Posted in Nitpicks

Professional Fanfiction: Response to critics

An author’s response to critics is most telling to me. A certain amount of hurt is to be expected. I, as a writer, understand that disparaging remarks about your work are hard to hear. After putting so much time, energy and thought into your work it can be hard not to take criticism personally.

Now this is a trait that is not confined merely to the authors of “professional fan fiction” there are plenty of legitimately good authors who still can’t take criticism. (At least not well.) But I write this into my theory because I see many “professional fan fiction” authors who not only refuse to admit faults in their work, they also become nasty when it is pointed out to them. Not all but a lot of them.

Some common responses than an author (and sometimes the fandom) will be some variation of the following.

1. I didn’t write it for you.

2. Don’t like, don’t read.

3. If you read it, you’re obviously a fan.

4. Like you could do any better.

5. You just don’t get it. 

All of these rebuttals are problematic in ways that I’m not sure if the authors realize. I’ll try to elaborate on each.

I didn’t write it for you

Oh? Who did you write if for then? True,  the story may have started off as a personal project, written just for fun, but it ceased to be that when you submitted it for publication.

When a work becomes available for public consumption, it also becomes the subject of public opinion.If it becomes popular enough to receive critical attention, then it will probably have a fanbase that staunchly defends it. Why not pay attention to those people, than to the book snobs like me who pick things apart? Why go looking for affirmation in a place you know you won’t find it?

I don’t think I’m alone in the opinion that published works should be held to a higher standard than say self-published works or fanfiction. Those mediums are expected to be bad. There is a lot of garbage literature pumped through those channels. Publishing companies have been trusted to be the gatekeepers that ensure quality in their products.

So yes, if you put it out there, I am entitled to have an opinion on it, whether you like that opinion or not.

 Don’t like, Don’t read

Authors (and fans) who say this are trying to shut down discussion, passive aggressively putting the blame on the reader. This line of reasoning blames the reader for being dissatisfied, instead of questioning where the book may have failed or offended in some way.

This line of reasoning often goes in tandem with If you read it, you’re a fan. I have read all four Twilight books and the novella. I groan every time I read them. I am allowed to read a book that I may not like, and to continue in the same series. I don’t have to like to read. True, I agree that for most people life is too short to read books you dislike. But there are people like me who read to be challenged. I do not always read for pleasure. Many times I read to test my critical thinking skills and to challenge my own sensibilities as a writer.

These are perfectly valid reasons to read a book, even a book you don’t necessarily like. By reading where other books fail, they can enrich their own experiences by being able to identify what makes other books great.

If you read it, you’re a fan

I personally find this the most ludicrous out of all the excuses I’ve seen. I absolutely do not need to be a fan to read something, or to decide to continue the series. I’ll use Anita Blake as an example. I do not like Anita’s character, I don’t personally care for Hamilton’s writing style, and I find the sheer amount of lovers Anita Blake has on standby absurd. (Seriously, they’re somehow all okay with this??)

Then why do I read it? At first the premise was interesting to me (and some of the world building was pretty good). I can acknowledge a book’s successes without being a fan. For the most part I read Anita Blake because a) I am a masochist. I can’t help but read books I know will hurt me. B) A tiny optimistic part of me hopes the books will improve with time. All indications lead me to believe hell will freeze over before that happens, unfortunately. And C) I am a critic that has an unhealthy obsession with cringe.

When an author insists that if you read their series you must be a fan, they are asserting that just the act of reading or continuing to read something means you must enjoy it. That isn’t necessarily true. It’s a defense that makes the author feel better.

Like you could do any better

Fans of a series are the first to come to an author’s defense with this excuse. this implies that because a person does not have the experience of writing a book, writing within the same genre, or writing period, that they are not allowed to have an opinion.

Just because I do not act, it doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on a movie. Just because I don’t play sports does not mean I can’t have an opinion on a player’s performance. Those who use this as an excuse seek to delegitimatize any criticism lodged against a work.

Should writers and fans take criticism with a grain of salt? Of course. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and most of them stink. But when someone has a well thought out criticism that has some support or credence, authors and fans should acknowledge that, maybe even thank them. They put time and thought into their rebuttal, and that does deserve some respect. And if a subject consistently appears in criticisms, that might be something to consider for future projects.

You just don’t get it

Yeah, and so what if I don’t? Sometimes you’ll have people who completely miss the point.  Just because a reader doesn’t get the point you are trying to make, or take away something you wanted from the work, it doesn’t make them dumb.

We are all individuals and we’ll take different things away from a work. I don’t really get why so many people still defend Twilight and herald it as a great love story. I don’t see it. You could even say I just don’t get it. I don’t have to share the same opinion as the author or fandom to read or talk about a work. Like I said above, I don’t always read to enjoy myself. Sometimes I read to challenge myself.

And sometimes I hate books that most people like. Why? Because I can’t turn my brain off.

And that leads me to my conclusion. What I want most is a discussion. We don’t have to agree.I think Anita Blake is a despicable character who should really be the villain of the series, not the protagonist. But maybe someone else thinks she’s a progressive, sex-positive feminist icon, who kicks ass and takes names. We don’t have to agree, but we certainly can talk.

