HEROES

The Fan Fiction Fanzine

2011 Editor Roundtable

By
hrlambright
• Dec 19th, 2011 • Category: Features, Lead Story

Back in October 2010, there was a discussion on the HEROES list, essentially questioning the typical format of fan-fiction sites, including the dibs lists, stagnating or idling titles, and methods of getting rid of writers who may never produce another issue. Curious, I put together a questionnaire for the various editors of fan-fiction websites to see if any of the proposed ideas (dib-less sites, loose continuity, etc.) were in practice and working anywhere. The results, while perhaps not necessarily unexpected, provide an interesting look into how each of the various fan-fiction websites work.

-Hunter Lambright

1.) Does your fan-fiction site(s) use a consistent cutoff point from the regular comics universe? Why or why not?

Cory Wiegel, Marvel 2000Marvel 2000′s cut-off point is the Magneto War, from a whopping 11 years ago! While I inherited this cut-off point, I think it was essential to the site’s development. Unlike other comic companies, Marvel isn’t shy with completely revamping the status quo of a franchise or having the status quo of one character or title directly affect the status quo of another, so I think it’s a smart move for everyone to have a good reference point to start writing from. Otherwise, I’d foresee things getting pretty messy.

Josh Reynolds, Marvel 2000 (former): As far as I know, the cut off for M2K is ‘The Magneto War’. As to why, that’s a bit before my time, but I assume because it was the most recent EVENT-type thing that had happened in 616 at the time the site was formed.

Dale Glaser, Faux DC: Yep, FauxDC’s cut-off is from mainstream DC circa 1998, right around the time of the Millennium Giants storyline. Why? I guess because we’re a traditional cutoff-based shared universe site, because that’s the way things were done waaaaay back when the site started and FDC was basically the DC version of MV1.

Mike Hintze, DC InfinityThe InitiativeDC Infinity uses the end of Infinite Crisis (but before 52) to start off from. We lauched the same week as DC’s 52, so it was a nice cutoff point that was fresh in everyone’s minds at the time. The Initiative used the end of Civil War (but before Captain America #25) since the whole point of the site was to have ultimate creative freedom with writers picking a state (or country or any group) and running with whatever they could come up with.

Erik Fromme, Marvel AnthologyDC AnthologyBoth of the Anthology sites have a solid cut-off that I’m always open for adjusting as necessary if certain events that are close to it would make the continuity better or vice versa. I tend to just ignore things that I don’t like as if they never existed and stick with an interpretation that I like as if it were always that way. But that’s mostly on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise I’ll just say that DCA has a blanket cut-off prior to Our Worlds At War and MA roughly around Oct. 2000…but MA has a little bit of a looser cut-off given that I rebooted the site in ’08 and the cut-off is then 7 years old by then. I won’t force anybody at MA to honor 7 year old continuity strictly. As long as they’re consistent to starting from basically a solid jumping on point that looks more forward to building the series than looking backwards then I’m good.

Dino Pollard, Marvel Omega (former), DC Omega (former): Every site I’ve run has used a cut-off from the regular universe. In the case of M2K, the first site I ran, it was actually for selfish reasons. I wanted to write the X-Men and I didn’t like the direction Marvel’s X-books went after The Magneto War, so I decided to use that as a cut-off. With Marvel Omega, it was a unique situation. The site started off as Marvel-X but there was a difference in opinion between the direction of Marvel-X and where Ryan wanted to take the X-books, so Ryan made the choice to break off the X-books and form Marvel Omega and invited me to help him with it as I was co-writing the books with him. MX’s cut-off was The Hunt For Xavier story-arc, but Ryan and I didn’t feel comfortable saddling the writers of the non-X-books with that cut-off since so much time had passed. So Ryan chose to use a rough cut-off of 2003. This has allowed a lot of flexibility for writers and it’s paid off very well for us.

Hunter Lambright, Marvel OmegaJust like everyone else, we use a cutoff system, with the X-Titles breaking off from the “Hunt for Xavier” storyline, and everything else in the Marvel Universe breaking off at the end of 2003, roughly. This allows writers picking up MU characters who haven’t been used yet since 2003 to establish their own status quos and to introduce new characters into continuity pretty seamlessly. Rarely have we had a major screw-up with that continuity. In fact, many of the more recent continuity snafus have come from internal continuity. For example, at the end of Giant-Size New Mutants #1, George Cameron summarily killed all of the Greek gods. Now, in an X-Force Annual that’ll be released sooner rather than later, I’ll be explaining how they all came back between then and now so that Persephone’s presence in Guardians of the Galaxy and Hercules’ presence in Champions make sense. Essentially, the cutoff hasn’t been the issue.


