"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."

--Ursula K. Leguin

November 2009

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This journal is partially locked. Most fandom entries are public. Most daily-life entries and a certain amount of squee is locked. To read those entries, comment and ask to be added.

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Please note, all my fic posts here are summaries with links to my archive site. To search for fic most easily, you will want to visit my fic archive itself which has all the series/arc/pairing/character indexes and tags. *tips hat*

Posts Tagged: 'fandom'

Oct. 11th, 2009

'Training wheels' my ass

Brief rant, apropos of a passing remark that broke the camel's back.

I am sick and fucking tired of fanfic being presented as "training wheels". That's a load of BS. Fic is its own practice, with its own locally variable stylistic and presentational rules and its own systems of distribution and compensation, all of which are thoroughly distinct from commercial writing practices. Authors may enjoy writing both. They may write both sequentially. But fic is not somehow an annex of commercial publishing, nor is commercial publishing some kind of evolution of fic. Face it. Those first hundred thousand words are going to be crap no matter how you slice it; if they're written as fanfic instead of drawer-fic, it may appear that writing fic helped one get better. In fact, writing period helps one get better. Do not fall into the logical fallacy of mistaking the venue for the mechanism.

What pisses me off the most is the fanwriters who naively embrace this myth because it offers fast validation. Do they not see that this is the same political maneuver (albeit on quite a different scale) as saying "give us rights because we can't help being deviant" instead of "give us rights because we're human beings too, fuckers". No, of course they don't see it, never mind. The point is this "validation" is only available to writers who implicitly agree to denigrate their fanfic work, to be a shill, a practitioner of fanfic who presents it as of lesser value than commercial work. This offends me in purely logical terms, the two not being commensurate in the first place. It also gets me wound up in defense of my community, even considering that I want to give the vast majority of my fellow community members a good trouting on a regular basis.

So rather than being bamboozled into apologizing for our activity, try this one: "I write fanfic because I like it."
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Apr. 15th, 2009

Wave of the Future

So it looks as though free, official streams is the up and coming anime distribution mode.

Not only do we have the experiment at Crunchyroll.net, the new Fullmetal Alchemist series is being streamed, subbed, a bit less than a week after each episode airs, at Funimation.com. Having watched it, I think it may be worth waiting a few days for. The quality of translation is actually higher than the fansubs that came out more quickly. (And thank goodness the commercial concerns have finally figured out that sub fans tend to prefer minimal ‘cultural translation’.)

Presumably this is supposed to pay for itself via advertising, kind of like network television, and also provide a market draw for the permanent media (download and dvd) sales. I hope it works out, because this seems to me to be a very positive direction for anime distribution to take. Certainly the approach of licensing for permanent media distributed months or years after the series airs and is fansubbed has signally, and predictably, failed. A prompt, high quality, free release in a medium not easily recordable, certainly not at anything approaching original quality, followed by reasonably prompt sale of individual episodes alongside dvd collections has certainly worked for domestic television shows. I see no reason it shouldn’t work as well for anime.

For those who want to watch these versions, bookmark the show page.

Apr. 5th, 2009

FMA: Brotherhood, premier

*contemplative* I am unsure quite what I think.

The visual style is very similar but more… flexible? It definitely partakes more of the manga Arakawa-version superdeformed style, which I’m not really partial to. I’ll have to see if the animated style really takes with me or not. The detail of the motion is definitely a plus, though.

I can get used to Miki doing Musting. He and Ohkawa both have that flex to their voicing of Mustang, so there’s a reasonable continuity. The one major difference touches on the one thing I’m very unsure of, though.

The characters aren’t as sharp. At least in this pilot episode, neither Ed nor Roy have the edge that the first series provided. A big part of that is the script; there’s just more slapstick going on. And I loved that edge, it was probably the thing that topped the list of “why I totally love this show”.

So, while I think it will be absolutely fascinating to see the manga storyline animated (supposing that is the goal), I don’t know if I will be as wildly in love with this second series as I was the first. I will hope otherwise, but we shall just have to see.

Mar. 8th, 2009

One more try: when it’s not about you

So, a bunch of would-be allies have protested getting “flamed” or “piled on” or basically told to sit down and shut up, in Racefail 09, because they tried to join the discussion by contributing their own experience.

Well what did they expect?

