On Barriers to Entry

ASC, Enterprise and Beyond, and the LiveJournal set are all aflutter about the ENT problem. I don’t mean the problem that Enterprise is courting cancellation or even that it’s managed to alienate so much of the huge Trek fanbase. I mean the apparent problem that some unspecified number of ENT writers don’t post to ASC. Here’s what I posted to ASC on this thread:

I don’t think the proportion of ENT writers who never post to ASC is any greater than the proportion of VOY writers who never posted to ASC was, back when VOY was on the air (and possibly now as well). It’s been the case for years now that the day-to-day cranking out of pairing fic goes on on mailing lists and (more recently) fanfiction.net, and that only a certain quantity and quality of it eventually reaches ASC.

If ENT survives another season it might be worth the effort to recruit some good ENT writers, but at the moment ASC is doing as well with ENT as I would have expected.

To be more explicit about it, I know the vast majority of J/C writers either never post to ASC, or have posted once or twice and then given up. And ASC is better for it - that quantity of fic would be overwhelming, especially during the awards.

Most of the alternatives to the newsgroup have a lower barrier to entry, which results in either badfic or too much fic - fanfiction.net is a good example of both. In Real Life, publishers and editors are the barriers to entry that guarantee a certain quality to the fic. Online, the barriers are woefully low and getting lower all the time. Newsgroups aren’t hard to use, but you do have to be geeky or persistent enough to figure out how to post - the first barrier.

Also newsgroups are completely public and unowned, so no one is responsible for coddling bad writers or preventing flames. This lack of feedback for mediocre fic is the second, and probably bigger, barrier to entry. It means that people who are cranking it out for the feedback have little incentive to post to ASC. It’s not exactly an editorial process, but nevertheless the result is that the best Trek fic has all been posted to ASC at one time or another.

Those of us who benefit from these barriers to entry are sometimes too willing to try to break them down for new people. But the truth is, not wanting to post to ASC already says something about a Trek writer, whether of ENT or any other series - and I hear it, even when they don’t say it aloud. I’m not crying over fic that never made it to ASC.

2 Responses to “On Barriers to Entry”

  1. S‰ngerin Says:

    There’s “not wanting to post to ASC” and then there’s “being too intimidated to post to ASC”, and I think the two are slightly different. I’ve never posted to ASC partially because of the newsgroup factor, and partially because whenever I did look at ASC, there was this whole bank of “big names”, and I’d get scared off. But I guess that’s one of those barriers you were talking about…

  2. Jemima Says:

    No, I wasn’t thinking of the BNF factor as a barrier to ASC. I see lots of names there that aren’t well-known, and in some cases shouldn’t be. ASC is not a mailing list so there’s no way to tell how big the lurkership is, yet that’s the real audience. The silent majority are very quiet and rarely send feedback - they are neither intimidating nor encouraging.