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Wibblings on Fan Fiction, TV canons and "The Avengers" movie.

I have just started transferring my fan fiction to Archive of Our Own. Currently, this will consist of the stuff actually already on my hard disk and a couple of files Ina scanned in an attempt to kick me into gear. I seem to have mislaid some of the B7 files that watervole scanned and we both revised pre-publication, so I may have to beg her to see if she still has e-copies of The Machiavelli Factor because the thought of rescanning that monster makes me go weak at the knees.

One of the things I like about Archive of Our Own (AO3) is that it has a series of standard warnings (the biggies - rape/non con, major character death, graphic descriptions of violence and underage) but gives you two further opinions in this (compulsory) tag - "Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings" and "No Archive Warnings Apply." I hate warnings and find the growing tendency to warn for everything in fan fiction very trying. I particularly disliked being made to warn for a character death which happens in canon on another archive. (Mind you, discovery of MPREG (if you don't know, please don't ask) behind the cut tends to make me backbutton at once.)

However, I did make use of the 'major character death' tag recently. I rather think I had to, as I counted no less than five deaths of characters who appear in more than one episode of the series in question!

Actually, editing ancient stuff for AO3 and reading (or at least reading the summaries) of other fan stories written the canons I wrote in posted on that archive has made me even more aware of how many fannish writers misuse names. (And no, I am not going to copy to fanficrants)

One of the things that actors latch on to as a way into their character is how he or she (or it) addresses other characters. It quite often defines their relationships and, if used rarely and carefully, a change in that form of address can add emphasis and emotion at an important plot point. Take Primeval. There are a couple of examples, but one of the best comes from episode 2.07. Professor Nick Cutter and ARC head James Lester have always had a sticky and antagonistic relationship, and this is reflected in the "Professor"s, "Cutter"s and "Lester"s of their conversation. Cutter is Leek's captive, and is talking to Lester via webcam. His, "James" for the first and only time in the series is a signal both to Lester and the audience that he is being deadly serious. It says, "Take notice! I've dropped the feud because I need you to listen to me." The impact comes from the fact that Cutter has never before used Lester's first name. If, as a fan writer, you want to make that kind of impact, you save it for the right moment. Otherwise it just grates.

Some fans, however, cannot resist using first names when the characters do not do so in canon. The only time we hear Bodie's first names (William Andrew Phillip) is at the hearing in The Rack. (To which Bodie's response is, typically, "All the princes. I was a very regal baby.") To be frank, I don't believe that anyone would get away with the use of any of them. Certainly, all his girlfriends and all his male friends call him "Bodie". (Unlike Starsky and Hutch where their male friends call them Starsky/Starsk and Hutch and their girlfriends often call them Dave and Ken.) Even under desperate stress, "Bodie" is the name Doyle reaches for. (And likewise, you don't get "Ken" and "Dave" even when one partner thinks the other one is dying.)

What really brought this on was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, my first great love as a TV series. The characters in this series have distinct ways of addressing each other, which remain consistent for all 110 episodes (with a bit of a wobble in the pilot and a couple of very early episodes, when the actors hadn't really got to grips with the characters.) Nelson always calls Crane "Lee" when speaking to him directly. There are a couple of occasions after the first two episodes where he calls him "Captain" and each time it is a signal of his anger with him. Crane never, ever, ever, uses Nelson's first name. (Indeed, as I recall, you don't need all your fingers to count the number of people who appear in series who call Nelson "Harry" or "Harriman.") Crane calls him "Admiral". So do Chip Morton, Curley Jones and Sharkey (whose first names, Francis Ethelbert, are used by Nelson to tease him, a bit cruelly, in a couple of episodes.) Crane and Morton use each other's first name/nickname, but also "Captain/Skipper" and "Mr Morton" in command situations.

And, while we're at it, Nelson calls Crane, "son" in the pilot and never again. He himself defines their relationship in a very early (fourth in production order, second in broadcast order) episode, City Beneath the Sea as "Friend, enemy, partner, rival, big brother, blood brother, and sometimes I want to bash his head in." (While both he and Crane are undercover at this point, there is little doubt he is talking about their real relationship.) And that's the way it is played right the way to the very last episode.

