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Nov. 7th, 2014

Bad Intentions

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I do think that has happened somewhat in fandom. The whole current “social justice” clusterfuck that's spawned all kinds of bullshit in fandom (the trigger warning disasters, stalking and harassment of writers who don't follow the prescribed ideology of the month, and a number of other situations I could list but won't because then we'd be here until Christmas), for the most part, probably started that way. Well-intentioned people began to want to rid fandom of undesirable elements. And I'm not saying that sarcastically. If you're doing something for fun, most people don't want to run across horrifying racist invective, for example. And let's be realistic- there was some of that. But once they'd run out of really obvious, blatantly offensive things to go after, they found that they weren't satisfied so they went after things that might have been borderline. Again, that's arguably acceptable, But there wasn't as much of that as they'd like, either, so then they turned to fandom as a whole. The result has been several years of stewing resentment on both sides of the issue. The “social justice warriors” are frustrated that no one is listening to their demands (as those demands become ever more onerous and, quite frankly, ridiculous), and the writers are frustrated that they can't write what they want anymore without worrying that someone is going to jump down their throat. I've seen people lose their jobs because they posted slash fics- someone found their IRL identity, called their boss, and complained, all because they thought it was sexist that there were no women in this person's PWP slash fics. I've seen people savage a middle-school-aged kid who was writing her first story, for the reason that she gave a historical person an OC girlfriend. The reason that was so offensive and worthy of calling a middle-schooler a “homophobic cunt?” Because there's some evidence that the historical dude was gay. But overall, that's not what I'm talking about. Regardless of the original intent of these people, it's pretty clear that what we have now has become corrupted and used as a stick to whack people upside the head with.

But that's not what I'm talking about.

Recently, it has come to light that among professional sci-fi writers, someone has been lurking among them that uses these social issues as ammunition in their personal crusade, This person did not start with good intentions. This person's original intention was to fuck shit up, period. And they hurt a lot of people. People lost their jobs, someone attempted suicide, and it created a climate of fear amongst many professional authors. But because this individual used the language of good intentions (they're just trying to end racism and homophobia! They're a good person, honestly), they got a lot of people to go along with it.

Obviously I'm not a professional sci-fi writer. I'm not a professional anything. So I've been observing this from the outside. However, I do feel like it backs up what I've been thinking for a long time. Good intentions aren't enough anymore. Wanting to rid your fandom of racism and sexism and anything else is a noble cause. Doxxing people in pursuit of that goal is... not so noble. Harassing people in pursuit of that goal is... also not so noble. And you might think that you mean well, and you probably do. But your actions provide cover for those that don't mean well, and it leaves a trail of destruction behind them.

No comments on this, guys.

Oct. 15th, 2013

I Ate The Textbook

We need to have a bit of a talk, folks.

If you want people to read your fics and fandom essays, you need to make them actually readable to the majority of the population. And I'm not talking weird-ass fonts and bright-ass colors, I'm talking about the language that you use itself.

While I was working on the fic rec for this month, over the past few days I've come across what feels like a ton of fics that are filled with highly specialized terminology and concepts that are not accessible to anyone who's not in sociology or gender studies or whatever. No one is saying that you have to dumb down your language to the level of the Cat in the Hat, but it is very frustrating to have to constantly Google words because you don't know what they mean. The other day, one of the fics I was reading included a reference to “kyriarchical oppressions.” I have no idea if I spelled that right, either, because it's not a word, according to spell-checker. I... wasn't sure what that meant, so I looked it up. The word “kyriarchical” apparently is highly specialized terminology used in academic circles, especially in sociology, gender and women's studies, that sort of discipline. Which is great! If you're interested in that, go nuts! Use all the bigass words you want!

But if you're putting things out there for public consumption, you really need to tone down the jargon a bit if you want to be understood. If I'm trying to explain something about computers to people, I don't ramble on and on about bootstrapping and the BIOS and bash shells and technical jargon that they likely wouldn't understand. I'd say something like “the thing that makes your computer turn on.” Because unless you have a very good understanding of computers or have studied IT or comp sci, most people just go “huh?” when you throw the jargon at them.

