Twig has concluded

So, the final chapter of Wildbow’s story Twig was posted yesterday. Now the fans are understandably eager for Worm 2.

I found Wildbow’s comments on his own work to be very fascinating and illuminating. Give them a read. As for whether or not Spacebattles will become even more overrun with wormfics-I stand by what I previously wrote.

(Also, the belief that Arc 20 was going to be the final one turned out to be accurate. Whether it was truly prescient or just crying wolf until a lupine beast finally appeared is a difficult question).

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Twig ending and the Worm dilemma

Although Twig has not officially concluded, much less Worm 2 having started, the first epilogue of that story has been posted.

The question of whether I should try to get into Worm 2 is tough. I tried to get into Twig a bit, but it just didn’t really grab me, however thematically interesting. Reasons I’d want to get into Worm 2 are:

  • I could be pleasantly surprised.
  • I want to know more about Spacebattles’ favorite weird niche webfic.
  • Most importantly, reading it as it starts means I’m not buried by a gigantic overload of previous chapters.

However, the reason why I wouldn’t, and why I haven’t, are twofold.

  • Wildbow (the author) has prose that’s just “meh”. Not terrible, but not the most gripping.
  • The pacing of the stories isn’t very good, which combined with their (admirably) fast update schedule means I catch up on several chapters of nothing.

That being said, I’ll still give it a try, and if nothing else, I might be motivated to read through the many updates of Worm 1 while Twig winds down. Maybe I’ll find it an acquired taste. It’s certainly happened before with stuff that didn’t seem good at first impression.

 

Worms and Twigs

One piece of webfiction in particular holds a peculiar trend. The work of fiction would be the web serial Twig, by “Wildbow”, the author of the Spacebattles-favorite superhero epic Worm. The trend is for fans to declare that the storyline must be almost over.

The claims that Twig must be ending soon first started appearing in earnest around Arc 10. Now Twig is at Arc 20. And there’s talk that, honestly, really, Wildbow’s close to finishing it off.

When browsing through the Worm community, I’ve found an explanation that I felt made a lot of sense. People want Worm II, Wildbow’s announced sequel to the initial blockbuster, and they’re so eager that they want Twig to be over.

I admit to being one of them. A story I could follow a chapter at a time could get me to know the setting better than having to dig through a gigantic million word archive. At the same time, I’ve always felt Wildbow has had pacing issues, and thus I’m not surprised Twig has gone the way it has.

The morbid question I have is “will Worm II overload Spacebattles even more?” According to a running thread, around 15-20 of the top stories in Creative Writing are Worm-centric. I personally feel that if it catches CRWs attention again (which is not a guarantee-Pact has only two fanfics written on Spacebattles, and Twig has zero), most of the “victims” will be other wormfics.

So I guess I’ll have to wait and see. For what it’s worth, Worm itself ended after 31 arcs, and Wildbow’s next work, Pact, wrapped after 16.

The Alternate History Blowup

It’s a weird coincidence.

Shortly after I made my post about how I’d soured on Alternatehistory.com, there was an incident in the dreaded Chat. The board administrator had undertaken another mass banning and issued a rant that many considered to be far beyond his well-known anti-Israel bias, crossing the line into being outright anti-Jewish. As a result, with the aid of friendly staff, a breakaway (sub)forum was set up on Sufficient Velocity.

Many people pointed out the irony of that, since disagreements with board administrators was how SV got started to begin with. And like the Athene Incident, I viewed the latest blowup as primarily a catalyst. Mass bannings/kickings [tempbans] over Israel and the administrator’s view on the country were not exactly a new experience.

This makes me all the more glad I moved away when I did.

 

Spacebattles now has a Worm forum

Spacebattles has, thanks to board upgrades, finally been able to implement a Worm subforum for their Creative Writing board.

The Worm craze has been gigantic, and is every bit as big now as it was when I first blogged about it. Making it opt-in is preferable to just stuffing everything into a subforum to cries of “fencing off”.

So hopefully this works without much issue.

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.

Looking At Loopfics

So, I feel like writing about the “infinite loops” fandom again, after revisiting it. Looking at a few loops here and there, and taking the recent drama into account (which brings about both cynicism and hope), I want to blog about it.

I mentioned the time loop craze on Spacebattles before. I feel saddened, annoyed, and-disappointed by it, but also slightly hopeful. Very slightly.

The Infinite Loops aren’t/weren’t (just) a decision to write Groundhog Day-styled stories in various fandoms. They are their own universe of countless crossovers. The TVTropes page can at least bring a slight explanation. And-yeah. They’re something.

