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branchandroot: butterfly on a rose (butterfly rose)
So, Fujimaki kind of fell down on explaining a lot of what Kise did in the semi-final match; this, of course, means that I needed to poke at it and try to come up with a rationale. It's actually surprisingly easy, and over and above that it also suggests some interesting things about the shape of Kise's real talent and why it hasn't manifested completely yet.

The very short version is that Kise simply doesn't have enough experience; his story is the one that has the most need to keep going into next year to develop. It's actually kind of ruthlessly realistic of Fujimaki, considering.

First, though, let's back up and think about what it is he actually does.

spoilers obviously )
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
I believe those of us who participate in online communities should find a new term to describe the name(s) by which we are known offline.

There has been a sad proliferation of terms that use "real" to describe offline names, lives and identities, and I would suggest it is a false application and a harmful one.

In what way are our online handles not real? They are, in fact, reified with every word we type using them. The fact that there may be many such identities does not make any one of them less real. Only the sincerity or lack thereof with which we speak in them can do that.

One name may be the one we use in monetary communities such as banks, when signing for a loan. Another may be the one we use in creative communities to sign the works of our imaginations. The structural functionality of both names is the same.

Under certain circumstances, "official" and "unoffical" could suit the need to distinguish between what is acceptable to, say, employers and what is not. But even that casts a shadow over the legitimacy we generate on our own account, in our own spaces, to our own rules.

Myself, I lean toward "offline" and "online" which are less value-laden and more simply descriptive. And, for those who are in the privileged and fearless position of using one name for everything, the statement that "this is my 3D name, too" has a certain panache.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Having watched the latest round of wrangling over fic and copyright, I am starting to think that it's time to stop slanging each other over who better understands what copyright law presently is.

Because copyright law is presently a morass of contradictory statements and precedents that don't gel into any even vaguely coherent policy, aside, perhaps, from "the one with the most money wins".

What we should do instead is think, seriously, about what we do and whether or not we think it is truly right or wrong.

If we think that what we do is wrong, we should stop. Stop ficcing. Stop vidding. Stop arting. If it's wrong.

But if we think it's right, that what we do causes no harm to anyone, either spiritual or monetary, then we should damn well act like it. If what we do is right, then we should, indeed, step forward and talk to the press and insist on legal protection against wrongful persecution--for example, having all your content trashed off the web because someone's lawyers sent a cease and desist notice to your service provider.

What we should be arguing over, and as visibly as possible, is the way in which what we do is just as valid a derivative art form as parody, and that copyright law as it is currently applied to us is abusive and incorrect.

Theoretically, copyright can only protect specific expressions. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Yet. Every what-if, every missing-scene, every divergent-future is a new expression, and there is no good reason to quash them. Authorial emotional possessiveness does not count as a good reason, and, yes, that's a two-way street, and we need to deal with that fact too. Something that's published is placed into the common cultural dialogue, and you can't have it both ways.

And, while some big authors may use copyright as if it were meant to protect their worldbuilding efforts, they're ultimately shooting themselves in the foot. What copyright is really about, practically, is money, and as soon as they don't have big money behind them, they're SOL just like the rest of us. If copyright is "supposed" to protect worldbuilding, then why could I go out and publish a book about Tom Bottle, who has green eyes and black hair and goes to a school for magic and is destined to save the world and has these two really good friends, and a few arch-enemies, and Rowling would have a hell of an uphill battle to do anything about it? Consider Vanilla Ice versus Queen and David Bowie. Consider the Mitchell estate versus Randall and The Wind Done Gone. In neither case was there any kind of clear or definitive outcome, and the material that got taken to court (or, possibly, threatened with such) is still out there being published and paid for. ... well, probably not in Ice's case, but if the song had more staying power, it could be. The courts in this country don't care about artistic integrity or any of that, or else the outcomes of the conflics I just mentioned wouldn't have been such a bizarre mish-mash.

The point is, history and the balance of precedent are both on our side, not only when we claim fic is a valid artform, but also if we wish to claim fic is a valid commercial product. The latter will be a harder battle, to be sure. But I think it's worth fighting.

Because the current trend of limiting creativity to "valid" outlets, who have paid cash on the barrel for the privilege, of patenting and trademarking and copyrighting absolutely everything one can get one's (corporate) hands on, is going in a very bad direction. I really don't want to spend my writing time looking over my shoulder, wondering when they're going to come for me, and whether Disney has managed to convince a court that children's stories yet unwritten belong to them. And there's no reason any of us should have to.

Copyright, still, only protects particular expressions. We are in the right. I really think it's time we put some work into staying there, and making sure this current, insane trend toward "protecting" ideas is pushed back.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Today, I take a moment to speak out against the abuse of sound and language which has come to be known as name-mashing.

While it's difficult to say whether this is entirely an import practice or convergent evolution, its use in fandom appears to owe a good deal to the cross-pollenation of domestic media fandoms and anime/manga fandoms. And, like many such, it makes perfect sense in its home context and clunks like an X car in its new environment.

Japanese language has developed a habit of word and name shortening, especially where public personalities and fandom pairings are concerned. Personal computer becomes pasacom; Minagawa Junko becomes MinaJun; the pairing of Tezuka and Atobe becomes TezuAto. And this works just fine in Japanese, because Japanese words, with very few exceptions, are comprised of consonant-vowel pairs. When you pick out the first one or two of these from two different words and push them together to make a new 'word' it generally works out.

Alas, this cannot be said of English, which has a far more irregular distribution of closed and open sounds in its texture. On top of that, name mashing in English based fandoms has a far stronger tendency to take the first part of one name and the whole later part of the other. Thus you wind up with Snarry, which sounds like something that belongs in a drum set or possibly in the woods catching rabbits, and Yuffentine, which both sounds ridiculous and seems to miss the whole "shortening" part of the thing. Even when first parts are used together, the English language offers little assurance that the result will be euphonious. Take, for example, Cloti, which sounds distressingly like a new venereal disease. Or McShep, which makes me think a fast food chain has expanded its product line into mutton. Surely everyone wants better associations with their preferred pairings. Or at least names you can say without laughing; is there anyone who can actually say Beniffer without snickering?

I mean, really, people. Think of the children!

Actually, yes, do think of the children. Think of the impressionable young fans who enter fandom and find these audial caltrops scattered about, and enthusiastically take up the practice in order to show that they belong. Think of this practice spreading and universalizing, and inflicting on us all yet more pairing nicknames that sound like someone playing syllabic Mad Libs.

Honestly, what's wrong with Kirk/Spock? Instead of, say, Kipock...
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Cultural relativism.

Cultural relativism is a useful mental tool, especially in the field of anthropology but also in day to day life in a global world. It can be boiled down to the reminder that not all cultures are the same, and the conceptual categories of one may well not be what you need to understand another.