Also, consider the platform. I have no doubt that there are probably people out there that want to read a dissertation in fic form. I don't. I'm not everyone, but I think a lot of casual readers will not want to read that. I have always found that sort of thing boring and tiresome, but again, it's a free Internet and you can write what you want. But if you want to appeal to a larger group, you should probably tone it down. I especially do not want to read thinly veiled diatribes about why something is “problematic” when I was expecting fanfiction.

Maybe I'm the one that needs to get over it. But I can't help but feel a bit awkward when I click on something that looks interesting only to get a barely-comprehensible screed that sounds like someone swallowed the sociology textbook.

Oct. 11th, 2013

"Comment Culture"

Most people who read fanfiction on AO3 are aware of the kudos feature. It's a bit like the Facebook “like” button, where you click it and it sends a little notice to the writer of the fic that you liked their work. I think it's a nice feature, especially when you read something, and like it, but you can't think of anything to say other than “I liked this thing!”

But apparently, there are a number of people out there who really, really fucking hate kudos, to the point that they throw a fit if anyone deigns to leave a kudos rather than a comment. “It's destroying comment culture!” they'll complain. “Nobody ever comments on my fics anymore!”

Maybe that's indeed the case.

But outside of a certain few stories, nobody leaves comments on AO3, it's all kudos. In fact, oddly enough, the only fic of mine on there that's gotten more than one or two comments is a 150-word drabble I wrote for Sleepy Hollow because I was bored while waiting for one of my classes to start. And don't get me wrong- I'm not complaining. I'm actually really flattered that people liked that silly little brain-dump! But it just goes to show that the fics on AO3 that get lots of comments are completely arbitrary. I've seen 200,000-word epics get next to no comments, but about a billion kudos. And I've seen 200-word ficlets get about a billion comments, and next to no kudos. It's very random, and from what I can tell, it doesn't have a whole lot to do with the writer, or the quality of the story. It just seems like the lottery, almost, where there's really no telling whether that ticket you pull is going to be the one that wins you the million dollars, or if you'll just get the two-dollar consolation thing. Posting up your fic on AO3 seems to be like that, to me.

Maybe you'll get a bunch of comments and no kudos. Or maybe you'll get a bunch of kudos and no comments. More likely you'll get a mixture somewhere in between. Just be happy that people are reading your stuff!

Aug. 26th, 2013

The Reccing Process

Okay, so I know that probably no one cares about how I create the fic recs each month, but last night I was getting started on the September rec list, and I actually started thinking about what my process is. This post is mainly for me to sort my thoughts out and potentially come up with a better system, because at the moment it's a bit disjointed, but I thought that some readers might be interested in how I decide what to recommend. Sorry if this is long and boring, but again, this is mainly for myself and anyone who might potentially be interested.

First, I tend to spend a lot of time sitting around in various places. When I was still working in the shop I used to work at, there would sometimes be long waits in between customers coming in, and if I'd finished all of my other work, I literally had nothing to do except sit around until someone came in. So I would often download fics onto my phone while I was at home to read while I was at work- that's where a lot of the long multichapter fics came from. The shorter oneshots I would read at home or while I was waiting in an area with Internet, like while I was waiting for classes to start. Sometimes I would read things directly on the computer.

If a downloaded fic was one that I decided I wanted to rec, I would have to go back when I got to the computer and find it again. Sometimes I would email the link to myself from the phone, but that didn't always work correctly. So I would have to go back and find the fic. If I could not locate it, I would write down the title and attempt to find it later- sometimes I didn't find it until after that month's rec had been posted, so I would just put it onto the next month's. Fic I read while I was at the computer was easier to add to the list, since I was sitting right there.

As for what I choose to rec: unless it's a specific themed rec, I try to get a pretty good mix of fandoms and storylines on the list. I tend to prefer slash and gen fic, but I occasionally like a het or femslash fic enough to put it on the list. I also try to mix up the archive locations as much as possible, to get the maximum amount of exposure for the fics I like. Unfortunately it doesn't always work out that way, where I end up reading mostly on AO3 that month, or there just weren't any off of the main archive sites that I liked enough to want to put on my list. I do attempt to put fics from at least three different sites on each rec, but again, that doesn't always end up panning out.

