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09 May 2005 @ 07:00 pm
Poll: When Good Isn't Good Enough  
This post is friends-locked, not to exclude anyone, but because I can see how it could bite me on the butt. Once bitten, twice shy, and that goes double if it's my buttocks that are in jeopardy. (Which isn't to say no one can bite me on the butt, because, you know, some people are welcome to, but...you know what? Let's not go there. There's knowledge man was not meant to know, and there's knowledge no reasonable person wants to know.) If all goes well, I'll unlock it in a few days, because I would really like to hear from everyone on this. (Note: now no longer friends-locked!)

Now, on to the pre-poll. (Please move in an orderly fashion. No flash cameras or video allowed. Not suitable for children under three.)

How do you recommend something that's flawed? My policy has always been that if I have to put in a caveat of any kind, I won't be recommending it. (There's a practical reason for this. Actually, two. First, if I start mentioning weaknesses and strengths, it's the first step on the slippery slope to balanced perspectives, and impartiality, and thought-provoking essays, and...look, I didn't start this LJ to reprise my college English classes. I live two blocks from a college. If I wanted to write papers, I could go do it for post-graduate credit; here, I want to be idiosyncratic and personal and wildly biased. Second reason - fandom is wonderful. But it's also a bit bitey, if you see what I mean. A lot of authors view their stories as babies (boy, did I learn that one the hard way, when I was young and relatively pure), and they respond instinctively and violently to any criticism, no matter how constructive or carefully-phrased or accurate or surrounded by truthfully positive remarks. I don't need more flames, thanks.)

The no-recommending-if-it's-got-a-flaw-worth-mentioning policy has worked for more than a year. But over that year, my list of stories that I consider unrecommendable but still want to keep and re-read has grown and grown. It contains two major categories of problem stories:
  • Older stories. These mostly come from older fandoms and they're written to outdated conventions. You know the kind I mean. Purple prose, and romance-novel language, and soul-searing kisses in the Rain of Nebulous Angst, and, look. I can handle all that stuff. In the presence of sufficient brilliance, I can even ignore it. But in the oldest fandoms, it was the default writing style; everything seems to have been written with Barbara Cartland firmly in mind. (Yes, there are exceptions. Many exceptions. I'm generalizing here, so stay with me.)

    There are other problems with the older stuff, too - for example, things that we now consider the worst kind of cliche (yes, there are good cliches; I love many of them), presented with painful sincerity. Yes, I know they weren't cliches then. It doesn't help as much as you'd hope. Or - no, never mind with the list-making, because this isn't a rant. Let me just say instead that fandom has changed a lot since Kirk and Spock were staring into each other's blazing eyes, hardly daring to hope that this one poignant gesture of agonizing, consuming, soul-burning passion could be forgiven, and I'm happy with most of those changes. But there are some good stories from those days. Some great ones, too.

  • Cracked diamonds. These are unrecommendable because of a serious problem. Many of them are are visibly, noticeably, and highly regrettably unbeta'd. Others have a fucked up plot, or tin-ear dialog, or a character doing an absolutely out-of-character thing, or a writing experiment that didn't quite work. The list goes on and on. And yet, some of these stories also have elements that are sheer genius. It's not surprising. After all, these are the authors who aren't afraid to try experiments, right? Some work. Some really don't. And sometimes the working and the non-working are in the same story, unfortunately.

    I recently read a story that had a scene that was perfect. That scene was - OK, I think I can give some specifics without revealing too much. It was a Smallville story, and it was the Clark-finally-tells-Lex scene. (Not about the gay gay love. Lex already knows about that, or he's not as smart as he thinks he is. About the Alien Among Us thing.) And it was the best I've ever seen it done, just amazing, so perfectly written and in character and right that I wanted to weep. And then I realized that the story could never be recommended unless a good beta got ahold of it and did some very thorough work, and then I really wanted to weep. I have a lot of these stories, especially in fandoms beginning with 'S' (And has anyone ever noticed just how many fandoms do begin with 'S'? If I was making a new TV show, I'd call it Staruniverse. Maybe Super Sexy Staruniverse.) - SG1, SGA, SV, SW, and The Sentinel, which might or might not be an S-fandom.
I want to recommend these stories. Badly, in certain cases. But I have no means to do so, because my own rules prohibit recommending any story if I need to add a warning. (I do occasionally warn. But only about potentially disturbing content, or very rarely about first-level beta stuff - lots of usage mistakes, basically. Not about more serious or pervasive problems.)

