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[icon] To curse or not to curse in a fic - River's Run My Flow Of Ideas
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Subject:To curse or not to curse in a fic
Time:09:31 pm

So I'm faced with a dilemma here and I'm honestly not sure how I want to proceed at this point.  As those of you who read my fics know, I tend to use curse words somewhat liberally in my fics.  For me, it seems a natural extension for certain characters, specifically John and Rodney.  The editor of one of the zines has asked me to remove pretty much anything that wouldn't make it past the show censors, in essence saying the stronger language violates their P13 rating limitations.  Now let me just say, I firmly believe, as editors, they have every right to restrict what they print.  The zine is ultimately their baby and they control the vision of what they want to present. The thing is, I have never rated a fic above PG13/T for language alone and I would never think twice about reading a fic with F bombs scattered throughout that was rated T.  For me the R/M rating is for fics with explicit sex and/or graphic violence and disturbing themes such as rape or extreme torture.  I think it is also fandom dependent.  If I was writing in Harry Potter or Teen Titans, I would probably be much more conservative since much younger readers are going to be the primary audience as opposed to something like SGA which is primarily college age and above.

But for the zine fic, I am of two minds....

One part of me just want to say, screw it, take out the language and be done with it.  When I get right down to it, its a zine fic.  And while I am very proud of several of my zine fics, honestly, I get very little feedback one way or another on them.  They just sort of disappear into black holes because people don't take the time to drop you an email saying if they like it or not, and even when I post them online, there is very little feedback for some reason.  The other thing is that I would really be the only one who knew I had changed the fic to meet the requirements and no one else would know the difference or really care, so why not just do it and get over it.

But the other part of me wants to say it's the principle dammit!  I don't use language for the shock value, I use it because it feels real to me and natural for the characters and I think it adds a layer to them we don't get to see on the show.  And isn't that why we write fanfic in the first place?  It feels like I'm sacrificing my image of the characters to meet someone else's image regardless of who knows I made the changes, because *I* know I made the changes.  Also, if I'm asked to trib to a zine or some other ficathon, I'm assuming you know what I write and how I write and that I'm compatible with your vision of the zine. If there is some aspect you don't care for, you need to state that up  front so I can decide then and there if I feel we're compatible before I write 18,000 words.  I'm always a little boggled when someone is surprised by my use of cursing when it is in almost *ever* fic I've written, which is over 100 fics now.

So, I'm curious to hear what people think about cursing in fics general and what the rating system for fics implies regarding language.  Even the MPAA has allowed fuck to be used on occasion in a PG movie, not to mention PG13.  If I use fuck 3 or 4 times in a fic does that put it in the same league as people writing explicit sex scenes or graphic rape?  Have I been rating my fics wrong all this time?  Because I'm honestly starting to wonder since this has happened a couple of times with zine fics now.
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winter_elf
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 07:05 am (UTC)
that's a tough question. It sounds like the editor is a little more sensative to the cursing than should be for adult fans. I think you've been using correct ratings. And yea, you'd think the editor would know your style.

I really enjoy your zine stories. I buy zines for them :)! I understand your comment on the principle of the thing, but I would hate to have you not submit stories. Is it just the F* work that's the problem? Can you switch to 'damn' or 'hell' or something like that? I know, not the same impact.
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 04:29 am (UTC)
Well, unfortunately, you'll have one less zine to buy with my fic. I tried for a compromise, removing the more offensive language and using what I thought was a rather funny subsitute but the editor didn't go for it. And I'm pretty sure she only read one of my fics (which did have the f bomb in it)and no others. Ah, well, it just means I can post the fic here.
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piplover
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 07:22 am (UTC)
I think you've been rating your stories correctly, since after all, even on cable they say 'shit' and 'damn.' Also, anyone who reads your work should know that your characters have a bit of the potty mouth, but so do the characters on tv. There have been several instances when McKay starts to say something and is cut off because of the word, but if he had been allowed to continue, well, he'd be just as eloquent as you write him.

In all honesty, I think the zine person is just being a bit sensitive. Even Goonies had 'fuck' a few times, and that movie is one of the all time great kid movies.

