May? Wait, what?

And then it was May. Beltane. May Day. Whatever floats your boat. You think about May and you think of things like this:

May. It should be like this.

Instead, we’re being treated to a surfeit of this:

Even the ducks have been complaining.

Honestly. The United Kingdom. The only place in the world where we have hosepipe bans and a drought in the ‘rainiest April since records began’. It’s not only been wet, it’s also been very cold. However, I am my father’s daughter and I staunchly refuse to put on the central heating unless I am shivering. More layers, he’d say. Go and put on a jumper. I grew up in a house without central heating (although we had some mad warm air convection heating thing downstairs. It was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard) and so I cope with the cold better than the Boys. I’m actually sitting here with my coat still on (I’ve been in from work for an hour) and even I’m thinking of putting the heating on ‘for a bit’.

My left shoulder-demon is telling me that I should enjoy the luxurious splendour of a centrally heated house. The right shoulder-angel is telling me that I should mind my pennies. Kronk has nothing on me, I swear. These guys bicker all the time.

I'm gonna lead you down the path that rocks...

In other news:

I haven’t seen Avengers Assemble yet. The current plan is to go and see it on Sunday when Dearly Beloved is not at work. The over-zealous enthusiasm for it that’s doing the rounds on the interwebs is kind of putting me off if I’m brutally honest. Sometimes I feel like that about books as well, or books by certain authors when people go ‘OMG IT’S A BOOK BY <INSERT AUTHOR HERE> IT’S BRILLIANT AND THE BEST THING EVER’ and God help anybody who has a differing opinion and dares to express it. Sometimes I find it disheartening that there are so many people out there who seem incapable of recognising that everyone has differing opinions (apart from those who can’t form opinions of their own).

Speaking of disheartening, the day job has become something that I can only just about bear. My workload has increased massively over the past six months or so, which may just be a slight glitch in the flow of patient referrals, but there’s no sign of it easing off. I work very hard at what I do for not very much return. Having one of my major projects ripped apart by a consultant who genuinely didn’t have a clue what he was talking about was galling, but I’m not massively concerned when the hard evidence exists to prove my point. But it just wears you down. I can never wait to be out of there so I can be at home, where I am happy and where I can do the things that matter. Spend time with Dearly Beloved and Smallish. Torment the cats. Write.

On the subject of writing (neat, eh?) I sent off the first drafts of Project: Loophole and Project: ME, ME, ME to the editor-beast over the last couple of weeks. Next to look at are (in no particular order at this point) Project: Hunting Wabbits and Project: Who Shall It Be? On top of that, Valkia the Bloody is due out in the next few weeks, too.

Architect of Fate is on release to the wider public now and a couple of very nice reviews have slipped in, including ones from SF Book Reviews and Starburst Magazine.

Project: Backburner is very low down on the agenda at the moment, but I’m thinking of spending a few hours on it over the next week or two whilst I draw breath and recover from Loophole and ME, ME, ME.

So the writing thing is going brilliantly. I’m job-hunting like it’s going out of fashion… and I’m going to go and put the heating on.

What a rebel.

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Give Them An Inch…

…and they’ll take the damned globe.

Who am I talking about, you wonder? Where will this rant lead? Politicians, perhaps? They’re notorious for such behaviour. How about book reviewers, or film critics, or the people who complain that the shade of blue on the in-game rendering of Grits McLargehuge the Valiant Warrior’s armour in the PS3 OMFGAWESOMES game ‘Final Dawn of Mass Assassin’s Gears of Duty (FIFA Version)’ is two shades darker than it should be?

No. I’m talking about none of these people, although that game has great potential.

No, I’m talking about characters. Specifically, characters who saunter up, take over and then leave you by the wayside gasping in their wake like a fish out of water. Or any land-bound mammal IN water. Why don’t you ever hear anybody say ‘he was like a badger in the Baltic’? Or a monkey in the Mariana Trench? (Probably because, like me, they couldn’t remember the name of the Mariana Trench and accidentally typed ‘Mariachi’. That would be something else entirely).

Baaaaaaad pun.

So yeah. Characters. The Esteemed Mr. Abnett has discussed something similar this week at his blog over here.

