~ The FanFiction Forum E-zine ~
May/June 2009 Bumper Edition
This Is Your Forum
Is This Growing Up?
When the Grammar Nazi’s Away, the Poets will Play
My Language Studies and TPM
Atoning for the Sins of the Past
To Be a Master [Final Edition]
I Am Not Ashamed!
The FanFiction Forum E-zine: Over to You!
This Is Your Forum
After an activity slump during May, it’s welcoming to see the recent flurry of posts in both the main forum and the Writer’s Lounge. More comforting still is the sheer number of articles and editorials that fanficcers have contributed to this edition, making the May/June issue a bumper compilation indeed!
This mid-year period – when the Antipodeans are rugging up in bed with mugs of hot chocolate and the Americans and Europeans are throwing the windows open and enjoying the summertime zephyrs – is often one of the busiest times of year on the Fanfic forum. Many of us profit from the holiday period and get some chapters of our fics churned out; others are able to widen their reading.
A lot is happening on the forum at the moment. Firstly, the results of the most recent Hall of Fame election have just been released, with beloved veteran TPM member PancaKe winning the vote in a close race! Congratulations to Tara, who joins Brian (mr_pikachu) and myself (Gavin Luper) in the sacrosanct Hall of Fame!
Secondly, the 2009 Silver Pencil Awards are just on the horizon! Look out for the Suggestion topic in the very near future! More activities are planned for the Writer’s Lounge, too, so watch this space!
There’s a lot going on in this edition of the e-zine, too. New Hall-of-Famer PancaKe offers some brilliant editorials on the current state of the Fanfic Forum and, moreover, the current state of the Fanfic Forumer. Experienced contributor mistysakura analyses the interplay between grammar and poetry, as well as delivering the final instalment of her successful To Be A Master serial that’s become an adored feature of the e-zine this year. Additionally, Mikachu Yukitatsu offers an article on the different languages spoken on TPM and Chris 2.1 explores the idea of growth in the capabilities of a fanfic writer.
We’ve put a lot into this bumper issue, so curl up under the rugs with your coffee (or sip your lemonade in the pool of sunlight by the window) and enjoy!
Is This Growing Up?
I decided today I would write an article for the e-zine. To begin, I did what every other writer does when they wish to start a project; I opened word. As I sat there, staring at the blinking curser, I felt like my mind was as blank as the page before me.
This is what it’s been like for my writing too.
I try; I honestly try to get back into it. I try to sit down and come up with ideas. I try to get myself back into the writing zone through all sorts of tricks and gimmicks. When I was younger, I used to write like a madman (woman in my case but you get the point). I had this special playlist on winamp (yes, pre iTunes days!) that I would play every time I wrote. So, in an attempt to continue my fictional writing, I’ll play songs from that era that inspired me originally to write. It works while I’m driving in the car – I’ll hear songs and go “Augh I want to write so badly!” And then I’ll either run out of time, or I’ll find time but be out of ideas.
Sometimes I wonder if this is just a part of growing up. I was looking over old notes of stories I had made when I was younger, about the time I started writing Full Moon, and so many ideas to be developed! Yet, there were holes, concepts to be explained, and feeling completely uncreative and frustrated at my pathetic attempts to explain this and that and the other in my fantasy world, I called my eleven year old brother and asked his advice.
Not that I’m slagging advice from other people, I’m just wondering if this is a case of growing up, getting older, being busy and forgetting to let my imagination wander. Have I really lost my touch? Have I really forgotten how to write, how to create ideas, imagine stories and craft them?
Is this just extended writers block, or growing up?
And so, I leave you with this pathetic vent about my writing capabilities. It’s all I can imagine writing.
