Ficcer pride

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Title: Ficcer pride
Creator: kattahj
Date(s): April 29, 2003
Medium: online
Fandom:
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External Links: Ficcer pride; archive link
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Ficcer pride is a 2003 essay by kattahj.

Some Topics Discussed

  • pseudonyms
  • keeping one's fannishness a secret
  • the internet and increasing visability
  • Anne Rice squashing fanworks
  • the predictability and ridiculousness of mainstream press coverage of fandom

From the Essay

The other day, there was yet another newspaper article talking about slash. This one was even worse than the average, speaking of how "Kirk and Spock giggling leaped into the sack together" and mentioning the Miami Vice guys/MacGyver and Han/Chewie as typical pairings.

I've taken it upon me by default and an inability to keep my mouth shut to be some sort of fandom spokesperson, but by God, it isn't easy. Not only because of assholes like the ones mentioned below. Not even because the film theorists keep claiming that the audience reacts in a certain, predictable manner without ever taking the time to ask the audience.

No, the real frustration is the way fans themselves cower. I'm not talking about the PTB now – in relation to them, a certain amount of caution is adviced, after all. I'm talking about ordinary, every-day muggle relations. "Oh, no! Mustn't tell people I'm a ficcer! They might mock me!"

Yes, I'm aware it's easy for me to say. I'm a university student in a liberal country – I can wear a T-shirt with interlinked Venus symbols to class and have no one make comments. (And have, I might add.) Also, I've gotten so used to being seen as peculiar I don't care if it happens again. I was only about eleven when I realized that certain people wouldn't like me no matter what I did, so I might as well "do what I like and like what I do" – and a remarkable number of people can respect that.

I also understand that a scout leader in Utah may not want to jump up and down and shout "I write gay porn on the Internet!" Still, we're not all scout leaders in Utah.

I know being a fan isn't respected in everyday norms, and being a slasher even less so. But guess what? Norms change. They just don't change by people hiding in the corners of their rooms hoping everyone else will change their minds. That's not how we got women's votes, or outlawed spanking our children. If we're afraid of such silly things as what people might think we're never going to be anything but deviants.

Fan Comments at the Essay

[dangermouse42]:

I have to admit, though - I'm not the type to go broadcasting my fandom-life in the real world. If someone were to ask me, I wouldn't deny it. It's hard to find like-minded people who share our interests (hence my love of LiveJournal). The biggest question I get asked when people find out is "Why do you do it?" I've yet to come up with reasonable answers to that question aside from, "Because I can," and "Because it's fun."

I use my pen name, but most people in the real world know what that is. It's my e-mail address that I use for everything! All they'd have to do is run a search on the internet and come up with slash fic galore. I think if I was challenged about my interests, I'd defend them, but it's never come up so I can't say for sure.

People think what we do is a waste of time and energy. Quite frankly, I'd rather write fanfiction than go out and get drunk at some bar any day of the week. Which is more mature? I think it's a fine line. At least I'm getting practice with my writing. All they're doing is killing brain cells.

I think I'm rambling, so I'll sign off. But, yes. Let's support our hobby! Viva la revolution!

[brenk]:

Ohhhhh yes. And hey, I had to wait a LONG time until I realised I wasn't alone. I was writing adolescent fanfic...er... 30 and more years ago. And it took me until 1999, I think, to realise I wasn't the only one.

Yes, it's great to share how you feel about fandom and fanfic... where you can. I can't exactly go spouting about it to certain people but the delight of having others who 'know what it's about' was indeed a revelation.

And yes, I agree that a lot of people cower. People don't like to make waves (Katta, you should try living in Switzerland where that is just *not done*... by most people). To some extent I can understand they don't want hassle, don't want to stand up and be counted. Show 'em a kerfuffle and they run screaming 'I don't want to get involved'. And that's *OK*, really, because we can't all be crusaders. It doesn't stop me wishing people would speak out more often, but can I blame them for avoiding some of the shit you can get from being misinterpreted or (worse) being selected as a target by the vicious bitches in fandom (and beyond) who get off on spreading rumours and lies? Some people have enough to cope with in RL and prefer their online life to be... if not nice... at least hassle-free.

Whether it's better to live life as a shy lurker or secret ficcer or to expose yourself to varied reactions to talking about something you care about is something I often wonder. I personally can't keep quiet if I feel strongly about things, but a few experiences over the last couple of years do tend to make me think twice about putting fingers to keyboard. Sometimes, the assholes can really hurt.