I like weird crossovers. Even with Sturgeons Law of 90% of everything being “bad”, and even knowing how especially hard it is to make a weird crossover good, I still like the concept. (The amount of theoretical heists I have daydreamed for the Payday cast is astounding, as is me mixing Fallout and the straight JRPG fantasy of the Fire Emblem series). Now, the issue is very simple.

To do a weird crossover right, it must be either extensively thought through or be a total goofball of a fic. The latter can work, but can’t really sustain a full story. The former requires a lot of thinking. To use my example- is there any chance that a noble (in all senses) squeaky-clean JRPG hero would back the psychotic Caesar’s Legion simply because they’re still the form of government they’re used to and know best? Could they stand House treating them as an especially bad primitive?

The loopfics somehow manage to combine all of the weaknesses of both approaches with none of the strengths. Most stories end up as tiny snippets. The ones that “continue” use the format as a way to shove aside anything in the original canon that the author dislikes-nearly always for the worse. So, they’re just tiny “crackfics”-

 

-that are tied together by a set of rules-Anchors, Admins, Awake, and terminology that I still have trouble getting. References to past entries that in practice take the form of in-jokes and arguments. Constant talk of violations of the rules. This was what kept me away from the loops far more than the content itself.

So, now for the events. Mods stepped in, trying to bring order to the chaos .The loop threads had one of the lowest posts-to-views ratios on the forum, and there was precedent in the Familiar of Zero threads, which went from anything goes “Louise summons ____ lol” to structured ones with strict observation and a firm requirement of substantive content.

This slowed the threads down but prompted much argument and few cohesive requirements. So looking at them now, can I say that it’s a total failure?

No. I’m seeing some better self-restraint, and some attempts at bringing order. Maybe that’s all that can practically be done-Familiar of Zero was at least a single setting, while the Loops were focused on massive crossovers from the start.
But there’s still a tiny bit of hope amidst the goofy.

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.

My Spacebattles Velocity History

My Spacebattles Velocity History

Sometime in 2006, I typed in a Google search for “M2 Bradley” and began clicking through page after page of results. Little did I know that this IFV would end up changing history. I went to a page on Stardestroyer.net, a “Star Trek vs. Star Wars” site. Then I saw references to a spacebattles.com, and signed up for that.

For most of my early time on Spacebattles (starting with my signing up in December 2006), I hung out in the Vs. Debates section. In hindsight a silly attempt to quantify the inherently arbitrary, it nevertheless appealed to me at the time-especially given the choices.

Then I sort of burned out and reverted to lurking, not posting very much. I was still active in viewing, just not in posting. At the time, I didn’t really see the huge change in the site. Now I can see it. Basically, by 2008-2009, the old sci-fi standbys of Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, and even Warhammer 40,000 had started to run out of steam. In Stardestroyer.Net, this meant the site itself (though there were many other factors involved) began to just fade and drop in activity. But Spacebattles changed.

Huge amounts of roleplayers signed up, as did fanfiction writers. The center of the site shifted to the relevant subforums. Creative Writing, once a sleepy little board, became gigantic. Space Battles General was so overloaded by quests and RPs that a spinoff had to be made. And-then the server woes began.

Space Battles only remained in business because a programmer acquired it as a guinea pig board for vBulletin. Said owner was-to put it mildly-an absentee landlord. The latest server upgrade under him was done with the assumption that its growth would continue at the same mild rate-instead of increasing eightfold (!).

Naturally, the server became overloaded as the board grew. Changing board software to XenForo helped somewhat, but everything was only a temporary reprieve as the post swarms continued. Then in 2014, the slog became a breakout.

In April came the Athene Incident (named for the moderator’s name). Athene, a longstanding and loved moderator, was dismissed in the worst possible way. The board administrators tried to cover-up with a statement about “retiring”, but didn’t consult Athene on the coverup to see if she would agree to it (!). Page after page of flamewars and anger continued, and that’s when the split occured.

Several members of SB launched a spinoff board, named Sufficient Velocity. I stated at the time that I viewed the Athene Incident was a catalyst-it would have probably blown over had it not been for the server issues. (Also, there was a definite culture split-I think the incident was the ignition, the server issue the powder, and the shell was the different user culture).

I saw no problems with the creation of Sufficient Velocity. Although I spend far more time on Spacebattles, I have no problems with being a member of both boards.

On Spacebattles itself, things changed. The administrators apologized, there was a semi-coup with supermods becoming new admins and the older ones settling into technical roles, and (after a while), the site itself was taken under new ownership and upgraded. Now I primarily stay on the Creative and Spacebattles General boards, not going into Vs. Debates any more.
Quite the adventure.