When the Grammar Nazi’s Away, the Poets will Play
There has been a lot of debate over how to judge a piece of writing. In Beyond the Score: The Measure of Success, mr_pikachu demonstrates that fixed categories, with points for each category, are sometimes unable to explain the success of a piece of writing. You get great, yet plotless slice-of-life stories; captivating, yet formulaic trainer fics; thrillers with stacks of action and no style; diatribes on the evils of society, with not a single individual in sight; and pieces which are so universal it doesn’t matter where they took place at all. Besides, one person’s good plot is another person’s trash. However, most people would agree that spelling and grammar are absolute. Tomes have been written on the subject. Rules are etched in ink and passed down from red-pen-yielding teacher to scribbling student. A sentence is either right or wrong – there is no ‘in-between’… or is there?
Take a look at this poem.
aaaayunnuhstan dem doidee
aaaayguduh ged riduh
aaaaydoan o nudn
LISN bud LISN
aaaaaaaaaaaalidl yelluh bas
aaaaaaaaaaaatuds weer goin
Out of thirty-three ’words’, half a word is spelt correctly. Sentences don’t start with capitals – heck, where are these ‘sentences’ we speak of? Where’s the punctuation? Seemingly random words, and parts of words, are capitalised. If a mod saw this on a fanfiction forum, they’d most likely be tearing their hair out in frustration, trying to break it gently to the aspiring writer that perhaps they ought to take up crocheting instead.
And our jaws would all drop when we found out that this poem, which makes so little grammatical sense, was written by the great American poet e. e. cummings.
So why has e. e. cummings screwed over the rules of spelling and grammar? Perhaps he was feeling particularly cynical that day, and felt like putting random letters on a page and laughing to see the ’poem’ analysed down to the last space and proclaimed the work of a genius. Perhaps his typewriter screwed up. Perhaps he was screwing with our collective heads. But if you slur the poem as much as you can, and say it quickly… no, even more slurred… think drowned in a beer barrel…
Do you get this?
All of a sudden, it makes sense. The gross misspellings imitate a broken accent while the capitals emphasise the speaker’s insistence on certain words. The whole poem points out the irony of an uncivilised person (represented by the uncivilised spelling and grammar) discriminating against un’SIVILEYEz’ed people. The poem is ironic because it in itself is discriminating against the speaker and making him out to be an idiot.
Spelling and grammar have long been manipulated in poetry. Many poems have neither capitalisation or punctuation, giving the poem a gentle, perhaps even passive, feel. In the twentieth century, poets have played with punctuation and the layout of words on the page. Sometimes, punctuation goes where it shouldn’t go, creating a disjoint effect. A poem by Paul Mitchell goes:
I mean, i don'taaareally
play drums. I mean
it's hardaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayou know
the rhythm. therhythm's hard. i get
my feet wrong. and the sticks.
In my hands.aaaaaawrong, I get the wrong
drum.aaaaaaaaaaaaI mean, I hit the right drum
aaaaaawith the wrong stick.
I likeaaaaaaaaaaaaadrums. it's
aaaaaahard, though. to prac
tise. no one likesaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadrums.
my rhythm.aaaaaaI play. drumaaaaas.
At other times, poets forgo traditional formatting all together, and create poems of all shapes and sizes. A famous example is Swan and Shadow.
Many haikus, whether in Japanese or English, are fragments of sentences. A pedantic may froth at the mouth going “argh there is no verb!”, but a lot of the time, haikus are precisely about looking at a fragment of time and finding the stillness, the silence, the beauty of the moment. With a poem like
The sea in spring –
Ever so slow and idle
All day long.
It just wouldn’t make sense to have the sea do anything.
As for spelling, the "yguduh" example is by e.e. cummings, but something similar can be found on our very own forum: Spoil Chick.
Unorthodox use of spelling and grammar in prose is more unusual, but it can nevertheless be found. The most common example is the sentence fragment: "And then there were none." Despite starting a sentence with "and" not being allowed, standalone fragments can be very powerful statements. Another example is having a narrator speak ungrammatically for characterisation purposes, perhaps to show their casual voice or emphasise their lack of education. We see it all the time in teenage fiction, especially those written in diary, e-mail or text message form (try reading a novel’s worth of forum posts, complete with emoticons… my eyes, they bleed!) Sometimes it makes sense to have a sentence end with a preposition, instead of having something convoluted. Some people even fuse words or make up their own words to get their unique meanings across – if Shakespeare did it, who’s to say we can’t?
