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On Fanfiction


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So was thinking. I do that sometimes. And I was considering this old haunt, the Fanfiction board. And it occured to me, not for the first time, that most of what we did here was not de facto fanfiction, even though technically it was fiction written by fans. We largely concentrated on roleplay, and I was wondering why, in the many threads present, 'real' fanfiction is relatively scarce.

Now my own explanation sprung immediately to mind. I have never felt a compulsion to write Dune fanfiction because I never felt that the books could use improvement. Granted there are parts (in Messiah especially) where the narrative is a bit tedious, but there are no instances I can think of where I thought 'No, that character should have done something different.' Their actions may not all make sense at first, but there are right for the story, right for the narrative.

Those occasions when I have felt compelled to write fanfiction have been in response to what I felt was a mistake on the part of the author, or perhaps an oversight. Dune never prompted that (not so the BH+KJA prequels, especially the Legends series, which I have often considered writing fanfiction for. It would be an improvement, certainly, but I am unwilling to soil myself by association with the prequels).

I theorise that this is why there was more RP than true fanfiction. In RP we expanded upon concepts that were not dealt with in the books, or used as background infomation: a particularly notable example being the Tripod system, in which the vast majority of the Dune RPs were based. This political balance was overthrown in the first book and never seen again, but it is arguably the most interesting and certainly the most varied of the series. We expanded on it by adding our own Great Houses. Instead of modifying Dune, telling it in a different way, we cut out a particular part of it and dissected that part across several threads.

Now I haven't checked the archives for actual Dune fanfiction, I confess that the real thing has never interested me much for the reasons given above. I assume that some exists though. So if anyone bothers to read this, and knows about some of it, can they suggest why it was written? What improvements did the author try to accomplish with their own iteration of the Dune story?

Alternatively, what was fanfiction about? We were all younger then, so one could make a case for escapism and an enjoyment of roleplay in a familiar setting.  Or perhaps someone will suggest that it was simply creativity expressed in an easy medium, far easier to deal with than writing fiction independently and with a premade series of locations and concepts that the majority of participants understood. Maybe we just liked beating each other up with words.

The latter two suggestions certainly gain merit when one considers that not all of the threads here were Dune RPs, not by a long shot. Just look at the Archive. Kanly and Warlords stand out particularly, and there were several Earth-based RPs as well.

I thought that given the quietude (it is a word, look it up) that this board has been experiencing, it might be time for some reflection. If anyone else still comes here that is.

Thoughts, memories?

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I've always thought of fanfic as a way to explore different paths/plotlines. The reason Star Trek and Star Wars is so popular for fanfiction is that in relation to the universes Lucas and Rodenberry tried to create, the portion that they showed us were incredibly small. I think that Herbert doesn't leave enough room for fanfic as his universe does not exist much outside what he tells us. The only room for expansion is what Brian Herbert has done in the vein of 'what happened before/after'. However I think that this is a bit to much of a heavy undertaking because of the style of Herberts writing.

Compared with other sci-fi 'Dune' far richer text which leaves it harder to write additional material for which has any plausibility to it. Also it lacks the open-endedness that features in other sci-fi. Anything that is not related in the takes seems to have little importance. The areas we don't hear of, Paul in the desert, the Great Scattering, Leto II's reign, are skimmed over in such a vast way that to pick any part of them would be a bit pointless, and slightly monotonous when every different possibility is trying to be explored.

In short I don't think it needs it.

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I grew older and distracted, I still RP a little bit on other forums. However the rping there is mostly dice related with very little free writing rping like on this forum.

I would like to get into it a bit. However the actutal true fan fics that stuck true to the Herbert universe are hard to find.  Look at the KYA Setera war and all it's children. More star wars then dune in many aspects but exciting and enjoyable.

I might start rping again on this board if something sparked my interest. But straight up dune roleplaying quite frankly never really has.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My thoughts on the matter are quite complex when I consider them, but will seem quite simplistic when put into text.

Firstly, I believe that the main reason for there being very little true "Dune Fanfiction" is that Frank Herbert tended to write in an extremely abstract way that no-one has dared try to emulate.  A lot of readers might be almost afraid (for want of a better term) to admit that a lot of what he wrote was too complex for them to comprehend without going back over it a couple of times.  Sometimes I get the feeling that this detracted from the whole experience, which is why I would never write a story like that.  Granted, I loved the Dune books, but I honestly found the "straightforward" nature of writing in the prequels a breath of fresh air from the complicated machinations of literature found in the original novels.

This is reflected in everything that has been based on Dune.  The mini-series tried as hard as possible to stick to the book, but I can guarantee that anyone who was watching that hadn't read the books was quite confused at a lot of the content.  Look at the games and the David Lynch movie - all of them have had the storyline altered or built upon, but in a much simpler way.  To be blunt, the books are far too intellectual for most people to copy, or at least copy well.

To this end, Fanfiction on this board may have started out as simple "battle threads", with little content, but they eventually evolved into sort of "alternate universes".  Using our own writing styles, we made little novels of our own.  This is most evident in threads such as Factions and Factions 2.  They came about as a result of wanting more depth to our threads - one or two sentence replies weren't cutting it anymore.  This then drew out the more creative side of posters, with many threads evolving to create extremes of both content and war.  Threads such as Espionage, Factions, etc. were very heavy on storyline, whereas threads like FED2k Warlords were almost exclusively warfare.

Unfortunately, there was never a way to make these two formats gel, thus divides were created.  Posters began leaving the board, because interest died away, and newcomers may have been intimidated by the complexity of the "evolved" threads.  To get Fanfiction going again, we must do one of a few things:

- Return to a much more basic format of "fan fiction", with emphasis on dynamic progression with minimal plot and unit counting.  God-modding doesn't exist anymore, because there's no risk of it happening.  We need to bring back that risk.

- Create threads rooted firmly in popular media or settings; a thread involving super-heroes would be popular, with all of the furor surrounding the Marvel and DC movies.  We can then progress from there into more "Dune-ish" threads, or wherever the new direction takes us.

- Make new threads with little or no rules; almost nonsensical in nature, just as they might have been at the beginning.  Have planets being used as conkers, people blowing up entire universes only for them to pop back into existence using their "magical not-bloody-blown-up device" and demand to speak to a manager.  We need to gather the community together and make this place fun to participate in.

With these measures, more threads and more participants will be created, and people can migrate to whichever format they feel comfortable with.  Activity is key, because as we all know, stagnation leads to death. :)

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