I could have sworn I published this review, but then I realized I hadn’t, despite having written it a while ago. Oops.
To make it up to you guys for not posting in so long, I thought I’d do a little “bonus feature” thing for our current MST.
As you may have noticed, when MSTing this fic I go and look up any reviews the author has replied to in her notes so that I know what she’s talking about. This has led to me finding quite a lot of, ah, interesting comments.
For instance, this review of chapter 1, left by romefan123:
YOUR STORY SUCKS!iT SUCKS IT SUCKS!
I HATE IT WITH THE WHITE HOT PASSION OF A 1000 SUNS!
But lest we get the wrong idea, they followed that up with:
Despite my negative review, I want to clarify that I dont hate the author of this story, and I actually liked her other stories, is just that I didnt like this story in particular.
Glad you took a break from your heat-of-a-thousand-suns hatred to clarify that, romefan123.
Many of the reviews are of the “lol random” sort popular among Zim fans in their tweens/early teens; these reviewers say stuff like “I iz so in love wif ur storehh!~~ nhyeh! TACOS!!!” These reviews tend to be just barely readable, but there are a few reviews I can’t even make sense of, like this one from jack-the-annoying-freak:
gir why are the waffels shaped like boobs
And another gem from the same user:
since dib is a girl is daz duz
I don’t even know what that means.
On the opposite end of the scale, we have Continuity Enfor’s reviews, which, while considerably more verbose, are also probably the work of a thirteen-year-old. For instance:
Unlike a lot of fan fiction, you are actually literate. I can understand and follow your story without hassle.
That said, I’d like to point out some flaws.
1. Though this may have been penned before the story arc was leaked, it is worth noting that Dib was artificially conceived. As Doctor Membrane’s destined heir, Dib was created with the best traits the Doctor had. Hypothetically, Dib will grow as tall as Doctor Membrane himself and possess that same deep voice. We have already seen that Dib’s cowlick will lengthen like his father’s did in “Itʻs a Wonderful Life of Doom”.
2. While Dib is certainly down on his luck, I find it gravely out of character for Dib to cut himself. Dib may have it rough at “Skool”, but home isn’t bad on him. Though Doctor Membrane has his faults (particularly his reference to his son as “insane” and the whole “real science” debacle), I gather from their interactions that Dib’s father genuinely cares for Dib and Gaz, even if he’s away at work. Though Doctor Membrane strongly disagrees with Dib’s interests, he encourages him to pursue them (he sees it as a phase) and lets him use all of his equipment (like in the Cmas episode where he took his fathet’s anti-Santa SAM batteries).
I said that to say this. Dib is too driven, ambitious, passionate, good-hearted, and gregarious to be consumed by his depression. Bullying against him is verbal and he faces no issues back in his house. He defeats Zim enough to give him hope, and it has been shown that Faz values his life enough to rescue him so that they could all go to the pizza parlour.
The big words are there to disguise the fact that this reviewer clearly has no idea what they’re talking about.
Actually, if you’ll permit me to refute a few of their points briefly? I’ve talked already about how I don’t see Dib as the type to self-harm, but to say that his home environment isn’t tough on him is definitely untrue. He’s neglected by his dad to the point where they only eat a meal together once a year, and he basically lives in fear of his little sister. Neglect is a form of abuse. Prof. Membrane’s allowing Dib to use his science equipment can hardly be seen as a benevolent gesture when it’s obvious that most (if not all) of this stuff is unfit for unsupervised use by an eleven-year-old. This isn’t the gesture of a kind and loving parent, but of one who doesn’t care.
On top of that, Dib being “good-hearted” is debatable, and he isn’t gregarious in the fucking slightest.
Lastly, you can’t treat Gaz saving his life as an act of kindness when in context she was only doing it so she’d get to eat pizza. Making sure your sibling doesn’t die is the bare minimum of caring for them anyway.
This same reviewer left another comment, which, again, I feel the need to respond to.
You have a clever idea going, but I object to some rather frustrating plot devices.
1. The Membranes never curse. Gaz doesn’t because she doesn’t need to pretend to be tough or intimidating, because she is. Dib doesn’t curse because he is too good-natured and well-taught by his father.
2. NO. NO NO NO. It is foolish to remove Dib’s glasses to make him look “prettier”. One of his classic appeals is his glasses and how they add an air of innocence and intelligence in a world of braindead “stink worm monkeys”, as Zim eloquently calls it.
1. You are a fair Gaz writer and you clearly put some effort into this. You have an understanding of her personality and capture her no-nonsense bluntness well.
2. I like your proposition that “Dibra” and Gaz are rather flat-chested. That makes sense, given that Doctor Membrane is an utilitarian, function-over-form man.
