Francine - harvest
I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
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Non-con!
Er. I mean. We interrupt your regularly scheduled con-related reminiscinces and whining to bring you a mini-rant on how to keep a genderswap fic actually interesting and worth reading for me1:

Don't change the character's name, at least not in the narration where the character is thinking of himself as the new name. Don't start referring to a male-turned-female character as 'she' in the narration, for exactly the same reasons. Unless you are a Jack L. Chalker character (in which case I will upon your request happily shoot you to put you out of your genderbent, bodyswapped, identity-lost, species-tossed misery) you are not going to start thinking of yourself as someone of a different name, gender, or species, without several years of extended emotional "WTF? OMG, no, seriously WTF, fix me!one!1!" (Even if that's presented in a comedic manner instead of an angsty one.)

And once that happens even in a natural time-progression it's going to be very hard to keep me as a fanfic reader who gives a damn about Spike, Xander, Angel, etc. interested in this to-all-extents-and-purposes original character, without a really good re-creation of the tv character's mental and emotional makeup. The more and faster they adapt to changes to their very identity, the more likely the story is to lose me. It's hard enough to re-create/hold onto recogniseable TV characterisation when we have a name and a physical description to hang the recognition on -- there are plenty of Spikes, Xanders, and Angels in fanfic who we tilt our heads at and try, really try, for a while, to see our guys in, before finally blinking in confusion and giving up.

Giving them a new name and gender isn't going to make it easier for readers to buy changes to their personalities (though I can follow the possible authorial logic behind thinking it might); it actually requires a better grasp of the inner character, to carry us through all the changes going on. And while it's possible to show us the character changing internally as well as externally -- in fact, it would be unrealistic if he/she didn't -- there's a reader-loss danger in carrying that change too far, even if it's realistic to the plot. There's a reason I'm ragging on Jack Chalker above; anyone who's made it through Book 4 or 5 of the Dancing Gods or Soul Rider series will take my point, I think. Readers who like original characters or massive challenges to character identity will probably stick with the story. Me... I will be frowning sadly, because I like the concept of physical change and genderswap stories, but it's so hard to find one where I can continue caring about the characters.

1 Anyplace you see "we" or "readers" please read "me and anybody who happens to agree with me." Not actually speaking for anyone besides myself, just finding it hard not to write in the plural for some reason.
Tags:

julia_here

2005-04-05 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Please feel free to include me in that we.

Julia, finding genderswap a bigger barrier than "Human AU everybody's human and in high school"

mpoetess

2005-04-05 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

The main reason that "Everybody's human and in high school" AU's don't work for me in Buffyverse, is that there's a perfectly good three years of high school era to put them in, in canon. If the story actually has good characterisation, as a few do, I'm still left going "OK, but why not just write a Season 2 or 3 AU? What's interesting or exciting about removing the supernatural elements when everything else could have easily happened in canon?" Or if the interesting AU part is that one character who isn't usually human is (Spike is Giles' teenage son, Angel is a new teacher, etc.), which does have potential, I'm still left going "OK, so why have we also removed the supernatural?"

(no subject) - julia_here, 2005-04-05 07:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)

Well obviously...

carpdeus

2005-04-05 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Anyplace you see "we" or "readers" please read "me and anybody who happens to agree with me." Not actually speaking for anyone besides myself, just finding it hard not to write in the plural for some reason.
You are talking in the royal we.

Re: Well obviously...

mpoetess

2005-04-05 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

*looks around for Our slaveboys*

Oh slaveboys....

:( We must have been dethroned.

Re: Well obviously... - carpdeus, 2005-04-05 06:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)

entrenous88

2005-04-05 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh man, yes. A person who has been male for 20 years or more isn't suddenly going to call himself "her", especially in his own limited POV.

it actually requires a better grasp of the inner character, to carry us through all the changes going on.
Yes! I'm just going to keep saying yes at you, aren't I? But yes, yes.