I’m writing this story, which I’ve referred to as  Project: Loophole. And like any other story, it has characters in it. A good start. Characters are the flavour on your piece of Secret Midnight Toast. Some of them are evil, some of them are heavenly. Heavenly characters are the topping you spread with abandon on your… hang on. A visual reference may help:

Characters who make you think of the delightful fellow on the left are what you want. The interloper on the right is just wrong, quite frankly.

Anyway.

I have this character. And he’s heavenly. Which is to say, I’ve grown incredibly fond of him over the course of Project: Loophole (which is pretty much at first draft stage now by the way). But tonight, he did something unexpected. He made a decision. And I don’t know what he decided. I’m sure I’ll work it out, but for a fraction of a second, I was infuriated with him.

How can this be? He’s MY creation! My character! And he didn’t even so much as send me a text! I’ve frequently been startled in the past when my characters have done something I’ve not expected them to do. One of my characters in an online roleplaying game I used to participate in did that and his story arc went off in a whole new direction. For me though, that’s what I like most about writing. It’s the fact that I don’t have full control over the characters. I create the situations for them. How they react is almost spontaneous. Obviously, some things happen because they’re meant to. But frequently, the repercussions of those events don’t make themselves properly known until crazy things happen. Like decision making.

Also, they’re not real. Remember Father Ted.

This.

So. Watch out for your characters. They may startle you in ways you hadn’t anticipated.

This rant has been brought to you this evening by the letters ‘P’ and ‘I’ and the number 3.14159265.

 

Delayed Response…

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while as it’s in response to a question put to me at the recent Black Library Live event. It was a pretty straightforward question and it went something like this. It’s paraphrased. I’ve slept since then.

“How does it feel when you read a negative review of your work?”

Now, my assorted colleagues have touched on this subject in blogs across the interwebs in the time that I’ve known them. Mark Charan Newton’s comments here, for example along with the musings of the very fine Chris Wraight (Nicest Man on Earth, pat. pend.) There’s not really a lot more that I can add to this. When reviews of The Gildar Rift started trickling through the filter (the filter being my struggles to avoid fora and Amazon and the trickle being my inability to resist), I was – and still am – pleased that the majority of feedback has been pretty good. There have been one or two comments made in an assortment of places that have made me go ‘wait, what book were you actually reading‘, but on the whole, I’ve managed to store the negative comments away in a box. Very few of them are constructive negative comments. Those thatdo carry useful nuggets of information within them are considered.

It’s the most obvious thing in the world, it really is. Everyone likes different things. Some people like Twilight. I don’t, but that doesn’t stop others from enjoying it. Some people like Harry Potter. I do, but I’m well aware plenty of other people don’t. Each to their own. Different strokes for different folks. Horses for courses. (Would that be starter, main or dessert? YMMV.)

So to answer… once you get your head round the fact that all folks are different, it’s actually easy to deal with negative comments.

What else is new then? Project: Loophole has been bouncing along at a very satisfying pace this week, and Project: 4am is pretty much done and dusted subject to the relevant person’s approval. I’ve been contemplating putting a few words into Project: Backburner, but then got caught up in Loophole. I also have a previous project to re-visit and re-consider when one or two people have some time to spare me. So the writing’s been going OK. This pleases me. Ilikewriting. I never want to find myself in that place where it becomes a chore. When that happens… stop doing it.

Work… less said about that the better. This picture probably conveys far more than words.

Even the bunny can't comprehend the sheer depth of NHS-related stupidity.

The loft was boarded out and we’ve turned it into a useful space where the GW modular boards are now permanently set up. The scenery actually needs painting, but it does mean that now Dearly Beloved and Smallish have somewhere to thrash out their battles. And me too, I guess… once there is time, I shall be practising using those delightful Silver Skulls fellows. Thus far, they’re unbeaten. Get them!

Been watching Merlin from the beginning. It’s one of those TV shows that I always forget is on but have always enjoyed whenever I’ve sat and watched it. In this instance, I’m nearly done with season one and already find myself wishing I had season two. Pay day will come around soon enough, I’m sure. Incidentally, I’m aware that Merlin is another one of those TV shows that divides opinion, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It requires no heavy thinking, no deep, hidden meanings and the cast are great and interact very well.

