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This month, NOROMO VALUES is featuring...

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the Sparky Questionnaire

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Sparky Gets Honest

You love fanfic, right? Can't get enough, not to mention can't get enough time to read it all! So you read at Acacia, TSN and a few recommendations. Where's the #1 place to go for recommendations? Of course it's Sparky's Doghouse! Who knows more about X-F fanfic than Sparky?! Quite possibly no-one! So who's the best to ask about fanfic? It could be no-one other than Sparky herself.

So - on with the questions!


Q. For the record, are you a Noromo or Shipper, or do you have leanings towards other pairings? What are your thoughts on the Noromo / Shipper debate?
I can honestly say I like / appreciate almost all pairings -- except maybe CSM / Scully, that might hurt. *G* I should make a disclaimer, though -- I do write fanfic under another name, and what I write tends to lean in one certain direction. But I've always made a distinction between reader and writer. As a reader, I love all types of stories, and find that I don't have many set leanings anymore. When I first started reading, I couldn't abide MSR. It made me ill. I couldn't understand slash at all. But the longer I read, the more I discovered it wasn't the genre that turned me off, it was the quality of writing. So now I absolutely adore a good heterosexual romance (Scully with Mulder, Skinner, or Krycek; Skinner or Krycek with original "others"), as well as a good slash pairing (whoever the hell you want! *G*). To make a short answer even longer, I don't think I would ever claim to be a true Shipper, but I'm not a Noromo, since I love a good romance. :-)

Regarding the whole Shipper / Noromo debate, part of me finds it extremely laughable. I've come to the decision that it's a lot like political parties -- a necessary evil. Every fan wants to make his or her opinion known, whether through fic or online discussions. And it's an awful lot easier to align yourself with like-minded individuals -- people who see the show and the characters the same way you do. It's a way of bonding, it's a way of arguing, it's a way of proclaiming identity through instant recognition of opinion.

Again, as in politics, there are bad side effects of such cut-and-dried alignment, however. I think we all know how nasty the debate can get. What I think people forget, though, is that MANY readers don't give a whit one way or the other. They are merely looking for a story that entertains, makes them think, or gives them a vicarious thrill. To continue the political analogy, I think of these people as the Independents in a world focused on Democrats and Republicans -- a largely ignored but important demographic. ;-)

Q. Where do you read fanfic? How much do you estimate you read a week?
I subscribe to XFF, XAPen, Scullyfic, SlashX, and NoRomo_Stories (which I hope starts to pick up). XFCreative posts are autoforwarded to the newsgroup, so I don't have to subscribe to that list. I also scour Ephemeral, ATXC, and authors' homepages weekly to pick up what's not sent out on a subscription basis. It's nothing that any obsessed reader wouldn't do, I just do it consistently and methodically. :-) I read a lot, I'll admit that -- but the secret in running a site this ambitious is knowing what not to read. So I probably spend more time culling out, deleting, and groaning to myself than actually reading.

Q. What do you think a likely breakdown of fanfic writers is, in terms of Shipper / Noromo status, age and gender? Do you think this changes if you narrow it down to "good" writers (ie more older Shipper men, less younger Shipper females? I hate to generalize, but ... )
No problem. And hopefully I won't be throwing out incorrect stereotypes -- that's always possible. I'd like to define Shipper and Noromo first, though, to give an idea of where my groundless opinions come from. ;-)

I consider a Shipper someone who likes the idea of Mulder and Scully romantically involved. Many of them would like to see it on the show -- some of them would not, preferring a romantic involvement after the show ends or in the movies. A smaller number truly love the idea of them together, but never want to see it, or don't think it would be feasible.

A Noromo, on the other hand, doesn't want Mulder and Scully to get romantically involved, preferring to see them as a uniquely bound pair of individuals who have an intense, platonic relationship. Many Noromos like the banter and UST common in the earlier seasons of the show, and also don't mind that in fanfic. Heavy UST, though, such as in Season 6, is not as enjoyable.

Wow! Note the sweeping generalizations! But I had to start somewhere, right? Now I can get to the questions. :-) I think an overwhelming amount of fanfic writers are Shippers -- perhaps around 75%. Why? Because an overwhelming amount of fanfic is written for one purpose only -- as self-fulfilling fantasy. The fan sitting at home who is dying to see Mulder and Scully in a relationship is much more motivated to write fanfic -- because they're not getting the "fix" they crave. The show itself is basically in a Noromo atmosphere -- therefore the fan who likes the status quo (relationship-wise), isn't as motivated to write fanfic.

Now -- note that no standards of "quality" are mentioned in the above paragraph. Yes -- most fanfic being posted is geared toward MSR. But, honestly speaking -- most fanfic being posted isn't very good. If fanfic quality were plotted on a graph as the x-axis, and Shipper leanings were plotted on the y-axis, as quality improved the amount of romance would fall -- leaving you with a nice graphic of a good ski slope. :-)
the ski slope graph
For the mathmatically challenged, that means if the best 25% of fanfic was considered separately from the huge pool of all stories, I'd say only 50% of that quality percentage would be represented by straight MSR. Which leaves the playing field wide open for all variety of fic, in all genres. Since this fact is consistently overlooked, that's one of the reason's I started Sparky's Doghouse -- to bring attention to the quality in all genres.