In any discussion of privilege, stereotypes, oppression, agency, if you are on the plus side of the particular issue, do not try to join in with comments about your experience. It may seem like a gesture of sympathy and solidarity, but it isn’t. It’s you taking the focus away from the injured party. Don’t do that. It’s not about you.

Do not try to say that you are not privileged because, while you may be plus in this particular area, you are minus in others. For one thing, that’s flat wrong. If you are plus in this area, then you have privilege in this area. Trying to deny that by waving all the other areas in which you are minus just makes you part of the fail and ensures that the people who have to deal with a minus in the current discussion will have zero reason to respect your minus when that’s under discussion. For another thing, it’s beside the point. Because right now, it’s not about you.

Do not suggest that, yes, this is awful, and shouldn’t we all try to be colorblind (religion-blind, gender-blind, etc.). The only way anyone could imagine such a thing is a) possible or b) a good idea is by being plus in the area in question, and therefore not having to worry about it, not having to be aware of it constantly, not having to deal with how it makes you invisible or second class every day. Such a statement comes only out of a plus experience. Don’t make it. Because it’s not about you.

Do not, for the love of little pixels, try to tell anyone to calm down or be less angry. Do not try to join in by offering your own solution to the problem of being angry. Being angry isn’t the problem, it’s a reaction to the problem. More importantly, that isn’t your anger, so you don’t have any right to say what gets done with it. If it makes you uncomfortable, too bad. It isn’t about you.

You’re plus in a given debate and you still want to contribute? Listen. Don’t talk. Listen. Don’t tell about your own experience. Listen to someone else’s. Don’t deny the anger and don’t try to fix it. Listen to it. When you see another plus person failing in one of the above manners, step up and point out that it isn’t about them, and now is not the time for defensiveness or guilt. Now is the time for listening. Because the sad truth is that a lot of us listen better to people who are like us than to the people who actually have the experience under discussion. If you can redirect attention to where it currently should be, do it. That’s a bare first step, but it’s one that truly astonishing numbers of people seem unable to manage.

Also? Do not comment to this and prove the point in spades by talking about how your intrusion of your own experience into this or any similar discussion wasn’t like that. Because (all together now) it isn’t about you.

Mar. 7th, 2009

Not pros v fans

One of the Racefail 09 issues that I would particularly like people to not just believe TNH et al about is that TNH et al represent the view of all pro writers.

Some people have wondered about the general silence of the pros on the topic, which is not surprising given the vigorous efforts of et al to polarize things.

Allow me, then, to present some evidence to the contrary: another pro writer who thinks that, indeed, et al are sailing the failboat.

Jan. 29th, 2009

Dreamwidth: the search for a webhome

For those who may have noticed my new icons, or seen mention of this in passing, Dreamwidth is a fork of the LiveJournal code. That is, it takes the current open source code and, instead of making future updates from the LJ version, starts writing it in a different direction. (Kind of like fanfic, really, only different.)

Two months or so from now, when Dreamwidth.org goes live for open beta, I will move there.

The reasons are many and varied, and I have to go back a little ways to explain them all. )

I hope that all this will draw enough people over to a) make a thriving community and b) get enough people to transfer/back up their content that we don't lose too much when LJ finally reaches the end it's heading towards.

So! To that end, let me mention some of DW's advantages. At launch, DW will import entire journals, and multiple journals if you want, (including entries, comments, tags, userpics and flists) from other danga-code sites. It will recreate your flist(s) with RSS feeds (the problem of offering you locked posts from other sites is one of the high priority projects and may be available soonish, let us hope and cheer on the programmers). It will split the flist into a 'watch' list and a 'trust' list, just like we've been asking for for ages. It will even let us have longer usernames and comments and entries.

On the to-do list, DW aims to overhaul the horrible Memories function to act more like a sensible bookmarking tool, and to introduce a parent/child account structure so that we can finally link all our journals (from our point of view only, of course) and switch from one to another without all that tedious logging in and out. Even if you don't use Firefox.

There are a lot of other ideas being bandied back and forth about subscription to specific tags, entry and comment management, making OpenID sign-ins both non-anonymous and a way for people to control imported comments and even cooler stuff. There are people combing back entries in lj_suggestions to see what it is users (as opposed to prospective buyers) actually want.

Go see! Mouse around the Wiki. Page through some of the mailing list archives. Maybe chip in your two cents, because this? This is for us.

We're home.