This can also be rendered, especially by frustrated anth teachers, as: it's not yours, you are not at home, do not try to make this other place/time/people into your own, because they're NOT! (Case in point of failure to remember, or even consider, this: Wallis Budge's translation of the Book of the Dead.)

This is, as I say, especially useful for people from a dominant, privileged or mechanically/technologically advanced culture who are going off to study people who are not any or all of those things. It keeps the arrogance of understanding (more accurately, assumed understanding) in check.

The thing is, what cultural relativism does is make sure a person does not either a) assume they know all the whys and wherefores or b) dismiss everything unfamiliar to them as stupid and barbaric.

It does not mean that one does not make judgements about what one encounters.

Cultural relativism, especially of the non-anth-specific philosophical variety, does not mean "Oh, it's their own way, they're not from our culture, we can't judge", because that's bullshit. Of course we can judge. And so can they. And so we all do. Pretending otherwise won't help, and the notion that "outsiders have no right to judge" is exactly the kind of thing that prevents both legislation and action against violence inside the family. We have every right to judge, all of us, about everything.

The responsibility of an intelligent and thoughtful person is not to cease judging. It is, rather, to keep in mind that being outside a situation makes some things easier to see and others harder. And that the thing in question might be one of the ones that's harder. An intelligent and thoughtful person has a responsibility to always be willing to look at new information and take that information into account, no matter how well they think they understand the situation already.

An intelligent and thoughtful person also has a responsibility to evaluate the information, of course, taking into consideration the source and occassion.

It's always a balancing act. Always in motion. Judgements that are stable, that have stopped, that are satisfied... those are the ones that are categorically mistaken, not neccessarily in content but in process. Those are the judgements that are insupportable, because time always goes on and you never know when new information will come to light that might change the whole question into something else.

The fact that good judgements are never final, never absolute and never finished does not let anyone off the hook from making them.

Or changing them.

What cultural relativism does is remind us that we might be wrong. Not that we are certain to be wrong, when we are judging someone else's cultural activities, because having grown up with something or not grown up with it does not confer automatic and eternal rightness or wrongness. But that we might be wrong, and should remember where we're standing.

Because another way to boil down cultural relativism is: be aware of your own position.

No one is unbiased, whether inside or outside of a situation. Nor is it always clear where the in/out line lies. This is the other reason no one can make absolute judgements, because every judgement comes from a very specific life experience.

That does not invalidate the judgements in question.

The trick, in all cases, is to be aware of the interest one may have when judging a given cultural practice because one is female or white or the employee of an oil corporation or a dog owner. Be aware of the interest and ask oneself, not whether one's position is influencing one's judgement because of course it will, but instead whether it is obscuring one's ability to view and consider all the information involved. That is what one must strive to avoid, not the making of ongoing judgements as best one can.

In the end, this can be a powerful tool in making judgements and then choosing where and when to act on them. What it should never be is an excuse to avoid the responsibility, as a thinking human being, to have opinions on how human beings act towards each other.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Interesting. And also this.

Reading through the first post and its comments I'm struck once again by the fact that one of the greatest barriers to communication is language. Or, more precisely, the barrier is the assumption that language is a simple, clear tool with which to precisely convey one's thoughts to others. You don't need to read any semiotic theory to see that this is ridiculous on the face of it, but the wistful notion of language as some kind of solid, specific thing persists.

And so we get these debates. Terms like "nice", "mean", "polite", "honest", "courteous", etc... they get thrown around very freely, but no one seems to take much time to actually define what they mean by those catch-all terms, and so wind up having circular conversations with other people who think they are in disagreement when, in fact, they agree quite firmly. They just use the words in different ways, as pointers to different concept groups.

Of course, another great barrier appears to be the basic tendency to make sweeping, general statements that are not, in all or even most circumstances, true for the speaker. I do not find it surprising that this leads to much confusion and more circular arguments, wherein respondents say "But that's not right!" and the poster insists that it is until someone points out the sweeping generality of the original statement and the poster is reduced to saying "But that's not what I meant!". (Happily, this does not apply to the above posts, but certainly does to a few of their interrogators and interrogatees.)

Anyone who thinks language is a transparent medium for communication, or that words have stable, obvious, singular meanings should really sit down and read some fandom exchanges for a while.

Having said this, let me put my money where my mouth is and attempt, as a spiritual exercise, to achieve precision myself.

Let us, then, to the dictionary )
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

So, a recent email plus a few older essays got me thinking about something, and that something is the continuum of intimacy in relationships, especially in Japanese literature (including anime and manga).

First, the hypothesis: I have the textually based impression that Japanese culture does not set sexuality apart from other kinds of relational intimacy, but rather considers it one integrated aspect or thread of intimacy as a whole. The continuum of intimacy runs from mild to intense, and each aspect or thread runs the entire length of this continuum. Further, the aspects of intimacy, which seem to include sex, fighting and family, can slide into each other without warning--the boundaries between them seem very fluid. One aspect does not presuppose any other, but the existence of intimacy in general may contain any or all aspects running parallel to each other. Sexuality is not considered a different kind or level of intimacy--it is not privileged.

Secondary hypothesis: US culture does privilege sexuality. It is considered the culmination of intimacy, the most intense sort available. Romantic lore suggests that friendship is a lesser intimacy, and that rivalry is not intimacy at all though undying enmity may be. Personally, I blame this on the 19th century, and the valorization of the forbidden, but that's another essay.

Anyway. On to the examples that incline me to think this.


One set of examples has to do with siblings. The sibling bond, in every text I have viewed yet, is unbreakable, even when they're fighting. Trigun (anime): If Knives can't convince Vash to agree and stay with him, he has to kill him; that's the only action that seems to have the same intensity. Samurai Deeper Kyou (anime): While the Sanada brothers are dueling, the elder feels impelled to explain to and instruct the younger; it could be argued that this contributes to his loss, but he does it anyway. Digimon Frontier: Kouichi is drawn back out of brainwashing by facing Kouji, and, once he is, Kouji promptly abandons his rival for his brother, except when their evolutions demand he and Takuya be the two who fight (more about rivals in a bit). In the absence of a strong maternal figure, especially, the sibling bond is often joined by a sexual bond. Card Captor Sakura: Touya is determined both to nurture his sister and to keep any possible romantic suitor away from her, to keep her for himself though he does not express sexuality toward her on his own account. Mai-HiME (anime): Takumi has explicitly sexual feelings for his sister, and his importance to her is paralleled with the bond between the only explicitly established romantic couple. Utena: Touga's sister, Nanami, is frankly obsessed with her caretaker/sibling, and the question of whether Anthy is princess or witch repeats the confusion and cross-over of her roles as lover or sister to Dios/Akio.

