hradzka: (pointy teeth)
In 1959, the most popular television genre in America was the Western.

TIME magazine's cover story for March 30 of that year gives you an idea of the scope of the domination. Of the ten shows leading the ratings in the previous week, eight were Westerns. Of all the shows on TV (around 114 by my count) that weren't news that season, says TIME, 35 were Westerns. That’s more than thirty percent.Read more... )
hradzka: (unfair to batgirl)
For a while now, I've been doing some thinking about the Bechdel Test, mostly as a background process. For those who haven't heard of it, the Bechdel Test was created by Liz Wallace and immortalized (with credit and by permission) by Wallace's friend, cartoonist Alison Bechdel. Wallace's rule is to not watch a movie unless it contains 1) two women 2) who have a conversation 3) that's not about a man. It's a simple test, and movies and TV fail it often.

If the test itself has a failure, it's that whether something passes or fails it is as far as the discussion usually goes. On those occasions that a conversation does turn to why a work fails the Bechdel Test, there are basically two ways that conversation can go. It can turn into an activist discussion of sexism and society, or it can turn into a discussion of the mechanics of writing. There have been a lot of the former, but there haven't been all that many of the latter. And while I don't want to interrupt any of the former, I think the latter conversation is worth having, too.

Read more... )

epiphany

Aug. 14th, 2010 10:12 pm
hradzka: (facepalm)
I've realized why I'm so annoyed by porn in fandom, when I'm not actually opposed to porn. And occasionally look at some. I think it's because I tend to compartmentalize my life a lot. Which means when I want porn, I go look at, y'know, *porn.* A lot of fen, particularly the younger ones, specifically come to fandom for the porn, but that's not why I came, and it's not what keeps me here. That's why I get annoyed when fandom produces porn after porn after porn after porn. Because IF I WANT PORN I WILL GO LOOK AT PORN, DAMMIT.

Briefly, my experience of fandom often is rather like Monty Python's Spam sketch.

ME. "Hi, what've you got?"

FANDOM. "Well, there's gen and meta; gen, slash, and meta; slash and porn; slash, het, and porn; porn, flamewars, meta and porn; porn, slash, vids, and porn; porn, slash, porn, porn, meta and porn; porn, meta, porn, porn, flamewars, porn, slash, and porn..."

VIKINGS. *singing* "Porn, porn, porn, porn!"

FANDOM. "...porn, porn, porn, slash, and porn; porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, wingfic, porn, porn, porn..."

VIKINGS. *singing* "Lovely porn! Wonderful porn!"

FANDOM. "Or transformative culture that celebrates the original while revisiting aspects of it that are underserved in the source material or merely cherished by the author, with tense plotting, thrilling adventure, brilliant characterization, and porn."

ME. "Have you got anything without porn in it?"

FANDOM. "Well, there's porn, slash, meta and porn. That's not got much porn in it."
hradzka: (catwoman and holly)
I can't believe how I completely didn't mention XENA fanfic in my post about AUs, because any fanfic discussion of AUs should absolutely have uber fic front and center, in the same way TOS's "Mirror, Mirror" should absolutely be mentioned in any discussion of "evil duplicates" TV episodes. For those who don't remember or were, um, ten, uber is fanfic building on the premise that Xena (Warrior Princess) and Gabrielle (bard) are soulmates, and are fated to wind up together in any number of lifetimes (a gimmick seen in several episodes of the show). So you get Xena and Gabrielle in the Old West by Della Street or Bat Morda, Xena and Gabrielle in present-day Miami by Missy Good, all that manner of thing. Read more... )
hradzka: (cameron's head)
In LJ comments, [personal profile] thefourthvine and I had a really interesting exchange about fannish AUs. By which I mean, I asked questions and she did all the heavy lifting. It's too good to leave buried in comments, so here is the lightly edited gist.

I found this conversation really interesting and insightful, because it cued me in on something I hadn't realized about the stuff I tend to gravitate towards, and one explanation why some fandoms become huge and some don't. Discussion welcomed.

ME. I don't like AUs for a lot of reasons, but I think the chief one has to do with one of the reasons I don't like porn fic. About ten years ago, I was of the theory that fans wrote porn when the actual material didn't sufficiently capture their interest -- ie, if you really liked THE X-FILES, you wouldn't be writing dumb porn about Scully doing Mulder, you'd be writing casefic in an attempt to emulate the actual show. I don't know if that was true then, but it certainly isn't true now; for a lot of people, porn is the entire point of fandom. But AUs often give me that feeling: if you like these characters so much, why are you putting them in weird scenarios where they're so far removed from what made you fond of them in the first place?