So. On to the poll.

Poll #490902 Recommending the Unrecommendable

Please click this button so I know how many people took this poll.

Yes, honey, I AM taking this poll! Check out my hot click-on-click action!

Do you understand my descriptions of the problem stories?

I totally get them both, and could think of ten examples off the top of my head.
I think I do. I'd like some examples, though.
I get 'older stories' but not 'cracked diamonds.'
I get 'cracked diamonds' but not 'older stories.'
I don't get either one. Are you speaking real English?
I do, but I don't understand why you don't like them. What is you problem?
I didn't bother reading the descriptions. I'm in this for the ticky-boxes!

What do you normally do about such stories?

I recommend them. No warnings. I'm not offering a warranty against any and all defects; it's just a LJ.
I recommend one or both kinds, but only with descriptive warnings.
I sometimes recommend them, sometimes don't. Depends. (And I'm explaining what it depends on in the comments.)
I mostly don't recommend them, but I might. (And I'm explaining why in the comments.)
I recommend them only privately, not in LJ. Just in chat or email or whatever.
I never, ever recommend them.
I have never recommended ANYTHING, flawed or not. (And I'm explaining why in the comments.)
Other. (And I'm explaining what in the comments.)

I would like to see you, TFV, handle these stories thusly:

Recommend 'em just like any other story. You aren't offering a warranty, either.
Recommend 'em, but warn me, please. I have highly developed reading sensibilities.
Recommend 'em, but differentiate - maybe don't put them in a Slashy Award type post. (And I'm offering a suggestion about how to do this in the comments.)
Don't recommend them at all. I come here for only the greatest in FF, not for recs of dubious reliability.
Other. (And I'm saying what in the comments.)

I enjoy the stories you recommend.

Pretty much all the time.
Most of the time.
Almost never.
I don't even read them. I'm here for something else. (And I'm telling you what in the comments because I don't want you to die of curiosity.)
It's variable. (And I'm explaining that in the comments.)

As long as you're here, please give me some career advice.

Stay with the freelancing. You like it. And you need a flexible schedule because your father is so sick.
Try to get a real job doing one of the kinds of writing you freelance. (In comments, pick one: grants, reports, technical, other.)
Go to library school. You'd love it. You were born to librarianize up the stratosphere, baby.
Go to pharmacy school. You miss science a ton, and smut + drugs is a dream lifestyle, even if the drugs are legal and you won't be using them.
Screw the job stuff. Have a baby. You aren't getting any younger, you know, and you've always wanted kids. Maybe you won't screw them up beyond imagining.
Other. (Explained, of course, in the comments.)
Why are you even asking me? I'm only here for the smut.
Tags: [poll]
byobbyob_kenobi on May 9th, 2005 07:41 pm (UTC)
I answered the "other" on the reccing because I rarely rec anything, not because so few things catch my attention, but because I'm really lazy.
tried to eat the safe banana: Word whorethefourthvine on May 9th, 2005 08:45 pm (UTC)
Let us join hands and sing the song of lazy. (Actually, there is no song of lazy, because no one on the Committee of the Undermotivated ever managed to finish one, and even if someone had, we've never managed to come up with a quorum at a meeting, so we could never have ratified it. Still, we could hum something and fake it.)

In other words, I am so totally lazy. I just also have this horrible, antisocial compulsion to force everyone to read everything I like, and this LJ is the best way to yield to that compulsion without risking permanent, state-mandated confinement.

*departs, humming just one note, 'cause it's easier*

(And good luck on your superintendent thingy tomorrow. Power to the lazy!)
I saw you eating ice cream, pal!glossing on May 9th, 2005 07:43 pm (UTC)
I think something that sticks with you, that *does* have moments of sheer genius, ought to be recommended. But I get your hesitation; there are things I'm unsure of reccing publicly because I don't know how to explain why I'm reccing without giving everything away.

So maybe a separate category? Diamonds, Rough and Otherwise, or something, where you can rec what you like without the pressure of the Slashy Awards.