Lancelot, though. Yeah. You would. Well, I would, anyway.

So all in all, another week trundles by without anything new to report other than an increase in the volume of Project: Loophole… and that was categorically meant to happen.

So here’s a picture that made me actu-lol today.

 

 

You Shall Not Pass

So we’ve been visiting some friends for a few days and a very lovely time was had. On the way down at the weekend, we stopped at Warhammer World so that DB, Smallish and I could play a couple of games of 40k and christen a 1,000 point Silver Skulls army. They won both of their games and I was very proud of them. Then we headed further south into familiar country (both DB and I are Southerners by birth; it’s always a relief to hear people speaking normally). Despite the fact that there had been some snow and that the roads were possibly a ‘bit iffy’, we challenged the elements and arrived at our destination in good time on Sunday night. We then proceeded to have a couple of awesome days, including a trip to London (where I got to indulge myself ridiculously in the Moomin Shop in Covent Garden).

The plan yesterday was simple.

1) Leave about 11.30. Drive north on the M1, go via Nottingham for another game and the chance to have a Chat with my editor.

2) Leave WHW any time after 5 – it’s only a 2.5 hour drive home.

Easy, right?

No.

Boring road bit coming up here. The planned route was this simple. M2, M25, M1 to Nottingham. Then, M1 and A1(M) home. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

So we’re driving along the M2 and we see the Big Scary Sign. M25 CLOSED BETWEEN JUNCTIONS 24-27.

One of these is the M1 junction. The other one is the Alternative Route – the A1 junction. Both of these roads are now DENIED to us. We have two choices. Go clockwise on the M25 instead (which would add a LOT of miles to the journey) and come at the M1 from the Heathrow side. The radio tells us that there are massive queues approaching that junction whilst the rubberneckers undoubtedly Do Their Thing. The other choice was to join the M11 and go up towards the A1. A pain in the arse, definitely, but an option at least.

So… we go for the second choice. We join the M25 with a view to heading onto the M11. Only as we’re driving along, we see the second Big Scary Sign. M11 CLOSED BETWEEN JUNCTIONS 7-10.

Which is the direction we’re going.

Hasty navigation things take place and what happens is demonstrated in the following picture:

Map

That red line. See how it mocks me?

The red line was the planned route home (via Nottingham). The blue line was Plan B. The GREEN line was emergency Plan C and the purple line is what actually happened.

Now, the diversion doesn’t look that bad, does it?

No.

But let me put it this way. Had we been able to get along the original planned route, we could have made Nottingham in 2 hours from the point where everything diverged. Instead it took at LEAST that long to traverse the purple route. This was largely because the traffic from the M1, A1 AND M11 was congregating along two A-roads in Hertfordshire. It took us 3 hours to travel about 70 miles. Unsurprisingly, I wrote Nottingham off as a bad idea. After spending 2 hours driving at between 5-10 miles per hour, I’d had enough. So we just came home.

In hindsight, we have decided that quite simply, the South did not want to let us go. I probably should have listened.

Now for the remainder of my week off work, I will be writing like a mo’fo in an effort to make up for the slacking of the past few days…

Stupid motorways.

Really Not That Difficult

Incoming semi-rant. I apologise in advance.

I went into Durham yesterday. That in itself is nothing new; I go into Durham all the time. Hell, I live here. What made yesterday so notable was this.

I always tend to use to the Park and Ride bus rather than enter the death match that is searching for premium parking space in the city centre. Durham has a number of car parks, one of which is always chocka-block due to being the easiest to find, one of which closes at some ridiculously early time and another which has the most inconveniently situated posts and pillars you’ve ever seen in your life. Seriously, the designers of that car park should be taken out in public and be made to watch endless re-runs of Susan Boyle’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ audition. It’s no less than they deserve. So enter the Park and Ride facilities. Three big car parks, strategically situated at the arterial routes into Durham. £1.70 to sit back and let someone else worry about running Bloody Students[tm] over.

