Archive of Our Own and The Hugo Awards/File 770 Discussion

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File 770 reported on AO3’s news post, stating, “So far there are 80 comments, any number by Kevin Standlee making Absolutely Clear Everybody Must Understand Things Exactly The Way He Does. One reply says, ‘You aren’t doing a particularly good job of reading the room here.’”[1]

Many, but not all, commenters on the File 770 post were opposed to the attitudes of AO3 supporters against the WSFS in AO3’s news post.

@MRM–Your position seems to be that a)Only some people are owed courtesy and respect; b)Those active in AO3 are among those owed courtesy and respect; c)That those involved in WSFS and the Hugos are among those not owed courtesy and respect.

That, in fact, no one has the moral authority to say to your nasty friends over on AO3 that they ought to show some courtesy and respect to the people who gave them the award they claim to be so thrilled and excited about.

I was originally delighted by AO3’s nomination, for reasons I now have to assume are beyond your understanding. By the time I voted, they weren’t even on my ballot because the rude and inappropriate behavior convinced me, sadly, it would be bad for the Hugos if they won.

Of course, that is I suppose another opportunity for chortling glee and mockery, because they won anyway. And sadly, I was right. You’re practically wrapping yourselves in self-righteousness, insisting that you’re totally justified in acting like total shits toward people who did, in fact, give AO3 a Hugo, apparently because they gave AO3 a Hugo.

Well, I have learned a lesson. It’s not likely to have any consequences anyone on AO3 cares about, but at least I’ll know not to trust either the words or the opinions of anyone associated with AO3 that I don’t also know from some more respectable context.[2]
Mike Glyer: Real service mark violations have to be resolved by contact with the violators. They can’t be ended with admin announcements and fussing in AO3’s comment section, so why even go there?

Because:

) WSFS would have to send C&Ds to all of the people on social media calling themselves “Hugo Award Winner”. It doesn’t matter whether they are “joking” or not, they’re infringing, and they would need to be sent a C&D. And you know just how much additional whining and screaming that would engender, given the amount of whining and screaming that’s been done over the last 6 months.

) Maybe, just maybe, a statement from OTW on AO3 would get at least some of the people who are behaving like complete tools on social media to realize that they are behaving like complete tools and stop. It was worth a try.

The “joke” stopped being funny after the first 24 hours of the finalist announcement. The last 6 months have just been The Failure Mode Of Clever.

These are people who don’t care about anyone but themselves. They are the first to get up in arms when they think that AO3 is being shit upon, but they have no problem shitting on WSFS and the Hugo Awards.[3]
I think the issue is not that illegal merch had no part, but that the press release as handed down for release did not mention the illegal merch. If the release had said “Don’t sell stuff with the trademark, obviously” then I bet we wouldn’t see any backlash. But, like @Rivine, I went and re-read it, and not one word of illegal merch came up until Standlee brought it up in the comments.

Did it have a part? Quite possibly! But apparently someone decided that the real problem was not merch but People Mistakenly Believing They Had Won A Hugo, because the press release did not ONCE mention merch, and therefore came across as really talking down to the intended audience, and stomped a boot squarely into the aforementioned You Are Not Real Writers sore spot.

Also, Standlee starting in about how he had been published in a magazine and therefore was arguing from authority was a pretty significant faux pas in that context, but like I said, severe cultural mismatch.[4]
A thing I said on the tweeters while I was mulling over 30-50 feral Hugos and which I’ll repeat here (using more words) thanks to FayJay’s long comment:

Way back before the Death of Usenet , when I had the basic mores of convention fandom explained to me, it was made Absolutely Clear that something near the pinnacle of duel-to-the-rhetorical-death insult was “You’re not really a part of that convention, you just bought a ticket.”

Saying such a thing was proof not only of the most vile denigrations of collective fannish culture but proof that one was intrinsically an outsider who had not grasped the fundamental basic fact that con attendance was a matter of membership, not audience; that, at some level, everyone was on level ground, that there was no in-group vs. out-group here because everyone is a member.

I can’t say that I feel convention fandom has always lived up to this ethos, but it has always, in my experience of the last twenty years at least, been expressed in those terms. Buying a membership is a matter of contributing to the shared pot of resources for the community; some people do more than that, and gaining community status involves doing so, yes, but that does not mean that other people are not members of the community.

Someone who claimed that a member of a convention just bought tickets would be, correctly, interpreted as someone who either wanted to deliver a dire insult to the legitimacy of the targeted party or as someone who was astonishingly ignorant of social norms and in desperate need of an education, which would likely be delivered Very Crankily.

