Wednesday, 24 February 2016


Grumble grumble. Grumble grumble grumble. GRUMBLE.

This is not my job. I'm an archivist who occasionally does secretarial work. It's not my job to sort out other people's mess.

But apparently the secretaries assigned to the DMS: Video Games crews are on their annual spend-three-days-getting-plastered today, so who's the lucky person assigned to cover for them?

It's me. The Marquis called me up to his office - which is a long way from my archives - to hand me a mission report, and told me to Deal with this, will you?

Thanks, boss.

Mission: Dundertale
Agents: Backslash & Whitney, DMS
Continuum: Undertale.

I don't know this canon, though I hear it's a big hit among people who have spare time. But the agents do a decent job of introducing me. I don't think I got all the references, but I understood roughly what was going on. That's a positive.

Less positive is that... well, the agents' writing style kind of gets to me. Apparently they're a humanoid Pokemon and a computer game trainer, so I should've expected that, but... I don't know. I feel like they spent far too much time writing down what they said, and not enough sketching in their actions. And when they did talk narrative, they did it... strangely. Look at this:

Surprisingly, it registered an OOC Level of only 3.4%, although it added that said level was gradually rising.

That just feels like a really convoluted way of saying that the canon was in-character; the 'surprisingly' and especially the 'although' feel massively extraneous. I dunno, though, maybe it's just because I don't want to be doing this job, sir.

Sorry, sorry. One thing the agents did do well is keep their report focussed on the key scenes - none of this 'here's nineteen pages about how we walked from A to B, then back because someone forgot her pen'. I appreciate that sort of tidiness.

But now we come to why I'm here: their final decisions, which have caused such widespread annoyance among the Flowers. First up, the agents decided that their best option for taking down a Suvian and a Character Replacement was to... confront them in head-on battle? Because clever tactics are so passé, am I right?

Hint: no, I am not right. This is the sort of reckless behaviour that leads to agents getting killed, FicPsych'd, turned into Time Lords, or retired. I know this memo is just going to be filed under 'Agent Ryan successfully completed her task', but seriously, people: it's better to be sneaky. We don't want HQ to be filled with overpowered trigger-happy lunatics who think roaring in your face is the correct response to everything - that just makes it all the more dangerous when they go flamethrower-crazy.

But, y'know what, fine. These two are already in HQ, and it's none of my concern if they get themselves set on fire or whatever. What is my concern, because my boss has made it my concern, is this:

They revealed themselves to a canon character and did not neuralyse him afterwards.

It almost doesn't matter that the character in question seems to be both malevolent and manipulative. What matters is that someone in a base canon - and this was after the Word World had reintegrated, so there's no 'we thought he'd reset when the fic was expunged' excuse - has been allowed to walk off knowing about the PPC.

There are characters for whom that's unavoidable. We've never had much luck wiping Aslan's memory, for instance. But this one? A talking flower with actual eyes? It should've been a cinch. "Hey, Flowey, you're so awe-inspiringly evil I'd like to take a picture of you, look this way, FLASH, we were never here." Back home to be lauded by your peers.

Instead, some poor me has to head into a canon Word World to try and track him down on his home territory. That means no canon-cloaking - that only works in badfics! - and, given that I absolutely am his problem, no SEP field either.

Dear agents-who-will-never-see-this,

Your reckless actions have put my life in danger. I am not happy. You may expect a visit when (if!) I get back.

Sincerely and with venom,

~Terri Ryan, DOGA Archivist, Department of Personnel

I think I've just been retconned.

I went into Undertale, as instructed. I spent about a day and a half hunting down Flowey. I confronted him.

And he had no idea who I was, or what I was talking about. So yes, I had to neuralyse him - to make him forget me and my insane ramblings.

Then I got back to HQ and went to complain to the Marquis - only to find out that he didn't know what I was on about, either. He claimed he'd never sent me the report, and that the VG secretaries aren't drinking themselves into a stupor until next week anyway.