Next come the content notes: in some ways, I'm kind of uncomfortable with specifying content notes, because of the whole trigger warning debacle. 9 of 10 times, I don't know the writer's thoughts on that matter, and if they are of the “I never warn for anything” persuasion I don't want to upset them, and I understand their thought process, since it really is kind of an ugly debate. But at the same time, I don't want anyone going into a fic blind, and reading something that might upset them. I don't want them to be upset in the first place, since it's meant to be fun, but I also don't want to accidentally unleash an Internet war where the commentor attacks the writer. I don't want to cause too much controversy with the fic rec, because it's literally a list of fics I read and enjoyed. But given the volatile nature of some segments of fandom, that might not always be possible. To find a happy medium, I've decided to use content notes- it is a way for people to find out if there's anything that might be upsetting in the story, but in a way that I hope is less controversial than using “warnings.”

This year I haven't really done any themed fic recs, although I am definitely planning to do a Christmas one. If I have a themed rec planned, I start adding fics that fit the theme to the list three or so months beforehand. A normal rec, I start adding to after the last one was posted, but for a themed one, it's more common that I don't read as many fics that would fit it in one month, so I give myself three. The Christmas rec, I start collecting for around June, because I do usually try to make it a bit longer than the standard monthly list. This year, however, I haven't really found too many Christmas-themed fics I liked, other than one multichapter that finished sometime in May, so that's been waiting in the wings. Also, the Internet connectivity issues I experienced while in Japan put a damper on that somewhat.

So, that's the bare-bones reccing process. It can get a bit more complicated than that, especially if there's a fic that I'm not sure whether or not I want to rec, but that's a post for another day.

Aug. 10th, 2013

Letter To A Younger Fic Writer

And yes, I'm aware of how pretentious this is, but after seeing a high school freshman get excoriated for the unbearable sin of writing a less-than-politically-correct fic, I couldn't help myself.

To the attackers- people, back the fuck off. That fourteen-year-old who you just tore apart for putting a supposedly gay historical dude in a straight relationship, in the background of a fic set in a historical canon? Congratulations on making your side look bad. Seriously? I don't know the sexual orientation of every single historical dude out there, and if the situation made sense for the plot (which it did, according to you), then what's your problem? It's not like the historical dude is going to sue, he's been dead since 18-whatever. Especially since I went to Wikipedia and looked up the guy in question- he was married to a woman (granted, it was a very brief marriage, but he was still married to a woman, which shoots some holes in your argument right there). And what you, as adults, consider to be “common knowledge” might not actually be common knowledge to anyone younger than your demographic group, or outside of your chosen profession. I don't expect everyone to know what a Linux kernel or bash shell is, because that's just not reasonable.

Also, seriously? Picking on a kid? Didn't your momma ever teach you to pick on someone your own size?

To the kid- I know it sucks, starting out writing in today's hyper-sensitive environment. By the way, your story was very impressive- much better than anything I could have ever hoped to have written when I was your age. But, there is one thing you need to be aware of- today's fandom climate, especially in certain fandoms, is sort of like a pack(?) of piranhas. They will eat you alive if you do something that they determine to be against the collective. It's a tricky situation to be in, especially if you post your work on tumblr- which you do. To be honest, that's probably why they found you in the first place. Tumblr is a fascinating website and it can be a lot of fun, but there's some definite problems there. The site's format makes it very easy for one person to take offense to something, and then broadcast it to a lot of like-minded people. I will bet my paycheck for the next six months that's what happened. My advice to you? Get off tumblr, or at least don't put your fic there. Move it to AO3 or FF.net. I would advise avoiding LJ/Dreamwidth fandom communities, though, because the same sorts of people that like to lurk around on tumblr lurk around there, as well.

