In My Humble Opinion #3

IN WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

So, Iím sitting in the back of a forest green convertible, making small talk with a pair of twins who have only a passing acquaintance with the driver. We are doing about a hundred and ten up the Gardiner Expressway when one of them points out to me that--

Excuse me? What does this have to do with fan fiction? Wait and see...

--that the only true measure of excellence is the perception of it. That which is good is by acclaim of mass or of mass accepted virtues. An excellent novel is that because enough people have decided what forms excellence and have set to judge everything based on it. I would have been more taken by the argument if she hadnít used it in an attempt to validate the works of Danielle Steele.

What makes fan fiction good or bad? Who has decried the elements and tools which I judge by to be valid ones? Why does it even matter to me? Strange thoughts in the back of a forest green convertible, Iíll tell you. More importantly, what gives me the right or ability to judge the work around me. The answer? Because I do. I set the standards every time I read a piece, every time I open a message. I set these standards the same way that all of us do. And, I defend those as I write, and enough find them acceptable to validate me. Interesting, isnít it. We are great because we make ourselves and others great. Total self actualization. What does this have to do with fan fiction? At this point, Iím just yammering...

A whole crop of great work this time as I try desperately to drag this column on some sort of schedule. Some brand new writers, some older favorites, and a whole lot of Dex, which makes it all worthwhile...

The Death Of A Dream is another of the alternate future tales with some surprising twists. Onyx has boldly taken the elements of the Psi-War raging in the pages of X-Men and has taken a unique view of the piece. The story shows the development of a writer from early stages to a more polished and confident work. The mix of X-Men dealing with the minions of the Shadow King and various traitors is something of a backdrop for a more personal and compelling story about the way the X-Men would be forced to handle completely different dynamics. Rogue and Gambit are major players in the story, with the X-traitor plot re-worked into the piece. This is the one area were things falter slightly. It is very difficult to not only to see Remy is the new traitor and will change his heart and redeem himself, but that he and Rogue will tip the scales at the opportune moment. Still, the characters are written with a great deal of depth and care, especially coming into sharper focus around part four or so. The story itself goes through a noticeable change in skill level at that point, as if the writer suddenly realized exactly what they were doing and how to do it. For that catharsis alone, it is worthwhile to read. There are some moments of brilliance in the later sections, and some deftly woven sequences, adding to the tone of the story without overpowering the central plot. The story is one of dark betrayal and a chilling final reckoning between the Shadow King and they tattered remains of the X-Men. Gripping, dark and very tasty...

There is something about good writing which gets inside your head and scurries around like a crack addicted chipmunk on a greased hotplate. Walking Through The Rooms In My Head by the multi-talented sevenall is one such piece. Dark, invocative and multi-leveled, the story works so well in part due to the fact that itís so carefully crouched within the heart of X-continuity, and part because it works on a throughly intellectual level. There is no emotional tugging, no attempt to describe the horrors which are visited on Psylocke in the work other then carefully retelling of the incidents which have shaped her. This is a wonderful probe into the mind of Psylocke as a changed woman, a woman whoís been rebuilt inside out and is a stranger to herself. The story itself is crisp and well defined, ever element carefully placed for a minimalist effect on the reader. Saying a lot with a very little is one of the strengths of the work. sevenall also makes an interesting view of the X-Men through the eyes of Psylocke, defining her in how she views them. This is not a pleasant read, per say, nor an easy one. It is a story which works and reacts on many different levels, and all of them complex. Read it twice, and then again, and see what youíve missed the first few times...

Is it just me, or are things getting bloody dark in here? Oh well, next up is a wonderful piece of exploration of the psyche by Amanda Sichter which hit the net like a meteor . A Dark And Hungry God Arises is a dark and chilling look into the mind of Charles Xavier and the progression from man to twisted beast, from compassionate mentor to selfish tyrant. Written with both brutal honesty and dark imagery, it plays against the image of Xavier and the emotions which run deep within him; The obsession with Jean, the failures with his students, the loss of his dream. Things which are the bane of Charles life seek to tear him down to give voice to his dark id. Repressed sexual tensions, dark longings and pressures of temptations all met and fuse into a dark persona from which Onslaught would be formed. There is some brilliant byplay in this piece, both engaging and extremely well characterized. Charles comes off as a man, one prone to both mistakes and successes, not a cardboard image. The story exudes a dark balance, a strange and constant shifting between the greys of Xavierís world and the pure black of Onslaught. With every sentence, another piece of Charles drops away and another layer is painstakingly revealed. While the story is fairly short, it is perhaps the most effectively laid out one since Dialogue. Dark and very highly recommended.