One of the things this theme rests on and appeals to is the importance of family as a whole, of blood heritage, and of the mother. The family is the most basic and original in-group. Spiritual inheritance or inheritance of character is assumed to operate through blood connection, to the extent that shared blood plus shared name traditionally equates to shared self, thus the traditions of renaming a child after a dead relative (eg Nuriko in Fushigi Yuugi, and a dozen others I've never watched myself). Thus, siblings have a very intense standing assumption of intimacy. The mother, according to the patterns highlighted by soap opera, has first claim on her son; the wife's claim comes second. According to the patterns of folklore, the mother is the center of the family. The mother is the single most likely figure to to express every aspect of intimacy at maximum intensity (eg the mother and daughter Subaru deals with in the X manga). Hence, the sibling that substitutes for the mother, inheriting this primacy, often becomes the primary romantic object as well. Siblings can, however, add the sexual aspect even when a mother is present, as do Setsuna and Sara in the Angel Sanctuary manga. On the other hand, some mother figures are powerful enough to hold the primary focus of their children even after they disappear; Ed and Al of Fullmetal Alchemist are a good example of this. These two examples illustrate that this is not some kind of infallible equation, but a flexible theme. It depends on the direction and style of the story, as well as the presence or absence of particular key archetypes.

Moving on, there's the example set of rivals. The term "rival" encodes both competition and similar strength. Any show in which fighting is a main element is almost sure to feature meditations on the importance of having a good rival, the uplifting experience of fighting a good rival, and the spiritual bond between good rivals. A rival is not, note, just someone the hero fights with; a rival is a very specific kind of opponent. A rival participates in the same arena of competition and acts according to the same rules and standards and ethics as the hero. To call someone a rival indicates a respect for their ability. To call someone a rival when they are, in fact, notably superior is extremely gauche, and forms a stock character-joke. A rival is special, and rival pairs measure themselves according to each other, thus the convention that it is bad form to hold back with one's rival if you also happen to be friends. Rival express their appreciation and understanding of each other by fighting. Naruto and Sasuke of Naruto. Touya and Shindo of Hikaru no Go. Seto and Yuugi of Yuugi-ou. Yuusuke of Yu Yu Hakusho and, well, at least one character in every arc, some of whom he keeps for his own side afterwards (Kuwabara, Hiei). Kyou and Yukimura of Samurai Deeper Kyou. Atobe and Tezuka of Prince of Tennis (followed by just about all the other captains and Tezuka, too). Half the cast of Initial D with any other half of the cast. The focus of rivals on each other easily matches the focus of lovers, in intensity and exclusion of all other considerations. In many ways, CLAMP's concept of the dark self strikes me as the ultimate expression of the rival--actually a part of the person in question.

I do not, actually, think that rival and lover have as strong a tendency to overlap as sibling and lover. The traditional Japanese concept of lovers encodes imbalance, rather than equality, very strongly. The intensity of those two aspects of intimacy is equally strong, but they run more distinctly parallel than the aspects of sibling-lover or sibling-rival, which cross more fluidly. The only time rival and lover seem to cross easily is when one of the rivals is significantly in advance of the other in age/expertise--Gon and Hisoka in HunterXHunter, for instance. This cast iron supposition accounts for the overwhelming tendency, in Japanese fanart and fanfic to de-power one of the participants when crossing rival-lover. Which seems to me to rather miss the point of rivals, but there it is. I am more than half convinced that this tendency is the root of why shounen mangaka consistently make their more soft-spoken and gentle characters taller and their more aggressively masculine characters shorter--it means that the fans who subscribe unilaterally to the height=dominance formula will be forced to so alter the characters' personalities that they become, effectively, totally dissociated from the source text (eg Hiei and Kurama). US fen are more likely to keep both rivals at full power, since it is exactly the intensity of the tension between them that inclines US fen to leap to a sexual conclusion, sexuality being, in this culture, assumed to be the highest-energy intimacy state.

Actually, what I see US fen doing is circumventing the standard model of intimacy somewhat. Romantic lore says that rivalry is not a form of intimacy (being on the same side, yes, but much less so for being on opposite sides). Enmity, however, is an intense form of interaction, which makes it relatively simple for US fen to map enmity onto what is, theoretically, a totally separate form of intensity: sexual intimacy. This already-established maneuver has, I think, gotten a big boost from anime and manga imports, seeing as those do understand rivalry as intimacy already.

The categories of family and rival slip into each other not infrequently, much the way the categories of family and lover do for the siblings mentioned above. Yuki and Kyou, in Fruits Basket. Shuusuke and Yuuta in Prince of Tennis. In these cases, the rival-ness often becomes more one-way, because the common understanding of family and siblings encodes inequality, as well, though not as drastically as the understanding of lovers. The elder sibling is the caretaker and protector (eg Yamato and Takeru in Digimon Adventure, Mai and Takumi in Mai-HiME, Hokuto and Subaru in Tokyo Babylon); when this is impossible, or when it breaks down, it is a tragedy (eg Kouichi and Kouji). Thus the assumption that one family member will be consistently chasing after the other, if they are also rivals.

My favorite example of all these aspects running hard alongside each other is Tenipuri's Fuji brothers. They're siblings, with the elder-protector dynamic; they're rivals in that Yuuta's goal is to match/exceed his brother in the game they both play and Shuusuke accepts this; while they are not (probably) lovers, Shuusuke displays all the hallmarks of a brother complex, a la Touya of CCS--wanting to keep all competitors for attention away from his sibling. None of these aspects is an advance in intimacy over any other, rather they are alternate expressions of the same degree of intimacy.


Oct. 28th, 2005 04:28 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
According to the copyright laws that most first world nations subscribe to it is illegal to copy a part of whole of any original work without the author's (or other rights holder's) express permission.

So it is illegal to, for example, take an artist's print, copy it, and sell the copies.

Or to publicly distribute fanfiction or fanart.

Technically, the operation of the internet is illegal, too. After all, the loading of a page requires all text and images to be copied by the user's computer.

The issue in all three cases is the same one: copy and display of original work without the rights holder's permission. The range of these examples should give some indication of how confused the issue can get. I would hope that everyone recognizes the first example as a criminal activity, but I equally trust that no one will seriously propose prosecuting every internet user who visits a website containing copyrighted materials.

Technology in general has vastly complicated copyright issues, and the internet, perhaps, more than any other single example of current technology. The entire system depends on copying, yet posting an original work on any website is generally legally counted as publication with the automatic copyright protection that publication in any fixed medium entails. The question of just how fixed a medium the internet can be considered has, as yet, gone entirely unanswered in legal circles.