So even if something as seemingly fundamental as spelling and grammar can be manipulated to suit your creativity, where is the limit? Maybe there is none. Maybe we should just be as innovative as we can, and not worry too much about formalities like well-described settings. At the end of the day, we're here to communicate our weird and wonderful thoughts to the world, and language is supposed to help us, not hinder us. And if we do get published, and our works last the test of time, the perception of “good writing” will change anyway. Somehow, I don’t see the readers of tomorrow cross-checking our writing with an antique twenty-first century grammar manual…
*looks over shoulder* Shh, I hear the Grammar Nazi coming!
*straightens self* Of course, that is not to say that spelling and grammar should be manipulated for manipulation’s sake. If you want to tell a good story, you want it to be understood, and correct spelling and grammar are important to that end. Yeah. Totally. But exceptions are essential in the world of art…
“Uh, hi, Grammar Nazi. I was going to say exceptions prove the rule, right?”
My Language Studies and TPM
My mother tongue is Finnish. Here are the languages I have studied, respectively.
I have studied Japanese and Chinese by myself, not at school. I teach Japanese now, however. I had only one course of Russian in Lukio (Finnish equivalent to senior High School) and don't remember a thing. Spanish is my newest language. I studied it for almost one year at Kansalaisopisto, an educational establishment for adult students.
I started English like most Finns do, when I was 9. We hear English daily in TV, videogames tend to be in English and we use the internet quite a lot, so it isn't easy to avoid it. However, I didn't know I would write messages in the very same language 7 years later for Americans, Australians and other nations to read. After I turned 13, I started Swedish, the second official language of Finland. Biggest boosts to my Swedish studies were Sailor Moon we had in Swedish here in Finland and Pokémon Orange league which my own country skipped.
Yeah, I have found grammar studies useful. Yes, I am a theoretician. In Lukio, I loved the first course in Finnish language and literature because I learned lost of useful grammatical terms. On the other hands, I hated all the other courses because they were poem analysis, reviews of books we were forced to read, painting analyses and stuff. This has resulted in me being disinterested in reading books. Fortunately, TPM is different. Even after I have printed a topic, it's still more enjoyable to read than a book.
I let my Finnish affect my English, for example I often leave the subject out of a sentence. For in Finnish language, we conjugate the verb and may leave the subject out.
(minä) teen = I do
(sinä) teet = you do (singular)
(hän) tekee = he/she does
(me) teemme = we do
(te) teette = you do (plural)
(he) tekevät = they do
My multi-language approach has given me many great opportunities at TPM. It started when a Finnish member posted a topic about Pokémon Championship Finland in late 2001. I replied in Finnish and Austrian ViceMaster Alex advised I should always give a translation, which I did, then.
Next, a Finnish guy named Harwey appeared. In his welcome topic, I posted a long reply in Finnish and English. Once a French guy proposed in French we should post in French here at TPM, and I was able to both translate his reply and respond in (was it four?) different languages. In 2003, I translated Team Rocket mottos from Finnish and Swedish. I even got some positive feedback from a Swede. In 2003, I also began to translate TV Tokyo Pokémon ep previews.
Much later, I posted a topic about Pokémon names with Finnish meanings. I have posted poems in the Poetry Corner in both English and Finnish. The situation now? I kinda have neglected languages other than Japanese and English, but I keep up the former in teaching-related business, and the latter by posting at TPM. I have almost overcome my hate for poem analysis, so I might do something like that someday. I'll also keep reading more.
With Heart Gold and Soul Silver soon to be released in Japan, now is the perfect time to relaunch the main site. Thousands and millions of gamers of all ages and nationalities will be googling for news, pictures, and secrets. The biggest challenge for us now is getting out there while people are still looking for us.
This raises the question: What can the Fanfic community contribute? Sometimes we get lost in thinking that our gifts in language aren't as useful as the gift to write html, or create fanart or construct detailed walkthrus. Surely these are the things that the site most needs, right?