However, and I do kind of hate to say this, it might be simpler for you if you do a bit more research next time. Yes, I know the guy in question was married to a woman for a while, but people get extremely touchy about this sort of thing. And with good reason, in a lot of cases. No, I'm not saying that this time was good reason, but now that you've seen what they'll do, I hope you'll take that into consideration in the future. I'm not trying to discourage you from writing, but these people can be absolutely fucking vicious. I've seen people lose their real life jobs because they pissed off the wrong person. I cannot stress enough how important that is. You are young, but you won't be in high school forever, and people do carry grudges. I feel really bad telling you this, because the last thing I want to do is discourage you, but maybe in the future avoid writing romances with actual historical people in them. I know, the guy's been dead for over a hundred years, but he was still an actual guy, you know?Just watch your step in the future. Again, I'm not saying this to scare or discourage you, but I also don't want to see you get drowned in an endless sea of rage.

I really feel sorry for younger fic writers just starting out. Back in my day, we wrote whatever the hell we wanted and no one gave one good goddamn about what we wrote, unless it was a Mary Sue. Today, it must be a minefield for someone just starting out.

(Note: I am turning comments off on this, and no, I will not be providing a link to anything. The writer has gotten enough shit already, the last thing I want is to direct more haters at them, or for them to somehow stumble across this and see even more hate)

Dec. 4th, 2012

The Hawkeye Initiative

So there's this movement over on tumblr to replace “sexy” female character poses with Hawkeye from The Avengers. It's become really popular on tumblr, as well as on other sites, and in way, I can kind of see why. Some of them are pretty funny and well-drawn, and it was started as a movement to sort of caricature some of the ridiculous poses that comics characters (specifically, the female characters) are sometimes drawn in. Yes, it's kind of amusing, and yes, some of the pictures copied are pretty damn ridiculous.

But despite that, I'm actually really uncomfortable with this whole thing, and I can't exactly put my finger on why.

While I think it started out in good fun for the lulz, I feel like now it's taken a really mean-spirited turn. Instead of being “yo, that pose is whack, let's draw someone else like that because it's funny!” I feel like it's now “goddamn you suck at art, let's make fun of the artist by ridiculously caricaturizing their work and making them look stupid on purpose! Let's purposely point out every single little thing we don't like about it and make it seem like that artist is a horrible person in the process!” While I said it started out in good fun, there was also a sort of political undercurrent to it. The creators of the initiative have said it started out to be a form of feminist critique. Which is fine. There's plenty of that going around on the Internet. And Longcat knows that it needs a more positive public face instead of the screeching lunatics that make it up right now.

This could have been that chance, but once again, a funny idea that could actually have made a positive impact of some sort has been hijacked, yet again, by those same screeching lunatics. And instead of actually trying to make a point, it's gone off the rails into asshat territory. Which is really par for the course, I've realized, for discussions on the Internet. You can start out with a good idea, an idea that could actually make an impact, and then the extremists show up and run it into the ground.

It's just unpleasant, and it doesn't give a very good impression of fandom as a whole. The general population tends to think of fans as ugly nerdy neckbearded basement dwellers for the guys, and fat, whiny fujoshi for the girls. Way to prove them right, folks, seriously.

But because I don't want this to be yet another entirely negative post, and because I do think the meme, at its heart, has good intentions, I'm going to put a few links to contributions that I think really did live up to the original spirit, and are just plain funny. These links feature funny dialog, an actual copying of the original image, and most importantly, they're all in good fun while still staying true to the message they were originally trying to get across, whether or not you actually agree with it or not. Unlike some of the submissions, which come across as “look, u don't art good lawlz, look how feminist I am!” they actually do try to make their point more or less... well, not exactly respectfully, but in good faith.

Feel the Fury

ART!

Yes, that suit is very practical. In fact, I think it's more practical for him than her- good for shooting arrows!

I have no idea who the original is but the copy is shiny!

Hulk looks confus

I thought they were doing the Caramelldansen at first...

Heh. Loki.

While this post might seem kind of harsh, I don't actually have anything against this project. I just think that they should try to keep the meanness to a minimum. Which might seem strange coming from me (The Douglas actually called me the Snark Knight the other day), but honestly? You can still be snarky and call attention to things without being unnecessarily obnoxious towards people who either don't know what it is you're on about, or who just don't particularly care. In fact, you're more likely to alienate people by being bitchy about the things they like than you are by explaining why something is a problem. That's not to say you can't use humor to do it- all those posts I linked are pretty funny. But they're not mocking the artist's actual ability, just the way that they chose to exercise it.