What made me smile was a young lad, perhaps the same age as Not So Small Anymore Son, who said ‘thank you’ as he got off the bus. Now, NSSAS always says thank you, because that’s how I brought him up. The reason I brought him up to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ was a reflection on how I was brought up. But it was really, really nice to hear another kid saying it. And it got me thinking about parenting and  how far NSSAS has come since came into this world two months early almost thirteen years ago to the day.

Try saying this when someone does something nice for you. You'll be amazed.

‘Always remember to say “please” and “thank you”,’ my mother told me. ‘It costs nothing and it means everything.’ Of course, when she gave me this critical bit of life advice, I was just a child. I had no idea just how true those words were. My mum worked in the local corner shop for much of my early memory and later moved to the glitzy glamour of the newsagents when it arrived in the village. Prior to that, there was a corner shop, a butchers, a baker’s (not a candlestick maker’s, although there was a place that made saddles if I remember correctly). As such, she dealt with the public on a daily basis. She was astoundingly polite. When obnoxious school kids came into the shop after getting off the school bus, she would actively refuse to sell them anything unless they were polite. It worked, too.

At her funeral, the local vicar started his eulogy with ‘Most people knew her as the lady in the shop.’ My mum. The legend. She brought me up with a plethora of good manners and I’ll always be thankful for that. I’ll always be surprised at the reaction good manners seem to get from people, but thankful nonetheless. An example of this was yesterday in Marks & Spencer; I was at the till with a basket full of things I didn’t really need, but really, really wanted (damn you, M&S Food Hall). An elderly lady with a pint of milk and a sandwich got in line behind me and I insisted she go first as she only had a little bit. I kid you not; this lady’s eyes filled with tears and she smiled warmly. ‘What a charming young lady you are,’ she said. ‘Thank you very much.’ Random acts of kindness go a long way, you know.

There was a lady in one of the aforementioned car parks just before Christmas. She was struggling with a child in a pushchair, a toddler who was obviously tired and cranky, armfuls of wrapping paper and a pay machine that wouldn’t eat her £5 note to pay her £1.60 parking fee. ‘Can you change my £5?’ It was a desperate voice; a woman who was on the verge of crying. I checked my purse. No, I couldn’t change her £5. So I did the only decent thing. I paid her parking for her with the £1.60 I did have. She tried to make me take her £5, but I wouldn’t. I told her it was a Christmas gift and smiled. ‘I hope something wonderful happens to you today,’ she said as I picked up the bag she’d dropped. What she didn’t realise was that it already had. I’d brought a little moment of niceness into her life. That works for me.

Yeah, I know, I’m old-fashioned. I hold doors open for people. I pass the time of day with people at the till. I thank them for their help (when they deserve it) and as a consequence, NSSAS is exactly the same. I still remember him being three years old and holding a door open for someone. ‘After you,’ he said in his baby voice. Adorable? Yes. Was I proud? Yes. Is this normal behaviour for a soon-to-be thirteen year old? Apparently not as much as you would like to think. People still register surprise when NSSAS thanks them for things. He’s a rare pleasure to take out for a meal. He carefully selects his choice from the menu and orders it himself. He asks questions about things he doesn’t understand, and he always always starts his order with ‘Please may I have…’ As a consequence, on more than one occasion I’ve been stopped on the way out of the restaurant and complimented on having such a nice child. I love that. But I’m also saddened that it seems to be such a rarity. On one of the occasions this happened, there was another kid in the same restaurant, probably a bit older than NSSAS was at the time. He spent the whole meal playing with his hand-held console. His mother ordered his food and cut it up for him. He never spoke a word throughout the entire evening.

But it’s so easy. If you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ yourself, of course your child is going to act the same way. Dearly Beloved works in retail and regularly returns home in varying states of apoplexy and assorted degrees of purple rage. One of his biggest bug bears is the Oblivious Parent; the ones who clearly don’t think that moral standards apply to them. I don’t know whether it’s a product of some poor education, something else or whether they just don’t care, but the story from yesterday was that a woman came into the shop with DB took to be a little of of about 5 years old. They picked out three games on the three for £whatever deal. One was Spyro, one was something else cutesy… and the other was Grand Theft Auto, or one of its derivatives.

