Francine - harvest
I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
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Putting my thoughts together...

This isn't a rant, at least not yet. It's a list of brain-sputterings, really. What's bothering me this morning. What was bothering me last night. (Aside from the desire to throw something at, and settling for sniping at, my roommate, for coming in and making noise when I was trying to concentrate on reading Jessica Walker's Many Loves. Love ya, Jen. Sorry.)

I possibly need to scroll down and read my little daily affirmation again. It didn't help remotely that I'd just finished writing for the night on a part of CG that's unrepentantly angsty -- possibly self-indulgently so. In and out of Spike's dream, which works fairly well, but the outside parts are round-robin views of the situation as everyone tries to gather information and moves towards getting together and seeing what they can do to help. So we have Cordy trying to cheer Angel up because he's taken to muttering insanely about what an idiot Spike is, since he can't do anything else while he's driving-- but she goes off on her own little brood about not having much left, and one of the few things she has is her friends, and one of those is in trouble and won't wake up. Then we have Wes, following the Willow theme of annoyance because he can't find anything useful on the type of ghost that's attacking Xander. Interspersed with thoughts about Angel and why the muttering is driving him nuts, and why he's at least glad in a twisted way that he has something to distract himself from thinking about what the hell they're doing together, the two of them. And there's a nice little hurt/comfort moment where Angel says something a bit too loudly, and Wes puts a hand on his shoulder, and Angel reaches up and takes it, still muttering. Then Angel, and we find out he really is listening to what the two of them are saying, he just can't stop talking about Spike, or he'll start thinking about Spike, plus if he keeps muttering and doesn't enter into the conversation, they'll let him get away with brooding. Which of course leads to thinking about Spike, despite the best-laid plans of Angels and mice. Images of Buffy and Xander and finally Spike, and a little angsty memory of Spike coming to him when Dru ran off to play with Dracula. More hurt/comfort stuff.

So. Point. I get past that and re-do a few more scenes, and decide I need a break. So I futz around checking my guestbook, see a message in there from one of the regulars on the messageboard, remember I'd left a little mini-essay there and wonder what the response is, so I go check. Which leads me to a plug for Many Loves. Which leads me to reading it.

Which leads me to sniffling uncontrollably for Spike, and feeling vaguely sick about the stuff I just wrote. Vaguely sick like, let's burn it and salt the earth.

I don't have to be Jess, right? I think I told myself that a week or so ago...

But it's dark and it's heart-gnawing and it's adult and I feel like what I've written is just so bloody childish. I don't deny the fact that Spike and Angel are vampires, in CG, but I certainly don't revel in it. Or let them do so. I mean, I let them fight, and enjoy it, but no graphic memories of blood-soaked nights. No raging desires for violence even when they're with their human lovers. Instead, I'm giving them Dawson's Creek relationship angst, or that's what it feels like to me. Sure, I don't have to write about blood and guts and raw, raging sex if I don't want to, but then I shouldn't pick vampires to write about. Right? Is CG Spike an example of the fluffy-head Spike whom Te hates? (I do not have to assume that people are talking about me when they coin phrases about things that enrage them in fandom. But I almost always wonder.) Is he even anything like the real Spike? Am I treating the characters unfairly?

Earlier yesterday, and contributed much to the mood I was in: got asked by a Wesley/Doyle archivist if she could have Skelping. It was a multi-recipient e-mail, and she wanted a series of Viridian's, and Spirit's Clockwork Vampire. I said yes, and made a comment about the phrasing of her request, that it sounded as if she were inadvertantly insulting the specific authors she was contacting, by asking if they knew of any other W/D fics, regardless of quality. In her reply, she said that yes, it was badly phrased, and that wasn't what she'd meant at all. But she was hoping it would get Spirit to say yes, considering the way she feels about CV. It didn't.

I don't know how Spirit feels about CV, beyond the comments she's made on her own site, which don't go into detail about why she thinks it's so terribly flawed. I hesitate to ask her, not because I don't want to know the answer, but because so many people must have asked her the same thing, and she's probably tired of explaining. I don't feel like I know her well enough to make her tell it yet again, or make her come up with a polite way of saying that she doesn't want to tell it yet again. It's her story, and she has a right to dislike it, or hate it, or try as hard as possible to pull every copy she can find off the net. Sam doesn't have a responsibility to keep CV around for us, or add more stories, or even to explain why she doesn't like it anymore.

But I wonder. It bothers me, as I'm sure it bothers many others, but I like to think my reasons are unique, because I'm the only one in the world who's as neurotic as me. (See previous rant for comment about solipsism not becoming me.)