Jan. 27th, 2009

Stop trying to be on my side

Somebody else, posting about the ongoing imbroglio, mentioned having discovered her last nerve. I now feel kind of similar. One particular card has been played by the defendants so often that I feel a need to defend my profession’s good name.

Let’s be clear about this: “you’re reading it wrong” is not an academic argument.

No scholar of literature in today’s field would ever make that claim, at least not with a straight face; in fact I would not expect even a student of literature who has passed her first lit crit class to make it. Theorists from Barthes to Fish have worked hard for this reward: we’ve all figured out that people make meaning and that at least two people–the writer and the reader–plus all their respective cultural baggage are directly, vitally involved in making the meaning of any written text. “You’re reading it wrong” is, at this point, a nonsensical statement.

This is not to say you don’t still sometimes hear it, even from academics who should know better, because assholes exist everywhere. But when they make it, they make it as a personal mistake, not as a solid academic and theoretically based argument, and they rarely make it to other academics, knowing good and well the instant load of scorn it would buy them.

The statement that is far more often heard, and which may have confused some people, is “the examples you’ve shown are not sufficient to support that interpretation”. In the current case, however, this is also insupportable, as any scholar who took the merest glance at the text in question (or even ithiliana’s notes on it) could tell you. There’s plenty of supporting examples to argue that B&I deploys racial stereotypes in some extremely naive ways and, while it may usefully problematize gender issues, fails to take any matching steps along the axis of race and instead just wears the stereotypes in deeper.

One that people may also have heard is “you’re missing some facts about the concepts you’re trying to argue with/about”, as for example the student who reads “Harrison Bergeron” and submits as a ‘Marxist analysis‘ the claim that the story is Marxist because the political system it pictures is Fascist, just like the USSR. The current imbroglio is not such an example; there are no complex theoretical structures or schools of analysis to misunderstand. There is only a careless use of broadly and commonly recognized visual cues, connecting ‘white’ with ‘normal’ and ‘black’ with ’subjection’ and ‘exoticism’ and ‘blight’. And then there is a lot of refusal to listen when the most injured point out the harm that carelessness does. If anyone is missing some facts, it’s the defendants.

Once more, with feeling: “you’re reading it wrong” is not an academic argument.

What it is is an author’s argument, and specifically the plaint of an immature, self-indulgent author who has not yet figured out how to take any criticism of her/his precious, precious writing. All of fandom has, by now, likely recognized it as such, because we hear it so much from each other. In fact, the defendants have, throughout, acted exactly like a fandom coterie having a flamewar. If anyone needed a demonstration that there is no difference between pro writers and amateur writers, down at the bone, this is surely it.

So let us, please, dispense with any pretense that the defendants can make any pronouncements from the protective height of some ivory tower. They aren’t and they can’t, that has been abundantly demonstrated, and this acafan will thank them to stop soiling the name of her profession in their scramble to avoid the censure their own actions have so richly earned them.

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Dec. 10th, 2008

Considering the source

So, I’ve been browsing back through some of my old fic and, in the process, the comments, and have been amused by something.  Amused in that “oi, people” sort of way.

Let us imagine that there is a manga or anime with a character who is underage during the course of the series (or most of the series).  Let’s say 12-15, since most people stop kicking over it at sixteen or thereabouts.

Let us further imagine that I have written fic for that series in which the character in question has hot, enthusiastic, participatory sex.

Let us further imagine that someone comments disapprovingly on this.

To which, upon mature consideration, my response is: If you read a story in which the only time-indicators are Some Time Later (probably because I’m not entirely sure when it does happen) and reflexively imagine the character who is having hot, nay even kinky at times, sex as underage, I am quite willing to agree that there may be a problem.

I just don’t think the problem is with me.

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Nov. 21st, 2008

Glossary for kicks

So, one of the many and varied arguments surrounding acafen and anti-aca is about specialist vocabulary, how exclusive it is, and whether one can actually acquire it by reading Wikipedia, supposing one is interested in acquiring it in the first place.

In general, my own verdict on Wikipedia would be “no”, if only because most of the articles on theory are written by theorists and require the Western Philosophy base kit to understand (kind of like having a box of general Leggos before you get a special purpose pack).

And then, one day, I thought, well, could some of these concepts be explained differently? So that someone unfamiliar with the base kit could still grok it? And I thought, well, why not try? It came out fairly tongue-in-cheek, but it does seem possible to at least offer some place to start for conversational purposes.

