A/N: Oh hi...it's been years. And presently I couldn't even tell you what the Screwtape Letters style sound like, but I came across this unpublished chapter the other day and decided to air it out. I hope it doesn't suck. Originally I had several other chapters planned and a decent story arc, but realistically I am never going to get around to completing those, so I hope this at least leaves the reader with the impression that all is not lost for our young authoress.
My dear Wormwood,
It is with the greatest disappointment that I read your most recent correspondence. I had dared to hope for your success on this assignment after the miserable failure of your previous one, but now I have no hope that even Our Father Below will be able to salvage the wreck you have made of your career.
Is it true, as you suggest, that your patient has acquired a BETA-READER?
I try to remain optimistic, but this news is of the gravest kind. The destruction wreaked upon the fanfiction community by this singular breed of monsters is legendary. Perfectly terrible works have turned half-decent, and, in some cases, even quite good through their intervention. I shall not even mention the strides – small and halting as we have worked to make them – beta-readers have made in preserving the canon.
Do you know nothing, Wormwood? Are you a complete moron?
Don't bother to answer; I already know. But, because I am, after all, your uncle, I shall do what I can in an attempt to salvage your sorry hide.
Firstly, I must recount to you the exact details of how this situation came about. Negligence, nephew, negligence is what has brought about this horror. I told you to plant your patient in the company of our Lewis authors, and at first you did. I repeatedly urged you to ensure that your patient returned flames and kept reading Mary-Sue, incest, and slashfics, and for a while she did. But now you must be honest with me, Wormwood – how long has your patient been corresponding with the abomination that is now her beta-reader? Be truthful – even though it is entirely against your nature to do so.
If my insight serves me correctly, as it usually does, it would not come as a great surprise to find that contact between the two has gone on for quite some time. You, not recognizing it as potentially disastrous, were too focused on other things – or perhaps, as is more likely, too lazy to trouble yourself with the matter – to put a stop to this behaviour.
The full impact of this mistake will undoubtedly haunt you for years. But just in case that is not sufficient, allow me to expound upon some of the ramifications.
Do you know how much influence a beta-reader can have on an author? Again, there is no need to answer this question. Your actions speak well enough on your behalf. Now, if the beta-reader had been one of our authors, this could be a good thing. This, however, is not the case. Now your patient will feel the need to have another validate her work and approve of it. As she actually respects – respects! - her beta, she will actually strive for this approval. She will make conscious efforts to please her beta, and eagerly adopt any suggestions, no matter how trivial they seem – and let me remind you, what seems mere triviality to human minds can really be of extreme importance. Your patient will eventually adopt her beta's standards of writing; this may also lead to a definition of 'quality' fanfiction, and if your patient turns into a critic of the stuff I shall be most violently displeased. Then anything she reads will be measured against an invisible ruler, which will inevitably lead to labeling some fics as 'good' and others as 'bad'! And a return to standards of any kind, much less moral ones in regard to her reading material, is exactly what we have worked so hard to avoid! Rather, what I have worked so hard to warn you about, and what you have blatantly tossed to the wind.
Why, your patient's scrawlings may become legible, and even have some tinge of quality beyond that of perverted drivel. No more grammar and spelling mistakes – no beautifully mangled paragraphs three pages long – the utter absence of Mary Sue and explicit bedroom scenes – it's enough to make me weep, Wormwood.
But where I weep you may be assured that Our Father will burn with rage – so you had better correct this heinous error soon, or I shall remain,
Your sorely disappointed uncle,