Fanfiction: Wacky, Weird, and never boring

Well, that’s not necessarily true, of course. I read fanfiction even if I have money to buy more books! It’s free, it’s there, and it’s utterly fun. is a great place to start your fanfic hunt, though there are some sites out there, run by adoring fans, that can be leagues better in story selection.

If you’re a wee bit clueless what fanfiction is, it is fiction based on the characters of a television (usually) show. However, fans have written fanfiction based on certain books as well, such as The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and even comics like X-Men.

Wanna see Aragorn ditch Arwen and hook up with Eowyn instead? Never fear! It’s merely a fanfiction away!

I discovered fanfiction through my sister, who was reading Sailor Moon fanfiction. I thought the whole exercise was incredibly weird at first, but nevertheless curiosity won out and I tried my hand at reading Star Trek fanfiction, and I got hopelessly hooked from that day onwards.

The one fascinating thing about fanfiction, and the whole addictivness of it all, is that you see your favourite TV/Book characters placed in situations you would never see on television.

Like seeing Chakotay and Capt Janeway having a wild, romantic night out in the holodeck. Or Gil Grissom (of CSI) doing the liplock with Sara Sidle.

I’m not much into the whole romance thing, but am more interested in the action/adventure aspect of fanfic.

But finding good fanfiction can be a painful endevour at times. Since most fanfics are written by fans, not all of them are great writers. Some fanfics are downright painful to read. Characters are out of character, and although I’m very forgiving of spelling and grammatical errors (since I’m no Grammar Queen myself), these errors do get tiresome after a while.

I notice that certain shows attract better writers and stories for some reason. Shows like X-Files, Stargate: SG-1 and Star Trek have a wealth of good stories. Don’t be surprised to find novel-length stories. But for some shows, especially those with a big teen audience like Buffy, Angel, Smallville and The O.C., finding good fanfiction can be an incredibly frustrating endevour. Maybe it is for me since it’s always about who is with who, who is in love with who, and who wants to sleep with who.

Yes, there’s a whole debate on whether fanfic is legal or not. However, fans are not stopping anytime soon, worshipping their favourite characters on stories they’ve created, placing them in weird, weird, weird situations.

And when I mean weird, it’s usually in the pairing department. Fanfic writers love to pair up their favourite characters. Sometimes it something all of us want. Sometimes it’s something few of us ever want (Boromir + Faramir [Lord of the Rings] love relationship anyone? Incest is not taboo in the fanfic world). Fanfic writers can sometimes speak in code, and for the first-timer, they’d probably get confused by the various terminology used. Such as:

  • slash: male and male relationships
  • UST: Unresolved Sexual Tension. Used a lot in the X-files universe!
  • Hurt/comfort: Where a character gets hurt, and another comforts the poor fella
  • Smarm: Imagine tough-looking guys talking about their feelings and dreams around a campfire and you’ll get the idea.
  • sibcest: Let’s not even go there.
  • fluff: A story of little substance, but read/written merely for the heck of it.
  • Smut: I don’t think this needs translation

Pairings are indicated by “/”. For example, if you have written a story where Scully and Mulder are lovers, you indicate: S/M.

Fans have even invented cute little names to indicate their favourite pairings. In the smallville universe, the Clark and Lana Lang pairing is “Clana”. Hehe.

Well, since I’ve joined a gym, and my expenses will inevitably go up, one of the first things I’d have to cut from my spending bill is books. So … looks like it’s a raid at the fanfiction archives for me from now on!

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young

Six months ago, my site was flooded with thousands upon thousands of spam comments. Rather than laboriously deleting all 20,000 of them, I’ve decided to republish the posts that were the worst culprits. This post was first published on Oct 24, 2004.

Am currently reading Toby Young’s How to Loose Friends & Alienante People and have decided to put aside Marion Zimmer Bradley’s stories about Darkover for the tale of the fall of a great man (in his head, that is).

In essence, How to Lose Friends is a long, well-written gossip rag about the glitzy going-ons behind Vanity Fair, a particular magazine I’m rather fond of. And we all love gossip – especially one that mentions a certain well-known draconian Vogue editor.

I’m talking about Anna Wintour, in case you’re not in the know. Some of us in the journalistic world take perverse pleasure at novelists ribbing editors, especially those with a reputation like Wintour’s.

Wintour is one difficult lady, according to Young and to popular legend. It is suspected that the author of The Devil Wears Prada based her portrayal of her novel’s cruel boss on Wintour – she was once one of her assistants.

Indeed, after reading Young and Lauren Weisberger’s account, I find some similiarities. But I can’t remember them off-hand now to list them for you right now. But I can tell you what makes Wintour so “ballsy” to say the least.

According to Young, Wintour lives like a Queen (she is paid a cool US1mil a year) and uses the company’s petty cash account like her own Swiss bank account, she doesn’t ever ride in the elevator with anyone (except maybe the Queen of England or anyone worth sucking up to, I suppose), gets annoyed if anyone talks to her without her permission, yada yada yada.

She makes one of my old bosses – the one I worked with once upon a time in an ad agency not so far away – look like my fairy godmother.

But hey, maybe Wintour will one day rise up and write a tell-all biography on how wrong Young and Wesberger is. (Shrug)

For now, we common folks without Prada to wear can enjoy the gossip.

PS: Another book on bosses behaving badly worth checking out could be The Nanny Diaries. It’s currently sitting in my library, unread. But after Young’s deconstruction of the politics in Vanity Fair, I’d possibly be more hungry for Bad Boss Lit – so it’s probably next on my To-Read list. Also, Sydney Morning Herald has a piece on Bad Boss Litt. Is it the Next Big Genre? Chick Lit, after all, is so yesterday.