Now regarding your question of age, here's where I'm really risking offense. Fact: A lot of young people (junior high, high school) are writing fanfic. Most of them I'd have to say are Shippers. (Oh, the optimism of youth! *G*) How many? There's no way to tell in such an anonymous world. One writer I swore was barely in high school turned out to be 25; another that I would have staked my reputation on as being at least in her late 20s has turned out to be 19.

I think having young writers in the fanfic world is wonderful. In a perfect world, the fanfic community would be encouraging, helpful, and kind towards these writers, who are just beginning to experiment with sharing and writing fiction. However ... we're spoiled. We want to read the good stuff -- stuff that's written well, that doesn't call out for much critical commentary. So younger writers, although often unpolished yet extremely eager for feedback, get ignored. This makes me sad, since I can't highlight them for the most part. And I'm not sure even if there was someone out there willing to run a site devoted to new writers (e.g., The Hatchery) that there would be much of an audience for it.

Now, having said that -- let me state that I've read some marvellous fiction by writers who are in high school. MSR and otherwise. Fantastic stuff. I've highlighted talented young writers before at the Doghouse, and I always will. I've probably highlighted more than I even realize, merely because there's no true way to know how old someone is. In the end, quality and talent speak for themselves, age notwithstanding.

The last data breakdown is easier to talk about -- and hopefully less of a potential hot button. :-) Sex! Here the waters are muddy, and all I can do is guess. Many screen names are sexually ambiguous, some are downright deceptive (gender-wise), and no one has to be who they say they are. Once I accidentally publicly called a writer who goes by "Vehemently" a "he" -- god knows where I got that from, but Vee is actually a "she." See how hard it can be? :-) I think there are a smattering of male slash writers, a smattering of male Shipper writers, and an even larger amount who would prefer not to be categorized. All in all, though, men are still not drawn to fanfic in the numbers women are. And the ones who do write tend to be more talented, on average -- perhaps because they are writers first, not fans first. Who knows. I'd love to hear comments from male writers on this topic, though.

Q. Any Noromo authors or specific stories you highly recommend?
Good question. I know very few authors who specifically call themselves Noromos, merely because those who aren't Shippers just don't want to be categorized or pidgeonholed. But there are several authors out there who I think Noromos would love (slash writers excluded): Joann Humby, RivkaT, Anna Otto, Nascent, LuvMulder, Amanda Finch, Punk M, Rachel Anton, Brighid, Dahlak, Vehemently, Ashlea Ensro, Maraschino, Justin Glasser, Mary Ruth Keller, Kipler, CiCi Lean, Livengoo, WickdZoot, WestShore, Sheare Bliss, and Ford & Ursula Luxem. Now I'm not saying that none of these writers has ever written an MSR, but the bulk of their work has been exploring fanfic without a Shipper emphasis. And if that's what you're looking for, try any fics by these talented writers!
(Note: the MSRs are not a good place to start!)

Q. What are some generalizations you would make about Shippers and Noromos?
That for the most part they are sane, thoughtful individuals with definite legitimate opinions that they want to share. Younger Shippers tend to be more aggressive, whereas older and wiser Shippers are more restrained and tolerant. Noromos, for the most part, are older, so there is less public aggression used when they tout their opinions. Unfortunately, Noromos have been slapped around too often in public (usually in a bloodbath of rudeness and discourtesy on both sides), so they tend to lurk more and speak out less.

Q. Who are some of your favourite authors?
Oh, you're putting the screws on me. *G* I'll have to divide by category so I can be fair. I'll also keep it short and stick to current writers.

Shipper or Heavy UST:
Rachel Howard, Jill Selby, Meredith, MD1016, Shalimar, Annie Sewell-Jennings, Blueswirl.

Izzy Izenthe, JiM, MJ, Te, RosesDecay, Jane St. Clair, torch.

Can't Pin 'Em Down:
Jesemie's Evil Twin, Brighid, Vehemently, Kipler, CiCi Lean, Justin Glasser, DashaK.

Please note that these are my favorites, not Doghouse favorites. Names mean nothing at Sparky's Doghouse -- quality is the only deciding factor. I will never recommend a story just because I happen to like the writer.

Q. Any other comments on fanfic?
I love it, I love it, I love it. I want to promote it whenever possible. Many people playing around with fanfic should be professional writers, their talent is so immense. One good result I see from the show ending and fanfic winding down in the next year or two is that hopefully some of these skilled individuals will move on to writing their own fiction and sharing it with the rest of the world.

Q. Any other comments in general ...
Just one. If you enjoy X-F fanfic, the best way to show that appreciation is to send FEEDBACK. Tell the authors you enjoy that you like their work -- they'll probably write more. If you want to see more Noromo-oriented stories, write the authors who are producing them. Same if you're a Shipper or a Slasher. Public and private support is the best way to get what you want. ;-)


Well! That just about says it all, doesn't it?! MANY MANY thanks to Sparky for taking the time out of her very busy scehdule to do this for me! I for one found it to be very helpful. I trust you will all take her advice and send FEEDBACK now!

I got most of the author links from this page.

Of course, the Doghouse - you want to read some quality fanfic, then this place is absolutely guaranteed!

Sparky's Doghouse -

NOROMO VALUES by Brianna L ( Let me know if something looks wrong, or if you have comments, critisism, praise, suggestions.
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