I've mentioned a few times that I have a mental chart of hierarchical needs when it comes to fandom. Think of it as a ::counts on fingers:: three step process determining what, if any, my participation is in any particular fandom. I may even have spelled it out once or twice in comment threads elsewhere, but I've never done the meta post I've been meaning to do, that sets it out neatly and so I can point to it and go, "There! That's what I'm talking about!"

However, during the most recent meta go around, or at least the most recent meta go around that I got involved in, the one on misogyny in fandom, I think I might have promised [personal profile] miera_c a flowchart. Geek to the core, baby!

Today, at lunchtime, I was a wee bit bored so I sat down and sketched it out, and I scanned it in this evening.

So, here it is, in pictorial form, Al's Hierarchy of Fannish Needs (As A Flowchart). The steps that set out how life determines whether or not I will participate in any particular fandom.

I did have more meta - some thoughtful ruminants on where particular fandoms fit for me - first level would be shows like Firefly or early Buffy, where I watched the show avidly but never felt the need to participate in fandom because my primary interaction was with the source material. Also, earlier I was thinking about my fic tendencies and the patterns that I've exhibited throughout my fannish life. But it is late and I am tired and so I will explain. No, it will take too long. I will sum up.

  • I like strong women, I cannot lie.

  • It's not the parts, it's the pairing.

  • Gen? What gen? aka I love gen. It's called 'the show'.
There. Your meta for this evening ::g::
alyse: (Brain)
( Aug. 20th, 2003 12:38 pm)
Something that [livejournal.com profile] musesfool has made me think about the oft-quoted 'misogyny being rife within slash'. Now, I should make it clear that [livejournal.com profile] musesfool didn't say that, it's just that what she did say sent my mind tripping down various little sidestreets and a story I've been (trying to) reading this morning has set these vague thoughts in a more concrete form.

There is no doubt misogyny within slash, just like there's misogyny in het or gen. [livejournal.com profile] thewildmole's rants about stories that actually state 'women are more physically suited to surviving rape', for example (and isn't it a sad state that there's more than one author within a fandom throwing that around?) highlights the fact that there are some women who don't appear to like and/or respect other women very much. No doubt there are some men who are the same.

However, what many, many people see as 'misogyny' I see as being symptomatic of something very different. 'How dare you threaten my OTP... bitch!' In other words, the portrayal of Sam in many Stargate Slash stories is because she threatens Jack/Daniel, not because she's a woman. The non-portrayal of Sam in many slash stories may be the same, but it may also be that a) some people find writing Sam difficult (me! me!), b) how exactly do you incorporate Sam within a slash PWP in any meaningful fashion (and riffing off that, why are there so many more Jack/Daniel/Teal'c threesome fics than there are Jack/Daniel/Sam?) and c) if you find the relationship between Jack and Daniel to be the thing that makes you want to write fanfiction (and I'm sure that I'm not the only one who writes fanfiction for different reasons to watching the show - I write fanfiction to explore what I don't get onscreen, not to continue what I do) then you're focusing on one very small aspect anyway, so the lack of the other characters isn't necessarily any indication that you don't like Sam, or that as a person within the confines of the show on screen you don't yell 'Go, Sam!' when she does something particularly cool.

::deep breath::

But the portrayal of female characters within slash fic as some indication of some deep loathing of women as a whole? In short, that one of the reaons that slashers generally write slash is because women are icky and het sex is icky? That I don't get. (Yes, I have made jokes about OMG, I wrote het! but, you know, it's a joke and is related to what I mentioned above. I get the het flirting onscreen, thank you kindly. Therefore no burning need to explore it unless it's something like Sam/McKay which was tragically, tragically cut short, IMHO)

There may be women who write slash because somehow they see men as being superior to women - sexually as well as within societal constraints - and therefore feel the need to put down women within their stories. But, to use Stargate as an example again, if they hate women generally so much, why is it only Sam who is demonised within some slash. How come Janet is never portrayed as an evil, skanky bitch?(1) Because if you're a misogynist, isn't a successful medical doctor just as much of a target as a successful major?

The story I'm reading is Harry/Hermione and has Cho in it. Apparently it's one of the H/Hr stories out there, with its own yahoogroup for fans. I wouldn't know - I know very little about the HP fandom and looked it up following a post in fandom wank. It's... I'd say 'bad' but it doesn't meet the criteria for truly badfic. It's just mediocre - flat, uninteresting with huge chunks of exposition explaining who the characters are (you know the thing. 'Hermione Granger sighed as she walked through the door. She'd returned from her job after (cue Hermione's life history up to that point)) just shoved in there. It's also chockful of Cho dislike. She's a scheming, self-obsessed individual who only wants to take Harry from Hermione, and apparently has committed the cardinal sin of OMG dating Harry and wanting him back. Solely because she wants to improve her standing, not because she'd actually care about him.

Sound familiar? In fact, sounds exactly like women who threaten the OTP within slashfic, doesn't it? However, I don't think anyone would point at this story and say 'OMG, just look at this story. How misogynistic!' I suspect that it only stands out more within slash stories because of the lack of female characters generally, plus I think there's a handy kind of shorthand in making the female character express some distaste for hot boy on boy action to show her unworthiness and lack of understanding of the boys. But I don't think that's any different than having Cho, for example, express her surprise that Harry would choose Hermione because she's, you know, Hermione, a boring brainiac with bushy hair. It's all about making the threat look unworthy and the OTP triumphing against all odds. 'Why would you want a man? God, that's disgusting.' equals 'Why would you want Hermione? God, she's plain.' And frankly I don't have time for either.

