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15 January 2006 @ 01:00
So I was responding to musesfool's nifty keen post about how she intereacts with fiction fannishly, and how she identifies herself as a 'shipper, and it got me thinking.

I get written off as "just" a 'shipper all the time in fandom ("written off" may be a bit harsh, but probably it's accurate, and for the same reason I think sometimes I get a following because so much of what I write revolves around certain 'ships and so I get identified as writting romantic "shipper" fic even when I personally don't think I am) but I think for me it's being about characters more than romance a lot of the time. Because to me, 'ship is short for "relationship." As in, I dig the dynamics between certain people, and want to see them explored. Both in fannish consumption, and creation.

I have had (and continue to have) the hardest time explaining to people that when I say I'm craving, for example, Clark & Chloe fic, I'm not necessarily looking for a) sex b) a white picket fence ending or c) romance fiction. What I want is stories which explore their relationship, or at the very least, show some reasonable facsimile of it since that friendship (with the hook of the possibility of more than friendship) was really my hook into the series itself. And I am always desperate for fiction which explores Clark and Chloe's relationship precisely because the series has let me down over the years, and when it does come through (which it somewhat surprisingly did a few times last year and this year) it just whets my appetite for MORE. And so I turn to fandom. Or, when I get bit by the bug, I write. That's just who I am. But I don't really think of it as "shipperfic" so much as just, well... fanfic.

It's like with Firefly. If you asked people, 9 out of 10 would call me "just' a Simon/Kaylee writer. But the truth is, I am ALL ABOUT Mal as well--in fact, a huge chunk of what I've written is really about Mal. And it is the only Whedon series where I give a damn at all about the lead, which is HUGE for me, but more than that, it's a true ensemble in a way that "Buffy" and "Angel" never were for me. And I am fascinated by the group dynamics, and how these people relate to one another. And even when I write about Simon and Kaylee, it's not that I think they ought to be together forever, or would be, or even should be. Actually, to be realistic about it, I don't think it's that kind of love. It's NOT marriage and 2.3 children love. But that doesn't mean it's not love, or capable of actually being worthwhile, even if it's not "forever." It's that the juxtaposition of these two very very different people, from completely different backgrounds, with completely different life experiences, interest me and drew me in. And frankly, Kaylee's crush did a LOT to make me care about Simon. Cos I think if that element hadn't been there, I prolly wouldn't have cared about him as a character they way I ultimately did.

(as for Mal/Inara, I do think that's another doomed one, but I still love it because of the way Mal needs Inara and what that says about him as a character. But I'd have to say that if there's a Mal 'ship that I find fascinating, it's actually Mal & River. Ever since the end of "Objects in Space.")

But to me, the characters and relationships are the hooks into an ongoing series. And yeah, A LOT of those relationships are romantic. But a lot of them aren't.

I love Mal and Kaylee. BIGLY. I also love Zoe and Mal, and how Wash fitted into that picture on the series and in the movie, and I am always prolly going to wonder what might have been had the series stuck around for another 9 episodes. I adore the father & son relationship and generally fucked up dynamics of Chuck and Neil Taggart in Odyssey 5. Like, WHOA. I love how Adama and Roslin's relationship has changed MASSIVELY over the first two series of BSG. I adore Stormer Phillips precisely because she is sort of stuck between two groups of people and has relationships with both, at times with the audience being her only witness, and how many more layers her character has than most of the other characters for me. Also, I love the fact that in a series where most of the characters lvie in manions and drive fancy cars, she lives in a little ranch style hosue in the 'burbs and appears to drive a beat up Toyota. This interests me.

I love how two fucked up people like Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne can be better together than apart, even they know they will ultimately ALWAYS be apart, that doesn't stop them from trying for together now and then. Even if it's only for a moment of comfort. I love how deeply Benton Fraser cares for both Rays, and how that kind of friendship is so rare. I love how incredibly bizarrely everyone on Vr5 loves Sydney yet she never comes off to me as a horrific Lana-esque Mary Sue. I love how Chloe Sullivan is still the most interesting person on SV for me even when she's stuck with no plotline and almost no scenes outside either the Torch or the Planet. Because like Padme in Star Wars, Chloe is just about the only character we don't know the future of, and so that to me makes me want to know where she'll end up precisely because we DO know where the rest of the story is going.