Recent discussion in The Writers Lounge (What can we contribute to the main site?) has been aimed at brainstorming useful and necessary ways we can offer our skills.
Phoenixsong raised this point: "The more the site opens with that differentiates it from the other Poké-info giants, the better. Fanfic was a big part of that back in the day as far as I remember, and I see no reason that it couldn't be again."
TPM, in order to regain our place among the giants, needs to boast something different. What is it that TPM can have that other sites don't? Community.
Community based features are what brought a lot of us to the forums, and has kept us here for so many years. Many of us can say we've been here for three, four, six and even eight or nine years - and why? For the people.
The fanfic pages on the old website boasted a massive library of fics, contributed by fans around the world. It was easy to lose yourself for hours among the tales. It was just as easy to write, submit and be included. These are the type of features we need to refresh the page - features that welcome new members into the community.
In the discussion topic, members have been compiling a list of things that we can bring to the website:
- Fanfic E-zine linked/posted
- Hall of Fame
- Uploading fics from the Fanfic Archive
- Direct links to awards / publishing the Golden Pens and Silver Pencils on the main page (Gavin Luper)
- A whole forum e-zine (Ultimate Charizard)
- Editorials (Jeff) like these
- Reviews of games/movies/episodes/other pokémon memorabilia
At this point in time, we need two things from you, fanfic community.
1. We need people to brainstorm, suggest ideas, think creatively. Is there some way that we can be using our writing skills to support the site, to create community and to be different from all the other giants?
2. We need people to get on board. Contribute to the forums, write reviews and editorials. If we need raters, get on board and rate. How can we boast community at TPM if we're not all in this together?
Atoning for the Sins of the Past
When I was writing The Pokémon Masters League there was a chapter in which a character, penned as a typical villain, was finally caught. His name was Ecks. Restrained in a cell, and awaiting a trial, he was smart enough to know he would soon meet his demise and, through dehydration, starvation, his eccentricity and childhood trauma, he began hallucinating. The security cards melded into wolves clad in tuxedos, playing jazz instruments with aplomb. Ecks sat, immobile, as the people he had murdered wove into the cell and regaled him with tales about their deaths. I explored a concept of dying, and what it could possibly entail. The four deceased characters explained, individually, that their death reflected the life they lived and was a grand spectacle taking them somewhere else. The attention-seeking glamour-girl Solia Fuerte died amid a huge battle in the city; her death was embodied as a grim parade through the streets, where she sat on a throne made from skulls and saw the highlights of her life, before passing into another realm. Similarly Karin’s dying moments manifested as a Broadway performance, on a stage before thousands in a wonderful dress.
At the time, some readers commented with enthusiasm, wondering themselves what their own deaths could manifest as. Scoring a home run for their favourite team, fireworks exploding in the sky? Or leaping from a plane, no parachute, screaming in the delight of the unknown?
I wondered about my own. As an aspiring journalist my only thoughts seemed to be that my dying montage would involve being stabbed repeatedly by a dissatisfied rockstar. Given my clumsy nature, the notion of a doctor explaining to my family that I stepped on a skateboard and whizzed under an ice cream van seemed similarly just as plausible.
While I debated this query, a related thought popped up. Not the notion or the event of me passing from here to wherever lies ahead, no; instead, particularly my given enthusiasm as a writer, I may have to atone for sins of the past. Over the next few months I’m going to be wondering just why, despite winning a couple of nice shiny awards, the bad might outweigh the good and I might be condemned to a Hell where the pens are all out of ink and the computers run on Microsoft Works Word Processor.
I have been in these forums for too many years. I have undergone new names and seen people come, go, come again, elevate to new levels of power and flee with their tail between their legs. In the time that OzAndrew has slugged away with Electric Buggy To Victory, and Gavin has chewed through Lisa The Legend, fics of my own have burst into life. Some have been finished, and I have tied them into bundles and hurled them into the archives, while others have sat, forgotten as I feverishly type something new. Other fics, while completed, have dissolved in the voids of computer errors.