(I have in fact delivered that cranky lecture in non-fannish spaces, because I have attended conventions that were explicitly modeled on SFF cons but where some fraction of the people did not understand that everyone contributes resources to make the thing go and were Very Peeved that their involvement was not recognized with comped attendance. The idea that these things are built by a community of members who freely contribute resources for the enjoyment and edification of all, including panelists and such, was not, alas, as widespread as I thought it ought to be. “I’m on a panel, I should get my membership refunded” proclamations went over… poorly with those of the organizers and members who come from convention fandom, to say the least. There was a lot of “we’re not here to be your brand-building experience, if you think you’re better than the community you can fuck right off, we don’t need you” muttering.)

So, basically, my default expectation is that convention fandom expects that conventions operate as a collective community based on the shared resource pooling of several hundred to several thousand people, depending on the size of the con and its influence, and that people who are part of that collective community are, well, part of that collective community.

Which means I am really struck oddly by approaches to AO3 that explicitly presume that AO3 is operated fundamentally differently than a convention. OTW is basically the concom; the membership is the membership, and contributing resources, organizing fic exchanges and whatever the term is for putting together sub-archives of shared interest (direct parallel to panel moderation), wrangling documentation, and filling the world with comments and questions and more-a-comment-than-a-questions. There’s the Yuletide programming track! And some other things I’ve heard about vaguely from knowing people who are involved with them! (My actual involvement with this end of things is homeopathic.)

It’s basically a giant transformative fic con, only you don’t have to pay $50 to attend or arrange for crash space, and you don’t have to decide between the three awesome things that were scheduled at 2pm. The way to be counted as a member is to … generously contribute resources to the shared community.

And “You’re not really part of AO3, you just write fic” is pretty much exactly the same insult as “You’re not really part of the convention, you just bought a ticket.”

I’m pretty much agnostic on the whole question here, I just keep getting neurodivergently snagged on space alien shit like “… people seriously think people take references out of their twitter bios before they come up with a joke they like better?”, but this idea that there’s some sort of clean, obvious distinction between AO3-the-entity and the vast membership thereof is the sort of mishegas that I have the distinct impression would (and almost certainly has) produce thirty-year feuds in convention fandom equivalences.

I saw people in some of these threads (and I’ve read here, and I’ve read at AO3, and I’ve read at FFA, and I’ve read on twitter, and I don’t remember where I saw half of this anymore) basically going: “Okay, if you don’t mean the whole con gets the award, who do you mean? Just the chair? The concom? Where’s the line you’re drawing?” “No, no, no, you don’t get it, it’s for the CON.” “Who do you mean? The con is made up of the membership and its actions on behalf of the con. If you’re drawing a distinction, are you meaning the concom?” “NO THAT IS A SILLY CONCLUSION. IT. IS. FOR. THE. CON.” “But you also said that it’s not for the membership? Which is what the con is?” “But it’s for the con!” “Um… we are the con? The chair accepted the award on behalf of the con, and acknowledged the membership thereof? We built this con, you can see in the name that it says ‘our own’? Words mean things?”

And so it goes around in circles, because there’s this notion somehow that there’s some sort of con/AO3/thing that is meaningfully distinct from its membership and fanac, that can be pointed at, which does not look like pointing at the membership and fanac.

Historical note: [[ I]]’m not really a ficcer, so I haven’t been personally involved in these things at all, but I remember Strikethrough, I remember people trying to figure out if the fannish community had the power to build spaces by fen, for fen, where transformative fanac would not be constantly at risk of being erased by moral panics or outsiders who didn’t understand it. I remember watching AO3 get founded, and DreamWidth, and other responses to that rather tumultuous time. These things were carved out by angry, scared, dedicated people who understood intimately that if fen didn’t control the architecture their creative efforts would always be at risk of some corporation deciding bowing to right-wing culture warriors brought in more cash than hosting fic.

I feel that if the Hugo award for AO3 means anything, it means recognizing that fans saw a need for community architecture and built the damn thing, and have maintained it for… I guess a decade now, Strikethrough was 2007? Not bad for a convention that runs all year, doesn’t have membership dues, and where a substantial fraction of the membership thinks half the decisions the concom makes are stupid.[5]
I don’t think Kevin was being a jerk; in fact, I think the responses from the crowd over there are a strong argument for why they shouldn’t have gotten the award in the first place.

This problem with AO3 began with the nomination process and continued throughout; AO3 management(?) was asked repeatedly to message their people about how the award worked and they did not do so during the run up to the final voting – why? Probably, at least in part, because it would have discouraged members from joining Worldcon to vote.

Afterwards, they made a statement, but it wasn’t forceful enough. (Do it again and we’re booting you would have been appropriate.)

I deal with IP stuff every day; the mark committee is probably close to a point of having to threaten suit and does not want to, but will have to if the infringement persists and that would look even better than the comments, wouldn’t it?

AO3 themselves are in a position to inform their members of how to treat mentions of the award, and they are in a position to enforce it far better than WSFS is absent legal action. Instead, members are right back to – you are attacking fanfic, you’re just jealous, BS, immature responses to being informed that they can’t disrespect the award the website they contribute to just won.[6]
rcade on September 15, 2019 at 9:11 am said:

Sending cease and desist letters to individuals who are commercially calling themselves Hugo Award winners incorrectly should be sufficient to demonstrate that the marks are being defended.

