“These forums for the common writer (fanfic communities) revive a form of storytelling that, like the Odyssey, “is not commissioned, nor is it paid for, nor is it ‘reviewed’, nor is it bought. It is not, as the term is usually applied, ‘published’. ‘Fanfic’ is part of an evolving online republic in which writing is not a commodity but a ‘conversation.’”—
I wonder if this is why any critical (that is, interpretive or evaluative) conversations about fic are so widely frowned on. If lit’s a commodity, it’s up for evaluation; if it’s a conversation, not so much. On Tumblr we’re discouraged from even mentioning tropes or turns of phrase that crop up in fandoms and become annoying clichés, because people who have unknowingly used them will feel criticized or hurt. (God knows I cringe in embarrassment when one’s pointed out that I’ve used—writerly egos are tissue-sensitive sometimes.) I think this may be a very good thing; I love the idea that fanfic is a community of writers-in-training, and I see how implied negative crit could shut new writers down. I’d like to think we can develop a new practice of evaluation based on positive criticism, pointing out in detail what works well and avoiding the negative crit that’s so often a staple of professional and academic commentary. Hm. Food for thought.
This is more or less something that occurred to me during the conversation with Jamison. I think for you — and her — it’s easy to automatically assume the position of humanities academia and focus on evaluating the works produced (fic, art, essays), just as it was incredibly easy for me to assume that the value in studying fandom was primarily in the people and culture itself. Neither of these positions is wrong, but holistically create the most complete perspective of acafandom. I think this is the main difference between acafandom and studying, say, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or Grendal or Wide Sargasso Sea, which are also transformative works but can be evaluated while divorced from fan culture. However, critical assessment of the products is hard to create without becoming part of the conversation itself unless if we bring in the the evaluation of others’ commentary.
I do agree with you that it’s disservicing fandom to not feel free to be critical of others’ works since there have definitely been times when I’ve held my tongue (or if I said something, authors complain about having their feelings hurt). But I would still err on the side of caution with that; telling everyone only that they’re great is not helping to develop writing talent but a number of fandom writers actively do not want to move into the arena of commoditized literature. Also, it’s the internet. Someone will inevitably be an asshole if you let them, and use that as an excuse.
I thought some of these comments raised some pretty important points about disciplinarity, and also that this was getting long and I just don’t really get how to truncate tumblr posts very well, so I made a new post about interdisciplinarity, disciplinarity, how my book isn’t (but still kind of is) academic, and above all, how I don’t experiment on human subjects.
"Experiment on human human subjects" is also a really nasty way of putting it. There is a whole area of science research — and I don’t even mean psychology/sociology/anthropology, I mean health science too — that is predicated on the furthering academic knowledge by talking to and interacting with participants. Literally, all we do is ask participants questions, observe them, and when called for, interact with them, and we draw conclusions [/change health systems] and write papers based on those conclusions. To be honest that doesn’t sound like it’s that different from the direction the study of fandom academia is going. If you want, I can run you through a whole IRB/consent acquisition procedure through science.
Except the only difference here is that we respect people’s requests not to participate. In a classroom observation, we’ll still observe kids whose parents said we can’t use their data. It sucks because we’re still gong through all this effort, but you know, sometimes that’s what academia is about: respecting other people’s boundaries.
This is the last I’m going to say on the subject. You have a right to your position, but all your arguments so far indicate it’s rather untenable. Drgirlfriend and I aren’t the only science academics in fandom who see consenting in this fashion — if you, or anyone else, wants to continue writing about fandom in this fashion, you’ll just have to keep arguing for your position. But to be honest, fandom values the right of its own to privacy and autonomy, and especially if you don’t see yourself as “one of us” [ie “considering myself a fan without exactly identifying as part of fandom”], then you’re just making yourself an enemy of the rest of us.
Chai, did you get my reply? I honestly can’t tell if you had, and the only way I can think of to verify would be email you, in which case I might as well have emailed you in the first place since that’s even less annoying formatting!
Sorry if the snips make the thread of this conversation confusing. I’m going to respond here, and then I’ll back away from the internet for a little while.
Anne, I’m glad you clarified. It sounds like in some instances, you were respectful of fans’ wishes. But, in other instances, you did not like the answer you were given, and so you decided not to ask anymore. Seeking consent is tricky that way, isn’t it?
That, to me, is not “putting your money where your mouth is.” That phrase implies that YOU are taking some level of risk upon YOURSELF to uphold your principles. The skin in the game is not yours, it belongs to the fan creators, and I’m really disappointed to hear that you did not feel it worth the effort to reach a solution that erred in favor of protecting those individuals. I think you could have limited your criticism to works that you had permission to quote, or spoken about works that you did not have permission to quote without including direct quotes, or worked around this limitation creatively in many different ways. If your literary arguments are so fragile that a quotation one way or another makes or breaks them then they seem to built upon shaky ground indeed.
You can speak about fair use and academic rigor and the standards in your field, but what I read is, “I realized I might hurt people and I was okay with that, because BOOK WITH MY NAME ON IT.”