Fics in which a character is continually reacting and readjusting to his/her accustomed memories, personality traits, and public persona after a gender swap=fascinating. If a fic fails to do this, then I guess I would ask -- why not write het? If the actual gender-swapping won't be an issue of some importance, won't it mainly read like het? Just het with an original female character, similarly named to Our Hero, who every once in a while forgets how to pee the right way or something.

mpoetess

2005-04-05 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes -- genderswap fics in which a character adjusts so quickly to thinking of hirself as the new gender seem to miss what's enjoyable about genderbending stories, which is watching the characters react, as opposed to just a descriptive catalog of what's physically different. I can easily guess what's changed on the outside; it's how the character slowly deals with it that provides the impetus to read on. I'm left feeling like maybe what would serve the writer's purpose better would be an AU where that character was always another gender, and if they needed to show surprised external reactions to it in order to enjoy it for themselves, then bring in a character from the "mainstream" universe to be freaked out by it.

(no subject) - entrenous88, 2005-04-05 06:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2005-04-05 06:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - winterlive, 2005-04-06 06:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - entrenous88, 2005-04-06 06:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)

winterlive

2005-04-05 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Spike lay back on the bed in the darkened crypt, naked, smoking lazily. Outside, night was wearing on, but despite the removal of the bloody fucking chip, he ignored the heady scents of warm blood and pheremones that drifted by, teenagers looking for a likely private spot to neck.

He contemplated that briefly, dragging smoke into his lungs. He'd said a thousand times that the minute he got the chip out, he would tear a hole in Sunnydale so big that it couldn't be covered, not by the Initiative or the scoobies or anybody. Break every bone in the slayer's body. Find Dru, make her come 'round. Drink and kill until he collapsed in exhaustion. He was supposed to be doing all those things right now.

Instead, he lifted a hand and cupped the soft breast that was now his, toying with the nipple briefly before letting his hand run down his body, all new curves and delicate skin.

It could have been the slayer, but probably wasn't. No way was it the initiative - poncy bastards wouldn't take well to something that'd take away their precious danglies. Nope. The one behind this whole business was inevitably that little chaos magician they had runnin' around of late. Janus's cronies were always brewing up some demented thing or other. Spike would go out and track him down, beat him bloody, make him change it back, and then eat him. Simple and easy.

Just had to get up and leave the house.

His fingers wandered lazily over the swell of his hip, then into the curls of hair between his thighs. Fifth time in three hours, this'd be. Gotta track that Rayne bastard, don't have time for this. Come on, then, time to get up.

Any minute now.


------------------------------------------

Hee!

mpoetess

2005-04-05 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Bwah! See, you could get me with that -- at least for a one-shot. Certain characters would totally be more interested in feeling themselves up first, freaking out later. Anya, in the opposite direction.

(no subject) - winterlive, 2005-04-05 06:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - entrenous88, 2005-04-05 06:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - winterlive, 2005-04-05 06:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - prettybird, 2005-04-05 07:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lumenara, 2005-04-05 07:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - winterlive, 2005-04-05 09:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - estepheia, 2005-04-05 11:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2005-04-05 11:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kuzibah, 2005-04-11 04:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)

thebratqueen

2005-04-05 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

So you're just trying to give people plot bunnies, is what you're saying.

winterlive

2005-04-05 06:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

It's working! *g*

(no subject) - mpoetess, 2005-04-05 06:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)

illian

2005-04-05 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Jack L. Chalker writing Buffyverse?

. . .

AIEEEE!

*runs screaming*

mpoetess

2005-04-05 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Dude, the Buffyverse characters thrust into the Soul Rider universe?

Xander: "Why... I... these... on my...buh..." {FX: thud}

Spike: Y'know, I wouldn't care so much except it's the fifth time he's fainted and they keep making me carry him. And those six extra knockers are heavy.

(no subject) - illian, 2005-04-05 07:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2005-04-05 07:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)

lumenara

2005-04-05 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

So much agreement. There had *better* be some fuss over gender pronouns, people.