And you really think that this wouldn’t get exactly the same reaction from people that WSFS is Being Mean?

Incidentally, WSFS did have to ask Etsy pre-con to take down an item from someone trying to mis-use the Hugo Award logo regarding AO3’s finalist slot. The person in question ignored our request and we issued a takedown request to Etsy, citing WSFS’s registrations in the USA and the EU, and Etsy took down the item almost immediately.[7]
Maz Weaver: Ao3 admin made it clear very early in the process that it was the site, and not the contributors, being recognised. When people come wandering in and start laying about them with big sticks and scolding us for something we’re not even doing … we get a little testy.

I’m not surprised. It’s too bad, because it would have been more valuable to make friends with the many AO3 participants who are willing to listen to reason than to priortize playing Whack-A-Mole with a few who aren’t.

Real service mark violations have to be resolved by contact with the violators. They can’t be ended with admin announcements and fussing in AO3’s comment section, so why even go there?[8]
JJ: question. You say that jerks/tools/etc. are calling themselves “Hugo Award Winners”. Are these people generally acting in jerkish ways, or are they making that one statement and otherwise being nice enough? Also, I really, truly do not see the “we’re all Hugo winners now!” joke as being an insult to the Hugos, a stain upon the honor of the Hugos, saying we think the Hugos themselves are a joke, shitting on the Hugos, etc. – it’s more at our expense, about how most of the stuff on AO3 is really, really not award-worthy. (I’ve posted stuff on AO3, and I count myself in the “really, really not award-worthy” category.) I don’t doubt that people exist who are completely serious about having “won” a Hugo, but I have heard of two people trying to monetize it and “several/some/a couple” – which I would estimate as ten to twenty, at most – who don’t seem to have realized they, personally, didn’t win anything. I get the WSFS trying to get out ahead of potential legal problems, but jumping into the AO3 newspost comment section swinging, for something that far less than one percent of the AO3 userbase seems to have actually done, seems like a bit of an overreaction. “For legal/trademark reasons, please don’t say you won a Hugo in any professional or commercial context unless it’s actually your name on the award” would have done just fine.[9]
Cloudraker:

“…but I have heard of two people trying to monetize it and “several/some/a couple” – which I would estimate as ten to twenty, at most – who don’t seem to have realized they, personally, didn’t win anything. I get the WSFS trying to get out ahead of potential legal problems…”

And here is where you should have stopped. And moved to the AO3 newspost to explain this to the commenters and explain why it is so important for WSFS to stop this.

If you think there are better ways to express this than Kevin’s, please do. It is a public post there after all.[10]
Cloudraker:

“I was an WSFS member. I do not think I will choose to be again.”

Because you didn’t like comments Kevin wrote and for which you then made up your own meaning?

Kevin wrote:

“Be proud of of your contribution to an Award-winning project.”

And from this you conclude:

“Mr. Standlee’s choice to make a public post under the same name about how we are destroying the Hugos and directly comparing us to the Puppies was definitely not a good one.”

He didn’t mention the puppies at all. I see you as commenting entirely in bad faith.[12]
Meredith: [NOTE: In response to Meredith linking Kevin's LJ post here: https://kevin-standlee.livejournal.com/1894863.html /NOTE]

Thank you. But the interpretation doesn’t work for that text. Regarding puppies, he says destroy. But for those who call themselves Hugo winners without being any, he says undermining, an entirely different word.

Also, if Cloudraker is indeed thinking of this text, it means that they themselves wants to be called “Hugo winner”, otherwise the word “we” couldn’t be used for them.[13]
+1000 to ambyr’s, Meredith’s, and rcade’s comments on page 1

Also, I notice some confusion over the exact nature of AO3. It’s very much not a club, and people who have AO3 accounts aren’t “members”. To find something closer to a club, you’d need to look at the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), the umbrella organization that runs AO3 among other projects like Fanlore, and which has a yearly membership fee that allows its members to vote in OTW elections.

Crucially, however, only a tiny fraction of AO3 users are OTW members. AO3 is a platform, like Twitter or Livejournal; it regulates users’ behavior on its site (e.g. deleting spam, harassment, Ko-fi links or other attempts to monetize fandom, etc. posted to the archive, and banning persistent violators), but it takes no responsibility for users’ behavior offsite.

As an extreme example of the latter, there exists a vanishingly small number of AO3 users who are actively hostile to the site. They’ve even reported it to the FBI in the past because AO3 allows users to post sexually explicit fanfic involving characters under the age of 18. However, those hostile users also continue to use AO3 because it has the best tagging system of any large multifandom archive, and because they want their fics to reach the biggest audience. And as long as they’re not harassing other users on AO3 itself, they’re allowed to do precisely that.