2.) Do you think your current system of cutoff or lack thereof works for new writers? If not, what would you change?

CW: It sure does. The Magneto War was a very long time ago and M2K’s universe has moved in a very different direction from Marvel’s. Since so much time from the Magneto War has passed, a new writer can take criminally underused characters like Dr. Strange or Hulk and establish them however they like, with or without consideration of M2K’s current state and yet writers will still know where other characters stand in the universe.

JR: It’s been ten years, so I think it’s a bit moot now. Seriously, who remembers ‘The Magneto War’? Anyone? M2K has enough internal continuity now that any external factors are negligible, IMO.

DG: A cutoff from 12 years ago is probably not that new-writer friendly, especially if the new writer is too young to remember it! Which is why this summer/fall we’re going through the Dangerous Toys crossover, which at least brings our stable of characters a little closer to the current, on-the-stands DCU. But as far as history-of-the-universe stuff, you’d still have to do both back-issue DC and back-issue FDC research to really be conversant in the details. On the other hand, I think being obsessed with historical details is a bit overrated and I don’t hold writers’ feet to the fire over minor stuff.

MH: I think the current system works at the time of the site creation, but as years go by it loses its impact. DC has essentially returned to the status quo after Infinite Crisis and the Initiative is no longer around at Marvel. I think of Faux DC which has its cutoff after the ‘Millennium Giants’ storyline in 1998 or 99. They are now launching an event to create a more friendly continuity atmosphere. I’m a big fan of continuity. I like the fact that what affects Batman here will affect Superman there. Of course, the more issues you put out and the longer the group exists, the harder it can be to have a reader-friendly site. DCI did our own version of ‘52’, but there was so much happening there that even I have forgotten some of the events today. With the conclusion of the ‘Solaris Strikes’ storyline in Justice League, I have essentially wrapped up a lot of the initial story points the site started with and have hopefully made things more wide open for writers to have fun with rather than continuing the old ideas. The Initiative is a bit more new writer friendly as their series can be as involved (or not) with the others as they like.

EF: I think, so far, we’ve had a relative success with our current system because the system is pretty much custom fit to the new writer as they enter the site. Editorial and Author will swap their ideas and visions and I could comfortably say that aside from 1 person we’ve managed to make every series and author work out perfect. I try to get the new author submerged with the others who write similar books to them pretty quickly so we’re all aware of the larger picture we’re trying to do here. And I think, for the most part, every author has responded very positively to the system on hand because there IS a clear vision of what we want to accomplish with MA and we want EVERY author on site to contribute and be a part of that.

DP: I think the current system at MO works very well for new writers. It makes things more flexible so they can choose to respect or ignore various things. Our internal continuity is pretty well maintained, too, thanks to the efforts of not only editorial but also the writers, who have a very collaborative spirit.

 

HL: I think that the current system works just fine. As I said above, it lets us play pretty loose with anything that wasn’t picked up immediately at the 2003 mark. That’s something that’s worked out pretty well for people wanting to drop characters into new status quos without a whole lot of backstory. It can still work for C-listers who haven’t shown up even once since then.


3.) Does your fan-fiction site(s) use a dibs list (either public or not) to keep track of characters? Why or why not?

CW: Yeah, Marvel 2000 has a publicly listed dibs list. What’s great is that it allows new and current writers to see who’s appearing where and coordinate with each other in respect to continuity. More importantly, it also gives writers a sense of interest in the site. They know which characters are theirs, who they’re responsible for, and what their individual contribution to the universe is. Without that sense of place, I think writers are more likely to abandon their stories.

JR: Supposedly, though it doesn’t get updated as often as it should. And, likely for the same reason every other site has such a list…it’s a way to keep things straight. We also have a list of deceased characters, which is quite helpful.

DG: FDC has a dibs list, and it’s public. It’s also in major need of overhauling, something we plan to do collectively by the end of the year. Why do we have one? So people know who’s being used by whom, who to ask if they want to borrow a dib, who not to base a pitch on if they’re already spread thin through multiple titles, etc. – all the usual reasons, I guess.

