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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Some Thoughts on Literary Snobbery

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Some Thoughts on Literary Snobbery

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earendil
Ever since the "Battling Bard incident" this spring, I seem to have earned myself a reputation as something of a crusader against flaming, bullying, and aggression in fandom. I say this on the basis of getting invited pretty regularly lately to comment on "anti-flaming" forums. I'm not displeased with this reputation; anyone who knows me knows that civility online and keeping fandom fun are issues that I feel quite passionately about. I also feel quite passionately about allowing young writers to experiment and find their voices, even if this means writing the most cringe-worthy fiction imaginable, littered with purple-eyed protagonists and gushy Mirkwood weddings, and slapping it up on the Internet for their friends--and all the world--to see.

But as a result of getting invited to comment on anti-flaming forums (and I'm chatty--or mouthy, if we're being nasty--so I always do), though, I've gotten to read a good bit of the "other side's" defense, i.e. those who are proud of the fact that they bully, harass, and intimidate beginning writers (read: young writers) on sites like fanfiction.net. This has been interesting because there are people on this side who feel as passionately as I do that they are doing the right thing in being, well, flamers. They embrace this designation that, to me, has always been an insult.

And I've noticed an interesting trend in their defense of their behavior. And it's not an unfamiliar argument, I just find it rather odd to see it in a fan fiction community.

A good number of these people see themselves as upholding "quality fiction" or maintaining a certain standard on sites that tend to lack in moderation. They see themselves as doing a service for badfic writers who don't realize that they're writing badfic and a service for the rest of us by cleansing sites of those who knowingly write and post badfic. I find this attitude egotistical and disturbing, not to mention ironic, given the sandbox in which they are playing.

For the record, I am not talking about sites that attempt to maintain standards of quality via restrictions on what can be posted (OSA, for example) or through peer review (HASA, for example). As a webmaster, I reserve the right to have whatever standards on my site that I feel are necessary and appropriate; if people don't like it, they are welcome to take their page clicks elsewhere or start their own sites. I am talking about individuals who go onto sites that they do not own, run, or moderate in any way and attempt to impose their own standards of quality using nasty, aggressive tactics to drive away the writers and stories that they feel are subpar.

The egotism of this boggles me ... yet I know I should not be surprised. I'm no stranger to literary snobbery, only I find it a bit odd when I find it rearing its ugly head in fanfic. Why? Because fanfic is still the red-headed bastard of the fiction world. Pretty much everyone outside of our own community hates us. As much as we like to claim that we're taking back our folkloric roots by changing and adding to established stories, much like the oral tradition of days of yore, there are some--perhaps many, or a majority--in the "real" writing world who don't see us that way. Are we purveyors of literature? Or harmlessly annoying like legions of teenage fans crawling onto a rock star's limo? Are we unethical in what we do? Disrespectful? Criminal?

I've found the "real" writing world to be full of snobbery. Mainstream and literary writers look down on those who pen "genre," dismissing it as plot-based, formulaic tripe. Both the literary/mainstream and genre writers look down on fanfic writers, who (many believe) lack the creativity to come up with their own stuff. It seems that no matter the writing niche, people are quick to find another type of writer who is inferior to them, who shouldn't be writing. For example, I was not permitted to write "genre" fiction as part of my very proper literary education because even the best fantasy, horror, sci-fi, romance, or whatever was inherently inferior to the worst literary by virtue of falling under the broad (and vaguely defined) definition of "genre." And within genres, there are sub-genres that are generally reviled more than others. I've seen fantasy authors scathe sword-and-sorcery stories, for example, as inferior to the "purer" fantasy that they write. Within the sword-and-sorcery niche, I imagine (but don't know for sure) a loathing for all stories that appear to be based too heavily on the D&D formula. I suppose the next lowest form of fiction (by these standards) is fan fiction about D&D or other formulaic sword-and-sorcery stories. And so it goes. Everyone defines their affiliation as a writer, in part, by who and what they hate.

So, given that many of our fellow writers feel that we are a waste of talent and shouldn't be writing at all, I find it odd when fanfic writers turn into snobs. I know, I shouldn't be surprised. But I have this gallant vision of the oppressed fanfic masses creating something of a literary utopia where all live and let live in terms of creativity, inspired by their own mistreatment at the hands of the "real writers" to recognize the inherent good of a creative act.

