Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Raven's Writing Desk - June, 2007

by Lt Cmdr Kirok of L'Stok

Within the short space of five issues the new crew of the USS Southern Cross, have given me the support and content to create a high quality, fan made newsletter, ScuttleButt, downloadable from our website as a series of free pdfs. But it doesn't stop there! The crew is now spreading its wings beyond the normal mayhem that goes on in a Star Trek fan club and stepping into fan productions.

What's a fan production? Like a lot of buzz-words it means different things to different people. On Wikipedia, the article on Star Trek fan productions takes the narrow view of seeing them as dramatic productions, covering only fan films, animation and audio dramas. I prefer to take the wider view that a fan production is virtually anything that a fan produces! Fan films, music videos, written fan fiction, filk and poetry! Virtually anything that is of an art or craft nature that expresses your love of the Sci fi genre! Yes, crafts as well! whether they are paper models or knitting patterns, musical instruments, costumes or props!

If what you love dearest is to watch your DVD collection, read the licensed books or see the stars at a convention, I'm right there with ya! These are things that cemented my love of the sci fi genre and I gain great entertainment and satisfaction from my own collections and convention going. However amongst all groups there are those who want to contribute & create and through their own efforts gain a resonance of the feeling they had for the original.


I've edited probably a half-dozen different amateur newsletters and fanzines over the past five years and overall I get a buzz out of it. Taking the output of a group of fellow amateurs and polishing it up to look good in print is a noble endeavour, yet one of the things I will never enjoy is the actual editing itself, the task of correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Hell, its not as if I'm any great expert at it myself - my own usage of the English language is more intuitive than didactic. However I do it because its a job that needs to be done, maintaining a reasonable standard of the English language.

Where I do draw the line though is editing for style and content - saying what is and is not good enough! It sometimes happens that I am faced with a submission that is way below the standard of other contributor's work. Should I tell them its not up to scratch? Should I spend hours editing it? I'm very conscious of the fragility of other people's feelings, especially over something that they might have put a lot of effort into, their pride and joy! I've lost two friends over it and I really don't want to lose any more.

So my philosophy nowadays is that at the "grass roots" end of the business, as I am, I have a responsibility to the members to help them see what they have produced in print. I suppose I'll leave myself open now to claims that I'm running a vanity press and I suppose in a way I am, if making people feel empowered by seeing their work in print is a vanity.

There will be those who will say that writers can only develop their skills if they are exposed to the bitter truth of their mistakes right from the start. They are the types who search for the hidden Hemingway and Fitzgerald in all of us and pan movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek 3 because they are not deep and meaningful. They probably pulled wings off flies when they were kids too.

The truth of the matter is that for all our ideals of democracy and socialism, not all people are equal within specific disciplines. People are different. Some will be comfortable writing, others will be comfortable with numbers, with money, with wood or steel, with people or with animals.
I am comfortable with the written word, whether I am good with it is up to you to decide, o' hypothetical reader. What I want to do as an editor is to help Everyman, or Everywoman as the case may be, to discover and release the writer hidden within them. I want to encourage Duncan to release the hidden Duncan ... or the hidden Starfleet admiral, the hidden demon of unimaginable power or the hidden child.

These characters locked within them are fragile beasts though and to coax them out needs patience and support. Because these people might not have delved within themselves to write since their school days, we need to find a way of encouraging them which is relatively easy and engages their interest. We need painting-by-numbers for writers - this is why God gave us fan fiction.

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