Getting Caught Up in Fan Fiction

I’m gonna come out and say it – I love fan fiction. If it’s not glaringly bad presentation-wise (spelling errors, poor structure, obscenely bad plot), then I can usually enjoy it whether it’s so bad it’s good or just plain good. I like writing, so I can appreciate when someone does their best to put their own spin on established characters and universes. It’s also way I enjoy creepypastas as a sort of offshoot of fan fiction, because they basically tell a horror story to set up a mythos.

I’ve read all types of fan fiction (yes, even the sexual stuff), but the ones I enjoy most either create original stories for their chosen fandom or put the characters in strange situations. This could be anything from breaking the fourth wall to doing a “what if?” scenario. I’ve even enjoyed original fan fiction, based off nothing but ideas sprung from the writer’s head. Most of these were by internet friends, so I couldn’t help but be interested in what they came up with.

I once wrote fan fiction of my own as well. During my middle school years, I was involved with the official forum for Tommy Tallarico, a well-known video game composer who currently co-owns the concert tour Video Games Live. It was this forum where I met my first online friends who shared my interest in gaming and other nerdy things. One thread was dedicated to creative works, including fan fiction, so I decided to try my hand at writing a few stories involving a show Tommy was once involved with as well as Adam Sessler’s former show X-Play. I ended up writing four stories during my time there, and I was happy to receive good comments from my friends. Having hand-written them first, I even kept them in binders that I still have to this day.

Looking back on them, I know they’re not good. Being a teenager at the time, I didn’t know how to properly write characters, and my plots played out in a script-like format. I tossed together many ideas from shows I liked, even if it didn’t seem to make sense in the grand scheme of things. But in a weird way, I’m still proud I wrote them. Part of this is because they some of my few writing accomplishments, and the other part is because it was fun. Writing fan fiction let me be creative at a time when I started to read less and less and video games became a bigger part of my life.

While I don’t disagree when people say fan fiction gets a bad rep thanks to poor writing and comparable stuff like “Fifty Shades of Grey”, I think people who love writing shouldn’t feel dissuaded from dabbling in it. Like many hobbies, it’s a creative outlet and a good starting point for aspiring writers to test out their skills and hone them. And while I don’t write as much as I used to, it’s definitely shown me how I’ve improved in my writing and how I can continue to improve.

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My Love of Let’s Plays

First off, I want to apologize for my lack of blogging last week. Not only did I forget to blog, but I was also away for the weekend. The benefit of this was that I managed to finally see Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Go see it if you haven’t!) and rounded out my Scribblenauts collection by getting the previous 3 games in the series. Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about let’s plays.

For those who might not know what a let’s play is, it’s basically where a person records his or her self playing a game and commentating over it. I’ve seen plenty of let’s plays over the years, most of them on YouTube, and there’s typically never a time when I don’t have one to watch.

I don’t claim to have a solid idea of what makes a good or bad one, because for me it depends on what’s being presented. Maybe it’s a game I have or haven’t played that I’m interested in watching, or maybe the commentary is entertaining and/or informative. It ultimately depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ve seen series from well-known let’s players like Chuggaaconroy and SlimKirby, as well as from those gaining in popularity like MadameWario and Helloween4545. I even watch the Game Grumps, although they don’t completely classify themselves as let’s players.

For me, let’s plays represent a few different things. For one, they’re a form of entertainment, even if the commentary can be informative. Whether the person is trying to complete a game, playing one casually or tackling a game that’s sure to induce rage and frustration, I find it fun and relaxing to witness it. As I said earlier, sometimes I’ll watch ones of games I’ve played, which is purely for nostalgia. Other times I’ll watch games I haven’t and will never play, either because I don’t have the technical means or I’m not skilled at certain genres. While some will argue that it’s not as fun to watch someone play a game as it is playing it yourself, I get almost equal enjoyment out of it.

But another huge reason why I enjoy let’s plays is because I secretly respect those who make them. For one, whether they succeed or fail at a game is put out there for the world to see, and on top of that they are showing off their personality through their commentary. Another reason is just the technical aspects involved in let’s play. Quality-made ones have clear video capture, smooth audio and sometimes a bit of editing if parts of the game drag a bit. Due to the cost of some capture devices, I’ve never been bold enough to plunk money down to try it myself. That also includes being able to entertain or inform (or both) with commentary for the length of a video, which is something I don’t feel I’m capable of. I’ve always felt more comfortable behind the scenes, whether with writing or editing.

Ultimately, my stance on let’s plays is very casual. If one succeeds in entertaining me, then I consider it worth my time and attention regardless of how others might perceive it. So, to all those let’s players out there, thank you for providing countless hours of entertainment, sometimes at the expense of your own sanity (I kid, I kid). 🙂

My Top 11 Fave Villain Songs

As it came time this week to come up with blog ideas, my fiance and I issued challenges to each other. I challenged him to pick out his favorite hero songs and he in turn challenged me to pick my favorite villain songs. This list is the result of that challenge, and while numbering is involved for the sake of making a proper list, I love all these songs pretty much equally. I’ve always enjoyed villains regardless if they sing, and villain songs are usually some of the most fun in any movie or musical. So, that being said, let’s take a look at 11 of my fave villains and their songs.

11. “Dentist” – Orin (Little Shop of Horrors)

I’ve seen both a local play of Little Shop of Horrors as well as the 80s film, and while I like Audrey II’s songs, I never could get “Dentist” out of my head. In the film version in particular, although Orin is an utter douchebag, Steve Martin just relishes every second of this song. It’s an entertaining little tune and appropriate for the character.