So have a few litcrit concepts:

Semiotics: Word mean things, but how? They’re just sounds. Why do we all understand what the other person means by sounds like “table” or “car”, especially when it isn’t referring to any particular or present example? Let’s think about this.

Structuralism: We connect words to things by a set of rules, and those rules can be figured out. The rules are stable standards that can be scientifically mapped (and incidentally you should give us money and respect for doing so).

Post-structuralism: No, actually it’s all about context. We all flail around in a sea of sound and meaning, hooking up the two and unhooking them again as seems warranted by any particular group of people we’re trying to communicate with.

Deconstruction: Every action highlights its opposite. So if you walk south you have to define it as not-north, and therefore north is the most important thing even though you’re going south. So every attempt to connect sound and meaning destroys the meaning at the same time it constructs it. Let us make portmanteaus to describe this and explain at length how neat it is!

In conclusion, go read Ursula LeGuin’s “Bryn Mawr Commencement Address” from 1986. She’s one of the best writers I know at explaining complex ideas from the ground up.

Oct. 22nd, 2008

We’re here, we’re academic, get over it

Okay, so it doesn’t rhyme nearly as well as the original, it still gets the point across.

The point being, I’m sick and tired of hearing how the big, bad academics are taking over fandom just because we’re suddenly, you know, clearly present.  We’re not lurking on the fringes for (obviously quite justified) fear of being rejected and marginalized in this, a self-proclaimed marginal culture.  Fans who are also academics are openly being academically fannish, instead, and doing so in some shared venues instead of just in our own little corners.  Oh horrors!

See, I’ve by now read a lot of people getting het up over how (to read the subtext, here) objectifying academic approaches to fanning are.  How we set things at a distance and look down on/dissect/take the fun out of/act superior to fandom and therefore aren’t Real Fans.  And I’m sorry (well, actually, no I’m not), but that’s bullshit.  I will make this simple in hopes that it gets through this time:

For academics, writing articles about things is how we fan.

Get it?  We do this because this is how we like to express our passion and interest and involvement. Academia is one of the oldest fandoms there is, right up there with religion.   So don’t give me that crap about how academic studies is solipsistic and objectifying. Yeah, sometimes it is.  But, guess what, I’m standing here, and I am an academic, and I am a fan, and I don’t do that shit, and some of you have just insulted the hell out of me, and I’m really fucking pissed off!

This rant is not to any individual’s address, though the latest round of such did, in general, set me off.  This rant is the culmination of months and months of being told repeatedly that I’m not allowed to be a fan unless I leave my favorite mode of fanning at the door.  And you know what?  Fuck all that!  If you can’t deal with me and all the ways I am fannish, too fucking bad!

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Oct. 10th, 2008

How to make a reference note on Fanlore

So, Fanlore is kind of addictive, you know? I keep looking at that temptingly blank Gundam Wing page and thinking hmmmm, something about the fandom, eh?

Most of wiki markup language is pretty straightforward, but one thing I suspect many people will throw up their hands over is the markup for making a footnote–an in-text reference. I know I puzzled over it for a bit, and I’m already familiar with both html and wikis. So here’s a small breakdown of the thing.

The Logic: you write your footnote and enclose it in <ref> and </ref> tags, putting the note in the text right where you want the little superscript number to appear. The listing of the notes and the counting of numbers is automatic, all you need to do is write the note itself and put the tags around it.

The footnote itself is just text and probably a link, and you write it just like you would any wiki link. Remember that an external wiki link goes in square brackets with the url, a space, and then any link text you want to use.

For example, if you want to put just a link to a source, that would look like: [http://url.of.link link text goes here]

If you want to link to the source and then explain it or say when you accessed it, that would look like: [http://url.of.link site name or similar] Insert explanation here, accessed da/te/here

Make sure that <references/> appears at the bottom of the page (not the section, the whole page). That generates the list of footnotes. If it isn’t there already, put something like this just before the categories:

==References==
<references/>

It isn’t actually complicated, it just looks that way when all that code is mashed up together. So there you go! Whenever you say something and want to note where you got the information, just throw in your reference link/note right there in the text, enclosed in <ref> and </ref> tags. Make sure the <references/> tag is at the bottom of the page, and everything else is automatic.

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Sep. 23rd, 2008

Ruminations on copyright and blogs

So, in the wake of The Telos Affair, I’ve been thinking about the astonishing tangle that is copyright law and the even more astonishing tangle that is copyright law applied to online documents.