3. I don’t know why, but I did enjoy Dib’s comment that he would date his counterpart of the fairer sex. Itʻs a sort of haughty pride that runs in the family. All of the Membranes are convinced that they, and each other, are the absolute best at what they do. They are full of themselves, but in that confident way that doesn’t bother others.
Re: cursing, the reason Dib and his family never swore is because Invader Zim was a kid’s show, you dingbat. I still have no idea where you’re getting this perception of Dib as some sweet little goody two-shoes who has a great relationship with Daddy.
The glasses comment actually made me burst out laughing. This is gold.
Dib(ra) wasn’t described as being flat-chested. The author said B cup, which is small-to-average, but I vividly remember a line about Dib’s shirt being way too small/tight across the chest after the whole sex-swap thing. Also, Membrane may have artificially created Dib, but he had no direct involvement in female!Dib’s creation, and we still don’t know either way about Gaz.
…and now I’m laughing again at the third commendation because seriously who talks like this. Who even says “the fairer sex” anymore except maybe fedora-wearing dudebros who watch My Little Pony?
One last comment from this guy before we move on:
I like your description of “Dibra’s” clothes, though I would consider a daughter of a scientist to be modest enough not to bare midriff and pierce her earlobes with those more humble gold or white studs that young ladies wear.
Again, the cursing ruins a good plot.
Again, you nailed Gaz’s mannerisms.
Again, you have captured the classic Membrane vanity.
What in the hell does being the child of a scientist have to do with the clothes you wear? Seriously, what’s up with this reviewer?
Despite all the “random!!! XD” humor in the comments section, several commenters had valid criticisms to make. Reviewer Fish, for example, pointed out that Dib would likely feel uncomfortable dressing in very femme, tight-fitting clothes, and another reviewer commented that it was a little depressing that Dib would give up on his dream of defending Earth just because he got sex-swapped.
On the other hand, though, there are multiple reviewers saying stuff like “I usually hate ZaDR but when one of them is a girl it’s cute!”, so the comments section for this fic is still better off left alone.
I’m on break from college now. I had planned on getting more City of Bones reviewed during said break, but unfortunately I forgot to bring the book home with me. So, instead, Dibra.
This is a short chapter, but it’s boring and thus I kept putting off doing it.
Again, due to the author’s incredibly confusing portrayal of Dib/Dibra’s gender identity, I’ve elected to use singular they/them pronouns for the character barring further developments. I honestly do not know what their gender is supposed to be anymore.
Part of me really, really wanted to do Twilight next, but there are already a ton of chapter-by-chapter Twilight reviews out there, so instead we’re doing the Mortal Instruments trilogy. I might come back to the Twilight Saga at some point, but I’ll most likely be doing oneshot reviews instead of chapter-by-chapter ones.
I received the first two books in this trilogy for Christmas a few years back. I think a friend who liked them gave them to me. I know for sure that I read the first one, and I probably read the second, but the entirety of the plot has gone out of my head since. I’ll probably have a lot of “oh, yeah, I remember this!” moments as I reread the book, but going in I basically recall nothing, so for all intents and purposes this might as well be my first read-through.
The author, Cassandra Clare (real name Judith Rumelt), was a big name in the Harry Potter fandom a while back. She wrote The Draco Trilogy, a series of three novel-length fanfics about Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. If any of you are familiar with the term “Draco in leather pants”, used to refer to an unpleasant or villainous canon character getting a more sympathetic and sexualized fanon makeover, her fanfics are where the term originated. (There’s a famous scene in one of them in which Draco wears very tight leather pants.) There were several fandom controversies and a lot of drama surrounding these fics. As I understand it:
- The fics were ostensibly about a Draco/Hermione/Harry love triangle, but there was also a lot of Draco/Harry subtext. Might not seem like a big deal, but back in the day you either liked het pairings or you liked slash (gay pairings), and the Draco Trilogy’s predominately het-fan audience wasn’t always comfortable with the amount of gay subtext in the story.
- The author plagiarized a fairly long section of text from an out-of-print novel; when this was pointed out by a reader, the fics were removed from Fanfiction.net. As you can imagine, this caused a huge backlash from the trilogy’s many fans, who defended Cassandra’s plagiarism as an “homage” to the original work. (She was well-known for referencing other works in her fics; characters were often quoting Buffy the Vampire Slayer at length, for example, and she rarely cited her sources. It’s not uncommon for fan works to contain a fair number of references and shout-outs, but this author really used a ton of them, to the point where a large portion of her work was not original content.)
