An SIFic is a self-insert fanfic, sometimes referred to as a portal fantasy in some circles.
As any other genre of fanfic, it may be good, bad, and anywhere in between. However, SIFics in particular tend to be done with only a limited amount of success, since self-inserts commonly tread an even finer line with Mary Sues than original characters do. The particular danger: the temptation to live out a pure fantasy often takes precedence over respect for canon. This typically results in the SI doing things they shouldn't be able to, such as communicating with canon characters who speak a different language, displaying skills they could not reasonably acquire, and causing canon characters to fawn over them for no good reason.
These elements are always, or almost always present in a SIFic, regardless of quality:
- Somehow involving the self-insert with the canon characters or setting.
- This is often achieved through means of a plot device, such as a handy car crash somehow shattering dimensions and flinging people through to the other side, or a TV portal' that sucks people into other worlds. When simple plot devices are absent, a larger excuse is often given, such as prophecies or even deities moving the SI around. In the best of SIFic, a piece of canon information may be used as a method of transport, using previously-established phenomenon instead of breaking canon.
- The self-insert is meant to be a vessel for the reader, providing a handy point of view easy to relate to by modern standards.
- Interaction between the self-insert and the canon characters and the world. Depending on how serious the story is, this may be difficult due to language differences, or it may be glossed over entirely. Sometimes, a translation standard is in place, and it may or may not be explained.
Quality of SIFicEdit
Good SIFic explores the logical, realistic results of the fic's author encountering the world and/or canon characters involved. In a humor fic, this may result in entertaining fish-out-of-water situations: things that we take for granted are conspicuously absent or highly different in the fictional world, and it is the SI's problem to deal with. In a serious work, these problems present significant dangers and challenges that an ordinary person would have difficulty facing. This provides many harsh lessons, opportunities for character development, and may show new sides of the canon universe that the original protagonists, natives, may not have had to face.
Bad SIFic is the opposite, almost to the point of being a tired and worn-out regular appearance on PPC sporking rosters. In bad SIFic, the SI protagonist faces little to no challenges or conflicts in the new, alien setting or situation. They learn skills quickly to the point of being as good as a native within an absurdly short amount of time. They not only speak the same language, but their modern slang is understood. Everybody instantly likes the SI even though she'd be considered 'odd' to a native... at best. Special concessions are given to the Mary Sue, such as special items like unique weapons, ever-running electronics or special magic jewellery to make her stay in fantasyland more livable. Life always improves for the SI due to her displacement in a bad SIFIc, such as the removal of responsibility or the presence of effortless positive reinforcement. She may even 'improve' herself, too; traveling to a new place may make her skin clear up or her hair to grow, or her body to become more desireable or beautiful.
SIFic reaches the lowest of lows when it is based on a dream the author had. Dreams rarely make any kind of sense that translates well to narrative, at least not without considerable effort. Simply typing up what happened in a dream as quickly as possible before it fades and then slapping it up on ff.net without further work does not a good story make.
Other Insert FicEdit
Sometimes a SIFic may not be of the author directly, but a third party that does not share as many traits with the author, such as a young writer writing about an old character, or a writer writing about a character of the opposite gender. This is much rarer than the garden variety SIFic, and does have a higher chance of being of higher quality. This is likely due to a greater separation between SI and writer, and less of a temptation to indulge... but this is not always the case, and there are many unlikely Mary Sue 'self inserts' that end up embodying self-indulgent ego trips even while wearing some other person's face.
Even if the 'SI' is an insert of a relative, friend, or even an amalgam of traits from many sources, if it follows the same common elements listed above, it may be considered a SIFic. Secondary 'inserts' may be seen along a main SI, such as friends or pets, and should be evaluated fairly in the fic the same as the author surrogate. Unfortunately, in bad SIfic, these secondary insert characters may amount to generics or even fawning sycophants.
Dealing With Bad SIFicEdit
Bad SIFic is so universal, it may go to nearly any department and division. However, DMS and Floaters handle the bulk of bad SIFic, or at least the bulk of it that contains SI Mary Sues. For stories that do not contain a SI bad enough to assassinate, but sill substantial canon breaks and other problems, Despatch is sent out: equipped to relocate displaced canon characters, put wayward SIs back in their home settings, and clean up the aftermath of cross-continuum contamination.