Self Insert

No Beta We Die Like Men

This column is reprinted from Unwinnable Monthly #128. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Examining trends in fanfiction.

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In fanfiction there are two types of betas.

We’re talking specifically in this case about the writing variety. In fanfiction there’s no such thing as assigned editors. Because by nature derivative works are self-published, they are self-edited, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone to take a look first. A friend, a fellow writer. In the world of fanfiction these editors have a name: betareaders, betas or beta readers.

Forums for fanfiction have long had homes for finding beta readers, etiquette for how to request assistance from a beta, what kinds of help you can expect from someone, etc. You’ll find all sorts; from fics with multiple betas to an author who has one beta that they tend to use for years, to a story that is already live and has a request in the notes for someone to act as a beta after the fact.

Then there’s “No Beta We Die Like Men.” This is warning your reader up front that you didn’t bother with a beta reader, didn’t have any second glance to see if your writing was up to snuff; this is your writing and it’s ready to go. Whatever’s on the screen, that’s your responsibility, and you take the hits for it.

Whatever’s on the screen, that’s your responsibility, and you take the hits for it.

It’s hard to get precise numbers on how frequently people will use this tag. AO3, and their phenomenal tagging system, resorts these all into “Not Beta Read,” alongside every other variation of the tag from simply “No Beta” to the more specific variations for each individual fandom. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses there’s a further variation of “No Beta We Die Like Glenn,” because apparently Glenn’s only character trait is “dead” or in Mó Dào Zu Shi you have “no beta we die like wwx” for the up front death of main character Wei Wuxian (often abbreviated down to wwx).

There’s an implicit warning to No Beta We Die Like Men, but it’s not always deserved. Not every piece of work is better edited, as not every Beta is created equal. There’s no way to know without taking a peek inside.

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Amanda Hudgins is an occasional writer, former rugby player and wearer of incredibly tall shoes.

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