Monday, April 3, 2017

Rebuild of Elmer Studios, year five

Five years. Wow.

When we restarted Elmer Studios, our plan was more or less “let’s redo Delta Invasion and go from there.” We had no idea how long it would last or where we would go. Initially, a lot of it was to simply see what fics (and other such materials) we could find. It wasn’t until well after that point that we began to form long-term plans and look at where we would be further down the road. Nowadays we try to plan in terms of long-term arcs and build between significant landmarks.

This last year has been a slow one, admittedly, with only twenty-one episodes and way too many one-episode months. A part of this was because the year was between two big points. On one side was the one hundred episode mark with another hit of Dyron, as well as the awkwardness that was Life’s Gunpla Battles Mk II. And on the other side are our plans for the future, which will be covered later. This meant that, for the most part, this was a quiet year in terms of major events or certain favourite authors. On the other hand, it did have a number of other highlights including a particularly interesting piece.

Professional works that are very unprofessional

The B-Teams did very well out of this last year. On one side, we had The Death Games, the spiritual successor to Girl on Fire by the same author. While sharing the same concept (super special sparkly girl is better then everyone and Dick Grayson loves her for no reason), The Death Games lacked any of its predecessors charm, wit, creativity, imagination or originality. What it did have was bulk copy-paste with the numbers filed off and no real attempt to hide it. Oh, and Eggs Over Easy Boy.

But the biggest win for the B-Team was also one of the biggest highlights of the last year was the discovery of an archive of Storm Force comic scans. Up until this point, the Storm Force MSTings were dependant on a disjointed collection of random old issues and other miscellany which meant that I had very few actual complete stories. For example, the origin story was only two-thirds complete and, as such, lacked any real conclusion. In other cases, we had portions of stories; ones without endings or even missing middles.

This archive changed all of that. Not only did it complete all but one of the incomplete stories we had, but it also gave us a number that we had no prior access to at all. The result was that not only did we cover three full Storm Force stories in the last year, but we also have a number still to come. This includes one really strange novelty in the form of a text story. How will the madness that is Storm Force translate to prose? Let’s just say that we’ll probably find out sooner rather than later.

But the important thing about Storm Force is that while it is a badly-written, badly-paced mess with shallow characters, goony villains and nonsense plots which was created in a last-ditch effort to keep a collapsing comic alive, it’s also a huge pile of fun. That’s something which is often lacking in the other works that we cover, and well worth considering.

As always, thanks to Blood for the Baron and Great News forall Readers for their help and making this madness happen.

Professional Works that really stretch the definition of the term

If any one piece could be said to be the highlight of the previous year, it would be Trinity:Forgotten Flame. A professionally published work by the most generous definition of the term, Trinity was vomited unto the internet through the miracles of Kindle Worlds. Now that’s already stretching the definition of ‘published’ by any means, but it got worst.

Trinity was defined as being an original sci-fi story filled with action, danger, intrigue, mysteries and ‘heart-warming moments’. What it actually amounted to was a terrible Earthsiege-Mass Effect hybrid mashup fanfic featuring a truly god-awful lead character at the head of a wretchedly shallow cast, a threadbare nonsense plot that comes apart with the lightest glance, twins that are three years apart in age, painfully unsexy attempts to be sexy, naked dog wrestling and a supporting cast that could collectively be summarised as ‘magic space lesbians’.

At the pinnacle of this was the story’s alleged protagonist, Kirsten Fairchild. Thoroughly unlikeable in every way, she was constantly being held up as some pinnacle of morality, heroism, intelligence, wit, skill, cunning, courage and whatever other traits the book could gush about as soon as the plot needed it. Actually she was an incompetent fall-down drunken idiot with no survival instincts and an amazing ability to make everything worse for herself, but the story continued to reward her for it no less.

Added to Trinity’s many problems, its writing could be best described as ‘unprofessional’. It was less that it needed to be better edited and more that the author had apparently written the fic by smashing his face into the keyboard while blindfolded. When the first paragraph of an alleged professional work is so riddled with spelling and grammar errors that it’s near unreadable, you know it has problems. It might not surprise anyone to find that it has only three reviews on Amazon, all one-stars.

Thanks again to the anonymous donor who provided us with this gem.

And a bunch of other stuff

One of the biggest wins of the year was the Dinobot’s Old Technology ­series, a collection of fanfics by the same author that may or may not form a coherent plot. A fandom classic, this piece served as an amusing companion to Ravage: Three Bodies Evolution, and was a joy to work on.

Another highlight was BubblegumClimax: Dark Horizon, the sequel to BubblegumClimax: Freefall that we’d only waited some seventeen years or so to do. It was well worth it, as Dark Horizon shared its predecessor’s combination of goofy and charming ineptitude, stupid villains and threadbare plot in a way that meant that it was more fun than aggressively bad. Sadly, it does appear that it is the last of the series, unless there’s a third part lurking unseen somewhere on the internet (And so far attempts of locate such has just turned up a lot of Adventure Time porn, so I’m off to get the brain bleach).

On the other hand, Daughterof the Saints managed to so fantastically miss the point of the computer games it was based on that we had to wonder if the author had even played it in the first place. It also gave us a new definition of ‘wheel spinning’, given that it took ten-odd chapters to actually reach its first plot point, and that was after we chopped out the regurgitated song lyrics. On the other hand, it did give us Wolf Ranching, which proved to be more interesting then the fic itself.

A story about some not very smart people

All in all, Trinity was the biggest highlight of the year. It would have been bad enough as a fanfic, but the fact that the author actually believed that people would pay money for it made it just that extra bit stupider at every conceivable level. And as aggressively offensively stupid as it was, that factor combined with it’s amazing ability to just get dumber as it went made it rather fun to work with. After all, the naked dog wrestling was only halfway in and yet it managed to go downhill from there.

As could be expected, Daughter of the Saints became the year’s biggest drag. It went on and on forever without actually going anywhere, instead constantly dragging itself down into a never-ending vortex of self-important wangst. Added to this was the aggressively unlikeable Gaia herself, who’s primary motivation was whining about how the world wasn’t like her magical ideal fantasy.

The most dubious award of the year has to go to The Amazing Star-Spider, for how intensely creepy it was. And then just as it gets all crawly and uncomfortable, it suddenly shifts into goofy comedy. What the hell, fic. What the hell?

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