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07 December 2006 @ 08:20 am
Fandom question  

I'm genuinely intrigued and would like to know what the attraction of Alternate Universe/Reality fandom is for those people who take part in it. I'm not talking about the stories that break away from canon, or that ignore specific parts of canon. I'm talking about the kind of thing where canon is completely thrown out and the fic writer starts from a completely new premise - whether it be that Xander and Angel are rodeo stars and there's no such thing as vampires; or that Dean's an FBI agent from a stable family and is not related to John, the prostitute (yes, these are specific examples used to illustrate a point - I mean no disrespect to the authors who are talented writers both).

Sticking to a visual medium here, could these kinds of tales be described as original stories in which the author has 'cast' the specific actors and used the character names we are, as fandom consumers, familiar with? Or is there more to it? Does the reader need the awareness of the canon versions of the characters to fully appreciate the story?

I don't tend to read a lot of these kinds of stories, which I'm sure is completely my loss for the most part, but I do know there are a lot of talented writers who write them. I am not in any way denigrating the writers, their stories or the concept. I am genuinely interested to hear the reasons why people like or dislike this kind of thing and what the reasoning behind it is.

So, opinions? I mention the Buffyverse and Supernatural because it's what most of the people who would be reading this are most familiar with, but I'm guessing that all fandoms have their variation on the AU/AR theme so please, don't just restrict yourself to those I mentioned.

Current Mood: curiouscurious
Sentimental yet sardonic: Bjork and Diddybooster17 on December 7th, 2006 11:31 am (UTC)
It's not generally my thing, but when done well they can be quite fun. Of course, half of that enjoyment is spotting all the references back to the original verse and tempered by your knowledge of the gymnastics that must have been done to set up half of the references.

Of course, sometimes it's done deliberately from the start as a joke. speakr2customrs started out Savage Beauty just so he could have the FF.net summary Buffy is the Prime Minister of Iceland. Spike is a Jivaro head-hunter in the Amazon rain-forest. Can they get together? and that gets insanely funny in later parts.
Sentimental yet sardonic: Sam - Oh crapbooster17 on December 7th, 2006 11:34 am (UTC)
Ooops... This link would be a better way to read the parts.

*slaps self*
the girl who used to dance on fire and brimstone: text//busy reading fanfic - martoufmartywhiskyinmind on December 7th, 2006 12:28 pm (UTC)
I'll need to check that one out! I guess if it was done intentionally as a kind of wink and a nod to the reader then it would be fun, but there seems to be a huge number of these fics which don't seem to be written for comedic purposes or to have that kind of reference to the source material and it's those that I'm trying to understand the impetus behind. They do seem more like original stories with known names rather than stories evolving from within fandom - if that makes sense.

(side note - I could sit and watch the Bjork/Diddy icon all day - genius!)
saturn_girl on December 7th, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
AU stories that are basically canon with a twist don't bother me. But when all the trappings of the show are stripped away and replaced with a completely unrecognizable setting and cast of characters, there's no way in hell I'm going to waste my time with the fic. The author may as well label it original fiction.

A lot of the enjoyment I get out of good fanfic is when the authors take the time to make their characters and stories really feel like an extension of the original world. Fanfic, for me, is a way to take those 22 hours of stories in a season and expand on them, fill in the gaps, take the stories further or tweak them a bit to see a slightly different perspective.

Spike and Xander may never have had a relationship in canon, but a good writer working within the events of the series can still paint a convincing picture that if the stars were aligned in the right way they might have.

But since a BtVS episode of Spike and Xander as gay rodeo clowns living in Colorado in 1968 would never, ever fit into the series no matter how you massaged it, I really don't want to read it. It's like someone turned the channel and I'm no longer watching BtVS anymore, even if same "actors" appear in the show.
lmzjewel on December 7th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)
Hey Mara! (:

To answer your question personally I don't like to read them unless the writer is just really really good. I guess to me it's like taking the actors and using them in the persons original story with the characters names added. If they want to use the actors as a visual for me thats fine. But when they start taking the characters that far away from the storyline I tend to lose interest. Although, sometimes I can tolerate it all right if the writer is exceptionally good with the story.

