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Area 52, the Stargate Slash Archive.

I've had the "Recent Stories" page bookmarked for eons, and I check it often.  It's just been redesigned, and I do not have the words to express my horror.  How many more unnecessary, irrelevant, unreadable, color-challenged and distracting elements can they put on that page?

And if that weren't bad enough . . . a few notable entries aside, the sheer awfulness of most of what's shown up there lately is serious cause for despair.  The latest outrage, as framed by the most recent iteration of the page:  two different authors, one of whom has definitely been around long enough to know better, who have failed to grasp the notion that British English and American English are not the same, and that Americans do not wear singlets, or speak of their arse, or use biros.  (And there's no such thing as a "postrate gland"--yes, spelled the same way twice--but that's a different rant.)

I would give up on the site were it not for the fact that occasionally I do find a decent story there that doesn't show up in any other venue.

Topic for discussion, should you so choose:  is the story quality at Area 52 declining, or is it just that I'm getting pickier?

Date: 2008-08-07 08:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catspaw-sgjd.livejournal.com
Ouch yes, see what you mean - that design really doesn't work too well, does it?

Quality vs. pickiness: probably a bit of both, I'd think, with a slight tipping of the scales towards pickiness.

Date: 2008-08-07 10:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgeetrek.livejournal.com
Eyes. Bleeding. The improved search function is nice, though . .. .

I think part of the decline is because some writers who used to post their stuff there ('cause it was the only slash game in town) now have LJ accounts, or their own websites, and just don't bother cross-posting anymore. So the crap-to-quality ratio is increasing.

Date: 2008-08-07 11:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catspaw-sgjd.livejournal.com
No crossposting might explain it, yes - although crossposting has always made sense to me (largely because without advertising, no one would bother to read the damn things LOL).

I've been thinking about the 'singlet' thing since I commented, too, and the use of language. Just as an aside here, I'd find the use of that word jarring too, since to me, it's terribly old fashioned and just not particularly current any more, except in a way that sets a character's class, more than anything. But then, that's Brit society for ya ;-)

There's more than one can of worms here, I think. First off, the perennial argument - just how far should a non-US author go, in narrative, to write in US language. My preference, as writer and beta, is to go for the most nationality-neutral phrasing, the mid-Atlantic version, because there's no point in throwing any proportion of one's readers out of the story if it can be avoided. So I'll avoid 'whilst', which is more natural to me, for example. In the case of 'singlet', specifically - 'vest' would be more natural to me, which would confuse *you*, and 'tank top' might be more natural to *you*, which would confuse the hell out of *me* and also inspire undue hilarity (think Gumbies in Monty Python, or Jack in a jumper *g*). So I'd go for 'muscle shirt', which would make sense to both. But I don't know where other people would draw the line, or even where I would, necessarily.

But there's a wee trend I've noticed amongst some non-US writers, almost a defiance about the language they use, and refusal to change what comes most naturally to them. I don't know where it's arisen from - maybe from a period of intense criticism some years ago in fandom about native spelling and grammar usage, when it almost felt that non-US fans shouldn't be writing fic about a US show at all. Maybe too from the fact that non-US folks are very used to buying and reading printed material from the States and are used to reading over the differences, so they don't see why the reverse shouldn't be true. Maybe even connected with the rise in anti-US feeling, which seems to be increasingly prominent even over here :-( Whatever, I'm not endorsing it, just noticing it quite a bit more recently than previously.

Damn, this turned into a ramble! Stopping now.

Date: 2008-08-07 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgeetrek.livejournal.com
Ah, yes, the perennial argument. My feeling about it has always been that if I'm reading about American characters, in an American setting, I would like their dialogue to be American and, ideally, the narrative surrounding their dialogue as well. I can deal with non-American spellings like "colour" and "favour" and "grey"; for some reason they don't pull me out of the story. But words that Americans just don't use are so jarring that I have to work hard to get back into the story's flow. Jack in a "jumper" would be a classic example. Daniel using a "biro" would be another.

Similarly, if I am reading a story about English characters, I want those characters to be using British English, not the American equivalent. I want them to be referring to a car's "boot," and driving said car around a "roundabout," I want them to scratch their "arse" and not their "ass," and I want them to say "whilst" and not "while." If a word crops up that I don't understand, I'm happy to pick it up through context. "Jumper" doesn't throw me at all, if it's Adam Dalgliesh who's wearing it!