The Lord of the Rings – a review and a confession

Among some fantasy readers, I had done something sacrilegious. Most were horrified when they discovered that although I had read almost every fantasy book on the planet, I had not bothered to touch the fantasy tale of all fantasy tales – The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). They would probably be in despair if they had found out that my first brush with LOTR when I was 13 ended with an exclamation of: “Man, this is boring!” And I made that conclusion just after reading the first page.

Then came the movies, and the mania that came with it made me aware that some people really, really liked the book. Actor Christopher Lee, who plays Saruman in the movies, would read The Lord of the Rings every year. On the Internet, fans write essays upon essays about the book’s themes, plots and characters.

I then realised that there was this huge devotion around the book I once brushed off and felt somewhat silly. Still, being a person who hated her movie experience spoiled, I refrained from reading the book. Perhaps I would read it after I watched the movies. And that was a big “perhaps”.

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How to make WordPress more secure


“This page is temporarily unavailable”. These dreaded words were back! This was the fourth time my site has gone down and I was mad.

But it was mostly my fault.

I thought all I needed to do when I got my first self-hosted blog was to write the content and leave it up.


WordPress is one of the most popular CMS (Content Management System) in the world. It’s easy to use, powerful and free. But as a result, it’s a favourite target for hackers.

Due to my lazybones attitude towards website/wordpress maintenance, this site was down for nearly four days thanks to a malware infection (hah, I didn’t even know that could happen!). After deleting hundred over files, an upgrade and much wrangling with my host’s support team, it is finally back.

You don’t realise how important WordPress security is until you lose it.

Don’t go through what I did. Here are 7 things you can do to make your WordPress site more secure:

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An (old) interview with Carol Berg

If you’ve noticed, my site had been flooded with thousands upon thousands of spam comments. Rather than laboriously deleting all 20,000 of them, I’ve decided to republish the posts that were the worst culprits.
Carol Berg‘s latest book The Daemon Prism, the third book in The Novels of the Collegia Magica series, is finally out!

To commemorate that, here’s the transcript of an interview I did with her in 2010. (The article that came out of it was World Weaver, which was published in The Star on May 30, 2010.)

When did you first start writing?
I started late, about halfway through my 17-year software engineering career and at a time my children were needing less of my time. A friend suggested we start writing a series of e-mail letters “in character” so she could practice her writing. It sounded fun, not near so hard as planning and writing a whole story, which I had always imagined next to impossible. When I sat down to write the first letter, I came up with twenty pages. I was astonished, and I was hooked.

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Homeless in Melbourne

Homeless in Boston by juliaf

She was sleeping at the corner of Spencer Street and Flinders Street, her back to the wall of the 7-11. She had curled up in a fetal position under her bright blue sleeping bag. Beside her was a red suitcase. It looked new.

I could see the tear tracks on her pale cheeks. The sign she had with her was nearly covered by her sleeping bag, but I could read the message. In fact, I don’t think I’d be able to forget what she wrote on that piece of cardboard:

“Help. I’m 21-years-old and pregnant. I need $150 to sleep somewhere safe tonight.”

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Should you leave your faith out of your personal brand?

Cross and bibleI’ve been thinking about my personal brand lately: the “me” I want to project to the world. The reputation I want to build online.

Should I offer a safe, sanitised version of myself? Or should I tell people: This is who I am, take it or leave it?

In Malaysia, where a wrong word in any medium on social media could result in harsh punishment from the powers that be (whether it be from our bosses or from the government), Malaysians have learned to censor ourselves.

I’ve always believed that this website, which bears my professional name, will only showcase my portfolio and contain useful content to showcase my expertise – as many personal branding/blog gurus will tell you. One’s faith or spirituality – a lava-hot button topic in Malaysia – should be left out, shut in an attic somewhere.  

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What is content strategy? 5 definitions

That’s the million dollar question.

If I were to tell someone in Malaysia that I am content strategist, I’d be met with a blank look. I can’t blame them. Content Strategy is a new and exciting field, so not many know that it even exists. It’s also a field whose practitioners speak in jargon-ese. Ux. Governance. Content Audit. Machine Translation. Huh? Speak English!

Is there any wonder that there’s a website dedicated to the Language of Content Strategy?

Here are five definitions:

1. Planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.Kristina Halvorson, founder of Brain Traffic, and author of Content Strategy for the Web.

2. Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.   – Wikipedia

3. I’m currently enrolled in Northwestern University’s Content Strategy MOOC, and professor John Lavine says that content strategy helps a target audience to be “better informed and smarter”. it also tells people “what they want and need to know in ways that are credible trustworthy and transparent.”

4. Here’s my favourite definition, because it’s nice and simple:

5. Here’s my definition: Content strategy is
a) designing the right content for the right audience
b) to manage the creation of said content in an efficient and productive manner
c) to deliver the content in a medium that will be most receptive and accessible to the target audience

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn

Want to quit your job? Take a strengths test first

quit your job

So, you hate your job. Your career is going nowhere. You sit in your cubicle and think: “There’s got to be more to life than this!”

I was there. And I thought the solution to my career woes was to switch careers. And I thought I had a tried and tested method to do so.

When I was a teenager, like a million other teens, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I “grew up”. So, I tried to discover that by taking jobs in various industries I was interested in. I started working when I was 16. By the time I was 20, I had already worked as a customer service person, telemarketer, accounts clerk, copywriter and freelance journalist.  

Copywriting and journalism was a tie, but in the end I chose journalism because I liked the idea of learning and experiencing new things every day.

I decided to follow the same method when I decided to switch careers. I chose what I thought was a great path for me, but two years into the experiment I had to conclude that this career path was not for me.

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