Please understand though, that thats just my personal preference I'm certainly not saying that I think writers that write that way are not as good as writers who keep more to the storyline. I just like stories that are more on the storyline. I think one of my little issues with any BTVS story I read is ... did the writer keep the character voices and characters motives (ya know, would that character do that in that situation) what I would think they would have been. It's a real gripe that I have with my own writing. I like the Xanderiness of Xander.

An example of this is that I have a crossover story that I want to do sometime but I'm really having trouble with the voices. The crossover is between BTVS and Stephen King's Salem's Lot. In my story idea I have Xander finding out that his mother had a one night stand with a stranger and that stranger turns out to be Ben Mears. The main character from Salem's Lot. Basically, Tony knew all along that Xander wasn't his son and that he (Xander) was the product of a one night stand and him and Jessica's alcoholism was what fueled all the fights. He never told Xander he wasn't his son but after he's killed in Sunnydale's collapse. Jessica hunts down Xander and tells him the truth. That he's the son of a writer who's name is Ben Mears. See in the book Salem's Lot after they left the Lot Ben and Mark went to Gautemala by car so in my head I could imagine Ben getting drunk missing Susan and hooking up with Jessica one night on one of those trips. In the book Salem's Lot Ben resembles Xander quite a bit. And my crossover is with Ben Mears of the book. The idea is that Ben and Xander decide to meet each other and they meet in this little town out in the middle of no where and neither one of them knows that the other one knows anything about vampires and while they are there getting to know one another. A group of vampires decide they are going to go wipe out the town. Not realizing that two legendary vampire hunters are there having a family reunion. The thing is it's just hard for me to get those voices together. I think that I could make it a really interesting story though, if I could.

Willowgreenwillowgreen on December 7th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC)
I haven't read very many of the type of AUs you describe. But one of my favorite stories is Nautibitz's " Crash and Burn," which she summarizes thus:

"Buffy's an 18-year old Valley brat. Spike's a recently jilted 20-something expat slacker. Smash 'em together on a mountain road, and what do you get? Nauti's first Fantasy AU fic!"

To me, all-human AU is just a more extreme form of what-if, like Cordelia's Wishverse or Buffy's alternate reality in "Normal Again". It's about imagining what these characters would do in a completely different situation. In this universe, there aren't vampires or slayers and magic doesn't work. But the characters are still compelling enough, that I want to read about them.

I think this particular story raises an interesting question--what if, for some reason, Buffy had never gotten her Call? Would she have stayed a shallow valley girl for the rest of her life, or would some other circumstance have brought out the strength of character and commitment that had to be there all along? The story only begins to answer the question, but it does it in a way that's a whole lot of fun. I suppose it could have worked as an original fic, but for me, part of the fun of reading it was being able to say to myself, "Oh, yeah, that's SO Buffy," even when it was Buffy in a completely different world.

The other thing is that I'll read almost anything if it's well-written and funny. If a good writer is dragged away by an all-human plot bunny, I'm perfectly happy to follow along.

Hope that answers your question, at least a little bit!
aaronlisa: Brigitteaaronlisa on December 8th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)
I love AU fic, which for me means that the characters are still themselves in their original setting. AU might be Faith being the good slayer & Buffy the bad slayer. AU might be what would have happened if Dean went to college and Sam stayed behind.

AR on the other hand is where an author takes the familar characters and puts them in a completely different setting where the original setting doesn't exsist. A good author can pull of an AR fic where the characters are still themselves and within character but aren't in the familar setting. Like making Angel & Spike humans but still Angel and Spike and not just cardboard cut-outs to mask an original character and plot. I think claudia6913 wrote an AR fic with Angel and Spike being human and you could still recognize who they were even though they were clearly far removed from the Buffyverse. It wasn't an original character in an original setting who just happened to look like Angel from BTVS/ATS and happened to have the same name.

Most of the time, AR fics just leave me cold because the writer isn't talented enough to bring the characters out of their fandom and keep them true to the original character. A lot of the times, it feels as if the AR author wants to play with their own creations but aren't comfortable enough to quite make that jump. That said, I've read some decent AR fic. I just don't search it out that often.