- Just to really drive home the above — Cassandra Clare was definitively proven to have lifted an entire scene from a book by another author, and much of the witty dialogue her fics were praised for was in fact taken directly from other works. The inconsistent nature of her prose, furthermore, suggests that she may have plagiarized far more than just that. Keep in mind, too, that she wrote these fics as an adult.
After first hearing of this drama, some time ago now, I got interested in rereading the Mortal Instruments series, but until now I haven’t gotten around to it. I haven’t heard anyone claim that the author plagiarized anyone’s work in her published novels, so maybe she learned her lesson; still, I’m having a hard time believing that someone who made a name for herself borrowing work from other authors has much chops as a writer.
(Bit off-topic, but I’ve just realized that she lives about 15-20 minutes away from my college. As I type this, there is a bus pulling up outside. If I were to get on this bus, it would take me to the town where she lives. Small world.)
Before beginning the review proper, one last note. I’m reading a hard copy of the book, rather than a PDF like I did for Fifty Shades. For this reason, I won’t be doing “alerts” at the end of these reviews. It was easy to do with Fifty Shades because I could just copy and paste quotes and do searches for phrases like “inner goddess” and “oh my” that the author used frequently. I’m still going to be doing a “thoughts so far” section at the end of each review.
Hey, Halfworlders. I would have posted that last chapter of Fifty Shades several days ago, but unfortunately my laptop containing the in-progress review is away for repairs. I’ll have it back in a few days, no worries.
Over the last couple days, I’ve been going through my old MSTs — doing some minor edits, mostly. It’s been a bit of a nostalgia trip for me, as odd as that sounds, but it also got me thinking. Back when I first started doing MSTs, I was a fifteen-year-old kid; not much older than the authors whose works I was mocking, and, indeed, younger than at least a couple of them. Now, though, I’m a few months away from turning nineteen, and it’s starting to feel a little unfair of me to be picking on bad fanfic writers; many of them are in their early teens, or even pre-teens. They’re just kids. They may not know how to write, but their poor attempts at writing are basically harmless, and for me to be ripping apart the work of barely-pubescent kids seems pretty cruel now that I’m past that age myself.
That isn’t to say I’m condemning the idea of MSTing fanfic in general, or that I’m never gonna do another MST, but I think it’s time to refine the criteria a bit. Many of the fics I’ve MSTed in the past have been author-insert fics written by fangirls in their early teens, but that sort of thing doesn’t seem too fair for me to criticize — if young girls wanna pretend that they have super awesome powers and that they’re married to Zim from Invader Zim, then more power to them, I guess, and far be it from me to judge them for a little harmless escapism. Seemed like fair game when I was around that age myself; doesn’t seem fair now.
On the other hand, stuff like My Immortal and Forbiden Fruit will forever be fair game for reasons I’m sure don’t need explaining (you can’t not laugh at one of those). I stand by my sporking of Love Knows No Race, as it was the literary equivalent of a hairball and also contained multi-generational alien twincest (somehow presented as totally okay?). Trollfics, like those of MarissaTheWriter, are practically written for people like me to pick apart and have a laugh at. (Well, in the case of MarissaTheWriter’s fics, they were literally written for me.) And I feel justified in MSTing Dibra, as the way it portrays sex and gender is pretty screwy and deserves to be criticized.
I’m not gonna swear off MSTing; I think it’s fun, and I think there are fanfics that deserve it (hell, some authors are totally fine with their work being picked over in this manner, too — I’ve even had authors request that I MST their fics a few times). But I’ll be more careful in choosing my targets. I don’t want to turn into some sort of internet bully here; that’s never been my aim with these MSTs. I don’t want to dissuade any twelve-year-olds from becoming writers simply because they wrote a second-rate fanfic (and, honestly, I’m not sure what other kind of fanfic you could expect from a twelve-year-old).
You know what is always an acceptable target, though? Published fiction.
I don’t know if I can continue on to the rest of the Fifty Shades saga right away; I might need a break. But there are plenty of bad books out there. There are so many works of fiction — bestselling ones, even — that are absolutely dreadful. Look at Twilight. Look at all the shitty young adult novels inspired by Twilight. And now remember that everything written in those books is being read by a large and impressionable audience. Surely that kind of writing deserves to be ripped to shreds here on THW.
In short, what I’m saying is that this blog is gonna be shifting focus a bit; there’ll still be MSTs from time to time, but I’m planning on doing mainly bad book reviews. Please do not send me any submissions for fics to be MSTed at this time. I may decide to close MST submissions indefinitely.
I’ll be finishing up the MSTs in progress; no worries.
Thank you all for being a great audience. Here’s to another year of awful writing and despair-inducing blog posts here on The Half-World!