Of course, material print technology complicated the issue, too, and required some fine distinctions to be legally made. Say you buy a book or artbook. You own it, right? Right. So you can do anything you want with it, right? Well, not really. You can do anything you want except copy it. You can destroy it. You can have it bronzed. You can even cut it up and use it to make a collage, and display that collage as your own original work. All these things are legal. What you can not do is copy it in any way, except those specifically provided for under fair use (for purposes of reporting, commenting, researching, teaching, scholarship or parody). Your ownership of the material item does not transfer any copyrights to you, they all still belong to the author--you paid for a single copy, not the rights to make more. Rights are far more expensive. So if you scan an image from that artbook you own and use it as a background for your public website, that is illegal. If you alter the image, that just means you're guilty of two violations: copying and creating a derivative work, both without permission.

How, you may well ask, does altering the digital image differ from chopping the physical print up for a collage? The difference is that chopping up the physical print does not involve copying. Personally, I think that, as art production adopts more and more digital methods, a better answer will have to be found. But to date, none has.

Another area in which many questions are currently being steadfastly ignored, rather than answered, is fanwork. Fanfiction and fanart, particularly those examples that pride themselves on being faithful or canonically accurate representations of a given world or set of characters, are dancing with violation of copyright. They copy recognizable, distinctly delineated settings and characters from original works and deploy those copies in derivative works without permission of the original artists/rightsholders.

Scanlations and fansubs also copy and display without permission, and they are illegal regardless of whether or not the original works have been licensed for distribution by a local company. A local company is merely more likely to notice and object.

All these activities generally escape prosecution. Most examples are 1) very small in scope of distribution and 2) not being offered as commercial products and therefore are not in competition with the original work and its duly licensed derivatives. The injury done to the rights holders generally lies in the area of 'trademark dilution'--that is, the fanwork may disseminate a version or impression of the world/characters that the original artist considers damaging to the work's integrity. This is a harder legal case to make than simple economic damage, and the rights holder has to be pretty dedicated to pursue it. It is worth remembering, however, that lack of prosecution does not make fanfiction, fanart or fansubs legal.

It may also be worth noting that even statutory damages (the damages awarded the rights holder when there has been no economic infringement) run $10,000 for each count of knowing copyright infringement. And a disclaimer statement, such as is popular to offer with fanfiction, makes it clear that the copyright infringement was knowing. I leave my readers to contemplate the irony.

Corollary: illegal productions such as fanwork cannot, legally, be copyrighted themselves.
branchandroot: Saitou looking considering (Saitou considering)
Seeing as the subject has been broached, I suppose it’s about time I posted this one publicly.

I think fandom needs a new word.

Because the word spoiler is far too specific to cover what a large number of people seem to want, which is total information blackout.

A spoiler, traditionally, is information about some pivotal plot or character development, given out before the source material is openly available or very soon after: a character death, if it is of significance and not just the week’s Ensign Redshirt; a character’s past, if some mystery has surrounded it; some significant alteration in behavior or, more than that, the explanation for that alteration. This is information whose concealment from the reader/viewer plays some significant part in the story. Trivial or general information does not constitute a spoiler. No, really, it doesn’t. Fight the brainwashing! Reclaim your common sense!

Ahem. *pulls self together*

Thus (to take an example whose statute of limitations has run out) in the first Harry Potter book the fact that Hermione’s parents are dentists is not a spoiler, nor is the fact that Harry is an orphan. The fact that Harry’s mother died to protect him is a spoiler… or would have been, lo these several years ago before everyone and their cousin’s dog heard it on the Today Show.

(There’s another post about my opinion of the Harry Potter Industry, and the way they’ve encouraged pathological spoiler frenzy in the HP fandom, but that is, as I say, another post.)

So, for example.

Not Spoiler: There’s a tough character named Thusandsuch.
Spoiler: There’s this character, Thusandsuch, and he almost kills the hero’s girlfriend but she gets saved at the last minute.

Not Spoiler: We find out more about Soandso’s past.
Spoiler: We find out that Soandso is really the child of Deity X.

Not Spoiler: Y’s loyalties are ambiguous.
Spoiler: Y starts on side X, switches to side Z and winds up making his own side M. Maybe because he keeps losing.

If it could reasonably be expected to appear in the jacket blurb, supposing the source text were a book, or in the Next Week On, supposing it were a television series, it is not a spoiler. (I don’t include movie trailers since those seem to run more to actual spoilers lately.)

Note of interest: in the current, hair-triggered atmosphere of many fandoms, it is not uncommon for a not-spoiler to be identified as a spoiler by people who have already read/viewed the book/episode/movie in question. This appears to be an honest, if not particularly bright, mistake. Because the person who has already read/viewed knows exactly what the not-spoiler refers to, they immediately assume that the post itself gave that information away, and do not pause to reflect that it was their own prior knowledge that supplied the spoiler-grade details. The ironic twist is that such a not-spoiler only becomes a spoiler if the reader already knows the details of the characters or events alluded to… in which case it is not, of course, a spoiler.

Moving along, though.

Many fans like to avoid spoilers. This is understandable.

However, many fans also like to avoid any information whatsoever. This is also understandable, I suppose, especially if you worry about the people you’re talking to slipping up in their enthusiasm. The trouble comes when this desire is expressed as a desire to not read spoilers. Because while that statement is true, it does not effectively convey the extent of their desire for ignorance.

The most long-standing and well-recognized expression of wishing to avoid spoilers is “Don’t tell me how it ends”. And then there’s the next level which is “Don’t tell me anything!”. The distinction between spoiler-free and blackout is a useful one to keep, and trying to make “spoiler” count for absolutely everything just makes for extra confusion and ire.

Some people like knowing everything; some people like knowing the basics; and some people like knowing nothing. Fandom needs to learn how to a) tell the difference and b) say which one they want.

And then, if we’re lucky, people will stop hollering “That’s a spoiler!” when what they really mean is “That’s information!”. If the comm rules say blackout cut, rather than spoiler cut, then that may, at least, take care of the instances of people innocently posting a not-spoiler only to be belabored for a crime they did not, in fact, commit.

As for the idjits who knowingly post spoilers and just can’t be bothered to figure out how to make an lj cut, well they’re a lost cause anyway.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
The meta haul today made me think about authors--two thoughts, the first of which leads into the second.

Litcrit, critique, dead authors and Real People )
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Spinning off from Resonant8’s entry on character making, and the discussion following, I find myself wandering in thought toward the writers of the Endicott Studio, toward Ursula K. Le Guin and her “Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, and toward Lois McMaster Bujold and her Vorkosigan books.

At first glance, one of these things is not like the others.