MH: There are Dibs Lists for both DC Infinity and the Initiative (open only to writers on Yahoo), but like anything else they are only effective when people use them. They help track major characters for other writers, but it’s not anything a quick e-mail ‘shout out’ on the writer’s list couldn’t handle just as well. The Initiative, if it had progressed as grandly as I had originally envisioned, would have certainly needed a Dibs List with the potential of 50+ different series.

EF: DCA and MA absolutely keeps a dibs list. MA’s list almost touched 1,000 characters at one point before some unfortunate drop outs and trimmings brought that number back to being just shy of 900. Maintaining the list can be a tremendous pain the ass, but I think it’s necessary to the health of the site to keep a pretty detailed dibs list because it attributes to maintaining the consistency of the characters on the site. I don’t think anybody benefits from having Captain America (for example) be in 4 different places with 4 different interpretations of him all at once, especially not a community of writers sharing inside the same universe. Just because at Marvel it appears that dibs don’t apply to Wolverine, doesn’t mean we follow the same thought here. To continue with Captain America for a moment, Meri is the main dib holder of him…but he’s also shared to Avengers with Jamie. I’ve always been good to allow a solo run concurrent to team book as long as the authors are willing to talk ’cause you can have 2 ideas thrown at him but that loose collaboration and acknowledgement of work turns that into 1 consistent vision. When you’re running 41 Ongoings, 6 Anthology’s and 5 mini’s there needs to be a system in place that keeps track of characters that’re being used to prevent somebody from unknowingly coming in and trampling over a person’s vision who had ideas for that character first, but it’s also important to know the characters assigned to a certain idea. Not just for the knowledge of the other writers around but for the writer that has those dibs. I know I’ve seen plenty of times a guy go to me “Oh, shit, I forgot I had that guy dibbed! Now, I remember some ideas I had for him!”

DP: At MO, we use a public list to keep track of characters (although a few writers have dibs they want to be kept secret for spoiler reasons but we keep track of those as well). It’s really standard practice at a fanfic site to have a dibs list, although they can become unmanageable if you’re not careful. I remember in MV1, there were characters dibbed for specific “Years” with their Year 1, Year 2, etc. system, and that made things very confusing. When I ran DC Omega, we tried a dib-less policy, which to my knowledge was the first time a site attempted that. When I decided to do that, I consulted the writers first and they all thought it’d be worth a shot. The way it worked is that each book had a core cast, but those characters could easily be used elsewhere. And if something drastic was going to happen, such as the death of a character or a major status change, we decided to discuss it first. It’s hard to say how effective the policy was, because DCO didn’t have very many active titles. I think a policy like that works for a smaller site, but for a bigger site like MO or M2K, it might be difficult to downright impossible to implement.

HL: Our dibs list is public and updated on a very regular basis. Dino Pollard actually handles it based on the dibs requests on our Yahoo Group. It’s rather necessary in our case, because you have hundreds and hundreds of characters that people want to play with, and with something like 50 books going at once, it would be impossible to handle otherwise. Now, I do want to say that I walked in on DC Omega while it was dying down, and they managed to make a site without a dibs list work pretty well. However, there’s a reason a Justice League of America book never got off the ground, and I think that figuring out everyone’s status quos without being able to dib them outright may have had something to do with that. Dino might have more to say on the subject, though. I honestly can only speak on DC Omega from an outsider’s perspective.


4.) Do you think your current system of dibs or lack thereof works for your group of writers? If not, what would you change?

CW: I think it works great for the site. In the past, we’ve had a couple of battle apples who like to hog and horde characters that they rarely use, but currently we have a great staff that is very flexible and willing to work with others. I can’t think of one dib related problem in the past few years.

JR: Frankly? No, I don’t think it works. We’ve got writers sitting on dibs for fifteen or sixteen characters, only half of which they’ll use in a given year. Personally, if I had my way, I’d pare the dibs list down to the bare essentials, i.e. characters who’ll show up in every single issue of your run. Otherwise, they’re fair game.

DG: I think the system works right now, but then again we have very few writers producing at high volume consistently, and those writers tend to stay out of each other’s way, so it’s kind of a non-issue. It might become a bigger issue if we pump up the site more with new blood, which we want to do, so that’s why we’ll probably start with overhauling the list.