Also: Library school rocks, but pharmacy school would result in a higher-paying job.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - lyra_sena on May 9th, 2005 08:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - indywind on May 10th, 2005 05:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: The Diamond In The Rough - thefourthvine on May 9th, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Re: The Diamond In The Rough - copracat on May 9th, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 9th, 2005 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - glossing on May 10th, 2005 06:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - glossing on May 11th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
nestra on May 9th, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
If I think something has a flaw, I mention it, but I don't make a big deal out of it. I'll say something like "Has a few grammatical errors" or "A little dated" or "Sappy, but hits my buttons." I generally don't recommend something I think is hugely flawed, but if I did, I'd mention it.
Lucy: kittycereta on May 9th, 2005 08:28 pm (UTC)
What she said.

Also, I don't rec stuff because I have no confidence in my own taste. I blame English Departments for this.
(no subject) - cesperanza on May 9th, 2005 10:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 01:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 01:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 01:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nestra on May 10th, 2005 11:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
cyanei on May 9th, 2005 07:46 pm (UTC)
Babe, rec what you want to rec. This is your playground, so build that sandcastle however you want it. If a story is flawed, we can handle it. It might be cool if you could leave us a warning, so that we don't think you've gone off your nut (depending on what's wrong with the story, that is), but if you don't want to, also cool. ( :
tried to eat the safe banana: Stylethefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
First things first: where is the icon from? I have a Need to Know.

And now for the actual comment: thank you. Because I tend to forget that I started this to give me a place to play; I spend a lot more time than I should - which is not that much, but still - worrying about what people will think about what I write.

Actually, that's kind of amusing, given that a recs page is the most transparent kind of writing there is (besides certain kinds of marketing); you don't write recs so that people can read you, you write them so that people will click through and read someone else.

So I should not be writing this for other people to the exclusion of what I want to write. Thank you for reminding me of that.
(no subject) - cyanei on May 10th, 2005 02:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - afearfulthing on June 24th, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cyanei on June 24th, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - afearfulthing on June 24th, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: Suspicious owlthefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 02:00 am (UTC)
(I love the tulip, but I kind of miss your bronze face icon. I always knew immediately which icon to use in response, and it said "Shell" to me. This message has been brought to you by the Committee Against All Change.)

Dude, I feel completely incapable of giving anyone any sort of career advice right now, but I do hope whatever you choose works out great!

Well, I can sort of see why, because you're up to your knees in career-related stuff right now. But I'd still value your thoughts.

I think I still haven't stopped hoping that someday lightning would strike, and I'd just know what I was meant to do with my life. I mean, I'm good at freelance writing, and I mostly enjoy it, and I make money at it, and I'm very happy with the fringe benefits (namely, I don't have to deal with people and I can work from a hospital waiting room almost as easily as at home), but still - where's the lightning? So this poll question was likely the result of my pathetic belief that someone out there must have access to that lightning, and my way of saying that, if so, I was more than ready to be hit.

Except now I think I'm probably not, because that sounds scary and maybe not so comfortable.

And now I will stop rambling in response to your concise, relevant, and well-phrased comment. *ceases rambling; whole body immediately seizes up from the shock*
lunatangleofthorns on May 9th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC)
I have often said to someone, "I read this story, it was crap, but this one scene..."
tried to eat the safe banana: Sleepthefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 02:02 am (UTC)
Oh, I have too, but only one-on-one. I'm not sure I could do the same in an open LJ post, you know?
(no subject) - tangleofthorns on May 10th, 2005 07:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
fictionbya: Oz - CLaK chatfictionbya on May 9th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC)
I don't really rec much myself, but I'll rec the flawed-but-worthy types. I'd prefer polished brilliance to rough brilliance, but I'll take what I can get.

I am in NO position to offer anyone career advice.
shayheyredshayheyred on May 9th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC)
Just must say I love your icon more than a human should love anything. ::Wants, wants, wants::
(no subject) - fictionbya on May 9th, 2005 08:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shayheyred on May 9th, 2005 08:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 03:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fictionbya on May 10th, 2005 06:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
the pirate queen of norwayashkitty on May 9th, 2005 07:49 pm (UTC)
I think you should go ahead and recommend them. If you want to put in a caveat ("Could use work from a beta," or "back in the day before the cliche was a cliche", or something)...I tend to recommend things pretty randomly, if I felt better after reading it then it's probably okay to rec. But I'm not a perfectionist...or for that matter a very good reccer!

