But then there's this, too. (And I'll admit right off the bat that I know I'm being slightly unfair, and that's why this rant goes no further than my personal journal.) Today I read a fic that someone had written while I was on vacation and that I was just now getting around to, and this fic too dealt with some pretty weighty subject matter. Now, it was very obvious that the author knew this and that she wanted to take care not to be offensive or to upset anyone. Good job! Author gets a cookie! She also clearly did do her research and was generally trying to approach her writing in as a respectful a way as possible. Another cookie!
Here's the problem. Her fic was by no means offensive, but on the other hand, it was boring. If two well-beloved characters (as well as a bunch of other people) are being tortured in bizarre and disturbing ways, that ought to be upsetting to read. And you, author, had a fascinatingly horrible topic and the good sense to approach it with tact. Your fic could have been amazing! It could have made the reader cry, and that's what it should have done.
The thing is... you're not a very good writer. It's not that you're a bad writer, but I don't think you have the skill necessary to pull this particular story off. And yes, I am being unfair, because that's not really a reasonable criticism. You can't say to somebody, "There was nothing in particular wrong with it; I just didn't like it because I find your work to be prosaic." And anyway, everybody who's in fandom is (hopefully) working on improving their writing, and that's something that takes time. It's not a problem that, say, a beta could have fixed for her anyway.
But honestly, if you're writing a fic like this one, you have got to be able to convey emotion effectively (and that means subtly) in your writing. Likewise, your characterization needs to be good. And if you can't do that... idk, I know it's a mean thing for me to say, but in that case I can't help but feel like you don't have any business writing such a story in the first place.
Imo, handling a touchy subject with care means more than making sure you don't offend; it also means doing a good enough job in your writing that the reader feels like they're reading about actual human beings and not cardboard cutouts. Because I for one don't really care if cardboard cutouts get tortured. It probably makes me a bad person, but through the entire progression of your fic I didn't feel an ounce of sympathy for the unfortunate characters all of this is happening to. They just didn't come across as real enough for them to matter to me.
If you're going to do something (something that obviously required some research and a lot of worry about tact anyway), then fgs do it right-- it's sort of embarrassing to read if you don't.
...All of which makes me uncomfortable, because I know that there's no helpful criticism I could give her and I know that I can't set up some arbitrary definition of how good of a writer someone should be before they should try to tackle difficult subject matter. (And anyway, different people have different definitions or what "good writing" is anyway. So maybe other people read the fic and were glad that it didn't depress them too much. Or maybe they thought she was writing with clarity that a very emotional fic might not have had. Idk.) Personally, though... I read a lot of poetry and perhaps because of that I really like it when people can convey a strong feeling through small details instead of just stating "So-and-so was more scared than he had ever been before." Apparently people have a lot of difficulty with the idea of showing instead of telling.
Fuck, I never know what to do or think in this sort of situation, because I worry that everyone's going to think I'm being overly harsh or something. But I've read a lot of fics that fall into this category lately, and it's making me crazy.
Ps- being overly clinical/detached/etc. (unless you've thought it through and that's what you're going for) doesn't work and you shouldn't do it. Being didactic is stupid as well. Yes, we already know that certain things are BAD AND WRONG and that WE SHOULDN'T DO THEM. We don't need a patronizing after-school special inserted into the things we read. Thank you.