Why does anybody write fic?

by Jeff (Pouncer) Melcher

Why does anybody write fic?

Good question. Hard to answer, but maybe we can come to a tentative consensus if we try. Let's stroll over to our virtual bookcase for inspiration while we consider the answers. Lots of Bujold books here, on the top shelf. Don't open any, not right now... you'll suck us both in! Wormholes of the imagination to Jump us to strange new worlds. And there's another strange bit of literary physics to be wary of... Collect enough of any one author's books in one place and some manifestations develop. See? On the floor nearby, a metaphysical box looms large. The top is glass, and at the moment, I have a very large dictionary weighting the lid down. We could peek in, though. It's the Bujold Prop Box. All the subsidiary characters, who support Miles Vorkosigan -- young hero, rest here between adventures. Well, some rest. But many are restless.

The Prop Box seeths. Look. Slithering along the bottom and sides there are the flat characters, like ColorForm figurines. They exist only to be pasted onto background. There's Pym. The dim silloutte is Henri Vorvolk. This colorful guy doesn't even have a name, just a job description: Lord Guardian of the Speaker's Circle. Some are less substantial than shadows. Look, from the corner of your eye, and see if you can spot the Newest Count. From the eastern coastal district, a former infantry colonel from some collateral family line who never anticipated such honors would be thrust upon him, and had to put down Vordarian supporters with no help from Aral but only his own District's Militia. There, as indistinct as confettii paper dolls are 1000 unnamed Quaddie kids. And casting a giant shadow, while remaining flat against an invisible corner of the Box, is Ma Kosti.

Most of the Prop Box is filled with more nearly three-dimensional creatures. To me, they resemble Woody, from the movie Toy Story. Except they move when we're looking, and collapse when we're not. The longer you look, the more detailed their features, the more distinct their costumes, the more recognizable their twitchy Dickensian gestures. Little puppet-like characters wait for our attention. Lt Jole. Captain Auson. Baron Fell.

Glancing in sets off flurries of seething, furious activity. And focusing on one particular character sends him into paroxysms of his traits.

See this? I do this. What makes me do this? What else does this imply? Think about me! Don't I remind you of a real person? Wasn't there a historic figure who would do this? I could be more. I could be REAL. Extrapolate me!
I do this, I do this. Look, look, there's a hanging plot line! Connect me up! I do THIS. But I could do something else, too. Over in the Heinlein box, in the Henry James box --didn't you see the character who did this? She was a GREAT character.
I could be great. And right in here, look and me and him. He had more plot lines, more spoken lines, and he did this AND that. I do THIS. I wanna do THAT. I wanna do MORE. I do this. I do this. I do THIS.

It can be great fun to pick up such a toy from the Prop Box and have a little chat. I had a nice time with Commordore Tung last week. He hangs by one hand from a ceiling fixture while turning a screw with a bottle cap. (I do THIS!) He uses fruit for space stations and utensils for crusiers and re-enacts the tactics of obscure battles. (I do THAT!) He lurks offstage for most of Borders of Infinity then comes crashing in with 14 drop shuttles. (I do this, reliably) He marries his long-lost sweetheart, retires to Earth, and leaves the Admiral in actual charge of the fleet he nominally ran for years prior. (I very nobly do this.) And Tung seems to be content with what he does, and has done.

It's the dis-contented characters that fascinate me, though. The ones that pound on the side of the box, demanding attention. The ones that escape.

Do you see Emperor Gregor in the box today? I think he has pretty much escaped.
He may come back to visit Henri Vorvolk once in awhile, but I get the impression Gregor is out actively planning his wedding, figuring out how to keep control of Sergyar, etc. He's not trapped by a limited set of quirks anymore.

Ivan has definitely escaped. The key to the Box was earned when he was crying for Miles during the Mirror Dance Winterfair Ball. On the other hand, as long as their are Haut Ladies and Koudelka girls living in the Box, Ivan will be a frequent visitor. I don't see him today. Must be out working his comconsole and setting up his web-site.

The author Erle Stanley Gardner cranked out 4 Perry Mason books a year. Perry, Paul and Della NEVER, in all those books, ever got out of Gardner's Box. Over and over, Perry does this, Perry does this, Perry does this. I certainly never wish such a fate on Gregor or Ivan or Miles. But I feel so BAD for the guys still stuck in the Bujold Box. And some of us just wish so hard that the book frequency was a wee tiny bit closer to the Gardner rate of 4/yr instead of 1 every 2 yrs.

Write Lois, Write.

*sigh* But while we're waiting, do you mind terribly if we write, too?

What was that thump? Why is my dictionary on the floor? The Prop Box! It's OPEN*...

© 1998 by Jeff Melcher (Pouncer_at_aol.com)

Current version by Michael Bernardi, mike@dendarii.co.uk

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Last updated: August 28th 2004