Archive for the 'Meta' Category


Thursday, June 30th, 2005

Shuffle price of the day: $129

I’ve been trying to think of something new to say about the latest litfic kerfluffles, but I think I said it all before. So I redirect you to Other People’s Playgrounds.

Or as they say on Slashdot, 2002 called—they want their kerfluffle back.


Friday, July 9th, 2004

R.J. Anderson talks about the joy of the fanfix. I appreciate fandoms like Trek where the source is rife with gaffes to be fixed. For me it’s all about the fix—Stargate doesn’t have nearly enough problems for proper fixing…but I love it anyway.

The H Word

Wednesday, June 16th, 2004

I remember the days when the h word was taboo. Saying that writing fanfiction was just a hobby meant that you couldn’t be bothered with the little details of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and characterization - and why should you? Why should a fangirl sweat the details? A hobby is just for fun.

Now, suddenly the h word is in style, as the newly-discovered answer to the Eternal Question, Why don’t you write original fiction instead? Certainly the h word is an answer to that question as well as to the more traditional questions: Why couldn’t you be bothered to spellcheck that atrocity? and Why don’t you use a beta reader like the big girls do? “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” is always a good answer, if you really don’t give a damn. But methinks the h-fen protest too much.

The other questions to which the h word is an answer imply that calling writing a hobby is primarily a way to avoid personal responsibility for the nature of one’s output - whether the issue is spelling or originality. The Eternal Question is not an attack on fandom - no one cares that tens of thousands of fans are writing hobbit smut. Contrary to popular belief, people do understand what it is to have a hobby - in fact, they understand it better than fanfic writers seem to.

The average short, pudgy sports fan has a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming a pro basketball player - but teenagers still dream of making the big leagues. There are few sports fans who would turn down the opportunity to play pro if they had it. After all, what kind of fanatic doesn’t give a damn? Most people who are as obsessed as fanfic writers are would pursue their hobbies full-time if they could.

The Eternal Question is not Why doesn’t everyone in fandom write original fic instead? although that’s a reasonable question, too. The Eternal Question is Why don’t you? Why do you, someone with an obvious interest in and talent for writing, waste it all on hobbit smut? Maybe your day job is saving lives and you’re morally torn between the two, but art, like sports and brain surgery, is a highly respected line of work. If you have the talent to be a writer, people will naturally ask you why you’re marking time as a CPA.

It’s a question of human potential. Imagine a waiter or a janitor who came home at night and wrote free software. Say he did it for years on end, for no recompense beyond geek cred, became well-known for his excellent and popular code, but never even tried to get a real job as a programmer. For one thing, this would never happen - the overwhelming majority of people who write software for free have day jobs writing software for pay or teaching other people to write software for pay. And they tend to be men.

People who write fiction for free don’t usually have day jobs writing fiction for pay, and they tend overwhelmingly to be women. IANAF (I Am Not A Feminist) but I sense a pattern here. Maybe the reason there are so few male fanfic writers isn’t that men can’t write (though they tend to be worse at it than women) but that men don’t consider their time and effort to be quite so disposable. Of the male fanfic writers I’ve known, I’d say a third to a half had pretensions to my knowledge of writing original fic. Of the females, only three come to mind and one of them is me. We are vastly outnumbered by the people who’ve said explicitly that they would not write original fic. The men are not.

I’m not counting those who’ve written for Strange New Worlds, since the Eternal Question isn’t about getting paid per se but about writing original fiction. Yet SNW is a good example of the phenomenon - the gender balance of the winners is at best even, and probably weighted slightly towards the male side, which is not the proportion one would expect from reading alt.startrek.creative. The female writers tend to come out of fandom while the men wouldn’t touch free fanfic with a ten-foot pole. Also, the men and those women who haven’t come out of fandom seem more likely to publish elsewhere (that is, outside of the media tie-in market).

I’m not against fanfic as a hobby, but calling it one does not absolve the individual writer of the obligation to answer the Eternal Question - if not for others, then at least for herself.