The report's gone from my archives, which ticks me off no end. The copy filed on the networks makes no mention of the agents ever seeing Flowey, and frames their fight scene very differently too. No doubt if I go and ask them in person they'll deny all knowledge of what I read.

I'm either being pranked hard, or I've been retconned. Either way, I am mad.


Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Lost Land

Why is there a holographic horse in my bathroom?

Oh, I beg your pardon, you're a 'pony'. Because that's so different. Can we focus on the bathroom-related aspects of the situation?

... right, usually these reports get pushed under my door, not hand-delivered by alarming levels of technology. But fine. Message received. I'll read it after my shower.

... fine, before. Now get lost.

Mission: The Lost Land
Agents: Rina Dives, Randa Roan, Marvin Jones, Printworthy
Continuum: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

I'll say one thing right out the door: these agents do an exceptional job of 'introducing' themselves to the readers. Marvin's assumptions about 'the Assassins' strike precisely the right note; it makes me almost nostalgic for the old days, when everyone assumed that the other departments were a bunch of psychopaths. The fact that his preconception survives his initial encounter with Rina and Randa only makes it more effective - his world-weary defence of his fandom being broken by the discovery that both Assassins are also MLP fans (I refuse to write the word... well, you know the word) is a perfect moment of characterisation. I hope he learnt as much from it as he seems to have.

Then the agents entered their fic, and in a storytelling moment that is perhaps too good to be entirely accurate, the roles are reversed: Rina and Randa are caught literally wrong-footed by their disguises, while Marvin plays the consummate expert. It's only Printworthy bringing him back down to earth that suggests there might be some factual reporting involved.

And... the report proceeds at a good clip, with the agents recording both relevant parts of the badfic (though they do sometimes go a little overboard with the multi-paragraph sections) and their own actions; I have to congratulate them there, since so many agents leave out one or (more usually) the other. The break for the magic and flying lessons comes in precisely the right place - suspiciously so; I suspect the hoof of Printworthy lies heavily on the pacing here - and the lessons themselves are both believable and revealing of the agents' characters.

And then, of course, things start to go wrong; this wouldn't be the PPC if they didn't. Marvin's interruption, sudden grimdark, the argument spilling over; it all acts as a perfect setup for the final showdowns. And yes, the Duty is suitably dramatic, without being overwrought.

It's very rare that I write one of these reviews without finding something to complain about, but for once, I'm forced to do exactly that. Except for that ridiculous holographic pony. If whoever is behind this tries something like that again, I swear I'll track you down and papercut you to death.

Now I'm going for my shower.

Friday, 19 December 2014

When Stus Stalk Sues

Who in the world are Rina and Randa, and why is their Response Centre an unfileable number?

Okay, so the console network confirms that they're two of our newer Assassins, though it doesn't shed any light on that RC number. Nor, sadly, does it explain why a mission report from theirs is stuck to my ceiling, but I've learnt not to ask.

Mission: When Stus Stalk Sues
Agents: Rina Dives & Randa Roan, DMS
Continuum: Harry Potter

I get the impression from the agents' report that they expect me to have read their previous missions (which shows an astonishing lack of understanding of just how busy I am - do they think I'm made of time?) (Yes, I suppose it's just possible I'm not their target audience, but frankly, I've given up expecting such sanity). Fortunately, though, they haven't relied on it - while the discussions of a 'tree-gunk free' bow and the inadvisability of bleeprin are incomprehensible, they're also brief. The agents haven't gone in for the recent fashion of writing ten pages of pre-mission spiel, either - they simply get on with it. I approve of the professionalism; we could do with some of that here in DOGA about now.

I am, generally, impressed by the agents' knowledge. They recognise wilver on sight from its description - 'white silvery' - and frequently cite what might be called 'PPC trivia' such as the Department of Redundancy Department. It's refreshing to see someone who knows what they're doing.

The writer (whichever of the two it is) does fall foul of one of Agent Soul's pet peeves - attaching actions to the wrong person:

"Holy cliché overload!" Rina yelled. Randa glanced at her. 

"Was the shouting really necessary?" she demanded.

