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Before | After

Day 4

In your own space, create a fanwork. Make a drabble, a ficlet, a podfic, or an icon, art or meta or a rec list. Arts and crafts. Draft a critical essay about a particular media. Put together a picspam or a fanmix. Write a review of a Broadway show, a movie, a concert, a poetry reading, a museum trip, a you-should-be-listening-to-this-band essay. Compose some limericks, haikus, free-form poetry, 5-word stories. Document a particular bit of real person canon. Take some pictures. Draw a stick-figure comic. Create something. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

Well, this one's a lot harder. I'd love to write something ficcy, but after four stories in four weeks plus a vid, I'm running on empty right now and trying desperately to get something going on a fic I left off a while ago.

But I've been meaning to write this meta post for a long time, so…

I've been thinking a lot about how fandom, specifically this corner of fandom that sprang from the early days of Star Trek (when at that time, fan culture predominantly revolved around literature in the science fiction and fantasy realms), has become mainstream. Enough so that now publishers are taking fanfic, filing off the serial numbers, and publishing it as original fiction, and Entertainment Weekly is hosting a fanfic contest, and Amazon's trying to capitalize on fandom with a fanfiction publishing scheme. Fewer and fewer fan-run cons that are just for fans are happening; these days it's all about the huge ComicCons and Wizard Worlds, where people have to pay big bucks for the opportunity to see their favorite celebs. Money is king at the sites where fans have mostly migrated, such as Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook, who only care about advertiser investment. Any of us who post vids to YouTube or Vimeo know how quickly a vid will get banned or blocked or just disappeared--all because of license agreements with music companies (mostly, some video producers will do it too), historically the most notorious business for screwing people over for what they perceive to be a profit threat.

And the newer generation of fans, man of whom have no idea of the history that's out there and may not ever connect with other fans beyond follows and friends lists, who may never delve into the history of how hard fans had to work to have their creations shared, are often unaware of the fact that fanworks have historically not been public, have not been out there where just anyone could find them with a quick internet search. That a lot of people didn't even know what slash was, for instance, because zines had to be sold under the table since they were considered porn and a violation, even if there was nothing explicit in them. Or that most people had to buy tapes, and later DVDs, to find vids, because the equipment was monumentally expensive and difficult to learn and there was no such thing as streaming. Everything was done from fan to fan, and people had to connect with each other in order to get content.

And it was decidedly not public. To be public usually brought scorn and ridicule, and since so much of media fandom, as opposed to the SF or comics world, was created by women, we were even more likely to get scorn heaped on us. Sometimes people were even threatened by participation--I know of at least two people whose partners used their fannish activities against them in divorce proceedings, and one person who was outed at her job for writing explicit slash by someone who disliked her. Read Fanlore and find out about the actions Lucasfilm took against Star Wars zine producers. It was just not a friendly world at all, outside the walls of our little castle.

So it's been a hard road, sometimes, for people who started out when fandom was not talked about outside of fandom, when your porn fantasies or vids about your crush object weren't likely to be discovered by People Who Didn't Get It. We used to call those folks "mundanes." We weren't creating fanworks that would be read or viewed by mundanes, we were creating them for our fellow fans who squeed with us over the same things, who loved the same actors or musicians or athletes we did, who adored the same tropes we did. Who wanted to talk endlessly about the way those two characters gazed into each other's eyes or the way you just knew that the singer and the guitarist were knocking boots because of the way they interacted on stage. Who respected the boundaries of the fandom universe.

In short, to quote Dr. Frank N. Furter, "I didn't make him for you." Our fanworks are not created for nonfans.

The main reason I've been thinking about this so much, aside from things like articles about EW's stupid little fanfiction contest coming across my dashboard, is that a while ago I got the most delightfully hilarious comment on a YouTube video, and it reminded me that there are all these people out there now consuming our fannish content who just have absolutely no freaking clue that our content is not meant for them. They don't get it. They don't understand what fannish vids are, or what fanfic really means to the readers in the fandom. It doesn't stop them from sharing their opinions, of course.

So the vid in question was one I made a few years ago for Vividcon, a Miami Vice vid I've wanted to make pretty much since I discovered vids back in the early '90s. It was to Peter Gabriel's Red Rain, a song that was used on the show in one of the later season episodes. But that wasn't why I wanted to make the vid, in fact, I'd actually forgotten Red Rain was used at all until…I got this YouTube comment from an actor who was in the episode where it was used.

This is GREAT... But actually RED RAIN was used in STONE'S WAR episode when I killed Lonette McKee... Check out the episode if you can. It's a classic! As are all the Vice's Trivia... G. Gordon Liddy returned as Capt Maynard and played my handler in that episode.... Bob Balaban played Ira Stone.