I really and honestly cannot come to terms with stories, even slash stories, where Crane uses "Harry" or, even worse, "Hari", in other than extremely intimate situations. Nor can I cope with stories that use 'Harry' and 'Lee' in narrative (unless, in the latter case, the story is first person Nelson or Morton, in which case I would accept it as that is how both think of him.) So few people call Nelson 'Harry' that its use always throws me out of a story before I've even started.

Then there's "Jamie". The (two different) ship's doctors in Voyage are not named. (They are also always "Doctor" in the cast lists.) The film (and Ted Sturgeon's novelisation) named the ship's Doctor as 'Jamieson' and had people call him "Jamie." There's no harm in adopting the Jamieson but no-one in canon, as in no-one ever calls the ship's doctor anything but "Doc" or "Doctor" and that is how the characters should address him in canon compliant fiction.

Conversely, in UFO the senior officers in SHADO all use each other's first names. Of the continuing characters, Freeman, Foster and Lake all use "Ed" to Straker on occasion but it is "Commander" in formal situations, while Straker himself tends to use first names to anyone in SHADO (though never to Jackson as no-one ever uses Jackson's first name, which is Doug) so this is plainly part of his command style.

Names are one of the simplest ways of showing canon compliance. They are also one of the simplest and most effective ways of showing emphasis or intimacy.

Just because a character's name may be "Alaric Anthony Morgan, Duke of Corwyn, Master of Coronth, Lord General of the Armies of Gwynedd and Champion of the King" does not mean that Katherine Kurtz calls him anything but Morgan in narrative, or that his friends call him anything but Alaric.

You may want to call a character by their first name in your head, but even if you think of Bodie as Bill, it does not mean Doyle does. Or ever will.

On to other matters. While just scrolling through recently posted fic I came across lots and lots of fic meant to be based on The Avengers movie which is not released until next year so the fics are based, as the authors admit candidly, on a mixture of the two Iron Man movies, the Thor movie, the Captain America movie and The Avengers (admittedly fun) trailer, with additional bits culled from the comics and added slash. Though, to be honest, fan writers have been slashing Captain America and Iron Man (or rather, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark) for years. Casting Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jnr - the latter totally inspired - plus the rest of the pretty - and, blimey, is it pretty! - has just added to the effect. I just hope none of us are going to be disappointed, Joss Whedon or no Joss Whedon.

I have some investment in this, as The Avengers was just about my favourite comic book from issue #1 to around issue #125. (That's over ten years.) I have great fondness for the original line-up (Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Thor and the Hulk, plus Captain America and added Rick Jones from issue #4) and the Captain America led team of ex-crooks (Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye from issue #16), and the various incarnations based around those memberships. Post 1980 line-ups bother me (though I do own Avengers Disassembled.)

It's a good line-up. (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and The Black Widow.) Lots of room for character conflict, angst and snark. Some very different personalities and power levels. I am uneasy about introducing Sharon Carter this early in the game, though...

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Somewhat off-topic, I like your icon for this post. :)

redscharlach specialises in this type of icon. Zie has some wonderful Cabin Pressure and Dr Who ones... like this one..

One thing that has caused me some thinking in some fandoms is trying to work out how a character thinks of themselves. I generally write a very tight third person limited viewpoint, but usually with two or three different viewpoint characters throughout the story. This means that the names I use for characters in the narrative might vary from scene to scene. Character X might think of a character as "Fred," Character Y as "Bloggsy," and Character Z as "the captain," and this is reflected in the narrative. But how does Captain Fred Bloggs think of himself? What version of his name should I use in scenes when he himself is the viewpoint character? I've had to have some rather lengthy debates on this in some fandoms, before coming up with an answer I can live with.

The standard way of dealing with this is that, unless you are writing first person, you don't need to tackle this one. Third person, even tight pov (which is my usual way of writing, particularly outside fan fiction) allows you to use any way of referring to the character in narrative. Only in direct thought do you need to make a choice about how they think of other people - because in direct thought people tend to think of themselves as 'I'.

I know this is the normal way of dealing with it, but I don't feel happy with it in my own writing. I write very tight POV, in which I see the entire narrative - even though it's third person - as being filtered through the consciousness of the viewpoint character. In a scene seen through the eyes of an American character, for example, I would aim to use American vocabulary and idioms even in the narrative. Therefore I also need to make the names match. I don't feel happy doing it any other way.