I know. I'm a pie-eyed optimist. 8^)

Instead, I see writers trying to "cleanse" sites of badfic writers, trying to force revisions upon authors who don't want to make changes, and exacting retribution on authors who continue to defy their narrow ideas of "canon" or "quality."

Is there some inherent urge, upon declaring oneself a "writer," to immediately define which writers are undeserving of the same honor? Because I see it again and again and again ... and among communities of writers--like fan fiction writers--who should know by virtue of their own ostracism from the mainstream world of fiction how hurtful and silly this sort of behavior is.

I suspect that this is a convenient way to become a "good writer" without ever having to actually become a good writer. After all, if one prefaces her entry into the world of fiction-writing by immediately declaring other authors, sub-genres, and interpretations as being unworthy of consideration, that narrows the field of competition quite a bit. (Because one of those Mary Sue authors might turn into a really good writer after ten years practice. How embarrassing! Or a science fiction story might be more profound and moving than a literary story. Also, embarrassing.) And in intimidating new writers and young authors, such writers create an immediate aura of respect for themselves. "Wow! Look at all the rules she said I broke in my story! She must really know what she's talking about!" (In fact, no, anyone who cites "rules" or "absolutes" in fiction knows diddly-squat about what she's talking about. There are conventions in writing but no rules.) This is much easier than earning respect by giving thoughtful, kind advice to those who want it and respecting those who don't and parting ways. Because those who want concrit are usually the ones less apt to be impressed by the rote recitation of comma rules learned in the fifth grade.

Hey, there are genres and styles and whatnot in both original and fan fiction that I don't personally enjoy as a reader. But you know what? Someone does. Just because I don't like bodice-rippers or Westerns or Mary Sues ... someone, somewhere in this world really does. And they have every right to enjoy what they like to read, just as I do.

And somewhere is a teenager rolling her eyes at what boring windbags we old-lady "serious types" are about our fan fiction, which is, after all, meant to be all about fun, frivolity, and marrying Legolas astride a unicorn. Who am I to argue with that?
  • I think some people believe it is their job to criticize the universe. It makes my head hurt.

    And besides, you are one of the best and most articulate writers I know. *nods knowingly*

    <3

    Do you like blinkies, hon?
  • I think you've nailed it. Folks who are out to 'clean up' places like ff.net are either painfully naive, or (more often) doing it as a way to feel superior to 'those other crappy authors' (whose literary sin is often nothing more than having a different take on the subject than the flamer does). In the end, it's about the flamer's ego, not the literary quality (or lack of it) of their favored targets.
  • I could be wrong, but I think I know who you are talking about here. I keep an eye on the place, just so I know what they're up to. Their attitude disgusts me as they are forcing people into writing what *they* see as good and are deeply condescending.

    I am very much against flaming. OK, there is a lot of crap out there. But you simply do not know if that girl who wrote the mary-sue with the multi-coloured eyes might one day go on to get her name in the bestseller charts - if left to continue writing and growing.

    One of the people in 'this place' was largely responsible for an author I greatly respected stopping writing a truly wonderful story that many were enjoying. That is something I can not easily forgive and I do not understand how they can take pleasure in this.

    Also, as you said, this is about FUN. We write because we like doing it, whatever kind of story we favour. Once the fun leaves, the writers will to. And if people continue to flame, the fandom they profess to love will eventually just die.
    • I think I know the place you're talking about. ;) I'm not referring to any individual or group, per se; I've seen this attitude expressed by several different people, largely on the Pit of Voles, but in other Tolkien forums as well.

      I do not understand how they can take pleasure in this.

      Because it's a lot easier to tear someone else down than to work as hard as they do to achieve the same thing, I suspect. :)

      For example, I work for hours each day on writing-related practice and activities. I see improvement in my writing, yes, but considering how hard I work, I think that glaciers might move faster!

      Or the time that I spend on practicing, polishing, perfecting, and yes, reading other authors whom I admire, all in the name of improving my own writing, I could spend insulting those authors in an attempt to install myself at the top by default when they grow frustrated and quit or go elsewhere.