Yes, I know this isn't a huge leap but I had fun with it anyway. It's been a long time since I had the inclination or energy to go even vaguely meta.

There is one thing I am thankful for, and that's that JP III appears to be devoid of Ellie bashing. I think Ellie is incredibly cool and would have to aim a very hard Paddington Bear stare at anyone who dissed her. I suspect, however, that part of the reason she's been spared (apart from the fact that it's such a small fandom that not every behaviour exhibited in larger fandoms is present) is that at the start of JP III she's obviously happily married, with children and a life she's content with, and is therefore no longer a threat to Alan and Billy. Unfortunately it's also the reason I can't write threesome fic with a clear conscience. Which is a pity, because I suspect that Ellie and Billy would get along like a house on fire because they're both insightful, even if Billy seems to lack Ellie's sarcasm, and they both think the world of Alan. I can so see them running rings around Alan.

Ah well. There's always Pirates of the Caribbean, with a threesome that's practically canon.

(1 - I make an exception for portraying Anise in fanfiction like this, because she's an evil, skanky bitch in canon. ::g::)
I can't figure out whether the shine has gone off my infatuation with Stargate fanfiction or whether it's just the weather - that sort of dull, cold feeling I get at this time of year which makes it difficult to summon up any enthusiasm for anything beyond curling up on the couch next to the radiator with a blanket and a book. Anyway, there was a time, about a year ago, when I would try to read anything that came across the mailing lists. That sort of new bloom as it were. Now I find myself getting bored with stuff that isn't bad, per se, but lacks something. In other words, the stuff I would have classed as mediocre in the sense of being readable but not much more than that, and which 12 months ago I would have read, is no longer enough to hold my attention for two whole parts.

With the story that I'm reading (or trying to) at the moment I think the problem with the text is that it's flat and lifeless, to me at least. It's all about Jack and Daniel suffering angst post a mission, complete with nightmares etc (which is a fanon cliche, true enough, but that's a rant for another day), but instead of being angsty it's just... dull. It's all telling me what they're going through and never showing me, at least not in the kind of language which makes me appreciate the supposed suffering. Which led me to some strange thoughts.

I know that we, as writers, try to avoid what could be termed 'purple prose' but what do we actually mean by that? To my mind it's one of those things which is easily identified when it's used to excess, a bit like an ageing maiden aunt who insists on dressing in loads of frills. It's easy to spot when she flounces into the room and can't sit down because of them. However, isn't it just as bad to go too far the other way? No frills at all? How... dull.

My mum is sixty-four next week. She wears tops that are cut lower than I would be comfortable wearing. She has recently (since her 60th birthday) acquired a couple of tattoos. She dyes her hair blonde and it's cut in a short bob. She wears sexy dresses and high heels.

Sounds like a nightmare, right?

You could not be more wrong. She's got that thing that many people (me included) would kill for. It's called 'style'. She never, ever looks like mutton dressed as lamb. She never looks anything other than what she is - a mature, confident, stylish woman. The blonde rinse is subtle and suits her, she looks as good in slacks as she does in a dress, and her tops, spaghetti strapped though they are, are comfortable as well as stylish, for all that they're marketed for younger women. I simply cannot see her dressing the way that people who are her age are supposed to dress. Ever. Cloth hats? Tweed? Twinsets and pearls? Comfortable, shapeless trousers and jumpers? Shopping trolley? Please. She's sixty three. She's not old. ::g::

So who says you can't dress things up a little? Who says you always have to play it safe? Tack some frills on that top, damn it. Add a chain. Put a flower in your hair.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm all for spicing things up a little, throwing in a little colour, purple or not. Same with the fear of said - yes, it can be grating if 'said' is never used (as a recent discussion on one of the crit lists talked about) but isn't it just as bad if you go too far the other way?

He said, then she said, then that other person in the corner said, then Jack said and then Daniel said and then Al yawned and fell asleep with her face on the keyboard.

Variety. It's not just for salad bars. Yes, don't overdo the purple prose, don't overdo the avoidance of 'said' but for God's sake, splash some colour about. Just a little. Plant some damned flowers in your prose. Please? You might even like the results.

Vivo de la p├║rpura!
alyse: terminator genisys -full body shot of Sarah and Kyle walking away from the camera (Default)
( Oct. 2nd, 2002 11:58 am)
I'm getting all philosophical again.

In her reply to my post about being a canon whore, [livejournal.com profile] shellmidwife mentioned something about how the events of the series, even if they're later than the time period in which she's writing about, affect her view of the characters.

And I thought that this was a fascinating insight, because I know that I have the same feeling when I'm writing. I call it, in my own mind, foreshadowing. To me it's more about characterisation than it is about canon, because although the 'canon' thing hasn't happened yet (for example Daniel leaving in Meridian), the knowledge that something like that to my mind has to influence a writer to a certain extent. And some of that knowledge can be used to have a wonderful impact on both the way that a writer handles her scenario, and the subjects that she chooses to tackle, but can also have an impact on the reader. For example, I loved [livejournal.com profile] destina's Bone Deep (and I suck because I'm not sure if I've ever told her that directly). There was an air of sadness about it, and a lot of angst as it dealt with events post Menace but what made it worse was that I, as the reader, knew that they were never going to get a chance to make everything all right between them. Even if the characters in the story didn't know they'd run out of time, they still had that feeling - foreshadowing in its true sense rather than my wittering on about it.