Just the Snark, Ma’am

Wednesday, June 9th, 2004

A few days back RJ Anderson posted an interesting Harry Potter theory about Evil!James. Since I’m not attacking a straw-woman version of RJ’s ideas, I can actually mention her name (RJ Anderson - is giving credit so hard?) and even (gasp!) link her original post. Should she happen to comment here, I will treat her with the respect any fellow fan deserves rather than ignoring her points while quibbling over a minor issue.

I’m no HP fan, so for a full-blown snark analysis of this glaring fandom wank, I will send you on to Narcissa Malfoy. In conclusion, I would just like to point out that there are only two possible explanations for this sort of behavior - stupidity or malice - and only one of them is excusable.

Fan the Vote

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004

I find Fan the Vote (in which fans sell fannish services in return for campaign contributions to various liberal causes) a fascinating fannish development. I came across it first in Alara’s LJ, where the assumption that all fans are pro-Kerry struck me, as did the going rate for more Judgment Day - $10 for 3,000 words is less than a penny a word and not a professional rate.

At the Fan the Vote LJ community you can get any service (betaing, fic, icons) for any fandom. Issues of legality have been brought up - mainly that it’s illegal for an American political campaign to take money from foreign nationals even through a fannish intermediary, and it’s against the LJ TOS for the fans to solicit money for themselves.

But how about the biggest issue of all - trademark infringement? Sure, none of the fans are profiting from Fan the Vote, but Kerry is. I wouldn’t be so sure, if I were of the Democrat persuasion, that Paramount wanted its properties used to finance the Kerry campaign, or to finance anything at all. Remember when we held the moral high ground because no one was making any money off fandom? Those were the days…

For the sake of fairness in fandom, I had been planning to offer to help fan the vote the other way by ficcing in return for contributions to the Bush campaign, the Libertarian Party, or The Becket Fund, but I doubt that those organizations would want to be involved in this sort of illicit fundraising scheme. So my fic will remain free, at least until the lawyers hear about Fan the Vote and shut us all down, regardless of political persuasion.

The Mathematics of Feedback

Sunday, March 14th, 2004

Occupied territory of the day: al-Andalus

I’m back from the deep, dark swamps of Southeastern Massachusetts. I got a ride home, so now I have a leftover “get out of Fall River free” card (otherwise known as a return ticket) from Bonanza Bus Lines. They should be paying me to go there. But I digress…

I don’t usually think about the feedback I’m not getting, but when my site stats came back up recently after months of being AWOL for an upgrade I was surprised all over again at just how little feedback people send when they think I’m not looking. My standard estimate is 1% feedback - that is, one piece of email per 100 readers - but that estimate is a bit high. In some cases the rate is more like 1 in 500, or 1 in 1000. My latest story has received not a single feedback out of over 200 hits, and it was a good story, if I do say so myself.

So I started wondering, how can it be that some people get so much feedback they don’t have time to answer it, and other people get nothing? To what, exactly, does an order of magnitude more feedback correspond - a name that’s an order of magnitude bigger? An army with ten minions for every one of mine? Ten fan friends for each of mine? A story that’s ten times better?

To answer that question, I’d have to know where all that feedback was coming from. There are two kinds of feedback in the fan world: potlatch fb and unsolicited fb. If you know that certain actions (such as posting to a mailing list) will inevitably bring you feedback no matter the quality of the fic, you can assume the fb is potlatch. On the other hand, if you post a story anonymously (say, in a blind contest) and get feedback for it, that’s unsolicited feedback. Everything in between is suspect. And if you hardly know with your own fic whether the feedback you get is spontaneous or a result of a complex network of fannish obligations and feedback guilt, how can you know what the BNF’s are getting?

It’s almost impossible to get an honest piece of fb in fandom. Even newbies get fb that’s intended to rope them into the potlatch rather than express how the reader really felt about their fic. People who aren’t involved in the potlatch generally don’t send any feedback at all. They’re going to archives and reading your fic and you never even know.

Sure there are rec sites, contests, and the occasional slightly picky archive, but there are no real rewards for quality the way there are for quantity. (Anyone who thinks fb numbers are a reflection of quality should take a look around Fb is just one of the many rewards for quantity.