      I think it's important to keep in mind that the time these people spend tearing down the work of others they are not spending on their own craft. And given the proliferation of flames by some of them on ff.net, negativity is a full-time job for them.

      What does that say about how they approach writing?

      Also, as you said, this is about FUN.

      Yes! :) I like to say, when you stop having fun, it's okay to call it quits. Maybe even advisable. Fan fiction should not cause ulcers or sleepless nights, imho! :)
  • Just because I don't like bodice-rippers or Westerns or Mary Sues ... someone, somewhere in this world really does.

    *raises hand proudly for bodice-rippers!!*

    Hey, it is romance, and that's what I like to read. And double the points for steamy love scenes. Some books have lots of sex, others not nearly enough *giggle*. But I read them for the story as well. And of course, because I know that they'll end up with a happy-ever-after.

    But I'll agree that I'm not much into westerns (ie, Louis Lamour) either. As for Mary Sues, I read more for the comedic value than anything... when I actually read a Mary Sue.

    'Course, one could say that in a so-called bodice-ripper, the heroine suffers somewhat from a Sue complex. Which is rather humorous sometimes. ;-)
    • There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking bodice-rippers! Because you know what? I have a soft spot for those D&D-based sword-and-sorcery stories. Even the really bad ones. ;) We like what we like, and there's nothing wrong with that.

      I should also add that I have not forgotten your beta. I've been swamped and have used your quiet muses as an excuse to poke along myself ... I will try my hardest to get it back to you this week! I'm so sorry for being a slug.
  • I honestly wonder what makes those people tick. And then I realize...I don't wanna know. I mean, there's a forum on the Pit where they say they're offering- I dunno- offering to help writers improve and whatnot. When I visited it, I came across the most *pretentious* people who were preemptively rude to those they reviewed- I'm sorry, offered *advice*. I can't stand people like that.

    (The owner of said forums left a review for one of my favourite authors on FF.net, advising her to get her a beta (that's how I found her forums in the first place). I'm afraid that got my back up even more. :\ )

    which is, after all, meant to be all about fun, frivolity, and marrying Legolas astride a unicorn.

    xD

    And a (belated) Happy Birthday to Alex!! He's such a handsome, grown up doggy, yes he is...

    Oh, and *pokes* ;).
    • You're probably on forums with the same people that I've been encountered. There is one in particular in the Tolkien section who offers "concrit" to those writers whom she feels have potential, only she does it in the most condescending way. She told someone on my flist that "if you fix these things, I'll add you to my C2 of good stories." WTF?!? Is that supposed to be a reward? To get added to some random, rude moron's C2?

      But she's another of the flamers who is just "trying to clean up the website." I told her that she might want to consider visiting another archive, since ff.net has always been for mostly new and younger writers who don't "take their writing as seriously." Of course, she won't leave. They never do because half the fun for them is having those sorts of writers around, so that they can become better writers without actually having to become better writers.

      Alex says thanks and sends *kisses*! :)
  • I think someone who did have the honest goal of improving young writers would go about it differently. You are right that there's more to it, and it's likely a snobbish, superiority thing. But most of the 'spoofs' are just a reaction to badfic in general, and are not aimed at a particular example (the MST3K of 'Legolas, Back to the Future' being an exception). So there are ways of letting off steam without flaming!

    Yes, there are sites with standards, where they will not let you upload anything until it's gone through at least a grammar check. And others put limits on adult material, or worse yet, the dreaded Mary Sue ;). But there should be places in the world where people can post whatever they want....and ff.net is one such place. For this reason, I seldom go there without a rec, or unless I've read the author's work elsewhere. But it's good to know that it is there and waiting, should I ever want to check it out.

    Unlike other genres, fanfic is very meticulous about warnings. So, I don't have to read mpregs and rape fics if I don't want to. If a flamer did not heed the warnings...it's their own stupid fault. Usually, a Mary Sue story is recognizable from the description or the first few pages. If you don't want to read about the girl with the purple eyes, killer wardrobe and punky attitude wowing the elves of Mirkwood....then don't.