The most obvious example of this kind of knowledge, to me in my own writing is how I write Daniel. I simply can't write Season 1 or 2 Daniel. He's too optimistic, too naive, too unbowed by the events yet to come. Whenever I try he simply comes across to me as wrong. The events of the later seasons, and the character development he goes through as a result of those events, are simply too strongly ingrained into my memory for this person to make sense to me. I start reading it back and wanting to make him snappier, more snarky, show the effect that Jack has had on him, an effect that even Daniel acknowledges in Watergate. Give him that world weary edge to his compassion that makes him fascinating to me.

In other words, I can't go back to earlier seasons Daniel because I've had that glimpse into the future and it's coloured my view of him. I'd love to, for example, explore the effect of Hathor on him, both in Hathor (season 1) and Out of Mind/Into the Fire (Season 2/3 two parter) but I've only been able to tackle it obliquely, using later season Daniel looking back.

And this can't be the only fandom that this happens in, and I can't be the only writer who finds it affecting them. In Smallville, for example, there's the knowledge that sooner or later Lex and Clark will end up on opposing sides. Buffy and Angel writers have to deal with the deaths of some of their favourite characters, the despair and weight that others deal with as they grow up or deal with events. Is anyone still writing perky Season 1 Buffy? Or are they dealing with canon as it's happening now? And if so, is it because of the same reasons - the fact that since you know what's going to happen, you cannot ignore it.

How do other writers deal with it? I just find the whole thing fascinating.
alyse: terminator genisys -full body shot of Sarah and Kyle walking away from the camera (Default)
( Sep. 28th, 2002 09:47 pm)
I prepared an entry on this this morning, and semagic lost it ::sigh:: Note to everyone using it - you know it says you can save drafts? It lied ::g::

Has anyone read Fandomination.net's weeding guidelines for stories? Part of me thinks that it's an interesting concept but I can't see how on earth it's going to work in practice. Basically, Fandomination.net is intending to operate a quality control policy on the fics that are archived there which, as it is an open submission archive, will involve nominated 'weeders' going through posted stories and ensuring that they meet these criteria. Now this is not a rant about Fandomination.net or a go at their policies, just a musing about this type of effort generally.

I looked at the criteria they have and found myself nodding knowledgeably, but then caught myself and wondered whether it was a good idea at all. The problem, as I see it, is that any determination of 'quality' is necessarily subjective, and just because the subjective criteria or measures of quality drawn together by the Fandomination.net staff tallies with my particular fanfiction prejudices does not mean that it's the only valid interpretation out there, or that applying them across the board is a good thing.

It doesn't help, of course, that the terms of service, these very weeding guidelines and much of the administrative information across the site is riddled with typos, confused homonyms and poor grammar. (Okay - so that's a little bit of a dig, but I for one would take their efforts in quality control more seriously if someone had actually beta'd the site never mind the stories.)

The problem, to my mind, is that the weeding guidelines are made even more subjective as the caveat 'unless it's good' has been added to so many of the 'badfic' indicators. For example, mpreg is not allowed to be archived, because so much mpreg is very badly written. Well, I'd agree with that - in fact the only mpreg fic I came across in the Stargate fandom had me running screaming from Area52 three years ago and not coming back for two. I loathe that whole series with a passion, with its travesty of a Weepy!Maternal Daniel and Asshole!Only Wants Baby When It's Gone! Jack, but others love it. Maybe it's just their kink, and if it's your kink does quality come into it at all?

However, it's allowed if it's 'good'. But what constitutes a 'good' mpreg fic? Is there such a beast? I have my doubts, but then I remember there was some Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon mpreg fic which, while I wouldn't seek out or even read again, didn't leave me wanting to put my boot through my monitor and then gouge my eyes out. And if there is, how would a weeder spot it if they're coming to the whole process with the ingrained response of 'all mpreg is badfic'?

Same goes for songfics. I think a lot of people on my friends list know my response to songfic. A lot of it is painfully bad. But again, the caveat of 'unless it's good' is applied. Now, I've read good songfic, strangely enough. One of the best I've read was an Angel songfic, and I wish I could remember where it was but I didn't bookmark it because I'm not really into Angel fic and just stumbled across it by accident. But it worked, the lyrics woven into the story were a powerful addition to it, driving home the basic despair. I've even written songfic once - Blue Moon in the New Pros fandom and, strangely enough for someone who twitches as badly as I go when those dreaded words are mentioned, I think it's one of the stories I'm happiest with.

However, whenever a fic lands in my inbox and is marked songfic I still find my finger hovering over the delete button before I've even started reading it, and I'm considerably less likely to give the author the benefit of the doubt than I am for a genre I like (hurt/comfort, angst, relationship). That's human nature.

So, if I decided to archive Blue Moon on Fandomination.net, in my ever ongoing pimpage of New Pros as a fandom ::g::, will it be given the benefit of the doubt, or will it be summarily removed because it is that dreaded beastie? In short, will human nature kick in again?

What I also find interesting, in addition to all of these 'this genre is riddled with badfic so stories will only be accepted if they meet this vague definition of 'good'', is the genres that are missing, and again I can see my own prejudices reflected back to me.

BDSM - it isn't one of my kinks, but it's a kink I can kind of get behind, if that makes sense. But there are probably as many bad BDSM stories out there as there are bad songfics, so why isn't this included in the list of indicators of badfic with an 'only if it's good' caveat? It's not mentioned at all and yet, to my mind, even if I'm willing to suspend disbelief more because of the kink factor (remembering that it's not a particular kink of mine, although it interests me as a genre), there are an awful lot of BDSM stories that suffer from poor characterisation or explanation of how the parties involved ended up in this type of relationship, or why they feel the need for pain/to cause pain in a sexual sense.