So part of the mocking response to OTW’s recent “Hugo Award — What It Means” post is due to the fact that the post represents a 180* turnaround from the historical relationship between AO3 and its users. That post was a courtesy to WSFS, but it’s not anything that would resonate with the vast majority of AO3 users who aren’t themselves WSFS members. (And honestly, I wouldn’t say it resonated with me, either, and I am both, though at least I knew more about where the post was coming from and so felt disinclined to mock it.)[14]
JJ: thanks for your continued efforts at explaining this situation.

Meredith wrote “Maybe transformative works fen could try to understand the trademark protection thing a bit more generously? I know it doesn’t come naturally to us to respect IP, what with our whole thing”

and I suspect this may be a part of the problem; a deep and abiding dislike of the restrictions of IP law.

I believe Kevin did and has done the right thing by going to the group that won the award (who would normally have something of a vested interest in helping to preserve the integrity and value of the award they had just won) to exert internal influence in an attempt not to have to resort to formal legal action(s). That the comment thread went bad doesn’t change the intent.

Just the other day I “messaged” an individual on Facebook because the name of a page they had created infringed on one of my trademarks: I was asked why I was “picking” on them (other pages use the name) and had to explain that most of those pages were mine, or that owing to the vagaries of trademark law others were legitimate uses and one other had been reported to FB’s legal dept; I wanted her to have the opportunity to change things enough to avoid “confusion” and the expense of formal legal action (I wanted to avoid that expense as well).

Fortunately, I did not get the ‘F.U., internet, info wants to be free, you’re not my mother’ kinds of responses that are frequently typical of such exchanges.

Mileage may vary, but there are very few ways to enforce protection of IP that don’t involve legal recourse; Kevin tried one of them. Apparently it’s not working.

I’ll be happy to donate to a WSFS legal fund.[15]
JJ:

When someone tells you that you have caused them harm, you don’t double-down and say, “Where’s your sense of humor??? It’s just a joke!”

You don’t say, “I don’t see any evidence of harm. Where’s your proof?”

You apologize for causing them harm, and you stop doing it.

I would have expected AO3 members, of all people, to understand this. But apparently not.

This formulation on prioritizing believing victims and not relying on intent was designed to gain traction as a method of combating deeply-ingrained societal prejudices against believing victims of racism, sexism, and other -phobic acts. It is used to support believing rape victims, believing people when they say that casual jokes about their hair or skin color can be harmful. It has absolutely no place in a discussion regarding the impact of trademark infringement on a non-marginalized group (ie, the WSFS is not doing advocacy on behalf of a marginalized group), which is not facing the kind of prejudice that would cause kneejerk disbelief on the part of the average bystander. That is a legal question and trying to mistakenly use such argument to shut down this discussion is the same kind of misapplication of these argument that lead to them being twisted or mocked by people who would like, unconsciously or not, to uphold the societal prejudices and barriers that such arguments are aimed at overcoming.

To be blunt: your use of those arguments in this context is extremely inappropriate. It contributes to the devaluation of such argument. And by contributing to the devaluing of those arguments, you are causing far more serious harm in the world than the people you are arguing against.[16]
Ugh.

I’m a big fan of AO3. I’ve read stories there for years. It’s a great community.

I also NA’d them reluctantly, because I didn’t think they fit the category.

I’d have NA’d them a lot more forcefully if I’d foreseen all this nonsense.

Can the folks who attend the business meetings please get busy and clarify the BRW rules to avoid this sort of thing in the future?[17]
So a convention restaurant guide actually did make the best related work shortlist in 2000? I remember that there was some grumbling when the WorldCon 75 restaurant guide made the best related work longlist in 2018. And Sandman: The Dream Hunters would fall under Best graphic story these days, though the category didn’t yet exist in 2000.

As for the AO3 people, if they really were just joking about being Hugo finalists/winners, then why did they keep that “joke” up for months, put “Hugo nominated” or “Hugo winner” in their Twitter handles and bios, etc…? Not to mention the folks who made pins and the like, blatantly violating the Hugo trademark. Also the AO3 people got snippy when politely asked to knock it off. The comments under the thread linked above clearly show how entitled some AO3 users are.

And yes, given how many users AO3 has, it’s a minority that behaved badly. But that minority is the first thing that people who don’t regularly hang out at AO3 see, when they think of the site. I also think that the AO3 folks have no idea how annoyed WorldCon members and Hugo voters who are not part of their community are with them right now.

I also voted Astounding in first place BTW and am still angry that it finished in last place. My preference for best related work are well researched non-fiction books, whether academic or popular, anyway. I’m okay with essay or review collections, interviews, memoirs, biographies, art books, etc…, less okay with single articles and anything that is not a non-fiction book or the electronic equivalent thereof[18]
Hi JJ,

Thanks for engaging in good faith. After my earlier… I hesitate to call it a ‘discussion’… here, it’s refreshing.