I love the Doctor and Rose and Jack like mad, and I love watching the relationships on new Who shift and change. I am AMAZED how MUCH was packed into the 14.05 eps we've seen thus far. I still can't quite believe how much I love Mickie and Jackie, but I can't stop thinking about how smart the characterisation is, even when RTD's plots suck like a Hoover. In fact, it's precisely because I love the character dynamics that I can forgive the incredibly bad plotting on some series. Because I get blinded by the love. But also, because the emotional TRUTH of the thing becomes so much more important than the niggling details like why exactly Pete Tyler's life being saved causes a massive temporal instability while a 4 year old named Jaime lived when he originally died, yet with zero negative affects apparently.

(we won't get into the part where actually Pete Tyler being alive shouldn't ought to have had a thing to do with causing the wound in time--it was the Doctor and Rose being there twice that actually did it, and it BUGS ME to this day that the ep is structured the way it is, and just don't get me started on the stupidity and lack of logic of the temporal mechanics of Doctor Who. It's just a BAD PLAN.)

Yes, I like romance fiction. But that's mainly because a) I am an incurably romantic at heart and b) I am an emotional VAMPIRE who absolutely is drawn to stories about people and how they interact. I dig relationships. I dig group dynamics. They interest me. So when you combine these two, yeah--a lot of what I read and a big chunk of what I write tends to revolve around relationships.

But I think there's this idea out there that there that fiction about relationships is only ever really about ROMANTIC or sexual relationships. And that it only comes in two flavours: angst and fluff. And that BUGS me. Mainly cos people and stories can and are interesting if they're told well, and stories about people's relationships just happen to be catnip to me. And I don't want them watered down and doused in saccharine, or conversely darkened to the point of "13 year old girl listening to goth industrial music while writing bad poetry" operatic drivel. Both extremes are toxic, so far as I'm concerned.

I just want them to be well-written, and interesting, and feel true. And truth isn't pretty. It's usually messy and awkward, and I like messy and awkward, me. I want to read a story and believe in it.
Dualbunny: TeeVee! - nautibitzdualbunny on 15th January 2006 08:21 (UTC)

profshallowness: malkaylee by sofamiliarprofshallowness on 15th January 2006 08:32 (UTC)
That completely makes sense. As does:

I have (and continue to have) the hardest time explaining to people that when I say I'm craving, for example, Clark/Chloe fic, I'm not necessarily looking for a) sex b) a white picket fence ending or c) romance fiction.

Shipping - even if it isn't always canonical and the fic goes on to make major suppositions about the likely dynamic between two characters that fans know well - really doesn't have to fit into the two extremes that you talk about. I love what you say about fic reflectng the attraction of characters and bringing emotional truths out about them.
Kathryn A: CallyDockerravonsen on 15th January 2006 11:08 (UTC)
I think that's why I wouldn't ever call myself a 'shipper. Because the relationship in 'ship is always a romantic one, and that's too limiting. I am primarily interested in friendship -- and for me, that can include romance or not include romance; like you, I'm interested in the characters and their relationships with each other. And I don't find any romance interesting if it doesn't at least start with friendship. It's far more interesting to me to see a deep level of trust develop between two people than it is to see two people lusting after each other.

That's why Doctor/Rose is so fascinating (when done well), because of that level of trust. That's why I want to see an AU where Cally lives long enough for Avon/Cally to happen, because of the amazing difficulty it is in getting Avon to trust anyone, and how loyal he is when he does. That's why Avon & Blake and Avon & Vila is so interesting. That's why Scarecrow and Mrs. King draw me in, seeing Lee breaking down his self-protective superficial way of relating to people, and finding Amanda someone he can actually rely on, who draws him out of himself. And you already pointed out the fascination of Sydney... and again, the Sydney/Oliver thing is another one of those trust & loyalty things and drawing out an untrusting person...

Gee, I hadn't realized how much my favourite relationships revolve around trust...

so I get identified as writting romantic "shipper" fic even when I personally don't think I am

It's a bit hard for people not to call you a shipper when you make websites dedicated to a particular 'ship, though, don't you think? (Better With Two)
ljc: nine/rose kisstaraljc on 15th January 2006 16:21 (UTC)
It's a bit hard for people not to call you a shipper when you make websites dedicated to a particular 'ship, though, don't you think? (Better With Two)

But you'll notice that BWT is very explicit about the fact that it's about the Doctor and Rose's relationship in canon, whether folks are fans of the platonic friendship or supporting a romantic or erotic relationship--and everything inbetween.

