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Why we picked her:
Not only does Jane have cool taste in fake names (heh), but she's dabbled in more fandoms than I'll ever be able to keep straight and kicked ass in most of them. She bought her first comic, Authority #7, in summer 2001, but she's been involved in slash since 1998. She's written - *deep breath* - Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: The Original Series, X-Files, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Velvet Goldmine, Daria, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia, Angel, X-Men movieverse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Romeo & Juliet (Shakespeare), The West Wing, Highlander, Queer as Folk - UK and The Talented Mr Ripley. She's also in various comic fandoms (The Authority, X-Men, X-Force, Generation X, Alpha Flight, X-Man and Hellblazer. Go check out Janefic.
I know everyone hates this question, but how do you get inspired? What would you recommend for people who have trouble finding story ideas?
Inspiration. Wow. My problem's that I have trouble sitting on it long enough to get other work done. But, that said. My number one idea source is the comics. Reading them. Because comics, especially those published under the Comics Code Authority (things by Marvel and DC, anything with CCA on the cover) are similar to movies published under the Hayes Code. There's a lot you simply *can't* say, not explicitly. Sex and violence, but expecially homoerotic overtones. The CCA was established in the 1950s, and it embodies a kind of stylized and archaic values system. (One of the major arguments for its establishment was Batman & Robin's relationship, which was considered to be overtly homosexual and highly inappropriate for young readers.)
So there's all of that. What's not being said, what was almost said, what needs to be said. What never had a chance to work itself out.
What advice would I give? Read the comics. Can't stress this one enough. Learn about the background to what's being written (this isn't hard -- tons of this stuff is available on the 'net). What are the publisher's motivations? (Marvel particularly regularly makes content decisions based on the company's current financial status.) What do the writers/artists (who often have their own websites or contribute to forum discussions), have to say about what they created vs. what got published.
Do NOT sit around reading comicslash until something comes to you. The range of what's available is so limited that you can only fall into bad habits. And you run the risk of coming to the conclusion that comics fandom has OTPs (One True Pairings), which is. I'll be polite and say it irritates me.
When you're reading, are there any aspects that can make or break a fic for you? What impresses you and what turns you off?
Oooooh yes. Many, many things.
Things that turn me off: Formatting problems. If the smart quotes have run amok, if there are no spaces between the paragraphs, if it all comes through as one long paragraph, into the trash it goes. I hold the extremely nasty opinion that anybody too stupid to format in .txt is too stupid to read.
Any admission that the author has never actually *read* the comics. This happens a *lot* -- the X-Men movie dragged many wide-eyed little slashers into comics slashdom, and they've read the little that's available, and concluded that this is The Way Things Are. I flee before them.
An apology in the story notes for the hash that's been mane of the language, on the grounds that the author's first language isn't English.
Random de-aging of the characters, who're having enough trouble reaching thirty as it is.
Many, many other things. I read maybe one comics-based story in twenty. Maybe.
What impresses me? Use of characters who aren't already slashed to death.
Interest in character psychology beyond the woe-is-me angst typical of slash.
The ability to spell and format.
Style. In this fandom, I'm genuinely impressed if someone can rise above basic sentence construction.
Attention to ensemble casts.
Non-abuse of female characters.
What do you struggle with when you sit down to write, and how do you overcome it?
Voices. The Marvel universe particularly has a massive number of characters with badly stereotypical accents (Moira McTaggert, Wolfsbane, Nightcrawler, Cannonball, Rogue, Gambit, Siryn), or just bad racial/ethnic stereotypes (Warpath, Dani Moonstar). I want the characters to be recognizable, but I also want to stay as far away from bad-accent land as possible.
The other thing that comes to mind is angst-overload. I don't think all of this can be blamed on the slashers. The poor old superheroes are such masses of angst that it's a wonder they can keep walking around. And yet they do. And fight evil, and save the planet on a semi-regular basis. Which means, I think, that some pretty unpleasant psychology's going to come up.
Do you ever get "blocked?" How do you deal with it? Any idea what causes it?
Sometimes. I go back to the things that I'm supposed to be doing. Theoretically, I'm writing my thesis, and it's hideously neglected. Other than that, I take walks, talk to real, live people, read comics, read real books, watch movies, edit stuff that needs editing, play with my cat...
