Now that the discussion with authors and votes have started us down the road towards a new way to handle non-canon fiction, I'd like to let everyone else in on some of the details and planning. It will probably still be a little while before we get everything worked out and the actual site changes, but here's a sample of what you can expect:
Over the years, we've struggled with some unusual perceptions with regards to the breakdown between canon stories, fan fiction stories, and what those things imply for quality and content. We've always tried to make it clear that the 'official' stance is that there is no definitive measure that canon stories are inherently better quality than those created by fans. We do spend a fair amount of time internally with reviews, edits, and preparing stories to be 'complete' in ways that doesn't always happen with fan fiction... but there is nothing preventing any non-canon author from doing the same and creating stories just as good (or better) than what the canon team does. In fact, the only 'real' distinction between a canon release and non-canon author's contributions is that only the canon release will impact the ongoing plot line of future canon releases... and only a canon release can be considered a definitive measure of how the universe works.
Outside of the Whateley Universe, of course, fan fiction is often considered a lesser form of writing - often just author substitution wish fulfillment or alternate pathway scenes/completion bits. And with comic book fan fic, there are many origin scenes presented as a means to show off a gimmick/character design... that wouldn't meet the traditional scope of a story with character, plot, etc. And some of that attitude/impression cannot be escaped simply because we say otherwise... especially while we use the same words to describe all of it... the good, well researched stories whose only 'flaw' is the author didn't have the inside scoop to the true 'evil' Mary Sue author substitution fan fic.
The solution is that we've decided to give non-canon fiction written for the Whateley Universe a new name. Going forward, it will be called "Whateley Independent Fiction" which may be abbreviated as WhatIF or more simply as IF. Authors of WhatIF can be noted as IFA (IF Authors) or Ifeers (Independent Fictioneers). Within the scope of IF, there will be 'fan fiction' - incomplete stuff more ethusiastic than researched... and there will be solid, complete stories whose only difference from canon stories is that they will not impact the official canon story line (even if they seem to).
We will also be moving the IF out of the slums of the Forums, where they've been buried for close to a decade. The forum was always an 'easy' way for them to present because it gave them complete control over their material. But it doesn't give them the same level of visibility to readers and it prevents us from using the other site tools for feedback and voting and category tracking/sorting. So we're going to expand the system of IF to a multi-tier system. We're going to open up the ability to post scenes, stories, or whatever writing you want in the Fabrication Lab (even if you are not a promoted author - though you'll still have to be registered with the site). That will be the 'lowest' level of things... and we suspect that it will mostly be used by new writers who don't want the visibility of the whole community until they feel safer. The second tier visible to readers will be similar to how a blog listed story site works (like Stardust or Bigcloset)... where IFA can post at will with any sized story section that they want to do. Daily, or in larger segments, whatever they prefer. If you are curious what that will look like, it will work much as currently clicking on STORIES in the main menu looks (before you select a category list/menu). You'll see each story's header and blurb newest to oldest... or you will be able to go to a master list that will show published dates and so forth. These stories will include the commenting system and the 5 star voting system. And finally, we will have a featured IF system which will be a collection of the 'best' rated stories from the IF archives. We haven't decided officially what conditions will merit a story making this jump but it will be a mark that the story is considered just as good (or better) than the average canon piece.
As an added 'side' measure... we're considering implementing a small graphic 'stamp' to put on each IF piece that reflects of a measure of how close we consider it to canon. Where a '10 out of 10' measure would mean... this story is so close to canon, we could make it canon without more than an hour's clean up. And we'd have a number of 'stamps' all the way down to "This isn't even set in the Whateley Universe... are you sure you don't want this moved to the Library?" There was some suggestion of chibi versions of protagonist characters - Ayla chibi as the details oriented 'nigh canon' stamp and Jade chibi as "This is madness?!" level.
We're also working out a new disclaimer for the IF to add to the option of the old one: The old was refers to the stories as fan fiction so anything goes and includes a link to the main site (here). The new one also includes authorization for us to add any IF story to the main Whateley Academy web site for presentation and Archiving purposes - so no more stories are lost to the interwebs because we don't have authorization to copy/repost them. We'd still be required to take them down if the author asked us to remove them... but it'd keep things from being lost because it was in an old forums and no one had given authorization to repost on a new site.
That's the status for now. Feel free to open a discussion about the plans in the Quad... the IFeers have already discussed a lot of this in their private forums lounge (its where we store the cheap scotch), there's certainly plenty left about the concept to refine detail wise.
Now then... for this week's content release? How about another Gen 2 side story? NeoMagus and Malagua have whipped up a little something they're calling "Myriad Meetings." Here is Part 1 of that piece. Enjoy!