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Chase the sun, and it will smile upon you.

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May
23rd
2014

Fanfiction Keynote · 8:28pm May 23rd, 2014

So for a while I've had aspirations of being a Bronycon Fanfic panelist. And for a little while but actually not really, it seemed like it could even maybe happen.

Part of it was because it's something of a badge of accomplishment, let's just be forthright with that, and a larger part of it was to really make sure that said panel dug into story stuff, instead of just being 'hey we're all awesome pony celebrities look at us and bask', like some panels became at the 2013 con (though they still had their entertainment value).

But in a perfect world, if I were on a panel, what I would really want to do is close the final four or five minutes by addressing the crowd. I've had fleeting ideas here and there about what I would say, vigorously opinionated on writing and ponyfic as I am, and while I was walking in the rain today a full speech came to me. It's a cold draft, and probably more than a little pretentious, but I haven't posted anything in forever, and this really speaks to how I see writing, and fanfic, and all of us authors in pony.

So without further ado, my (in a perfect world [slapdash first draft]) Bronycon 2014 Fanfic Keynote.


Foremost, I would like to say that I am humbled to be on this stage with these authors, in comparison to whom my own works are somewhat middling, and thank them for offering me this time to speak to you all here.

It has been said, and perhaps to some of you this is familiar, that fanfiction is the lowest bar of fandom creativity; that it has the fewest requirements for entry. That 'anyone can put words on a page and call it fanfic', as compared to the obviously higher criteria for drawn or painted art, or songs and orchestral music, or video animation.

I would like to respectfully disagree.

In doing so, I suggest that it is instead a matter of perspective.

One can look at a picture and, generally speaking, decide what quality it has in rather short order. One can listen to a song, and after a few minutes, come to a decision as to whether you like it; a video much the same. These things are easily consumed, and require comparatively little investment to deem worthy of praise.

Fanfiction, contrarily, can require potentially hours to read through, assuming that just one reading will catch the full subtext of a story. They require considerably more investment to properly judge.

I would submit to you that this is for a very important reason.

I would submit, in my probably biased opinion, that visual artists, through pictures and paintings, give characters forms. That musicians write verse and song to lend them feelings.

Now, a form is relatively easy to appreciate. And feelings are, typically, quickly enough understood.

We writers, however, do not work in such dimensions. We writers are those who help these characters describe such forms, to speak of their feelings. It is we who give them words; we who give them souls.

That, as you may expect, is something that takes somewhat more time to understand.

Naturally, as with all art media, this is done with differing levels of skill. These authors up here on this panel are rather accomplished, as you might expect, and can breathe such life into silent forms that you come to treasure them, cheer for them, love them, hate them, and in general see them as people. Not all of us have such ability; or at least, not right now.

But you can.

Like anything worth doing, it takes work. You have to dig down through the dirt and rock before you get to the gemstones, and then you have to take those raw jewels, and cut and polish them, turning them into creations both unique and precious—just like all of you sitting here right now.

Some of you may be confident writers. Some of you may not. Some of you may have yet to put down word one, and harbor only the pending desire; but all of you, all of you, are precious.

Because all of you have it in you to be shining creator gods.

Brushes and canvas may render images of distant meadows and towering cities; songs may tell of ancient sorrows and mournful loss; but it is the word that breathes life into worlds—it is the writer who takes fleeting, radiant dreams and etches them into fragile symbol upon page, who shapes and places them with such care and precision as to bring to others the grandeur seen in their own mind's eye.

This is something all of you can do, if you commit to it. Any of you could be the next Tolkien, or Sanderson, or Pratchett; the next Gaiman, King, Rothfuss, Weis and Hickman, the next Traviss or Karpyshyn or Zahn.

And as for the virtue of writing fanfiction over producing original work?

All of us learned to crawl before we stood up. And after we stood, we steadied ourselves with something as we took our first steps.

But eventually we took our hands off the walls, and stood on our own. Eventually, we walked. And then we ran.

I'm telling you now, all of you here—you have it in you. So start running.

Because if you chase the sun, then it will shine upon you.

I wish you all the best of luck, and harmony and friendship go with you.

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Comments ( 6 )

:trixieshiftleft:
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:trollestia:

Ahem.

Yeah it's probably a bit pretentious, but you have to add a certain amount of flair to something like that to keep things interesting. I think it's a very nice speech. :twilightsmile:

And yeah, we've all been there when you think up stuff like that for if you potentially get an invite for some prominent thing or other. :rainbowlaugh:

Even if you won't be delivering your eloquent rallying cry to the aspiring amateurs seated starry-eyed in the crowd, I'll submit that posting your speech in text form will enable it to reach a wider audience - and allow the readers to delve into its majesty over and over, unearthing and reinforcing the eternal meaning. True, being able to deliver such a grandiose speech at the world's largest brony reunion would be nothing short of marvelous, but don't believe for an instant that your words lack ears.

Cheers! Only two months until our splendid heroes' assembly.

Anyway, I like it.

:ajsmug:

I like it but I have a few comments. Also, I am writing this on my spare time at work so It's not as concise, or eloquent as you deserve.