MH: Again, I think it works if people use it. I’m sure DCI’s is out of date with the number of series we have on hiatus, but it’s nothing an e-mail to myself or other writers couldn’t fix. Initiative is still small enough a Dibs list helps but isn’t absolutely integral…yet.

EF: Yeah. I once saw somewhere that Marvel boasts to having 5,000 characters. Well, you know what? I wanna find every single one of those characters. If Captain America – again – is taken somewhere, then a light might click on and all of a sudden you’re reminded of Battlestar or Nomad or the Josiah X character and now you’ve instantly got a brand new idea that fits inside your original template, but the elements those other characters bring with them might just make the idea better. You’re allowed to do certain things with Nomad than with Captain America that opens up more potential for your plot. Sure, popular characters are popular because they’re popular…but it doesn’t make them better because they’re popular. Kasper Cole’s White Tiger gives you all of the skill set of Black Panther, most of the same connections supplied through Wakanda and his fish out of water aspect of being a hero MIGHT just make the story originally planned for T’Challa more fun. But, really, the Avenger books are really only going to potentially conflict with the other Avenger books in terms of scooping up characters. I doubt Avengers will have much a problem with Uncanny X-Men laying claim to Storm. And there are so many Avengers books that can have different tones, moods and atmospheres that are better suited for one character over another that you can often avoid conflicts because of that, not just in characters you need vs what another might need…but if – again – Captain America is dibbed for Avengers, but I get a proposal for him to be in Dark Avengers…then you can use the atmosphere of the book to find a more suitable replacement for him that’ll strengthen not just that suggested character but the book too.

DP: It does, I think. It can be frustrating for writers who find that the characters they want to use are held by someone else, but we do encourage writers to ask each other if they can share dibs. There have been some gaffs and if there are writers who aren’t very active holding onto a load of characters, that can cause problems. There have been times when editors have stepped in and said, “you really don’t need to dib all these characters.” Sometimes, writers will dib characters just because they think they might use them at some point in the future and that’s something Hunter tries to keep an eye out by asking writers to keep him appraised of their plots. Dibs are kind of a necessary evil, but as long as writers are willing to be respectful and are willing to communicate, I think it can be handled very well.

HL: I honestly think it works pretty well. I can understand that when you’re wanting to write is dibbed, it can be frustrating, especially if it doesn’t appear that the writer is going to use that character any time soon. However, I always recommend to people that they e-mail the writer to see if something can’t be worked out. Nine times out of ten, something can. I want to say, I know Meriades Rai was frustrated for a while about Marvel Omega’s dibs list, but it’s forced him to become rather creative with titles like Heralds and his upcoming Fantastic Four stuff—and honestly? That forced creativity has gotten him to produce some of the best stuff I’ve read from him.


5.) What is your site’s policy on cutting writers from stagnating books?

CW: It’s fairly loose. If the writer is in regular communication with us and their title isn’t a burden on continuity we tend to let things slide for several months (easily up to a year) until we take action. However, if the drops off the block and/or their title has characters others wish to use or that someone has a proposal for then we generally have a six month policy.

JR: Not as draconian as I’d like, but then I’m a bit of a bastard. I’ve lobbied to trim the deadwood from the site several times, but Cory has managed to sweet-talk me down off the roof and the rifle out of my hands most every time. Personally, I think that if a book hasn’t updated at least three times in a calendar year, it (or its writer) need to go.

DG: We do have an official policy, allegedly that if a writer goes more than three months without producing an issue, they get a warning, and if they still don’t produce in another month, they get axed from the title. But as far as I know this has never really been enforced. But, again, with end-of-year housekeeping coming, it may finally come into play.

MH: This is something new to me, as I have finally had to make some decisions regarding this. As a writer, I am guilty of this with other sites and it has really hit home now that I am an ‘Editor’. Before October 3, DCI had no updates since February, which was entirely my fault. Of course, before that several series just seemed to have their writers disappear from contact. What I’ve done is put those series ‘On Hiatus’ and will leave them for now (they are still cool stories), but will allow the characters to be used by other writers if needed. If the writers come back, great. If a new writer comes along asking about a stalled series, I would likely pass it on to them at that time after a final reach out to the old writer. Not a cut and dried policy by any means like other groups do, but I think it’s a compromise between ‘having fun writing’ and making this seem like a ‘job.’

