Fandom 3.0

If one looks at the flood of fancams, no context screenshot accounts, and TikTok explainers, it can feel like fandom is now less about exploring the things you love about a piece of media — and more about evangelizing the media to others.

Betsy Ladyzhets on the medium changing the message.

Ladyzhets’s data point is the relative paucity of fanfic for Succession, despite its popularity on for e.g. Twitter, which . . . okay. But there’s always also been a tension between “evangelizing” and “exploratory” fandom; Back In The LiveJournal Days people used to write long essay chains about it in the context of transformative versus curative fandom, for example. And fandoms that are popular in one sphere aren’t always popular in another; again, endless essays have been written on this topic.

This includes by yours truly; I have a pretty solid line in my media consumption between “properties I enjoy and evangelize” and “properties I write fanfic for” and they have almost zero overlap. I actively dislike a non-zero number of the properties I’ve written (often tens or hundreds of thousands of words of) fic for because, for me, the act of exploring a text through something like fanfic is always a partially destructive one. There has to be something about the property in the first place I find fundamentally dissatisfying in order to write fic about it,1 and I think this is a lot more common than a lot of fandom wants to admit; I doubt the AO3 would host its hundreds of thousands of Destiel fics if the pairing had hooked up in season seven, for example.

That being said, I don’t think Ladyzhets is wrong per se, particular noting that most “evangelizing” fanworks are just easier to make. It takes a few seconds to take and post a screenshot, while writing a long fanfic takes months. Which, uh. Yeah. They’re easier to make, there’s a lot more of them, and modern mass social media platforms are designed to surface them in ways they aren’t designed to surface, say, hundred thousand word Stucky novels.

  1. This is also why it’s always a touch awkward when I start getting to “known” status for a particular pairing: “Yes, I wrote that fic you love. No, sorry, I don’t actually want to squee about the canon with you because, uh. I think the canon sucks. Sorry.” Doesn’t generally go down so great.
2022-01-28T14:20:21+11:0029th January, 2022|Tags: , |

A future of our own.

So apparently it’s time to talk about the future of the AO3 again, specifically to re-hash the old argument of what the archive wants to be versus what it should be versus what it is. I’m not going to link to the exact current controversy because, in some ways, I think it’s somewhat irrelevant. Because if we’re being honest, the awkward truth is the problem with the AO3 is not this one issue or this one fic; the problem is something far more fundamental with the Archive itself, some endemic mycelium that periodically fruits into controversy. And kicking over the individual mushrooms after every rainfall is doing nothing to unroot the hyphae.

And, obviously, I have Opinions on this. So buckle up, fen. It’s time to go deeper . . .

(more…)

2021-03-06T13:33:34+11:006th March, 2021|Tags: , |

Baby’s First Programming Disaster.

So turns out Pillowfort is aptly named in the “exactly as robust as it sounds” sense.

More thoughts here, but tl;dr people pointed exactly these issues out over a year ago and Pillowfort told us they’d been fixed. They lied.

Serious Professional Advice: If you have a Pillowfort account… don’t. Assume all data you’ve ever posted there—from your passwords to your post content—is compromised. If you’ve used the same password at Pillowfort that you’ve used on any other service, change it on all those other services.1

They aren’t going to learn and they aren’t going to get better; Pillowfort is a get-rich-quick scheme for its creators who want to be fandom billionaires and don’t care what damage they do to get there. Do not let them get away with it.

  1. Also please don’t reuse passwords.
2021-01-27T08:57:37+11:0027th January, 2021|Tags: , , , |

Happy birthday fandom.ink!

So according to my calendar, two years ago I impulse-bought a domain with the idea of running a fandom-focused Mastodon instance. fandom.ink was the result.

It has been a pretty wild ride,1 but I’ve met some amazing people, learned some valuable lessons, and had an absolute blast. Big shout-out to our user community and Patreon supporters, and here’s to many more years of tooting as we please.