The Endicott writers such as Emma Bull, Charles Delint, Terri Windling and all her proteges have, I think, an obvious resonance with Le Guin. As Le Guin points out, the story of the Hero and his linear conflict with, not uncommonly, most of the rest of the world, is the most valorized literary model of Western storytelling. There are, however, other ways of telling a story, and other stories worth telling. Those other stories are often the ones that the Endicott writers focus on. The world of their stories does not make sense (as per Mr. Clemens’ dictum); what we see instead is the characters attempting to make sense of their world–not always successfully and certainly never completely. Their stories and characters wander, picking up as they go things that seem meaningful or interesting to stow in the bag of the story. Some of those things prove not to be meaningful to the immediate story, after all, and, in a proper Hero story, would have been snipped out in the telling… or, at least, in the editing. Here, they are not, but rather left in the bag to puzzle everyone with their presence. “Secondary” characters have just as full a life and existence as “primary” ones, only we see far less of those lives, often leaving us wondering what was left untold. We are not directed to the triumphant or tragic end of the story, but rather tempted toward the outskirts and down side alleys. This is especially obvious in the Bordertown anthologies, in which the writers shared their characters back and forth, pulled them into each other’s stories and chucked them out again, willy nilly and with no enlightenment to show for it. The conflict that the characters think they are in often turns out to be a mistaken perception.

This is Carrier Bag writing.

And that brings me to Bujold. Because one of the more consistent themes in the Miles Vorkosigan books is that Miles throws himself into the conflicts in his life with every ounce of energy and spirit that is in him… only to find that the conflict is a mirage and his hands pass through it and he lands in an ungraceful heap in the middle of another situation entirely. By all rights of character, Miles should be a Hero. And sometimes he is. But those times are, as he puts it, matters of “forward momentum”, of running full tilt along a highwire, because if he stops he’ll waver and fall. Exciting. Desperate. Unsustainable.

Is that not the essence of the Hero story?

Recently, and, tellingly, as Miles gets older, Miles comes to reject that model. He is still the Hero, at times. But now, instead of running, he stands still. Instead of his military career he embraces a political one–and not the politics of conflict but the politics of family, of kitchen negotiation, of cultivation. Instead of the stories of the bag-carriers being subordinated to The Story of The Spear-carrier, it happens the other way around. Miles is the Hero in the service, not of Accomplishment, but of Existence–not the linear, or even the circular, but the still and the wandering.

Bujold has put the Hero in the Carrier Bag.

I find this delightful, but it is true that such departures often fail to endear a story to an audience grown to expect Heroes with spears and without bags, and nicely spun yarns that don’t snarl. I suspect that the presence of the Hero, despite his Bagging, is one of the reasons Bujold has better sales, and considerably better market staying power than the Bordertown books. By the same token, I suspect Bujold’s tendency toward bag-narrative is a significant part of why she has a smaller following than, say, Mercedes Lackey.

Jumbled up bags are fascinating, but they are not quick.

These, then, are my own models of character building (and, indeed, world building). The guiding concept I have taken from these stories is not to select a specific conflict to motivate my characters, but rather to elaborate wildly and somewhat omni-directionally on my characters’ potential lives and then choose a handful of threads from that tapestry (or snarl) to tell about in a given moment. The choice of threads narrows the scope of what is told. But my most favorite stories are the ones that tell, one way or another, everything that the chosen viewpoint can see in that swatch.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Because I was more or less dared to. I'm all in favor of apocalypses, which the following is alleged to be a sign of. (Apocalypsi? Is this a Greek root at all? *goes to look it up* Indeed it is; still doesn't say what the plural would be. ... it strikes me that my immediate interest in this subject does not make the strongest possible starting point for this endeavor. Oh, well.)

An Essay about Creative Punctuation, Arguing for its Acceptability in Modern Usage

First of all, for practical reasons, I really do think that any and all apostrohes should be removed from the company of "its". When the only real use an item of punctuation serves is to make those who have memorized the usage feel superior to those who have not, the game ceases to be worth the candle. I do not argue that the usage, in the abstract, might have more use than that. As a way to distinguish between possessive and contraction, it is, indeed, useful, albeit utterly arbitrary. Theoretically. In application, however, hugely variable usage does not seem to impede understanding, and it is beyond pointless to insist on an item of usage that is not actually being used. An absence of apostrophe seems less jarring than the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey approach. Alternatively, as Ken suggests, we could always use the apostrophe, which would allow people their finger-jerk reflex, and even conform to both sets of general rules on how to use apostrophes.

Next, I think commas should go wherever they seem wanted. The only comma rule I feel should be carefully abided by is the parenthetical comma structure. One half a parenthetical comma pair is about as useful as one half a pair of parentheses. The "comma splice", however, is an absurd thing to get all up in arms about. Why shouldn't two complete sentences be joined by a comma, instead of a period, or a semicolon, or a comma and conjunction? There is no lack of clarity in "It's late, eat some lunch" versus "It's late, so eat some lunch". That being the case, I find no other valid reason to adopt the rule. As for lists, there is no one definitive rule, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The rules for that look like a flow-chart that swallowed its own tail.

If someone wants to use both a colon and quotation marks to set off a question or quotation within a sentence, well, it's a bit of overkill, but why not? Ideas about when to use one or both come and go in cycles of fashion about thirty years in duration. I'm not getting excited over them.

Use semicolons for as long as you want to! BWAHAHAHAHAHA! *hem* If the idea is to show the flow of a connected series of thoughts, I see no reason to stop at two just because the hacks over at Bedford say so. I know some of the people they hire and publish...

When wondering whether or not to hyphenate some particular compound phrase or word (e.g. anal-retentive), or whether to add a hyphen after what is, technically, a prefix (e.g. cooperate), please do whatever. You. Damn. Well. Want! If it makes a difference, worry about it; if it doesn't, then don't. (Note the conjunction with the comma, here? I considered it a useful progressive indicator and a nice addition to the rhythm--pure iconoclasm is precisely as useless as blind rule-mongering.)

I entirely approve of the use of dashes, kind of like confetti, as a way to enliven a block of text that already has as many commas as it wants. It's a wonderful tool for indicating a sharp break in a thought, and I think it should be acceptable in all forms of writing.

And, for pity's sake, space your ellipses however you like.

As for whether to put punctuation inside or outside of quotation marks, USE YOUR COMMON SENSE. Which, in the US, means ignoring the rules at least half the time. If it looks (or hears, to your mind's ear) bizarre to put the comma or period inside the closing quotation mark, then put it outside. *flips the bird at rules based on antiquated printing practices*

And while I'm at it: split infinitives? beginning with a preposition? sentence fragments for emphasis? inventing new participles? Go for it!

The only earthly use of all this messing about with standardization and classes teaching the standard is to promote clarity of communication. Those rules which are derived from a linguistic system not equivalent to English (that is, from Latin) do not serve the purposes of clarity. Quite the contrary, in some cases, especially when the rule is derived from some element of speech that English doesn't have, or has in a different form. And then the poor muddled students ask the eternal question: Why is it like that? And the poor, stuck teacher can only reply: Because that's the rule. Or, occasionally, make up some cockamamie BS in an attempt to keep from admitting that they don't know either. Thus are the rules of English Usage born.