EF: I pretty much handle that on a case-by-case basis. If authors flat out ignore my inquiries into their activity them I’ll drop them faster than a spicy curry exits my colon. But if they’re in steady contact with me, or reply back to me then I’ll play ball. Most of that might also depend on interest in get in a book that’s not producing. If I get enough outside interest then it might prompt me to make a decision sooner than later. Though, I’m also of the mind that there’s a catch 22 to just blindly cutting people from some books. If you know a book – for example ironically enough – like DAREDEVIL isn’t going to garner much interest then dropping a guy only leaves the book open and unproductive. Granted, probably not much better off than committed and unproductive…but sometimes I just hold out hope that I’ll see something for my effort and restraint. Just because a book that’s open and not doing anything does me very little good. But I’ve dropped titles just 3 months and I’ve dropped titles after 3 years – mostly dependent on just how much I like the guy I’m waiting for. Half the time I don’t even know where the Hell the time goes to at times.

DP: When I was running MO, my policy was that all titles should have an issue in the editors hands every three months or so. If there were writers who fell behind, I would e-mail them and ask them what the status was. That’s a really difficult thing to do as an editor, especially if you’ve got friends who are behind on their commitments. The hardest thing I ever had to do as an editor was tell a friend I’d have to cut him or her from a book because they weren’t being timely. Yes, there are sometimes legitimate excuses for writers being late, but I think if it’s taking you a year or more to write a ten-page story, you really don’t have the time to commit to fanfic and the best thing to do is step aside and let someone else have a chance. And if a writer wouldn’t respond to e-mails, then that would be the end of it. Being busy is one thing, but not offering an explanation or a response is just downright rude.

HL: I’m with Erik on this one. I’d much rather see someone’s stories come to fruition than to cut them prematurely when they’re just going through a rough patch. If I’m getting completely ignored by e-mail, though, that’s it. If you want to stay on the book and get another chance, tell me. If you’re not going to e-mail me back, it’s a red flag that things aren’t going to get better any time soon.


6.) Does your site have a policy on how many months a character can be dibbed without making an appearance yet in your title? Why or why not, and does it work/is it enforced strongly?

CW: M2K uses a “strong dib” and “light dib” system which basically works like so. If you take a strong dib on a character, they’re essentially a permanent fixture of your cast or play a strong role in your title’s run somehow, and another writer will have to ask permission to use them. Typically, everyone plays nicely. If you take a light dib on a character, they’re essentially open for any other writer to use without permission, but it is common courtesy to communicate with other writer to coordinate things. As an editor, I have a “sharing is caring” policy and tend to act more diplomatically if any disputes arise.

JR: Not that I’m aware of, though that’d be brilliant. Enforcing it would make some people quite unhappy though…

DG: No official rule on how long you can dib a character. Good idea, though.

MH: Not really. Again, e-mail communication can nip these issues in the bud. The ‘Hiatus’ series could have some dibs removed as time progresses.

EF: No, I didn’t even think that there was a policy like this until now. Neither DCA or MA has this policy mostly because I know there are some people who plan out for the long term and if they need somebody for issue #42 and they’re only on issue #2 then that character is still their dib… HOWEVER, I always remind people to ASK for another’s dib if they need it. More often than not you’ll get that okay to go ahead and use – as example – that character for whatever appearance you need them for. I’ll even try to expedite sharing of the dibs just because I know some of the potential ideas that haven’t seen daylight yet and know there might be room for a little bit of sharing to happen. I don’t truly believe that dibs 100% lock down and concretely tie up a character to a book with no wiggle room, because we’re used to seeing certain characters appear in two places at once in comics and that mindset doesn’t ever leave. The exceptions come from when you know a SOLO book is gonna do some really drastic things to the lead character.

DP: No, we don’t. Should we have one? I don’t know. There are a lot of variables. If you’re writing a team book, you’re definitely going to use more characters than if you’re writing a solo book. At the revamped DCO, our new EIC Gavin has instituted a policy that you can only dib characters so many months in advance, but there are exceptions to that rule. Time will tell whether or not it’ll work.

HL: We don’t have a policy like this either. Honestly, it only came up because it was something that was suggested on the HEROES list, but we haven’t put anything into play since then.


7.) When editing, do you take the simple “issue-poster” route, the send-it-back-until-it’s-post-worthy route, or the heavy form (not content) edits on the editor’s behalf route?

