Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna (September 2012)

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna
Interviewer: Lisa Cronin
Interviewee: Arduinna
Date(s): September 8, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna was conducted in September 2012 by Lisa Cronin and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

Another interview with Arduinna for this project is Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna (August 2012). This second interview was conducted because 45 minutes of the first one was lost due to technical problems.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:19:28), and it has a written 32-page transcript.

It was part of the series: Fan Fiction Oral History Project also referred to as "a Fiction and Internet Memory Research Project," "the Fiction and Internet Memory Program," and "Fan Fiction and Internet Memory."

The interviews conducted for this project were used for the book by Abigail De Kosnik called Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts 2000, the Sentinel slash mailing list, SENAD, was having tons and tons of fights about the list culture, basically. It had gotten increasingly protective over the last couple years; you couldn't say anything negative about a story because, "What if the author never wrote another story"? Or what if somewhere out there, there was someone who might want to write a story one day, and saw that someone didn't like a story, and therefore they never wrote a story ever? And that would be terrible. And there were a bunch of us that were sitting there saying, That's kind of creepy. You're protecting this hypothetical, fragile flower of an author by silencing people who want to talk about something that actually came over on a mailing list where the mailing list rules specifically said, "This is place where you can talk about fiction." That was one of the guiding principles of the list. But the list had changed hands and the current list owner really felt very protective of authors more than readers. She figured, you know, the only thing you could ever say was, "This was great." I mean, it was actually to the point that you couldn't say on the list, "Jeez, I wish they hadn't misspelled the main character," because that was so painful and harmful and terrible to say to someone, that they spelled the main character's name wrong, that "What if they never wrote again?"


I'd been on the list at that point for like four years and I was still heavily involved in Sentinel fandom, and I wanted to be able to talk about stories, and I wanted to see other people talking about stories. So we actually, quote-unquote "broke the list." We made a second list called Prospect-L, which looking back on, is like, Why was this such a huge deal? But it actually was a really huge deal, and people kept fighting about this in Sentinel fandom for about a year. People would just, report back to SENAD about the terrible, horrible, mean things being said on Prospect-L. Which mostly weren't, and the worst of the offenders was actually from SENAD who signed on under a pseud and just trolled us. And we knew they were trolling us because we tracked their IP address. It's like, We know who you are. Really, seriously; "Here's your IP address, you see this? We know who you are." But that actually started a short wave of mailing lists that allowed for open critical discussion of stories. It was actually really refreshing. The first, the first month of Prospect-L generated, I think, like four or five thousand posts... which was amazing. It was absolutely amazing. People were talking. The first weekend ... We had thought that maybe twenty people would join, because we figured that's how many people were so cranky and bitter. Well, seriously. I mean, because people didn't break fandoms like this, you didn't do it. People stuck to the main list even if they hated it because that's what you do, you stick to your fandom. And we had, like, a hundred people join in the first twenty-four hours, and we were like, Wow, this is ... People might actually talk for a week. This is amazing! And in the first weekend we had like, 700 posts, and then for the first few weeks it was ... It was, like, 200 posts a day, which—. It was crazy. It was crazy at the time. And that, of course, just made people really angry. But there was this huge ... It was that busy because people actually, really needed a place to talk. People had been silenced for a long time, and it was really stifling— the notion that you just couldn't say what you thought because, you know, someone's feelings might get hurt.

There was actually a third list that broke off at the same time, for people who were of the mindset of authors should have the right to opt out of having their work discussed. So, a woman named WindsofDawn created a list called Saficdic — I swear to God, S-a-f-i-c-d-i-c (laughs) — and she thought it was hilariously funny, and I'm just sitting there going, we have different senses of humor. But she really thought this was funny, and other people thought it was funny, so it's like, Okay, different people. But that was for—specifically, to have critical discussion of stories, but everyone had to adhere to this list of names of people who didn't want their stories discussed. You were not allowed to mention their stories in any way. And from what I understand, only one person ever put their name on that list, actually. But it was sort of interesting because Saficdic and Prospect-L were both relatively active at first, but Prospect-L stayed busier longer, and it just had more members and more traffic. The unfettered discussion was clearly ... The fact that more people wanted, either wanted totally fettered, where it's like, No, everyone has to be nice. That SENAD stayed very popular and strong and active, that attitude was very popular with the people who like that. And the "No restrictions, just don't flame. You can't troll and you can't flame," was popular on the other side. The medium ground, "Let's be [unintelligible]," most people say they don't like it. It sort of faded away. But there was ... I mean, for a couple of years there, it was sort of gaining ground that you could do that; you could have one section of fandom for "Let's all play nice in every way, and by nice we mean, don't say anything mean about stories." I mean, the fights on SENAD were incredibly—like I said—vitriolic, and people were really mean to people who wanted to be critical of stories. They didn't mind the personal attacks. It was the attacks on works, the criticism of works they didn't like. While on Prospect-L, we went for the "Don't be nasty to each other, but say whatever you want about the work." It's that side of—that you see in any creative endeavor where some people are like, The work is free to be talked about, and other people are [like], No, the work is my baby. You can call me a bitch, but don't say that my story isn't good.