As Agent Soul would point out (loudly and with vigour), Randa's glance should really have been placed at the beginning of the second line, not the end of the first. Similarly there are some extra line breaks which really didn't need to happen.

That said, the interaction between the agents feels... natural, really. They bicker a little, but don't outright fight in front of their targets. Sometimes they disagree, sometimes they agree, depending on the subject. In general, it feels like they genuinely wrote down their conversations, rather than engaging in the editing common to agents' reports.

Agents Dives and Roan (can I call them R&R, or is that too casual? Yes, I think it is) have fallen prey to the modern trend of writing 'MST reports' - mission reports that include practically every other line of the badfic. It's a regrettable habit, particularly among agents who are actually capable of writing the story's actions themselves (as this pair seem to be); unfortunately, it's a habit that is proving hard to shake for the PPC at large.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read (insofar as that is possible). The agents comparisons between the badfic and Twilight were not unwarranted - and they did an excellent job of highlighting the scenes that formed the basis of the similarity - and there was a certain satisfaction in seeing the Mary-Sue and her stalker killed. So as far as unwanted reading goes, this was relatively benign.

In conclusion: lavender.

Yes, I only said that to see if I can get a reaction out of Agent Rina.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Arrow Through the Heart




Would whoever that is, please stop throwing things at my door? I have a headache.


Apparently not. Fine, I'll go see what they want.


Okay, so apparently they wanted me to open the door so that they could throw two bundles of paper at my head and then run away hissing with delight. Yes, hissing: the agent in question was some sort of giant bird, or maybe a small dinosaur. This place gets stranger every day.

As to why they decided to assault me with mission reports: I haven't the faintest idea. But I suppose I'll give them a read. I just hope Agents Silver and Anna didn't have anything to do with sending them my way, or else I shall be very annoyed.

Mission: Arrow Through the Heart
Agents: Silver Leonne, Anna
Continuum: Lord of the Rings

The archivist in me... wait, that's all of me. So: I squirm in horror at the formatting of this report. The agents have peppered it with entirely random line-spacing; single, double, or occasionally triple, they simply don't care. They've also indented every paragraph, which is total overkill. There are two ways to format a piece of writing: either indent and only single-space the paragraphs, or don't indent and leave a blank line between paragraphs. The latter is vastly preferred for electronic writing, the former for print.

And while I'm on the subject, there are a few instances of dialogue tags beginning with capital letters, and an absolute profusion of ellipses in the opening scenes. If... every sentence... has an ellipsis... you start to sound like... Captain Kirk.

Now, who are these agents? They're taking on a Mary-Sue, which presumably makes them DMS or Floaters. They seem to be relatively new - 'we've got a mission already', says Anna early on. They may also have known each other before joining the PPC - one of those teams of friends who cropped up a lot a decade or so back. They are moderately well-trained, have decent canon knowledge, and engage in banter. I think there must be a secret volume of the Manual devoted to entertaining and mildly antagonistic banter with your partner, so many agents make use of it. Or maybe, as I'm certain I've theorised before, they spice things up a little for their reports to make themselves sound more interesting.

Be that as it may. Silver and Anna do a good job of portraying the difficulties of working in a badfic. They have to deal with a Sue almost noticing their CAD, with sudden POV shifts - which apparently caused Anna to pass out, and forced Silver to drag her around for a while - with seeing their favourite characters thrown wildly OOC. They also do an excellent job at showing me their relief and reactions to the relative canonicity of the Council of Elrond. In fact, the agents' description of themselves is excellent throughout.

Far less so, unfortunately, is their description of their mission. There is very little paraphrasing of the badfic to let me know what the agents are doing in response to it, and the quotes from the fic are often bracketed by the agents simply ignoring it. I find it hard to belive Silver and Anna simply wandered through the fic paying no attention to the events going on around them; they might find their cause well served by mentioning it occasionally. As things stand, I'm afraid they devolve somewhat into talking heads - no, that isn't fair. They do interact with the world around them. They just don't connect that to the badfic.