    I would not flame a writer, I hope. I might choose not to comment, or rather focus on one thing they did well. Or maybe point out something in the story that 'surprised' me or seemed out of character. But I know how vulnerable it makes you to post work for the world to see, and I would hate to dash the hopes of a beginning writer. The first story I wrote had no plot. It was 'yea! hobbits!' and I just wrote it to have fun. I sent it to a beta (whose stories I admired), and she very gently pointed out to me that not much seemed to be happening in my story. I nearly cried - and I was over 21 when that happened! But I took her advice, edited the story (a bit, not nearly as substantially as it needed), and then posted it. I think my next story was better, though I am still just a beginning writer.

    So, keeping that in mind, I try to be careful with my criticism, and not offer more than is wanted. But that doesn't mean I don't make mistakes! Maybe the author wanted to write fluff, and wasn't trying to make the scenario believable. My pointing out that things seemed a little too 'convenient' wouldn't go over well, and I should just shut up. One time I overstepped this bound was when someone basically advertised a vanity-press 'original' novel in a forum discussing all types of books (ie, not fanfic)...which was extremely derivative of LotR, and riddled with typos. I pointed out 8 on the first two pages, without being asked to. My intent was to be constructive, and I bit my tongue (hard)...but I think I was supposed to say 'yay you wrote a book that's wonderful!!!' Even if he was offering his book for sale.

    But I find that this tendency to be 'nice' in reviews means that I might be dishonest, and say what I really think elsewhere. I'm not sure that bad-mouthing someone behind their back is any more polite than flaming...it's just less direct. So maybe I should be more careful about that. For instance, if ever I have to explain to someone what a Mary Sue is, I generally link to an example. I much prefer being a beta, so that I can gush about the wonderful parts of a story while still pointing out 'this part made no sense,' or 'this smacks of authorial insertion.'
    • You still can be nice in a review and still offer concrit. Its all about the tone and the way you bring it. Making demands isn't one of them, that's for sure. For me there is a huge difference between acting like a beta and a reviewer. As a beta I am aiming to help the author to improve their skill with what I know and have learnt. Sometimes that is a journey together as well, as a reviewer I tell the writer how the story came across to me (yes this means muting your inner editor) and instead of summing up the typos you can gently say for example: I think it wouldn't hurt if you let someone else go over it. Or: I really loved your fluffy hobbits, to me it seemed that they were so captivated by the moment, that there is no thought for what will happen next (basically expressing why there wasn't a plot to me as a reader, but I still am not passing any judgement). As a writer you constantly grow, when you look back years later you will see the hops of improvement you made, its there! *shuts up now*
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  • Are there more Battling Bards wandering around again? The newest one I have come across is quite funny actually. hehe

    Though you are so right, and these people are such hypocrites too. They accused you of being arrogant and snobby but they are being the same by perusing the categories of ffnet trying to bannish "bad" writers.
  • I occasionally engage in some borderline snarky discussions on a site (Garden of Ithilien) where I have often posted unfinished work for criticism and help. But that is principally with writers who have been doing this longer than me (and where I've often been knocked down a peg or two for my laziness and/or playng fast and loose with Tolkien's "morals"--but I did at least learn what POV is there). Anyway, my point is I started reading your headline "Thought on Literary Snobbery" and I think, "OMG she's talking about me!" But then I realized that--aside from the fact it is not always all about me something us sensitive writers sometimes have trouble remembering and also because, if I do engage in such activities it is in private or semi-private and with writers who are better than me or at least think they are...and are more than able to defend themselves.

    In fact, in general, I tend to swing the other way more often than not. If I offer criticism (even pointing out typos or grammatical errors) I don't do in a public forum (unless I personally know the author and know his/her ego is impervious and they would want to know if there was an teeny error and it's the quickest way to let them know). Just last night I commented on a story on the Pit of Voles that had a lot of errors and could be greatly improved by a strong edit, but it had content and heart. I did not know the author--did not know if perhaps they were very young, or even wrote English as a second language, or perhaps posted the story for fun and once posted considered it done for whatever it was worth, so I limited my comments to stating that I liked it and noting the ways in which it moved me. I can't imagine doing a nasty critique of a story like that. If she had said something like "Let me know if you notice any errors" then I might have written her a private email.