But hey, don't stop your 'spokeswoman' stuff. There will always be assholes, but to hell with 'em :)
[hibernate]:

These days most of my friends know about my obsession interest for fanfic. I've even tried converting them, but so far I haven't had any luck. If my hobbies come up in a conversation I do mention fanfic, and no one has been surprised so far. Probably because everyone already knows I'm a strange comic and star trek geek. :-)

But then again, while I read plenty of slash, I haven't actually written any yet and I am not sure I ever will. I'm not sure if it's politically correct anymore, but I actually like het. Though I did try to write Janeway/Seven once... so who knows?
[alara r]:

Het is politically incorrect? When did this happen?

*Bad* het is politically incorrect. Good het is transgressive, feminist and revolutionary (good het defined as "the relationship between a strong male and a strong female character in which neither of their personalities are deformed by being forced into traditional roles").

I publish my fanfic under my real name because I am proud of fanfic and will support it publically. Including slash-- I sometimes call myself the loyal opposition regarding slash because while I enjoy the stuff there are aspects of the slash community and slash writing that I can't stand. (Like the belief that het is politically incorrect...) But I'll defend slash to the *outside* world even as I rant about the stupidity of certain slashers or certain slash behaviors inside the community.
[marag]:

Personally, in RL, I treat my fanfic writing the same way I treat my bisexuality or my Jewishness :) That is, I don't run up to strangers on the street and shout "Hi, I'm a bisexual Jewish writer of X-Men and Star Trek: Enterprise: Enterprise fanfiction, nicetomeetcha!" but I don't hide it either.

When hobbies come up in conversation, I mention that I write fiction, and if asked for further detail, I give a simple explanation of fanfiction. When sexual orientation comes up in conversation, I mention I'm bi. When religion/culture comes up, I mention I'm Jewish.

Of course, I'm an employee at a liberal non-profit, so it's been argued that I'm not exactly showing conspicuous bravery, but what can you do? I mean, should I go get a job at the Concerned Women of America just to prove a point? ::giggle::

And I use my full, real name for my fanfiction. I understand all the reasons people have for using pseudonyms, but when I started writing, I just couldn't see that any of them applied to me. Maybe someday a prospective employer will google me, and decide not to hire me based on my fic, but that's probably someone I don't want to work for anyway. So there

[stakebait]:

I think this is a fannish generational thing. I am out and proud about my fandoms -- fanfic and slash being recent additions to being an SF con-goin' book dork. My family knows, my co-workers know, my friends know. But a) I'm like that about most things, and b) I'm also relatively recently come to these parts, because I am a young 'un. Post Star Trek, for SF fandom. Post Internet for fanfic.

I don't personally remember the bad old days when mainstream culture was so utterly dismissive that people wanted to run away to fandom and lock the door behind them. Slash may be getting dissed in mainstream rags all over the planet, but its also getting *written up* in mainstream rags all over the planet. This would've been unthinkable mumble years ago.

And I think that what this basically is the distinction between having your queer sensibilities formed pre- and post-Stonewall. Your sense of how much at risk you are in the world, and how unspeakable certain things are in certain settings, is just radically different depending on the context you came out into. Some few people came out post-Stonewall into a pre-Stonewall sensibility, and vice versa, but for the most part we are Of Our Times.

Just like Stonewall, the fight's not over. And just like Stonewall, the people who bemoan the loss of cultures, manners, and assumptions from before the revolution have a point -- and so do the people who want to finish throwing off our chains and be more outrageous yet.

One interesting note, I think those of us who are Latter Day Fans (and not in particularly paranoid-with-reason fandoms) are far more likely to write under our real names.

[...]

Anything a potential employer can find by googling, the PTB can too. Anybody you tell could tell someone else, and the non-fannish are less likely to appreciate the need for discretion. If one person tells one person who tells one person who works out at the gym with the PTB's personal assistant... well then you're fucked. Six degrees in action.

I have the great luxury of writing in a fandom whose creator says in interviews that when the show is over people should spend that time writing fanfic instead. I don't plan on forcing my writing on his notice, because that would be foolhardy and in any case presumptuous, but I'm sitting reasonably pretty in my assumption that he won't go looking for it, unless he's really bored someday and looking for a private giggle.

Not everyone is so lucky. I've had friends who got C&D letters, stalker-like intimidation based on how much of their personal info *was* available on the net, etc., etc. I can't blame them for putting up the Iron Wall between the stuff they could get sued for and the stuff that links to their real name/life/house/whatever.

[...]

Some of the friends I was talking about were in the Anne Rice the Original fandom. That wasn't that long ago. For all I know, some of them still are, under other names and very very quietly. They don't tell, and I don't ask.

