Monday, May 23, 2016

Fic Failure Rates

In the 121 episodes since the re-launch of Elmer Studios we have now covered fifty separate and (more or less) distinct fanfics (Not counting RPG bios, comics and other oddities). And in that number, we’ve noticed several distinct trends forming. Possibly the most immediately striking is just how few of these fics reached any sort of conclusion before wandering off into space, never to be seen again. And, while in many of those cases it’s a mercy, it’s also worth looking at just what are the odds of a fic reaching its conclusion.

So I decided to look back over that last 121 and see what I found. The result was the development of five separate categories for fics and their eventual fates.

This is probably the most straightforward category and the easiest to solidly define. In this case, the fic has reached its conclusion and is not going any further. Of the fifty we’ve done, a full fifteen fit into this category. Usually, this comes in the form of an older fic that we found well after the fact (DELTA Invasion, the Dark Spiner series), but also can be a fic that is being written as it is being riffed. (Girl on Fire). In the latter case, there’s always the risk that an in-progress fic could become abandoned and never reach a conclusion.

Note that this doesn’t include any sequel, spin-off or other such related fics. It’s possible for one fic to be finished, and then a follow-up to die on the Launchpad or whatever else. (Chaos Lives, The Dark Warrior).
This is by far and away the most common fate of a fanfic. Of the fifty mentioned before, a full thirty of them (a rather convenient sixty percent) have been abandoned. In this case, ‘abandoned’ means ‘no work done on it in a significant period of time’. In some cases, this can come in the form of a distinct note form the author saying that they’re done with the fic for whatever reason (Life’s Gunpla Battle Championship Mk II). However, most of the time it’s simply left hanging, never to be seen again.

There’s no clear point as to when a fic might be abandoned. Most often, they just fall off at some arbitrary point during the narrative with no indication as to why or what happened. In some cases, they have an initial premise and just stop (Chaos Lives). In others, there might be an over-long set-up that never goes anywhere (Solaris Jokers, The Resurrection, Bubblegum Crisis The Next Generation Aftermath). There’s no real pattern as to the ‘when’ or the why.

Often it can be hard to tell if a fic is actually abandoned rather than a long time between updates. For example, Girl on Fire seemed to have died several times with months between new chapters before finally reaching its conclusion. Likewise, Dreamstar and the Court of Dreams had a year between chapters (And has more since, suggesting that it is, indeed, dead). In many cases, it simply comes down to a case of ‘wait and see’ to if a fic is truly dead or just resting. On the other hand, given that some of those (Tales of the Red Knight Sabre, ESPer Chronicles) have been ‘abandoned’ for nearly twenty years now, it’s fair to assume they’re done.

This small, rare category is for fics that are still being written as the riffing is ongoing. At the time of writing, there are three fics in there, although the final fate of them is unclear.

Riffing an ongoing fic is a risky prospect for a number of reasons. It could be that the fic winds up being abandoned (My Way to the Championship), it could be that the author decides to pull it or they get themselves banned from wherever the fic is hosted (My Way again) or whatever else. It also could be that the fic veers off in an uncomfortable or unwanted direction, or even just simply degenerate to a point of unsuitability, that means that, while it is ongoing, the decision is made to abandon riffing it.

Occasionally an ongoing fic will transition to a Completed one, but more often they end up Abandoned.

Update: The three "ongoing" fics have since been moved to the "abandoned" list. This probably was inevitable.

This category has only a single entrant. In this case, it means that another, possibly more complete, copy of the fic existed in past, but now is inaccessible or lost. In such cases, the version riffed may not be the most complete or final version, but rather the only one that could be found. The riffing thus works from that copy, although there is still the case that others could still exist and the fic could be revisited.

Note that this doesn’t include fics that were pulled or removed after being collected or riffed (DELTA Invasion, My Way to the Championship). In that case, their ‘status’ is based on what condition they were in at the time.

The sole entry to this category is The Tale of Yurei and Lance. The copy retrieved is but a fragment of the actual fic, but the only one that was accessible. Two other copies, both longer and more complete existed, but neither of them could be retrieved; one was on a long-defunct message board, and the other was on a fanfic archive before being removed by the author.

This final category is for those fics whose final status cannot be ascertained. There’s a single entry in this category, and it is annoyingly mysterious.

AYNGEL Project simply ends, not just at the end of a chapter or even the end of a scene, but in the middle of a line. All attempts to find more of it have failed, and there’s no indication as to if it was completed or, for that matter, the rather odd state it was found in. The simple existence of The Apocalyptic Battle suggests that it was finished, but there’s no solid proof.

Sadly, as AYNGEL was finished/abandoned/whatever over fifteen years ago now, it’s very unlikely that the truth will ever be known. It’s possible that there may be a more complete copy still out there somewhere, but as yet, it has defied all efforts to discover it.

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