    I can't even begin to wonder what a flame of the nature of the type Dawn is talking about could do to a beginning writer. I am still afraid to post a few of my personally most-loved stories on the Pit of Voles, because I don't want Homer's mitts on them.
    • I occasionally engage in some borderline snarky discussions on a site (Garden of Ithilien) where I have often posted unfinished work for criticism and help.

      But that's so different from what flamers do. One of the writers whom I respect the most on my flist is also one with whom I've had discussions about writing that might, in the end, be accurately described as "teeth and nails." We both tend to be are stubborn and know that the other doesn't mind a spirited debate, so when we disagree, I suppose that it can look ugly to an outsider.

      I will also challenge betas and reviewers on points with which I don't agree. Sometimes, this can reveal where the real problem is or help me to understand what I need to fix … or help them to understand why I don't. :)

      But that's totally different from trashing a new or young writer simply to make myself look more impressive.

      if I do engage in such activities it is in private or semi-private and with writers who are better than me or at least think they are...and are more than able to defend themselves.

      Exactly. I have no qualms with knock-down, drag-out arguments over stories … but I insist upon a worthy opponent who's up for that sort of thing. :)

      If I offer criticism (even pointing out typos or grammatical errors) I don't do in a public forum

      Exactly. :) Another question I have asked of flamers and never gotten a decent answer to is why it is so hard to type a comment, email, or PM asking, "Are you open to concrit?" Because one of the arguments flamers use is that they are only frustrated with authors ignoring or outright rejecting their concrit, so they turn to flaming the person instead as a "wake-up call" about how truly bad their stories are.

      But as I like to point out, there are many reasons for not making suggested changes that have nothing to do with the perceived worth (or lack thereof) of the concrit. Most stories that I post on the Pit, for example, have been going through revisions for months. Many have been read and critiqued already on my LJ or by a beta. I am done with that story. And while I never mind concrit, I'm also not looking to leap into another round of revisions. So I usually thank the reviewer but rarely get around to making the suggested changes.

      There is an assumption in fandom (that I find strange, again, being as it is at odds with the "real writing" world) that everything posted on an archive is undergoing constant revision. There is the perception that fanfic works are never finished. We lack a clear terminus--like getting an o-fic story published--that indicates that a story is done, both in terms of writing and revision. Many of my fanfic stories have reached that point, yet I will continue to get concrit and continue to annoy people when I'm not rushing to apply it.

      Just last night I commented on a story on the Pit of Voles that had a lot of errors and could be greatly improved by a strong edit, but it had content and heart.

      And you know what else? I don't think that picking on typos is really a critique at all. It's a copyedit, and a person can have that done professionally for a small fee. It is the more insightful comments and critiques that make a review or beta-read worthwhile.

      So I never pick on typos unless the author specifically asks for it.

      I'd sooner read a story with content and heart that misses the occasional comma or forgets "I before E except after C" than a technically perfect piece that is utterly bland.
  • Mainstream and literary writers look down on those who pen "genre," dismissing it as plot-based, formulaic tripe.

    My mom and I do a lot of ranting about this! (What's funny is when so many literary magazines say "We don't accept genre fiction" or "We only accept non-genre pieces," you have to wonder if "non-genre" is really a genre and they just don't want to admit it. Frankly, "non-genre" stuff all sounds the same to me... :P)

    I suspect that this is a convenient way to become a "good writer" without ever having to actually become a good writer.

    Heh heh, I can definitely understand this! I admit that sometimes I wonder if the only reason I'm a "good writer" is because I just talk a lot about writing. ;)
    • I totally agree with you and your mom that "literary" and "mainstream" are themselves genres. I think it was tehta who always used to talk about "New-Yorker-type stories." I used to laugh at this because I knew exactly what she meant!

      The thing is that every "genre" has its own conventions and trends. Literary is no exception to that. And each has its quirks that are utterly annoying to an outsider.