That's only necessary if you're actually writing stream-of-conciousness. Even then, well, if I speak aloud to myself I may use my first name or my surname. If I'm chiding myself it's likely to be my surname.

I think you need to look at it from the point of view of the reader. Furthermore, I don't think anyone thinks of themselves very often as a name. If it's a TV show, what do most of the characters call the pov character? For instance, in Primeval - with which I know you are familiar - my choice of narrative names would be those with which the reader would be most likely to identify. So, Cutter, Stephen, Helen, Lester, Connor, Abby and Claudia - for first season.

If you were writing, say, LotR, a lot would depend on the time at which the story is set. Does Aragorn think of himself as Aragorn, Estel, Elessar or Strider? It doesn't matter. Even if he still thinks of himself as Estel after he has become king, your readers won't! Watch the way JRRT handles this - though he is writing omniscient mainly.

And if you are writing book canon, all you can do is follow the original writer.

For any book b

Incidentally, Ina tells me that she is fascinated by the way, when I introduce myself, I always use the full version of my first name, but, within minutes, everyone starts to use the short form. I never think of myself in the short form...

Much agreement with the Voyage points -- I can't speak to the Professionals.

I find much Voyage fiction impossible to read because many people don't seem to know canon and, in particular, seem character-blind. I remember reading a couple of paragraphs of comment on Voyage by an SF critic who, in half a dozen words, got the way David Hedison played Crane better than anyone I've read depicted him in fanfic.

I have a real problem with the number of people who seem to think that both Nelson and Crane are wimps,despite the evidence of cold strength of purpose often shown by both of them on screen.

While agreeing with everything you say here, I would like to note that Americans by and large are... not as aware of the implications of naming conventions as Brits. In particular, we get a lot of people who relentlessly nickname everybody, no matter what the people in question call themselves. (My father never did get it thru his head that my cat's name was Genevieve, not Jenny, no matter how many times I told him.) We also get people who relentlessly first-name people under any and all circumstances, and there's a specific problem with professionals (especially doctors) who insist on being addressed by THEIR titles even while they first-name their patients. So some of the tone-deafness about names may be related to that.

Yet the use of surnames or nicknames rather than first names in a professional setting is extremely consistent in American TV shows, both past and present. Currently, I am re-watching Criminal Minds and the way people are addressed by other team members is almost totally consistent. No-one calls Reid 'Spencer' except his mother, everyone calls Hotch, 'Hotch' except (earlier) his wife, and no-one calls Rossi 'Dave' except Hotch. For all their flirting, it's always 'Morgan' and 'Garcia' - but the latter's boyfriend calls her 'Penny'.

I honestly don't think it is a British thing (and I mention here two series - UFO and The Professionals where some of the worst offences have been committed by British fan writers. What it is is insensitivity to language - and that awful thing, fannish privilege.

Also, it has to be said that David Jackson, who played Gan in Blake's Seven, refused totally to call for one of the cats in the flat where his girlfriend (later wife) was living by its real name (Travis) and called for 'Trevor' so often that many people in the block thought that was the cat's real name.

Very true about the names that people use to relate to each other.

I can't imagine Bodie being called anything but Bodie.

The important thing is, neither can Bodie!

As disappointed as I was in Captain America, I'm very much looking forward to the Avengers.

I haven't seen Captain America yet, though I will pick up the DVD immediately. I was impressed by Thor in that I though it couldn't be done! I adored Iron Man and think we probably expected too much from Iron Man 2. I have a problem with both Hulk movies so far, though that last scene in The Avengers trailer is hysterical!