Oh, and I read them when they're in a fandom or genre that interests me...you're in a lot of fandoms I'm not, and some of the pairings totally don't interest me, but when you hit on something in my field, I usually do read and like them. :)
tried to eat the safe banana: Greek to methefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 07:28 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity (because I am ten pounds of curiousness in a one-pound sack), what are your fandoms/genres/pairings of interest?

*plans to re-do the fandoms poll soon*
(no subject) - ashkitty on May 10th, 2005 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Carla: baddest Ray (myhappyface)beledibabe on May 9th, 2005 07:49 pm (UTC)
I'm not offering any advice on your personal life, because I don't know enough to speak wisely. Do what your heart tells you.
tried to eat the safe banana: Heartbeatthefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 07:29 am (UTC)
(Query: who is that in your icon?)

The thing is, I've been waiting for my heart to speak up on this topic for a while. And so far, no luck.

Which I suppose actually means I'm more or less on the right path here. I hope that's what it means, anyway.
(no subject) - beledibabe on May 10th, 2005 07:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
Merlin Missymtgat on May 9th, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
I love the idea of a "Cracked Diamond" category.

I rarely read what you rec (sorry) because it's almost never in my fandoms, and the ones that are I've already read. But I find your commentary entertaining. :D

You could go to pharmacy school and be a good pharmacist and smile when you hand out the emergency contraception, and this would be a nice change from the other pharmacists sweeping the country. Or you could keep freelancing, or whatever works for you.
Iphiginia Saberhagen: Cleo's OR icon (OR they?)fanofall on May 9th, 2005 08:33 pm (UTC)
I LOVE your pharmacological suggestion. And perhaps she could do this radical thing where she reminds the other pharmacists that that's THEIR JOB.

Or not. I'm just sayin'. :-D
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 09:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mtgat on May 10th, 2005 10:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
lynnmonsterlynnmonster on May 9th, 2005 07:53 pm (UTC)
I answered "other" for reccing, because I tend to only rec stuff on impulse, not in any organized or hierarchical fashion.

Also, I do suggest that you recommend some of these flawed-in-some-way stories -- because I'd love to read them! -- but differentiate them from your awards-type recs.

Unfortunately, I don't have a brilliant solution for doing so, but if you're concerned about author reaction, perhaps you should just refer to them as stories that you have certain reservations about, or issues with, rather than flat-out stating that they're flawed. (Although I personally wouldn't care if someone described a story of mine as "flawed.")

I mean, I wouldn't even need to know *why* you have second thoughts about reccing them normally; the simple fact that you do would be enough warning for me.
tried to eat the safe banana: Love writingthefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 09:16 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity, would you like to read the flawed-in-some-way stories because, you know, stories, or specifically because they're flawed (or because I think they are)? (I.e., sheer fannish voraciousness v. diagnostic type thingy. And I'm so very verbal this morning, with all the highly technical "thingy" use.)

Although I personally wouldn't care if someone described a story of mine as "flawed."

Oddly enough, I'd feel comfortable putting warnings on dS stories, and it's the only large fandom I can say that about. And I think that's because the writing quality is generally so high - like, I assume that good writers are also mature writers. Which is not necessarily the case, I guess, although it sure seems like it.

Of course, I wouldn't want to slap a caveat on dS FF that often. Your own work, for example, only ever deserves the warning of "crack fic," but, really, people who need that sort of warning are no fun. (You also just generally require the warning "God don't bring up that cracked-out Mini Evil Fraser idea around Lynn, 'cause you know she'll write it." But you're special that way.)
(no subject) - lynnmonster on May 10th, 2005 05:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
The Porn Fairy: K/S McShepshetiger on May 9th, 2005 07:55 pm (UTC)
I do recommend flawed stories from time to time, and I do so with warnings of what the problem is. But I admit I'm a chicken shit--I only do this when I'm fairly certain that the author isn't on lj or doesn't move in my circles.

As far as your recommendations--I enjoy the stories you rec in the fandoms that I read. A lot of times, I just enjoy your fascinating write-ups. :)
tried to eat the safe banana: Friendthefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 09:22 am (UTC)
A lot of times, I just enjoy your fascinating write-ups. :)

Thank you!

But I admit I'm a chicken shit--I only do this when I'm fairly certain that the author isn't on lj or doesn't move in my circles.

