[identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] the_comfy_chair
*waves* Hello, all, it's me--CC, the absentee landlord. I've been kind of busy, RL kind of busy, but I've wanted to talk about crackfic for a couple of months, and now here I am to do it. Thenk yew for your patience and/or your poking.

So, what the heck is crackfic? Where'd the term originate? Who calls crackfic on a story? Is crackfic a new genre, a renaming of an old one, or just a state of mind? Does labeling a silly story crackfic confer some kind of legitimacy on it that wasn't there before? What about humor? Kink? AU? Have those labels been assimilated under the crackfic label? Does 'crackfic' cover a multitude of sins? Does it mean never having to say you're sorry? I wonder about these things. Do you? Tell me what you think about crackfic.

So, crackfic. The first time I really noticed the term, it was being called on one of my own stories. Hrm, I thought, yes, appropriate, interesting, kinda cute. And then I started noticing the term being used everywhere--writers were labeling their stories as cracked, readers were calling crack on others' stories--crackfic was abounding, apparently. And people were talking about it, asking each other what it was, having discussions and sharing their interpretations, but I never saw anyone come up with anything definitive, though that didn't seem to bother anyone. Crackfic, it seems, is all about the fun, and I stand firmly behind the having of fun. But the gears in my head won't stop turning, and crackfic continues to proliferate, so I want to talk about it some more.

Is it a fad, or is crackfic here to stay? In SGA fandom, crackfic seems to be running rampant, enough so that people are commenting on it. Are there really more stories being labeled crackfic in SGA fandom than in others? If that's true, why? Is it the nature of the show? SGA is fairly standard-issue television SF fare, no more bizarre than Trek or Farscape or SG-1. Is it the characters? Are John and Rodney more fun to place in wacky situations than characters from other fandoms? Is it the influx of new writers? SGA fandom is steadily growing, with writers from other fandoms pouring in and first time fans and/or writers eager to contribute stories. Is there some greater sense of security in starting out in a new fandom with a less serious story? Could the term confer some sort of perceived legitimacy on less serious efforts? And did the term begin in SGA fandom, or is it another bit of fannish culture with roots in venerable old fandoms like XF or Trek? Did SGA invent crackfic, or just embrace it wholeheartedly?

I've collected some thoughts about what crackfic is and what it's about from discussions I've observed all over the fandom. Here are a couple of them:

- Crackfic is any story with a cracked premise, a wildly AU setting or wacky characterizations. You can't define it, but you'll know it when you see it, and readers can call it on a story. Interesting, but...what if the author wasn't feeling cracked when she wrote it? Is crackfic really in the eye of the beholder? I, personally, would rather whack an elf with a stick than read about one, and I might call both a writer of an SGA elf story and the story itself cracked, but maybe that's just me. What about the elf lovers? What about the writer who worked long and hard on her story, carefully crafting her prose, researching elf lore through the ages and generally taking it all very seriously? What if she wasn't feeling the least bit cracked when she wrote it? Here's another example--centaur stories. Yes, I'm a big centaur fan (okay, it's kind of a kink) and James' and Leah's centaur stories are terrific, IMO, well written stories about the characters and their relationships and trials and triumphs...and some of them just happen to be centaurs. They're AU stories, definitely, and, as a reader, they push a definite kink button for me, but are they crackfic? I can't speak for the writers, but I certainly wouldn't call them that. But YOU might. Would you, to the writers? If writers don't say, in their notes, "I was on crack when I wrote this," would you point and call crack in their comments? Would they mind if you did, if that hadn't been their intention? I didn't mind, but that had been my intention. What about you? Would you mind if someone called crackfic on your story, and you hadn't meant it that way?

Which leads us to...