1) The intent seems to be to address people who disrespect fanfiction but where you'd be addressing a crowd that would not have any such people. This is perfectly fine but a slight change of wording if your intent is different from this might be a nice touche.

2)

All of us learned to crawl before we stood up.

This somewhat undermines your point. On the one hand fanfiction authors will understand what you mean, but on the other hand you imply that fanfiction is crawling. It's baser, more basic. The idea that a lot of people use fanfiction to get their feet wet is sound but the reference doesn't argue against the points that people make against fanfiction. Some facfiction is better than the majority of published works. Other fanfiction has turned into a more popular phenomena than the original work.

For example 50 Shades of Grey as a series set a record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time as if it hasn't, is well on it's way to outsell the Twilight series. 50 shades of grey was derived from fanfiction for the Twilight series. That's outselling it with 1 less book btw.

So a change in this example, or a clarification/expansion would be warented at that point in my opinion.

3) Writing is a terrible medium. I say that with full confidence that it is also the best medium. But writing is a trait unique to humans. It's less than 10,000 years old and standardized practices have only been around for a few hundred years and are still evolving relatively quickly compared to other mediums. The first printing press was only invented in Korea in the 1000's and they weren't in widespread use in Europe until hundreds of years after they began using printing technology in the 1400's. Most people wouldn't even have been able to read a simple book. The reason Shakespeare was really the first of the highest caliber of writing in the West is that a lot of what we take for granted was pioneered by him and he used the medium of plays which were more easily understood. When people looked to standardize English they used all of his work and when faced with a choice between Shakespear and other styles or choices, his work took the point extensively because of the impact he had.

Writing and reading just are not things that humans have down, but at the same time with writing came advanced civilization. It's the only art that also propelled humanity to the moon and back. If you took away all the other arts, including music, we could still be here. But take away writing and we loose almost everything we have today.

4) Fanfiction is a type of writing. People seem to forget that and say, well fanfiction isn't real writing. Then they look at results and see music that has millions of hits whereas fanfiction is lucky to get in the tens of thousands of views, much less hundreds. The point you made about investment addresses this quite nicely. A story might take 3 hours to read, a song might take 3 minutes. You can drive and run while listening to music, but you need to focus on writing. But it goes deeper. You can listen to a few second of music and judge it. But a master will take a few listens through, so maybe 10 minutes to properly judge something. A passing interest is still ten minutes for writing.

Perhaps a slightly more exact example would be cooking. Virtually anyone can cook something edible, and most people have at least a few things that will taste good. Maybe even something that others look forward too. But there is a big difference between a professional cook, and cooking for yourself and your family. Professionals are more consistent and done more efficiently, the presentation is better, and they can adapt their work to different peoples taste. Even better than that Master Chefs can do things with food that you won't even understand.

5) But a large part of criticisms comes from people who just dislike reading. Maybe they suck at it, maybe they had a number of bad experiences from school or stories that were just messed, so they deign it inconsequential. They are so clueless about good writing that they can't tell the difference between good and dribble. This happens for all mediums. Sometimes they can't understand the good, and the dribble is still dribble. But because people, as you said, can put words down they assume it's not only inconsequential but easy and because of the time it takes to determine if something is a worthwhile read they see reading as having a great potential to waste time. Fanfiction is considered even easier because you don't need your own characters.

6) But remember, this happens for other mediums as well. I can whistle a new tune that's catchy. It's easy. But the difference is that it's easy to identify complexity. Additionally song parodies use to get the same rap as fanfiction does now. It's not original, it's easier. That may be true in some sense, but it's also harder because your locked into the limits of the original work for many things. I spent time getting to this point because it's easy to forget that it happens to every medium. Fanfiction and writing are no different than other forms of art. Yes society is built on it, but as an art there are near identical examples of other works, but the harshness's by which we judge the different mediums are different.

7) When it comes down to it, people find excuses for things they just don't like. We can write endlessly but in the end, if people had a few bad impressions and don't like something they will manufacture any excuse. And fanfiction hasn't been around as long so there are fewer chances for people to have been corrected.


Sorry if that ran on a lot and jumped around. You got me thinking and I thought I'd share some of my own opinions on the matter in the limited time I had to write this. Any con would be happy to have you. I'd encourage you to apply to Everfree Northwest's Writing Track next year. I am the head of the track this year and sadly everything is basically set in stone. It's not Bronycon, but it's still one of the largest cons and we have a name for having a large, diverse, quality writing track.

The art of writing is misjudged all the time, often by those who regularly practice it. I don't really know why this is, though I'm sure it has to do with a few of the points you made--that judging a piece of writing takes time, and quite a bit of effort and thought. Writing is squirmier than the other arts.

I completely agree that anyone can be a good writer--a great one, even. However, I do think that some people are (seemingly) just born with more natural talent at the craft than others. They have more of a knack for it. Whether this is innate (genetic or otherwise), learned or something else, I don't know. However, for those lacking a "natural talent" for writing, I sincerely believe that they can be just a good a writer as those who seem more naturally skilled or inclined to it; the only difference is that it'll probably just take more work, both in learning about the craft and in executing it. After all, you can do anything you put your mind to.

Also...good to hear from ya again!

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