Fan Plot

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

Writing link of the day: Turkey City

Fanfic is, generally speaking, easier to write than original fiction. The main problem of writing fanfic is keeping in character. You don’t have to create the characters or the setting, and in many cases you don’t even need to describe the characters or the setting. Blah, blah, blah, Ginger - we call it meta because we’ve heard it all before. The fanfic shortcut to character and setting are so familiar that they obscure another fanfic shortcut - the low road to plot.

I was meditating in the bathtub over my folders full of unfinished original stories, most especially the one I need to finish by Friday, and how sad they seem by comparison to my slim selection of abandoned fanfic. In almost all cases, I abandoned the original stories because I couldn’t figure out what happened next, and I abandoned the fanfics because I didn’t want to take the time to write what happened next. Why did I never have plotter’s block with fanfic?

The majority of my fanfics involve getting X and Y together, so I always know what the story is working towards. Everything in the story functions toward that end. Shippiness isn’t the only easy fanfic plot out there, though - my drabble motivation, write 100 words about the episode, is also sufficiently restrictive to squeeze a plot out almost every time. Episodes can always use fixing, and challenges are a dime a dozen if you can’t think of a shippy plot on your own. The show provides its own plot-inspiring restrictions - we’re low on replicator rations, we need to get back to Earth, have you fought the Goa’uld today? It would be hard not to find plot material in seven seasons of details major and minor. Fanfic is an orgy of cheap and easy plotting.

The majority of my original stories start with an idea in a setting. I get as far as tossing one major character in there, and there he sits, holding the idea and looking original. He may stroll around the setting for a few scenes before I realize that I don’t know where he’s going. With absolutely no restrictions, I don’t know where to start. The simple solution is to make some restrictions, but that’s just as hard as the plotting itself.

By comparison, setting is easy and even character is doable - you can always plagiarize real people’s personalities or keep the story short and undemanding on the characters. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and if you don’t think so you can recycle those from other people’s stories. The trouble is plot.

The muse finally came up with a plot for my poor wandering character - I just had to trap her in the bath where she couldn’t surf or otherwise amuse herself - and of course couldn’t write it all down. I’ve found that relaxation is the only way to get work out of her. She has the bed/bath/bus problem of creativity, and I wonder if it means something deep about the human mind.

But that’s just an idea, and what I need are plots.

Gimme a Y…

Wednesday, December 17th, 2003

Silly mac program of the day: Fish Bowl

Seema and I were discussing retirement from fandom. She’s tired of the meta and I’m tired of the women. Yes, there are a handful of men out there writing fanfiction, but think of the numbers of men who have been driven away by the overwhelming femaleness of the place.

Women are, statistically speaking, more illogical and emotional than men, and that alone increases the annoyance factor of fandom for those of us on the logical end of the scale. But the thing that struck me was how few men have read my fanfic. I have an audience that’s restricted almost entirely to women purely by the demographics of online fandom. How many of my stories have flopped that might have suceeded among a more normal science-fiction audience? How many of my masterpieces would have been berated by a more Y-endowed crowd? Might someone even dare to say that a fic was bad or that an aspiring writer might want to consider a different hobby, one for which they have a modicum of talent?

But enough about how the lack of men affects my fic - how does it affect me? I rarely get to read fanfic written by men. I don’t think the execution of a story is noticably different between the chromosomes, but I have noticed that men and women tend to write about different subjects, and I like the ones that attract male authors. For example, I can’t think of a single male Voyager writer who does J/C, but there have been several who’ve written K/7 and Borg stories in general, or been involved in J/P fandom. There were also a few men writing Khan stories over the past year, after just a couple by women the year before and none to speak of for years before them.

The equation is simple: more men = more Khan stories.

As long as I’m here, I may as well do the meme. Initials are for VOY pairings, full names for SG-1, TOS, and crossovers:

One True Pairing ‘Ship: J/P, Sam/Narim

Canon ‘Ship: C/7, Daniel/Sha’re

“If this happens I’ll stab my eyes out with a spork” ‘Ship: Tu/T, Sam/Maybourne
“You are one sick bastard” ‘Ship: Tu/N, Jack/Daniel

“I dabble a little” ‘Ship: K/7, Chakotay/Crusher, Sam/boyfriend
“It’s like a car crash” ‘Ship: EMH/7, Teal’c/Drey’auc
“Tickles my fancy but not sold quite yet” ‘Ship: C/T, Sam/Jack