Hurt comfort - bloody brilliant when it's done well (Pough, Poss), painfully bad when it's not (DawnC's Suicidium somes to mind, which started off promisingly enough then descended into 'how many ways can we hurt Danny today?'). Angst... good angst comes from genuine situations and genuine fears and emotions, not manufactured conflict (someone should have told M&M that). Again, not a sausage, unless they're covered by the whole 'badfic' category, with veers into 'poor characterisation' and other sundry assorted no nos.

So, while I look at the weeding policies, and even as I'm nodding, there's part of me that is sitting there wondering if the whole process is going to be inexorably flawed from the start, whether good intentions are going to come to naught while people descend into wrangling about what's 'good' versus what's not. Of course, at the end of the day it's their server, paid for by them and those who've chosen to support them (including me), and they have the right to impose whatever quality controls they like. It's just that another part of me, the one Cole categorises as 'bleeding heart liberal' ::g::, wonders whether there shouldn't be room in the sandbox for everyone, since no one is forced to read anything.

And then I remember why I avoided Fanfiction.net like the plague (put off simply because of the sheer amount of dreck on there), and wonder if at least an attempt at quality control isn't a good thing, even if it fails.
alyse: terminator genisys -full body shot of Sarah and Kyle walking away from the camera (Default)
( Sep. 27th, 2002 05:13 pm)
I've had this musing (I won't call it a rant, because I'm not in a ranty place and I don't think this is ranty :)) brewing for a while, because of a number of things - the discussions about Firefly, the discussions that have been revolving around the development of fannish love, and [livejournal.com profile] destina's new icon, about being a canon slut (which I love ::g::). Now that I've finished my new mood theme and am not in the grips of that obsession anymore, I finally have a chance to sit down and put my thoughts into some sort of order, prodded into it finally by [livejournal.com profile] luigifish's post about why she takes a while to dip her toes into a new fandom, and what's stopping her.

I'm a canon whore. This will not surprise anyone who knows me. I'm a canon whore like I'm a grammar, characterisation and spelling whore. Picky, in other words. For me, writing is an act of fannish love. I write because I not only love the characters and want more of them, but because there's something I want that I'm not getting on screen. For my last two fandoms, this has been slash, but it's not always been that way and I doubt it will always be that way in the future. So, given the fact that I want to explore what I don't see onscreen, why is canon so important to me?

It just is. It's that fannish love thing again. I simply can't understand those people who maintain that canon isn't important, or that you don't need to watch episodes in order to write fanfiction. For me, if I love the show enough to want to write fanfiction for it, why wouldn't I want to watch every single episode I can get my hands on? If you love the characters enough to write about, you love them enough to spell their names correctly, to correctly state their past, to build upon what you see on the show. And by God you have to watch the show - because you love them.

And yet there are those who don't feel the same way. Maybe they simply don't love the same way that I love. They don't appear to care about how many episodes they watch, or checking their facts - just look at how many different spellings of Kasuf, Sha're and Skaara there are in fanfiction (and on those names you get given leeway by me anyway, since movie canon and tv show canon differ, most noticeably for Sha're/Sha'uri). And I wonder why. It's a rare writer indeed who manages to capture a character after watching only two or three episodes, and I envy them. There appear, however, to be many more writers who simply don't care about canon, who simply want to tell the story they have in their heads, to get it out there as quickly as possible and to whom 'research' is an alien word. And is there anything wrong with that?

No, not in the sense of the fact that it is, after all, a hobby and anyone at all is entitled to write what they want, when they want and sod canon. In fact, let's sod characterisation and grammar and spelling too, while we're at it. It's supposed to be fun. And it is... for the writer. Because it's not much fun for me to read. No, I'm not going to go all 'police state' and dictate what people should or should not be writing. The most I have ever done is suggest to a friend that she might want to think about getting a grasp on canon before she launched into a new love, because her comments to me showed that she didn't have the first idea about it and, strange though it may seem, I was worried about her leaping into a large fandom making such a newbie mistake, particularly a fandom that has been around for years and can be vitriolic at times. And even then what I said was 'If you feel like you've got a good enough grasp of canon, go for it.'

I should be clear that I make a distinction between not having a grasp of canon because you can't see a show and because you can't be arsed watching a show - it's difficult to see CI5: The New Professionals for example, since it's never been sold to the States but the one writer who tried to write after only seeing a couple of episodes was torn apart by a certain portion of the fandom for her poor grasp of canon and her poor characterisation. It was never clear which camp she fell into, but in the end it didn't matter because her characterisation was so far off the mark, and her writing was lacking in other ways. And that, sadly, seems to be the case. Those who scream loudest that canon doesn't matter also seem to think that characterisation doesn't matter, spelling doesn't matter... etc, etc. Not always the way, of course, but it's like cheese and pickle... often found together in an unappetising sandwich.

AUs I see differently, at least intentional AUs. To me, an AU is a deliberate decision to veer from canon and in order to do that you have to know canon. I don't mean you have to be a geek, or analyse every nuance in every episode minutely, but watching a fair few episodes definitely helps. AUs that aren't deliberate are just bad. You know the ones... the ones where they become an AU simply by virtue of someone not considering canon or because they simply can't be arsed to do a little research. Or, you know, actually watch episodes. Oops. Almost let my inner bitch off the leash there. Oh, sod it. Letting her run free is so much fun. The ones that forget that Sam has one sibling, a brother, and that Daniel was an only child. And has them as long lost separated at birth siblings, adopted by different people. Or forgetting that Catherine is in her 70s in the movie (she was about 8 or 9 in 1924) and supposedly the same at the beginning of the TV show, which makes the possibility of her being Daniel's mother who gave him up for adoption (Daniel being 32 in 1997, meaning Catherine was in her 40s when she had him - not impossible but unlikely, and he damned well can't be Ernest Littlefield's son as he disappeared through the Stargate twenty years before Daniel was born). Those kind of AUs. Sloppy ones, ones that don't specifically start off as being an AU but then take that sharp veer because someone didn't care enough to do their sums.