So, I laughed and laughed and laughed when I got this. Because he felt compelled to tell me that I was using the song wrong! It was only used in that episode, and I messed it up by putting all these other episodes to the song! And clearly you never saw that episode or you would not have used the song incorrectly, so here it is, go watch!

It never occurred to him, I guess, that if there were clips from, like, 20 other Miami Vice episodes in the vid, that would mean I might have watched Stone's War (which, I did, when I first got the discs, but it's one of my least favorite episodes, so…). Fannish vids aren't a concept that he's familiar with, so he doesn't understand how clips are recontextualized in fanvids, how different stories are told using the format of blending song and video source material to create something new. He isn't the audience that the vid was made for. (I actually am not making fun of him for leaving the comment, I was flattered as hell that an actor who appeared on the show watched the vid--that show gave me a lot of enjoyment for a very long time and is one of my all-time favorites.)

But it really brought home to me how much the audience has changed for these things. A number of years ago, a friend of mine was caught in a really difficult situation where someone uploaded her vids to YouTube, didn't give an attribution, and one of the vids was an explicit look at a Kirk/Spock relationship. It went viral, and there was a whole kerfuffle around it that she never wanted, but the funny thing to me personally was that another friend of mine, who's only marginally fannish but loves my friend's vids to pieces, told me that someone had forwarded him a link to the vids, and made a snarky comment about the explicit one. He was like, "Yeah, I told them to shut their piehole and also that I'd seen them before and that I thought they were incredible and you're not the audience they were made for." In the years since that, I've seen this play out over and over again: mundanes discover fanworks, think it's hilarious and stupid, mock fans in public (or maybe worse, try to shut down the production).

This past year, when the Avengers actors were on Jimmy Kimmel, he showed some (thankfully not explicit) fanart of Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo's characters and seemed to be, like the dick he is, baiting them and the other actors about how stupid and silly and embarassing fans were, and when they came back from commercial break, RDJ and Ruffalo were gazing into each other's eyes, Ruffalo sitting on RDJ's lap, re-creating one of the art pieces shown earlier. And I don't know if they did it as a way to say "fuck you" to Kimmel, or they were mocking fans (with Ruffalo, I tend to think not), but it at least felt like they were saying, "Hey, it's our fans. It's okay. Let them have their fun, this isn't for us." And we've seen how the Sherlock actors were pushed to read some fanfic in public, as a way to laugh at and embarrass them and the writer of the fanfiction.

The fact that the lines are more and more blurry between fan content creators and general mass consumption work is making these things happen so much more frequently. Sometimes we'll get people who grok us, and love us, and support us (Orlando Jones, for instance, who was such a huge participant in Sleepy Hollow fandom). Sometimes it'll be someone like the actor who left me that YT comment, people who don't get it, but feel the need to share anyway, or my friend who told off a nonfan who wanted him to join in the mocking of a vid. Sometimes it'll be people who buy an ebook because it sounds interesting, not knowing that the writer is also a fanfic writer and that the characters are based on the ones they write fanfic for.

The genie's out of the bottle, and fandom is a public thing now. But one thing I see that hasn't really changed, over and over again, is that we didn't make it for them. We made it for ourselves, our friends, our follow lists, the other congoers, the person who has yet to discover fanworks but will when they think, "Wow, I love this, I want to read more about this or see more about this" and input a search, discovering a whole new world they never knew existed. It's that thing that people like my comment-leaver don't understand--fanworks are an invitation: Come squee with me.

ETA: This post is on Tumblr if you want to reblog it there.

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Jan. 7th, 2016 09:52 pm (UTC)
I really really really love this post. I wish I had something smart to say in response, but I just agree so hard with it. And I WISH SO MUCH people would stop forcing fanworks on people involved with the shows.

That comment you received is...it's something.
Jan. 8th, 2016 12:16 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! It's been percolating a long time. And I jjust saw your other email, so I will respond there, but we should def get together and rap our canes on the floor and talk about this!
Jan. 8th, 2016 12:08 am (UTC)
This is beautifully written. Is it okay if I link it in my DW/LJ?

And it is so true.
So true.

Thank you!
Jan. 8th, 2016 12:15 am (UTC)
Yes, of course, always! Thank you!
Jan. 8th, 2016 01:36 am (UTC)
Oh, man, I remember the pre-internet days when you didn't even know there were other people out there who liked the same thing you did unless the stars aligned correctly...

I really like hearing other people's "fandom histories," and I think it's really important to keep telling them because of how quickly fandom moves now, and all the kiddos have no idea of all the things that happened before you could just whip out reaction gifsets.

(I'm gonna go with RDJ and Ruffalo mocking Jimmy, given that RDJ has clearly sought out fic and posted fanart on his social media accounts and seems really pretty into it...)