CW: We like to read the issues before we post them, but we don’t heavily edit for content. If I was to sit down and personally edit an issue, and I estimate that it’ll take me 30 minutes or more to correct grammar, spelling, syntax, etc. then that sucker is going back. Preferably, 5 to 20 minutes editing is ideal. Some writers need virtually no editing at all, which is awesome. Very rarely we’ve had to ban writers from the site completely because the quality of their work is simply too low.

JR: A little from column A, a little from B. Some issues are good to go, others need minor edits. I do make it a point to never spend more than twenty minutes on an issue, however. I’m not being paid to edit, and if you’re a writer worth the name, you should take the time to correct spelling mistakes and punctuation problems.

DG: Mostly as editor I just post the issues as they come in, especially with our older more trusted writers. Sometimes if I notice a ridiculous typo that has an obvious correction, I’ll go ahead and fix it. Every once in a while I’ll read something submitted by a new writer and realize it has a major continuity violation and I’ll get in touch with the writer and ask them to fix it. I’ve never sent something back to be re-written based on subjective quality.

MH: I tend to edit myself before posting, but only as far as grammar and spelling go. Any changes to story, if required, would be discussed with the writer and have them do any retooling, although this hasn’t happened to me yet. The group of people I work with at DCI and The Initiative are amazingly cooperative and easygoing.

EF: I’m gonna let MC field this question as the chief proofer for both DCA and MA. He’s got a system down that’s worked for him since he volunteered for this duty several years back.

Clayton Tooley, Marvel Anthology, DC Anthology: The system we use at MA and DCA is definitely a heavy-form edit with an eye for various things. The edit is primarily for spelling, grammar and sentence structure, but an eye is also kept out for things like characterization, flow of the story’s content, and just flat does this make any damned sense. No story goes onto either of our sites without being subject to our proofing requirements. If the story is complete in the writer’s vision of events, if it flows pretty well and the action and events make sense for the characters used, then other than fixing the small stuff (spelling, grammar, structure, format) then no other changes are made and a proofed copy is returned to the author for their review and input. In 95% of proofs that is all that happens. In the other 5% or so, something is found that requires a discussion between the editors and the author in regards to some part of the story, maybe a dibs issue or an event that could have a larger impact on MA or DCA as a whole, so we discuss the possible fallout from it, and how to either incorporate it into the site as a whole or mitigate it so that it doesn’t affect something negatively that we don’t want. This usually occurs when one author doesn’t know about events we as editors have decided to pursue or have accepted as story-points in another author’s proposal, so we figure out how to make it all work out in everyone’s benefit, which we have been almost always successful in doing so far. Also included in the 5% would be times where there’s a scene or scenario that just don’t make any reasonable sense and needs a second look. We’ll discuss it and work out a compromise that protects the author’s vision with what turns out the best story. It may sound more complicated than it really is, because it’s really not. We’ve been working this way for pushing a decade now, and perhaps that comes from having steady EiCs for most of that, one focused more on proofing and the other with juggling authors, but as a team this process is nearly seamless, helped along greatly by our attentive AEiCs and engaged writers. In nearly every case the authors have adjusted to our requirement of having the stories proofed prior to posting and all have agreed that it not only usually (but not always, we aren’t perfect) catches the little errors that slip through in the writing process, but it helps give the sites a conformity and readability that is second-to-none, and gives both DCA and MA a very consistent, easy to read presentation.

DP: When I ran M2K, I just did the issue-poster route. At MO, I changed that and went through the issues and corrected errors. It is a time consuming process, though. I agree with the other editors here, you really shouldn’t spend more than twenty minutes editing an issue. And if the same errors kept cropping up again and again, I’d first start off by e-mailing the writer and informing them of it, as well as encouraging writers to check out the Elements of Style handbook (which is available for free online). If those errors still kept cropping up, then I’d send the issues back. There were very few times I had to do that, though.

HL: Of Marvel Omega’s most recent three editors (Dino and Meri being the other two), I’m the only one who takes the heavy edit policy. However, I’m only human, and I don’t catch some things. I’d rather post the issue once and tell a writer, compare what went up to what you wrote. The changes I made, make in your next issue. When you have such a high volume like MO does, though, you can’t always give everything the fine-toothed comb that it needs. It’s a flaw in my editing process that I’m working on fixing.


8.) Do you play strict with continuity, or are you loose with continuity?