  1. KPopocalypse, anyone?
2020-12-03T09:15:20+11:003rd December, 2020|Tags: , , , |

Performative guilt.

Because I’ve seen a few posts trending towards “you should think about the ways you’re complicit and feel bad about it,” and because I grew up in a religious system and went to a high school that emphasized feeling guilty as a virtue and never touched on fighting oppression and making the world better for future generations, I’m gonna push back hard and say that feeling guilty is literally worthless.

It’s neither bad nor good. It’s what you do next that matters.

MJ Paxton on praxis.

They’re right and they should say it.

And while this attitude is certainly prevalent elsewhere, I’ve really noticed the way it’s crept into fandom in the last few years. Both in the sudden over-abundance of eat-your-vegetables-style meta posts,1 as well as in certain trends in fic tropes, particularly around “redemption” or “fix-it” fics that involve a transgression-guilt-absolution cycle2 between hero-villain pairings that focus solely on interior emotions and give zero attention to, like. Any actual concrete actions said characters could do to address whatever bads Villain Character did wrong in the first place.

And, like. Fair cop; teens and young twenty-somethings having bad takes on Twitter/Tumblr/the AO3 is not, like. Critically the end of the world or anything. But I do think the sudden rash of this stuff is reflective of a growing change in culture in general–in both progressive and conservative circles–and I Do Not Like It, in part because it reflects a moral worldview I find not just alien but also kinda… reprehensible? It’s a morality of helplessness, but of intentional helplessness; one that privileges feeling bad (in the “correct” ways) over any actual material effort. It is the morality of white fragility; so long as you cry pretty enough, and confess to enough “sins”, you’re absolved.

And I just… yeah. Hard pass.

  1. “You’re only ~allowed to like Whitecock Juggernaut if you acknowledge it’s Sinful by reblogging X Photosets of Designated Woke Pairing per day” which is, like… yikes. For so, so many reasons of yikes.
  2. As opposed to, say, a more active one of transgression-realization-action which I’d argue used to be far more popular.
2020-10-16T10:29:00+11:0019th October, 2020|Tags: , |

Honestly I’m just tired…

So anyway if nothing else last night’s Hugo Award ceremony is pretty much the last nail in the coffin for the relevance of so-called “old guard” science fiction and fantasy. CoNZealand can issue all the mealy mouthed apologies they want but when it comes down to it they were still the ones who booked Martin full-well knowing the guy has a long, long, long history of chauvinist community exclusionism.1 Everything that happened last night—and I do mean everything—was blindingly obvious from a thousand paces.

Oh but, yanno. Marin is Famous™. And if nothing else Worldcon can always be counted on to kiss the asses of anyone it feels may bring it even the teensiest, tiniest bit of cultural relevance to its table.

Incidentally, the rough estimate is that there are about one thousand people that regularly attend Worldcons. One. Thousand. When it’s held in larger cities, i.e. with populations in the millions, it scrapes up into the higher four digits.

I live in a city of about 300,000 people. Our local annual media convention got around 5,000 attendees the last time it was run. It’s considered tiny for its type.

When Worldcons are held in similarly sized cities they struggle to get numbers in the hundreds.

And to be super clear about this: this is by design. It’s an open secret that there are people associated with Worldcon that want to keep it small and cliquish and closed to outsiders—by which yes you may absolutely read “anyone not a white American man”, give or take a degree or two—and they want to do that while simultaneously wanting it to be seen as the “premiere” driving force in science fiction and fantasy. It’s all the kids who were2 laughed at and spat on at school stomping off to make their own Cool Kids’ Club so that for once they can be the biggest fish in the smallest pond and shove all the even nerdier losers into lockers.

Is it any wonder, then, this long, slow, wheezing stumble into irrelevance?

And, to be clear, I do think think there’s something salvageable there. The Hugo Awards themselves are evidence of that; evidence of a growing diversity and a youthful energy. So is the anger things like last night provoke. But nothing is going to change, not really, when the next two years’ of Worldcons have snapped back, rubber-band-like, to the comfortable mediocrity of being hosted in the United States, and nothing is going to happen when guests of honor continue to be all white and awards hosts can’t even be bothered to learn to pronounce people’s names in prerecorded video.