And I specifically refer to it as "The Doctor & Rose" rather than "Doctor/Rose" for that same reason.
warinbabylonwarinbabylon on 15th January 2006 12:45 (UTC)
Yup. I completely agree with this view. Relationship exploration is an exciting, fun and, at times, quite challenging thing to undertake. Admittedly relationships remain an enigma (like to this day I can't explain why my parents are together.,..they're so different...but they are) and to write about them with characters that we know and care about helps to explore the enigma. It's safe and a stretch of the imagination and fun and...sometimes you just need the hawt sex...you know?

But yes, I do agree.

And are you doing that panel at Gally?
Merlin Missy: First OTPmtgat on 15th January 2006 15:16 (UTC)
I love you 'cause you're smart. Yes, "relationship" doesn't always mean "flowers, candy, hawt sex, babies, and/or woe." For me, the well-written 'ship is all about two (or three) people who have some kind of complex friendship that drives them both a little crazy and they know it but they still have to function together every day so they're trying to act like grownups and occasionally they fail. Sometimes it's romantic, and sometimes it's completely/mostly platonic but it's always fascinating.

Worrals: The Fantastic Fourlivii on 15th January 2006 15:37 (UTC)
A very, very good post. I often find myself standing up for genficcers/genreaders, but if fandom would adopt your very sensible views on shipping, that would be much less necessary, because the gap between ship and gen would become less noticeable and less of a chasm.

My opinion on Father's Day is that it was the second Rose changing timelines while the first Rose was still there too that did it - the vulnerability of the two sets being there compounded by the life-status change - but that's just my way of patching it over in my mind, heh.
Kathryn A: CallyDockerravonsen on 15th January 2006 20:51 (UTC)
because the gap between ship and gen would become less noticeable and less of a chasm

Yes! And in the past and/or in some fandoms, it isn't a chasm; when I first got into fandom, in the Blake's 7 fandom, there weren't separate categories for 'ship and gen: it was all gen. (The main splits were gen/slash/adult... and teh hawt sex was in the 'adult' category). Excising all romance from gen makes no more sense to me than thinking that fanfic is all about 'shipping. It's a needless schism.
Taiamutaiamu on 15th January 2006 17:55 (UTC)
To 'ship or not to 'ship
Honestly? I never thought of you as a 'ship writer. Which is odd, because a lot of your stuff /does/ have ship elements in it. But, it's not the label that springs to mind when I think 'LJC'. I tend to classify your stuff as gen. I don't know why exactly. ::shrug:: Just FYI.
kkglinka on 15th January 2006 19:09 (UTC)
Re: Ships vs Not
*puts friends up on a pedestal*

You know, I've ranted about it before and I'll probably rant about it again, but just because people are good friends doesn't mean they'll have sex. Sex is not proof of love. It is not the automatic next step. It can be, if that's what both/all people want. Conversely, the absence of sex/flowers/picket fences does not mean "they don't really love each other".

*burns an effigy of the sex=love fetish*

So what happens when you read/watch for friendship? Certainly you become a variety of 'shipper, but the sort that can read Superman/Batman without assuming they're banging each other. The sort that doesn't look at some canonical het 'ship (mainstream comic books are bastions of conservative thought) and view it as a wedge against a more favored fan-pairing. People can love more than one person, just as truly as another. *wry* Probably my main beef with traditional 'ship mentality.

*burns a second effigy of the 'one-and-only' mentality*

As if thought it were really healthy or natural to prioritize human relationships so concretely.
Kathryn A: CallyDoc2kerravonsen on 15th January 2006 21:05 (UTC)
Re: Ships vs Not
Oh yes.

As if thought it were really healthy or natural to prioritize human relationships so concretely.

I don't really get the OTP thing. I dunno, maybe it's because my uncle remarried when his first wife died, and I never got any impression that he loved one wife less than the other, even though they weren't clones of each other. Love is bigger than that. Sure, romantic love is more exclusive than friendship (one really must be faithful to one's spouse, it's a matter of trust) but not that... if you don't find The One, you'll be doomed to second-best for the rest of eternity. No relationship is going to be an instant perfect fit, which means that (a) there are a number of potential "best-fit" people out there and (b) trust and commitment and working out the relationship is what makes the fit a snug one; you grow together.

