lead to disillusionment: the "the author made a bad choice/I could write these books much better than she could!" position. I think that accounts for some of what we're seeing in this recent unpleasantness. I believe that it may be to some extent intrinsic to the very nature of fandom engagement to disillusion its participants in certain ways about the original source material. Some people actively enjoy this process; some do not, but suffer in silence; and some, alas, wank about it.
londonkds From: londonkds Date: September 15th, 2005 09:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Here via metafandom

I also think that to some extent, the sort of active speculation about future canon that people do in fandom can have a disillusioning effect on readers. In order to speculate about future plot developments in a serial, the fan must consider all of the indicated possibilities, and then choose one over all the others on the grounds of plausibility, enjoyability, complexity, consistency, etc. It sets up a kind of competition between author and reader, and by doing so, destabilizes the concept of authorial hegemony. [...] And of course, should the author choose a plot development which the fan had considered as speculation but then rejected on the grounds that it would be fictively inferior then it can quickly lead to disillusionment: the "the author made a bad choice/I could write these books much better than she could!" position.

Not into Potter fandom at all, but this strikes me as a very perceptive realisation, especially since I went through exactly that situation with the final season of the Angel TV series.
inalasahl From: inalasahl Date: September 15th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Here from Metafandom

For myself, when I say something is "like fanfic," the rest of that sentence is not "that I don't like." It's "because it's self-indulgent." There are a whole host of things that one can do in fanfic, because it'll entertain oneself or one's friends that simply aren't appropriate in profic. To take an extreme example, I don't have a problem with a fanfic author playing "let's pretend Sirius didn't die in book five," but I'd have a huge problem with J.K. Rowling doing that. On the more realistic side of things, I'm fine with a fanfic author who spends two pages describing Draco's angst over choosing what to wear in the morning. That can be a fun *wink wink nudge nudge* meta commentary on Draco fanon. But J.K. Rowling shouldn't spend a chapter on Draco getting dressed in order to make a comment about Draco fans. And when I see a profic author including something or someone that doesn't serve the story that's being told, but is there solely as an in-joke or a commentary, I cry "like fanfic."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 15th, 2005 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Here from Metafandom

For myself, when I say something is "like fanfic," the rest of that sentence is not "that I don't like." It's "because it's self-indulgent."

But fanfic really shouldn't be self-indulgent, either (at least no moreso than any other writing)--there's no real excuse for it. Something that's written should always be polished and exhibit some excuse for being there. I think it's kind of insulting to fanfic to think of it as nothing but self-indulgent writing.

Which is kind of what I meant by the post--it's not "Is this or that piece of canon really like fanfic?" but why in the name of all that's canon do fanfic writers have such a low opinion of fanfic?
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