However. I am still wholly and entirely against any use of 'netspeak' any where, for any reason, at all. It is abhorrent in the eyes of... well, me. And that's also how usage rules are born.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
So, out of the latest go-rounds about writing sensitive issues and writing what one knows have come the following thoughts. In many ways, this little coda only brings a few high points back around, but, then, most good discussions run in spirals. And I did want to toss an extra point or two out for consideration.

Cut for length )

In the manner proper to a spiral, let me end someplace different. When we write a story, we make a world, be it full-bodied or barely sketched. Sometimes it's only for ourselves; sometimes it goes further than that. Any story, good or bad by whatever measure, is a transformation. I do not think that responsibility to one's story, to oneself, and to one's readers are really seperate things, despite having dealt with them separately above. The meaning of the transformation is something we, writers and readers and history, make together. It serves nothing, even simple enjoyment, to forget or ignore that.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
It puzzles me when I come across one of the, increasingly frequent, references to fanfic as a genre that portrays/employs/is hospitable toward/valorizes pedophilia.

What pedophilia involves, vs what the fic usually involves )
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Well, now, there's a thought. Is it possible to be a fan of Story X without being absorbed by/invested in the source text? Can one be a fan of Story X when one only knows it via fanworks?

My knee-jerk reaction is "yes, of course." Which I find odd, because The Story is the center and heart of my concept of fandom. Yet, rummaging around in my own motivation a little more, perhaps it isn't so strange. Because I, too, consider my fannish value system a populist one, and, out of a populist value system, should not all textual producers be equal? Why should the official/original version be privileged over the fannish reworkings?

And now I've got myself in a real fix, because I do feel the originary text has to have some priviledge; it's the primary source, it's the one the fanworks derive from.

Yet, sometimes it isn't.

Sometimes fanon overcomes canon, and the text that is central to a given fandom becomes a body of fanworks which are, sometimes quite noticeably, not much based on the originary text. For example, let me return to Gundam Wing.

Well, actually, let me not return to Gundam Wing, but let me try to draw examples from it anyway.

The canon text was, in most quarters, thoroughly drowned out by a majority-accepted fanon text which used the same names but differed significantly in descriptions, characters and plot points (keywords: cobalt, bouncy, hn, safe house). The canon text became co-equal, as a source text, with this fannish production. Details upon which to base further fanworks were taken indescriminately from either source or both.

GW was certainly fandom. It had all the standard earmarks: passionate investment in the central texts, appropriation of the text, possessiveness of the characters. Was it a fandom consisting of fans of Gundam Wing?

I have to say, yes.

I suppose my reason goes back to my conviction that a text is nothing without its readers, and that the readers are a vital part of how the meaning of any given text is produced. And that one of the most basic moves of fandom is to become author as well as reader to the source text. So, if the meaning that a bunch of fans find in a given story is better expressed by the fan telling of that story than the initial telling... that does not divorce them from the initial telling. It just complicates the relationship. A relationship still exists, even if a given fan never lays eyes on the canon text. If it is a relationship that fans who cleave to the initial telling find frivilous, well, upright, everyday, mainstream culture thinks we're all frivilous, now, doesn't it?

Addendum, which may or may not get incorporated into this particular essay:I do think there's a difference between saying "that activity/approach/value puts you outside of good/acceptable fandom" or even "outside of fandom period", and saying "that activity/approach/value makes you a weird fan who's not like me".

The latter is just discourse communities working themselves out. It's the initial gut response to something strange or uncomfortable. What I find unfortunate is when that gut response becomes the basis of one of the former statements--the universalization of one's own value set, as Cathexys says. Judging a member of one's own discourse community by the values of that community may get ugly, especially if it's part of a renegotiation of what that community's values are. But it is, I would say, part of the basic process of thinking and communicating, and we just have to hack it as best we can. To judge a member of another community by the values of one's own is pointless; fandom has plenty enough room for incompatible communities to ignore each other.

Of course this gets hugely messy, because we all have more than one community, and there are the questions of redefinition, and recruitment, and influence within larger communities. But I still think the basic principle is a useful one to keep in mind while processing the "Weirdo!" reaction.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
So, between them Permetaform and Melannen got me thinking.

Muses. Imaginary Friends. Characters.

As best I can tell, you know, the three have always been much the same thing to me. I vaguely recall having imaginary friends (one or two) who were not either my characters or someone else’s, but the characters, and the stories I could tell around them and me definitely predominated, as far back as I can remember. My terminology is the only thing that’s really changed over time, as I called them imaginary friends, and then characters, and then muses–that last happening when I got involved in fandom and fanfic, where it seemed to be the going vocabulary term.

I also remember passionate arguments with other people about whether or not they were real. I said they were, only to be told if they were real they should be able to move a bowl or some such. This frustrated me hugely, because I didn’t have the vocabulary to say what, in retrospect, I think I understood very early on. Their reality was not a physical thing. It’s true, the story taking place was often something I acted out as a child, overlaying the physical shapes of the story environment on my ‘real world’ environment so that, for instance, my dresser became a supercomputer. But it was an overlay. The reality of my IFs was a reality arising from the truth or genuine-ness of the personality pattern in question. Anything that rang true and led to a positive interaction between that other pattern and my own was real. That reality, I felt then and still feel now, was not less because the other participants couldn’t pick up the bowl.

This leads to something I’ve written about before, but now comes back to me refracted at a different angle. Muses, characters, IFs are not me. But I make them out of myself. This is precisely how some characters, and not others, gain enough depth to be muses/IFs for me. Those identities are not mine, any of them. But when I’m fascinated enough to conceptualize a character, and bits of them are missing, which is invariably the case, I take whatever bits of my identity pattern or experience match what is there (in my idea-sketch of this person, or in the source text) and use that to fill in the gaps.

This is why I can’t say that my muses are either internal or external to me, because it’s both and neither. They are not me, they have their own integrity as personalities, and in that way they are external individuals. Yet, they are made from me and my sense of their integrity is no doubt strengthened by the fact that I have loaned them my own, and in that way they are internal parts of me. They exist in border territory: Storyspace.

And in Storyspace, I am also a character. My personality patterns occupy space in that border territory, and interact with the other patterns there. This is what I’ve done from the start, only now I act it out on the page, rather than in three-d, and call it muse-chat. When they enter the framework of a plot, and I am not present as a character, then I call it a story. When both happen at once I call it a role-playing log.

It’s probably redundant to mention that I write very character-driven stories.