      For example, my next-door neighbor loaned me a novel written by an old girlfriend of his. It's literary. I decided to give it a shot and found my fingernails gouging my palms more often than not because one of her PoV characters is a stodgy blue-collar factory worker who is nonetheless prone to flights of rambling introspection and navel-gazing. I kept wanting to say to the author, "No one thinks this way! Even I don't think this way, and I'm a writer and more prone than usual to rambling, introspection, and navel-gazing!" But hey, some people like this. It's no worse than the sci-fi convention that stories are based on scientific concepts, which annoys some and delights others.

      Also, genre occurs on a continuum, and pretending otherwise is (imho) naïve. For example, is Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale literary or sci-fi? I was once told by a professor that sci-fi takes place in a horrific future world. So THT is sci-fi then and we can stop treating it seriously? Now what about LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness? It has aspects in common with THT, yet it is solidly considered sci-fi. Surely, most of the professors who taught me don't take TLHoD seriously. Maybe they should. It's more insightful than the literary novel I read before it. Joyce Carol Oates writes stories that span literary and horror. I suppose that we will stop taking her seriously now too because she writes "genre fic"?

      Even between o-fic and fanfic, the line becomes blurred. Neil Gaiman has published stories based on The Chronicles of Narnia. I've read them; the only reason people don't call them "fanfic" is because … well, it's Neil Gaiman. If I wrote the same story, though, it would only find home on ff.net.
  • The Battling Bard: With the ego of Napoleon and the talent of Paris Hilton.

    God, I cracked up when I saw that. Someone hit the nail on the head...
  • I want to begin by saying that of course people who take upsetting others, and driving them away, as a (possibly even noble!) goal are thoroughly unpleasant individuals. And I do agree that the impulse to look down on other writers is usually driven by ego. However... I am not sure that this impulse is always really about those other writers, or about feeling superior. I think it can be purely about trying to soothe one's own writerly inferiority complex, with the other authors just bystanders, not targets.

    What I mean is: I have snobbish impulses myself. They usually arise because I am incredibly insecure about my writing, both in terms of talent and skill, and whenever I think I have figured out part of the "skill" aspect (like POV, or avoiding metaphors where the mood is at odds with the meaning, or ) I start noticing stories where it is not handled so well* and going, "Oooh, here's a mistake I know how to fix! I know *something* at least!"


    * No, there are no strict rules in writing, only conventions, but some of the conventions are very sensible, and breaking them *accidentally* rather than deliberately almost always weakens the story.
    • Since LJ decided to post my comment before I pressed anything: the point of it was to say that I don't think I am the only person with these unfortunate tendencies, and that snobbery is really not always about looking down on other people--at least not any more than it is about looking down on oneself and one's own efforts. Figuring how to write well is so confusing, it's such a relief to find some points of reference. (E.g., that "Running across the room, his aquamarine orbs drank in the erotic sight of her like a child drinking greedily at his mother's breast" is not the most fortunate sentence.)
  • Funny enough, some of the best writers I know (or well, those I like "best"), are very very considerate in their criticism, while the harshest critics often are very, very mediocre writers. ;)
    • I really don't think that's a coincidence either. :) On the Critters workshop, we are taught to think of our critiques as a piece of writing aimed at an audience of one. And just as we don't want readers to run screaming and gagging from our stories (usually :^P), neither should we want authors to run screaming and sobbing from our critiques.

      Personally, I pretend that I'm talking face to face with the person. It's hard to be rude then. Or I pretend that I'm writing a critique to a published author that I admire so that I don't forget that the person on the receiving end of the critique could possibly be older and wiser than me.
  • Ahhh, we've talked about this often enough so that I basically only need to say that you know that I agree with you all the way.

    I think you really nailed it when you said: "Everyone defines their affiliation as a writer, in part, by who and what they hate."

    But the problem I see is that it doesn't stop at or hinge on the fact of being a writer. The same thing happens concerning what you like to read. Or who you vote for.

    Dislike, contempt, hate are widely used as the means of distinguishing levels of like, of what it is appropriate to enjoy. Think of reviews of books or movies (not professional ones in magazines, but on blogs) - it gets you much more attention and applause if you're destructive, if you stomp on something than if you are constructive, if you say you love something, that something inspires you.

    Because "we don't do nice". Nice is weak. Idealism of any kind is just another word for a mental disability.

