Examining the Loops, Part 2

So, what would I do to improve the loop-threads?

This is legitimately tough. A part of me just wants to go “Ok, I’d criticize them, but let them be as long as they don’t have inappropriate content.” Another part of me just wants to impose better rules.

Rules like the Familiar of Zero ones, designed to turn a previously spammy fandom substantive. The problem is that FoZ is a specific setting, and the Loops aren’t.

So, if I was in charge of policing the Loops on Spacebattles, here’s what I’d do.

-Inactive loop threads are unceremoniously closed. For active ones, I’d give the authors a short time to write a finish, and then close them as well.

-Canon is flushed-the entire Yggdrasil excuse setup is gone. 

-Snippets have to be very long.

-No one-liners, no dare/suggestions.

-The writer should ideally set out an endstate.

This is an disproportionately large burden, but the loops are disproportionately vulnerable to the worst excesses of goofy fandom. I’d feel reluctant in some ways, but consider it necessary in others.

Spacebattles Creative Writing Trends

Spacebattles has had several huge fanfiction trends, most of which I’ve naturally missed.

-Star Trek/Wars/B5/BSG/Stargate fics. Waay back in the day. I entered just as those were fading. Mostly before my time, and Creative Writing was a relatively small, out of the way forum.

-Familiar of Zero. Already mentioned. Gained popularity because of its enormously crossover-friendly setup. Has since largely petered out.

-Self-inserts. Not an exact genre so much as a style of writing. Goes against everything a writer is supposed to do, but as a combination of wish-fulfillment and way to write in an established setting, it worked.

-Worm. This was a bit of a surprise. A long, obscure web-fiction about a superheroine, Worm’s fandom is concentrated on SB-but is very concentrated. Having read only a little, Worm’s draw of both “taking advantage of” superpowers and its surprisingly crossover-friendly nature (fanfic writers love to give the main character different powers) have earned it a huge following on the board.

-Time-loops. Lowest-common denominator goofball-fic. Basically, think Groundhog Day-styled stories. Add in characters of all the settings one could want. Huge needlessly complicated backstory and set of nominal rules. Ability to avoid such matters as plot, character development, or pacing by just rushing ahead to the goofy. (You get the feeling about my opinion on these).

As of the time of this writing on the Creative Writing front page:

Worm, Worm, Star Wars, Worm, Self-Insert, Worm, Loop, Loop, Mass Effect, Worm Self-Insert, Worm, My Little Pony, Worm, BSG, Self-Insert, Self-Insert, Worm, Self-Insert, Loop, Loop, Self-Insert, Loop, Loop, Pokemon, Stargate, goofy meme, Lord of the Rings, Self-Insert, Worm.

Fanfiction Friendliness of Settings

Some settings are seemingly better for fanfiction writing than others. One example, which was part of a major craze on Spacebattles, is the light novel/anime series called The Familiar of Zero. The plot is basically this-in a fantasy world similar to early modern Europe, a bumbling mage named Louise summons a bumbling Japanese teenager named Saito as her familiar. “Antics” ensue.

The FoZ craze had external factors going for it, such as a popular Fanfiction.net author kicking it off. However, the way it was sustained had a lot to do with the setting. Namely, there were just the right factors for why it got so much attention.

-First, the summoning mechanism allowed for a lot of easy, “built-in” crossover opportunities. For a fanfic writer, making a crossover would be as easy and natural-seeming (unlike contrivances) as “Louise summons _____ instead of Saito.”

-Second, the setting itself was viewed as something potentially interesting, motivating the “fixfic” interest. Unlike the traditional swords-and-sorcery, this was an early modern musket setting, making it stand out conceptually. In addition to this, the “mechanics interest” group liked the intricacies of the magic system (A lot of Spacebattlers like anything that seems quantifiable). That the original works squandered this in favor of “antics” made the motivation all the greater.

The FoZ craze has now burnt itself out, and the new hot fanfiction topic is a web-novel called Worm. That has plenty of its own reasons for the waves of fanfiction, but that’s another story.

Now, there is another work that, despite its popularity, has featured very, very few fanfics. Having finally reached the “Infamy Rank” in Payday 2, I can see why that series has so few entries on fanfiction.net. The setting seems to have everything that went for FoZ going against it. On paper, crossovers could be possible, and in fact official ones have been done in the game itself.

-The setting is much more rigid. Being an un-supernatural, at least nominally grounded modern world, a writer is more limited in what they can actually make. Not that that would stop anyone who really wanted to do something differently, but it’s still an obstacle.

-More importantly, it’s less conceptually interesting and tougher. Being built as a game where the player follows their character by default, there’s no need to ‘hook’ them. The existing characters are some of the least sympathetic protagonists anywhere, and they have just enough personality so that the author can’t use them as blank-slate protagonists like an RPG customizable character.

The modern action setting isn’t novel or possessing of much opportunity to ‘fix’, and is made worse by the game being hard to extract from its mechanics (in-game and the few cutscenes, the Clowns can mow down waves of officers who charge blindly forward, and then can stay hidden-to apply even the slightest amount of plausibility to it would be a Herculean task).

This doesn’t matter for the game itself, but does for a fanfic of such a work.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and the internet can be weird. If Payday had spawned a giant fanfic community and FoZ been left with a few scraps, I would probably be writing a blog post on how it was natural that such a popular and already crossover-apparent setting could have so much writing (just look at how easy it is to insert a new heister/rogue, since they did it in canon-etc), while totally understandable that a mediocre goofy anime would be left in the dust (Well, how can you make anything good from a silly little “antics” show-etc). But I still feel that some settings are just more fanfic-friendly than others, for reasons other than the popularity of the original/canon work.