Nothing here is new. And it is systemic, it’s connected.

And I’m just so fucking tired.

  1. However he isn’t, at least to my knowledge, a “missing stair“, as they say, which makes him the “non contentious” choice to represent the Famous Old White Men of SFF. Yes, we really, really are at the point where “doesn’t sexually harass, assault, and/or creep on attendees” is the fucking bar that people are trying to clear.
  2. Or at least felt like they were…
2020-10-21T11:08:07+11:002nd August, 2020|Tags: , , , , |

Worldnon.

John W. “Slavery Was Good Actually” Campbell won the WorldCon Retro Hugo for best shortform editor because of course he did and honestly I’m just tired.1

And of course I still have no access to anything because the concom can’t handle people having Discord emails separate to their Worldcon registration emails, which… c’mon, guys. Surely someone there has a thirteen-year-old with a Fortcraft: Minenite server who can teach you how to do this. I even raised a support ticket about it and they… changed my Worldcon registration email to my Discord email and still didn’t give me access to the freakin’ Discord.

And of course panels are solely being broadcast via Zoom, which… can we just not? I mean literally do not use this platform. Not to get too topical but it’s like the computer science equivalent of going to a packed movie theater with no mask because it’s “just more convenient.”2

So yeah no Worldcon for me, I guess. I paid how many hundreds of dollars for this?

  1. And of course Lovecraft won Best Series for the Cthulhu Mythos, although the 2020 Retro Hugos are for 1945, which was after Lovecraft’s death, and most of the work being doing to actually make the mythos The Mythos—as opposed to just “Some Shit One Guy Wrote”—at that time was being done by August Derleth.
  2. Like… is it, though? Is it?
2020-10-21T11:07:58+11:0031st July, 2020|Tags: , , , , |

Sleep woke.

There seems to be a much deeper affection in these circles for corporate art — for the Marvel cinematic universe and its bland, calculated inoffensiveness, say — than there is for art made by artists. Movies like Wonder Woman and Captain America: Civil War are evaluated with a generosity of spirit that borders on delusion, cults of enthusiastic acclaim forming around actress Gal Gadot’s onscreen thigh jiggle and the “subtle homo-eroticism” of Thor: Ragnarok. 

Corporate art exists to please. It exists to reaffirm the status quo and to build affection for and loyalty to corporations. From the callous Islamophobia of the Iron Man movies to the US Air Force and CIA-approved wokeness of Captain Marvel and Black Panther, the whole enterprise is bent on saying as little as possible while looking as socially conscious as it can. Fandom’s fixation on finding gay themes and subtext in these blockbuster juggernauts was more understandable when independent gay art was harder to find, but today you don’t even have to brave a convention– you can dig it up with a quick search on Etsy or Gumroad. When independent artists release material featuring actual deviant sexuality, though — from gay content to incest — the reaction from these same people is overwhelmingly prudish. There is little to no desire among them to interact with adult work created by adult gay and trans artists. That art — small art, created for personal reasons — is too dangerous to touch, too full of moral imperfections and frightening images.

Gretchen Felker-Martin on extruded woke product.

Long quote, go read the whole thing, and see also this and this.

2019-11-14T08:52:15+11:003rd March, 2020|Tags: , , |

Commercial media: Explosion! Fight scene! Car chase! Character X and Character Y Let’s You And Him Fight! Now they team up! More explosions! The whole galaxy explodes! Nothing will ever be the same!!!!!

Fanfic: Old friends, Character X and Z, retire to a remote cabin because of Reasons. Thing are tense because of That Incident! Can they spend 200,000 words slowly re-learning to love themselves, and each other? Now they’re hugging. I’m not crying, you are.

2020-01-06T07:31:36+11:0020th December, 2019|Tags: , , |
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