You can't write all the time, genuinely. Sometimes between stories there's a refactory period. Sometimes stories aren't meant to be and have to be abandoned. Sometimes they need to go into the story compost heap, only to emerge a year or two later when the idea's managed to germinate and it's grown some real roots and shoots.
What are some common mistakes that you see new writers make in your fandom?
Oh lord. Just a few?
Writing Gambit. I'd like to make him off-limits to all new comicslash writers. The angst potential's just too high, and there are *far* too many fanon conventions about him. Which means that unless the author's got a serious comics collection to rely on, and refers to it pretty frequently, he turns into Stock Slash Bottom Boy, complete with tears, self-hatred, effeminacy, infantalization, and necessary daddy-figure.
Female character abuse. There aren't that many female characters anyway, and they suffer quite enough at the hands of the creators of canon.
Lack of attention to character psychology.
Lack of attention to plausible characterization. Especially when hard-ass characters get slashed. I'm not unilaterally opposed to Wolverine slash, but I do wish people would remember that he's not just a great, big sweetie with claws. (I once read a story in which Wolverine announced that he loved Barbara Streisand, and he thought that people who criticised her were just afraid of her because she's so talented. It wasn't being played for humour value.)
Lack of .txt formatting, which makes anything posted by e-mail unreadable.
How do you select what to read and what to feedback? Do you mainly read stories written by your friends or do you branch out a bit?
If I finish reading it, and I'm not actively cringing, I'll send feedback. I don't do constructive crit, partly because I'm lazy and partly because it seldom gains a positive response. I'll point to thinks I liked, but not to thinks I disliked.
Does that mean that I mostly read work by people I consider to be friends? Frankly yes. But I got to be friends with them because I read their work, and liked it, and tracked them down, and talked with them about it. And got intelligent answers, and food for thought, and concluded that whatever they posted next, I'd probably read, because they hadn't disappointed me yet.
What common mistakes do you see in your fandom in terms of characterisation?
Writing without considering that comics characters are either superheroes or just unbelievably tough. These people get bounced off mountains on a regular basis (well, in the case of John Constantine, just off the pavement, but British wizards don't come with superhuman invulnerability). These are not natural victims. In fact, they're precisely *not* victims. They're protectors, vigilantes, and sometimes thugs, but they don't tend to sit around crying. Especially not over themselves.
Refusing to acknowledge characters' dark sides. I'd be hard-pressed to think of a modern comic-book character who's not morally dubious on some level. People who write Batman mostly manage to accept this, but Batman's darkside's been drummed into our cultural consciousnesses since childhood.
Refusing to acknowledge a character's redeeming features. Relatively few characters are entirely bad. If they were it'd be pretty boring. Rogue can leave Gambit to die on the ice without being psychotically evil. But maybe more to the point, the superhero medium relies on a belief in redemption. If people were wholly bad, then it'd be perfectly legitimate to just kill them. (Some comics do operate under this principle, though they aren't regulated by the CCA, which frowns on killing. Both The Authority and Hellblazer cheerfully kill off characters whom they consider to be irredemable, but both comics operate under the world views of some pretty jaded people -- Jenny Sparks and John Constantine.) Most superheroes take the bad guy (or girl) down and then make him (or her) understand that what he/she did was *wrong*.
Refusing to individualize. I know there are just *way* too many characters in some books (and I do seem to be giving Marvel most of my focus, and I apologize to any DC people who feel neglected), but that's not an excuse to write the characters generically. They generally have incredibly elaborate personal histories, most of which can be found in databases on the web if you don't particularly feel like buying the several hundred comics involved.
What advice would you give someone who is just entering the fandom?
READ THE COMICS!!! Seems obvious, but it's actually stunningly difficult to get people to deal with this one. Reading the fic is not enough. In fact, reading the fic will probably do you more harm than good, because the body of work isn't developed enough to give you any kind of range, and there's a dearth of really insightful writers to balance out the bad ones.
Acknowledge the world outside. Even if you don't take the characters on adventures, do try to keep in mind that having adventures is what they do.
