Because of my performance anxiety, I don't do ficathons anymore. But I've been around enough to know that there are two basic rules:
1. You must submit a fic or contact the moderator so that she can arrange a back-up fic.
2. You must comment on the fic that was written for you.
In my mind, rule # 2, is the more important one for this reason: people flake out of ficathons all the time. Although it sucks not to get a fic, many times a back-up will appear. Plus it's just not as personal. Maybe someone is wailing about how the non-writer failed out of spite, but I doubt it.
But checking your inbox every day and *not* seeing a message from the requester? That's personal. And, frankly, it's just plain rude.
What if I don't like the fic that was written for me? Isn't it better to say nothing at all?
No. Discretion is not the better part of valor here. The writer had to write within a specific set of parameters which you requested. Although those parameters may have seemed completely organic and easy to you, they may very well have caused a panic towards the alien in the writer. Not everyone sees fandom, or your favorite characters the way you do. But they tried, and you need to acknowledge that with a simple thank you, at the very least.
But my characters would never say such things! If I have to respond, can I give some concrit?
No. Although constructive criticism should play a bigger role in fandom than it does, it is not the proper response for a gift. Because that's what a ficathon piece is, a gift. Criticizing the fic would be the same as criticizing the technique used in a hand-knit scarf. Applaud the effort, and let it go at that. Well, don't actually say, "I applaud the effort," because that's criticism too. A simple, "Wow, I can see that you put a lot of work into this. Thank you!" is much more appropriate.
The story is really pathetic. Really. Wouldn't I be damning with faint praise if I said anything? Wouldn't that be worse?
No. We all know that there's variety in the talent pool of fandom. Ficathons give us a snapshot of that variety. Exquisite fics happen due to ficathons. And not. Some authors bloom under constraint, others wither. It's a mixed bag of jelly beans; you never know what you're going to get. But, as stated above, thank you is always appropriate.
But the author is my sworn enemy, my nemesis in all things fandom. I have taken a Vow of Silence regarding any words she might spew my way!
Every fandom of any size has had its share of wars, skirmishes and kerfuffles. Erstwhile friends drop off lists, hit the "defriend" button. Certain things cannot be forgiven. Just imagine her indignant surprise when a clueless moderator gave her *your* request for a ficathon. But did she email the moderator and demand an assignment trade? No. And, unless she set out to deliberately piss on your request out of spite and make you cry from the damage done (I can think of one instance where this actually happened), she more than likely sighed and set to work writing the story that she thought you wanted. And in all likelihood, since you used to be friends, the story fits your request and how you see the characters. And in all likelihood, the story is good. This is the point where you have to swallow your pride enough to respond and say, "Thank you." You can agree to fight another day. Because if you don't? She's a better man than you are, Gunga Din.
Okay, I've been busy serving in the Peace Corps/doing military service/performing missionary work/spending two months in solitary confinement/picking lint off my clothes and haven't seen the story until now. Isn't it too late to respond?
No. Better late than never applies here. You don't need to explain why you haven't responded. In fact, the longer you go on, the more of a manufactured excuse it appears to be. Merely say, "I'm sorry that I haven't responded until now..." and continue until "...thank you." Believe me, she'll be happy to hear from you.
But you can't be talking about me, I always respond to fic written for me! Um, I think.
Things happen. There you are with the story up on your screen and your boss walks in/your kid falls down the stairs/the cat coughs up a hairball. In your mind, you've responded so you close the screen when you finally get back to the computer. Just like the panicky feeling that you've left the water running, the iron on, the door unlocked, you need to check. If you're too busy to flip back through posts/check your sent box, then posting, "Hey, fandomwriterx wrote Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Swiss Army Knife fic for me here!" in your LJ will suffice to cover your bases. Now the author has the chance of receiving additional feedback, and it's a public record that you've seen the story.
I always hit the back button and leave quietly when I'm reading fic that just doesn't do it for me. I'm sorry, but I just can't read this all the way to the end.
A specific request is a lot different from generally posted fic. When an author posts fic at her discretion, you are not obliged to respond. But you are obliged to respond for your ficathon request. It's a gift. It's just as rude not to say "Thank you" in this case as it is to ignore Aunt Gertrude's horrifyingly butt-ugly tissue box cover. Be nice, give thanks and you never have to see the story/tissue box cover again.
I guess that's it. Be Nice. Say Thank you. Takes less than a minute.