Okay…a number of thoughts and lots of questions for anyone that would like to answer...
They didn’t exist though most people have an idea of what the term means. How much does a word or object need to be in the collective vocabulary for it to be accepted in a fictional universe? What else didn’t exist in Xena that we accept? Bimbo or whining goddesses/gods, ridiculous armor, returning chakrams that cut through anything, levitation, the absurd idea that a staff is not a deadly weapon, people in ancient Greece speaking…English, etc… Many, many things aren’t real, yet we happily accept them in fictional universes. Why not the use of the fictional term candlemark?
Made up character names and places -
It’s a fictional story about in a fictional universe. The TV series never even pretended to have any historical accuracy, and one of the elements of in the series was an extreme tendency to blatantly ignore accurate historical events or timelines. Why are fictional place names and fictional character names a problem in fan fiction based on a massively inaccurate pseudo ancient Greece setting?
Calling Gabrielle anything but Gabrielle -
If Xena would have called Gabrielle “Gab” on occasion, would it have then been acceptable? What about Brie? Many writers use that as well, including one specific accomplished writer that we all know. Why is Brie acceptable and Gab isn’t?
Martial arts/swords in uber-xena works -
Was it overdone in the series? If not, why do you feel it’s overdone or overused in uber-xena stories? What makes an uber-xena story anyway? What elements need to be included and which can be ignored? How far does an uber need to diverge from everything Xena related to be called an original work?
Unfinished stories –
We’ve heard this complaint/pet peeve more often than all of the other complaints combined. A two-word response could suffice: Real Life. I can never give a two-word response though.
How often, as readers, have you wandered away from a fandom for other pursuits? How many have been single and very much into online fandom, met their life partner, and suddenly online fandom didn’t seem so interesting anymore? The writers don’t owe us anything, not even a completed story. We’re the ones the owe them a lot for sharing the results of their creativity, passion, and incredible hard work. Also, if you’re frustrated at unfinished stories, remember that the blame rests completely with you. You knew the story was unfinished when you started it.
(Oh, I’m very guilty of this as well, and that’s why anymore I try very hard not to read works that aren’t finished.)
Overused clichéd terms such as "the blonde" or "the older woman" etc –
This is endemic of fiction across the entire spectrum, and is certainly not confined to fanfic writers. I’ve seen it in published authors that make a living writing novels. I agree, seeing less of this would be a good thing, though it’s hard to expect a fanfic writer to do something that even some of the paid professional ones don’t do. Speaking for myself alone, in fanfic, I’d like people to improve their craft, but the main thing I’m hoping for is that they are continuing to have fun with in their writing. If they strive to improve, that’s great, but if they’re happy with their writing as it is – clichéd terms and all – and are still having fun storytelling, I can easily overlook those pesky overused terms.
Incorrect sentence construction, or generally weak grammar –
Ah, if we all could be English Majors.
Ok, you certainly don’t need to be an English Major to spot some of the worst offenders. In running an archive site we’ve come across a few that defy description. We agree that this can be a problem. Please keep in mind that we often do not know anything about the writer before we look at their story. How old is the writer? Is English their second language? Is this the first thing they’ve ever written? Did they ever have even one English Comp class? Was that one class 30+ years ago? On our site we will return a story to the bard, if it has glaring errors, though realizing that one person’s glaring errors could be another’s small mistakes. (Like in that last sentence.) We usually include a few simple recommendations, and advice to find a beta reader. Some do, some don’t, and some try to contact a beta but fail for any number of reasons. (I’m not faulting the betas here.)
So, a few weeks or months later we receive a modestly improved version of the same story. It still has some errors, but it’s improved. Do we post it, or do we return it for additional work? It comes down to what our primary goal in running The Athenaeum is. We want to encourage those that have a desire to try their hand at writing a story to actually try it. If their first work isn’t even average after corrections, we hope that they will continue to write and improve their abilities. If we were to refuse to post anything below average even after they’ve sent us a corrected version, more than a couple of fairly popular writers over the years would have never improved their writing and stuck with this highly enjoyable pursuit. I can think of several that have actually gone on to publish one or more of their novels that had their first work rejected for serious errors, and when we posted the revised versions, the stories still had many errors.
On our site, you’re going to need to expect a variable level of quality, especially in some of the older works. If you find that a story is unreadable, and can’t find a tactful constructive way to tell the writer, you can always tell us privately – tact optional.
Stories that are basically one long paragraph –
Agreed. It makes the story impossible to read. Those always get sent back to the writer for more work.
Ok, someone finally hit a tiny pet peeve of mine in the disclaimers. Not the humorous ones, or the vaguely obnoxious ones, but the ones where the author disclaims a loving relationship between woman. Perhaps it’s unintentional, but it still strike me as odd.
I’d like to finish with a plea to keep our discussion of complaints/pet peeves as polite and as tactful as possible. My questions were not directed at specific posters - anyone that wants to comment, jump right in.