Monday, April 28, 2014

The Hour That The Ship Comes In

So while we are on the subject of my recent and inappropriate enthusiasm for a certain reality show, I have more to say about the subject of its surrounding fanfiction. What I should be doing at the moment is straightening up the house, getting my car inspected, and making the animated computer version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm that I promised my grandson. Yes, I know there are many animated versions I can buy him, but I want to personalize it by inserting pictures of him into the animations. That’s a lot of painstaking work, however, and this is easier.

Before I launch into my comments on the subject at hand, however, I am going to give the cast of characters a whole new set of names, because I feel uncomfortable using the names of the real people whom I don’t even know to discuss the fictional representations of them out there in cyberspace. So we have Carl and Mavis, recent gold medal winners in the sport of ice dancing, and Tabitha, Carl’s long suffering love interest, who has until recently been shoved so far into the background that her clothing was starting to match the decor. More recently we have Mikhail, Mavis’ foreign born dance instructor, with his burly good looks and total lack of concept of personal space. Supposedly he has been nicknamed “sex on a stick”, but to me that sounds downright uncomfortable. Then we have Mikhail’s brother Vadim, and Carl’s dance instructor, Shirley, who may or may not make an appearance, depending on how far I get before the siren song of filing medical papers gets to me.

If we go back far enough, much of the fiction involves romantic relationships between Carl and Mavis, despite the fact that they have been pretty clear about their lack of interest in one another. The Problem of Tabitha is dealt with in several ways. The most popular one seems to be just disappearing her off the face of the earth. As far as I can figure, she was the victim of an accident involving the Large Hadron Collider, details of which are still highly classified. With no Tabitha around, dramatic tension must come from the tried and true trope of having both characters fall in love with each other, but be afraid to speak out because each thinks the other is not interested. In real life, this rarely happens, but in novels, it happens all the time. In my view, if two people are in love but can’t tell each other, it is just as well, because they really have no business breeding together. I find these plots the least interesting of all.

Then there are the ones where  we still have Carl and Mavis in love with each other, but Tabitha is Carl’s girlfriend. Yes, I know, you ask why he doesn’t break up with Tabitha and announce his love for Mavis if that is the case. Cake, snack, gone anyone? Or Tabitha is a lovely girl, and it would be a shame to hurt her (only in some of these stories, she and Carl get married, have a kid or two, and then get divorced, and wouldn’t it have been less hurtful to have dropped her like a hot rock before all that happened?) I wonder if the authors (who in many cases are good writers, in the technical sense) are aware of how much of a loser Mavis looks like in these stories. In real life, “Carl” has been with “Tabitha” for five years, more than enough time for Mavis to grieve a broken heart if she does have one, and then move on.

I wonder why none of our budding authors has come up with the obvious solution for the Tabitha problem - have Mikhail seduce her. He’s supposed to be good at that kind of thing. Then Mavis and Carl can bond over their mutual broken hearts. (No, I’m not writing it.)

There is also the little detail that Mavis had a boyfriend prior to and around the time of the Olympics. Then, around late February, even the briefest of references to him disappeared from her conversation and she and Mikhail are acting as though she is free as a bird. Maybe the BF, who does not have a name so lets call him Feliks, was the one who got disappeared in the Large Hadron Collider.

Or, there is the possible solution that I dreamed up for the first of my fanfic forays, the one in which Mikhail and Mavis get introduced online well before the Olympics, and he is the BF she refers to, until it becomes more politic to pretend that their first IRL meeting in the dance studio is their first meeting ever. It explains a lot: their immediate comfort level with each other, the boyfriend that was and then wasn’t, Mikhail’s proposal. Okay, it’s unlikely, but not as unlikely as two people who have known each other for a decade and a half falling in love but never bothering to mention it to each other, because plot.

And speaking of plots, I need to get back to Old MacDonald. That one, I understand.

(The title of this piece comes from this song, which has been stuck in my head for a while, but has nothing to do with the kind of ships that show up in fanfic.)


  1. OK... there's fan fic about reality TV?!?

    Oh Lord.

    I honestly had no idea... I kind of get the reasoning behind fan fic about fictional characters, but writing it about actual human beings who are not in fact fictional characters no matter how much the editing does kind of is a bit... well, icky to me.

    And it's just occurred to me to wonder if anyone's writing fan fic about political figures. I am not going to google to find out...

    1. Yeah, me either, but who knows?

      I think the reason for the fan fics about real people is that when you only know them from TV or social media, they don't seem all that different from fictional characters. All I know about "Mikhail" and "Mavis" is what I can see in heavily edited videos depicting a few minutes out of their life each week, and they know that the cameras are on them during that time. So of course it's hard to see them as real people and not characters in a drama.

      I wrote something in response to a Tumblr post about treating wrestling characters as real people. I think I will use that as the basis for a post, since it's kind of on this topic.

  2. I read "Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon" by Melissa Anelli recently and had to laugh when I got to the bit where she became the subject of fan fiction. Apparently some fans decided to write fanfic about her and another well known fan from a different popular fan website - and then submit it to the Leaky Cauldron, where Anelli was webmistress. Her reactions were hilarious, if also somewhat bemused at times. Some of the more slashy and explicit stuff she had to pass on to someone else to read because... well, awkward.

    1. It sounds like a good read, but even the Kindle version is kind of pricey for me at the moment. Fortunately, we have a good library around here, so I can probably get it reserved for me with just a few clicks online.