“The Greeks understood the mysterious power of the hidden side of things. They bequeathed to us one of the most beautiful words in our language—the word ‘enthusiasm’—en theos—a god within. The grandeur of human actions is measured by the inspiration from which they spring. Happy is he who bears a god within, and who obeys it.”
Crap is a sign of life. New bad stories are a sign that this genre — fan fiction, the genre I adore the most - is alive and well. Bad stories mean new people are trying to write in it, and people are trying to do new things with it, and maybe new people are joining the audience, too. When only the best and most popular are writing in a genre, it’s on its deathbed. (See: Westerns and Louis L’Amour.) I want this genre to be here forever, because I want to read it forever. So I’m happy that teenagers are posting Mary Sue stories to the Archive of Our Own.
Does that mean you have to be happy? Nope. I can’t make you do anything. (I can think you’re wrong, but hey, being wrong on the internet is a time-honored tradition among our people.) But when you start making fun of a writer and bullying her in the comments of her story, simply because she’s writing something you think is bad and embarrassing, well, that’s when I say: shut the fuck up or get the fuck out. Because she’s not a problem. She’s just doing what we’re all doing — having fun, playing with words, throwing something out there on the internet to see if other people like it.
But you. You’re trying to stop someone from having fun. You’re trying to shame people into not writing anymore. And that, folks — that is the definition of shitty behavior. (Mary Sue fantasies, on the other hand, are just the definition of human behavior.) It’s bad for people, it’s bad for the future, and it’s bad for the genre. So you’re a problem.”
This? Is really, really important (not re: me, as I am old, mean, and soulless, but re: writers who are not old, mean, and soulless), especially when you are talking about public commentary, and especially when you are talking about commentary that is unsolicited.
If you really want to improve the quality of Fic At Large, by all means, strike up relationships where you can have meaningful dialogues with other writers and provide trustworthy and meaningful commentary on their work, and (ideally! mutual beta love is the best love!) where they can do the same for you. In fact, if such a concept tickles your fancy, I know of a writing/making shit club that you might find interesting! But there is a world of difference between participating in a community in which people mutually solicit and provide suggestions for one another to help each other out, and leaving mean, snarky, abusive comments directly on someone else’s fic.
This is extra extra true if you could be construed as being in a position of power relative to them, which, if they are a new writer and you are not, you are.
I’m, too, am old, mean, and soulless, and I do not make unsolicited public commentary, because TFV is absolutely correct.
I also have strong feelings about the overall quality of fanfiction, as anyone who has listened to me grumble about things well knows. (HOLY FUCKBALLS, DO THEY EVER. And I do grumble. Loudly. With hand gestures and examples.)
Honestly, I wish I were the sort of person who’d find a way to privately message someone and say, “Hey, you’ve got solid story ideas, and would you like a beta who used to do that sort of thing for a living to help you shape your prose so the ideas shine through?” or “You have a strong voice, and a good command of dialogue, but would you appreciate help with the anachronisms you’ve got going on here? For I am from the Before Times, and can assist you with that.” I mean, I’m not. I’d gladly do either of those things, and have in the past, but I don’t volunteer myself to specific people.
(Honestly, the times I want to offer my services most are when the writer is clearly writing outside of their native tongue—we’re talking I can see the grammar structures of the native tongue in the English writing—and yet it seems like they’d be an amazing writer in said native tongue. I cannot speak their language, but I wish to translate them all the same.)
stefanie-bean: And if you want better writing, leave good reviews. A good review is kind, neutral in tone, positive in at least one point, and constructive in its criticism. Fanfic writing takes place in a community: so be the community you want to see.