CV cheered me up when I was very depressed. It was also one of the final straws that got me to sit down in front of my pc and write 'Count Spikeula.' Knowing as I wrote that little crunching-blood-in-your-cereal-kiss-the-boys-and-make-them-babble moment, that I wanted to do something like CV. Wanted to create a long, semi-fluffy, semi-angsty series that eventually took on a season of canon. (Bwhahaha, of course, since it's been over a year and 400 pages and I've managed to move them from June 17th to July 2nd. But I do have plans for some stories in S5.) Because a season of canon would give me an ending place, since I don't have the ability to end a series to save my life, but also because I'd feel like I'd made them mine, if I managed to work my situation into Joss' set of events, and still come out alive. Maybe even, like CV did, on top.

And I looked up to CV. Not because it got me started in A/S, as Avarice says it did her -- I'm only a secondary A/S shipper, and the one A/S piece I did manage to do still had Xander in it. Not because it's won so many awards -- I've seen things that made me go 'what the fuck?' all day, win awards. Not because Spirit is an utterly flawless writer-- she's not. None of us are. But because the writing was good enough to make me not notice the flaws (and they're *tiny* ones, at least the ones I can find) until I went back to look for them, and still fall in love with the characters.

On the whole, I don't love Angel in A/S fic-- I love Spike. I like Angel, but tend to think he broods so much that he's boring. I love him most when he's funny, or when he's being all hurt/comforty nurturing, not that he can be written that way by many people and still stay in character. But Spirit's Angel... I love him. Unending brooding and all, because he feels real. He feels like the Angel on the screen, allowed to say 'Fuck" and allowed to do "fuck" and allowed to have the sense of humor that he really deserves to have. He's intellignt, still a dork sometimes, but not the butt of endless jokes. He's trying. He feels real. And her Spike... is the Spike I try to reflect. Not copy; her Spike wouldn't fall in love with Xander -- but reflect. Moments of petulance, moments of self-doubt, moments of just feeling old and tired and cynical and like there isn't anything in the world left for him, and moments of just living in the now and loving it. When CG Spike says something to Angel that hits him where he lives, it's CV Spike whom I'm trying to channel.

So when Spirit says she thinks it's flawed, I have to wonder why. Because she spells Angelus with two L's? Because there are tiny Britishisms in there that don't come from Spike, like the fact that Cordelia would never refer to anything as brown sauce, and she probably meant ketchup? I noticed those little things because they made me giggle; then I read on. Because she kills off Dru, which some might think is a bit slashfan-wish-fulfillment? I liked the plot; it made sense to me. Because she created an original female character who happened to be Spike's descendant? Oh, I admit, the concept screamed Mary-Sue at me -- but she wasn't. She was interesting, and not perfect, and Spike didn't welcome her with open arms, and in the end, she fucked things up rather badly, I cheered. Yes, I disliked her, but I think I may have been meant to, at least partially. I was also rooting for Wesley/Doyle, so I wanted her out of there in a purely immature slashslut sort of way.

What I'm afraid of is that it's none of those things. What I'm afraid of is that she doesn't think it's dark enough to be believeable. That there's not enough blood and torment along with the angst. That it's too immature. That she's outgrown it. Because I wonder then, if what I'm writing now is something that the big kids have already outgrown.That everyone whom I think is talented will eventually outgrow. (Except for James, who will just move on to another fandom entirely.) So I'm selfishly afraid that Sam is looking down on CV because it makes her feel like a child, to have written it. That the way onward and upward is towards dark, tight, serious, painful stories like Many Loves. Like the Soul Cage. Oh, they are beautiful. They make me feel. They make me feel bad when I read them, though. Depressed, partially because of the content, and partially because I'm jealous of them. That's on me, that last one. I'm well aware of that. But the first--

Does it have to be like that, to be good? To be mature? Which brings me out of CG, and into a slightly wider circle of solipsism -- my fandom-of-choice.

Goddess Diana thinks Xander/Spike is an immature fandom. I think she refers to the plethora of Buffy-bashing, of Xander-as-sexually-abused-child stories, of Spike as pure fluff-head, always had a thing for Xander, can't stand to see him treated so badly by the others, isn't he darling, I must protect him now... etc. And I agree with her. But is it an immature fandom in that everyone eventually grows out of it, or in that it will eventually grow up, itself? I fear the first option. I'm troubled by the second, if 'growing up' means the stories that aren't written by people who think a beta-reader is just something other people talk about, will all move towards the dark, depressing end of the spectrum. Because they depress me. Yes, I'm jealous of them as well, but I don't want to think that's the only way one can write a good story about Spike. I don't want to read stories that are in denial about what Spike is, or that Xander is an adult human being who doesn't constantly think of himself as a failure, and I certainly don't want to write them. But I don't want to believe that anyone who writes 'love-can-conquer-all' stories is living in kindergarten, either.