Debate me. Convince me you’re right.

Denouncing any critics as stupid, uninspired closet fans, or telling them they have no right to an opinion is petty. I believe any writer worth their salt can at least admit to making mistakes. Usually that is all it takes to mollify critics and/or disgruntled fans. Telling people they have no right to an opinion is petty, and frankly not the way to convince anyone you’re a good writer.

Take criticism. Learn from it, grow from it. Create something better next time.

 

Posted in Recommended Titles

Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: A Stroke of Midnight

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Alright this one I do feel a little bit guilty about. Normally I don’t feel too badly about my guilty pleasures. Normally when I examine them critically I can find some element there that makes it worth the read.

This one…well I really am kind of ashamed of how much I liked it the first time I read it.

So back up several years when I was a sixteen year old Mary Sue. My family was planning to visit relatives in another state and I went to the library, seeking reading material to keep me entertained on the road. I found this in the audiobook section.

The cover art intrigued me (poor innocent thing I was, I didn’t recognize the glaring red flags that should have alerted me to the fact it was a “romance” novel). The blurb on the back sounded interesting as well. So I put the CD  in my Walkman and listened to it on the road.

Boy was I surprised. If I’d heard of this author before I would have known about the frequent sexual escapades of the main characters. I would have also known that all the interesting bits would be at the beginning and not be mentioned again until the end.

I did like two of the many love interests, and the magical lore was interesting enough to compel me to finish the book. All in all I found it sort of inoffensive on first reading.

Then I moved onto her other series, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and it was jarring. I disliked Anita intensely upon first reading and my contempt just grew with every successive book.

Most people read the Meredith Gentry series after Anita, since it was published after that series had been started. I had the opposite experience, and moving from this book to The Anita Blake series was a really rude awakening to Hamilton’s worst tropes.

They are there in this one too, which is why I feel sort of icky admitting I have some nostalgia for this book.

All in all the only justification I have for it at this point is that the Meredith Gentry series is more honest about what it is. It’s smut. Fantasy-themed erotica, with a plot to bookend all the sex. Meredith’s character seemed a lot less obnoxious than Anita’s (in this book at least). I would have to read the rest of the series to give a more complete analysis on Meredith’s character.

And yes, you can jump into this series at any point. It isn’t like some novels where skipping a few will completely baffle you. The book will give you the needed info through exposition whilst the characters gear up for another orgy.

So I guess in conclusion, I wouldn’t actually recommend this one unless you’re morbidly curious. And if you do read it, don’t take it with you to your grandparent’s house. You won’t be able to look your grandma in the eye over breakfast, trust me.

Posted in Uncategorized

DADBS: Chapter Seven

Seven chapters in and I am already so done with this book. Ugh. Twenty-Seven more of these babies to go. This book suffers from what I like to call “Anita Blake Syndrome” in which the book begins with an interesting premise and then promptly abandons it until the last three chapters to do pointless nonsense. I don’t want the pointless filler, give me the plot!

So we left off with Violet taking a nap in River’s arms, which she has no reason to do at this point. She doesn’t know him, she doesn’t have any reason to trust him, and she has no idea what his intentions are. She doesn’t even do what most renters would do and run a background check on him.

It doesn’t really make sense with Violet’s character thus far. She’s not a paragon of responsibility to be sure, but she does seem to have a brain in her skull. Her sudden and inexplicable infatuation with River is just frustrating.

Twilight has its fingerprints all over this work, so far as the tropes go. And a main character who is otherwise shown to be reasonably mature for their age as well as intelligent doing incredibly brainless things for or with a man they just met annoys the hell out of me. It’s not consistent with Violet’s character to take to someone instantly. She’s anti-social, snobbish, pretentious and doesn’t get along well with others.

Violet has River pack their picnic basket and goes over to talk to Sunshine. To see if she’s okay after her traumatic incident, you might be thinking. No, it’s to see if she wants to attend the movie. Sunshine asks if Luke will be there, and Violet tells her that he’ll be trying to grope Maddy, so not to get her hopes up about any kissy kissy during the movie.

There’s some pointless banter about what exactly “second base” is anymore. It really depends on the day whether I can find this odd description amusing or just sigh at its absurdity.

Sunshine asks what she’s found out about River. Violet demonstrates once again that she’s willing to make incredibly poor decisions because of River.

“I haven’t asked to see his ID, and I won’t, because it’ll sound stupid now. And he’s terrible at answering questions, so I know almost less than I did before.”

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No, no, no! That is not a valid excuse. Now I could make the excuse that you’re seventeen and have no real world experience, but since the book tries to paint you as a mature and very adult, that’s not gonna fly. Even in routine transactions like apartment rentals, most people will request a background check. Why? Because no one wants Norman Bates living in their rental property!

Even dismissing the possibility of violence towards yourself and Luke, which you obviously do, a background check or at least proof of identity covers you in terms of liability. Did you make him pay a deposit if he broke anything? No. If he runs off and leaves your guesthouse trashed, that damage is on you. Because you think it’s “stupid” to ask for his ID.