Despite that parity of existence, within Storyspace, my own experience of where the basic inspiration or creativity or suggestions come from is that it comes from myself–the parts of myself that process experiences and extract patterns and apply them to actions, both internal and external. Those parts of myself are where I connect to the rest of the world; they are the active boundary; they are what produces Storyspace in border territory. When a story possesses me, as one occasionally does, and gains enough momentum that writing feels nearly involuntary, it isn’t the willfulness of the characters–it’s the shape of the story as a whole, beautiful and fascinating enough that I don’t want to leave it.

I am not, however, about to generalize from this to some Unified Theory of Creativity, and say that anyone who experiences inspiration as external must simply be alienating their own creative voice. Because if anyone were to tell me that all inspiration must be external and that my own experience is ’simply internalizing’ that external source? I’d eviscerate them with a plastic spork. Slowly. Sometimes highly individual muses are obviously just a figure of speech within a given discourse community. Sometimes it’s equally clearly a given writer’s literal experience. *shrugs* “Infinite diversity in infinite combination” yeah?

What I would like to know, myself, is why vivid descriptions or accounts of highly individual muses seem to squick so many people (and other writers, particularly) who don’t share the experience? I’ve seen the squick itself expressed, but not really explained.


Apr. 17th, 2005 04:30 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Concentrated opinionatedness ahead, just in case anyone who hangs out here was in any doubt.

What makes a good online role player:

Thoughtful and rounded character construction. When you're working with derivative characters, this means taking whatever background the source text plus your setting provides and trying to fill in the blanks in a consistent manner. With logs and character journals you have to find the voice of the character, and this works best once you've decided in your own mind how your character thinks and feels about a bunch of things. Does he like his family? How does she do in her classes, and how does she relate with her teachers and classmates? Is he thinking of changing jobs, and what will that mean to his children? Just what secrets does she keep from which people?

Patience. So, here's this great idea, and you really want to see how it works out, and it will be so cool. Great. It will be even cooler if time is taken to let the idea develop at actual, human speed. If you want to take a character from zero to undying love in a week, you should be writing a story arc, not role playing. Role playing works best when you don't try to compress events, and when it's happening in real-time, as much online RP does, that means letting plotlines work out over weeks and months. A bit of relaxation, and enjoyment of filling in the details helps.

Variety. Nothing is so deadly boring, to everyone other than your obsessive self, as one-track play. If your character never experiences anything other than ANGSTANGSTANGST, or, for that matter, SMUTSMUTSMUT, then he or she becomes a) flat and cardboard, and b) a closed circut that is difficult to play with or against. When there's some angst and some fun and some silliness and some smut and some everyday just-doing-them things, there are a whole lot more opportunities for your character to interact with other characters in a way that actually lets them progress instead of freezing into one reaction loop.

Respect. That is, don't buffalo people into the plotline you want when they don't want to go there. That's annoying as hell whether it's done by the GM or by another player. Also, it isn't good to use other people as part of your personal psychotherapy without their knowledge or consent; it's just asking for trouble. So if RP is your way of working out your issues, make sure you're playing with people who accept that agenda.

Discrimination. That is, be a little choosy. Don't pick just any old character, because that so often leads to really careless characterization. Coming at this from the other direction, if you know what kind of character you want to play, pick a character who has those aspects, or, at least, does not have a background that would contradict those characteristics. For example, if you want to play a weepy, wimpy Damsel In Distress (tm), for crying in silence don't pick a proud, determined, self-confident character to do it with.

This concludes today's installment of "essaying instead of clawing my eyes out".
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
And I'm back to Bakhtin.

Because it never fails to amaze me when writers of fandom seem to assume that fandom is, or even can be, monolithic. That it can all be a single kind of thing. That one size, one style, one standard, one response, one reason can fit all. This is absurd on the face of it. We exist in a constant stew of contention and argument and vociferiously differing viewpoints; surely this is obvious? How can it possibly be ignored?

And, yet, I find myself doing it, too, and another look will tell me that it is precisely the awareness of how many differences we tally among the lot of us that drives the insistence on monologic phrasing, the attempts to say that X element of fandom is this or that. Awareness of the variance makes most of us close our grips even harder on our own variations.

(And now I'm back to Mrs. Dalloway, too: "She would not say, I am this, I am that." We use that gesture, too, and value indeterminacy, go to great lengths to claim a lack of labels. And then we turn around and make a point of seizing on labels as personal property--"I am this, but it isn't what you define it as." Again, the attempt to control meaning. Simply abandoning it doesn't seem to work for long.)

Communication is the most wonderfully ironic act I can think of. To attempt it is to acknowledge that the world consists of more than just oneself, that insurmountable differences exist, most particularly the difference between "me" and "you". Thus the centrifugal forces of language, because we all pull in different directions to a greater or lesser extent and that distance, that division, cannot be collapsed. Yet, to communicate is to seek to collapse that distance, to come to understanding, an agreement of meaning. And, subjectivity being what it is, the point of reference must always be "my" meaning. Thus the centripetal forces, tending toward singularity.

A singularity that points, once again, to division and separation, as each communicant tugs away in her own direction.

Away, towards. It isn't just relative; it's the same thing.

Of course we all insist that our singularity is larger than just ourselves, that it applies to others. To do otherwise is to dissolve into total isolation. Besides, to an extent it may well be true. The yanks in other directions should also not surprise any of us, really, since they are exactly what we are acting out ourselves in every moment.

If we lost either part, communication would not be possible. I find this useful to keep in mind.
branchandroot: Shio, character for salt (salt)
So, one of Hana’s posts made me think–specifically about authority in fandom.

The start of this thought was actually the perennial issue of feedback and commenting, and how well or ill fic authors receive critical reviews. The occasion, this time, was an article noting how badly many students in the current generation (whatever that may be) take criticism in class or at work once they have jobs. And the juxtaposition of these things suddenly snapped something into focus for me.

A lot of the hissing and spitting over this subject in Western fandom seems to come down to authority.

A great many negative responses to negative comments that I’ve seen, my own included, are variations on the theme of “Where do you get off talking like that to me?” Which then gives rise to the standard return, which has become some variation on “You posted it in public and nobody paid me to be nice, get over it.” It may sound like an exchange over manners or freedom of speech or too much/too little personal investment, and those issues are, no doubt, present. But I think the underlying debate has directly to do with how authority is produced in fandom.

The problem, of course, being that there isn’t any one stable way, and the most stable model does not lend itself to calm interaction.

So, author X writes and posts a story (let’s keep this about fic, for now) and reader Y comes along and says that X got some characterization wrong. X goes up in flames and asks how Y can be so rude, was she raised in a pigpen, and things go downhill from there. In particularly bad cases, friends of both X and Y pile on, and ego-fluffing and mud-slinging commence apace. Sound familiar?

I would like to suggest that what X is saying is not (or not only) “how can you do such a mean thing as say my story isn’t perfect” but rather (or also) “where’s your authority to say your character interpretation is more valid than mine?”

