To ship or not to ship…

Ship: from the Urban Dictionary.

N: Short for romantic relationship, popularized in fanfiction circles.

V: To endorse a romantic relationship.

N: I see a ‘ship developing between Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

V: I ship Ron/Hermione

It was last year when I found out what ‘shipping’ is and I immediately thought it was crazy. LJ Smith was fired from her Vampire Diaries series because she wanted to write Elana with Damon but the ‘shippers’ demanded Stefan (thanks shippers). I thought how silly shipping is. Then I realized I do it too, just not at the fan fiction – fan site level.

Books I have shipped (had an opinion on who I wanted the protag to be with)

-The Vampire Diaries
-Nightshade
-Vampire Academy
-The Hunger Games

Spoilers for above mentioned series are next.

And in ALL these cases (except Nightshade it’s ongoing) my shipping has been for naught. Peeta got Katniss, Dimitri is with Rose, Stefan will keep Elana (thanks again shippers), and I hold little hope that Ren will be with Cala. So either I suck at this shipping thing or I don’t know / don’t want to know how to influence publishers and authors to write my ship.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. Some publishers pay close attention to the fandom and who people are shipping (I’m looking at you Harper) and want the books written to satisfy this fandom. I don’t think I can roll with that, and if I was an author I would go the LJ Smith way and say eff that shit. I would not want my story (in LJ’s case the story she was hired to write) to be influenced by fandom.

So when I asked around I got some surprising answers from publicists, reps, fandom boys and girls. I didn’t ask any authors though, but the really crazy thing in all of this is that they agree the story should be written for the fans. Than an indulgent to one’s self writer should have little to do with the direction of the love story once big ships have been formed. I call shenanigans. Can you imagine Juliet picking Paris because Elizabethan shippers told Shakespeare that Romeo wasn’t the guy for her? Paris had it all ladies, looks, wealth, fame and a stable home; he was the equivalent of an Elizabethan catch.

So my question to you is, do you ship? What effect do you want/think shipping should have on the industry?

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17 Responses so far

  1. Gravatar

    I think it’s natural to have opinions, especially as something as emotionally charged as relationships, but I don’t think opinions should influence the story. Story > ships.

  2. Gravatar

    Yes I ship. Excessively actually. Not only with books but with movies, tv shows, etc. I ship a lot, I confess. However, I do not think shipping should influence the industry at all. An author should pair up who they want to and end a book or series with the couple they envisioned to be the endgame couple, not what the fans want. I support that thoroughly because if I was writing a book and had a particular vision of how it should end and what ships should prevail, I would hope for my fans to trust my vision. Because the thing is, we all have different views and maybe the author can develop a relationship in a way that the reader never fore-sought but the author did (because of how they want to develop their characters). There have been so many instances where I have had a ship, but have changed it later on because of character growth and was like “ohh I really like that ship now,” you know? Hope that makes sense. Interesting topic.

  3. Gravatar

    I’ve always thought it was interesting how much some publishers/authors follow the shippers, but I can’t imagine an author actually changing his/her story to make fans happy. I remember that huge “shipping kerfuffle” (my phrase) after HP6 was published. Melissa Anelli & Emerson Spartz interviewed Jo at her home and the three had a chuckle over the Harry-Hermione shippers. It wasn’t mean-spirited at all, but the HH-shippers were livid and let Jo know. There were even a few mentions of boycotts by the HH-shippers. I highly doubt it ever came to that, and it seems almost quaint now in retrospect.

  4. Gravatar

    I think shipping is OK in a fun entertainment/exercise sense. It shows enthusiasm for the source material. Where I draw the line is where shippers want official recognition or involvement in the creation of the story. If an author WANTS a collaborative effort with some fans, etc., then that’s the author’s deal. Readers/fans should NOT expect an author to just humor them. That takes the surprise factor out of reading books, when an author does something totally unexpected (I’m looking at you GRRM)

    In an embarassing admission, I don’t ship the characters already there…I ship myself into the book/movie/tv show.

  5. Gravatar

    Eee gosh…you know, I’m STIL: bitter about stupid PEETA. I don’t think that I’m really comfortable with authors being swayed by the audience though I do wish I’d won out on the Gail front…Sigh.

  6. Gravatar

    I’ve shipped since elementary school, when I couldn’t wait to Anne and Gilbert to realize they were in lurve.

    But, fans influencing the final direction of the product is anger inducing. I’m still upset about Peeta but even more upset that Peeta/Gale hijacked most of Mockingjay. In the first two books, it was obvious they both liked Katniss, but didn’t seem that into either of them. But out of everything going on in that series, Gale vs. Peeta was all anyone talked about and it really felt like Collins caved into that pressure.

  7. Gravatar

    I think authors take fans opinions to heart too much. LIzzy belongs with Darcy. Marianne Dashwood however belonged with Willioughby and not Alan Rickman! :)

    I understand why fans get so caught up in romantic relationships, I think it sort of undermines the whole story. The whole who will Katniss pick undermined the story to a point. Who cares?

