Category: Other Editorials


Dear deviantART…

Dear deviantART,

A random picture of yourself naked is not nude art. It’s just a random picture of yourself, except naked. Nude art involves artful posing, backgrounds that aren’t just your own plain bedroom, and so on and so forth. Generally speaking, there’s something either graceful or scintillating (possibly both) about nude art, without it necessarily having to be entirely sexual. A plain, no-nonsense picture of a naked man/woman does nothing and is therefore just a photograph. For the record, deviantART is not a website for adult personals, so there’s no point just uploading a random picture of yourself with no clothes on. If you’re going to do so and pretend it qualifies as “nude art,” at least pretend to be slightly artistic about it.

A picture of your own erect penis is not nude art, either. It’s just a picture of your penis.

If you think either of the above is “art” by any stretch of the concept, please re-think your tastes. Because they suck. Horribly.

Yours in fellowship,
Lewis Medeiros

P.S. Applying grayscale to a picture of your penis isn’t enough to make it art, by the way. Just saying.

Guess what, kiddies! It’s time for another wall of text. But not just any wall of text, oh no, this one’s fanfiction-related. Because that’s totally what this blog is for, right?!

…In any case, I’ve been in a fanfic-reading mood lately, so I’ve been browsing FanFiction.Net a bit more than I usually do. Now, a good rule of thumb when browsing that site is to give each story’s first chapter a quick once-over and hit the back button if the grammar isn’t at least B-grade passable (or if the story is written in English but accompanied by some manner of “i no good at english so plz be nice” note, in which case why are you writing in English and posting your stories if you already know they suck…?). As I touched on last time I wrote about fanfiction, this isn’t always enough to ward off the droves and droves of utter crap that obscure the good stuff. Even people who are absolutely brilliant at writing can suck the big one when it comes to characterization and story-telling. Case in point: people who Gary-Stuify (or Mary-Sueify, as the gender case may be) the main character of the franchise they are fan-ficking.

It happens a lot, and I do mean a LOT, with Naruto, Harry Potter, and Persona fanfiction. It’s easy to understand why it happens with Persona, since the main character is a blank-slate silent protagonist who has no character, so in that case my complaint doesn’t really apply. But nothing makes me hate a fanfiction in quite the same way as an author taking the main character of a story I love, stripping him of everything that made him unique, and turning him into a cardboard-cutout [insert choice of Gary Stu varient here]. There’s no excuse to get these characters wrong, people; they’ve already been characterized, and by much better writers than you (and yes, dumbass, Masashi Kishimoto is a much better writer than you; not that he’s particularly good, but I’m sure you get my meaning, yeah?). The most irritating thing about these stories is that their most common and obvious offense is purely cosmetic: they take even the distinct descriptive features of a character and totally overwrite them. For example…

Harry Potter. He has perpetually messy hair, he’s got glasses, and he’s skinny as fuck. Also he’s a Gryffindor and he’s crap with the ladies. But one author doesn’t like that, so said author gives him laser eye surgery, sets him on a massive protein binge and then force-feeds him approximately sixteen gallons of undiluted testosterone. The result: a positively uber-manly lady-killer who inexplicably has enough magical skill to duel one-on-ten with Lord Voldemort’s Shadow Clone Platoon and come out smelling like Axe and roses, with perfect eyesight but still with the messed-up hair, because without the messed-up hair the characters wouldn’t have a reason to joke about how combing his hair is a hopeless endeavor every two chapters. This uber-manly “not Harry” is usually either a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw, or a Gryffindor who decides to hang out with Slytherins while Ron becomes an absolute jealous prick about it (usually accompanied by some form of character-bashing “hilarity”), and who is suddenly and inexplicably hostile toward Albus Dumbledore, who in a good 75% of these fanfictions is a total manipulative bastard who may or may not be embezzling money from Harry’s absolutely bottomless family vault at Gringotts. Also, this uber-manly not-Harry is suddenly recognized as the Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter, making him an important political figure. Neville Longbottom is usually along for the ride as an heir of the Noble House of Longbottom. This revelation usually comes by way of Daphne Greengrass, also known as The School’s Least Offensive Slytherin or, alternately, the Ice Queen (in the actual books, Daphne is mentioned by name exactly one time in book five and then never appears again: in other words, a character left entirely to the reader’s imagination and the tender mercies of the fanfiction community).