Assuming the character was firmly identifying with his or her previous biological sex (that he or she had a matching gender identity), then your genderbender has created a trans person. It's always weird to me when the writer gets over that quickly, and suddenly Xander's just some girl, instead of a man trapped in a woman's body.

mpoetess

2005-04-05 11:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

then your genderbender has created a trans person

That would actually be a very nifty genderswap story --- if the magical transformation turned out to be permanent, but the character was too firmly attached to his birth-gender to deal with the new body, and sought out a sex-change operation. After, presumably, spending a while trying to live as a girl, then a while trying to live as a man in a woman's body.

(no subject) - mpoetess, 2005-04-05 11:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lumenara, 2005-04-06 03:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2005-04-07 04:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)

mythdefied

2005-04-05 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

As much as I love genderswapping, you so have some good points there. Too often the character I know and love is replaced by some watered down version, simply because they've lost an appendage. It makes it hard to read and stay interested in it.

Seems to me -- having yet to write it myself -- that doing a genderbend fic would be so much harder than a regular fic because, like you said, you really have to know the character. And yet, this genderswitch thing seems to be used as an "easy out" for some writers who think that it should be a simple thing to do.

Good points you make here.

You know, this would really be right at home over on fanficrants.

mpoetess

2005-04-06 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Thanks! FWIW, I've yet to write a genderswitch fic either, and don't know that I could pull it off. (Also I'm not sure I'd enjoy man-to-woman for very long, unless it resulted in femslash, because it ends up being at its heart a het relationship, and I need the slash issues and/or smut. I tend to like temporary m-to-f that results in a relationship with another man, then gets problematic and slashy when the genderswap is reversed.)

I skeered of posting on fanficrants, for wank often breeds there in the responses. Which is to say I read it when linked to a rant, and plenty of sane people hang out there, but also those who periodically land it on F_W.

(Deleted comment)

mpoetess

2005-04-05 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

The first three books of the Dancing Gods series were pretty good -- they had his trademark gender and species swapping, but it made sense for the plot, and there was some great mockery of conventional fantasy tropes. Then the later books got more and more into changing the characters beyond recognition or likeability.

I caught the first two Wonderland Gambit books, then gave up on that one.

Not Buffy, but enjoy

valarltd

2005-04-05 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

She awoke to the knowledge that something wasn’t right. Leia Organa stretched and sat up. The narrow bed was badly rumpled but the room was almost obsessively neat and plain. Narrow? Alone? She had gone to sleep in the big bed she shared with Han, in her own luxurious quarters.

She rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and stopped with her hands a few centimeters from her face. They weren’t her hands. Hers were small and slim, with a ring on her left index finger. These huge paws had no adornment, save some small scars and one that encircled the right wrist. Luke’s hands, she thought, knowing it was crazy.

She looked around the room, and recognized the few decorative objects. Luke’s room.

Leia shook her head. “I’m still dreaming,”she said aloud. Luke’s voice in her head and ears. Since it was just a dream, she got up and went to the bathroom. This was more information than she really wanted about her brother, she decided as she took care of morning business. She stared in the mirror, tracing the familiar set of the jaw, the cleft chin, the face she knew as well as her own.


Luke awoke to kisses over his shoulder. He turned instinctively and fully woke up with Han’s tongue in his mouth.

“Morning, sweetheart,” Han whispered as he kept kissing, his big hands sliding over Luke’s stomach and up to stroke the full breasts. Breasts! Luke sat upright, rolling Han off of him and stared down at his naked body. There was no scar on his wrist, and the hands were tiny. The full, soft breasts and–he glanced under the sheet–distinctly female lower regions sent him fleeing for the fresher.

“What?” Han called after him. “Is it my breath?”

Luke stared at the mirror. He knew the face as well as his own. He tossed the thick brown cable of sleeping braid behind his back and stared some more. Then he remembered exactly whose breasts he was staring at, even if he was looking from behind his sister’s eyes. A second glance of naked flesh caught his attention.

Han leaned on the door and watched his wife examine herself. She turned to him with sheer horror on her face.

“I’m Leia,” Luke said.

“Of course you are, darling. C’mere and lay some sugar on me.”