  8. Gravatar

    I somehow understood it was the publisher who influenced the Stefan/Elena relationship and not the fans, but maybe that’s because I heard the side of the story from Damon/Elena shippers.

    I think all of us must be guilty of shipping at one time or another? I seem to ship less fanatically and am more willing to accept the turn a story takes in books than in TV series. I tend to ship in TV series, if not as fanatically as most shippers on dedicated sites. For the TV version of Vampire Diaries I am absolutely a DE shipper, though I dislike the social aspect of it at times since there are so many ‘shipper wars’ of “who’s the better brother” which is so not the point for me. I do sometimes feel the authors of TV shows are silly in dismissing the way fans approach their show and their characters/relationships. One of the writers for the Vampire Diaries TV series has been very dismissive of Damon and Elena in the past, while she knows many of the viewers of the show watch the show for their progress. I do not want the authors to always listen to fans, I mean, it is their story that is told, right? I do dislike the dismissive attitude sometimes displayed towards fans who like a different pairing than the authors do. Likewise, I think when people complain about the authors having a character do uncharactaristic things is often nonsense, since the character was imagined by the author.

    Anyway, I have no clear views on this, I guess.

  9. Gravatar

    I ship but I don’t think stories should ever, ever cater to ships. Imagine if J.K. Rowling had did that! We’d have Hermione in a love triangle between Harry and Draco and the Hogwarts castle having sex with the giant squid at every opportunity…

  10. Gravatar

    The results of your informal poll are ca-RAZY. Yes, I ship on occasion, but you know what? I read a book to be taken on /someone else’s journey/. Shippers, if you want a book to go a specific way, write one yourself! The end.

  11. Gravatar

    Yesssss, I have shipped before. I obvs was a huge Peeta/Katniss shipper, but that’s the only time i can remember doing so in books.

    On TV it’s different–I’ve shipped a few couples but the truth is normally I will go where the story goes. Sometimes I fall in love with a couple so much I can’t.

    I don’t think books or TV shows should be written for shippers though, b/c how can they possibly know what people really want? I think of Gossip Girl fandom right now where one of the couples is threatened and their fans literally organize campaigns for the couple. I’m not kidding, I had no idea people had time to do nothing but tweet the writers or post on message boards to create the illusion that this couple is the most popular. So if you have people like that trying to influence the perception how can you know what’s really popular and write to it? Also if you’re faithfully telling a good story people can change their minds, I’ve changed my mind about couples before.

    Also the psychology behind shipping is really interesting, like why do people ship certain couples? IDEK, it’s just interesting to me, a lot of time it has to do with self-insert fantasies or loving one character and wanting them to get whatever it is they want.

  12. Gravatar

    Just wanted to ask if it was Harper or Alloy that made the decision re: Stefan and Elena? I don’t trust Alloy.

  13. Gravatar

    I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ON THIS ISSUE, but I’ll start with my own personal feelings –
    I don’t read a lot of series, but I do care who ends up with who in books that I adore. The biggest example of this for me is Katniss/Peeta. I would have been upset if she’d wound up with Gale, but the truth is that I ship so much more in television than in books. I’m not a crazy-shipper-fan of anything, but I do have some STRONG OPINIONS on certain tv couples and really really really want them to be together. But even in spite of that, I trust the writer/s to know what they’re doing with the story and make it work. I think when you love a show or book series and think it’s quality entertainment, you have to trust that the people behind it know what they’re doing and realize that just because there might be a turn you don’t agree with or that seems out of character doesn’t mean that you won’t end up liking it or that it wasn’t thought though. There are a few shows I know of where I do think the fans affect the storyline/couples more than they should, and it bothers me so I’m trying to stay away from the fandoms so that I don’t know the behind-the-scenes influences of things so much.

    In line with that, I want to share my own experience with shipping.

    A while ago I wrote a story (LOLSI) that I posted online in chapters. It was a YA story written in Facbook/Twitter/email messages and it ended up being a four “book” series, but because of the various viewpoints and characters and storylines (there were 12 main characters at one point) it felt more like a tv show with “seasons” than a serial story to me.

    The relationships of the characters were the driving force in this series and sometime during the third book I realized that my readers had, for a couple of the characters, drastically different thoughts on who they should end up with (compared to what I was thinking). All along I had planned, at some point, to get two particular characters together. I knew that it would be out of left field, but it felt right for the characters in my opinion even though it was obvious that a lot of the readers (and definitely the most vocal) were shipping the guy with a different girl.

    I went ahead and wrote my version. Because I loved it and thought it was adorable.