CW: We’re pretty loose currently, though some writers really enjoy referencing and working with each other. We like to keep some things vague (such as the amount of time that’s passed since the Magneto War) in order to keep stories more flexible.

JR: I like playing loose, personally. If it relates to enforcing dibs or keeping the site’s internal rhythm flowing correctly, I’ll be as strict as a nun with a hangover. Otherwise, I could give a toss.

DG: I personally am pretty loose with continuity. Before Dangerous Toys, if someone wanted to write a story using characters or indirectly referencing events post-cutoff, I was fine with it as long as it didn’t flagrantly contradict internal FDC continuity. I also generally can’t be bothered with nitpicky stuff, like when a JLA issue was supposed to happen compared to various Superman issues where it doesn’t seem like Superman has enough downtime in between events for a side-mission.

MH: I’m a fan of continuity and tend to like it adhered to as much as possible out of respect to the other writers. Of course, retcons can be fun if handled correctly. While I would like ‘what came before’ respected, I have made it clear to all of my writers that they should not be afraid to try anything new going forward. As far as I’m concerned, there should never be a reset to the status quo. DCI has Bruce Wayne running Checkmate, Clark Kent was framed for the murder of his father, Wonder Woman is dead and gone (for now…hey, this is comics after all), Alan Scott is Earth’s Green Lantern, a notable JLA member bit the dust in the last update….things that happened and won’t be changing back anytime soon. The Initiative can literally have anything happen, too.

EF: Depends on the continuity. I don’t like to play directly off of Marvel’s continuity because I feel like it’s an anchor around the sites neck. I’d rather MA be a vessel to tell our stories based on our ideas, rather than sit there and go “Oh, that story really sucked. If I were to have written that this is how I would’ve done that.” ’cause I don’t have time for that. That’s not to say I won’t adapt an idea that I like into the site, but it has to fit the sites interpretation of Marvel. When it comes to MA’s continuity then we play that a lot more stricter than we do Marvel’s. I look at Marvel for where to start at only, from there we have a vision of the sites direction from there and what we’d like to accomplish. That’s why for MA we try to take a more proactive approach by introducing ideas and title suggestions to push that vision out there and hopefully attract some interest for us. Both sites are absolutely open for proposals and ideas that were never thought of before, or even saw a fit for and we’re happy to have them and incorporate them into that vision. When I say vision, it’s pretty amorphous. Every new idea, or revised idea gets added into that and I know, personally, I’ve found that for the most part people are happy to share in that vision and feel like they’ve added something to it that matters beyond the title they’ve introduced. Each branch – X-Men, Avengers or otherwise – kinda has their own mini-continuity that the authors contribute to as a council, basically. The X-Men line has ideas planned out for basically the next 3 yrs that was constructed as a whole by every X-Men writing author.

DP: As far as the cut-off goes, we’re pretty loose. With internal continuity, we make it consistent. Again, a big part of this is the collaborative nature of the writers. If a writer isn’t going to bother to keep up, at least a little bit with the rest of the site, then it’s going to make consistency very difficult. There have been some flubs, but nothing major. This is something where the writers really need to take action and be respectful of the fact that they’re working in a shared continuity.

HL: I go with the best of both worlds, really. If people want to ignore things without outright contradicting them, I’m okay with that. If people do want to outright contradict a storyline, then we’re going to have a problem.


9.) As the editor, do most continuity questions go through you to look up if you don’t know, or do you tell potential writers where the answer might be found?

CW: A little bit of both. If someone has a question that I can answer, I knock it out for them, and when there are new writers to the site who need hard and fast information before they put together their proposal I work hard to get them as much information as I can right off the block. If I honestly don’t know and the writer is an established staff member, I usually point them in the right direction.

JR: Both. If I know off hand, I share the info. If I don’t, I find out where the best place to look is.

DG: Some continuity questions come through me, and some come through our writers’ email list. Either way I answer them when I can, look them up when I don’t know off the top of my head, if looking them up is fairly easy (I figure that’s just part of my editorial gig) and when it looks like a lot of work to look something up, I tell the writer to do it themselves, and/or suggest a way to sidestep the issue so that it doesn’t matter.

MH: I have a pretty good handle on Marvel and DC historical background (45,000 comics in the basement is a handy resource) so most questions can go through me. They don’t have to, though. I think my writers are far better at what they do than I am.

