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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 These mostly come from older fandoms and they're written to outdated conventions.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.

Riddle me this.Collapse )
Tags: [poll]
dvornik deluxekriski on May 9th, 2005 11:56 pm (UTC)
i picked "sometimes" for enjoying your recs...because i don't know all the fandoms you rec. and i'm not reading all the stuff you rec, even if i know and like the fandom.

as for the last question, i picked "other" because the last choice sounded kinda rude. though, the sentiment of "i don't really know anything about you outside of fandom, so i'm really not qualified" fits.
aweszomerthsinsense on May 10th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
Due to fatigue, I chose not to read all of the previous comments on this post. My apologies if what I'm saying is old hat by now.

I recommend stories that are flawed or outdated if they have a transcendental moment -- something that really caught or hooked me -- and/or if I think they will serve to inspire other writers. When recommending these stories, I try to emphasize what's good about them (which can be a way of pointing out what's not-so-good). I'll occasionally describe a story's flaws, but always emphasize that it is a personal opinion. I tend not to recommend stories that have blatant grammatical or spelling errors, unless the author has already acknowledged these errors, or is a non-native English speaker, in which case I feel a warning is warranted.
some kind of mandroidtrakkie on May 10th, 2005 01:02 am (UTC)
This is something I struggle with all the time, even though I don't rec things all that often. There's a certain Sports Night story that I love, and tend to read over and over again, yet I'm embarrased to tell people I even like it, much less rec it.

Anyway, as for reccing the flawed stories - perhaps you could rec them without actually reccing the story. Have a categories like "Best Clark tells Lex Scene" or "Best Purple Prose Stories". It's not quite a full on rec, it's not quite a warning, but it gives people the chance to see the stories and make up their own minds about whether they want to read them or not.

As for your job - I voted for library school, because I've always wanted to go. But many of my friends who have recently graduated from library school are either unemployed or working at jobs that they are very overqualified for. It's not a good time to be a librarian. Pharmacy school would give you much more stability. Plus, you could always freelance while you were in school, to keep some money rolling in.
torch: bunny!flambeau on May 10th, 2005 01:06 am (UTC)
I don't rec as much as I think I do (no really, in my head, I'm a reccer, but on my actual rec page, I'm a slacker), and I rarely bother to make caveats. But after having read this thread, and seen a post on crack_van that recced a story from 2001 with the caveat that it was a bit dated, I'm now madly curious as to how different people define "older" stories. Is it a years thing or a style thing or both? soul-searing kisses in the Rain of Nebulous Angst cracked me up, but I honestly thought wallows were timeless. :)
¿es eso un libro de besos?: continuity (by Lanning)darthfox on May 10th, 2005 01:15 am (UTC)
rambly - sorry
okay -- on the first couple of questions, i chose more than one answer because i do never recommend anything. it's just not part of my, how you say, participation in fandom. i don't read enough to recommend things; i read things based on recommendations. i know, i'm a total snob, but there it is.

all that said, on stuff that i (occasionally) write, I Do Not Warn, even for potentially disturbing content (and i don't read warnings, either -- if i see them, i skip past them to get to the actual text), because my feeling is that i (or the author) made an effort to construct the thing in a particular way, and part of the strength of whatever the warned-for thing is depends on what comes before it, etc., etc. -- warning=spoiler, in my mind. i know i'm not alone on that, but i know a lot of us who think that way are not in the majority, and that's really okay. i'm just sayin'.

but fox, you cry, you checked "with descriptive warnings" up there! yeah -- but i wouldn't want the description to be of the content as much as of the style. i have absolutely no problem with the concept of a rec that says "wow, this was really impressive, and could have been even more so if someone had run an adverb-catcher through it once or twice." or whatever.

in fact -- okay, i lied, above, because i did do a stint at tpm_flashback (though i didn't manage to turn in my full eight recs), and in fact i believe one of mine was sort of like that: i liked this, even though it was not without Issues, style-wise. [shrug] the trouble is that you say your own personal rules preclude that sort of "warning", which is a stumper. :-) i'm not a fan of relaxing one's own personal rules -- i'm that stubborn -- but it sounds to me like you want to be able to relax yours in a way that's consistent with your standards.