‘Is this for him?’ DB asked.

‘Oh, yes,’ she said. ‘He likes that sort of thing. The driving, the shooting.’

DB then proceeded to pull no punches and told her about graphic sex scenes, blah blah blah blah blah. Or at least, that’s evidently what this woman heard, because she bought it anyway. As DB said, he could have refused the sale, but then the customer would have started complaining. It’s happened before.

Whilst in Curry’s yesterday, I got chatting to the sales assistant, a lovely lady by the name of Lillian. (See what I mean? I go in somewhere to enquire about a particular product and I come out with their life story). She was telling me about this family with two young children and how the parents refused to keep control of them. The little darlings were running up and down the aisle, opening and slamming oven doors… that sort of thing. Then they came over to the TV area where she was working and carried on being little tearaways. One of them shoved the other one into a display and the whole thing came crashing down… on the sales assistant. The thing that got me was that apparently the parents didn’t even chastise the kids. Not a tiny bit. Not even half-heartedly. Neither did they think to ask if the sales assistant was alright. And that, tragically, seems to be the norm rather than the exception.

It does make me worry that NSSAS is growing up in a generation of pig-ignorant fuckwads. The anonymity of the Internet gives people a shield from behind which they can inject various brands of vitriol into the ether and our kids are sucking this up. They’re growing up thinking it’s OK to be opinionated and yes… yes, it really is. But be opinionated with an open mind. Be prepared to admit there are other viewpoints. Thank someone for a good discussion. Don’t resort to mud slinging and name calling. You know what? Treat people with respect. Try checking out the Golden Rule.

Most of the people I know are decent folks. They say please/thank you and so do their children. It’s horrible that people with good manners seem to be a dying breed. Because passing that onto your kids? Well, it’s really not that difficult.

Advent

Before I get stuck into explaining the title… first of all, a very good review indeed over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, which was followed up with an interview by said reviewer. The Gildar Rift is pretty much officially ‘out there’ now: I received a text from my dad last week that simply said ‘seen it in Waterstones‘. I presumed he meant my book. I think he was proud. Actually, so was I when I went into the Waterstones in Durham yesterday and there it was on the shelf.

Bless it.

Anyway, advent.

Not, as you might think, (given the time of year) a reference to advent calendars or the countdown to Christmas in general. Instead, it’s one of those words that always evokes great memories for me. ‘Advent’ was the command line on my dad’s ancient TRS-80 to run ‘Adventureland’, the text-based adventure game written by Scott Adams about a bajillion years ago.

>load “Advent”

I loved those games and would devour them. I would oust my dad from the computer (bear in mind I was probably seven years old or something at the time) and would work my way through them with an intensity bordering on insanity. Imagine the thrill of this:-

Forest
You’re in a forest.

Obvious exits: North, South, East, West, Up.

You can also see: trees

There was such undiluted charm to those text-based adventure games. And you had to map your own version of it. And you had to struggle desperately with your computer to get it to understand what you wanted it to do. LIGHT LAMP. UNLIGHT LAMP. You wouldn’t believe how damn long it took me to get the latter one.

Here’s an utter joy, then. You can play all the Scott Adams adventures via Java online now. I’ve had so much fun and STILL struggle on occasion to find the right phrasing!

Then, a few years later, along came Prestel. And with Prestel came Micronet. And with Micronet came Shades, the first MUG/MUD I ever played. There I was, playing a text-based adventure game all over again, but this time, there were ACTUAL PEOPLE. People to whom I could speak. People with whom I could fight, win, lose, steal treasure… have quiz nights on a Thursday, throw snowballs at over the Christmas period…

It was a constant race to get from Novice to Witch/Wizard (depending upon your chosen gender… this was also my first slow discovery that men-played-women-and-vice-versa-on-online-games) in as fast a time as possible. This was before the days of anything remotely resembling broadband. Most people connected to Shades on a 1200/75 baud modem. Then there were the REALLY IT-savvy folks who had Atari ST’s and a piece of custom software called Ripper, which allowed you to create macros which essentially played Shades for you. And they all connected at twice the speed of everyone else.

