All About the Pairings, of From the Outside In
by Sandy Keane
In my short days in media fic, writing Sports Night and The West Wing, but mostly Sports Night, I wrote mostly gen. There were a lot of UST-y things and slash overtones, but since I regard Dan and Casey as not MFEO and Notsoinlove, my writing focused on what I loved about the show: the friendships, the camaraderie of the people who worked on the show, the rush, the frenetic part. I was a pretty gen girl. I liked gen, I wanted gen. Now here I am in popslash, RPS, and it's all about the pairings. Hmmm.
I think it's about canon, partly and maybe even largely. (And please, feel free to disagree.) Media fic gives us canon from the inside out. We get to see all the secret private things that Josh and Sam and Buffy and Dan and Lex and Clark are doing. We have insight into their private thoughts. It's canon. For popslash, canon is from the outside in. Writing RPS, we have nailed down biographical details that almost never get revealed on some shows -- people are still debating how old Sam and Josh are, right? And how they met and how many siblings CJ has and we don't know if Chloe has two hidden older brothers or something, right? Writing popslash, I know all this pat; ages, siblings, educational background. I have more canon than I can shake a stick at, in some ways. But it's all filtered through unreliable narrators - interviews, blind items, articles, rumors from my best friend's fifth cousin who worked at this one show in Cleveland - except for the most easily confirmed hard facts. And there's no insight into secret private things that's 100% reliable.
So, duh, with media fic and RPS we approach canon very very differently. I've got twenty rock solid facts about Dan from Sports Night and I get to fill in the rest. Writing Justin Timberlake, I have ten solid facts, a hundred things that are most likely true, another hundred things that are inferences and fifty rumors lying around I can pick and choose from. Another example: I know Danny Rydell sees a psychiatrist and has issues with his parents, and I have to extrapolate from three different interviews and some of those spare rumors how Justin Timberlake feels about Britney Spears these days. So, blah, blah, it's different.
And what does this have to do with gen vs. pairings driven fic? I think with media fic, we have a blueprint for gen fic. A majority of SN eps were gen, when they weren't Dana/Casey, Dan/Rebecca, Dana/Sam, etc. A gen story about SN involves some work thing or a friendship issues that plays out over twenty-two minutes or longer if we get to write it. A gen TWW story is nearly every ep we've seen of that show, or a Monster of The Week on Buffy. We know how those go. With media fic I was able to point to similar gen stories that were explored on the show. Sticking with SN for a moment, the conflict between Dan and Casey in the end of the second season was a goldmine of stories that didn't have to be slashy at all, it was all about friendship and competition and mental spazzes. And we got to see the conflict unfold between the two of them, in Casey talking to his oldest friend and Dan talking to his shrink. So. We got those private moments. Blueprint.
What the heck is a gen story about Justin Timberlake? Most of the canon I've seen is interviews on TV, videos, making of videos, concerts, some bootleg tapes of things we weren't meant to see, a little. I suppose there's a story there - but, uh, what? I don't want to write a story where Rosie interviews the band. Or they make a video.
There are gen stories about my chosen RPS victims, of course. Written and to be written. There are a lot of stories to be told, I mean, Chris Kirkpatrick is the boy who in high school played basketball during lunch rather say out loud in front of his classmates that he was on the free lunch program. And now he's fabulously wealthy and people suck up to him left and right. And etc. There are stories to be told that have nothing to do with whether or not Nsync boy 1, 2 or 3 gets laid tonight.
I've never been that interested in writing them. Partly, it's because while I feel some affinity for the kind of buddy-let's-all-work-together-until-we-drop atmosphere of TWW, SN and even Buffy, I haven't the foggiest idea of what it actually means to rehearse and rehearse and put on a concert tour. And I've watched Making the Tour a lot. But love and romance is one of those universals we all know the blueprint for writing stories about, and I figure that I can comfortably write about and not sound like an idiot.
Which is kind of silly, for all the reasons me writing slash is idiotic: hello, thirty-year-old straight girl writing about gay men (and in this case, all but one are considerably younger and all of them are significantly richer and less educated than me). But it's the part I understand and I know and it's a way to tell the stories I want to tell that I can do well, better than I can writing about how hard it is to get the right producer and the harshness of being sued by the man who was your mentor.
I often think that of all the fantastic worlds we find in media fic, even the mundane ones that are rendered fantastic just by being on TV and acted by beautiful people, the world of the super-famous and rich performers like NSYNC are as fantastic and even more alien. Because when we watch a movie, TV show we get some insight, at least to part of it. But I've no idea what the private life away from the cameras part of recording an album, rehearsing for a tour, etc is like.
Also, there's that imprint thing. We see the show first, and then we read and write fic. We start with the gen in media fic. Mostly, fanfic writers add the subtext. For me, I read RPS about Nsync before I paid a lot of attention to the band. My imprint was the subtext. (And yes, I realize slash isn't true, I don't think it is, blah blah disclaimer cakes.)
I'm not saying gen stories about Nsync are somehow harder than writing pairing-driven stories. I would say there's not so much of an audience for them, although, you know -- which came first? The lack of the fic or the lack of an audience for them? -- and I would also say, I like writing romances about these characters. Maybe I'm full of shit and ultimately, the truth of it is I don't like Dan and Casey couple-y stories and I adore couple-y stories of Justin and Lance who are MFEO and Soinlove (or not, but, you know). Maybe the better question is why I find Dan and Casey so un-meant for each other and Justin & Lance the opposite. But, um. Yes. Canon! It's also because of canon.
Or not. Anyone else have thoughts on this?