TFV. I'm not surprised to hear that you don't like AUs, but I think there's a selection bias at work there. If you look at your favorite fandoms, most of them are the definition of "bad AU fandoms." (I mean, who is Batman if he's not, you know, Batman? Either a lunatic or a sane guy, and either way, he's no longer very interesting.) The elements that make a fandom great for AUs are elements that will actively drive you away.

You seem, for one thing, to be drawn to - I don't know how to put it. Interlocking canons? Canons where the people are who they are because of the (interesting) world they're in. That is exactly what makes a fandom bad for AUs.


Read more... )

ETA: my thoughts on the XENA connection, here.
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
Goddamn it, [livejournal.com profile] __marcelo! It's your fault.

So I’m reading Sherlock Holmes again. It’s been a good few years since I read the Holmes stories, and I know a lot more about storytelling now, and about fandom, than I did back then. As a kid, I loved Holmes; as an adult, who occasionally scribbles stuff, I’m even more impressed.

Some comments on “A Study in Scarlet” in a minute, but first: Livia’s comments about what a weird, cracktastic Peter Wimsey LJ fandom would be like got me thinking about what LJ fandom would have been like for a whole bunch of properties that never got to experience it. (I wound up writing a post on that, then thinking better of it, because one of those properties was something we all should be really, really grateful never got a cracktastic LJ fandom, and mentioning it in public would a) offend a lot of people and b) put me on the path straight to hell.) Holmes got me thinking about it over again.

It would have been a weird LJ fandom. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
A couple of notes on "Fathers and Daughters:" there is not nearly enough Jim Gordon fanfic out there. I've posted my thoughts before on why that is; but I don't think the restrictions that Jim's lack of membership in the inner circle of the Family make him less interesting, or any less a good focus for a story. One of the ways I come up with fanfic stories is to look at various characters and ask myself what they have in common, or what they'd like to, or what they'd hate to. Figure out how to use those issues in a dramatic situation, and you've got a story. In this case, it's Batgirls' paternal relationships; the Jim-Babs bond is one of the great strengths of the Batbooks, while the relationship of David and Cassandra Cain is abusive, horrifying, and quite rightly beyond repair. Even though Cain really appears to love his daughter, in a very, very twisted way, and some very few of her memories of him are good -- as Babs correctly notes, there's a point at which none of that matters any more, and Cain passed that point long before he used Cass to commit a murder. But those feelings can still inform the characters' emotions.

I used one of Cass's canonical good memories (from Batgirl #22) in the story.

Here it is. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
OK. So now you're writing Cass, which means either you're working for DC Comics or you're a fanfic writer. Good luck. You'll need it, because Cass is hard to portray convincingly.

Which brings us to the $64,000 Question: how do you do it?

Here's my take... )
hradzka: (pointy teeth)
By now, it's clear that Batgirl has not been an easy character to write. She's been a happy mute, a frustrated chatterbox, and one heck of a problem for her writers. But as of Batgirl #13, Chuck Dixon and Kelley Puckett have sussed things out. Dixon found Cass's voice, and Puckett showed how striking and effective that voice could be in dialogue. So it has to be smooth sailing from here, right?

Well, not exactly.

Here's what happened... )
hradzka: (pointy teeth)
In case you haven't figured it out yet, I like Cassandra Cain. The second Batgirl (third if you don't count Huntress's brief attempt; I don't) is a tremendously interesting character, one of my favorites in the DCU. She's a great action heroine, she's got a fascinating personal history, and has one of the best buddy relationships going with original Batgirl Barbara Gordon. (Her friendship with Spoiler is also terrific fun.)

She's also the hardest character in the Batfamily to write.

What is it, girl? Old Man Pennyworth fell down the well? )
hradzka: (pointy teeth)
So a while back some folks (yours truly included) were talking about Cassandra "Batgirl" Cain, and her relationship with Batman.

(For those not up on their Batfolks: she's the illiterate offspring of a ruthless assassin who taught her how to kill but not to speak; he's a billionaire philanthropist and businessman who prowls the rooftops because his parents were murdered by a mugger. Together, they fight crime.)

And it just gets more weird. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (cat and bat)
A lot of people have had quite a lot of fun with the random pairing generator and the plot bunny generator. Both are quite fun, and have decidedly evil streaks. (The plot bunny generator just gave me "Bruce Wayne / ...prepares a meal" -- something that, if you're at all in Batfandom, you know is an extraordinarily bad idea.) Many stories have resulted, most of them being ficlets. (In part because of the five-minute game, which was an invention I can only describe as crackheaded and evil. Also fun.)

I suck at the five-minute game, and have been trying to figure out why. I come up with story ideas for a given pairing pretty quickly, but can't hold to the time limit at all. I can do stupid-funny pretty easily, but have only been able to produce one five-minute ficlet that's any good.