Ultimately, it’s not a legal question at all. It’s a question of treating other human beings with respect and courtesy.

I think that there would be benefit here in separating out the elements of this issue.

1) There are some people out there who have demonstrably infringed against the WSFS’ trademark, by using it in an unauthorized fashion for personal or financial gain: at least one case on Etsy, and I believe somebody mentioned that there was a kickstarter as well. Those people are infringing and that is a legal matter that the WSFS should handle. I think we all agree on that.

2) There an argument put forward that AO3 users making jokes about the Hugos is causing harm to the WSFS and/or its members, and that therefore the jokes should be stopped.

This is a more complicated issue and the one where the issue over who has the authority to tell people to stop making jokes, and where that authority arises from. I will separate this into two more pieces: 2a) legal authority and 2b) moral authority.

2a) Legal authority is a matter for the lawyers and the courts. If the jokes made do not satisfy the law as being acceptable as parody, transformative content, etc etc, and are shown to be infringing the WSFS’ mark or otherwise causing damage to the WSFS, then that’s a matter that the WSFS legal defence should pursue. I, personally, haven’t seen any evidence that I (a person who is not a lawyer) would consider that the joking (distinct from the genuine attempts at false representation discussed under point 1, above) crosses such legal limits. In an earlier comment you did suggest:

How many real Hugo Award Winners are getting sneered at for having it on their social media profiles or their websites, because people who see it figure that they’re just another AO3 poseur?

However, no evidence of this actually occuring, as opposed to it potentially occuring, has been presented. I would therefore suggest that there is an, at most, extremely limited if not non-existent legal basis to claim that such jokes have caused harm and should be stopped.

2b) Moral authority. This is, I think, is the crux of the issue that you and I are now discussing, so please forgive the extended preamble above to peel away other aspects.

(In this essay, I will demonstrate that…) When one person makes a joke or even a simple statement that another person finds hurtful, wrong-doing is not automatically guaranteed, even if Person A continues to make the joke after being asked not to by Person B. It can’t be. It’s more complicated than that.

If Person A and Person B don’t agree about whether the joke is in bad taste, then they find themselves in a position of trying to figure out more objectively if it’s caused harm. Clear threats or calls for harm to be committed are one thing; jokes are more difficult, and it’s not as simple as saying that anyone who is offended is in the right.

The first aspect to consider is the subject matter of the joke. Is the joke contributing to or a symptom of systemic prejudice? For example- I have a friend who hates cats. I have two cats myself that I adore. If my friend makes a mean joke about cats on the internet, he’s not causing any societal harm, because cat-lovers do not face societal prejudice. If my friend made a mean joke about female engineers, then he would absolutely be contributing to societal harm, because sexism is a massive society-wide problem.

This is one of the reasons why it is important to apply ‘believe victims’ appropriately. People who make racist, sexist, homophobic, etc ‘jokes’ may not realize that they are contributing to a pattern of societal harm by reinforcing such prejudices with such a very low-level, everyday kind of action. Cat-lovers do not face potential threats to their health, safety, or livelihood due to societal prejudice; victims of racism, sexism, etc do. A joke that is funny about cat-lovers and has no impact societally upon the population of cat-lovers may therefore do actual harm when instead targetted at marginalized populations. Applying the ‘believe victims’ to cat-lovers would be inappropriate because cat-lovers are not struggling to overcome societal prejudice that prevents them from being believed about the greater harm such jokes cause.

The WSFS is not a marginalized population. It may be a small population, but its members do not face discrimination due to said membership. The AO3 membership base may be quite a lot larger than the WSFS membership base, but that doesn’t by default put the AO3 membership base in a position of power. Further, as only an extremely small component of the AO3 membership base appears to be engaging in such jokes, the relative size of the entire userbases seems fairly irrelevant. As far as I’m aware, there’s been no concerted trolling or attacks on WSFS forums or sites that would indicate a larger group is leveraging its power over a smaller one. (If I’m wrong about that, please do correct me, and I would heartily condemn the perpetrators.) Therefore, the simple existence of jokes regarding some aspect of the WSFS is not contributing to any societal pattern of imbalance and harm.

The second major aspect to consider is where the joke is being made. If my friend who hates cats makes jokes about cats to my face after I’ve asked him not to talk to me about that, then he’s being rude. But if he makes such jokes on his own blog, in his own space, then that’s just making a joke, even if I find it in bad taste. (Again: this is ruling out clearly offensive statements, such as those that rely on simple insults or call for harm against members of any particular group.)

I do not have the right to demand that my friend never make any jokes about cats again. Nearly every joke out there is going to be in poor taste to somebody. Expecting everyone to avoid making any jokes in public would be completely untenable and, well, ridiculous, because some people’s expectations about what is acceptable joking material are going to be considered absurd by some other people’s standards. And that’s okay. It is not Person A making the joke at Person B; it’s on Person B to manage their own experience on the internet.