Jan. 28th, 2016 07:03 am (UTC)
Yah, I'm hoping that that's what it was. We'll probably never know unless Ruffalo posts about it on his Tumblr. ;-D
Jan. 29th, 2016 01:10 am (UTC)
My guess is that any actor that delves into fandom and doesn't Nope out right away is probably pretty OK with fans and fanworks?
Jan. 8th, 2016 04:20 am (UTC)
I was just thinking about zines the other day. You had to WORK to find fanfic. You would drop $25 on a zine, often not having any idea if it was good or bad, but you bought it because you really, really wanted to read fanfic for your show(s), and that was how you did it. That was the only way to do it, really, for years.

And how did you buy zines? Cons, and other fans. As you said, you had to connect. That's not there any more.

Giving fanworks to the actual actors/showrunners, fic in particular, has always been excruciating for me. It used to happen at cons and you could see 98% of the room just cringing, hard. Now it's on Kimmel. Times have changed.
Jan. 10th, 2016 05:41 am (UTC)
Yeah--on the one hand I die every time someone gets up at one of those mega cons and starts talking about their fanfic or their slash ship. On the other I was delighted when the Russo brothers said today at a con that Steve/Bucky fans would be happy with the next Cap movie--but I was thinking about it, and I realized that the big difference for me was that they are fans themselves. They are huge geeks who are creating fanworks for a fannish audience within the framework of a work for a larger, nonfan audience. So it's really interesting now that we have these dynamics where geeks like us are making stuff, and I don't know where it's gonna end up but I have a feeling there'll be more cringing in our future, for every moment of fist-pump.
Jan. 8th, 2016 08:13 am (UTC)
Thanks - this is excellent. I would have so loved to be in on the early fandom days, but didn't have the opportunity to go to cons and meet other fans.
Jan. 10th, 2016 05:48 am (UTC)
It's definitely a lot easier to meet people online, and almost free. :-D I think that was always one of the biggest stumbling blocks. But the mega corporate cons are way, way more expensive than fan-run ones, for sure.
Jan. 9th, 2016 04:51 pm (UTC)
Love this post.

I think this is why fan-run cons are still important to me, and why I keep going to them. It's the one place we can go where we don't have to deal with all of that, for the most part. And I keep seeing media people turn up at them (even tiny cons like KiSCon and VividCon) and want to interview people, and on the one hand, I like to think maybe one fan will read what they write and find their way to a con some day—but on the other hand, even though they're sympathetic, and interested, they still don't really get it. Which kind of makes them being there rather pointless and a bit tiresome.

I digress! Two thumbs up.
Jan. 10th, 2016 05:56 am (UTC)
Yeah, I kinda hate that whole "studying us" thing that's been increasingly present at our cons lately. Over and over I realize when I talk to these people that they haven't got a damn clue about the history, they only vaguely have an idea of what they're looking into or whatever thesis they have, and most of it comes from online resources or pals or whatever and they don't know anything about the big picture. So while I'm glad that if one of them discovers their fannishness from it they'll become members of our communities, I'm kind of weary--and, well, maybe wary--of it.
Jan. 9th, 2016 09:17 pm (UTC)
This is such a great post!

The thing that amazes me is how many fans (esp newer, but I guess they always existed?) do feel strongly that the creators are the ideal audience or yearn for the creators to appreciate and praise their fan works. Which to me is all wrong and doesn't make sense for all the reasons you name.

And I wanna steal your title and write it in large letters everywhere. Because fandom IS for the fans, not a random bystander, curious outsider journalist or, even, the author of the original text.
Jan. 9th, 2016 09:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I just now realize I should have put a Tumblr link to this, too. Adding that now.

It's very hard--I mean, I have even been known to rant about academic study of fans, because I hate that feeling that we're some savage culture the white men are writing about, like it's the 1800s or something. But then, there are also academics who are fans, like you, approaching it from the inside and writing about it, or who may have even discovered fandom and their role in it through the academic study, so then…it's all part of a cycle, opening fandom up to more people who will discover their true selves from the public nature of it, but it also opens us up to more mocking and more of businesses trying to make money off of us. It's a different world than when I started, and it'll be different in 20 years, and who knows what kind of changes that'll bring?

I worked at a huge national online publication and on the surface they wrote about fanworks in a positive way. But inside the walls? They joked about us all the time, and there was no way I was ever gonna out myself in the watercooler discussions. I would never have asked someone, "Do you read fanfic?" because then…I might have to end up talking about writing it. Bleh. We were all fat creeps who lived in our parents' basements or owned 27 cats or something, and stalked our heartthrobs.

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Out of the past

May 2017

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