Not to mention that it’s extremely sketchy that he showed up with a wad of cash and you aren’t even remotely curious how he got it.

She and River go to the movie. She comments in her inner monologue that she is left alone by most of the kids from school.

Everyone knew that our parents had been gone for a long time, but they didn’t know whether to be envious of our freedom or make fun of us for having weird artistic-parent problems. So people left us alone. I guess they thought we were snobs, like Daniel Leap. 

Because you are snobs. But that’s beside the point. I wouldn’t be torn between envy and the urge to tease, I’d be clamoring to get child protective services on the phone. You are minors, you can’t legally be on your own. If your parents have left you alone for a long time and the whole town knows it, then someone should have done something about it.

We don’t even have the indication that their parents left someone there to check in on them. They could have asked Sunshine’s parents, since they live nearby. Nope. There is no one there to see that the kids have electricity, running water, or food in the house.

I have a hard time believing that the whole town is seething with resentment at the White family. Enough that they’d let two underage children starve and live in squalor.

River sits down to watch the movie with Violet, only to get up a short while later and wander off. When she catches sight of him again, he’s playing with a couple of kids from town.

She makes sure to point out an auburn haired kid, who will feature prominently in the story, despite his character not contributing a lot in the grand scheme of things.

Violet thinks that this is just so charming. Even though he’s completely blown off the picnic and the movie they’d planned to see. She’s totally okay with this interruption because it gives the author a chance to indulge in some Norman Rockwell style whimsy.

Violet’s mood takes a dip when they return to their picnic and she spies Luke with Maddy.

I spotted Luke making out with Maddy off to the side underneath an oak tree. He had a flask in one hand and was groping her back with the other. 

‘Oh Luke, you are such a disappointment.’ I thought. And then realized that it was a stupid thing to say, even in my head. 

Image result for you asshole

At least you can admit that it’s stupid. This blatant condescension is sickening. Luke has been dating Maddy. It’s completely consensual on both of their parts. I don’t see how it is any of Violet’s  concern what he does or doesn’t do with his girlfriend.

And you’re a hypocrite, because in a few chapters you’re going to be getting physical with River. A man you barely know.  I’m not trying to be judgey here. It is a woman’s choice what she chooses to do sexually, but I’m trying to point out there is a double standard here. Violet can make out with River who she just met today, but Luke shouldn’t make out with girlfriend? What the hell is up with that?

It goes back to that weird vibe I get from Violet about sexuality. It seems to make her extremely squeamish about anyone else expressing sexuality, but not about her own. It’s just odd to me. If you are able to talk about and express your own, you should be able to accept the fact that others have the same drive.

So River slips her a twenty that he folded into the shape of an elephant. River says that she should take it, so she can pay for groceries in future.

We get some brief exposition about why she hasn’t crushed on any of the boys in her class. Why? Puberty. She talks about how some boys get gangly and others bulk up before they can fill out. So she’s not only pretentious, she’s also kind of shallow. Heaven forbid you look past the appearance to the personality inside.

River was different from those boys. River made my insides slither and slide in that good way. River was something entirely new. 

Because River is hot.

Gratuitous swear words: 2. It’s an all time low. Don’t worry, it’ll go up again in later chapters.

 

 

Posted in Recommended Titles

Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: The Demonica Series

Image result for the demonica series

Alright welcome to my new segment, blogger’s guilty pleasure. Unlike my recommended page, where I can make justifications for why a book is good, this page is specifically addressing books I know aren’t all that great. Something about these books  just appealed to me, despite my better judgement.

First up, a romance/erotica. See? I don’t hate the entire romance genre…just 90 percent of it. The Demonica series has several reasons for escaping my vitriolic reviews. First and most importantly is that I read it before I became a hardcore critic, so there is a bit of nostalgia on my part. I read these books in the summer of 2012, during my freshman year of college. Later that year I would go through an intensive writing course, which would  completely alter the way I thought of writing and criticism.

I have only read the first three books in the series. They detail the tales of three brothers( Eidolon, Shade, and Wraith), and the adventures they go through trying to find or protect their mates. The stories are fairly standard, as far as romance novels go. Ripped torsos on the cover? Check. Sexual references in the title? Check. Hackneyed cliched plots? Check.

What saves it from my poisoned pen? It’s world building actually. I find the world Larissa Ione paints very complex and fascinating. The premise of Underground General Hospital was not one I had seen before, and was a really interesting backdrop to the standard drama.

I like lore as much if not more than plot. If a book has interesting lore, I can sometimes forgive it’s faults. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t have The Host while I dislike a lot of Twilight.) 

I really liked how complex and thought out the world was. I have reread all three, and the world is still really good. Are there some groan-worthy one liners in this book? Yes. Are there some cheesy, unnecessary romance tropes in there? Without a doubt. Would I recommend it? To a person over the age of sixteen, probably.

I really have no excuse. This series have a lot of the horrible romance tropes, and would despise in another book. The only reason I can think of to account for the difference is that the characters are at least semi-interesting.

I won’t go into too much detail here, since I want you to check it out for yourself. You can buy the ebooks fairly cheaply here. Tell me what you thought of it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your opinions.