Another rant in my semi-regular programme of rants lately. It's very cathartic to vent on things that annoy you.
So I temporarily have a sign up for Night on Fic Mountain, that might and probably will change before the end of sign ups because all of my requests have a big fat zero against them and I don't want to go to a pinch hit list.
I've signed up to a few of these things now and pretty much each time I end up with a pinch hitter, the reason I know that it's a pinch hitter is because it could've been written from wikipedia entries, there is none of the little clues and hints that you're reading something that someone knew more than the basics, there is no soul.
My feeling is, as writers, because fanfiction writers will never not be real writers, we need to challenge ourselves just as much as our original fic comrades. Don't always take the easy fandom, you might not have anything new and fresh to offer it. Sometimes you'll find it's more gratifying to take on something more risky and write something that challenges you, forces you to write from unfamiliar character povs, or time periods, or genders, or comfort levels, the list could go on.
You won't get the enormous number of comments but surely that's not why you're doing this?
The first yuletide I participated in was the only time I didn't get what I consider a pinch hit story. What I read was from someone with more than a passing knowledge of the source material, they knew how the characters acted, how they moved and communicated with each other, something only gleamed from reading the book series my request came from.
When I wrote The Feline Specialist, I had watched Aliens a million times (or surely a few dozen), I know the source material, I loved Alien, I loved Jonesy and Ripley, I loved all of the characters in that particular movie except the one you're not supposed to love but even then, I loved his programmed villainy. It was a risk writing from the cat's pov but it paid off.
For Learning to Drive, I'd watched the film about three times over the last few years. I loved the source material, I loved the driver and I loved Betty, I yearned to know more about him and where he came from, how he met her, how things became the fucked up normal that things were in that film. It was risky to write it only having watched it three times but my ideas and the prompts were for things that had occured prior to the film so I was going to be worldbuilding a little, it was worth the risk. Maybe it paid off, maybe it didn't, I can't read into it to much.
There have been a few times where I was matched on my weakest offer and my attempts received mixed reviews, that's okay, I wasn't an expert and if anyone was an expert in that fandom they hadn't stepped up to write something better. I made an attempt, it was in one instance rejected, and one embraced and loved.
I weighed it up each time, take the risk and write in a fandom that I had only a passing familiarity to, or don't. What could I gain? What would I lose?
This NoFM I have signed up to write five passingly familiar fandoms, partially by choice, partially to push my personal writing envelope. It's a terrifying feeling. I am not a popular writer, I don't have a following, I don't have a bunch of people leaping out of the shadows to beta for me no matter what fandom I write in. I think sometimes that the requestors don't even know what to make of my efforts on their behalf but are almost all unfailingly polite to me, sometimes they rave, sometimes there are crickets for days.
I think what I'm trying to say is that if we all played it safe in these exchanges, no one in the truly rare fandoms would ever get a new story. If we all played it safe, we wouldn't find new fandoms to love and people to share them with. If we all played it safe and only wrote the new popular fandoms that have squeaked into these exchanges because they are new and haven't build up a firm and numerous following yet. We, doesn't that go against the concept of rewarding fans of rare fandoms?
It's fine if you have a solid idea for one of these "squeaked in" fandoms, but isn't it better to post it outside of the exchange and take on something truly rare in the spirit of the exchange?
In this years Night on Fic Mountain, it appears Agent Carter is the favourite, followed not closely by Forever (TV) and Jupiter Ascending. I ask you, are they rare? Truly rare?
My personal belief is that writers sign up hoping to get an Agent Carter and get something else entirely, something a little tougher than they expected, and how many default because it's too hard? Too many I think from watching how these things unfold after posting date.
And this is where I have an issue with pinch hits and why exchanges like Beyond Panels who have a history of posting the pinch hits publicly where the requestor can see that not a single writer wanted their requests-- any of them; well, it enrages me.There is something to be said for maintaining the illusion of dignity for the requestor-- no one wants to be rejected, even more not publicly rejected, no one wants to know they're holding up the entire exchange because their fandoms were "too hard" to write in. A smart moderator wouldn't have posted that publicly, that's why you have the pinch hitter's emails right? To do it privately? So fucking do it privately. The requestor knows because no gift has appears in their AO3, do you have to say it outloud for the whole world to know as well. Privacy, look it up.
So in closing this vent up tight, if I don't have a taker for any of my rare fandoms by close to sign ups finishing, I will drop out of writing in my five rare fandoms and not think twice on it. For my risk, I want a reward, and I want one from someone who actually gave a shit, didn't phone it in or more accurately, researched it in without feeling a thing for the fandom or the requestor. I don't want a shitty pinch hit that has no soul, I don't want to read something that doesn't sing to me about how much the writer loved writing it.