Conflicted much?


2001-08-27 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Growing up does not mean having to take things seriously. As a writer, a reader, a fandom, or a fictional character. Every enlightened person on the planet has a sense of humour.

We feel sorry for people who can't laugh. Or who don't laugh.

In a world where the Dali Lama can laugh at monks doing a rap version of the Buddhist chant, fluffy fic and humourous fic and fic which makes us feel good have the place in our hearts which is nearer and dearer to our souls than fic which makes us feel bad. (However, fic which makes us feel is good -- there's a whole history (Hindu) of research on art and entertainment which makes us feel, and how even being made to cry is cathartic and good for us. The chemical make-up of tears shed while watching a play is different from that shed when we're thinking of our own painful lifes.)

If all we can do is feel bad, then all we do is feel bad. Um. What is wrong with feeling good? What is wrong with making others feel good? Who said these people who write darkfic so well are the only ones who have the answers?

What she said


2001-08-27 02:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

While there are some truly wonderful and amazing stories out there which milk the darker emotions - putting the reader through the emotional mill, so to speak, there are far fewer quality stories which make us feel good. Silly and happy and yes, sometimes fluffy stories, which explore lighter themes and goofy moments.

I happen to agree that unfortunately much of the X/S fandom seems immature - I'm 41 and at times it seems every story is written by an 18-year-old who piles on the angst because it's easier than figuring out new ways for the characters to interact. The Buffy-bashing and OTT fanonical stories don't always provide much hope for the fandom - but then I read something by you and James, or another of the handful of good writers who don't feel a need to put us all through the wringer on a regular basis, and I'm reassured that for now at least, there is an alternative.

I don't see the CG Spike as "fluffy-headed" in the way I believe Te meant it. I don't see the series that way either. It's light-hearted, not light-minded. Your Spike is still a monster, I can clearly see his relation to the screen character, but with the nice slashy bits added. You referred to your writing as 'Dawson's Creek' and while there might be points of comparison, I don't know this is overall a negative thing.

You're not writing Dracula, you're playing with characters from a show which mixes quite a bit of humor in with the darker stuff, and you manage to carry that flavour across in your stories. They aren't solely HHJJ, they aren't solely angst-o-ramas, and you rarely misstep on characterization. It's not exactly as portrayed on screen, but a logical extrapolation and development of character.


2001-08-29 01:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

While I don't particularly care for that pairing, and so can't comment on it specifically, I'd like to point out that many of my favourite fanfic authors do *not* write unremitting angst. Some do, some don't. The very best can write extremely serious, introspective fic that's completely interlaced with humor, love, and joy. Because that's *life*, people. It's seldom unrelentingly one thing or the other. No matter how bad a day I've had, Chris can make me laugh. And does, frequently. One of the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place. I just had, quite honestly, the worst year of my entire life. If I took one of those stress questionnaires it would ask me why I hadn't had a heart attack yet. *g* But in the midst of grieving, and weeks of depression that made Chris wonder where that sparkling woman he met had disappeared to...he could still make me laugh. More often than he thought. (It was also the best year of my entire life, but only because it was my first year with him. :)

*Good* fic isn't just about angst. It doesn't have to be dark and tormented. It just has to be *real*. Which means there's got to be *some* dark and tormented when you're writing in the Buffy-verse. Let's face it: they live grim lives. But the characters are pretty good at bringing humor into their lives and getting ON with it. The sole criteria I use in judging good writing is whether or not I can feel the characters alive in the work. If I can hear them and see them doing the things the author is describing. If I can lose myself in the world on the written page.

I think the question you have to ask yourself is, "Why are you writing?" Personally, I write because I have tales in my head that have to be told, because it lets something loose inside me that needs to be loosed from time to time, and because I feel on top of the world when someone says they liked it...especially when they say they could feel it like they were there. It's not about whether you can write like the people you admire. You *don't*. No one writes just like anyone else. But as much as I love reading Francesca, for instance, or Jack Reuben Darcy...sometimes I want to read someone else's writing isntead. It's not usually as deep, no, but it's just as entertaining. Sometimes more so. Different people want different things, and different things at different times. Write the way you want it to be. It doesn't matter, even if it *is* exactly what someone else complains about...if it makes even one person feel good reading it. If it makes one person see that world the way you saw it when you were writing it.