And where is the authority?

Fandom is not an academic context, so it doesn’t necessarily do any good for those of us who have advanced degrees to make our CVs into icons for when we post commentary. Teaching as a system of authority has no formal parameters for recognition, here; when it happens it’s a one on one arrangement of personal recognition. Any attempt to arrogate that kind of authority, without getting the individual, personal recognition of it first, tends to be met with especially violent rejection–quite rightly, in my own opinion. Fandom is not a commercial context (at least not this way), so there’s no really big salary to wave around, no fic equivalent of three BMWs and a lake house. A place in a well known archive can sometimes have the same effect as getting the corner office, but those who maintain archives have no particular authority of their own outside that particular site. Thus any insistence that such recognition is based on merit tends to have credence only in very localized terms. Online fandom has no supervisory structure at all, except for moderators who are usually extremely self-limited in their powers. Those who are not seem to often find themselves the targets of scorn and revilement. Awards theoretically mark acclaim by one’s peers, which, in established fields, generally does constitute some authority. But that just begs the question again, because the panels who give out awards are supposed to be experts in the field, supposed to have those tangible marks of success (publication credits, patents, money, etc.) that fandom lacks. Expertise is almost impossible to judge with any surety. The vastly different criteria by which different segments of fandom judge a story good or bad mean that popularity is an extremely unstable basis for authority. It can always be argued, and almost certainly will be, that that doesn’t count.

This takes us toward one of the other difficulties of authority, which fandom shares with all the other performing arts: the double edge of popularity. (Many thanks to Becky for making me think about it.) In the Fine Arts, popularity is desirable and yet suspect. If you’re too popular, then your credentials as a maker of High Art come into question. And in the industries of movies, publishing, music, etc., there’s a strong tendency toward increasing the level, the height, of one’s art. Higher is better. Higher is also narrower in appeal. (This mixes weirdly with the commercial imperative to appeal broadly to make lots of money, but I think that’s a whole different essay.) So judges and panels who are authorities because they are big names, because they are popular, are undermined by the very thing that gives them authority. There’s always room for the rejected one to say ‘well, they’re just a popular success, of course they can’t judge the real worth of my artistic effort’.

I think this carries over into fandom. Not very consciously, because I doubt many of us think of ourselves in terms of High Art. I would, at least, be deeply and lastingly amused, for all sorts of reasons, should anyone contemplate applying for an NEA grant to write fanfiction. But the same dynamic of both desiring and suspecting popularity definitely applies, and I think that feeds very strongly into the ‘poor, misunderstood me’ response that sometimes comes in answer to attempted criticism of any sort, especially if it comes from someone who has gained acclaim.

Both of the authority systems I see actually working, in fandom, are ones with limited scope.

The expertise model does work, but judgments of what constitutes expertise in writing are both very personal and wildly diverse. Even where formal guidelines exist, for grammar, for example, fandom harbors sufficient sophistication to argue the correctness of commonly accepted authoritative sources. One fine example of this is the use of “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun–arguments for correctness or incorrectness can both be made, and are. The use of “blond” as a specifically masculine descriptor is another of these. The fact that a commonly accepted authority does exist only means that both sides agree there is a final authority to be had, can they only triumph over the wrong-headed stubbornness of their opponents. This is not conducive to broad-based authority.

The expertise model works a bit better when dealing with the original text. An exhaustive knowledge of canon generally garners respect. In Western anime fandoms, in particular, those who can read or understand the source text can gain authority by translating and interpreting it. In any fandom, deep familiarity with the details indicates the kind of investment many fans can respect.

The family model of authority, however, seems to me most common, and certainly has resonance with how fandom operates. The family-based authority is an insular one. It requires a virtual blood connection–liking the same source text for the same reason, for example, or sometimes sharing a basic worldview. Authority from outside that connection is discounted. Authority, in this case, is given by usually unspoken consensus reached within the family group, based as much on personal dynamics as the quality of writing. Attempts to assert authoritative critique from outside that circle meet with about as much success as some random adult telling a non-related child to clean her room. (Of course, the fact that fen from non-Western cultures are part of English speaking fandom puts a bit of a crimp in that analogy; within cultures that place more value on respect for elders, this would not, necessarily, draw resentment. *tips hat to Genie for reminding me*)

I choose the terms “adult” and “child” for a reason. Any criticism suggests that the criticizer knows better on the subject than the criticizee. Within the family context this translates pretty automatically into seniority terms: older/younger or adult/child. Coming from someone outside the consensual “family”, such an implied claim can only read as arrogant, unjustified and even predatory. Is it really any wonder that the response is violent? Or that it spreads? After all, when we insult someone’s family, what we generally get is a fight.

A caveat in closing: I do not mean to imply that all negative reaction to criticism is based in fandom’s conflicts of authority. Some of it is simply spoiled whining by people who feel the world should conform in every detail to their whims. I do, however, think that the consistence and vehemence with which criticism is rejected has a great deal to do with those conflicts. Nor do I think that can be resolved. Such is the nature of fandom–decentralized and fluid in its structures.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Well, I typed up a reply to this thread, and find that I'm too scared of the stupid people to actually post it there.


So, here's a few more of my thoughts on Mary Sue, as relates to some other people's thoughts on her.

I'll readily agree that Mary Sue, the black hole of an author's concept of perfection from which not even canon heros can escape, is not everybody's cup of tea.

So what?

I see no reason whatsoever for Sue writers to stop masturbating in public, as long as they're not groping anyone else.

Considering the vaildation available to Sue writers within their own circles, there certainly isn't much motivation for them to alter styles unless they wish to enter a different section of the fanfiction community in which Sues are not welcome. To frame persistent Sue writing as some kind of arrested development assumes that everyone does, and should, wish to make that move. I hesitate to speak for a group of writers I am not part of, but it does not look to me as though this is the case. That being so, I see absolutely nothing wrong with fic writing as a means of socializing, as opposed to a self-consciously elevated artistic endeavor, which appears to be the other end of this spectrum.

Even if a writer's goal is to produce something at the marketable level, this does not automatically make the Sue an invalid stylistic choice. I do not think is is particularly reasonable to consider Sue style writing as uniformly unprofessional when one of the best selling commercial genres, serial romance, is based on much the same shape character. The quality of most fanfic Sue stories is not particularly professional, but, then, that is equally true of fanfic in other styles.

I also fail to see how the current crop of Sues can be accused of false representation, considering it's almost impossible not to recognize them from the story summaries.

And, as has been pointed out, once recognized they're easy enough to simply not read.

The attitude that Sues have no right to exist, especially in public, bewilders me. The violence with which that opinion is expressed, enforced and evangelized moderately appalls me. To brand wish fulfillment as some kind of ultimate failure because it is unrealistic seems rather to miss the point.

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