Do not write Gambit slash. I know you're tempted. I know you want to. Don't. Do not go there. It will lead you to ruin and bad angst-fests.
Impressions of the X-Men movie don't translate well to X-Men comics writing.
Characterization does not end where sex begins.
Read old stuff for character, but pay more attention to the recent stuff. We don't need to re-hash the events of 1989 (to pick a year at random) forever.
Get dirty. Get weird. Get creative. The fandom needs it desperately.
How would you summarize the state of writing in your fandom? Are you generally impressed with the fic you see, or does it make you want to bang your head against the wall?
I'll take door number 2, Stan. Comics slashdom is the sort of thing that would make me run screaming, except that I'm enjoying *writing* it, dammit.
Seriously, there's dearth of good slash, and good fic of any kind right now. Summer's bad anyway, because the children are all gone from their college computer accounts, and the best TV's on hiatus, though the latter shouldn't matter in comics fandom.
It's a small fandom, and slashdom is an even smaller part of it. While most fandom's I've visited tend to divide themselves along het/slash lines, this one tends to divide itself along gen/smut lines. There's a widespread prejudice against mixing sex with comics. I'd like to ask why, but I can frankly see why -- a lot of what's out there on the smut side is painfully bad. Not all, but a hell of a lot.
The result is that I tend to read non-slash & non-erotica writers. They just do better work. Because they're thinking about the canon, and about the characters, and recent canonical events. Most of the stories I get excited about aren't slash.
Any other pet peeves/advice/general thoughts?
If there are talented slashers out there who could be lured into comics slash, please let me lure you. You've never *seen* a field with so much potential so badly neglected. Comics play with a wonderful range of archetypes, even more so than things like Star Trek.
I'm interested in the possibility that a few good writers could really get loose from slash conventions in this fandom. Because if you start from characters rather than from erotica/romance patterns, there's enormous room to manoeuver. And several comics are just starting to explore the idea of gay superheroes, where it's the latter descriptor and not the former that's important. Hell, I'd just like to addict every happy slasher to the early Authority issues and let them run wild with Apollo and The Midnighter for a bit.
Not all are fic. Because comics are a visual as well as textual medium, I'm going to include artists.
You start with Devo. A lot of his fics are unfinished. Read 'em anyway. Then check out his art, which is it's own kind of wonderful. And because he really hit the nail on the head when he asked *why* borderline softcore het stuff was meeting CCA standards when a very chaste gay kiss would get a whole issue booted. http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Club/2574/devolution.htm
Then you go visit Glockgal (if the pics don't show for you on Netscape, try running Explorer), who's just about the most magnificent artist/slasher I've encountered, and who runs across a lot of the comics spectrum (Marvel, DC, Vertigo, original stuff). http://www.dreamwater.org/glockgal/
After that you visit Alicia Mackenzie. She maintains the Dayspring archive and most of her stuff is there. She's not a slasher, but she's given more attention to character psychology than I ever thought I'd see in a fanfic writer. http://antiochene.tripod.com/dayspring/index.htm
The Draco Stories, which explore a kind of AU life for Robin II (Batman universe -- Robin II was killed off in the early 80s). Though it doesn't appear to have been added to the site yet, keep your eyes open for the Draco & Azrael story, "Suicide is Painless." http://thundercrack.hispeed.com/dracoverse.htm
Tangerine got famous doing Rictor/Shatterstar, but I think she did better work on her Northstar/Archangel series "Toronto," "The Edge," "Inside Out," and "Caribbean Blue," in which she takes a pair of canonically unlikable characters and makes them sympathetic. http://members.tripod.com/~gaffaa/slash.html
And for sheer, happy smut, O's stories, found at X-Men Slash Central. Only O is allowed to write Gambit slash. http://free.freespeech.org/x-men/author.html#n-s
Te's "Julio," which we determined is an actual comics story she did in which I was not at all involved. *g* Anything by Te is good. http://strangeplaces.net/te/index.html
And, um, speaking of things Te and I do together... watch our sites for "Little Gods," aka the story that ate Janete. Sex! Angst! Humour! More sex! Trailer coming soon. Story coming soon after.