- Crackfic is as the author does; the author calls crack on her own story, and her intent defines it. We talked about this a few posts back concerning one of Ces's stories, which was a nifty little "aliens made them do it" sort of slave-kink thing, hot and sweet and well characterized and a very satisfying read. A number of us couldn't figure out why she'd called it cracked; it's no more out there than lots of similar stories, and a lot better written than many. From her notes, we deduced that maybe she felt cracked when she wrote it, felt silly and crack-headed as she was creating it. Authors do sometimes seem to want to distance themselves a little from some of their stories, to say, in effect, "I wasn't being serious, here, this isn't really me" or "this isn't my best, I just threw it out there" or "I don't know where this came from, I think I have an evil twin." We used to just say 'silly' when we were feeling silly; now we say 'cracked.' Is it the same thing? Is saying "this is crackfic" just another way to say "this is just something silly I tossed out there, so don't take it seriously?" What if the reader doesn't think it's cracked? What if they enjoy it thoroughly and rate it above more serious efforts by other writers--is the reader cracked for taking it seriously? If a majority of readers look at a story and say, "I don't think that's crackfic," what then? Do we take a vote, make a poll? Or does the author have the ultimate say in whether it is or isn't? I didn't use the term 'crackfic' on my story, but others did. It was, but I hadn't said so. Were the readers usurping my labeling authority?

And what about AU, humor, kink? Where we would have once said "humorous AU" or "strange kinky thing," are we now saying "crackfic?" And did we ever really figure out what constitutes an AU, where and how far the departure from canon has to be? My story was a definite AU, transplanting the characters to Atlanta and turning their commute into a wacky parody of a mission. Not that long ago, it would have been pointed to as a humorous AU, and, now, it's crackfic. Since when? Why? I'm working on the definition, now. When is it an AU and when is it crackfic? Can it be both, or need it only be one or the other? We seem to have taken a shortcut and dropped some identifying labels along the way to creating the new term. And, here's a thought; would more or fewer people feel inclined to read a story if it was labeled as crackfic rather than as humor/AU? Those of you who avoid AUs (and I used to be one of you), what difference, if any, would the label make to you in your decision to read? And do readers in general prefer more identifying info than just 'crackfic'--do they want to know more about what kind of story it is, beyond slash/het/gen, before they'll read? Do you ever dismiss a story that an author labels as crackfic without reading, because of the label?

And, speaking of dismissing, about that distance I was talking about--just how far can an author distance herself from her story by using the crackfic label? Does anything really go, if it's crackfic? Is there such a thing as too cracked? What about badfic? There's deliberate badfic, of course, where the writer is parodying clich├ęs or poor technique or failure to spellcheck, that kind of thing, and then there's plain old poorly written. Can a writer who doesn't want to get a beta or use spellcheck or learn a few elements of style slap a crackfic label on her story and relax? Do we hold crackfic to the same standards that we do 'serious' stories? I'm not talking about non-humor vs. humor stories, because one can certainly take writing a humorous story very seriously and craft it just as carefully as one does a story that makes the reader weep or gnash her teeth. Do we judge crackfic by different standards? Is it more acceptable to us if an author "lets herself go" in any area of her writing if she calls the story crack? Part of the humor in a certain type of silly AU, for instance, can be created by skewing characterizations a bit. Do we define whether or not it's crack by the degree of skew? When does it become just bad characterization? How much can we blame on or excuse with the crackfic label?

And, riddle me this, Batman: are we better or worse off as a fandom for adopting and adapting to the crackfic label? Or does it matter at all? Are we seeing more good stories, or fewer? Are we just swapping out one or two labels for another, with no net change in the types of stories we're reading/writing, or has the label spawned a silly story frenzy? Or is it the fandom itself, something inherent in the show/fen/water? Is there a silly story frenzy at all, or are we just taking more notice? Will we even care about any of this in six months time? Do we care about it now? Do you? I do, but I haven't made up my mind exactly how.

Since this topic is about larger ficcish issues--genre, style, direction, etc.--than a single author's story, it's okay to respond to this post from the perspective of a writer as well as a reader, but please do also respond as a reader if you're responding as a writer. Specific stories can be cited as examples, that's fine, but let's discuss crackfic as a whole rather than do in-depth discussion of specific stories, in this post.
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