"Not SF", apparentlyYou know how authors sometimes protest that their books are not romance novels? Well, that seems to have spread to science fiction. It's not "cool" (never mind that some of the biggest blockbuster movies are sci-fi) so, naturally, X person never wrote/read it *rolls eyes*.
I was glancing at the Amazon entry for Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody, and one reviewer comments:
"Don't be put off by some people calling it 'sci-fi' just because it's set in a post apocolyptic world- it's not sci-fi really! It would be better fitting to call it Spectulative Fiction, in the same realms of Phillip Pullman. There is no technology or any unpronouncable names or meaningless new cultures that are impossible to understand in this book."
No, no technology or unpronouncable names. Huh, but the main character can speak to animals, and talk to people in their minds, or coerce them into doing what she wants. Oh! And she can use telekinesis to pick locks, too. And then there's... hey what do you know, it *is* sci-fi!
In the most recent issue of SFX, one columnist quotes an author named Jeanette Winterson as saying that she hates science-fiction. Honey, you wrote a book set in the far future which involves robots.
Then there's a comment I just found in an internet search, in which s/he claims that the TV show Battlestar Galactica "is distinctly not science fiction". (It's set on a spaceship.)
In fact, a web search for "not sci-fi" or "not science-fiction" reveals several interesting things. For instance, James Cameron apparently said of Dark Angel (the TV series about people who were genetically engineered to be soldiers), "I really don't look at it as science fiction".
Then there's this comment from a forum: "Jurassic Park is SOOOOOOOOOOOO not Sci Fi" (Were dinosaurs really around in the 20th century?) Or how about "Star Wars is really space-fantasy, so technically it's not sci-fi" (I agree that the Jedi stuff is fantasy not SF, but really, the spaceships and aliens?)
Is there a logic to this, somewhere? Not only are these things sci-fi, some of them are blatantly sci-fi (see: anything with spaceships). I'm beginning to think what these people actually mean is "it's not just for geeks who dress up as Klingons". Like the romance novels, they're just trying to get away from the stigma of the label.
There's been a lot of debate recently about why a lot of people in fandom seem to dislike female characters, and I've noticed something:
Very often the women disliked are women who, in canon, spend years wanting to be with a specific guy.
Sam Carter, SG-1 - has wanted to be with Jack O'Neill since about s3, never managed it.
Ginny Weasley, HP - had a crush on Harry since book 1, only got together with him in book 6.
Sara Sidle, CSI - seems to me to have had wanted Grissom since s1, maybe even since before the start of the show. Only got together with him at the end of s6.
Perhaps the reason that I often get defensive about these women is because I actually like pairings where the characters for some reason take a long time to actually get together. I often find the emotions and interactions more interesting when they aren't together than when they finally are.
For instance, I love Sam/Jack, Sara/Grissom, and Angel/Cordelia, and in each of those cases both the men & women admitted that they were in love with each other - but only Sara & Grissom actually ended up together, and that was years later.
The two main reasons I can think of for people's dislike of these women are:
1. They're not seen as "strong" (by which I assume is meant the Feminist Ideal of a woman who is not dependant on a man to be happy).
2. They interfere with the guy getting together with Character C (who could be either male or female).
Here are my reactions to those:
1. It doesn't stop them being well-written. Women don't always live up to the Feminist Ideal, you know. And personally, I find sticking to one man an indication of love, not a lack of independence. Especially as each of the characters I named at some point tried to have a relationship with another guy.
2. Why does nobody ever blame the guy? (Well, it might happen occasionally, e.g. in the Angel-Buffy-Spike triangle, but it's rare.) You know, the thing about those pairings is that Jack had feelings for Sam for as long as she did for him. Grissom showed his feelings for Sara 2 years before they got together. Harry did, you know, end up with Ginny. And no, there was no love potion involved, just teenage hormones. Which might be pretty much the same thing!
Point 2 is, of course, a knee-jerk reaction, not generally a conscious choice. It's jealousy, just as I'd be jealous of a girl in real life dating a guy I wanted. I don't blame people for feeling that way, I just wish that more people would be honest and admit that that's the reason why they hate X character.
I'm a non-OTPer. I have favourite pairings of course, but I can read and enjoy those characters in other pairings. Sometimes my favourite pairings even conflict with each other. This is why point 2 very rarely applies to me.
I do wish, though, that more authors would refrain from bashing women in their fanfic, because it seriously harms my enjoyment of the pairings they write. Bash all you want in conversation with your friends; even write fanfic specifically for bashing if you care to, but please please don't include it in fics I might otherwise enjoy reading!
On a completely unrelated side note, Angel fandom needs more femdom...
I've heard a lot of slashers say that the reasons that they write or read slash is because there are no strong women in their fandom, or none that they can identify with, or none that are well-written by the author/scriptwriters.
These aren't the only reasons I've heard (others include fancying the men, over-identifying with the women, etc). However, it's those three arguments which I have to disagree with (in most but not all fandoms I am a part of).
In Stargate, Teyla, Sam, Vala, Janet and Elizabeth are all strong female characters, and there are also some strong recurring women (Kate, Laura, etc). All of the CSI shows have strong women, plural. HP has Hermione, Ginny, Tonks, Bellatrix...
You can say that you don't like these women, but to say that they're not strong is IMO simply wrong.
Even if you think the writing about a certain character has been bad in canon, that doesn't stop her being potentially great to play with in fanfic. After all, plenty of fanfiction takes underdeveloped characters and rounds them out.
As for indentifying with a character - I almost never identify with the characters I write in my fanfiction, male or female! In fact there are very few characters in any fandoms I identify with, and I would guess that that's true of quite a lot of people in fandom.
My main point however is, are the male characters actually all so much stronger, better developed and more easy to identify with?