which brings me to "some other differentiated way to rec things" -- is there a reason you can't have a "Slashy Honorable Mention" category? in which you say something like "OMG y'all, you must read this, because trust me, the confusion between its and it's will be AS NOTHING to the brilliance of the story." i mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but there's a Very Well-Known Series, by a very well-known writer with lots of fans, in one of those S fandoms you name, that could be described this way. it's a matter of what is enough to throw a person out of something, normally, and thus what the story in question is able to overcome. your own poll answers reveal that you know a lot of people wouldn't agree there's anything flawed about the things you're talking about anyway. me, i can handle typos, but i really do get twitchy about its/it's and lay/lie. i know. dangerously pedantic.

ooh, and i'm running late.
Sylvia: Midnight Lady (by anna_bolina)rheasilvia on May 10th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
About whether I enjoy the stories you recommend:

Admittedly, I don't read them, because with rare exceptions, they're in fandoms I'm not interested in. But I love your reccing style. It's funny, witty and highly entertaining, and I read your recs for that, while also fervently hoping that you will - from time to time - rec stories in fandoms I want to read. Or maybe fall into my fandoms head-first. Or something. ;-)
Wyoming Knott: ed/nick otp!wyomingnot on May 10th, 2005 01:25 am (UTC)
The stories you rec that I do read, I enjoy. I don't read all of them because I need new fandoms like I need. Well. You know. Or not.

But I almost always read through the recommendations because they are entertaining in their own right.

Recommending stuff with warnings... like you said, maybe not slashy awards.. but.. runners-up, sorta.

I don't publicly rec. Or at least I haven't in ages. But I do occasionally rec stuff with warnings. Stuff worth reading for whatever reason, but still too flawed to rec without the caveat.


Now where's the porn?
that'll give you beeszoetrope on May 10th, 2005 01:48 am (UTC)
Ok, first - yay! A poll! What fun :)

I answered that I'd recommend them conditionally, and my condition would be how I felt about the story overall. If there was one perfect scene but the rest of the story left me cold, had no resonance, I wouldn't rec it. But if, despite its flaws, the story as a whole stayed with me, drew me in, then I probably would rec it.

And I think it would be great to read recs like that, but perhaps you could post them in regular "And also..." posts? Or have an "And finally" conditional rec at the end of your usual awards? With a 'why it worked for you and why it didn't' explanation?

Either way, I always enjoy your recs, so more of 'em can only be a good thing!

Oh, and a couple of my friends went to library school, and both regretted it ;)
Daegaer: fairy hair by ladyjaidadaegaer on May 10th, 2005 01:55 am (UTC)
On reccing: Perhaps you could have an "Ancient Texts" post, where you rec the older stuff? (Mind you, I found that Foremothers of Smut ("Foresmutters"? I forget) site and the fic on it was so incredibly hideous that I fled weeping into the night). And for the Cracked Diamonds, perhaps an "Honourable Mentions" post?

As for the career, here, have some barely solicited advice: if the freelancing is dependable enough stick with it, but think about checking out getting a permanent job in one of the areas you write in, as it will hopefully give you more security in case you need to pay for any big medical bills for your father. When he's better (I hope it's soon) think about college and a career change, but don't load too much stuff on your plate right now.
louiselux on May 10th, 2005 02:16 am (UTC)
I rec flawed stories sometimes, but explain briefly why I think it's not perfect. If I'm honest, it's because I'm partly worried about people thinking I haven't spotted the flaws; if someone recced me a story with spelling errors or bad characterisation and didn't mention it I might not trust their judgement again.
Taz: Perversiontazical on May 10th, 2005 02:18 am (UTC)
a) Sometimes I read something where one scene stands out to me- I might not even *remember* what happens in the rest of the fic but that one bit is so wonderful that I'll wrap it up and carry it around carefully in my head and pull it out to polish every so often. I will rec those fics to people, but I'll also slap on some heavy disclaimers for those that wouldn't want to read it or might just read the first line and think I was a freak with bad fic taste. *g*

b) I picked the baby option because then you'd be up all night with nothing to do anyway, so you might as well write us recs all the time. Yes. My logic is unflawed.
the upper echelons of mediocrity: Evidently gaythe_star_fish on May 10th, 2005 04:56 am (UTC)
Well, I promised to 'splain, so ...