Besides, I love how you write the boys. I think it is realistic and adds to the character, rather than detract. I was in the Army and can tell you honestly that potty mouth is a default setting. It gets to the point where you don't even realize that every other word is fuck, and I think your John and Rodney would be no exception.
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 04:38 am (UTC)
I have worked with men of every education level and every economic demographic and they all curse... and the military definitely falls into this catagory. And upon further conversations with her, I also believe she is more than a bit sensative. Also, considering that she rejected my rewrite more out of her dislike of goddamn than anything else, I think I may have come out on the winning end of this one by not being in the zine.
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patk
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 08:38 am (UTC)
>>what people think about cursing in fics general

IMHO it depends on the characters and the context because it should feel as natural as a "real life"-scene when reading it. Teyla using "fuck/fucking" every three words in a staff meeting? No. Not because of my sensitivities but simply because it's not appropriate and would feel misfitting. Sheppard grinding out "fuck" because a Wraith is closing in on him and he's just discovered that P-90 is jammed? Pretty much yes. *g*

To me it's all about "does it feel real and natural, coming from this character in this situation?" If yes, I'm fine with the cursing, if not, I dislike it because it feels like a wrong characterization choice/bad style, just as having a character weep in a certain situation who most likely wouldn't do it then and there.

I would even go so far as to say that it can feel "off" (like a flawed characterization) if a character from whom you would expect cursing in a certain situation, does *not* curse in said situation.

And even if you don't get much feedback on zine stories, the zine and your story *will* be read and people who know your style expect certain things from you. If you restrain yourself and your style for a zine story and change aspects that feel right to you when writing it, you might even disappoint the expectations of readers who know your work because the way you use cursing is part of the way you write the characters. It might also have a reverse effect. People who might love your "censored" story would possibly dislike your "uncensored" work if they go and check it out (on the off chance that they haven't come across your work already ;-) ).

Personally I think you should go with what *feels* right to you. If taking out/changing certain curse words feels wrong, makes the character sound "wrong", then you shouldn't do it. If you can change it without getting the feeling of "that feels wrong here", then you can do it.

>>If I use fuck 3 or 4 times in a fic does that put it in the same league as people writing explicit sex scenes or graphic rape?<<

No. Absolutely not.


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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 04:44 am (UTC)
Well, people won't be reading this fic in a zine seeing as my rewrie was rejected. But, honestly, I kind of feel relieved that I'm out even though I genuinely tried to make it work for them. And I really wish I had gone with the gut feeling I had when I got the invite. I just felt that the editor wasn't familiar with my writing and even gave her the link to my LJ to check out my fics and make sure they were something she wanted. Apparently she never did... and according to her, she never will now if I can't write without vulgarity, profanity, and taking the Lord's name in vain. So, obviously, I was *not* a match for this zine and I'm a little frustrated that I wasted my time with it.
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springwoof
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 10:22 am (UTC)
I agree with your rating system for fics, and I believe the language you have your characters use in your fics is appropriate for the characters and situations. It's kindof surprising, when you think of it, the lengths the shows writers have gone to in order *not* to show John or Rodney (or several of the other characters) cussin' on occasion--especially considering some of the situations they get into, an "oh, shit!" once in a while would not be amiss....

However, you've already written the fic for the zine, yes? And, as you mentioned, the zine editors have final say over what goes in their zine. you say this has happened a couple of times with zine fics now. --maybe, for some reason, zine editors are more sensitive to strong language.... In that case, how about a compromise? For the zine, replace the stronger language with softer versions you *would* hear on tv, like "crap" (or whatever). Later, when you're free to post the fic online, change the language back to your original vision with the stronger language. would that work?
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 04:49 am (UTC)
I actually came up with what I thought was a funny compromise for the most offensive f bombs and actually ended up liking it better in most places. But what she wanted me to change ended up being the use of goddamn (for a completely personal reason by her own admission) and the like and it would have just thrown off the characterization of the boys way too much in my opinion. Fortunately, she refused the fic before I had to pull it. In the long run, I think this is for the best. I just wish I hadn't wasted a day trying to find a compromise.
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melagan
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 12:36 pm (UTC)
I'm very comfortable with your rating and the swearing,- it's used at appropriate times by characters that would 'swear' in certain situations. It never comes across for being used as 'shock value' Not that this helps with your decision- I just thought I'd throw my 2 cents your way.

I love your fics!