I cringe at those because, to me, time is a finite resource and I simply can't bear to waste it on this kind of sloppy writing. It's not lack of opportunity to check canon, since there are resources out there, it may be lack of ability but often it's simply lack of care. That whole 'can't be arsed' attitude combined with the whole 'wouldn't it be cool' thing that I've ranted about before. And I'm left wondering why they feel the need to write fanfiction for the show, when they don't feel the need to watch it.

In some cases it may well be the 'ain't it cool' thing. In others, maybe they're simply so gripped with the love of the characters that they can't wait to write about it, which may go some way to explain the whole Firefly phenomenon. But what about established shows rather than new ones? Stargate, New Professionals, things that have been around for years? I've seen people enthuse about how much they love character Y because he's so much like character X in their favourite TV show, that they have so much in common. And my response has been 'What? The fact that they're both linguists?' because as far as I could see that was all they had in common. I've seen this before, too. To my mind, (and moving away from specifics to the general) if someone loves character X so much that they have to slot all other characters into boxes marked 'Like X' or 'Not Like X' then why aren't they simply writing about character X? He's their fannish love, the one they want to write about and in some cases make their own, personal property (like [livejournal.com profile] shellmidwife talks about) or, even worse, their own personal Mary Sue (another rant for another day). So why the need to write fanfiction for a show that they know little about? I could go on to talk about crossovers, particularly slash crossovers where you throw two disparate characters into bed together because in your opinion they would look hot together but I won't. I still want some people on my friends list to talk to me ::g:: But it still leaves my question. Why? Why do it?

I did wonder if it was something to do with fannish participation and the fact that there is still a heirarchy which puts the producers of fannish commodities on a rung above the consumers so that people feel pushed into producing fic in order to achieve some kind of status, but I'm not so sure that that's it either. Presumably, in order to have a stake in the community you have to have that fannish love, to have to have watched the show and want to share that love with others who are as obsessive. Actually, thinking about it, maybe that is part of it, because these days there is so much movement between fandoms with the same kind of hierarchies. So newbies to a fandom may feel the need to produce something straight off the bat in order to make a mark rather than lurking for a while. Attention seeking, in other words, where the knowledge of canon, or lack thereof, takes a back seat to visibility. And, of course, it works (much to my disgust - [livejournal.com profile] musesfool has an entry on why does badfic get good feedback here). But not from me, because it comes down to one simple fact.

If there are writers who don't think that canon is important, or who can't be arsed watching the show in order to grasp the basics never mind the nuances, why should I be arsed to read their fics? Especially not when there are writers who care, who agonise over how to fit their ideas into canon, writers who do take that time to get it right like [livejournal.com profile] minkboylove and [livejournal.com profile] destina and [livejournal.com profile] elke_tanzer and [livejournal.com profile] widget285 and... the list goes on and on and I love you all for it. Feed my addiction. I still remember Anais agonising over having to watch D&C repeatedly for Scratch and I felt her pain ::g:: The constipated puppy looks that Jack and Sam kept exchanging were, frankly, painful in the extreme. But she did it, and her writing shows the care she takes. So why should I be bothered about reading a story from an author who doesn't?

In short, I can't.

[Edit: [livejournal.com profile] widget285 has some taken one of my threads and added some very good points about the difference between fannish love and fannish infatuation here. Go read :) ]
I've been musing on this subject, not for the first time, since my post last night about wanna be X writers. When is plagiarism not plagiarism or rather when is it acceptable to recycle the ideas of others in writing and at what point do you cross the line from being influenced by to ripping off?

Plagiarism - true plagiarism as I think of it - is easy to define:

a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work 2: the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own.

So, it's easy to identify where someone, within the fanfiction world, has taken someone else's words and presented them as their own. As an archivist I've had the unpleasant task of dealing with this kind of plagiarist, one who took paragraphs and sentences from a variety of online works, changed the names, cobbled it together and posted it as her own. It's pretty clear that this was a) plagiarism and b) intentional, no matter how the author tried to explain it away. (As it turned out, even the 'author' was a fabrication, someone who 'died' on being confronted with the evidence that I drew together and yet, when I discovered how to track IP addresses I also discovered that they didn't exist - at least not where they said they did, and the 'friend' who reported the 'death' to me also, strangely enough, had the same ISP and location.)

But I digress. What I'm really interested in is the second part of that definition:

taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own

So, given that definition - taking someone's ideas as if they were your own - at what point does the spread of fanon become plagiarism? At what point does Daniel in jammies, or Jack's parents cooing over Daniel and their son's new discovered 'gayness' stop being a matter of influence of a well known and oft imitated writer and cross that line from imitation to stealing? I should be clear that I'm not suggesting in any way, shape or form that the writer of the story that started these musings is a plagiarist - they just had the unfortunate luck to be the story that crystallised my thoughts. In the fanfiction world at least, I tend to apply the first definition of plagiarism, the one concerning use of words, and ignore the second. Someone famous and pithy once said that there are only 10 basic plot ideas and all stories are based, to a certain extent, on one of them. I wish I could remember who to attribute that to. I think that's true to a certain extent, and, when writing fanfiction, we're even further constrained in that we're all working from the same canonical base. There may be 10 basic plots, but probably an infinite number of ways of presenting those plots through original characters. When you're limited to presenting it through a set number of characters who have their own defined personality quirks that pool of ideas becomes much smaller. That doesn't mean, however, that it's impossible to produce fresh and original works, but if my Daniel is like X's Daniel how much of that is due to us interpreting Daniel in the same way from canon and how much is that due to us subconsciously picking up trends from other writers, including each other?