Somewhat meandering train of thought )

In any case, I do not recommend anyone go and register their journal or blog with the Copyright Office. It's too much cost for not enough return, as the (laggard) laws currently stand. For those who are concerned, I do recommend a copyright notice, eg "Copyright Your Name, DateBlogStarted-CurrentDate". A printed copy, from an exported pdf, that has been notarized or otherwise officially date stamped may also be of some assistance if you decide to play the first few rounds of the C&D game of chicken. The best approach, however, would seem to be collective action within our own community, since that is most likely where any such wholesale copying will take place. As The Telos Affair demonstrates, it may be possible to smack an offender's hands hard enough to make them desist, even if they don't have the intellectual wherewithal to figure out why.
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Jul. 28th, 2008

The web and transparency

So, the Hale scandal has gotten me thinking again about privacy and business on the web. Have some random thoughts.

These thoughts aren’t about identity, or issues like outing fans; that was malice and vandalism in order to punish ‘competitors’ and gain traffic. Let us instead talk about privacy and anonymity on the web at large. Hale is trying to take advantage of business opportunities, so let us consider the kinds of information commercial sites can get about you, which has little to do with identity as fandom usually considers it.

A little background )

The thing is, we do all maintain balance of a sort. A thin thread restrains the merchants in question because they don't want to alienate their customers entirely. And the customers don't like finding out about how little privacy they may have, hence the voluntary policies that at least limit information trading. Even more than that, customers don't approve of dishonesty. When the extent of the Beacon network came out, when it was clear that Facebook had misrepresented it as something to share with friends and lied about the extent and of the information gathered, there was uproar. And Facebook backed down.

So Hale hasn't just been abrogating the mores of fandom. Indeed, she hasn't been acting within fandom at all; that was merely the front. She has also crossed the line for a commercial web-entrepreneur. She has suggested that her site was for fandom and/or historical research purposes, when, in fact, it is a commercial site. This is one of the few triggers just about guaranteed to anger and alienate prospective customers, thus demonstrating that not only is she a dishonest merchant but she's not even good at it.

I'll just be over here, watching the karma drop from a great height.

Jun. 30th, 2008

Let’s get the requirements issue out in the open, then

Following up my earlier post about how some fans deploy ratings.

The comments were an interesting study in themselves. My first observation was that a good half did not respond to the post itself, but rather were personal position statements on ratings qua ratings. From this I draw the conclusion that there is an issue-iceberg floating under this comment-water.

The largest subset within this segment appears to group around the fairly incontestable argument that the MPAA is an appalling body of prodnose prudes, whose rating system reflects their disgustingly skewed priorities. Far be it from me to argue with this premise; indeed, I might well state it more strongly.

The curious thing I observed was that none of this group really seemed to want to argue directly with my actual post hypothesis, which is that many in my own corner of fandom and possibly others have subverted the MPAA scale for our own wonderfully non-prudish ends. The impression I have from those comments is that those particular fans do not feel their own usage of the scale is a subversion, and therefore that fora and communities that require MPAA ratings to be used are forcing the official, un-subverted MPAA system, and concomitant attitudes, upon them. The general feeling of those responses seems to be that, far from a self-applied advertisement of sexy content, the required use of the MPAA scale calls on them to be complicit in the MPAA agenda of censorship, anti-sexuality, misogyny and homophobia

This was not stated in so many words, so this reading of the comments makes some assumptions; I may be wrong. But I can certainly appreciate why this would be deeply objectionable, if I’m reading the subtext correctly.

The previous post did not, of course, deal at all with the issue of required ratings. However, the issue of required ratings, and the use of the MPAA scale as one of those commonly required, is clearly at the forefront of some fans’ minds. Thus, I would like to offer a post that to address the issue directly. On this topic, I would say that requiring the use of a scale whose non-fandom deployment is so distasteful is not exactly the best way to promote emotional safety and intellectual ease among fandom at large. In an ideal world, I think self-applied ratings should not require the internalization of a puritan censor in the back of every writer’s head.