So, yeah. It may be your mouth, and money in your pocket, but the cost is ours.
It is more than that. I do not agree that anyone needs permission to quote—within fair use—from publicly posted work. I hope it will be done respectfully, and I believe I have done it. Sometimes it will not be respectful, and I think people should prepare themselves for that risk. I thought about it a great deal, and I have come to think, rather, that encouraging and perpetuating the impression that people do need permission to quote from fanworks is actually damaging. I entirely respect your position, and know that many people share it. I don’t share it. I regret anything that I have done to encourage people in the notion that anything they do online is anything less than public. I do not think that quoting work is a sign of disrespect, endangerment, or exploitation.
This discussion has been totally fascinating to watch as an observer, and I find myself waffling back and forth as sound arguments are made on both sides.
In the end, though, I come down pretty firmly in Anne’s camp.
Academic work does not seek (nor should it, in my opinion, in order to retain critical distance) the permission of its subjects. In fact, when it does (and here I think of some of the art historical texts I’ve read that have had the collaboration of a living artist), I read it much more skeptically and have a much harder time buying it as unbiased.
If fandom is to take a serious place in that academic sphere, which is something I am SERIOUSLY in favor of, it should be able to stand up to the same treatment.
It’s nice and well and good to ask for permission, and I respect the kindness and good intentions behind the drive to ask for that permission. But to require that someone give permission to critique publicly posted, unlocked work seems diametrically opposed to the sharing of fanfic online.
In my mind it’s the difference between participating as a fan within a fannish community and participating as someone studying that community. Within fandoms, we tend to aim for supportive, permission-sharing types of dialogue. But, as is so clearly evidenced by all the emotions being raised by this very interesting debate, that does not lend itself to the kind of impartial/unbiased view that makes for good critical writing.
Maybe it’s because drgirlfriend and I come from the same discipline — science — but I’m sorry, the whole “for science!! academia!” argument just really doesn’t sit well with. I think that’s because science has a history of horribly misstepping and doing reallyfuckingawfulthings when no one’s looking over its shoulder, and the fallacy of self-moderating ethics is how we get there.
“Academic work does not seek (nor should it, in my opinion, in order to retain critical distance) the permission of its subjects. In fact, when it does (and here I think of some of the art historical texts I’ve read that have had the collaboration of a living artist), I read it much more skeptically and have a much harder time buying it as unbiased.
If fandom is to take a serious place in that academic sphere, which is something I am SERIOUSLY in favor of, it should be able to stand up to the same treatment.”
I just — from a moral perspective, the bolded statement horrifies me. I understand that the standard, again, in literary academia might be different but that doesn’t mean that literary academia shouldn’t be subject to ethical review when dealing with living subjects, like science is, especially when it comes to respecting a subject’s persons rather than just their works.
Also, to the second part of your statement? Anne Jamison herself said this about her work in this thread: “When I undertook to engage and present fan writing to a broader audience in print form, in a non-academic for-profit book…” So either Fic is an academic work that takes a critical perspective on fandom, or it’s not. It can’t conveniently be both. It’s fine if it’s the latter, in which, respectfully, Dr. Jamison is not subject to academic review (though I probably would not have purchased a copy had I know that), but it’s kind of disingenuous to say that academia should work a certain way when for a fact it frequently doesn’t.
And what kind of weak excuse is it to say, “If we treat our subjects with respect [with something like the courtesy of letting them know they’re being investigated] then we won’t be taken seriously in academia.” Academia is all about respectful criticism. What do else do you think peer review is, if not objective and emotionally detached but respectful invited criticism of your peers’ works?
Being rude is the opposite of the point of academia, and I can tell you for a fact that the city my school is in is quite hostile towards the university because so much of this kind of bullshit has gone on that they feel disrespected and it makes it so much harder to run new studies. If fandom feels disrespected, how do you think that’s going to affect future academic study of fandom?
wow i have grimm on in the background just to have something to watch while I work on some other stuff and episode two holy shit LILY WHITE PEOPLE WITH TOTEM POLES AND NATIVE TATTOS GOING ON AND ON ABOUT HONORING THEIR ANCESTOR NOPE WHO THE HELL APPROVED THIS SCRIPT
okay, real talk, i was downstairs eating dinner earlier and my dad just had TBS on in the background even though he was simultaneously watching a Chinese soap which drives me crazy, but King of Queens was on and like the main character went to a Chinese restaurant for some reason and I didn’t hear the dialogue but like, he either wanted to make a reservation and didn’t know what he was doing or??? but the host/waiter said something him — in perfect English — then they had a few more lines of dialogue later, like apparently he was finding it difficult or frustrating to communicate with the host, literally said: “Ching Chang Chong.”
And it was backed by a laugh track, indicating we were supposed to find it funny.
AHAHA RACISM IS SO HILARIOUS
Like I know these shows are super white and expect their audiences to be because it’s all super white humour, but what were you thinkIng when you wrote these scripts