Now, if AO3 users are coming into WSFS spaces and tossing around the Hugo Award Winner joke where members of the WSFS would prefer them not to do so, then that is indeed being extremely rude. However, aside from those cases of actual mark infringement discussed in my preamble above, that hasn’t been happening (again, as far as I am aware, and please do correct me if I’m wrong). Instead, what is going on is that some AO3 users are making jokes on public spaces and in ‘their’ spaces (that is, on the AO3 site, which is viewable by the public but can be considered to ‘belong’ to them, much like file770 is viewable to the public but is ‘for’ the members here).

It’s not AO3 members’ place to decide whether their actions are hurtful and harmful to someone else.

Agreed. We all have the right to our own feelings. But feeling hurt does not inherently give someone the right to demand that somebody else restrict their actions. The AO3 members should be able speak as they wish in public or in their own spaces, so long as (on the legal side) they are not committing a legal trademark infraction or (on the moral side) they are not contributing to a societal pattern of harm.

It’s their responsibility, as human beings, to listen when other human beings them that what they are doing is hurtful and harmful. It’s their responsibility to stop being assholes.

No. It may be their responsibility to listen when somebody says that they feel hurt. But that does’t mean that the person who feels hurt is automatically in the right. I’ve run into people who have been absolutely hurt and offended because they had to wait in a line, because they felt their need was more urgent than everyone else’s in the queue. It wasn’t. They weren’t in the right, no matter how insulted they felt. It sucked for them, but it didn’t mean that they were entitled to receive accomodation from the other people.

These AO3 members need to start listening when WSFS members say “please stop, what you’re doing is disrespectful and harmful to the Hugo Awards”.

There are WSFS members who disagree that any harm is being done by such jokes, as evidenced in other comments on this post. In this I would agree with Cloudraker: what is the actual harm being done? So far it seems that your criteria has been that any joke about the Hugos, at all, is to be considered harmful simply because it’s a joke about the Hugos. But if we go by that logic, we can’t make any jokes about anything. That would be a very joyless world.

Therefore, I must continue to respectfully disagree with you.

(And also, respectfully, apologize for all this tl;dr.)[19]
@MRM–Your position seems to be that a)Only some people are owed courtesy and respect; b)Those active in AO3 are among those owed courtesy and respect; c)That those involved in WSFS and the Hugos are among those not owed courtesy and respect.

That, in fact, no one has the moral authority to say to your nasty friends over on AO3 that they ought to show some courtesy and respect to the people who gave them the award they claim to be so thrilled and excited about.

I was originally delighted by AO3’s nomination, for reasons I now have to assume are beyond your understanding. By the time I voted, they weren’t even on my ballot because the rude and inappropriate behavior convinced me, sadly, it would be bad for the Hugos if they won.

Of course, that is I suppose another opportunity for chortling glee and mockery, because they won anyway. And sadly, I was right. You’re practically wrapping yourselves in self-righteousness, insisting that you’re totally justified in acting like total shits toward people who did, in fact, give AO3 a Hugo, apparently because they gave AO3 a Hugo.

Well, I have learned a lesson. It’s not likely to have any consequences anyone on AO3 cares about, but at least I’ll know not to trust either the words or the opinions of anyone associated with AO3 that I don’t also know from some more respectable context.[20]
Red Wombat:

“But why does someone calling themselves a .0000000001 % of a winner actually NEED to be stopped?”

I do not know how Trademark laws work, but my guess is that this would be seen as a joke and therefore it would be acceptable. But remove the ” .0000000001 %” part and the meaning becomes something different and should be stopped.

So to be clear: I’m not against joking about being a “0.00000001%” winner. I am against those who on twitter proclaimed themselves winners and changed their profile pictures to Hugo rockets and those who did the same on other platforms. And I’m even more against those who tried to sell winner merchandise with the Hugo rockets.

There are jokes that are funny. And there are taking things too far. And I think all these defensiveness only helps to blur the lines.[21]
Bad sum up. A more fitting version would have been:

“We have a problem. People used to like tennis for the stars, but now we have all these people saying stuff like ‘Won’t you believe it, I won the Stanley Cup for my fantastic sitting down and cheering! I will add Stanley Cup Champion to my resume and start selling prizes where people can have their own names engraved.’ And for some reason these people get angry when you say that they personally didn’t really win the Stanley Cup, starting to threaten you, hurling abuse and screaming that everyone who dares not to agree with them should be replaced.”

That is more like what is taking place.[22]
@ RedWombat

I think the Hugo is a little different than the Stanley Cup. The comparison is a rather large stretch. And I disagree with your image of “happy people having fun” versus the dull WSFS people being a drag. First of all, the participants are not stupid. The idea of diluting IP is not new and they know what it is. Some of the AO3 action is having fun, but some of them obviously take great relish in sticking it to the Hugos.

