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Synonyms: LOC, Comments
See also: flame, concrit, review, critique, egoboo, DVD Commentary, Kudos, Hit Counters
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the form requesting feedback that was included in the 1986 issue of the zine Quastar

Feedback is a general term used to describe messages sent to the creators of fanworks in response to their works.

The tradition of feedback in fandom began with Letters of Comment (LoCs) in zines, a term that carried through to Usenet and mailing lists, although the term "feedback" itself also began to be used fairly regularly.

However, other fans draw a distinction between feedback, which is directed to a creator, and reviews, which are directed to potential readers/viewers/listeners.

In fandoms based on LiveJournal and other journaling/blogging platforms, feedback is now often referred to simply as "comments." On and other archives, feedback may be known as "reviews." On AO3, fans have the option of leaving a comment and/or clicking on Kudos.

Complaints About the Lack of Feedback

Since the beginning of fannish time, fans have complained about the lack of feedback for their fiction and art.

For more about this as it relates to print zines, see Letter of Comment.

Controversies and Issues

Feedback is a controversial issue in many fandoms. Debates over feedback have included:

  • Obligatory feedback. Some fans feel strongly that readers and viewers of fanworks owe a debt to the creators. They believe that comments are an obligation that pays the creator, and they try to comment on every story they read. Other fans might hesitate to tell a writer how much they liked their dark satire, for example, for fear the writer thought they were writing a romance.
  • What types of feedback are acceptable and the difference between concrit, comments, reviews and flames.
  • Whether feedback should be intended to be helpful to creators or is simply an expression the impact the piece had on the reader.[1]
  • Style and content of feedback for explicit fanworks. [2]
  • Whether it is appropriate for creators to request feedback, complain about a lack of feedback, or discuss their feelings about feedback in public
  • Whether it is appropriate for creators to request only certain kinds of feedback (for instance, only concrit or only positive feedback)
  • Whether and how authors should respond to feedback. This question often turns on whether feedback is seen as a way of thanking creators for fanworks offered as gifts to the community, [3] or as a gift itself, [4], making it polite for creators to offer thanks by replying.
  • How platform and venue affect the amount and quality of feedback. A fan in 2015 posts: "I know I myself am guilty of often not giving feedback even when I love a story. I'll tell you why, though. Because I read it on my kindle but cannot give feedback easily from it. So I have to go back to computer and look up story and sometimes it just doesn't get done, or I forget." Also see Kudos for another example. [5]

A Fan's Comment Regarding "Literary Criticism": 1975

Boldly Writing tells of an early bit of controversy in 1975 regarding the place and form of criticism. A LoC by Paula Smith
[It] sharply criticized a story in the previous issue of Warped Space because it was a Mary Sue story, which brings up the whole issue of fan criticism. Paula Smith (and I [Joan Verba], plus other fans, mostly from the science fiction tradition), asserted that fan stories should be criticized by the literary standards applied to professional stories and novels. Other fans claimed that because fan fiction was an amateur effort, and 'just for fun,' it should not be criticized at all. Clashes occurred when the 'literary' fans wrote reviews of fanzines edited by the 'no-criticism- is-acceptable' fans. As these fans grew in number, 'literary' criticism of fanzines fell into decline. Later, in some fanzines, editors stated bluntly they would tolerate only favorable comments about their work. Warped Space, on the other hand, welcomed all comments and printed Paula's criticisms for all to read.

Are Fans Too Critical of Treklit?: A Fans' Exchange in 1985

From the newsletter, The Propagator:

Joan Verba writes a LoC:
Why is there so much criticism of the ST pro novels: "Why is there so much criticism of the ST pro novels? Because, compared to the quality of writing in classic ST fanzines, the pro novels are poor. In fact, there is not too much criticism of the pro novels -- on the contrary, there is not nearly enough. I've been subscribing to ST fanzines as long as there have been pro books in existence, and my experience is that, on the whole, the pro novels have drawn overwhelmingly positive reaction. (Author Ann Crispin told me, in person, that mine was only one of the three critical comments she could recall out of hundreds). I attribute this to the fact that the vast majority of ST book readers know little or nothing about ST fanzines. Part of the reason for criticizing the pro novels is to draw attention to the better-quality fanzines: part is to get pro authors to match the quality of writing in the better fanzines. As to whether ST stories (pro or fan) should be criticized. I am aware that there is a feeling among some fans that since ST writing is a 'labor of live' and not 'serious, that critics ought to 'go easy' on ST stories (particularly in fanzines). While I belied that criticism should be polite, it is not doing the author or fandom any service to overlook problems. Critical reviews will not hurt sales -- there are literally thousands of people who will purchase any publication with a ST label. Nor will it hurt the author's fan mail -- again, there are hundreds of fans who will enjoy any ST novel. But to those of us who are selective about what we read, it is essential to get an honest appraisal of the product (and ST stories are a product) before we purchase it. Naturally, authors are disappointed to hear that there are people who do not appreciate their work. but the purpose of a review is to evaluate the quality of a written work, not to inflate the author's ego. [6]
Shirley Maiewski also wrote an LoC addressing critique and why she didn't write fiction any more:
I agree whole-heartedly... re the sniping, called 'critiquing.' at Trek writers! Some of those doing it are dear, dear friends, but, doggone it folks! Gee! We do this for fun, after all, at least in zines... Somebody likes them or they wouldn't be printed! Many, many fans enjoy all ST stories? Why make them feel dumb by telling them they have no taste or smarts? It's an awful putdown to read that something you have enjoyed a great deal is 'poorly written; no character development; a -- horrors -- Mary Sue!' So what? Frankly, people have asked why I don't write more after the success of Mind Sifter. It's a long story, but there are two main reasons: First, the damage done to my story by editors (without my knowledge or permission), second, the thought that anything else I might write would be torn apart by the 'experts.' Best reasons in the world for a terminal case of Writer's Block. [7]

One Fan's Comments: 2013

In the past few months, an old-time fan moaned something on a list about, "Is that what fandom has come to? There's no longer any such thing as constructive feedback?" Well, yes, that's what it has come to. I think, first of all, there never really was much constructive feedback that was ever helpful after a story was printed or posted. Such comments could be really interesting for the author to read, but I doubt they ever changed the way she wrote. Secondly, historically, one common reason so many readers give for not giving feedback is, "I don't know how to talk like a writer." Writers will then insist, "You don't need to! Just tell me whether you liked the story or not. Even just one sentence is better than nothing." But it's hard for that to fly, if writers are talking about how they need feedback "so I can improve".

By the same token, I think the one major drawback to "positive only" feedback, is that it makes people reluctant to give feedback at all, especially public feedback. If they feel they can't say what they really think, then why bother with just the "nice" stuff? Used to be, people would talk about new stories on lists. I don't think that happens at all anymore.

So, what's the bottom line of all of this? First, though I used to believe wholeheartedly in the idea of "constructive criticism is necessary to help writers improve", I now think that idea was always a fantasy. Constrictive criticism from a beta or editor before a story is finished can definitely help a writer write better, but not after the horse has already left the barn. I'm on board with the "positive only" thing, all in all. Not that I mind, in private, somebody pointing out something that bothered them in one of my stories. Such attention is flattering, if only because it's so rare. Actually, I don't think I'd mind somebody pointing out something like that, in public, if they did it in a respectful way. But I've come to believe that such public attention paid to stories is a dead idea. It's not polite.

For better or worse, silence is therefore the status quo. [8]

Further Reading


  1. Cereta. How does that help me? Published 13 May 2004 on LiveJournal (accessed 7 October 2008).
  2. "I don't remember any feedback or letters of comment that amounted to only "ohmygod that was hot I'll be in my bunk." That particular kind of public response to stories is, I think, relatively new; and it signals a general belief that authors will be pleased to hear it, that authors are working to create that reaction in their readership and will be satisfied with it. (I did once have someone tell me, in a con dealer's room, that they had read a story of mine and -- sly look -- "I was sorry I was reading it in public." I wish I could remember what con and what story this was, so I could date the anecdote, but it was probably in the late 1980s. I was a bit taken aback; I knew it was a compliment, so I was pleased, but I wasn't sure how I was supposed to react to being told this. Today I wouldn't be thrown by it at all.)" -- Sexuality and slash fandom Or, from "We're Not Gay, We Just Love Each Other" (post), shoshanna (2007)
  3. Te. Last thoughts (for now) re: feedback responses Published 8 January 2003 on LiveJournal (accessed 7 October 2008).
  4. Seema. Semantic noodling Published 13 January 2003 on LiveJournal (accessed 7 October 2008).
  5. from taass64, January 22, 2015
  6. from The Propagator #7
  7. from The Propagator #7
  8. Feedback as a Tool, by Charlotte Frost, posted July 1, 2013; WebCite
  9. reference link; reference link.
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