Now that is a solution I hadn't considered. Hmmm. Of course, half the time I have no idea who is reading my LJ. But still. It's an interesting thought. :)
(Deleted comment)
cimness on May 9th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
oh, i meant to mention that in my comment below but then forgot in the middle of composing it.

how rare is the perfect story? if i wanted to include only stories that were really outstanding enough to satisfy me, that didn't have anything in them to bother me, they'd be quite few. and i don't know if i could find five stories total from all the fandoms i've read that i couldn't find a flaw in. but i think that some flaws i consider minor are major to other people, and vice-versa.

i've had several people tell me they appreciate the way i try to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the stories, that it helps them pick which ones to read. i guess by summarising that kind of thing i kind of let them choose themselves.

(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 10:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cimness on May 10th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on May 10th, 2005 09:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
shayheyredshayheyred on May 9th, 2005 07:57 pm (UTC)
I'd like to see these "problematic" stories handled with a recommendation, because you like them, and want others to read them, but with comments, rather than warnings, as in, "in my opinion it needed serious beta work for unnecessary misspellings that detract from the story," or "The prose may be too florid for your taste, but stick with it." You know. Subjective comments, rather than specific, rigid types of warnings: "WARNING: Purple Prose" or "BE WARNED: typos."
tried to eat the safe banana: Friendthefourthvine on May 13th, 2005 07:24 pm (UTC)
That's a good point. I tend to put my content warnings/WiP warnings in big flaming letters that will catch people's eyes before they click; it should be possible to write a rec that mentions problems but doesn't focus on them.

If written with enough finesse. So there's the question of whether or not I can do that; my general style is to babble about whatever pops into my mind. Finesse may not be my strong suit.
Jonathan Toews does not want a sandwich.svmadelyn on May 9th, 2005 07:57 pm (UTC)
Well, since you committed me to comments with the poll, here goes:

I rec whatever I'm in the mood to rec. Sometimes I want to draw attention to an author, if not the story they just wrote. Sometimes I want to give an ego boost. Sometimes I think something was amazing, and if there's even one person on my f-list who has not read this thing mentioned *everywhere else*, why, it is my fannish duty to share this with them. I rec even if there was an issue I had with the story, and sometimes I'll say if I had one, or sometimes I won't, because you know--sometimes what hits me wrong might be another person's cup of tea and with me saying that I didn't enjoy some aspect, I don't want to send them in there with that sort of...weird bias.

I tend to think through how I rec things way more than I should, I suspect, and if I ever suspect that multiple people might appreciate a specific warning, I do that for them.

Also, I am very curious on the SV story you mentioned. Would you mind e-mailing me?

Oh, and so you don't 'die of curiosity', I just like the *way* you rec things, but no, I don't read them. My recs are...really straight-forward and rather unpretty most of the time, but I still do them because finding a SV reccer is a precious and rare thing these days, and I genuinely like doing it. *g* You make stories sound gloriously interesting, and I'm sure sometime I'll come back to them and pick a random fandom or theme and just go for it. But for now, I just like reading what you consider to be important in a rec, how you structure your reasoning.
tried to eat the safe banana: Leedsthefourthvine on May 13th, 2005 07:31 pm (UTC)
I rec even if there was an issue I had with the story, and sometimes I'll say if I had one, or sometimes I won't, because you know--sometimes what hits me wrong might be another person's cup of tea and with me saying that I didn't enjoy some aspect, I don't want to send them in there with that sort of...weird bias.

You've definitely summed up my problem with recommending the flawed stories; I'm worried that the flaw will be the only thing people notice in the rec or in the story itself, which would sort of defeat the point.

Also, I am very curious on the SV story you mentioned. Would you mind e-mailing me?

Um. I will, if you like. But the thing is, I know you're very much the SV maven, and I'm concerned that you know the author in question - I don't know that you do, mind, just that you might.

Actually, I'd be interested in your take on the scene I liked so much. It may well have been done like that in other stories I haven't found yet. And you may not agree that it's in character or perfect; my conception of the characters is likely different than yours. So we could do a trade: you tell me what you think, I tell you why I liked what I liked. Privately, of course. Let me know if you like that idea, or if you just want the link, or what.

But for now, I just like reading what you consider to be important in a rec, how you structure your reasoning.

Wow. Thank you. That's high praise indeed.
(no subject) - svmadelyn on May 13th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)