10. “In the Dark of the Night” – Rasputin (Anastasia)

Having watched most of Don Bluth’s movies, I’m dismayed to say that the majority of villain songs downright suck. That is, until Jim Cummings put some life (no pun intended) into the undead Rasputin’s song. While the imagery is a bit…weird, the song itself captures Christopher Lloyd pretty well and has a cool heavy rock sound to it. The movie may be an expy of a Disney film, but it at least retains a good villain song despite that.

9. “See My Vest” – Mr. Burns/”The Very Reason That I Live” – Sideshow Bob (The Simpsons)

I’ve said before that “The Simpsons” is one of my all-time favorite shows and Mr. Burns and Bob are my favorite villains from it. Naturally, they’ve had a few songs between them, but I like these for a few reasons. “See My Vest” is a pure parody of “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast” and the animal theme (evil as it may be) always got my attention. “The Very Reason That I Live” parodies “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from “My Fair Lady” and Kelsey Grammar’s rich voice fits perfectly with the macabre lyrics. It was hard to try to pick a favorite between the two, so this one gets a tie.

8. “Gaston” – LeFou, Gaston & Others (Beauty and the Beast)

I always preferred “Gaston” to “The Mob Song” due to its catchiness and utter glee at bragging up the clearly full-of-himself Gaston. Gaston was always one of those few Disney villains who seemed “normal” and his song really shows how a few personality changes could’ve easily made him the hero of the story to everyone, not just the villagers or LeFou. I knocked off a few Disney songs from this list as its easy to choose any one of them – they’re all that good (well…most are). “Gaston” is one of the more energetic ones and highly enjoyable.

7. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” – Ursula (The Little Mermaid)

Of all the late 80s/early 90s Disney films, “The Little Mermaid” ranks a bit low on my list. However, I always liked how cunning Ursula was from the moment she was introduced. Her song is more like a ballad at first, starting slow and eventually working up to a crazy, fast climax. While “Gaston” was more of a bragging song for Gaston, Ursula’s song is pure deception from the get-go, having her downplay her evil contracts in favor of highlighting how she “helps” people. She’s just an interesting, female play on the “devil-like” character and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” reflects that well.

6. “Joker’s Song” – Miracle of Sound (Fan made)

I wish I could say I discovered this myself, but it was through my fiance that I first heard “Joker’s Song.” In it, the Arkham City version of the Joker sings how he and Batman are very alike and could never be whole without each other (not in that way). The vocals are pretty close to Mark Hamill’s, though it kinda sounds like its own take on the Joker. I’ve always liked Batman and especially his villains, so this song stuck with me, and every time I see Batman and the Joker I can’t help but think of it.

5. “A Little Priest” – Sweeney Todd & Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)

I debated between this and “Epiphany” before ultimately deciding that this one was more fun. Mrs. Lovett shows her true colors by not only deciding to encourage Todd’s newfound murderous urges but also suggesting they make meat pies out of Todd’s victims for profit. The song becomes a disturbing yet entertaining duet as they look at people and comment on how they might taste. Even more disturbing is how upbeat the song is despite the context, though that always made it more catchy in my mind. Ultimately, this is one diabolical song and I love every second of it.

4. “Still Alive” – GLaDOS (Portal)

While I’ve never played “Portal,” I was interested enough to watch others play it instead. By the time the end credits rolled and this song came up, I was instantly hooked by it. After the struggle to defeat homicidal A.I. GLaDOS, you’re treated to this little song by her, seemingly proving that she isn’t truly dead after all. She’s a devious character and this song captures that and adds a nice touch of her sarcasm as well. And while she also had a song at the end of “Portal 2,” I felt this one was the more villainous of the two in lieu of her role in the game..

3. “Friends on the Other Side” – Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)

Confession time: This is one of my favorite Disney songs in recent memory. Not just as a villain’s song, but just a song in general. It has many aspects I like, all cemented by the smooth voice of Keith David. For starters, Facilier does brag himself up a little, but he’s also deceptive and scheming throughout the song. I like that the song starts off nice and jazzy, goes into a slow bit as he states Naveen’s future, and eventually gets crazy as his deception occurs. It’s still my favorite song in the movie and easily trumps future efforts like “Mother Knows Best” from “Tangled.”

2. “Brand New Day” – Dr. Horrible (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog)

As you all know, I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan and have been since “Buffy.” When I heard he had made a mini-musical, I had to check it out. Now, “Dr. Horrible” is one of my favorite works of his, and a large part of that was due to Neil Patrick Harris and this song. This song is a feat to sing on its own, but it’s also the turning point for the not-so-good doctor as he plots to kill his nemesis Captain Hammer. The visuals add to the song, but it’s just a joy to listen to even without them. However, there is still one song that, in my mind, trumps it out of sheer bias.

1. “What You Feel” – Sweet (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

What can I say, Whedon and his team know how to put together some great songs. This was one of the few instances where a show I liked ended up having songs. I initially detested the concept of “Buffy” having a musical episode, but upon giving it a second chance I realized what I missed out on. “Once More, With Feeling” stands as one of my favorite episodes not just in its season but the entire show. And its villain, Sweet, and his introductory song are icing on the cake. Done in a sort of lounge singer style, Sweet’s song gives you a pretty clear idea of what he’s about and what sort of evil he brings to Sunnydale. While he’s not the most menacing or physically threatening guy of this bunch, his crooning voice, sneaky tactics, and overall coolness make this song my top pick.

I know people will disagree with this list. There are many villain songs out there that I was forced to cut out of this list for brevity. I encourage anyone to comment below and tell me whether you agree/disagree and what songs you enjoy as well.