Also, I would like to add that any Etsy problems are not the only part of this situation. It is authors declaring that they are Hugo winners when AO3 won the award. People are saying that they were awarded a Hugo when they were not and saying that they did. I am taking them seriously. Fun only goes so far, especially when they know that they are doing wrong.

I’m not mad at AO3 and I have great respect for what they do. Fanfic is important to the genre. Also, I am absolutely certain that most of the AO3 crowd are fair-minded and know not to push this too hard. However, I believe that there is group that is harassing WSFS and the Hugos, and undermining the Hugo IP, under the cover of “fun” and “good times” in a 4chan style, and that is a problem.

Your friendly sourpuss,

Rob[23]
Keileya:

“The key to understanding the anger here is that we have been queering texts, interrogating implicit and explicit imperialism, dissecting the male gaze and constructing alternate readings, and pointing out the racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia…”

This might be true, but what I see in practice is a toxic community determined to “stick it to the volunteers who work for free in fandom”. Perhaps they also should care a bit about others culture before they start to throw abuse on them? Perhaps you should go there and explain the impression they are giving?

I mean, you come here to puke on Kevin, just because he cares about an award and all the work that has gone into caring for its reputation. You heap abuse on him, calling him a gatekeeper, after he has congratulated AO3 on the win and made clear that all fan fic are also eligible for Hugo’s.

You are not covering yourself in glory.[24]
Keileya:

“Don’t be ridiculous. EVEN IF you value performative civility over cultural competency, Kevin’s comments on that thread were, literally, telling people that they weren’t real Hugo award winners. AKA, gatekeeping.”

No. Because they weren’t winners. It is not gatekeeping to say that a non-winner isn’t a winner.

The entity AO3 won, but that didn’t make every contributor a winner.

What the comments were instead was, as you say, lacking in cultural competency. They were stupid and came of as condescending and arrogant. In the same way as the comment section on AO3 comes of as toxic and your comments the same.

You might think of insults as arguments, but I do not. Btw, I’m below 50 years of age. And when I use the word fandom, I include myself.[25]
Olav Rokne: Either there’s gatekeeping, or there’s no awards system at all

This seems a misconception of the word, to me. Gatekeeping is the attempt to exercise verbal and cultural pressure to exclude people from an identification to which they may well be entitled. (The whole “fake geek girls” thing, for example.)

Carrying out the administrative activities of an award is not that kind of gatekeeping.

There’s also the not-at-all-small problem that Kevin Standlee is not the Hugo Awards administrator. His role on the Mark Protection Committee has to do with service mark violations. And at this point a great deal of his effort is directed at telling people how they ought to think about the Hugo, quite a different thing than contacting people who have violated WSFS’ service marks.[26]
“It’s very easy to take the statement that “we want to make sure users don’t mistakenly believe they’ve won a Hugo” as “we’ve seen you joking about winning a Hugo and we want you to cut it out.” Which comes across to us as telling us to stop having fun.” And to add to the cultural disconnect, the complaint about not being allowed to have fun sounds like the puppy slogans to me. I still have some “Wrongfans having wrong fun”-ribbons at home from MAC2.[27]
John A Arkansawyer:

“Let me put it this way: Unless you believe with good reason those comments come from pupvocateurs, saying their arguments are “like” other arguments is not helpful. “

If people argue like puppies and want to burn down the Hugo’s like puppies, I think there’s good reasons to compare them with puppies. I mostly hope they won’t manage to cause even more damage.[28]
TMax:

Yes. Because those a-holes deliberately set out to violate and weaken the Hugo trademark for the fun of it. They are setting out to burn the Hugo’s down and are in no way better than puppies. They might even cause more damage.

They try to destroy the Hugo’s in public, they will be called out in public.[29]
JJ:

When people are risking the existence of the award by trying to destroy the trademark, thinking it is a big joke and getting back, then it is just too much 4chan for me.

And having people defending them, saying they aren’t that bad, instead of wondering what the hell they are doing and calling them out for it, then my patience is out.

Sure, they might have better values in the background. But when they threaten the same destruction? No thanks.[30]
@hampus

You’ve repeatedly compared AO3 users to Puppies and 4ch in the comments here, and not just in relation to trademark infringement, but in relation to the AO3 community, which you called toxic.

This might be true, but what I see in practice is a toxic community determined to “stick it to the volunteers who work for free in fandom”.

And to add to the cultural disconnect, the complaint about not being allowed to have fun sounds like the puppy slogans to me. I still have some “Wrongfans having wrong fun”-ribbons at home from MAC2.

…for a few examples.

This isn’t about infringement, this is about you being mad at AO3 users as a general group and wanting to compare them to hate groups because it makes you feel more righteous and that your feelings and reactions are more valid. You don’t see me comparing commenters over here such as yourself to those groups, because even with as awful as I think you’re currently being, you’re nowhere near as bad as either of those groups. I’d ask you to do us the same courtesy.