EF: Most of the time I find that continuity questions are researched by myself and the person who asked it. Most questions that’re fielded mainly deal with “What’s Captain America doing at the time of the cut-off” or “Did this happen for Captain America’s continuity or do I need to introduce this on my own?” and those are relatively easy to answer pretty quickly. And most questions are answered in an IM chat where there’s a constant dialogue about it and a trading of websites used to look it up.

DP: When I was the editor, most continuity questions went through me. Even now, I still tackle a lot of them since I’ve got a lot of knowledge about MO’s continuity. Most continuity questions are posted on the mailing list or message board, so other people have an opportunity to chime in if they can help, and they do.

HL: If I can’t answer the question, Dino can. Together, we know just about everything there is to know about Marvel Omega continuity, I’d hope, and if we don’t, we at least can point people in the direction of the correct issues. Plus, my knowledge of Marvel 1980s and modern continuity coupled with his knowledge of the 1990s is helpful, too.


10.) As technology gets faster and more complicated, where do you see fan-fiction sites going in the future?

CW: Nowhere different, really. Our medium’s still very much a slow and personalized one. It’ll likely stay that way.

JR: Lord only knows. I’m sure someone will eventually start offering free PDF downloads of a series every year or so…like those cyberbacks folks used to create, back in the day.

DG: No idea! I’m not much of a visionary, and I don’t own an iPhone or anything. It probably would be a great idea to format, or even specifically write, certain stories so they fit well on a handheld device, but I’m just happily old-school and I’ll probably just keep the FDC site going as is until it gets run into the ground.

MH: My wife has been our ‘updater’ (being employed in web design) but as work and the impending baby make time at a premium, and my understanding of Dreamweaver couldn’t fill a thimble, I have resorted to using a forum for updates….much easier to do and I can actually delegate to others if needed with no effort. Of course, that leaves us at the whim of the forum hosting companies and takes away from the nice design work my wife has done to DC Infinity and The Initiative. I do see the future going to more of a forum design for simplicity’s sake, but only because I am not a web guru. I’m a lover, not a coder!

EF: I dunno. Everything seems to be pretty much internet based and fanfic is pretty much entirely internet based. I think the determining factors of fanfic in the future depends on how much of the new techniques that’re developed for html or css are integrated into the site. How easy it is to access the stories on your site and how visible your site is to being found. But that’s pretty much been the way fanfic has developed since the day Al Gore invented it *rimshot*.

DP: I don’t really see it changing much. Despite the advances in technology, fanfic sites are for the most part run the same today as they were when I first came on the scene about twelve years ago. One of the good things, though, is that editors have paid more attention to proper site design. Again, to mention MV1, that site was a design nightmare. There was no unified design, writers frequently designed the pages that contained their issues themselves, and so you had a total clash with image-laden backgrounds that made the text difficult to read, broken images left and right, and some ridiculous font color and font face choices. So far we haven’t seen much experimentation with technology. A few sites have experimented with more interactive menus, but I personally feel these things aren’t necessary. In my mind, a headshot list (with good image selections), simple navigation, and a striking yet simple and readable design are all you really need. I doubt you’ll see things like Flash or Shockwave used a lot in fanfic sites, just because these things can be time-consuming to create and sometimes buggy on some computers.

HL: When I asked this question, I wasn’t sure what kind of answers we’d get. At this point, I suppose we’ll have to go with the flow. In my experience, fan-fiction writers and editors are usually pretty quick to pick up new technology. If anyone’s going to do something new and different, it’s going to be us.


Given that a year has passed since the initial conversation, I do want to say that it’s entirely possible that things have changed at the various fan-fiction sites, but I wanted to make sure this saw the light of day for those curious after the discussion on the HEROES fan-fiction group list back then. If you have any questions about this or about participating in a future editor roundtable e-mail, let me know at hrlambright@gmail.com, and be sure to discuss your thoughts on the ideas brought to the surface here on the Marvel Omega forum or on the HEROES Fan-Fiction Yahoo! Groups listing!

is Hunter Lambright, a fan-fiction writer and editor at Marvel Omega (http://marvel.omegacen.com). He's done a lot of thinking and has a lot to say, so tell him to shut up every once in a while. Or, if you're not tired of hearing him yet, you can find him sporadically talking about comic books at Thoughts in Four Colors (http://thoughtsinfourcolors.wordpress.com).
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