They also have something of a problem with dramatic writing. The sequence where Enelya shoots an orc and Silver shoots Enelya is clearly intended to be dramatic, but as it stands, it's simple description. 'See Spot run. Shoot, Enelya, shoot.' The agents should rather have played to their strengths - describing their own reactions. If Anna is as new as she seems, I suspect she would have panicked when the orc appeared, and possibly even fumbled the stone. Was she surprised to see Silver getting undressed in the middle of a mission? There's probably a page or so in this scene, but it's rendered as four single-line, misformatted paragraphs. The wasted potential makes me sad.

(I also wonder at the need to list the entire charge list at the end of the mission when it's already included less than a page previously, but maybe that's just me)

I'll close by pointing out something that really appeals to me: these agents seem to notice every single punctuation and tense error. Fantastic! Often, reports gloss over the effects of sudden shifts to the present tense - and don't even mention Dafydd's ridiculous claim that his modified CAD could magically fix it - but Silver and Anna show their suffering brilliantly. Well done, ladies.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Legendary Illogic

This keeps happening to me. I asked the DMSE&R for the latest research on the depths of Suvian illogic; instead, I received a mission report entitled 'Legendary Illogic'. One of these days, I will accidentally talk to someone competent, and I won't know what to do with myself.

Anyway. Since I'm here, I suppose I should look this thing over.

Mission: Legendary Illogic
Agents: Tera, Ari, Sergio Turbo, Nikki Cherryflower, Corolla
Continuua: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Harry Potter

This report was written by two teams of agents, and it shows. The early narration in particular jumps between them, with 'in the meantime's and 'Back in RC #97!'. Exclamation marks in the narrative  - not a good sign.

There are also formatting inconsistencies: one team single-space their paragraphs, the other double-space them. The latter is preferred in digital documents, particularly - as in this case - when the paragraphs are not indented.

I'm really trying not get hung up on the formatting, but the archivist in me - wait, that's all of me - is screaming. After the mission starts, the narrative tries to hybridise the two styles, resulting in single-spaced blocks of about five paragraphs, separated from each other by an empty line. It's as distracting as a misfiled document. The fact that the team from RC #1587 have immense difficulty remembering that the terminal punctuation in a spoken line with a following dialogue tag should be a comma, not a full stop, just makes it worse. "Like this," I'll clarify.

All right. I've gone away, made a cup of tea, let it brew a little too long, thrown it away, made a second, and drunk it. I'm finally ready to comment on the actual writing, not the peripherals.

(But, a parenthetical translation? Don't we charge for those?)

Five agents is a lot to keep track of. In the pre-mission sections, Tera and Ari are the easiest to distinguish - Tera speaks in italics, while Ari is... rather energetic. The next easiest to spot is probably Nikki - she betrays her newness nearly every time she talks. As for Sergio and Corolla... well, Sergio has definitely found his place in a teaching role. He speaks compound lines like this:

“Yeah. This is going to be difficult. I am definitely not looking forward to engaging Not-exclamation-mark-Nanoha in combat. Alright, are we all ready? The sooner we go, the sooner it will be over.”

That is a clear sign of someone who is either a natural teacher - or who's writing a report and forgot what everyone else said. I'm going with the former, and assuming the sometimes-strange feel of his words is a result of his not being a native speaker. 'She wouldn’t have been able to even exit it by herself' is a valid sentence, but 'she wouldn't even have been able...' is more natural-sounding.

Why am I explaining that? I think he's infected me.

It's interesting to watch the agents interact with each other. I assume that, like every other PPC agent ever recruited, these people bicker and argue amongst themselves on the course of their normal missions. However, in the company of strangers, they seem to prefer arguing with their temporary partners, not their permanent ones:

Ari hit herself in the head with her hardbound copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. “No--” thump “--she--” thwack “--did not--” smack “--have a lot of magical energy. In fact--” book-to-face “-- she could barely do any magic. She hadn’t recovered completely when she was 19. Ow...”