    Some of the readers were on board with it, a few really really liked it, but I also lost readers because of it. (I don’t know how many, but I know at least one emailed and told me that her and a couple of others weren’t reading anymore.) Should I have written what everyone was expecting me to write instead of what I wanted to happen? I still don’t think so. I think that, whether it’s television or books or whatever other form of storytelling, the people behind the scenes know those characters, that story, and that world the best. It’s impossible to make every fan of a series happy and I’m surprised that so many think that stories should be tailored to the fans because sometimes unexpected turns make for the best storylines or character development.

  14. Gravatar

    I have to admit, that sometimes I do get into shipping. I have opinions on who should end up with who in certain books. I kind of like the anticipation of seeing where a relationship will go.

    However, I don’t think shipping should influence how a story winds up at all. I think the writer should tell the story that he or she wants to tell the way they think it should be told. Great post, Pam!

  15. Gravatar

    This is a tough question.

    Long before I read YA lit heavily. Or book blogged. Or touched Twilight (but certainly when I did finally touch that addicting, sparkly train wreck.) I wrote fanfiction. When you write fanfiction, you have to ship. It’s like a law. Right up there with using the proper lingo – lemons, limes, and the like. After you spend time even just reading stories in a community that goes as far as to name ships like Contest Shipping (May + Drew from the Pokemon anime from the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald series – don’t ask why I remember that) you’d think it would be hard to get out of that mentality.

    What it actually taught me is that shipping is really what you make of it. When we’re reading we are all bound to have opinions on couples. So-and-so would work better. Blabbity Blah is a douchecanoe and should never touch Fakename again. The difference is that people get carried away.

    Like in real life, we forget that playing matchmaker doesn’t always work.

    The thing is that the writer is in charge of the story. Or, in LJ’s case, Alloy is. Even the best of authors can change something in relation to fans – for good or for ill. As I recall, I remember reading that Louisa May Alcott paired up two unlikely characters just to rile up her readers.

    Let’s not forget that we also say that writers should first and foremost write for themselves. Writing for themselves should be a warning bell in the reader’s head. Shipping is one thing in fanfiction – you are writing the pairing for yourself – and another when you’re just discussing it. You can’t will an author to write differently. You can’t say, “These two clearly belong together more,” because that just makes it apparent that you can’t separate a piece of art that is yours and a piece of art that simply speaks to you.

    As to how it should affect publishing? I know I’m in the minority with LJ, but to be fair I think that the company may have been more open to her plot ideas if the critical reception of the new stories matched the old ones. I haven’t read them yet, but I’m hesitant to because of the quality they supposedly had. There’s also the fact that, knowingly or not, she entered into a contract that allowed her to do it, and Alloy isn’t the sweatshop that Frey’s fiction factory is. A new focus pairing is a big promise to fans that things could potentially turn around for the quality of the books. I honestly don’t think shipping is really the big thing for them. Alloy’s series – PLL, Private, ect. – are ones that I enjoy reading, admittedly, although I find the business practices ruthless at times. The authors often switch up pairings in them, too, and they’re rarely solid until the very last book of the series.

    Honestly, shipping shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s one thing when it’s all in good fun and the publisher can spin it positively for the book and its fans – see promotion dealing with the Iron Fey series. It’s another when the shipping is pointless (which it is in the Iron Fey, but they worked around it at least) because one character is obviously never going to happen, but fans feel the need to butt in anyway with demands that won’t be met. Like the Gossip Girl stuff someone mentioned earlier. That’s just pointless and takes away from the stuff that people could be talking about.

  16. Gravatar

    John’s comment is excellent and I’m with him.

    I admit that at times I will root for certain characters to end up together at the end of a story. But I try to keep an open mind. The author is ultimately the creator of their fictional universe (no matter how much it looks like the world we live in) and they might have something else in mind for their characters. Since I don’t live in the author’s fictional universe (and cannot control anyone’s relationships other than my own…sort-of) I have a hard time committing to fictional ships (especially if they are not canon). I tend to go along with whatever the author writes, come what may, because I know that even in the real-world relationships don’t work out the way we always want them to. Just like we can’t see what the future holds for us in real-life, we can’t see what an author has planned down the road and it seems unrealistically controlling to expect an author to ship certain characters just because the fans would like it that way.

    Plus I don’t think it would be as fun because it would remove some of the author’s creative license. Why expect them to do only what we want, when they can blow our minds with something we totally didn’t expect? Thus, I am of the opinion that fan shipping shouldn’t affect the authors (unless they freely choose to take that into account) or the industry.

  17. Gravatar

    I do ship for stories I particularly love. Most of my ships have worked out though SPOILERS! (I totally shipped Peeta/Katniss, Ron/Hermione – I also shipped Luna/Harry – that’s my failed ship) As a writer though, I don’t think I want my ships to influence the author. Because really, in my philosophy on writing, the characters write themselves. And if two characters were headed one way, I wouldn’t want to change that later on. I think they’re people in a sense. So no, I don’t want to have my ship have an effect. I ship until I know the outcome, then once I do, I accept it. Unlike my husband, who can’t let his Hermione/Harry ship die.

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