Case in point: Draco. He's a major focus of HP fanfiction. And yet, in canon he's little more than a snobby, prejudiced bully. He doesn't get any rounding out at all until book 6 (and he was a focus of fandom a long time before that). Does this make a strong man? Does it make a character easy to identify with?
I'm going for: no.
In that case, do the majority of people actually have to identify with a character to write them? Or to believe them to have strong personalities, or even to think them well-written in canon? It seems not.
So essentially I think what these slashers actually mean is that there are no female characters that they love in their fandom, or that they feel able to write properly. Which are very different things from them being strong, well-developed or easy to identify with.
Every so often, I see a story (published or otherwise) where someone is desperately trying to tell somebody something, but their parent/teacher/lover refuses to listen.
What I want to know is, why don't the stupid idiots just raise their voices and say what they have to say, instead of constantly trying to get the other's attention by calling their name or whatever?
Politeness is great and everything, but really.
Peter: But Mum, I have to tell you -
Mum: Not now, Peter! I'm busy. Go away.
Peter: Mum, it's important -
Mum: If I have to tell you again I'll spank you, Peter.
Now, how this conversation should have gone is:
Mum: I'm busy. Go away.
Peter: Mum, the house is on fire!
Mum: *feels stupid for totally refusing to listen to her son*
...sorry, it just drives me mad when I see stupid things like that in stories.
It is the wisdom of When Harry Met Sally that a man and a woman cannot be friends without at least one of them thinking of shagging the other.
In every book, film, or TV show where an unmarried man, and an unmarried woman, have a strong friendship, there is invariably cries of "UST!" People want them to get together, and in many cases they do. After all, the writers often share the feelings of "The hero should get the girl!"
Or, indeed, "The heroine should get the boy". Lorelai from Gilmore Girls was always going to end up with Luke eventually, after seasons of friendship with him.
In the HP fandom, Harry/Hermione shippers are good examples of fans who want the hero to end up with the most prominant female character. After all, Harry has a very close friendship with Hermione. The lack of him ever having expressed any indication of romantic love for her in any of the books means nothing, really. The fact that he cares for her is enough, even if the rest of us see it as purely platonic.
In this day and age, however, it's not just M/F friendships that get this treatment. Because in the world of slash, same-gender friendships get it too.
Just look at Jack/Daniel in the wonderful world of Stargate SG-1 fandom. On the show, they have a close friendship, and so in fandom, they're shipped together, obsessively. For all that Sam/Jack or Daniel/Vala lovers might argue that the characters are strictly hetero, with canon heterosexual relationships, all a J/D slasher needs is one good friendship scene and they can go away and write pages of glorious slash fanfiction.
I'm not, of course, saying that I'm not guilty of wishing "the girl would get the boy". Until the appearance of Marisol in CSI: Miami, I fervently wished that Horatio & Calleigh would end up together - they had chemistry, even if it was canonically platonic.
But it does leave us in a situation where, apparently, friendship between unmarried characters (and sometimes married ones), regardless of gender, cannot exist without ending up in a romantic relationship - at least in somebody's imagination.
Of course, in the world of fandom, even feeling uncontrollable hatred for another character can equal "UST". But that's another story...
On nobility in fanfiction
I've read a lot of AU fics from various fandoms where characters are royalty or nobility. And there seem to be two clear stereotypes that 95% of such fics follow:
1. The evil overlord who cares about nothing but money and status, and regularly has people tortured (often including his own son).
2. A kind man who doesn't really care about being a noble, has his servants call him by his first name, associates with the servants, and often has a close friendship and/or romantic relationship with a servant or slave.
Very rarely do you see the more realistic in-between. The prince who's kind but still makes people kneel when they enter his presence. The Queen who believes in absolute rule but tries her best to help her people.
For that matter, I suppose it's not just fanfiction. I can think of a number of published fantasy novels that have the same stereotypes. Sigh...
Just because something's logical doesn't make it canonJ K Rowling may be a highly imaginative person, but she's not highly logical.
I sometimes think that she simply didn't think things through enough when she was writing her first book. Why does Hogwarts not have a special provision for muggle-borns, introducing them to the basics of the Wizarding World? Why don't they teach non-magical subjects like foreign languages? Why doesn't Gringotts have some form of debit system, or at least paper money? Etc.
I often see things written in fanfics that are very logical, make total sense. But they're not canonical. Perhaps the author knows that and just wants it for their story, or perhaps they haven't read the books recently.
[Be aware that I haven't actually done any real research on these points, I'm just working from memory.]
Idea: Teachers at Hogwarts must have a teaching qualification, or at least have a master's degree.
Actually... No. In fact, I seem to remember that JKR said there is no higher education in the Wizarding World. When the word 'master' is used, it means teacher.
Idea: Purebloods who hate muggle-borns must also hate half-bloods.
Actually... Well, you'd think so wouldn't you? But actually, we have no evidence at all of it that I can think of. Voldemort is, after all, a half-blood and he's Slytherin's heir. Even if the Death Eaters don't know that, do you really think Snape would be able to keep his muggle parent a secret? He's Voldemort's favourite, apparently. And I seem to remember that Hermione joked that the DEs would accept Harry into their circle (if he wasn't their enemy, naturally).
Idea: Purebloods must know more about magic than muggle-borns when they first come to Hogwarts. After all, even if they weren't allowed to use it as children, they would have grown up seeing it used?
Actually... Makes sense to me. But where is this represented in canon? Why don't the purebloods do better in class than the muggle-raised? Why does Ron think that stupid rhyme about his rat is an actual spell?
When I read various things in fics that are like this, I'm always torn between applauding the logical-ness of it, and crying at the complete lack of attention to canon...