Everyone hated those poeple.

And then there were the opportunities to meet up with these folks in Real Life at Shades meets… These things frequently took place at a pub on the top end of the Tottenham Court Road – The Sol’s Arms. I have no idea if it’s still even there, but I bet it heaved a sigh of relief when Micronet folded. Most of those people are still my friends today.

>w, w, w, s, grab girl, turn, n, w, n, e, dr t

Guess what? Yep. You can still play Shades online, too. Some things just never die. Despite my best efforts.

So from the humble beginnings of Scott Adams and his text-based adventure games, I’ve played a lot of these things. The Hobbit on the Amstrad CPC-464 had, y’know, GRAPHICS. This was amazing to a pleb like me. Can you believe it? Yes. You can still play all these games online now, too!

(An aside… Dearly Beloved recently invested in ‘The Ultimate Sega Megadrive Collection’. For his PS3. Seriously. A few hundred quid’s worth of equipment to be nostalgic on? Mind, I bought Lemmings for the PC not so long ago).

I graduated from the text-based school of adventure into graphic RPGs with games like Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders. And then the Monkey Island series. And Sam & Max. And Grim Fandango. And all the other Lucasarts point-and-click wonders that will never, ever be beaten. Then… then, along came Myst. Which plain creeped me out with its ambient sound effects and the sense that ANY MOMENT NOW something was going to  leap out of a bush and eat your face. I had many, many sleepless nights around that game and it wasn’t all because of staying up until stupid o’clock playing it.

So in time, it was almost inevitable that I would fall to the charms of World of Warcrack… craft. It’s been particularly fun for me because I enjoy the roleplaying element of it. It’s only a mediocre game to play in many ways… after all, you can only kill so many wolves in the woods (none of whom EVER appear to have nostrils, or whatever random body part you’ve agreed to find), but the RP element and the various Extra Things That Happen when you reach level 85 kind of make up for it. Kind of. My lingering problem with WoW is that my time is sort of limited really and so I ‘ve never actually learned the more intense element of the game. I hate going into random dungeons with Unknown People, because if you don’t respond to the barked ‘buff  now noob’ command that is suddenly issued within 0.4 milliseconds, you’re kicked out of the dungeon.

But I’ve lapsed. I’ve not been on WoW for a couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been fortunate enough to be beta-testing Star Wars: The Old Republic. And oh, I’ve been enjoying it. In terms of gameplay, it’s a lot like WoW. But for me, the best thing so far has been the random groups I’ve joined to do various flashpoints with. Without fail they’ve all been pleasant, fun, cooperative and a damn good laugh. And that makes things so much more enjoyable.

The quests are more engaging because the storylines are ongoing and pull you in. I think the fact that it’s voice acting is better than being able to skip through the text. There are so many quests in WoW where I’ve only ever gone quick precis, please, and skipped to the end, as it were. And… well, it’s VERY pretty. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed beta-testing it and now that the testing phase is over, genuinely feel bereft.

Also, lightsabers.

LIGHTSABERS, MAN.

Well worth a play in my opinion, but in the meantime, go and play some of those fiendish Scott Adams adventures. Remember, kids. This was once the pinnacle of technology.

Now where did I put my bus pass?

The ‘F’ Word

Which particular ‘F’ word?

Fanfiction.

Spurred on by a post that m’colleague Jonathan Green made earlier today – although it might be yesterday by the time I finish writing this post – (see here), I just wanted to put a few of my mad, fleeting thoughts on this matter down. Capture those little bits of thought and cram them all together on a page. Much better than being left to breed inside the confines of my incubator-like mind.

Jon posted in response to an article in the Guardian by Mathilda Gregory (see here) in which she points out that not all fanfiction is about OMG LOVE AND SEXYTIMES for people’s favourite fandoms. It’s not all about the Mary Sue or Gary Stu. It’s not all about the badly written, poorly spelled monstrosities that have earned fanfiction the bad name it has earned. Jon’s point – and indeed, question – was simply ‘what is the difference between fanfiction and tie-in fiction’. If you have thoughts on that particular debate, please post them on his blog. It’s a topic which I think is worthy of having conversation about. But I feel particularly strongly about the subject of snobbery when it comes to fanfiction and so I’m going to rant a bit about it.