Now, maybe you can’t tell why I rage so hard against this sort of portrayal. If so, then consider: they take everything “flawed” about Harry’s physical appearance, or nearly everything, and replace it with the most objectified, stereotypically “dashing” and “badass” male perfection they can imagine. Then they completely gut his personality and stuff one of their own into its skin, usually in the form of someone who is impossibly skilled at magic and not afraid to verbally tear into anyone who looks at him sideways (essentially becoming a mouthpiece through which the author voices anything and everything they don’t like about a given character, directly to their face). They are able to be complete an utter assholes with impunity. The characters that the author likes side with the Gary-Stuified “Not-Harry” and worship him, becoming the picture-perfect friends that they may or may not actually be when they’re in-character. The characters that the author does not like become hated enemies, usually cannon fodder for “humor” scenes that aren’t remotely funny for anyone who isn’t inclined to guffaw like Crabbe and Goyle in the face of character bashing.

It’s a similar case with Naruto, although in that event it’s usually limited to either A) changing his clothes to something not-orange while replacing the hyperactive-idiot with the same basic Gary Stu portrayal described above (read “magic” as “ninjutsu”); or B) giving him some form of overpowered kekkei-genkai, probably the Sharingan or Rinnegan, and then doing everything listed in Option A. Now, I can understand why people dislike Naruto from the “he’s not a ninja” standpoint, but setting aside debate over whether or not this actually works… that is kind of the point of his character. The fact that he does things in a distinctly un-ninjalike way is both a point of characterization and the butt of many a joke throughout the entire Naruto series. There have been, actually, several really good stories I’ve read that explore this aspect and experiment with a “more ninja-like” Naruto without blithely over-writing his personality with something else (Better Left Unsaid by Kenchi618 is a good example), but ham-handedly flip-turning the universe upside-down a well-written story does not make.

And to be perfectly blunt about it, if you’re at the point where you feel the urge to write in an entirely different protagonist and bash everyone that protagonist likes or allies themselves with, why the hell–why the hell–are you even a fan of the series to begin with?

The upshot in both cases and all others like them is that they take everything human and/or relatable about the characters and toss it in the garbage, replacing it with the template of what might qualify as the ultimate male pornstar. Does that sound like a recipe for literary brilliance to you? Because it sounds like piss mixed with vinegar to me.

As a closing bit of clarification, I want to state full-out that alternate-universe stories or time-travel stories are entirely different kettle of fish and weren’t on my mind at all whilst writing this little rant. I have thoughts on those as well (they do tend to degenerate into Gary Stu fics quite easily, too), but those are a seperate matter with their own list of do’s and don’ts that I just don’t feel like getting into right now. I just felt like venting for a bit. Until next time, lads and lasses (which will hopefully be a review of Persona 4 Arena), I bid you adieu.

In my last update, “WordPress Necromancy,” I mentioned that I’ve spent a lot of time this past year writing fanfiction. And I have. I’ve also spent a good amount of time reading fanfiction. Why would I subject myself to such horrors, you ask? Because some fanfiction is actually good, believe it or not. A few are actually great. Blows the mind, doesn’t it?

More often, of course, fanfiction outright sucks or lands squarely in that “meh” domain that isn’t worth mentioning one way or another. But that actually has less to do with it being fanfiction than it has to do with the open-to-the-public nature of the thing; as there are no editors, agents, or publishers sifting through the work and deciding which authors are and are not worth investing in, there’s nothing to stop the sewage from being posted. Hence, the vast majority of the content on FanFiction.Net is either bad… or horribad.

That shouldn’t even need stating, really. It’s as much a fact of nature at this point as “the sky is blue” and “grass is green” and “Lewis will most likely forget trash day this week.” What I want to talk about isn’t how most of it sucks; I want to talk about the way authors react when told they’ve done something wrong with their work.

You see, I recently read a crossover story that looked mildly interesting at first blush, and in fact started out relatively well. It even has decent writing quality, which is usually… usually, not always… a sign that the writer knows what he or she is doing. It was a crossover story in which Harry Potter, being stressed out by his vital role in the ongoing war against Lord Voldemort, is visited by three Legendary Pokémon (namely: Mew, Celebi, and Jirachi) and given the opportunity to take a vacation of sorts in another world. He is thus transported to the Pokémon universe and the rest is history. Sounds trite? Maybe it does, but it was still going pretty well until Giovanni entered the picture.

I have no intention of naming names or linking directly to the story in question, but here’s the long and short of what sparked this article. The writer of this crossover introduced Giovanni into the story… who, canonically, is the leader of the organization known as Team Rocket. Keep in mind that this fiction apparently goes by anime canon, in which Giovanni (on those occasions on which he appears) is not at all portrayed in a positive light. In this story, Harry encounters Giovanni taking a random walk in the woods, within walking distance of Pallet Town, no less, who has sprained his ankle. Giovanni is a polite man, who has a sudden “Eureka” moment upon Harry’s suggestion that Team Rocket only steal (or “rescue”) Pokémon who have been abused by their owners rather than ones who are already loyal to loving trainers. Oh, and did I mention that Giovanni, even before his debut in this story, was apparently good friends with Ash Ketchum’s mother and Professor Oak? Check that: the leader of a criminal organization whose trademark is Pokémon theft… is friends with Professor Oak and Ash Ketchum’s bloody mom.

