July 2016

For the past two months and a few weeks, I had given myself the challenge to read all fics on this list of Harry Potter fanfics, provided they met my criteria and I hadn’t already read them, of course. My criteria went thus:

  1. The fic has to be complete, unless it was updated recently. That was to avoid abandoned fics. I was in this for many reasons, one of which was the pleasure I get from reading good fics, and after the first few abandoned fics I decided I couldn’t bear the disappointment anymore. If I had been reading just a few of them, maybe I would have; but this was a hundred fairly long fanfics — I couldn’t cope with potentially dozens of unfinished plots, of having to leave characters I had gotten attached to without ever a chance of seeing the conclusion of their story.

  2. The fic has to be good, fast. I set a hard limit at five chapters before I would give up. I don’t think I ever hit it. This was a list of the top 100 fanfics, so not many were truly bad, but those that were clearly announced themselves.

  3. The fic has to be in English. Obviously, if I can’t read it… Nevermind that I can read French fluently, I don’t particularly like reading fanfics in French. I also don’t like reading programming documentation in French, and when I communicate with French developers, it is most often in English. This is a personal thing. Only one fic hit that rule, but I had made it in advance as I knew it was a possibility.

  4. No Dramione. As in, the Draco/Hermione romantic relationship pairing. This was more subtle than that: with very few exceptions, I outright ignored all fanfics that kept pretty much everything the same, but then forced the characters into the ship. I don’t mind when Dramione, or something near it, actually happens organically, as a true part of the fic. For example, HPMoR, which I do regard as pretty much the Harry Potter fanfic, has a tentative romance and definite, if at first grudging, friendship between Draco and Hermione. But we get there through circumstance that makes sense, and is not forced just to get the ship there, or worse, the characters are put together in an abusive or highly disfunctional relationship that’s glamoured up by the author. Ugh. Ew. Urgh. Special mention, though, for The Nietzsche Classes, though, which is a great perversion of the genre, given the reader has the right (twisted) mind.

  5. No sanctimonious religious bullshit. If you think atheists don’t actually have morals because morals are exclusive to people who believe in a giant cuddly Zeus lookalike who loves everyone so much he has them kill each other for no fucking reason floating in the sky… yeah, not a fan. Or, actually, as long as you keep that shit to yourself, all good. But don’t put it in your fanfic like you’re a preacher yelling at the gay kids that they’re all going to hell because, y’know, only straight love is allowed past the gates of Paradise. There are fics like that in the list. Fuck ’em.

  6. In fact, no bigotry. That’s an interestion criterion in a verse that has a lot of the plot and underlying tensions about blood bigotry. But there is a vast difference between bigotry, of any kind, being explored in the text and the author trying to push their own bigotry through fanfic. There are two very blatant opposites in this regard in the list: one had a protagonist and winning side and even the losing side, in parts, be very much convinced and fervent and true in their belief that Muggles were vermin… but the author wasn’t a bigot. Or if they were, by some turn of luck, their fic at least didn’t read like that. It read like a well-crafted exploration of a concept, with realistic characters who were strong in their beliefs, even though these were objectionable and horrible and wrong, and similarly for the other side. The other fic… was very much racist. The characters on the “wrong” side of the issue (according to the author) were weak and their personalities were systematically twisted to fit the narrative; while the bigoted rhetoric was dripping from even the narrator’s parts, not just the characters’ thoughts. There was, totally unsurprisingly, also classic skin and ethnic racism, and homo/trans-phobias. A smorgasbord of barely-subtle hate delivered in the wrappings and trappings of a universe I love. It’s a bitter experience.

Entries I found deserving were listed publicly on my Pinboard, along with quick commentary. I tried to keep the comments spoiler-free in general, but of course that’s difficult to do in this context.

I estimated the total amount of prose I’d read, just counting those HP fanfics, at 15-20 million words. But who’s counting?

Now, after a suitably long (ha ha, who am I kidding, I like fanfic too much to leave it for long) break, I am starting the very same thing with the Naruto list, from the same source. Same criteria, except of course the Dramione clause — I think the Naruto verse doesn’t really have such a contentious pairing. Naruto/Orochimaru comes to mind, but is not really any different from Harry/Voldemort, and there are good fanfics with that. I think perhaps a Mizuki/Naruto ship would qualify. One difference between the two verses is that shinobi have little compunction against killing their foe, or dying trying, which means that if two people who hate each other meet, it often ends up bloody rather than them not being able to do much other than shouting at each other or bullying them, and potentially-fatal encounters are not very conducive to romance, of any kind. This isn’t Hollywood, kids, you’re not going to have people who say they hate each other fuck each other silly after five minutes on screen because of *hand waving* pent-up feelings and borderline porn.

We’ll see what comes of it.