    And just think of the many people out there who think they need to "save" you, because they know better than you do what is good for you concerning political decisions, moral attitudes, societal values, religious choices ... why should it be any better in literature or fanfic?

    Literature is a mirror and a filter for what happens in our world, in our lives, and fanfic is closer to the nitty-gritty-nutty-scratty ugliness of real life than "real" literature.

    Add to that the fact that the idea that humility is a virtue has long since run out of acclaim AND the fact that we are really, really not prepared for handling mistakes and failure of any kind.

    From the earliest age we get trained to make no mistakes, and to succeed at all costs. The idea that failing (failing at writing a perfect story)may actually be the greatest success (by succeeding at writing a *touching* story or succeeding at growing as a writer and/or a person) is completely alien to our culture.

    *sigh*

    Now I need more coffee ...
    • Dislike, contempt, hate are widely used as the means of distinguishing levels of like, of what it is appropriate to enjoy.

      Exactly. :) People are always so quick to categorize themselves based on what they unequivocally like and dislike. I find this really difficult--and distasteful--to do personally.

      Because sometimes it feels like the world is trying to prove me wrong whenever I make a statement like this. For example, I used to insist that I hated fantasy, in particular the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien.

      We see where that got me. :)

      Or I'll look with scorn--for lack of understanding--at things that other people enjoy: role-playing, Renaissance Faires, tabletop gaming … I used to look down on all of these things, at one time.

      We see where that got me.

      I like to think that I've since learned that while it's perfectly acceptable for me to understand that generally I don't like X, then in all likelihood, there is an example of X out there that I will adore and that might change my mind about all of X. And that it's a really bad idea to knock it if I haven't tried it. :)

      it gets you much more attention and applause if you're destructive, if you stomp on something than if you are constructive, if you say you love something, that something inspires you.

      Because "we don't do nice".


      Argh! This annoys me so badly. Things that make us happy or that are fun are inherently inferior to those that are dark and depressing.

      The ability to enjoy things that are fun and make us happy indicates weakness, as you said.

      So a young teenager that likes Legomances is stupid and weak compared to those who tear those stories down. They are wise and powerful … why?

      It is very frustrating, in part because I tend to be an idealist (who knew?), and when I love, tend to do so with passion.

      fanfic is closer to the nitty-gritty-nutty-scratty ugliness of real life than "real" literature.

      This is such a great point, something that I've understood intuitively without ever seeing it put so cleanly into words. :)

      I think this is probably why I sometimes find myself using "fanfic" and "fandom" interchangeably, because it's hard to know where the literary form ends and the culture begins.

      The idea that failing (failing at writing a perfect story)may actually be the greatest success (by succeeding at writing a *touching* story or succeeding at growing as a writer and/or a person) is completely alien to our culture.

      I hope that I never reach the point where I feel that I have become a perfect writer or written a perfect story.

      I'm very hard on myself, as a writer. I know that this upsets people sometimes that I will spend hours on a story to tear it--and myself--apart in the end. But in a way, I'm proud that something I wrote six months ago is already beneath what I could write today. That a story that was the best I could do when it was written is no longer the best I can do, and that I know why.

      Admitting that I have so much to learn--as a writer, reader, and wanderer upon Earth--has let me grow. I feel sorry for those who always know without a doubt that they are right about something, who know the "rules" and can define "quality" just by looking into an OFC's eyes. ;)

      Now I need more coffee ...

      Save some for me? I'll bring the pie. ;)
  • Erm... I don´t think I have anything constructive to add to the discussion, mostly because any of my mail friends will tell you that I have been saying those same things to whoever wanted to hear me (and some who didn´t) for years.

    Still, I have to admit that... I´m curious. I missed that "Battling Bard" incident. The name immediately clicked in my mind, because this "Battling Bard" person reviewed a fic of mine a couple of times, and seemed to like it. I think I might also have corresponded and reviewed some of that person´s stories. But I had no idea of which kind of person he or she was, or that he or she had had fights with other people. Could anyone please tell me what this incident was about?