Well said. This is one of the things that drives me insane when people write about the Musketeers. None of them ever, ever, ever call each other by their personal names. Indeed, we never learn what either d'Artagnan or Porthos' first names are. (Fanon is that d'Artagnan is Charles; Porthos varies from writer to writer.) In Dumas, they mostly call each other by their nommes du guerre, or by affectionate terms like 'my friend' and 'my dear'. Athos never calls d'Artagnan 'boy' -- that comes from the 1973 film. After Athos, Porthos and Aramis leave the musketeers, this changes somewhat. D'Artagnan and Aramis call Athos either Athos, or 'Monsieur Le Comte', but he's still never 'Olivier' (his first name according to Dumas' stage play La Jeunesse des Mousquetaires) nor is he ever 'Le Fere' (his patronym). Athos tends to call Aramis 'd'Herblay' when talking to him, but 'Aramis' when talking about him. And both he and d'Artagnan sometimes call Porthos 'du Vallon', particularly when they're trying to persuade him of something. Aramis pretty much always calls Porthos 'Porthos'. In all the books, they use the familiar nommes du guerre more, the more time they spend together. This reflects on both relationships and character -- Athos is a stickler for rank, for instance, but can be very sentimental, while d'Artagnan yearns for the old closeness -- but doesn't trust Aramis, and Aramis plays games and adapts how he speaks to someone according to how he feels about them and what he wants from them. And Porthos is always decent and assumes the best.


If you don't know these things you don't know canon well enough to write fiction about it. Period.

*nods vigorously* about the use of names in Primeval. I recall discussing the names thing on one occasion when we agreed that the use of surnames is a little odd, both in civil service terms and in academia, but it's canon, so what you say here is very true, and Cutter's use of James was very powerful. Interestingly in s4/5 Matt always called him James.

Another interesting one is Becker. As we all know, his first name is not canon, although it has been widely confirmed by the creators as being Hilary, but the scene filmed with the reveal was cut for reasons of length, ergo the name that's widely used isn't canon in the accepted sense.

However what is clear is that the character self-identifies by his surname, and when asked for his name in the webisode simply answers 'Becker'. So when authors (and I have two in particular in mind who subsequently flounced out of Denial and deleted all their fic *heaves huge sigh of relief*) constantly refer to him in text as Hilary, and hae other characters call him only by that name, even in a work context, I am just totally bounced out of the story because it doesn't feel right, because that's not how the character saw himself, and so even though I think a circumstance could arise where the use of teh first name could work, it sure as hell doesn't in the vast majority of cases.

It just baffled me what the hell those writers thought they were playing at. But then I well remember your horror when you ventured into a couple of those stories. *g*

There are a number of canon(s?) where characters were given unusual first names by the creators that are (for fairly obvious reasons) never used onscreen (save for the odd 'reveal' for dramatic purposes). V's Ham Tyler is, in full, Clarence Hamilton Tyler - though you'd be facing the wrong end of a high-velocity weapon if you used it, and then, in Voyage there's Francis Ethelbert Sharkey...

On the whole, Hilary Becker gets off lightly.

Well, most of the first season people are known by their first names, the exceptions being Lester, Cutter and Ryan. Ryan is military, where it is certainly more usual. (And a lot of series where people are known mainly by surname or occasionally nickname are military or police based, and, whatever the situation in real life, it is certainly Hollywood convention to use surnames in that situation.)

It is odd within both academia and the Civil Service. However, 1st season Lester isn't a Civil Servant, and no-one calls him by his first name. (In second season, we have Jenny, who, good PR person that she is, calls everyone by their first names if they allow it. One gathers she quickly realised that getting to call Cutter 'Nick' would take a little longer, but, if I remember correctly, she generally uses 'Professor' or 'Professor Cutter.')

I think with Lester some of it is due to the idea that the creators had (if we are to take 'word of God' and secondary canon into account) in first season that it was Sir James Lester and that he 'didn't like the use of his title'. In those circumstances, calling him James if you weren't a personal friend would be incorrect and rude. Hence 'Lester' of his own choosing.

'Cutter' is much much odder. Stephen once, under stress, calls him 'Nick' but otherwise it's 'Cutter', though he plainly is intimate with Cutter and almost certainly could use it without any sort of objection. Cutter doesn't object to 'Nick' and Helen always calls him that. I think Claudia uses both, but 'Professor Cutter' in formal situations. It may just be an odd quirk on Cutter's part. After all, he insists on 'Claudia Brown' rather than 'Claudia.'

As for Becker - I rather think Connor's reaction might well have been much like Harriman Nelson's on learning Sharkey's middle name, "Ohhhhhh. Francis Ethelbert Sharkey," and plainly filing it away for later, (when he drops it into a conversation simply to shut Sharkey up.) Considering the power balance between that pair, it really is appalling of him. You would expect better from a four star Admiral. Not, though, from Connor.

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