I think it's because of what and how I write. I'm a story freak. I love characterization, and banter, and I'm a sucker for good romance, but for me writing is all about *people doing something.* Making decisions, solving mysteries, facing challenges -- whatever. But I'm very much a beginning-middle-end-in-an-Aristotle's-Poetics-kind-of-way guy. And I can't do that in five minutes. Or at least, I haven't been able to yet.

It's not that I don't like ficlets. They're fun. But they're not really stories. They're more like the kind of thing one SF writer (Ray Bradbury, I think) called, "Here's an interesting idea; the end." My Two-Face story definitely falls into that category: it's a portrait, not a story. And I keep trying to write stories with a beginning, middle, and end. So I keep busting the time limit and writing longer ficlets, to the point that they're not really ficlets at all. I think my Lucius/Lois still falls into the "portrait" category, but my Jason Todd/Maggie Sawyer and my Scarecrow/Harley don't. And I prefer the story to the portrait. My reaction to a lot of ficlets is to say, "Neat -- so now what?" The best example is [livejournal.com profile] marag's "Fathers and Children" -- I'm annoyed that it ended, because I want to know what happens next. (She has another example of the contrast I'm talking about here: the first is a portrait, the second a story.)

So: ficlets are fun, but ultimately a distraction from storytelling. Which is where my interest lies.
hradzka: (jason)
Actually, I've just realized there's at least one case of Leslie being questioned -- Huntress actually calls her on her B.S. in "No Man's Land," when her clinic harbors Szasz, and when the inevitable violence breaks out Leslie finds herself hoping for someone to do Szasz harm, even kill him. But she won't lift a finger to save herself. (Though it ends with a truce between her and Batman, again, with him trying to save Gotham and Leslie trying to save his soul; which is to say, blech.)
hradzka: (jason)
Leslie Thompkins first appeared in 1975, making her the last of the current Batfamily regulars to be introduced in the comic pages -- of the adults, anyway; Tim Drake came along in 1989, and Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are more recent introductions. Dick Grayson, Alfred Pennyworth, and Barbara Gordon all preceded her (not to mention Jim Gordon, but I don't really consider him "family"), and Leslie's canonical relationship to Bruce has changed more than that of any of them.

Women of Gotham has a short but good history of the character that shows some of her incarnations over the years. Briefly, she was introduced in Detective #457, Denny O'Neil's great "There Is No Hope in Crime Alley!" In that story, she's a part of Batman's annual pilgrimage to Crime Alley; she's the woman who comforted young Bruce after his parents' murder. She doesn't know Batman's true identity, had never met him or his folks before the murder, and has no personal connection with Bruce Wayne today.

What a difference twenty-nine years makes, huh?

Today Leslie serves a number of functions in the Batbooks: she's a confidant and an ear on the street; she's a medical resource, when Alfred's skills aren't enough; she's the humanitarian wing of the Batclan -- and those are just her story uses. On a personal level, she's Alfred's confidante and (discreet) love interest. And she's really, really good at taking the piss out of Batman. Leslie has no tolerance for bullshit, even (maybe especially) when Batman is doling it out, because she's known Bruce since he was a frightened little boy and she is never, ever scared of him. She can criticize him, carp at him, and call him on the carpet. And that's gold. It makes her very fun to write.

Leslie is also a pacifist. This is one of the great aspects of her modern characterization: she cares for Batman, she helps him, but she is innately *completely opposed* to his methods. Which makes for conflict on a character level, and it's expressed in any number of different ways, to really great effect. I love Leslie's pacifism.

What I don't love is that the other characters never say that she's wrong. Because at least some of them should.

Take Batman. He should not (as he has recently) admire her pacifism. He should see it as a flaw he tolerates, or a weakness he has to protect from being exploited. Something to wish he could be? No.

Or Alfred. He loves Leslie. The two of them were Bruce's surrogate parents after Thomas and Martha died. He has his issues with Bruce's Mission. But he's a veteran, a combat medic, with experience in intelligence work. He knows that violence can solve problems, if applied correctly. Which, if you think about it, puts him between Bruce and Leslie. (Ghod, what a horrible place to be in. Poor Alfred.)

There's absolutely no reason everybody should put Leslie on a pedestal the way they do, especially when a large part of the reason her clinic can remain open in a rough neighborhood is that the Batfolks and Selina Kyle are on the street busting heads. I can see them wishing that they lived in a world where pacifism was possible, but believing it? Admiring her for setting a moral standard they wish they could live up to, but can't because of some failing on their part? No. Because if Leslie's right, they're not only failing to do any good, they're actively contributing to the problem. Which they're not. So as things stand, Leslie gets to sit in a position of unquestioned moral authority, where she delivers her opinion as if from the mountaintop and nobody ever calls her on it. Which is a shame, because it means there's a lot of potential for drama and character conflict going unrealized.

