I swear to God, it's become the annual right of spring. The same suspects are even involved.
And it's caused the same thing: the fundamental disconnect between people who hold two distinct theories of fanfiction.
There are issues over proper writing mechanics, themes, characterizations, subject matter, inaccurate and inappropriate appropriation of various cultures, and all of that. But every one of those issues still comes down to the same thing: the Disconnect (here now rendered with a capital "D") between two distinct theories of fanfiction.
On the one hand, you have people who look at fanfiction as a way to constantly challenge themselves and improve their writing.
On the other, you have people who look a fanfiction as a fun hobby and are less worried about the mechanics of it.
I suspect a few people will unfriend me over what follows beneath the cut. Fair enough. It's your right.
But this is my LJ. I pay for this space. I'll bitch if I want to.
For a little bit of my background in this particular kerfluffle, I'll link you to this thread from last year.
To sum up:
Normally, I wouldn't really stick a toe in the water over this. I'd do my usual sniggering in comments and leave it at that. I tangled with jans_intentions and her friends a couple of years ago over NWS manips not going behind an LJ-Cut and that was quite enough. I've got my own shit to worry about, yo. I'm not going to waste my time with people who steadfastly refuse to get it, and even if they did get it aren't going to listen to me anyway.
In either case, there was such a bad taste left in my mouth over that brou-hah-hah that when I did my DarkXander Fic-A-Thon in October, I specifically constructed the Sekrit Rools to discourage certain authors from participating, since Slave!Master fics were in vogue among them at the time. Slave!Master fics where the serious issue of slavery is not (IMHO) treated seriously squick me the fuck out and I won't link to them. I didn't want to start a kerfluffle if one was submitted and I refused to link to it, so I stated up front they wouldn't be acceptable.
Whether or not anyone in that group even thought of participating, I don't know. I actually kind of doubt they even clicked over to my LJ, since I'm nowhere near their corner of fandom and I'm most certainly not on their radar. Either way, I went the better-safe-than-sorry route.
The long and short of it is this: LJ is a pretty big place. I've happily cruised along in my corner without having to deal with people whose online behavior rubs me the wrong way. I can't say they're unpleasant individuals, per se, since I don't even know them and have never met them. I just didn't like dealing with them when I did cross paths. It was fairly easy to just retreat to my own corner and have fun with myself and others. (Wait...that doesn't sound right...)
In this latest mess, however, links are going around and I can actually trace what happened when and who said what. This time some of the posts are actually unlocked and I don't have to take a lot on hearsay, nor do I have to much worry about breaking a Flock if I talk about it.
Finally I could get to the source of this one.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that this latest kerfluffle blew up because someone made a criticism in her personal LJ and spoke only for herself about a fanfic she considers to be horribly OOC and poorly written. She only made vague reference to what is truly a hideous story in which Angel, for all intents and purposes, rapes Willow with a bar of soap and Willow is grateful for it. (This judgment that the story is hideous, by the way, is IMHO, and only IMHO since I'm not speaking for anyone else.)
That story was the thing that set her off.
Jesus, I don't blame her. That would set me off, too.
Next thing you know, the usual suspects started up with chants of "the crazy girls" and the "meeen girls" and the "twats over there" and the "they're jus' jelus."
I also learned a few important "facts" about fandom, "facts" which I had never known before:
- There's a certain clique in Buffy fandom made up of the the self-appointed arbiters of taste and act as the fandom police
Me: There are? Where? All I see are a bunch of people stating their opinion about certain kinds of stories, not trying to shut down debate. In fact, I haven't seen one person say that people shouldn't write what they want to write or enjoy the stories they want to enjoy. The only thing I see is that they're sick and tired of sitting on their mouths because a bunch of drama queens get their panties in a bunch if there's so much as a hint that they're not universally loved. These people are hardly a clique and they hardly march in lock-step over anything.
In fact, the only people I see trying to shut down the debate over OOC vs. IC and good writing vs. bad writing are the ones throwing around the "jus' jelus" and "they're meeeen" comments.
- This clique is making fandom so unpleasant these days.
Me: Spoken like people who weren't in online fandom when Buffy S6 and S7 was airing first-run. You want unpleasant? That was unpleasant. This? Pffffft. Not unpleasant. Buffy fandom is downright harmonious compared to the way it used to be. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Buffy fandom is a very pleasant place.
Hell, it's been pretty good to me. But then again, I don't attack every Tom, Dick, and Harry who disagrees with me, either. Maybe that has something to do with it. In either case, if you think it's unpleasant when most people I deal with think it's actually very pleasant, have you considered the problem might be...well...you?
- People shouldn't criticize what they don't like. They should just ignore it. Don't like, don't read.
Me: The same might apply to you, sport. When someone posts a rant on their personal journal and doesn't even name names, you can scroll on by, too. That shit goes both ways, grasshopper. It strikes me as just a leeeeeetle unfair that you think "don't like, don't read" should only apply to your fannish output.
This point also comes down to the fundamental Disconnect. Some people really do view fanfic as a way to improve their writing. Since I'm in that camp, and speaking only for myself, once upon a time I thought everyone thought that way. I've since learned otherwise. However, it's not always easy to figure out who's who when it comes to giving FB and concrit. I even now occasionally overstep the bounds set by the writer and have gotten nailed for it.