Let me elaborate.

I don’t dispute that there is a lot of godawful dross out there in fanfiction land. But there are also a lot of excellent tales. Some short, some long. And to dismiss fanfiction is to do it something of a disservice, I think. It appears that I am in direct opposition to the viewpoint of the illustrious Mr. George R. R. Martin, who states in a post here:-

“I also think that doing fan fiction is bad training for any aspiring writer. With the world and the background all provided, the writer does not learn to create these things for himself. Fan fiction is to fiction as paint-by-numbers kits are to painting.”

(‘Doing’ fan fiction?)

I think, with the greatest respect, that Mr. Martin is way out of touch here. Writing fanfiction is the only chance many people will ever have to write about people or places they have enjoyed reading about. Writing fanfiction is the only chance many people will have of securing themselves an audience of people who share their enthusiasm. Writing fanfiction is the only chance many people will have of finding an avenue of creativity. How can ‘doing fanfiction’, which gives a lot of pleasure to writer and reader alike be something wrong?

And as for it being a poor training ground… I totally agree with the ‘doesn’t teach an aspiring writer about how to develop their own world’ bit, but it can teach an aspiring writer how to write. It can teach them how to plot, how to develop a story, how to employ characterisation, how to maintain a ‘feel’ to a piece.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big supporter of fanfiction and in particular, fanfiction communities that help and nurture people’s burgeoning talents. The Black Library Bolthole was originally created with this sense of community very much in mind. Many of the people who write W40K and WHF fiction over there are extremely good at what they do. They are also extremely good at supporting each other – and at the end of the day, all writers want to hear is ‘hey, I enjoyed your story. It was really good.’

The Sugarquill (a Harry Potter community) was also exceptionally good at this in its day. The team used to set challenges and themes which could extract the best out of people.

And when it comes down to it, just because we (as individuals) can look at a piece of fanfiction and sneer condescendingly at its poor grammar, its appalling spelling, its flimsy story line and its almost painfully Mary Sue-esque Sparklypoo house main character, who is a half-elf, orphaned Muggle born with eyes that vary in colour or shade depending on their mood and who will be able to turn the hardest of  hearts… someone somewhere was exceptionally proud of themselves for writing a story that they made up.

The state of literacy in this country is frequently touted as being dreadful. If a child is engaged by a world and can concentrate long enough to write a story about the characters who live within its boundaries, shouldn’t this be considered a good thing? The grammar/spelling etc… they are things that can come with time. But surely we should be encouraging people of the world to express their creativity in whichever way they see fit? This should carry through to adulthood, when without lessons, people stop writing creatively.

OK, there are the horrors of slashfic, which I really don’t understand at all… but that’s again my personal choice. I don’t go looking for such things.

Parodies, the other side of fanfiction… well, these can be hit and miss. Sometimes, someone hits the nail right on the head and a good parody is sometimes even more true to form and affectionate than a beautifully written vignette by someone else.

I have written fanfiction. I have learned a huge amount about how to write a story through doing so. I have also partaken in any number of online forum-based roleplay games in worlds as diverse as the Stargate universe, the Marvel comics universe and even an Earth 2 board which was my introduction to the very concept of fanfiction. I am one of the lucky ones. I have made the leap from fanfiction writer to published author – and I’m grateful to all those websites and people who helped me on my way.
I thus firmly believe that fanfiction has its place amongst the internet (which as we all know is made of cats) and as a tool for that most important of things… having fun and being happy. Whilst I was writing on an X-Men Evolution board, many moons ago now, I learned lots about how to portray characters. One of the things that’s frequently coming back to me now is that characterisation is one of my writing strengths. So it works, y’know?
Also, that board was brilliant. There were nights when I laughed so hard I could hardly breathe. I miss those guys.
So in essence, the basic summary is this… you don’t like fanfiction? Don’t read or write it. Problem solved. In my Very Humble Opinion [tm], I just don’t think it gives you the right to be superior or snooty towards those who do.