I played with this a little in "Jason and Me." My Steph is harsh on Leslie there, more than Leslie deserves, especially in that situation -- but she does have a point. Somebody should bring stuff like that up. Maybe not Bruce or Alfred (they probably love Leslie too much to tell her off, but they certainly shouldn't serve as her "virtues of pacifism" amen corner). But somebody.

Because I love Leslie Thompkins.

But she isn't always right.
hradzka: (bruce and diana)
...and Ghod, I'm glad to not be building a fence any more.

I'm getting tempted to put some news/political posts on here, but have resisted that so far. Not because I wouldn't like to have a blog of that sort, but I told [livejournal.com profile] vvalkyri that if I did, it wouldn't be on my LJ, which I figured I'd reserve for fanfic and related stuff. So not sure what I'll do about that.

Ran across some talk on [livejournal.com profile] nos4a2no9's site on supporting casts in comic books. I think that Batman's great supporting cast is a large part of his appeal. I'm not talking about the villains, like Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, and Two-Face, but characters like Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara and Jim Gordon, Leslie Thompkins (about whom I plan to write later)... they're always interesting, and there's a zillion naturally-arising conflicts that can give rise to an interesting story (or throw a new light on some aspect of an unrelated one). Spider-Man has always had a magnificent supporting cast: Aunt May, MJ, the Staceys, Flash Thompson, J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson. Superman's supporting cast, meanwhile, sucks. Perry White and Jimmy Olsen are functions, not people. The Kents aren't too bad. I confess that Lois Lane has pretty much always bored me to tears; I have no clue what Supes sees in her. (The animated Superman's Lana Lang, however... rrrrRRROWWRRR.)

So why do I feel this way? Why do Batman and Spider-Man's supporting casts work so memorably, and Superman's much less so?

I think it has to do with their being integral to the hero's travails. Batman's supporting cast knows of his mission, takes part in it, and is drawn into internal and external conflict as a result. Spider-Man's Aunt May knows about his superheroing now, but that's a recent development; for most of his history, his supporting cast has known him only as Peter Parker. But Peter Parker has had his own difficulties to face, and his supporting cast has been heavily involved in that.

Superman's supporting cast... well, what do they do? They serve as a sounding board for Superman, or as plot devices. And that's about it. Character conflicts within Superman's circle, when they do arise, often come through circumstance. Not through fundamentally different views on life, the universe, and everything. In the Superman comics I've seen, the closest Superman gets to that stuff, really, is with Superboy. And with Batman; that's what makes their team-ups so interesting.

Which may be why Superman comics really don't do anything for me. If I had to choose between them, I'd like to *be* Superman -- but I'd like to *write* Batman.
hradzka: (jason)
Well, my main fannish account is down -- a bit annoying, because I'm such a dinosaur I prefer to do my web browsing with lynx. (Yes. Shut up.) But I can still get to the LJ. Maybe I'll even post something substantive here. Or I could work on that Jim Gordon story I've been neglecting.

There aren't nearly enough Jim Gordon stories in Batverse fanfic, and that's really a damn shame. Gordon's a terrific character, especially in Miller's Year One; he's been pivotal to the Batverse for pretty much its entire run. And what does he get in terms of fanfic? Bupkus, or close to it. I'm writing one story to partially correct that deficiency, but I'm still trying to figure out why.

I think part of it is that he is, by necessity, out of the loop -- even when he knows, or suspects, something, he goes out of his way to avoid confirmation, in order to maintain his plausible deniability. But that also makes it hard to put him into Batverse stories. He's not somebody Batman can talk to for long stretches, because of Batman's ambivalent relationship with the cops. He can talk to Barbara, but only as father to daughter; he doesn't know about Oracle or the like. He's never in the Batcave. He's been married multiple times, so his heterosexuality is pretty clearly established, making him more difficult to slash. (Also, slashers like the pretty and angstful, and why pair Bruce up with an old geezer when the Hunk Wonder himself, Dick Grayson, is right there?)

So when Jim does turn up in fanfic, it's usually in a supportive role, often mildly comedic. He's useful in a Dick/Babs romantic fic as the protective father, or in a detective story as Mr. Exposition. He's one of the few people whose opinion actually matters to Batman, and who can actually joke about him with affection, which makes him useful for taking the piss out of the Dark Knight on occasion -- but again, Alfred is much better for that because a) he's more sarcastic and b) Alfred knows everything.

Which is a shame, because Jim Gordon kicks ass.

And hey, in the time it took me to write this the other account came back up. So all is well.

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