“Easy there.” Sergio advised, “Exorcising yourself isn’t going to help.”

(Yes, I had to add the empty line. Of course I did)

I like this. It's nice to see that agents from different departments can work together well - and it's also nice to see the subtle, almost understated camaraderie that grows up in a permanent team. The report has an undercurrent of 'I may argue with you, but not when these people are here' that I appreciate.

It's also well-written for someone unfamiliar with the canons. I don't know whether the agents actually talked to each other endlessly about the intricacies of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha - though it's certainly possible, since they don't know each other - but having them do so on the page means I can follow along despite never having heard of it.

Ari flicked her hand. The Book of Dawn appeared, and immediately flipped open to a pair of blank pages. 

“What’s that?” asked Nikki, watching with some trepidation as tiny motes of light came from around them and slowly touched the pages of the book. To her surprise, after a few moments, a few words began to fade into view on it.

“Oh, you’ll see!” said Corolla, while Ari made an expression probably intended to be a mysterious smile, but came out looking rather deranged.

The idea of agents keeping secrets from each other - in the case of the Book of Dawn, for little reason beyond whimsy - is strangely enthralling. It also makes for excellent storytelling: I wanted to know what was going on with the book as much as Nikki (still in her 'inexperienced' role, I see) did.

And then the world breaks. The moment where this happens is extremely well-written; I absolutely felt the horror the agents were going through. Which makes it all the worse when nothing comes of it. It's a massive, magical Chekhov's gun which never gets fired.

Unlike, I'm pleased to say, the Book of Dawn. The idea that the agents are making use of the rules of canon, and their own personal statuses, to up their power level, is entertaining at the least, and the actual transition is well written. In fact, the Ari-and-Corolla scene where they're chasing Alicia is probably my favourite part of the mission report. The agents work well together, and the fact that Alicia's eyes were the wrong colour because of contact lenses is highly amusing.

Ultimately, the main flaw in this mission report - viewed as a story, not as a reflection of actual events - is that the agents were simply too competent. Ari and Corolla defeated Death Eaters, Alicia, and Voldemort without breaking a sweat. The team neuralysed the whole school by convincing Dumbledore to call a meeting, and did so easily. The creature Winter was defeated by... well, luck. Even Ari and Corolla's promised exhaustion after de-Unisoning takes place after the mission, rather than threatening the course of it. There was no challenge, no point where it seemed everything would go wrong.

Don't misunderstand me - that's a definite positive for PPC agents; the Floating Hyacinth and the Lichen should be pleased with them. But as a narrative, as a story - it lacks conflict, and thus is not as interesting to read as it should be.

-T. Ryan, Dept. of Personnel, DOGA Archivist

Friday, 12 July 2013

Rambling Band

People often - well, sometimes - well, once - look, it's a figure of speech, all right?

People often ask why we at the PPC are so hung up on Jay and Acacia. What is it that makes them the iconic Assassins, or even Agents? Why were they special? Acacia was barely with the Protectors two years; why are these two so emblematic of our organisation? Actually, it's quite simple:

They were the first.

Not the first PPC Agents - that was Elizabeth, Anya, and Osbert, way back in the day. Nor were they the original Assassins, or anything like that. But they were the first to write it down. The very first mission report ever released on the Network was Jay and Acacia's. Actually, the first half dozen or so were all theirs, before other agents caught onto the idea.

Mission: Rambling Band
Agents: Jay Thorntree and Acacia Byrd, DMS
Continuum: Lord of the Rings

It is hard, now, to remember how things were back in Jay and Acacia's time. It had only been a few years since the Reorganisation, and the PPC had not truly recovered. We were more like a loosely-associated collection of departments than a true organisation, and what went on under the direction of the other Flowers was something of a mystery. If you were a Slasher (so the thought went), your business was to know about Bad Slash. You talked mostly to other Slashers, studied only techniques related to Bad Slash stories... we were insular.