(Reply) (Thread)


liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:07 am (UTC)
Thanks for chiming in! I really was honestly wondering if I was screwing up the ratings and I was just *assuming* people felt the same way about crude language as I did. It's been reassuring to see that others feel the same way.
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docfred
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 01:12 pm (UTC)
I'm a bit bias because I love your fics, but based on other fics and what I have read regarding the fic rating system, your ratings are fine. Also you project the characters very well and many of them would throw out a curse in appropriate situations. You use it effectively to communicate the characters personality,not as a "shock" value. I agree that they should of given you a heads up before you wrote the fic to allow you to accommodate for that requirement, because you probably feel like by going back and editing for swear words you have lost the rhythm and soul of the fic.
For thinking outside the box: could you ask for and extension and produce a new fic based on their requirements. Okay so this is being selfish in the since that your readers could get 2 fics from you ;)
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 04:58 am (UTC)
I kind of wish I'd turned tail and ran when she first brought it up. LOL! Because, yeah, it did lose some of the rhythm in a couple of spots. But since she rejected it, I can do whatever I want now. *G* And I don't think anything I wrote would meet her requirements, which just goes to show she had never read anything I've written except one zine fic that *did* have the f bomb, not to mention the one word that she found the most offensive goddamn. With those kinds of restrictions on me, I kind of feel like it wouldn't be my fic anymore. You know? I have no problem with people wanting those sorts of resistrictions on their zines, just make it very clear up front and familiarize yourself with authors before asking them to trib.
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anne_higgins
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 03:20 pm (UTC)
I wrote extensively for zines in another fandom for years. My feeling is when it comes down to a difference in language, it's time to part ways.

I will bend over backwards to work with zine editors over plot points -- and always with better results than what I did in the first place -- but when they start fussing about things like this, um, no. Bye.

Especially since, yes, they should be familiar with your style.

Let's face it, for one reason or another this really bugs you or you wouldn't be posting about the issue.

So sweetly tell them that you are sorry you couldn't work things out and wish them all the best with their zine. Then either find another zine or post it on line. Cause you are seriously going to be upset with yourself if you make the changes they want. Might but you that it bugs you, but, hey, it does and that's the bottom line.
(Reply) (Thread)


liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:03 am (UTC)
Sigh. I really wish I had taken your advice because you are exactly right and I learned a valuable lesson. I won't be agreeing to trib to a zine unless I'm sure the editor is familiar with my writing. I did try to compromise and it didn't work to her satisfaction. I think the thing that bugs me the most is that she wasn't familiar with my style and didn't bother to become familiar with my style even after I provided a link to my LJ back when she first sent out the invite. And if you are going to be so sensative to cursing to the point that goddamn isn't even allowed, then that *Really* needs to be spelled out in your guidelines, not just PG13 ratings which has a very broad definition.
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jbperkins322
Subject:Language in fics
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 04:09 pm (UTC)
I guess I've gotten so used to people swearing that I don't notice it anymore. But then I've lived in a long time and don't notice a lot of things.

I realized how much swearing passes over my head when my sister and I took our nephews to see "Life" with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. After the movie, they mentioned the fact that there was a lot of swearing in the movie. Looking back at it, I remembered a lot of "f*ck..." practically every other line from the two of them. I've come to expect it from either of them so I hadn't paid much attention to how much was coming out of their mouth.

Back to your stories. I have always found your stories entertaining, thought-provoking, and true to the voices of the characters you write about.

Quite possibly the zine people are trying to appeal to a wider variety of audience. More zines seem to be cutting back on publications or closing down entirely.

Ultimately, it is your story and it's up to you on what you decide to do with it. Either way, I would read it.

Unfortunately, I am one of these vast number of people who read and don't comment, even if we like your stories. I can come up with a number of excuses on why I don't send feedback. But that's my problem. You have brought years of enjoyment on your view of SG Atlantis, especially Rodney/John, and I don't want to miss a single one.

If you're undecided, you could always compromise. Keep the original version and send them the PG13 one. When the year (or whatever deadline is up), you can post the original one or both. I've seen people post with a "R" and "NC" version of their story.

Do what's right for you.
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liketheriverrun
Subject:Re: Language in fics
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:20 am (UTC)
Well, honestly, I was worried I may have become so desensatised to language that I didn't realize I was offending people. But I really don't think this fic warranted an R. And I really don't think she was willing to accept a PG13 even. Basically the only cursing she would accept was damn, hell, and possibly son of a bitch. So that was a little limiting for me and she rejected the rewrite I presented, so it is probably best for all involved that I wasn't part of the zine.
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mary_alice
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 05:52 pm (UTC)
I also agree that your fics are correctly rated. And I am more sensitive to language than most others seem to be, from what I can tell. Your word choices -- including cursing -- always seemed appropriate to the character and the situation; they never threw me out of the story even for a minute.