Knock, Knock is another look into the mind of Charles Xavier as seen through his students. It is surprising that such a sudden crop of works featuring the Professor have appeared, yet understandable based on the lack of exploration into his life and character, and the recent loss of him in the comic. Samy Merchi has always focused on the motivations of characters, and does a rather charged and extreme series of shifts in those perceptions in the story. It begins with a bang, Jean accusing Charles of raping her and telepathically removing those memories. While there is nothing but conjecture on Jeanís side, and remains unsubstantiated through out the section, it does raise a number of doubts. The other interactions are interesting as well, be it Bobbyís goal of self-improvement or Warrenís doubts. One of the best scenes is the classic son surpassing the father metaphors as Scott informs Xavier of the new goals of the X-Men, without his control. The story as a whole works quite well, the only problem being that the power of the first scene almost washes out the impact of the later ones. The first scene hits so powerfully, that the others fade somewhat, and would be better presented in another order. For versatility, this story probably best represents the personality of the Professor as it applies to the students and the world at large.

Jono is the amazing Perpetual Angst machine in GenX, managing to avoid the entropy of some form of happiness and contentment. While this is often milked for far too maudlin works, JinxoLAL has managed to find a slightly different angle and significant depth in What You Already Knew, Jono is the attention yet not the centre of the story. Instead a young girl from his past serves to unlock the well of guilt and repression which surrounds his character. It is done a silken subtly, the real message swathed within the story. While it seems to be a telling of how miserable Jonoís life is without a face, it quickly is switched to a reminder how others have it much worse. Others like the friend he is talking to from his past. A friend who died four years pervious from their currant conversation. It is a stinging rebuttal to Jonoís self pity, and makes the revelation of that pity far more potent. The writing has a wistful quality to it, delicate and simple, each sentence falling carefully into place. The pacing is slow, the plot and writing gentle. It is very much in the style of much of the introspective Vertigo genre, almost ethereal.

The Sun by Callista is her first offering to the fan fiction world. Daring in itís goals to merge the convoluted aspects of the Mutant Massacre and the Gambit traitor plot, it focuses on the underused Marrow. Beginning as her dreams as a young girl, it traces carefully the events which would create the Gene Nation leader of Marrow. Why is this story so good? Much of the reason is the wonderful layout of the story, creating a mental picture of Sarahís thoughts in the placement of the sentences. There are some problems characteristic of newer writers, which are apparent here. It is timid in spots when it should be bold, and hesitate in areas requiring firm control. However, it is also logical and intelligent, based on solid ideas and characterizations. A minor continuity error of Angelís uniform does nag at me, but Iím a little picky about that sort of stuff. As a first piece, it is extraordinary in itís focus and setting, and heralds the appearance of a new and skilled writer. Welcome to the Ficworld, Callista. I hope you survive the experience.

The last story contains laughter. In a cave. Poi Lassís utterly irreverent and hilarious miniYou Did *What* In A Cave? is one of the funniest stories to hit the net in a while. Set in the implied seduction of Rogue in the cave during the misbegotten trial nonsense, it points directly to the absurdities of the situation and the Ďromanceí of the seduction. Told completely in a dialogue setting, it is funny, engaging, and wickedly twisted. There are bizarre statements, twisted arguments and some of the most gut-splitting exchanges of wit to grace the net. The story is fun, pure and simple. And the perfect one to end this hideously dark review on. Man, arenít you people ever happy?

Just a few quick notes while Iím not doused in fermented juices here. Some of the stories contain mature themes. If you are offended or underaged to view such material, please do not. I have no interest in getting any archivist in hot water for this. Second, I am *still* trying to drag this column on to a schedule, many apologies to those who have been waiting a while for it. As always, questions, comments and requests are welcomed at this address. And, as always, guest reviews and those of my work are welcomed as well. Well, from the back of a forest green convertible, I bid you all ado from the Dex Machine.

Dex

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