Jay and Acacia changed all that. They talked to everyone, whatever their department, and when they wrote their first mission report, they tailored it to provide an introduction to the 'secrets' of the Department of Mary-Sues. Thus, we have the famous introduction:

"It's happened again." Jay leaned back from her console, indicating a flashing red light. "Someone's mucking with the plot continuum."

Acacia sighed. "Exactly what is so wrong with the canon that everyone wants to break it?" she demanded rhetorically. "Which world?"

"Lord of the Rings." Jay winced. "The massacre of Tolkien continues. We have... a Mary Sue."

And later, lines such as:

"[...] I don't think we can do the Duty until they're out of Rivendell."

"Why?" said Acacia, knowing the reason full well but wanting it explained again anyway.

"They haven't officially ruined the continuum until they've joined the Fellowship. Be patient."

Far be it from me to accuse the famous Assassins of lying, but these don't really sound like the sort of things people would say. They sound like what they are: an introduction to the workings of the DMS, a way for unfamiliar readers to get a grip on what Jay and Acacia did for a living.

Of course, simply writing a 'Beginner's Guide to Mary-Sue Assassination' wouldn't have been enough for their purposes. A bad, or worse, uninteresting mission report would have soured HQ to the whole concept. But Jay and Acacia were up to the challenge; even more than their dialogue, the narration reveals their frankly wicked sense of humour:

[Acacia] fired. Laurel, being a Mary Sue, didn't intend to die so easily and dodged. That was why the shot went into her shoulder, and not her heart. (Meanwhile, the men of the party had as a body rushed forward to save her; things would have gone pear shaped if another orc hadn't strolled out of the bushes, tripped Legolas, and watched the rest of them fall over him.)

Acacia's poison could kill a full-grown man in seconds with only a few drops. That was why it didn't matter. Acacia's poison had several other lovely redeeming features; for one, it paralyzed the vocal cords, snuffing any risk of tear-jerking "dying words."

And their spoken lines reveal the combatative cameraderie that made them such a compelling team to read about:

Jay gasped. "That's... that's not right... Arwen doesn't act like that... why the hell is she putting the bint in a gown?"

"Since when do the males wear robes?" Acacia volunteered. "They certainly weren't in robes when I read the story. And it doesn't matter that Arwen doesn't act like that, we wouldn't be here at all if the canon were intact."

Apart from the sheer entertainment and delight I find in reading it, 'Rambling Band' is interesting for another reason: it shows how the PPC has changed since the Flowers became able to read exactly what happened in our missions. Acacia thought nothing of calling the writer of Rambling Band 'crazy', which nowadays would be seen as a flame worthy of a reprimand, and the entire Charge List for this iconic mission runs as follows:

The Fellowship stared as the orc began to recite: "It is my duty to inform you that you have been charged with disrupting the canon by joining the Fellowship, bringing twenty-first century knowledge to Middle-earth, interfering with the characters of... at least ten people, so I won't list them all, but most severely Legolas and Boromir; and also being a Mary Sue."

Some of these changes are undoubtedly for the better - we should never flame, even in the slightest - but others are more ambiguous. Do we need a ten-foot-long charge list read out for each mission? The Flowers seem to think we do, but I'm not so sure...

'Rambling Band' is iconic. It was the beginning of a wave of change that is still sweeping through HQ. And it introduced the PPC to the magnificent Jay Thorntree and Acacia Byrd. It - and every other mission report by this legendary team - is well worth a (re)read.

-T. Ryan, Dept. of Personnel, DOGA Archivist - and long-time fan

Friday, 26 April 2013

An Unexpected Companion

Another day, another sheaf of paper slipped under my door...

Mission: An Unexpected Companion
Agents: Christianne Shieh and Eledhwen Elerossiel, DMS
Continuum: The Hobbit

I find myself somewhat drawn to this pair of agents, particularly Eledhwen. I think it's because, unlike many non-human agents, she hasn't thrown out her upbringing just because she's joined the PPC. Beginning early with her partner noting that she was essentially homesick, she displays a consistent love of and familiarity with Middle-earth that isn't often seen.