The fandom world is a small one. No one can say with hand on heart that they haven't been influenced, whether good or bad, by another fanfiction writer - even if that influence is negative. With Words, for example, I'm very clear that one of the reasons I wrote it was because I had real problems with the characterisation of both Daniel and Jack in some of the stories I'd read with a similar premise. However, I also don't think that anyone could say that Words was plagiarised, even in the second sense of the word. I may have been 'inspired' to write the story but that's because one of the reasons I write fanfiction is to investigate the things I know will never be explored in canon, and now it appears that I will also write fanfiction to explore the things I don't believe have been explored in other fanfiction stories either, at least not the way I wanted them explored. But the premise behind Words was nothing new - I didn't take it from one author's stories; it's a cliched plot device, used in a multitude of fandoms, and my problem was not with the idea behind it but the execution.

So no one is immune to that kind of influence, certainly not me. If we were immune we wouldn't be subject to fanon. In fact, if we were immune we wouldn't be writing fanfiction.

But at what point does that unconscious influence and writing it into your own stories stop being the proliferation of fanon and becomes something else? And at what point should or does an author start to take offence?

I think a lot of writers see similarities between their stories and others. As writers we tend to read with both the intention of being entertained and to learn from others. Maybe we don't set out to consciously mimic the style of others, but we do pick up tips and tricks from one another, at least if we write with any attempt at improving. But at what point does that 'seeing similarities' become 'seeing plagiarism'? And at what point do those similarities cross the line? I suspect that depends on the author who sees the similarities in the first place. As an archivist I've received complaints from an author about plagiarism of her stories by X when neither I, or anyone else, could see any similarity. I suspect that's due to a combination of touchiness about your own work anyway and a basic personality conflict, even if the accusation wasn't meant as malicious. So was she right to make a big deal of it? With my archivist hat on my answer is an unequivocal 'no'. With my author hat on, I'm not so sure.

You see, I've not been immune from being subject to 'plagiarism' in its myriad forms myself (and I use the quotation marks deliberately). I've had sentences from my stories appear in stories by others, including our later unmasked plagiarist. That actually lead me to second guess myself and wonder whether if in that case I had gone with my temporary pissed offness and made an issue about it rather than simply getting pissed for 30 seconds then deciding that it wasn't worth bothering about would have nipped the problem in the bud. Given that our plagiarist wasn't 'real' I suspect not. In other cases I've had people mail me and say 'this is slightly similar to X of yours, do you mind?' In those cases the answer is 'no'. In fact, I've been obscurely flattered. I suspect that it's a question not only of 'intent', as in delibereately recycling someone else's ideas and words without considering any questions of morality, but also of respect. The very fact of acknowledging the source, of considering the feelings of the author in question, has to have an influence on how the similarities are perceived. Politeness and consideration act as the oil on the wheels of the fandom machine.

A case in point - I've also had the idea from one of my PWPs recycled into someone else's story, handed to me with a rather cryptic 'you're going to like this one'. When I got to that scene, I wondered whether this was what I was supposed to like? What if it wasn't? What if I mentioned it and the author got all sniffy about it? As it was, when I rather tentatively mentioned 'I notice that you had this...' I got a 'Yes, I knew you'd like it! It's a homage.' I told myself I shouldn't get pissy about it, that it was a homage, that I should be flattered and that if I was really that bothered I should have pursued it even though I knew it would get unpleasant.

And then the story was posted with no mention of 'homage'.

The problem, of course, was the lack of 'respect'. Instead of being asked if I minded I was placed in the position of supplicant. I had to read it, and thought I was reading it because the author thought I would enjoy it. Coming across the scene in question was therefore an unpleasant surprise, hence all of the angsting on my part about whether to raise it at all. And my first, tentative attempt to raise the issue was dismissed which lead me to dropping the subject while feeling obscurely resentful about it. It's just a PWP, I told myself. It shouldn't matter. But, of course, it did.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that if I'm going to be a coward about these things, I should have to live with the consequences. I strongly suspect, as well, that I'm overreacting and being touchy. Again, there was no malice in it - it was just thoughtlessness.

So, is that all this recycling of ideas are? Simple thoughtlessness on the part of the author, or even an unawareness of the fact that they are recycling? A bleeding of ideas from one author to another, consciously or not? And given that we're writing fanfiction, and therefore recycling ideas and characters anyway does anyone have the right to get upset? Be pissy? Do we have any right whatsoever to anything other than our words and screw the idea of 'plagiarisim of ideas'?

In all of my musings, I haven't come to a conclusion on that one. One thing I have noticed, however, is that the comfort level for other writers and other fandoms seems to vary considerably. In some fandoms it seems to me that nothing is thought of writing a sequel to someone's work without asking whereas in others work is scoured for the slightest similarity and then rocks are thrown. I think if nothing else this ramble has shown me that I fall somewhere in the middle. I've realised that for me personally my comfort level is only messed with when it's an obvious reference to someone's work rather than vague, and for me personally that means specific ideas and images that are obviously inspired by a work rather than superficial similarities - I'm not claiming everyone has the same measure, but then that's part of the problem, isn't it - and that inspiration doesn't even merit the basic respect of an acknowledgement. I don't need to give 'permission' but I would like to know about it. And that's the route I've adopted as an archivist. It's called 'politeness' in my book. As an archivist it's how I square writing fanfiction at all with showing other writers at least the same respect shown the writers of the show I archive for, in acknowledging the source. On a personal level, and again I'm emphasising this is my personal comfort zone and I don't expect everyone else to feel the same way, I'd ask first probably. But, then, hell, I'm the person who acknowledged the author who first included 'red speedos' in New Pros fic even though the idea came up in chat when a lot of us were there so I probably err on the side of caution. And one thing I don't want to see is disclaimers coming out of the wazoo. As I've said, I think some element of cross pollination of ideas is inevitable within a fandom community. We feed off each other almost as much as we feed off the show, or we wouldn't be in these communities.