That said, could you fall back on the old-fashioned "F***"?
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:27 am (UTC)
Well I found what I thought was a rather humorous response to the F bombs and I'll probably keep them in the fic when I post it, but she was eventually offended most by 'goddamn' for personal reasons and at that point I was kind of glad she rejected the fic. IMO, if you're going to reject language, it should *not* be for personal reasons unless you state that clearly up front. And I think that's what frustrates me most is that I went into this totally blind to those restrictions and she didn't take the time to read my fics to see that language is common in my fics. I think a lot of frustration on both sides could have been avoided if that was made clear up front. And I'll be making sure those things are spelled out before I commit to anything in the future.
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dru_evilista
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 11:04 pm (UTC)
As the others have said, you write wonderfully and you're rating system is correct. These are grown adults, who are frequently in life or death situations, Rodney is a panic-er, and John is in the military. Some cursing is bound to happen. The way you write it, you're not just throwing "fuck"'s into the middle of sentences for no reason, or have like Teyla bursting into "Fuck the fucking fuckers!" out of no where. The cursing has purpose, and is in character. If they asked you to write, they should be fans, should have read your previous fics and know that yes, sometimes cursing happens. You shouldn't have to change something, alter how you see that characters. If they don't like swearing...well they should be making a zine for like the Teletubbies or something, not a show for adults.
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:30 am (UTC)
LOL! I have to tell you that the Teletubbies comment inspired me to come up with a creative way to handle Rodney's f bombs. And I like it so much that I've decided to leave it in. Alas, it wasn't enough to meet her rather stringent language requirements and she rejected the fic. Which, now that I've started to calm down about it, is definitely for the best...frustrating that I wrote 19,000 word fic and spent another day trying to rewrite parts to meet her requirements, but most definitely for the best.
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brasslizard
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-29 11:50 pm (UTC)
I'm not a writer. Nor do I possess any great literary insight. So take this as you will:

Inappropriate language is any language that takes me out of the flow of a story (ie - "shock value"). I've NEVER felt jolted out of ANY of the action / dialogue in your stories. As for ratings? I've always felt that you delivered exactly what you promised.

So whatever you're doing? Keep on doing it.
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:33 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for your input! I feel the same way about language and I don't throw it in unless if feels real. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't making assumptions that others didn't agree with. I feel better knowing I'm not nuts... well, at least about the language. *G*
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astridv
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-30 02:14 am (UTC)
Cursing in fic doesn't bother me at all as long as it feels in character. I remember when I started out reading fanfic it gave me pause once or twice, not being used to the characters swearing onscreen, but I got past that very quickly, since it's obvious that in many cases the characters would, if only the censors let them.

I've very rarely seen fic rated higher than PG-13 just for language, I'd say that's unusual at least. And I can't recall any excessive swearing in your fic at all that would warrant that kind of rating. Your dialog always sounds natural and in character.

I'd just go with my gut feeling.

(To be honest, I don't really see the point of fic zines nowadays... why restrict your readership when you have the whole internet at your disposal... You can always offer an extra print-friendly version for readers who like their fic printed. Though even that is unnecessary... I print out all my fic, I just reformat it quickly before printing.)
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:38 am (UTC)
Honestly, I had never heard of zines before I started writing in SGA and Koschka was asked to have her fics compiled in a zine. I can respect the tradition of zines and some of them are beautifully produced (although I can only speak to the handful I've seen which are only Koschka's and the ones I have tribbed to). But sometimes they can be a real... challenge. This was definitely my worst experience and I've learned not to accept an invite unless I'm sure the editors are familiar with my writing because most of this could have been avoided if she had been familiar with my fics. And, yes, I should have gone with my gut feeling since I spent a day rewriting and it was still rejected. But I guess that saved me the trouble of pulling it. *G*
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tiddletaddle
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-30 02:48 am (UTC)
Well, I never actually noticed that you swore in your stories and so have never had problems with your ratings. Thinking about it I realise that you do use words that some may find offensive but I've never felt like the words didn't fit the situation or the characters. Especially Sheppard. He's military and if there is one thing the military does well, it's curse. :) (My army brother is an obvious example).
I personally think its a little nitpickish of the zine people. One, the sga fans are mostly, as you said, above the age of consent and two, even if we weren't name me one child that hasn't heard curse words. I've met some children who can swear and know more curse words than *I* do.
Your post actually reminded me of something. There are two writers, here in Australia (I can't remember their names), but they write SG1 books. I met them at a convention just after "Ark of Truth" came out. They were both so incredibly thrilled at the time, because in one scene Mitchell actually swore and it now meant that they could use that word in their future books. Before that MGM and co. were heavily censoring the stories even though the authors felt a few swear words would be in character.