Her idioms are clearly retained from her former life - "she has to act like a wraith," Eledhwen says of Kestrel the Mary-Sue - and it's clear that her mindset is still that of Middle-earth. One of her strongest protests is at Gandalf being referred to as 'a magician' - "He is no more a magician than I am an elfling," Eledhwen declares. Later she refers, apparently entirely naturally, to the dwarves as 'the sons of Aulë'.

Of the three features which stuck out to me from this report, Eledhwen's representation is likely the most cheering. The second, unfortunately, is rather less positive, since this mission seems set to become a major part of the Kill And Scram debate.

Many years ago, the renowned Jay Thorntree was fond of the phrase 'major break in canon'. She and her partner took great care to never kill a Mary-Sue before such a break occurred - usually the Sue joining the Fellowship of the Ring. The key point was that something which happened before the story began - something which was part of the background to the plot, as it were - rarely counted as a 'major break'.

In more recent times, the guidelines Jay and Acacia followed have been stretched and bent, and this mission is a clear example of how far they can be pushed. Very little plot is seen - a Mary-Sue buys a necklace, lands in Middle-earth, and is promptly arrested. Yes, three noble dwarves have been torn from their final rest - but this took place before the story began. By the Thorntree Test, no major break has yet occurred.

In my opinion (and I am aware that the argument is raging in some corners of HQ), the problem here is that a mission, and by extension its report, is not designed simply to punish and excise bad writing: its true purpose is to show why it is a problem. Especially in a case where the spelling and grammar are (mostly) adequate, I would argue that it is essential to let the badfic run long enough for the consequences to become apparent. Why is it a problem that Mary-Sues come to Rivendell? Because they join the Fellowship of the Ring in defiance of canon. Why is it a problem that Thorin and his nephews are resurrected? We assume because they are then seduced - but because of the 'Kill And Scram' approach the agents took to this particular mission, we are not allowed to see.

Related to this debate is the question of how much of a badfic should be shown in a mission report. Christianne and Eledhwen's report gives a total of seven quotes, and a handful of narrative glosses. The rest of the badfic is conveyed entirely in the agents' commentary.

In many ways, this is a good thing. As seen in the direct quotes, there is nothing inherently interesting in the badfic's writing style, and the instances which are quoted include most of the 'bad writing causes unexpected effects' moments. The narrative glosses, and the agents' discussion, convey the majority of the plot well.

In other places, though, some more quoting would have made the difference between a good report and a great one. A notable instance is the transition between World One and Middle-earth - Eledhwen notes that 'most Sues do not take this much effort into describing their transition into Middle-earth', but we do not get to see this description, merely a summary of it. This has a negative impact on both the entertainment value of the report - is 'the sky above began to mimic a bathtub with the plug pulled' a semi-quote, or an amusing interpretation? We have no hints - and also the educational value. A report should highlight and dissect particular problems with a badfic - not merely provide an outlet for the agents' complaints.

I'm aware that I rather derailed this review into a continuation of the two parallel debates. Allow me to emphasise that these were not a primary concern in reading the report: it's only because both topics have been widely discussed in HQ that I noticed them at all. In the end, I read this report to be entertained, and I was. I was also, in places, deeply moved:

“I don’t want to go,” whimpered Kíli. Eledhwen swallowed thickly at the sight of the three suddenly-dying Dwarves. Christianne crouched at Kíli’s head, looking down at him with saddened eyes.

Many agents would have passed over this moment, both in their report and in the mission itself. It is a credit to Agents Christianne and Eledhwen that they noted, helped, and in a way mourned the passing of these canon characters. Their emotion comes through clearly in the writing, and affects the reader in the same way. This (to return to the terms of the debates above) is PPC writing at its best: the dreadful impact of the badfic is brought to the fore, and its true consequences allowed to play out. How many agents have been tempted to try and avert their favourite character's death? And yet none have done so. This is the meaning of the PPC - to understand the difference between desire and reality, between wish and will - and this mission captures it perfectly.

-T. Ryan, Dept. of Personnel, DOGA Archivist