It's the usual split, right there. So those two sides found a way to coexist by being in different spaces.
That's actually what sparked the beginnings of the Fail-Fandom Anon meme, if you've heard of that. The VividCon wank of 2010 is what it grew out of. And it was part of the round of LiveJournal-based wanks that were going around at the time, and you know ... Disability wank, and warnings wank, and all those things about ... And it sort of comes back to the same thing of, you have to protect everybody at all times. Which is sort of what I'd been battling since 2000.
And so, out of nowhere in 2010, people started wanting trigger warnings at VividCon, even though there had never been warnings at VividCon. And there was a lot of ... You know, you can't really warn for stuff at VividCon. And, mixed up with the trigger warnings—does this come in the same year, or was this the second year? Maybe there were two years? It probably was two years—but there was also a lot of disability wank going on at VividCon, where people who had never been were claiming that because VividCon didn't have a policy exactly like WisCon's—a written policy—that therefore it failed on disability measures. Even though people with disabilities who went to VividCon were out there saying, No, I've been to VividCon. This is my lived experience; you don't know what you're talking about. And they were told, basically, to shut up because they weren't disabled enough if they didn't have a problem.
So I took the list, and I took the list of people who had signed on to do these warnings, and I went through and I watched the vids that they had warned for. And almost every single one of them, other than the original person who made the list—she had gone through and actually warned for her vids appropriately according to her own list—everyone else had failed. We had one woman who said, "Oh, this has got, you know, a little violence." And I went through, and was like, "Well yes, but it's also got highly sexualized violence, which is a separate warning, and it's got this and it's got that, and it's four things you didn't warn for. And everyone is saying sexual violence is the most important thing, and you left it completely out of this vid warning." And this was a point where people were really focused on what's more appropriate. So that even when people have time to do it, even when they're being very careful, even when they're very focused, they're failing to vid appropriately, and you're asking them to put in these warning appropriately. Deadline day for VividCon wasn't as frantic because their export didn't work, and the upload failed, and deadline day is a frantic day, and ... So it's unreasonable in my view to ask people to be precise about warnings like that. And then I went through the previous years' DVDs—VividCon DVDs—I went through premieres on the DVDs with a notebook and a list of—of like a spreadsheet and a notebook of every warning that you were supposed to warn for. And I listed the vids and I put check marks across each vid, under each warning thing for what they should have been warned for. And I found one vid out of the entire premiere show that would have had no warnings attached to it.
I've been fascinated with the Fail-fandom meme, which is, it really—the only actually really look at; I don't look at fandom specific to anonymemes, so I don't know much about them. But it's been interesting because it started out as—I don't know how to explain this. They call the dog-piley people "social justice warriors," SJW, as people who aren't really ... Who are less interested in real social justice as in waving the flag of social justice. As people who just want to talk the talk and look really good and get points for being attacky and dog-piley: "Oh, I dump on everybody, therefore I'm awesome." And they used to be, sort of much more cynical about it. And as the meme has gotten larger and more spread out, and more distant from some of those extreme wanks of 2009, 2010, 2011, that shifted a little bit. It's getting, well ... Like, there was a conversation this past week of, "Do you see more social justice warriors on the meme, like, posting on the meme itself than there used to be?" And people are like, Yeah, actually, I kind of do.
No archive before [Archive of Our Own] — or since, actually — has had tagging available. This is the only one. This is the only place where you can say, "I want all the hurt/comfort," and click on hurt/comfort, and get it. And not just biggies like hurt/comfort. But it's like, I want all the—you know—sixteenth century Italian AUs, and you can find a tag that says "Sixteenth Century Italian AU" and find it. And that's—that's amazing. And they made it work. They did. It's fantastic. And I'm really, really happy that they started this up and they built their core before all of the big recent round, the 2010-ish round of warnings wank hit. Because it means that there warnings of things I can live with. That are mandatory archive warnings of ... What is it? Death, graphic violence, underage, and rape non-con. Okay, those are—. And "Choose not to warn." I suspect that if they had created this archive today, "Choose not to warn" would not have been an acceptable thing. Because the only reason ... It's the fact that that exists on AO3 that makes that an acceptable warning in the warning wanks, I think. Because people got accustomed to it as being an option. ... it makes me happy to see when people specifically use the phrase "Choose not to warn" as an option in various places. I like seeing that we had that big an effect.
I think when the archive was still in closed data, so it was still being, it still only had two other people working and posting to it stuff, it was just literally volunteers in the OTW [that] were doing things in it—and Laura Hale went through and did a comparison between, you know, AO3 after one year of closed beta with 200 people, versus FanLib after one year of being open to the public. And how you know, FanLib had so much more stuff, and AO3 is going to fail, and look they don't have anything, and you can see they just don't have the—something about "They don't have the will to continue; they don't have the will to get this done."
And I've been really happy to see AO3 sort of become a place where people do put their stuff. Where it's like, Oh yeah, have you put that at AO3? Can you put an AO3 link up? And I think once they get ... If they can manage to get vid hosting up or the back torrent—whatever; the Torrent of Our Own—I think vidders will start going there more too, because there's already more vid embeds happening there. Because it's—. Vidders are sort of in an even worse place than fanfic people, where our screening sites get yanked out from under us all the time. Or our stuff gets taken down all the time. And it's really ... If you're ... Like, when iMeem went down a few years ago—sorry, I know you're not writing about the vid part of it, but—when iMeem went down a few years ago, lots of links just died. There was no way to put a referrer up to say "I've moved her now," because it's, like, literally vanished. So, like, lots of recs lists became useless because people had linked to the screen. So. Having a place where there is one permanent link to your vid, even if the streaming site underneath changes, you can just reembed your vid into the same post on AO3. It's tremendous. Ah, it's so cool. And the same for artists; have someplace that's not DeviantART where artists can have a place to put there work that's in the same place where all the fanfic is.