It's all part of evoking the time and place for me. I can understand a writer getting it wrong accidentally, but it infuriates me when a writer deliberately chooses to put her own American usage in the mouth of a non-American character, or her own non-American usage in the mouth of an American character. I had a very long and ugly discussion with one (I think Australian) writer about this, and nothing she said changed my mind, mainly because her argument was of the "I can do it whatever way I want, and I don't care that you don't like it" variety--with obscenity thrown in. :-()

Date: 2008-08-07 11:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jd-junkie.livejournal.com
The new look is pretty dire. I definitely prefer the straightforward, previous look. But then, I'm just old. ;-)
As to quality, I think it was ever thus. There's good and bad in every archive. I would say that some of the more, um, prolific authors, are not to my taste, though. Each to his/her own, I guess. And I am pretty picky about what I read.
And now I'll shut up, because I cross-post my stuff there from my lj and it might be my fic you're ranting about!. :-)

Date: 2008-08-07 11:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgeetrek.livejournal.com
No, not ranting about your fic. I enjoy your fic! If you and I are thinking about the same *prolific* authors, then their writing is not to my taste, either. Like you, I am fairly picky about what I read--or at least what I finish. I'm likely to give pretty much anything a chance (if it's in a fandom and pairing I follow--and sometimes I'll even read pairings I don't normally follow), but if a story hasn't grabbed me on some level within a few paragraphs, I might just skim it or not even finish reading at all. Lately, I've been bailing on a lot of Area 52 stuff. And there are some writers I just won't touch at all, no way, no how, not enough tea in China. (A pox on t*l*p*th*c b**gl*s . . . you see, I can't even bring myself to type out the words!)

Date: 2008-08-08 07:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jd-junkie.livejournal.com
Hee. You may not be able to type the words but because they're t*l*p*th*c they know you've written them! Beware the hounds of hell, my friend. ;-)

Date: 2008-08-09 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragojustine.livejournal.com
Wow, that's pretty hideous.

I personally have a theory (with no evidence at all barring the anecdotal) that new fic for old fandoms with a closed canon generally end up split into the "really truly awful" and the "really excellent." I think it's because the mainstream of fandom isn't writing in those fandoms anymore, leaving only brand new, very young/inexperienced authors on one hand, and old hands truly in love with that canon on the other.

Then again, I'm a brand new inexperienced writer diving into a closed canon... *cringes and prays*

I also think that right now, the average quality of on-LJ/on-LJ-clones/X-posted-to-LJ fic is much higher than completely off-LJ fic. Not because LJ is inherently good, but because it's the current center of community-focused fandom, and we mostly enable and enforce quality through community- betas, rec lists, exchanges, etc.

My baseless sociological nattering, let me show you :)

Date: 2008-08-11 05:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgeetrek.livejournal.com
Hmmm. Hadn't considered your notion of the effect of closed canon before. ::nodnod::

I came to fandom in general during the golden age of Star Trek Original Series (I was a fan of the show when it first aired in the '60s. My advancing age and increasing decrepitude, let me show you it), and I've been witness to the decades of good writing and awful writing and everything in between that The Original Series (TOS) has generated.

At first glance, the very fact that there were so many years during which we saw the full spectrum of writing in TOS, stellar to pure crap, would seem to disprove your theory--but TOS is unique in a number of ways. It had a short original run of three seasons, but those three seasons generated 79 episodes, providing such a large and rich canon that writers had seemingly endless opportunities to expand, debate, reimagine, and spackle plot holes (of which there were many). This kept everyone busy for years, and just as things might have died down and the split between good and awful fic might have happened (and perhaps some would say that it did happen, but that it was swallowed up in future events--but I digress), we got the first movie, which was not very good in the opinion of most fans, but even so, another wave of writing came along to expand/debate/reimagine/spackle the movie, as well as to rework prior canon in the light of it. And this happened over and over, every time another one of the 5 movies that followed was released.

TOS fandom has also ridden the wave of changing technologies, as it came into being pre-Internet (pre-computer, even. Wow.) and thus the fiction originally was entirely paper-fanzine based. It was reinvigorated with the advent of newsgroups and listservs and then once again during the golden age of the Yahoo Group. Every time the technology changed, it seemed there was a new crop of writers who embraced that technology, perhaps even were inspired by it and by the new ways in which it enabled them to create and share their work.

TOS canon has been closed for some time now, but it took a fairly long time post-closing for the split to become evident. Now, actually, there isn't much new fic of any kind around. I think the fandom has existed so long, and there's such a HUGE body of work already created, that there just isn't all that much ground left to explore. What I have seen of the more recent fic definitely falls into your "really truly awful" vs. "really excellent" split--with the majority being on the awful side. TOS doesn't seem to have survived the LJ transition very well. I do see some former TOS writers on LJ but they're either writing in other fandoms, or they've stopped writing fic altogether.