It’s flat, blatantly out-of-character, totally random, and more to the point, it has no redeeming qualities to it whatsoever. This kind of thing happens quite a lot in fanfiction, actually. Often, it stems from a particular writer wanting to emphasize a character’s redeeming qualities (or qualities they errantly think are there, if none actually exist) and instead forgetting to include the other ones. The result is not only as flat and unappetizing as that bottle of soda my brother left open on his desk for three days, it’s also not the character it was supposed to be anymore.

Now, I, in my infinite wisdom, took the overall decent writing quality of the story as a sign that the writer took their work at least seriously enough to appreciate constructive criticism. So I reviewed it, and said pretty much what I’ve already stated here. My response amounted to “I appreciate constructive criticism, but it’s my story so you can take your constructive criticism and stuff it up your arse.” The writer wasn’t so blunt in their wording, of course, but the point seemed to be that despite my complaint being legitimate, somehow the mere concept of “fanfiction” makes stories immune to criticisms involving character development quality, because the word “fanfiction” apparently means the writer isn’t obliged to take their work seriously. (Um, really?) Oh, and the usual FF.net mantra of “Don’t like, don’t READ!” (More on my passionate hatred of that mantra in a bit…)

I wasn’t quite sure I was dealing with a sore loser at this point, so in my (ahem) infinite wisdom, I decided to reply to this PM. I told the writer that it’s all well and good if you want to write a character that isn’t Giovanni, so long as you write a character that actually isn’t Giovanni. Hey, I think it makes sense. I also pointed out that even if this randomly Super!Good!Giovanni character weren’t totally out of sync with anything and everything Giovanni stands for, flat and one-dimensional characters are still flat and one-dimensional… which, readers, is never a good thing unless done for comedic value, which this clearly wasn’t. In my review, I had even provided a decent alternative suggestion to Super!Good!Giovanni… a redemption angle. You know, where the canon Evil!Giovanni actually develops into a good character through some believable sequence of events that change his outlook?

The writer then proceeded to block me, which at this moment is mildly annoying because it means I can’t go back and re-read the PMs themselves to make sure I’m portraying them fairly. But more importantly, the fact that I hadn’t said anything offensive in my review or response (I actually made a point to be as polite as I could) and still got blocked pretty much confirmed the type of writer I was dealing with. Which is a pitty, because the writing quality actually was pretty good and that’s a rare, precious commodity on that site (most stories are either grammatically butchered, formatting nightmares, or grammatically butchered formatting nightmares).

I suppose what I really want to say by all of this is that even if you’re not in it for “keeps,” as it were, fanfiction isn’t somehow magically immune to the standards that original fiction is measured against. Flat and one-dimensional characters are still flat and one-dimensional. Bad writing is still bad writing. And saying “I appreciate constructive criticism” when you really don’t only makes you look like a berk, so… fanfiction writers, if any of you are reading this, please do not follow this nameless author’s example. Take your reviews with grace, dammit. And for God’s sake, don’t tell me you don’t care what your reviewers think. You’re publishing your story on the Internet for the sole purpose of having it read by people other than yourself, so of course you care what others think. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t care about the positive reviews, either.

Closing Tangent: A prevelant sort of mantra on FanFiction.Net is the concept of “don’t like, don’t read,” which seems to be a ward against reviews that don’t agree with “love teh story, update soon!!!1!one!” Basically, it’s a supposedly nice way of saying, “If you don’t like the garbage I put out, keep it to yourself, because I’m too emotionally delicate to take criticism.” Some might say they only say it because they don’t want to be flamed, but the umbrella’s just too wide to limit itself to just one type of negative review. My real beef with this mantra is the sheer impossibility of it: how does one know if they like a story, without first reading it? “Don’t like, don’t read,” you say? How about, “Don’t read, don’t like?” Because that’s my policy toward pretty much everything that wastes summary space on something like “don’t like, don’t read…” I just don’t read it at all, and thus don’t give myself the chance to like it in the first place. It’s the only logical way to follow the author’s instructions, after all!

Edit: The author apparently has a brother, who thinks I owe his sister an apology for hurting her sensitive feelings. He also blocked me before I even had a chance to read his PM. So, um… how does he expect me to give any sort of apology, even if I felt I had done something wrong? Again, I’m not naming names, but… seriously, dude. Common sense. Go out and buy some.