Ducking Han, Luke slipped out of the bathroom and started looking for clothing. He was too busy to be bothered with an amorous pirate, and didn’t think Leia would take well to the idea that her brother had made love to husband, even if he was wearing her body.

Re: Not Buffy, but enjoy

drax

2005-04-05 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

tilt!tilt!tilt!tilt!tilt!tilt!tilt!

My brain is now melted.

Thank you, I think.

*wanders off in a daze*

Re: Not Buffy, but enjoy - estepheia, 2005-04-05 11:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Not Buffy, but enjoy - mpoetess, 2005-04-06 12:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Not Buffy, but enjoy - valarltd, 2005-04-06 12:12 am (UTC) (Expand)

a2zmom

2005-04-06 02:47 am (UTC) (Link)

If you're interested in reading a gender-bending story that doesn't ignore any of the issues you've brought up, is well written and has the psychology of the characters down cold may i recommend:

Flux by SKH

A couple of caveats. This takes place in the Batman comic book universe. Dick Grayson, former Robin the Boy Wonder, adopted son of Batman, now grown into the super hero Nightwing and the sexiest superhero around winds up getting his molecules accidently rearranged - and Dick becomes dickless.

The story is 81 chapters long - and isn't close to over.

mpoetess

2005-04-07 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

The story is 81 chapters long - and isn't close to over.

*blinkblink*

*hides from 81 chapters!*

I'm not so much interested in genderbending as a genre, so much as interested in seeing it done well when it gets done in my pairing, if that makes any sense. I'm reasonably familiar with the comics Batverse, enough to know their history, but I've not read nearly enough of the actual source to be any judge of characterisation.

(Deleted comment)

mpoetess

2005-04-07 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Heh -- and Dancing Gods and Soul Rider are the reason I never moved on to his other series.

I wonder if anybody's ever actually managed to read everything he wrote?

(Deleted comment)

ephemera

2005-04-06 11:14 am (UTC) (Link)

and all I can think is that popslash is *so* good to it's readers sometimes ...

[well : and you have good valid points, but I was taking that as read]

mpoetess

2005-04-07 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

and all I can think is that popslash is *so* good to it's readers sometimes ...

A lot more room for playing with changed characterisation when much of it has to be invented or extrapolated in the first place, I'd think. Plus the popslash people I know are all folks who were good FPS writers before they were RPS writers, I wouldn't be surprised to find well-done genderfic. One of the few mpreg(ish) stories that I've really liked came out of popslash -- bettyp's Seahorse universe.

wildrosesings

2005-04-11 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Unless you are a Jack L. Chalker character (in which case I will upon your request happily shoot you to put you out of your genderbent, bodyswapped, identity-lost, species-tossed misery)

Hah hah hah HAH!! Oh, thank you, that was fabulous. And I've only read the Changewind books.

Just catching up on LJ, I'm a bit behind.

mpoetess

2005-04-11 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Chalker seems to be scarily predictable (and I like the Dancing Gods books, at least the first 3) no matter what he's writing. Everybody who's responded to the mention of his name is all "Yeah!" and then names a different series as the one they read and then gave up on. *g*

(no subject) - wildrosesings, 2005-04-12 04:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)

sadbhyl

2005-05-06 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Got here from estepheia's journal and had to comment. Mostly to agree with you. I did write a genderswap story, Impossibly Delightful Flesh, kind of in answer to exactly the points you've made here. The pronoun change thing drives me batshit! And I can't tell you how many times people commented, "It must have been so hard not changing your pronouns!" I couldn't figure that out. I was calling Spike and Xander he and Buffy, Tara and Anya she just like I did in every other story I wrote. Why would them having different parts suddenly make remembering their appropriate pronouns hard. Genderswap is a weird beast, I guess.

mpoetess

2005-05-06 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well there went three hours of my life... That was awesome, and hit every kink about good genderswap fic that I have (barring the fact that it doesn't happen to be in my OTP, which certainly isn't its fault). Yes - that was exactly what I was talking about, and wish I saw more of in the S/X genderchange stories that I've read.