One of the most common alternatives the commenters suggested was the use of a simple “explicit” versus “non-explicit”, which would serve much the same purpose that any rating system currently does. It isn’t perfect; it still contains a good deal of elasticity in what each poster considers “explicit” to mean, but this is going to be an issue in any rating system that is self-applied. I certainly would not suggest turning to externally applied ratings simply to achieve greater consistency, even were such a thing remotely feasible which it is not. In combination with the usual run of other meta information (genre, warnings, etc.) explicit/non-explicit would seem to address the concerns of those communities that do require the use of ratings. It has the bonus of being something any English-speaking fan can readily understand, which is not the case for any nationally-specific rating system. Nationally-specific interpretations are, as usual, part and parcel of any system’s elasticity.

For myself, to throw my hat in the ring right off the bat, I am inclined against required meta information of any sort. Required ratings or disclaimers or such seem to serve no useful purpose. I doubt many of us deceive ourselves that there is any actual regulatory or legal utility in meta information. Courtesy to one’s readers may come into it, but its definition varies, sometimes wildly, from one forum to another. My personal inclination is to let authors write the meta information as they will, with an awareness of where they are publishing, and then let the readers read as they dare. Fandom has promoted a general tendency to proliferate rather than par labels, after all. Thus, those fans who want no contact with the very notion of the MPAA can avoid it while those fans who want to attract the eye with an NC-17, promising porny pleasures behind the cut tag, can keep on giving the MPAA the virtual finger every time they do so.

Okay. Now you have somewhere to debate ratings qua ratings.

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Jun. 26th, 2008

First, the purpose of the system

So, we as fandom and ficcers have gone around on the question of ratings quite a few times, and for quite a few reasons by now. The most peculiar and widespread round was probably triggered by the MPAA’s pissyness over archives using the NC-17 rating. Plenty of people in US fandoms still use G-PG-R-NC-17, of course, because it’s widely established and generally understood. Others, like ff.net, adopted the slightly altered version of K-T-M. Still others have come up with still more customized variations, and some people have argued that the written word should not have a rating system applied to it at all, and that it certainly isn’t to professional publications.

Ratings are pretty embedded in fandom practice by now, of course, and I doubt we’re getting rid of them. So we struggle on to find a system that says what we want it to say. One of the more recent contributions to the debate got me started thinking, though.

Ratings, as applied to fanfiction, work rather differently than ratings applied to other media, such as movies. For one thing, they’re self-applied and, for another, they don’t actually seem to be regulatory. I am not sure, though, that this fact calls for an alteration in the most commonly used ratings.

Let us start at the beginning. What do we use ratings to indicate?

One of the most common things seems to be sex. Among US fans at least, I believe this is inherited pretty directly from the MPAA, who place a completely disproportionate emphasis on sex as the primary gauge by which to restrict audiences.

This leads me off, though, to one of the major underlying questions: do we use ratings to restrict an audience? Or so we use them for another purpose?

Consider the use of the contested NC-17 rating in fanfiction. My impression in my own fandom sector, anime fandom, is that this rating is used more as advertising than for restriction. When an author wishes to warn off parts of the audience, for disturbing content let us say, such restriction is more often handled through the warning labels rather than the rating. The rating seems most frequently used to advertise the explicitness of the sexual and/or romantic content.

In some ways, then, it seems to me that we have taken in the MPAA focus on sex and subverted it. MPAA ratings are about restriction, and focus on the presence or absence of explicit sexual content disproportionate to the wide variety of other things that might justifiably restrict the audience. Fan use of those ratings is about audience selection and enlargement; we often use them to appeal to the audience that is looking for sexual content (at least in my corner and I think in others from what little I’ve seen of book/media/etc. practice).

There is, of course, another segment of fans that is interested specifically in restriction, or, as it’s most commonly expressed, keeping youngsters away from ideas they should not yet be exposed to. The actual content of those ideas, again, varies, but some of the frequently cited ones are sexuality, cruelty and/or violence, and bad language. Ratings, however, do not seem to come up in these discussions as much as mechanical restrictions, such as registration requirements for sites that contain variously defined mature material. This may be because this segment understands perfectly well that a rating never stopped any kid, especially from doing something as simple as clicking on a link.

So the actual utility of ratings for fandom texts seems to have very little to do with audience restriction. Rather, ratings seem to serve as a special-purpose label, one that can generally be counted on to address the sexual content unless the rest of the meta information specifically points in a different direction

The meta information can be reworked as a whole, so that the rating addresses something else and the sexual content is addressed in some other way. I do this in my own archive. But if a writer or reader desires greater precision or specificity, it is unlikely that a different rating system alone will deliver it. Ratings, by their nature, are very general and not comprehensive. Verbal labels seem far more likely to deliver, on that score.

