Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Now What?!" - Predator Fanfic Review

Next on my old fanfic favorites list is Predator fanfic "Now What?!" by Weirdlet, posted May 16th, 2001--June 24th, 2002, left uncompleted. A group of Predators are abducted by Greys, and they befriend the Mary Sue in the adjacent cage. It's better than it sounds.

This is actually kind of a meta fanfiction. It's not taking place in the Predator universe exactly. It's taking place in our universe, where Predator is a movie series. In the backstory, the U.S. government came forward and said that they'd had their hand in the creation of popular science-fiction in order to dispel suspicion of real world phenomena. This set-up allows Weirdlet to not have to keep everything to perfect Predator canon, though she makes an effort to keep things consistent with the movies, if not the expanded universe.
Mary Sue aside, the author does a good job conceiving of an alien civilization. It's not so much about the girl as it is about the Preds. Those featured in the story are of a neglected clan without much to their name, on the edge of starvation, about to get into a conflict with another clan, and they're then suddenly whisked away to be prisoners of the Greys. They're saved from one bad situation to be put in another bad, uncertain--dare I say alien--situation. They're the real protagonists, and as a community rather than any individual characters, similar to the town of Grantville in 1632.

Of the individuals featured, one of the main ones is a Predator female named R-r-rhruuh, nicknamed Athena. She is an expectant mother and holds some influence over the younger clan-members as a maternal figure. The character defies the negative gender stereotypes that would characterize her as dead-weight or prone to hysteria. On the contrary, she's a capable warrior who just counts her pregnancy as a significant factor when making decisions. Her intelligent curiosity allows her to make contact with the human girl in the next cage over, who is as alien to her as blawp--the colorful monkey-like critter from the Lost in Space movie--is to us. Their initial communication is based on music.

Though it's implied that the Preds don't have music themselves, R-r-rhruuh is able to appreciate hearing music hummed by Fiona as intriguing for its rythmic qualities and evoking familiar sounds. Music is universally appreciated by humans, and it's sometimes thought to be the way we would communicate with aliens, such as with the Voyager Golden Records, but it's probable humans are uniquely wired to appreciate such sounds. The Sparrow played with this by having humans think they picked up an alien music broadcast, only for it to turn out to be alien pornography. I like the fanfic's take, where Predators can like music but they have to be introduced to it by an alien.

Even though I don't like the Mary Sue quality of the Fiona character, I do like the unlikely friendship. It has sort of an Enemy Mine feel to it, though I suppose their captivity may make it more similar to the "Common Ground" episode of Stargate Atlantis. If Fiona were closer to John Sheppard or even Todd, I would find the fanfic to be more enjoyable. Fiona is certainly a Mary Sue, being practically a genius, able to befriend dangerous aliens, and so quirky that she thinks reading Harry Potter is more interesting than examining real live Predators. Lampshading it does not excuse it.

Another weird thing is the dragons. I mean, dragons??? Really? I'm a fan of Dragonheart too, but come on! It works just fine as a Predator meta-fanfic with Greys that don't come from anything specifically. The dragon element is just kind of silly.

Another problem is that there are too many weird alien words. The Predators have really unusual mouths and likewise make strange vocalizations, but the words needn't be all "grrr(clack)ar-r-r" and "(click)ur-r-r-r(click)". You can just write what they mean and save the pronunciation for later. grrr(clack)ar-r-r is some kind of prey species, so write "Hard Meat" or whatever. I take it the author hadn't read much of the expanded universe, but she could come up with her own words for the beasts.

I can accept Greg Bear's Forerunner Saga alien words because, though numerous, they don't show up all at once, and it usually makes some sense in context. When The Forerunner Saga's Riser starts talking about "hamanush", I get that he's talking about his people just based on the context. Other words he introduces, like "metarch", are strange but can have their meanings deduced by a simple study of the word. In the case of "metarch", it's a combination of "meta", meaning "of a high level", and "arch", meaning "power of authority", so "metarch" is then understood to be the Forerunner government, something which also makes sense in context.

As an extension of the alien word problem is the alien name issue. The Predator names are too weird and hard to keep track of. R-r-rhruuh, (Click)Greherrrr, Grrreh(click), and Ehrrrar-r-(click)rr are hard to remember as distinctive individuals. I read it, and it just looks like a bunch of Predator-speak. Just say what they mean!

At least the Predator names make phonetic sense, though. With the Greys, it's clear Weirdlet was just pounding on her keyboard. Names like "A;lskefjpqaoiueroksjfkmc,.zxmcnvnmn,m4298ka1087 93qwertpaosijdlk" and "La;lsdkjfal;dal;lsdal;sdkoijjv" make no sense! I know--alien, but... it has to make some sense! "Verisimilitude" is the word. Unpronouncable keyboard-pounding is just sloppy writing.

Additionally, a formatting issue that makes the fanfic hard to read is the way different perspectives kind of blur into each other with no separation. There needs to be symbols or bars separating the different sections. I know tends to eat asterisks, though, so it may be their fault and not strictly the author's.

In general, it's a good Predator fanfic. The author is a really good writer. It's just regrettable that she put in a Mary Sue character and frakin' dragons. I think it would be a better story if it weren't a meta-fanfic, if it were solidly in the Predator universe with Greys and a Weyland-Yutani colonist character who has some depth to her instead of the Mary Sue we have here.

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