Sorry, the post got a little away from me. Point is, I hope you do what your comfortable with. Either way, hopefully we can read the unedited copy? *hopeful smile* :)
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:44 am (UTC)
I felt the same way those Australian writers do! I get giddy when John lets out a frustrated "son of a bitch!" and Rodney lets out an "Oh Shit!" (that was cut by him falling backwards but he still said it) because it just goes to prove what I've always felt was true to the characters and that they would say those things. I almost find it ironic that she stated that it was my characterization of Rodney being off a the reason they rejected it (i.e. he swore) and it has been proven as canon on more than one occasion that he does it and does it with ease (that happy little "Son of a bitch" in Lost Tribe when he found the tones to open the door just made me smile). And, yes, since she rejected my attempts at a compromsing rewrite, you will get to read the unedited copy. *G*
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(Anonymous)
Subject:My two cents
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 05:57 am (UTC)
I think this has been covered already, but I wanted to add my two cents worth as a former zine-editor. I agree whole-heartedly that your choice of vocabulary, characterizations and ratings are used correctly, and would not have hesitated to include any of your stories in my zine had you written for Quantum Leap with the same snark that you write John and Rodney.

I also agree that the editor for the zine should have become familiar with your work prior to inviting you to participate, but more importantly that she should have explicitly defined the criteria she is choosing to enforce. The definition PG-13 alone is not sufficient, if only because the definition changes with your choice of media. There are several others grumbles I could add to the end of this, but I think I'll stop there.

As for those of us (and I include myself here) that don't post reviews as often as we probably should, you need not worry. You, my fine lady, have what all of us fanfic writers truly wish we had - a fanbase of our own. :)

Keep up the good work.
Laryn

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liketheriverrun
Subject:Re: My two cents
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 06:09 am (UTC)
Thanks so very much for this comment. Hearing the perspective of an editor for a zine and seeing that I wasn't expecting too much to think that an editor should take a little time to familiarize themselves with a writer's style makes me feel so much better. My professional life requires me to be very specific in my requirements of others, not to mention organized, and I always get bit in the ass when I assume others do the same thing, especially if they've been printing zines for as long as this editor has been. It's a mistake I won't be making in the future.
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(Anonymous)
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-01-31 10:51 pm (UTC)
I believe I have read every one of your stories at least once. Most of them I have read more than once. I love your John and Rodney. Your stories have a rhythm and a tone to them that perfectly captures what I want these characters to be and what the show almost (but never quite) gave me on occasion. Your dialog sings. This may or may not be a compliment to you, but the flow of your stories reminds me of Aaron Sorkin from his Sports Night days. I've never been thrust out of one of your stories by the language, and the story with the men of SGA-1 "teaching" Torren curse words is one of my all-time favorite Torren stories.

While I am dipping my toes in the comment pond, I love your older POV stories and your definition series, but I think my favorite gen-ish stories are Don Juan McKay and Never Want to Dance with Nobody But You. I'd love to see a sequel to Dance someday. I also enjoyed the Geeks and Goons collaborations, Slither and the one (the name escapes me) where Rodney isn't a mad scientist on radiation sickness pills trying to blow up Atlantis with a bomb.

I certainly hope this experience with the zine doesn't sour you on SGA fic. I'm always excited to read one of your new stories. (And when they aren't available I revisit the old favorites and laugh again over venomous frogs, fainting Zelenkas, herbi-amorous Hermiods, and of course, John and Rodney at their goddamn witty best). Can't wait to read your new story!

An avid reader
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liketheriverrun
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-02-01 09:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, this won't sour me to SGA fic, just made me a little gun shy of zine if I don't know the editors. And any comparison to Aaron Sorkin is a wonderful compliment given his reputation for wonderful dialog and character development. I'm so glad you've enjoyed the fics and hope you enjoy the ones to come. Thanks!
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[icon] To curse or not to curse in a fic - River's Run My Flow Of Ideas
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