(edit: and when I say “you” I mean Hampus, not general you, since many of the other commenters here are lovely, or at least not comparing AO3 users to hate groups. I just…Sheesh. get some perspective, please.)[31]
Also, more generally….am I seriously understanding correctly that this whole stupid mess is ACTUALLY because WSFS doesn’t actually have the money to protect their trademark? They can’t afford a lawyer to send a C&D, so Standlee did his song and dance in the AO3 comment section instead, thinking that somehow…uh…okay, not quite sure what the endgame was? That the AO3 comment section would somehow enforce a C&D for them that they couldn’t afford to send themselves? The Kickstarter people would be shamed? Something like that?

Oh holy god, did they not mention trademark in their communication to OTW because they don’t actually have the money to hire a lawyer to ask what they should say, so we got…whatever that was…instead? And now that backfired so they’re talking about passing the hat to afford the lawyer to issue the statement that they didn’t issue in the first place?

Someone tell me that’s not what’s happening. My heart can’t take it.[32]
So the argument about the Hugo win for AO3 seems to have three components:

1) some question over what AO3 is: platform, coding project, fanfic, community, etc., with the concomitant question of whether that something DESERVES a Hugo and/or fits the Best Related Work category

2) whether AO3 users can claim that they won a Hugo or merely claim to have been a part of something (AO3, however it is defined) that won a Hugo

3) whether AO3 users declaring themselves to be Hugo award winners (be it in jest, in earnest, in celebration, or out of sheer bloody minded reaction to their perception that some portions of WSFS wants to spoil their fun or does not consider them a part of fandom) is an infringement or dilution of the Hugo trademark

I don’t believe anyone on any side of the argument disputes that individuals creating merchandise trading on the Hugo award and AO3’s win thereof are violating the trademark and need to knock it off, no matter how innocent or joyous their intentions in creating that merchandise might have been.

The question of whether individuals claiming to be Hugo winners is a dilution of the trademark is where the argument lies. Some WSFS parties are adamant that it does (see also Kevin Standlee), some (I’m thinking of Will Frank’s post on AO3 here) are disinclined to commit either way, and some argue that these claims fall into the fair use portion of trademark case law (rahaeli, aka synechdocic, aka Denise of Deamwidth and previously Livejournal).

Those are the primary areas of the argument as I perceive them, but I think they’re being complicated by an emotional undercurrent that I rather think is fundamentally unresolvable. On the one side, you have folks who are fiercely protective of the Hugo award and fear to see its value tarnished. On the other, you have a set of fans who have a long history of feeling sidelined/marginalized/unwelcome in SFF fandom due to the shape their fandom takes (fanfic).

I’m going to argue that, aside from the issue of whether AO3 deserved a Hugo or the Hugo awarded was in the most appropriate category for whatever AO3 actually is, the real argument is this emotional conflict. One side seems to fear that two million fanficcers claiming to have won a Hugo will diminish the prestige of the award and seems to perceive that even non-earnest claims to have done so (jests or enthusiastic glee for the win or self-deprecating humor or whatever else) is a diminishment of that prestige. The fanficcers on the other side seem to be baffled by this perception, because they are celebrating the award by laying claim to it (in their various ways). To this way of thinking, therefore, there’s no harm to the prestige of the Hugos because it’s a celebration. If anything, this is an enhancement of the award’s prestige and an expansion of its influence as the portion of AO3’s user base who were not previously aware of AO3’s finalist position, let alone WorldCon, WSFS, or the Hugos learned of these things.

This disjuncture in how to read the “I am a Hugo-winning fanficcer”/“My tentacle pornwon a Hugo” claims come down to this divide. One side finds these jokes to be unwelcome, in poor taste, offensive, and/or an outright attack on the Hugos. The other side is in disbelief that anyone could miss the joke that badly or fail to see that it’s all in well-meaning good fun, and perceive the requests to stop as another round of fandom gatekeeping, which they in turn find offensive. On top of that, individuals on all sides of the issue have used heated rhetoric and flung accusations and assumptions that are, shall we say, based in the least charitable readings possible of the other parties’ words.

I don’t know whether this disjuncture can be resolved. I don’t have any answers. I doubt throwing these words at the question will do any good and am pretty sure the end result of them will be, at best, neutral. But I’ve been following the discussions here and in the AO3 news post for the past several days and needed to sort through my thoughts somehow, so here we are.[33]

References

  1. Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls
  2. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  3. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  4. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  5. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  6. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  7. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  8. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  9. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  10. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  11. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  12. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  13. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  14. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  15. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  16. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  17. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  18. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  19. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  20. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  21. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  22. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  23. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  24. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  25. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  26. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  27. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  28. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  29. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  30. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  31. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  32. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”
  33. Comment thread, “Pixel Scroll 9/14/19 We Are All In The Pixel, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Scrolls”