#3 - My recommending is spotty, and depends a lot on whether I have the time and want to make the effort. But yes, I will and have recced stories that weren't perfect on the basis of REALLY good ... something. (Plot, characterization, etc.)

#4 - Thing is, there are a lot of people for whom the slightest error in spelling is Unforgivable, and they will stop reading a story without giving it any further chance. There's a chance that if they knew it would be worth it, though -- if there's one shining paragraph later on, or what-have-you -- then their lives would be enriched and all would be shiny. Or something. I personally would hate to miss out on the good bits for the bad, and will often keep reading doggedly in the hopes of finding the diamond ...

#5 - I rarely read out-of-my-fandom, but your recs for "my" shows are always worth reading.

the upper echelons of mediocrity: Ani-methe_star_fish on May 10th, 2005 05:06 am (UTC)
Also, I would love a link to that Smallville story - dbaker01201 at yahoo dot com. "How does Clark tell Lex after lying to him all this time" is one of my very favoritest themes ...
Sciuridasciurida on May 10th, 2005 05:16 am (UTC)
So, I'm observing that you got a lot of comments by now, but I'll answer anyway since I put "Other" on the poll, and because I feel just a little honored to be able to comment on this thing ;)

I don't rec things all that much, and when I do it's mostly on impulse or if someone asks me too (because I read fandoms they are interested in). But when I do, I also rec fics that are not perfect or has flaws (but as others have mentioned this is also a question of how many truly great fics there are, in some smaller fandoms I read, and I read mainly slash, there are perhaps one or two truly great fics. So if I wouldn't rec (or read) any other kind of fic, this would very much minimize my (or those I rec to's) reading experience ;) I tend to not mention or explicitly mention faults though, unless I talk to the person I'm reccing them to privately.

Second about handling this here. Obviously you have a quite large reader base, so this would be different for you. Although, as others as mentioned, this is also after all your playground, so it should be up to you to set the rules!

What I really like about your recs is how you present them and how you explain why you like the story. And I think that if you keep why you like the story (whether it's old or an cracked diamond) in focus there shouldn't be a problem mentioning the flaws (cause I see in the poll that many people would like warnings, this isn't a concern for me though, I'd pretty much read anything!) An own section could certainly work, but I would be careful how you present it, because for some strange reason people tend to get easily offended in fandom.

I also want to say that I myself would be very interested in getting recs of both kind of stories (for ex, you really got me interested in reading it by just the little you wrote about that Smallville story) But as I said before I'm not at all an selective reader.

And I generally love a lot of the stories you rec, so I guess I will also take this chance to say thank you for all the great stories you've made me read!

As for career choices I am probably no good as I will probably be hanging around university for years to come despite not being certain of getting a job after. I think you should stay with freelancing if you like it, but as I am also quite tempted to say that you should consider pharmacy. Though this is mostly because I found your description of it highly amusing.

This also got ridiculously long, eh, sorry.
flyingtapesflyingtapes on May 10th, 2005 05:28 am (UTC)
When I reccomend, I'll usually say something like, "and while I think the story could have benefitted from a more thorough beta, I really loved the Harry/Draco scenes," right? It's bitten me in the ass a couple of times, but nothing I couldn't squash down.
Carol Slapillus on May 10th, 2005 05:35 am (UTC)
I'm for reccing with caveats generally. For one thing, that which bugs you may not bug others or may be something their willing to put up with to get kinks or other good stuff.

As for jobs, see if you can find a flexible permanent one at the moment.