But I think that still leaves the basic question unresolved. When is 'plagiarism' not?

[Edit: I should also clarify that the reason I think more 'courtesy' as it were is owed to fanfiction authors than, say the owners of the show, is that because I'm not in the habit of sending my stories out to places where they could, to my knowledge, end up in the inboxes of the Powers that Be. Not saying it couldn't happen, of course, but that's one of the reasons I personally would ask if I felt I'd crossed the line. There's a big difference between being a writer on a show and knowing that fanfiction exists and being on a mailing list, opening up a story by someone else and seeing an idea of yours staring you right in the face. That's just my opinion, of course, but it's how I live with myself :)]
It's that time of year again. The time of year when Al, after frantically cleaning every surface of the house until it sparkles and building more bookcases than any reasonable person could need, finds her thoughts turning to that burning question.

Bestiality in fanfiction.

Run now.

Actually, I've been musing for a while about it, prompted by one of my favourite episodes - The First Ones. I love that episode. The only thing that could have made it better would be some actual Jack/Daniel interaction (and them not killing Rothman. I liked Rothman. He was fun, even if he wasn't a 'people person'.) I mean, face it. You get Daniel hurt, feisty (in the true sense of the word), passionate about the things he believes in and doing what he does best - finding common ground and making a connection to a truly alien culture. What's not to like? The fact that he's bandanaed and being dragged around by a rope doesn't hurt either, of course.

But that brings me to Daniel/Chaka. There's an empathy there that I find fascinating, and not just on Daniel's side. Chaka is as fascinated, in the end, by Daniel as Daniel is by him. They recognise, in each other, a sentient being - one capable of self-awareness and, again, empathy with others. Both of them, I think, start off with seeing each other as something not quite 'human', and I have to use that word simply because our language, understandably, is so anthrocentric. I suspect that Daniel first of all views Chaka in a similar vein to Jack - big, stinky monster - and Chaka certainly views Daniel as potential food or at the very minimum a kill to impress the elders. But that changes as the story unfolds and you get those wonderful scenes of Daniel figuring out that Chaka not only has an awareness but a language and a culture to go with, and Chaka starts to view Daniel as something other than lunch.

So why is it that the only Daniel/Chaka story I've come across falls firmly into the 'bestiality' camp?

I've ranted about this before in, I think, a response to a post by [livejournal.com profile] moonlight_spike. Let it not be said I never repeat myself :)

I should go on record, I suppose, as saying I'm not overly fond of Brenda Antrim's Stargate stories anyway. I think she writes good, solid Professionals stories but her Stargate stories seem a little 'off' to me. The characterisations and situations never quite ring true - at least to me. YMMV. In fact, she was one of the writers I immediately thought of when [livejournal.com profile] destina mused about whether or not fanfiction writers could write in a multitude of fandoms and successfully capture all of them, or whether they could successfully capture two or three and then ran the risk of ATG (Any Two Guys) fics.

However, I could see 'Daniel/Chaka' in the episode, could see that tentative connection and could see how that curiosity about each other could lead to more. So when I saw she'd written the pairing I was intrigued but very, very disappointed by the story. I mused a lot about why I was so disappointed and came to a conclusion.

It was bestiality.

That was what I took away from the story, whether the writer intended that or not. If she intended to convey the fascination between them that I took away from the show, well she failed to convey it to me. In fact, at the risk of sounding like a bitter old fic bitch, I thought she was far more caught up in her idea that Chaka had two penises (although I know it's dangerous to attribute intentions to authors).

Actually, Daniel was far more interested in that too. And that's why the story completely failed to work for me. There was no recognition on Daniel's part of the fact that Chaka was a sentient being in his own right, even though Chaka narrated at least part of the text so presumably the author recognised something akin to intelligence in him. But on Daniel's part there was a combination of condescention towards Chaka as being an animal, albeit a smart one, and rueful indifference to the fact that he was about to be screwed by this animal in front of the rest of the pack. Sort of 'oh well, I'll close my eyes and it won't matter.... ooooh, he has two penises'.

It irritated me because I hadn't seen that attitude in Daniel in the show. The other members of SG1, yes, but not Daniel. I wanted to read a story that explored the fascination they felt for one another, even, perhaps, on Daniel's part a wondering about what they were doing on an 'interspecies sex' basis, but not a dismissal of Chaka as a baser being.

I have no doubt that Chaka is sentient. none at all. In fact, I don't even think that Chaka is less 'intelligent' than humans, although I despise that definition. I think his 'intelligence' may be of a different sort but I think the fairest thing that you could say is that his culture is less advanced. Why do I think that? Let's review the evidence.

i) Chaka's self-awareness. Self-awareness - the knowledge that you are a unique individual and recognition of the world around you and your place in it - is one of the defining attributes of sentience. There is no doubt that Chaka is self-aware. He has an awareness of his own mortality, which is why he's so wary, but more than that - he has an awareness of the Goa'uld and what they do. So he doesn't just know that he's alive and unique but that he knows that that uniqueness can be overwhelmed by a parasite which will take his will away. That necklace ain't just for decoration, folks. He knows what the Goa'uld do and he's afraid of it. If that doesn't convey the fact that he's self-aware I don't know what will.