Some of them were in the Harry Potter Web Sites with Harry Potter in the Name witchhunt, or knew someone who was. That wasn't that long ago either. Some of them were in Star Trek before those PTB calmed down, and don't want to take the chance that with a change of ownership or attitude they might uncalm again. After all, Anne Rice herself "seemed vaguely positive" on the concept for years before the freak out.

Some of them were at cons where the dealers rooms were raided and fan art taken down -- which has happened as recently as this year.

I wouldn't call it paranoia to think it might happen when it is in fact happening. I don't see people saying "this will inevitably happen to me personally if I take the chance", I see them saying, "it could, and the consequences are bad enough that I don't care to risk it."

And well, it could. It does. And damned few of us have the money to fight a legal challenge. (Which is why I want to start a Fanfic legal defense fund someday, but separate issue.) Just how big a risk is impossible to say. But I know I'm taking one, I know there are some I wouldn't take, and I'm not prepared to tell other people they're cowering because they don't draw the line in the same place I do. Their risk may well be higher, or maybe they have more to lose.
[kattahj]:

I know I'm fortunate to live in a corner of the world where no one would bother. But still, fan art taken down? C&D letters? Worse things could happen. If law suits were filed on a regular basis, it would be a different thing. But pirate copiers are prosecuted a lot more often than ficcers are, and still most people who download stuff from kazaa aren't scared to tell their friends about it. (In fact, I think most PTBs are well aware that the legality of fanfic is shady, not set in stone, and they don't want a presedence set saying it's fair use.)

I *do* believe in a certain amount of caution concerning the PTB, particularly where other people's work is involved. I'm not even saying people have to use their own names online. But if a person thinks admitting to their work pals that they write fic is going to get them in trouble, I quite frankly can't see that as anything *but* paranoia. And I don't think that's the general reason.

Besides, think of all the PTBs who *don't* come down on us. Most of them know pretty much exactly what we're up to. It's a bit sad if they're thrown in with the rest of the bunch.
[stakebait]:

People sometimes tell names, on the assumption that it won't mean anything to anyone so it's safe. Or little factoids like where they work or went to school that don't mean much by themselves but can be added up to way more information that people realized they were making available.

I've seen it do things like blow up marriages and friendships when one person tells one person tells one person and suddenly it gets back to someone who puts the pieces together. I've seen it (just recently, online) get back to the classmate of someone mentioned in an RPF. I've seen things said in what seemed like far flung contexts and social circles get back to someone's boss and get them fired. I haven't yet seen it get back to the PTB, but I don't think that means it hasn't or couldn't.

As for cons and the Internet -- yes and yes. But you don't have to use your real name in either place, which limits how much damage can be done to you. At work and with your real life friends, you do.

Plus? Going to cons and/or being on the Internet -- in other words, talking to other fen -- is an all but essential part of being a fan. People take those risks because they can't do this thing they love without them. But people can perfectly well be fannish without telling their work friends about it -- in fact, its often easier. Why should they take a risk with no reward? I take mine because I judge it small and I don't like keeping secrets, but that's just my personal cost/benefit analysis.

[alara r]:

New fandom, old fandom

Actually I have observed paranoia about the *internet* more than paranoia about the use of real names being differential based on your age.

I'm on the cusp-- came of age into fandom pre-internet, worked in a very minor fandom on paper for five years and collected zines for a major one, then got into the internet simultaneously with hooking up with my first participatory major fandom. I embraced the Internet instantly. Others were all like "What if someone steals my fic?" (Like this never happens in zines?) The paranoia about the Internet from the people just a few years older than me boggled my mind.

However, I've seen a wide variety of pseudonymizing behavior from different people in different fannish generations. Blake's 7 slash zines (B7 is an old-style fandom in which the *actors* are extraordinarily hostile to slash) are often published under the editor's real name and with some real names and some fake names thrown together. *Most* people on the Internet seem to use pseuds even if the pseud is just a handle that shortens their real name. So I think the pseudonymizing behavior might actually be stronger post-internet in part because of paranoia about putting your personal info *on* the internet. Never mind the slash, what about the spammers? Or before it was the spammers it was the pedophiles who would somehow reach through the lines and yank you into the computer to have their way with you if you gave them your true name. :-)

sherrold:

"fanficcer?" Ugh. What a horrible word. "Fanfic" has been around forever (though the usage "a fanfic" makes me insane), I've made my peace with "fic", and but "ficcy" can still send me into a tizzy.

And fanficcer, I must say, is completely beyond the pale. Have pride if you can, but there's a difference between someone saying that they're 'gay' and someone saying they're a 'fudgepacker', and being proud of being a fanficcer very much reminds me of the second.

Pedantically yours,

Sandy

References