Joining you in the baseless sociological nattering . . . although I see we haven't talked at all about gen vs. het vs. slash and whether splitting occurs differently in these different categories. But that's a discussion for another time! :)

Date: 2008-08-11 06:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragojustine.livejournal.com
although I see we haven't talked at all about gen vs. het vs. slash and whether splitting occurs differently in these different categories.

I wouldn't know. I certainly *read* gen and het, but I don't seem to be involved in any particular community structure on that side- I certainly couldn't say "I'm a het fan, I can talk about het fandom" the way I can fairly confidently say "I'm a slash fan, I can talk about (current) slash fandom." so god knows.

Actually, the on-LJ/off-LJ split was, I think, the more accurate and well-founded bit of that sociological nattering...

But yours is interesting! I'm not sure you can talk about TOS fitting into any kind of pattern just because it was *so* foundational. The patterns happened later, no? But what you say about not surviving the jump to LJ-based fandom is interesting. I've seen plenty of what I consider old-school fandom on LJ (The Sentinel, Starsky&Hutch...) but no TOS at all. Not that I've been looking. Why some fandoms make the jump across technological shifts and others don't... interesting question. Does the failure to make a jump like that cause the end of good fic production (and just leave the bad fic by people who fail to find mainstream fandom?). Have other fandoms failed to make jumps like that? (Was that what killed Blake's 7? I never did figure that out)

Er. Watch us babble! *blush*

Date: 2008-08-12 01:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgeetrek.livejournal.com
Yeah, I'm not really a het fan either, although M/M/F threesomes often float my boat quite nicely. And I can enjoy a well written gen fic but, as my reading time is sometimes limited, I tend to skip the gen unless I have reason to believe it will be exceptional.

I s'pose if I looked really, really hard I might find some TOS on LJ. There are a few communities, I think, and I did poke around a little bit a month or so ago in a fruitless search for something I could latch on to . . . maybe I just wasn't diligent enough.

Your comment on Starsky & Hutch is very encouraging since this is a pairing that I love, and the few archives I know of don't seem to be very active anymore.

Beats me why some fandoms have made the jump to LJ while others haven't. I've yet to look for an X-Files presence on LJ, because I suspect I'll be depressed by what I find, or, rather, what I don't find. XF fandom seemed to crap out, with a few notable exceptions, almost immediately after the show was cancelled. Certainly both my preferred pairing (Mulder/Skinner), and my preferred threesome (Mulder/Scully/Skinner), have passed beyond endangered and can safely be said to have entered the realm of extinction. An online M/Sk fanzine, to which I contributed a story, was published a couple of years ago, and that was pretty much the last gasp for that pairing. As for the threesome, I think only two or three writers wrote for that particular combo--and I was one of them. (Who knows, maybe I will be again. I do have a WIP on my hard drive.)

Not sure what killed Blake's 7, as I never saw the show and never got involved in the fandom or the fic. It would be interesting if someone with an analytical bent and a whole lot of free time (or a pop culture doctoral dissertation to pursue ::grin::) would do a comparative study of the waxing and waning of fandoms, including their transition into and out of various media. I wonder, for instance, if the patterns for SF-based fandoms like Stargate and Trek are different than those for dramas like The West Wing or fantasies like Harry Potter.

Good grief, how I have gone on! And it's well past dinnertime, as my stomach is noisily reminding me . . .

Date: 2008-08-11 06:49 am (UTC)
ext_3440: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tejas.livejournal.com
Oh, hon, you are NOT to worry about being new to the fandom. You are a brand new precious resource! :-) It was such a delight to find your first stories. Thank you!

Date: 2008-08-11 06:53 am (UTC)
ext_3440: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tejas.livejournal.com
UGH! I hate the new Area52 design and I told them that. :-) I do post my slash there (though I think I may be behind on that) as well as on The Alpha Gate. I don't have any interest in maintaining my own site and since I sometimes write very long stories, I'd rather not post those on LJ at all. I'm one of those who'd rather have a monster story at my finger tips in with a single click... I'll just make sure to block out a day or evening to read it all. ;-)

And welcome to LJ! :-)

Date: 2008-08-11 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgeetrek.livejournal.com
Thanks for the welcome! Good to be with y'all!

Date: 2008-08-11 07:41 am (UTC)
ext_3440: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tejas.livejournal.com
I noticed you've got a fun group already on your flist. :-)

Date: 2008-08-12 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emgeetrek.livejournal.com
Oh yes indeedy. ;-) Lots and lots of interesting reading!

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