Then, too, the MPAA scale has gained jargon meaning, among US fans. When I post to fandom forums and comms, I find myself swinging back to the MPAA scale in order to communicate with my potential audience in a way the community consensus understands. Considering this, it seems to me that, at least in my parts of fandom, our subversion of MPAA is already sufficient to its task. If the rating were the only meta information available, then it would not be, but meta information has become a form of composition all its own, and, looking at it, I think this may be a good thing after all. We are not making movies; we are not publishing novels; we are writing fic, and that is a medium of its own that calls for and evolves its own framework.

We might, in fact, think of our use of the G-PG-R-NC-17 scale as fic of MPAA, a notion that rather appeals to me.

Jun. 16th, 2008

My Fandom History

So, while out browsing around, I stumbled across the fact that the fanhistory wiki has a listing for me. It’s based entirely on my ff.net account. As such it is laughably inaccurate. It did start me thinking, though, about what a more accurate version would look like, and I thought I’d give it a try. Not to post on fanhistory, because the people who run it tend to annoy me, but just to get it all down on pixels.

Herein lies the fandom history of Branch )
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May. 14th, 2008

The flexibility of orthography

So I was reading around on tvtropes.org recently and I read Spell My Name With An S, and I read Theme Naming, and I read Word Of God, and it all reminded me of the tangle that invariably comes up over the spelling of anime/manga names. Of course, any time we deal with a source from a different language the question of appropriate translation comes up, but names… names are special. Names get all the usual issues squared.

For one thing, there’s the basic issue of how one renders the sound of a language with a completely different writing system. In some ways, this is actually the easiest part; the only reason it’s complicated at all is that English has several standardized methods of romanizing any given Asian language to choose from. So some people write “Shaoran” and some write “Syaoran”, and if the two sides occasionally try to kill each other, well that’s fandom.

Things get more fun and exciting when the ‘Japanese’ name has, in fact, been taken from another language and there is a double transliteration to deal with. That adds the question of whether we should use a standardized English transcription of the original language (Xiao Lang) or a standardized transcription of the Japanese phonetic rendering (Shaoran).

Theoretically, an official romanization could resolve the question, but we run into complications there too. The original writer may or may not understand the rules of pronunciation and transcription for a) the original language or b) English if the two are different, and may or may not even be the source of the official information in question (aka Studio Minion Syndrome). This can leave us with romanizations like “Riza”, for a name pronounced ree-sah, which doesn’t make sense as an English spelling no matter how you slice it but almost everyone uses anyway just to stop the bickering. It’s just as bad when the official in question is an English speaker who doesn’t understand Japanese phonetic transcription of loanwords; that’s when we wind up with “Arukennymon” instead of “Arachnemon”.

Then, of course, there’s the problem that Japanese does not seem to have an official standardized system for kana-fication of other languages. The characters used to render Latinate or Germanic languages, especially, can vary, and the unwritten rules appear to be pretty constantly evolving. Complicating this basic problem, the same character often gets used for more than one sound. An extended terminal “ah” syllable may stand for an “er” or it may stand for an “a”. A terminal “su” may indicate an “s” or a “th”. If there is no official romanization or, better yet, if different official sources conflict, we’re left to guess and argue and act like there are spelling OTPs.

And that’s just for starters!

Because a number of anime/manga authors mess with the spelling of their characters’ names deliberately, usually in order to indicate that they are strange/futuristic/exotic. Consider the name Kira Yamato, about as Japanese a name as you can get, but spelled on the official website in katakana, the script used for foreign words. Consider K.T.’s penchant for putting extraneous double letters in the names of some characters, eg Nnoitra. Double letters in general seem to be a popular way to strange names, especially double L’s (Cagalli, Killua). And then, sometimes, the writer goes full bore and comes up with something like “Quwrof Wrlccywrlir” for a name pronounced “Kuroro Rushirufuru” (the historical betting leans toward the last name being an imported “Lucifer”).

That’s my personal line in the sand. If I look at it and say “it doesn’t make any sense”, even after thematic research, then I don’t care if it’s official, I’ll spell according to my own best guess. Milage varies on this, of course, and some fans hold by official spellings no matter how weird. All of which only goes to show, this is another debate that will never end. Ah, well, I suppose life would be boring if fans agreed on anything.