The first thing I ever wrote for the forums was a nail in an as of yet uncreated coffin. I simply opened the ’new post’ window and began writing something. It was set in New Bark Town, a trainer stole a Pokémon, and this kid (think I called him Gold…funny how that works) wanted to be the best trainer in the world. The entire thing was shorter than this article.
And here came the first mistake. I needed a name for my fic.
‘Gold’s Johto Journey’?
‘To Be A Master?’ At the time, my name was Lugia_Master2K1 so I think the term ‘master’ might be done to death. Too much mastery of anything is never good.
So I picked a name that sounded classy, ominous and a little bit pretentious. Destiny’s Way. The idea being all the crazy calamity that was going to kick off with a Pokémon being stolen at Elm’s Lab was all destiny. Oh the pain. I went away to live life as a twelve year old boy and came back one night to see if people were climbing over one another to get more of the fantastic fic. I imagined critical acclaim; the idea of a publishing deal flickered across my mind, I’ll admit. Unfortunately all the replies were about one thing. The title. Apparently there was already a fic called Destiny’s Way on the boards and boy, was it popular. ‘I don’t know why you’re trying to RUIN the other fic,’ quizzed one angry ficcer. ‘Why are you copying the title?’ another argued. I quickly apologised, after a brief attempt at negotiating (‘Can’t there be two fics called Destiny’s Way?’ - ‘No’) I conceded, and ended up deleting the fic. I left the forum that night, and don’t think I came back for some time. As a way of dealing with the knock down, I made a brief fic on Serebii. Without any planning, I created a brief fic famous for its multitude of water Pokémon and a continuously rotating team. But that’s for next time.
To Be a Master [Final Edition]
Screenshots courtesy of Pokémon Nightmare, Pocket Monsters and AnimeClick.
I Am Not Ashamed!
I love writing. Many of you are well aware of my love for writing stories. In fact, if not for the severe writers block that has plagued my creative juices, I would still be publishing stories left, right and centre. And, I'm not ashamed of it either!
But the minute I say to someone, "Oh yes, I've written a book, I've written quite a few stories in my day", their reply is "What was it about?"
I don't think I have ever turned around and said, "Oh, well it’s about a girl who turns into a pokémon, kind of like a werewolf, and she lives in a boarding school with pokémon." Just as I have never said to the general public "My hobbies include writing stories about pokémon."
I can't explain why either! It's as though friends and family will laugh at me, will raise an eyebrow, will pat me on the head and say "Yes dear, that's lovely" or take a few steps back. Is that what I really fear? If it's not, then why is it I choke up, stumble over my words and mumble answers that vaguely describe my interest in writing and reading general fanfiction?
Only trusted friends know. Only my friends equally obsessed with pokémon know. They're the ones that go "Oh wow, can I read?" instead of going "Oh, really..." They're the ones I'm not afraid to tell after a while; I'll give them links to my stories and hope they'll read it. They're the ones I'm comfortable around.
So what is it with everyone else? Am I the only one who lives a secret double life? By day I am a university student who works at a coffee shop and hangs out at church a whole lot, by night I'm a famous fanfiction author, known world wide for my creations and successes?
Am I ashamed after all?
Even moreso, am I the only one?
The Fanfiction Forum E-zine: Over to You!
So you’ve just finished reading the latest issue of this e-zine. You might have noticed that we’ve tried something a little bit different this time around: we’re focusing more on editorials, on the opinions and sentiments of regular members, in addition to our usual fare of expository articles.
So what do you think? Do you like the addition of opinion pieces in the e-zine? Would you like to write your own, even?
Moreover, what would you like to see appearing in the e-zine? More interviews with members? More writing tips, as opposed to opinions? How about fic and poetry spotlights? Or – for the future – what about the idea of themed editions?
Please leave your feedback and comments for us, and together, we’ll help to shape the future direction of the Fanfiction Forum E-zine.
After all, it’s your forum. It’s your e-zine.