“Makes no canon sense but why the hell not” ‘Ship: J/C, Sam/Daniel

“Everyone else loves it but I just don’t feel it” ‘Ship: P/T, Sam/Janet

“When all is said and done” ‘Ship: T/K, Khan/Marla, Apophis/Amaunet

Unpopular Meme

Thursday, November 20th, 2003

Word count: 2400

Seema doesn’t like this meme but I thought it was cool, and since my last entry was an unpopular opinion I may as well continue the pattern. I’m not sure what the rules are since I haven’t read many meme responses and I don’t know where it started. As far as I know, I’m supposed to list ten of my unpopular opinions about fandom.

  1. I have a muse. In fact, I have several, both named and unnamed. B’Elanna the Canon-Correcting Muse wrote my best fic for me and I am eternally grateful to her. If you find her in a seedy bar somewhere, send her home.
  2. Free biology lessons are not fiction, they are free biology lessons.
  3. If it’s not canon, it’s just not all that interesting - unless it’s an AU. I’d rather read about an AU where everyone was paired up in weird ways than read non-AU fic with the same premise.
  4. Slash is therefore uninteresting, as is post-Endgame J/C.
  5. There is no such thing as subtext. Your interpretation of the text (the text being the actual sound and picture of a television show, or the actual words printed on the pages of a book) is just your interpretation. The author’s intent is as inaccessible to you as the what the author had for lunch that day.
  6. The world does not need another mailing list, archive, or bulletin board.
  7. Harry Potter is overrated.
  8. Speaking of which, litfic is more morally and legally questionable than mediafic - at least until the copyright expires.
  9. My fic is a free gift to the readers. I do not expect feedback or anything else in return for it. I do not write for the feedback. Posting my fic does not mean that I wrote it for the feedback; it just means that I’m nice and I’m giving the gift of fic.
  10. It’s my blog. I don’t use bad language or make personal attacks here, so if you’re offended, that’s your problem. When you’ve grown up and realized that the world isn’t going to end just because not everyone in it shares your opinions, feel free to come back.

[P.S.] Liz claims that this meme is just the old manifesto meme come back again. Many of my answers were more or less the same this time, although I wasn’t able to fit RPS and It’s the 24th century, people! into this version.


Tuesday, October 21st, 2003

Word count: 200

Yesterday I was chatting with some fellow BOFQ’s about the general public’s perception of fandom. They think we’re a bunch of obsessed plagiarizing pornographers giving fic away for free. And they’re more or less right about that.

So the question I asked myself was, would I have gotten involved in fandom if I’d realized at the time (in 2000) what it would be like today (in 2003)? Would I want to be associated, in even the slightest way, with a genre that is mostly smut, mostly badfic, mostly mary-sues, mostly slash - pick your poison - and where there is an ever-present, if , danger of plagiarism of my own fic by other fans? Would I want to be involved in a community that supports your right to write RPS and twincest?

I’m not necessarily talking about moral qualms here. Consider slash, for example - even for people who like it, it’s not usually something they got into fanfic for. It’s more of an acquired taste. Even smut is something most fans work their way up to writing rather than the thing they came to fandom looking for. People come for the show.

So the inside of fandom is not at all like the outside. Back in 2000, there was no easy way for a new fan to see the seamy underside of fandom, but now there’s LJ, where anyone who does a little research can find out that fandom is really distasteful or contentious or meta or low-quality - pick your poison again. Now instead of a seamy underside, we have a underside of good, clean, gen, deep, literary (pick your preference) fic almost completely obscured by the notorious public face of fandom.

I think this change in the face of fandom is having an increasing effect on what kind of people get involved - more young rowdy people, fewer adults stumbling into fandom by accident - but it could just be that I’m a BOFQ and I’m not meeting the promising newbies.

I’m certainly not trying, either - my answer to whether I’d get involved in fandom today is a definite “no.” Though I write Stargate fic, I don’t go out of my way to post it or meet other Stargate fans. I don’t have time for LJ or fic taxes - the sheer size of fandom today drives people away as well. Anyone who doesn’t have lots of time to dedicate to fandom is marginalized.

I’ll see you in the margins.