    Thanks.
  • I tend to believe that people's general lack in tolerance is the main device of behavior such as you described above. Or maybe I should say: their morbid intolerance. And fandom is an easy target if one wants to play at being a sort of god -- people don't have to pay in cash (or whatnot) for getting in, it only requires a click to log on, and wooo hooo! One can show their so-called superiority by bashing any thing they dislike. They somehow forget, or don't want to remember, that it sometimes takes years to gain proficiency in the field of choice, be it literature or any other form of art, and also fan fiction.

    Hey, there are genres and styles and whatnot in both original and fan fiction that I don't personally enjoy as a reader. But you know what? Someone does. Just because I don't like bodice-rippers or Westerns or Mary Sues ... someone, somewhere in this world really does. And they have every right to enjoy what they like to read, just as I do.

    We can shake hands here. I use to say something similar about slash. I don't read/write it because I don't like it, but I know many people who like the slash genre. But oh please, if someone dislikes a particular kind of stories, there's no obligation to read them! There's a small button in the right upper corner of the screen, with an X on it. Just click it, it's easy, I would say to all those hypocrites who think their lifetime mission is to tell others what they should/shouldn't like, do, write, read etc. I call them hypocrites because they stubbornly read what they consider crap and even make a (problematic) virtue of being such martyrs. *sarcastic snort*

    On a more personal note; having been smashed against the wall of people's stupidity, cruelty and intolerance myself, I am now very reluctant to poke my head out of my comfy shelter. I seldom go out there and post anything. Yeah, it's cowardice, I know. *sigh*

    Thanks :)
    • They somehow forget, or don't want to remember, that it sometimes takes years to gain proficiency in the field of choice, be it literature or any other form of art, and also fan fiction.

      This can be really frustrating to me, to see people whom I know have devoted years to studying writing and Tolkien have their hard work trashed by some moron who simply doesn't agree with them. It's not enough to admit a difference of opinion and part ways respectfully; no, one must always kick and scream and become vehemently opposed to what one does not agree with.

      Tolkien's canon is not so simple. I say this all of the time without making much of an impression where an impression needs to be made. I've seriously studied Tolkien's canon for about three years now. And I still feel like a beginner, like there's so much more to learn.

      We can shake hands here. I use to say something similar about slash. I don't read/write it because I don't like it, but I know many people who like the slash genre. But oh please, if someone dislikes a particular kind of stories, there's no obligation to read them!

      Exactly! And as was commented further up the thread, fanfic is unique among forms of literature in that one almost always knows exactly what kind of story one is about to read.

      Stories come not only with summaries but with ratings, warnings, and pairings. Every archive I know requires the first two; many require the last two as well. On SWG, for example, if you write slash, then you must label it as such.

      But in the "real" world, it doesn't work this way. And so fanfic readers rarely have ignorance as an excuse for reading slash when they hate slash, AU when they hate AU, or whatever. And I've found that one of the few values shared across fandoms and by almost everyone within fandom is that it is the right and proper thing to rate and provide adequate warnings on a story requiring them. The fandom largely self-polices this.

      The software we use on SWG won't even allow me to remove the rating. I can remove nearly anything else but not the rating. I see this as another example of how important, then, ratings are to fandom communities. (Because original fiction sure isn't rated!)

      On a more personal note; having been smashed against the wall of people's stupidity, cruelty and intolerance myself, I am now very reluctant to poke my head out of my comfy shelter. I seldom go out there and post anything. Yeah, it's cowardice, I know. *sigh*

      Now I don't agree with you here. ;) I don't think that it's cowardice at all. This is supposed to be fun, so dammit, we're allowed to have fun! And if we're not having fun, we're allowed to go someplace where we can have fun! ;)

      There are masochists people like me who don't mind confrontation when confrontation is needed. One might say that this is fun for me, or at the end of the day, at least worth the unpleasantness it causes me, when I believe in the cause I stand up for. This cause is largely the right to--you guessed it!--have fun with what amounts to a frivolous hobby, not to have to bring the pressures of "real life" into my leisure time.

      At the same time, you'll note that I do most of my posting in the comfy shelter of my LJ or the nearly-as-comfy shelter of SWG. I choose my battles. So if you're a coward, then I am too. :)
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