Apr. 14th, 2008

Momma Bear fandoms

Observing my own and others’ behavior over particular fandoms and associated canons, I had a thought. How many people have a Momma Bear fandom? That is, a canon that you automatically leap to the defense of?

It’s a canon that you love so much the rest of the fandom itself annoys you for not loving it enough. You probably know, deep in your heart, that the story has flaws. As long as you’re assured that you’re among other faithful, you may even discuss them: that this arc should have been paced more briskly or that season really didn’t do justice to Character X. But let an outsider, or even another fan, say the smallest disparaging thing, and you will leap instantly to defend the canon with tooth and claw, possibly out loud or maybe just in your head. After, you may well stalk around in a huff, muttering indignantly over these barbarians who just don’t get the brilliance of your precious canon. In extreme cases, you may even decide that person isn’t worth talking to in the future, because they clearly don’t understand the finer things in life.

So what do you think?  Do many people have this fan-quirk? Do you think it’s widespread, or a small-scale thing? *curious*

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Feb. 9th, 2008

Models and Representations

It strikes me that the model underlying OTW is not that of a hobby or advocacy organization, but rather that of a professional organization.

Consider MLA (professional organization of Language and Literature scholars in the US and a bit abroad). They offer advocacy services (check). They offer archiving services (check). They publish a journal (check). They offer a coherent public relations organ on behalf of their members, a group of people who cannot, in reality, reliably agree on what direction the sun rises in (check). They organize a convention (any day now, just watch).

While I find it ironic that this appears to be the model applied to what is, by definition thus far, an amateur concern, I don’t really think it will cause fandom to become a banana republic or wolves to descend or Atlantis to sink or any of the other more wild concerns that have been bruited about. Like any such organization, it only affects the people who choose to participate and has a far more limited scope than its participants, perhaps, wish to admit. Yes, journalists et al will be able to find it more easily, and may therefore be inclined to represent OTW as, well, representative.

But they’ve been doing that since forever, usually on the basis of single fans or similarly isolated groups. I can’t see anything new on that score.

I don’t see OTW kicking down anybody else’s sand castles, either, so if there’s a developing and vocal corner of fandom that is professionalized, articulate and willing to produce software and services for the common good… well then.

As long as they haven’t made non-discretionary and monopolistic deals requiring anyone to fork over absurd fees in order to get dissertations fic printed, I don’t see much problem.

This is not to say I think the debates should stop; far from it. Debates are what keep organizations like that honest. But flailing and wailing and predictions of Doom And Woe To The Apostate, that we can probably do without.

Not that I expect that to happen. This is fandom, after all.

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Dec. 2nd, 2007

A lot of people seem to miss it

A distinction that may assist in clarifying thought:

The practical business of the sciences is to figure out how to change the material world.

The practical business of the humanities is to figure out whether and how it is a good idea to do so.

Many have asked, whenever the various vields of the humanities are judged not sufficiently Serious and Morally Approved, what is the good of studying philosophy, literature, history, political science, etc. And the answer is not, as some philosophers would have it, “because it’s the most noble and spiritual thing possible to do”. The answer is, rather, “to figure ourselves out”–so that, hopefully, we can learn our own strengths and weaknesses and improve our lives without shooting our collective foot off.

History, stories, politics, they all tell of the patterns that human action and thought take. The better we understand those patterns, the better we can judge what effect a new technology or change may have on our lives, and how we need to prepare for it. Understanding isn’t a simple A to B line, though; you can’t just study Great Literature ™ and think that will give you all the understanding you need. Someone has to study everything, so you get the whole alphabet, so you have all the parts.

Studying in the humanities is about finding those parts, and every place you look, every sort of thing you study, is another piece, another letter, that you can add to the collective bag.

Unfortunately, the pretentious philosophers were often the ones with the money and influence to be heard, and their version still pollutes the mind of many an interlocutor, who then wants to know what on earth is so noble and spiritual about studying, for example, fanfic.

Well, you know, fanfic is probably Q.

It’s the wrong question, you see. It comes out of centuries on centuries of self-serving propaganda about what scholarship in the humanities is good for. Yes, Plato, I’m looking at you. And Confucius, you too. I mean, honestly.

There’s nothing especially noble about any of this. Rather is is a) potentially useful and b) a lot of fun. That’s it. And, really, what more can you ask from any activity?