It's the trust and commitment that's important: and that's important whether it's friendship or romance. And while romance is exclusive (sorry, I do believe in monogamy) friendship is not exclusive, and it's nonsense to think that a deep friendship is a "threat" to a romantic relationship -- unless, perhaps, one is assuming that just because people are good friends they'll have sex -- in other words, turning all relationships into exclusive romantic ones. That strikes me as strange and sad.
kkglinka on 15th January 2006 22:17 (UTC)
Re: Ships vs Not
You don't need to apologize for believing in monogamy. While I disagree with the exclusive nature of that practice, it's probably best for most people, who have trouble enough keeping their promises to one person at a time. That's commitment, after all, agreeing upon set rules between each other. Cheating is when you break those rules without permission. If one of those rules is "forsake all others" then you've got a breach of contract, commonly known as adultury. A typical polyamorous relationship follows those same rules: don't cheat on commitment. There's far more common ground that not, just as there is between friendship and sexual-ship.

I definitely have my favorite pairings in which I emotionally invest, but having said that, I don't approach them with a sense of entitlement. Most my fandoms involve a serial core medium. Outside of soap operas, serials have a well-established tradition of using relationships as a tool rather than natural development. Half the reason I enjoy cookie-cutter romance novels is because I know I won't get jerked around, that the 'ship will go somewhere. Of course this creates a vicious cycle, because readers/viewers become so accustomed to tragic endings and complete lack of payoff that we avoid emotionally investing at all.

The core medium then becomes secondary to my fannish participation. I look for the payoff in fanfic rather than the book or show. Frankly, that's a sad comment on the professionals when I know they can't deliver even an ongoing friendship because they're too bogged down trying to surprise me. Then what? We get a glut of compensating fic, the reverse extreme, because we all want the same thing: the relationships and journeys that characterize all good fiction. If the core medium lacks sex, or gay, or gender equality, [insert absent human reality here] we fic about it, to an excess.

The tease is no more an ideal than fifty billion hawt sex fics confusing love with lust. If our respect serial mediums would simply allow a bit more complete 'shipping within their own bounds.... Oh right. Nevermind.. That might frighten the, ostensibly, young male demographic who we're told view marriage and commitment as teh evul ball'n'chain end of the show/life.

Kathryn A: CallyDoc2kerravonsen on 15th January 2006 22:52 (UTC)
Re: Ships vs Not
That might frighten the, ostensibly, young male demographic who we're told view marriage and commitment as teh evul ball'n'chain end of the show/life.


Either that, or it's percieved that all the "interesting bits" are in the romance, and once people get married it goes all boring. Bah to that too.

At least Firefly showed a happily married couple. Actually, it's rather sad that that kind of thing is the exception rather than the rule...

serials have a well-established tradition of using relationships as a tool rather than natural development

Which is one reason why I really liked Scarecrow & Mrs King: their relationship developed slowly over several seasons, as part of their adventurous life -- it wasn't all adventure and it wasn't all romance.
girlofprey on 16th January 2006 11:15 (UTC)
Here from metafandom, and just...word. I have my 'OTP's. For me fannishness usually goes 'idly watching->character love->eee, I like how he/she talks to/acts with her/him->omg, I LOVE how he/she talks to her/him->OTP!. But a lot of my OTPs are quite obscure and based on my own personal ideas, and sometimes DON'T get a lot of interaction in canon - so I'm pleased just to see them talking, to see their relationship 'develop' a bit.

And there are some of my 'OTP's I imagine would have a really hard time getting together - and after much frustrated attempts to 'fix' this, I often realise I DO just love and am content with the way they talk to each other, and act around each other, and influence each other. I like the 'frisson' of them together - the dynamic, I suppose. So yeah, I'll very often fantasise about them doing hot sex together, or running away to solve crimes by the sea - but I might also imagine them bumping into each other one day getting coffee. Maybe spilling it on each other. And sometimes I find 'gen' about my OTPs as thrilling as slash or het.

So yes. I agree :) Occassionally-Platonic OTPs all round!
dave: best friendsthedorkygirl on 23rd January 2006 06:26 (UTC)
Knocking off a comment before I go to bed -- I haven't read this completely, just skimmed the first two or three paragraphs ...

Having read every single Firefly fic that you've written (and a great deal more other fics of yours), what I think of as one of your strongest areas is your Mal voice. So there.
ljc: ninetaraljc on 23rd January 2006 07:15 (UTC)
whoa. thank you! that means a lot to me.