That said, just because I (or anyone else) have gotten the message that concrit isn't welcome, doesn't mean that I (or anyone else) has given up the right to bitch about it when we find fanfic that makes our eyes burn.
- They're targeting one writer because she's popular and they're not.
Me: No. They're up in arms over jans_intentions because she compared a criticism of her story that was published on someone's personal LJ in a post where she wasn't even named to being raped. Maybe it's because it was a truly insulting comparison that rubbed a bunch of people the wrong way. Maybe it's because this is the straw that's finally broken the camel's back. Maybe because she has a history of this kind of crap and enough is enough. Either way, yes, fingers are getting pointed at her because of it. And know what? People should be pointing fingers. Criticism does not equal rape, no matter how you slice it. Ask anyone on my Flist who's actually been sexually assaulted. I'm very sure they'll include some choice words in their response.
Besides, I feel that I must point out something: Some of the people who are coming out of the closet and naming names are actually popular writers themselves. Just because you don't read them or haven't heard of them doesn't mean they're not. All it means is that they're not popular in your online circles. That's it.
If you want to know the truth, unless there's a kerfluffle, jans_intentions doesn't even show up on my fanfic radar. I tried reading her early stories when her stuff would show up on su_herald and I didn't like them. Since I saw her rude responses to people who tried to leave concrit about her inaccurate history, borderline racist handling of certain cultures, her use of rape/slavery for strictly titillation purposes, and her incorrect grammar, I didn't bother commenting and made a mental note to avoid her stories in the future (that would be me practicing "don't like, don't read" in case your wondering). If it weren't for the annual kerfluffle, which always ends with her threatening to leave fandom or Flock her journal, I wouldn't know that she's still writing fanfiction that she labels as taking place in the Buffy-verse.
Yet, she's supposedly a very popular writer, one that's so popular that she's got a FList of hundreds, with hundreds of lurkers more. You can't tell that by me.
What I'm trying to say is simple: one person's BNF is another person's "Who?" For reals. The Internet is a humbling place like that.
Now, aside from the fact that these "jelus fanfic writers" are actually popular (not to mention fantastic) writers themselves, some of them are also professional writers. As in they get paid. And some of them have published books you can buy at a book store. Trust me. They're not jealous about someone's popularity in the realm of fanfic. Mystified, maybe, but not jealous. The last thing they need or want is to get into an online kerfluffle about fanfic.
And finally, these people also happen to be very smart, and very nice people. For them to start making public posts about this means they've had it with the shenanigans. By my count, it's taken at least two years for this to explode out in the open. That says a lot of good things about them.
Well, anyway, I think it's pretty clear that I'm made of fail here, because I'm reading all of these points and I just don't get it.
So, I'll just put my own pearls of wisdom out there. Not that I think I'm going to convince anyone, but my .02. Please note that "you" is being used in the general sense, and is not aimed at one particular person:
- Not everyone's gonna love your work. Hell, not everyone's even going to like your work. When people say bad things about your fannish output, they are not saying bad things about you. Most people don't even know you, so any judgment they make is based on your work and nothing more than that. So put on your big girl panties, stop accusing people of making it personal when they most certainly did not, and move the fuck on.
- Even if your work is generally liked, you're not going to score 100% on your fannish output. Some of the shit you do is not going to be popular, even if you think it's under appreciated. Accept that some fannish works are hits, some are misses, and learn the lessons both have to impart.
- If you've got enough people voicing the exact same criticism about your work, maybe there's a point in there you should pay attention to. I'm not saying you have to, I'm just saying that maybe you ought to think about it before you dismiss other people's opinions. At the end of the day, you can accept or reject those opinions. It's up to you. But don't be shocked if those criticisms persist.
- If you put yourself out there, accept you're going to get some hard knocks from complete strangers. It's happened to me. It's happened to other people. It happens to everyone. It's no different for you. You are not a special little snowflake, and no one is going to spare your feelings just because you're you. If you don't like it, don't put yourself out there. It's really that simple.
Yes, yes. I know I'm making fandom sound like a nasty, brutish place. But it really isn't. Sure, you've got your subset of bullies — and it's funny how I'm looking at the group making the accusations of bullying because no matter how hard I squint, I can't for the life of me see any bullies among the accused — but in general fandom is a pleasant place. The key is to not be unpleasant yourself. More flies with honey and all that.
The fact is, no one is saying don't write what you want to write. No one is saying don't read what you want to read. What they are saying is that people have a right to dislike a story, be offended by how some subject matter is treated, to criticize a piece of fannish work that's been put in the public sphere for consumption by the teeming millions, and to anti-recommend it if they see fit.
And you know what? They do. They really do. And they've got a right to do it publicly, just like you've got the right to do what you do publicly.
It's not censorship (let's not get into how much I hate people throwing that word around when it's clear they have no idea what censorship means). It's not bullying. It's not kicking you like you're a helpless a puppy. And starting drama whenever someone says they don't like your work or your online behavior is not making you look like the adult, especially since this drama is over fanfiction.
Well, that was a lot of .02. Sorry to take up people's time with a tl;dr post.