If you wanted further evidence of this awareness, what about the events in Beast of Burden? Chaka and his kind recognise that they are enslaved and are willing to fight for their freedom so they must have a concept of what 'freedom' is. Theirs isn't the mindless flight of a wild horse for greener pastures. They know that what is being done to them is wrong, and mourn the passing of a fellow slave. Chaka even understands the concept of revenge, if what he does to Burrell is any indication.

ii) the use of tools - this isn't necessarily an indication of sentience, because some animals do use tools, both primates and birds, but when you consider the type of tools that Chaka uses, which includes ropes that either he or his tribe have made, then that shows that Unases are capable of planning and manipulating complicated materials to produce an end result.

iii) appreciation of the world around you. Two words. Cave paintings. Is it worth pointing out that cave paintings in our world are attributed to Homo sapiens, our very species? In fact, it strikes me that the level of social and cultural development for the Unas in The First Ones is very similar to that of early man, and when you consider the harsh conditions in which they live, constantly wary of being preyed upon by the Goa'uld, it's hardly surprising it hasn't advanced further. Culture and technology will remain static if your first priority is safe drinking water and the ability to get to it un-Goa'ulded.

iv) an empathy with others. Empathy requires you to be able to identify with someone else, to put yourself in their shoes. Cats and dogs may well pick up on your moods but to understand why you are afraid? Hurting? Chaka develops that kind of empathy with Daniel to the point of interceding with the alpha male, at risk of his own life.

So, I don't view Chaka as an animal but as a sentient being in his own right, even if his people haven't reached any significant level of technology and their culture is static as survival takes precedence. At least, I'm assuming it's a static culture because the Unas have been around as long as the Goa'uld - we know that's how the Goa'uld first left the planet they evolved on, by parasitising the Unas, thousands of years ago. Of course, their culture could have developed after that - survival of the fittest somehow dictating that only those Unas with a rudimentary intelligence avoiding being parasitised, but didn't the Unas in 'Demons' have the capability of speech, and even if the Goa'uld was talking that means that the mechanism must have been there? And I somehow get the impression that the Goa'uld who are out there in the Galaxy don't exactly reply to invitations to come to their High School reunion, i.e don't seem to have returned to the world depicted in The First Ones. None of the Goa'uld there had naquada.

So... Chaka does not equal animal, therefore, to my mind, Daniel/Chaka does not enter into the realms of bestiality. I want my Chaka to be like I see on screen, intelligent and self-aware, acknowledging that Daniel is sentient too and I want my Daniel to view Chaka in that light, not as a lower animal.

So why isn't anyone writing it? Is it the squick factor, the big, stinky monster thing? Is it the fact that OTP is so prevalent in the fandom... hell, there's very little Daniel/Paul and Paul interacts with Daniel in several episodes, and obviously has a serious crush. And is human, of course. But there's more Jack/Thor out there than Daniel/Chaka, and if Daniel/Chaka is bestiality, given the relative differences in culture and social development, why isn't Jack/Thor, with Jack as the beast of course. Yet none of the very little Jack/Thor I've seen even has an indication that Thor may think of the pairing in those terms.

Are people just being put off because it is, effectively, interspecies sex, no different in that respect that John Crichton/Ka D'Argo? Is there a sneaking suspicion that if you write it it will end up as reviled fic? Normally if I whinge about 'why isn't there more type of this fic?' I go away and write it but, as intriguing as it sounds, I have no bunnies and don't want to end up writing Daniel/Chaka PWPs. Besides, the last time I asked myself something like that it was 'Why isn't there more New Pros slash?' and look what happened there ::g::

When is bestiality not bestiality? When someone can write it that way.
alyse: (bunny hunting)
( Jul. 16th, 2002 01:50 pm)
Have decided I'm not a fandom whore. I would like to be a fandom whore, but I'm not. I'd like to be one of those self-possessed women who saunters into a fandom, slashes to her heart's content and wanders out again whistling cheerfully and leaving broken hearts in her wake. I'd like to be the kind of woman who drags muses into bed, uses them heartlessly and kicks them out again when she's had enough of them before moving onto the next one. The Linda Fiorentino of the fandom world. The Last Tango in Fandom, butter included.

But nooooo. I have to be Serial Monogamy!Writer. I can't flirt with muses - I have to enter into a committed and long-term relationship. The closest I've come was SW:TPM where I dallied for six months, wrote a couple of short stories then moved on to the New Pros... and that's hardly sluttish behaviour. In fact, it took several months of wooing by the muses, flowers, chocolates, moonlight walks before I succumbed and gave them what they wanted, only to be wooed away by my boys.

And once I've moved on I don't date exes. Can't. Oh to be able to sneak off for an afternoon to a sleazy motel for a roll in the hay for old times sake. The closest, and only time, I've been able to do that is a little h/c flirting with Chris yesterday, and I'm terrified Jack and Daniel will find out and there will be a scene.

I keep peering wistfully over the fence at Dylan and Harper, cast longing glances back at Sam and Chris and yet sit there, politely being faithful to Daniel and Jack and tell myself that monogamy is important, that I'm not missing out by keeping to these old fashioned morals and there's nothing satisfying about hot, sweaty one night stands. That fandom whores don't have more fun. I don't really believe me.

Oh, to be a fandom whore.

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