|Name:||Prospect-L, P-L, PL|
|Date(s):||June 28, 2000 - present (though it has been mostly dormant since about 2011)|
|Moderators/List Maintainers:||Merry and Margie|
|Founder(s):||Merry and Margie|
|Type:||discussion of fanfic|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
The list has been mostly dormant since about 2011.
The list was designed to be a place where readers could talk to each other about what they've read, rather than to give authors feedback or help them become better writers.
Unlike many mailing lists, Prospect-L had a firm rule against metadiscussion, or "discussing the discussion" -- no one was allowed to post into a discussion suggesting a better way to phrase things, or "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all", etc. The result was a community where discussions stayed on topic, without getting bogged down in endless arguments about who should be saying what, and how.
The acceptance of critical discussion at Prospect-L made many people in the fandom deeply uncomfortable, and in some corners of Sentinel fandom, Prospect-L was considered a "mean" list. For others, it was a breath of fresh air, and especially in its first few years, the list was extremely active.
From the profile page:
Prospect-L is an open Sentinel Slash discussion list. This means that the bulk of our conversation will center around slash-related Sentinel topics and fiction. Discussion of gen topics and gen fiction is allowed because your Admins (Merry and Margie) are completists, but the slant of Prospect-L is slash-centric, gen-friendly. Any topic related to the television show The Sentinel is welcome. This includes discussion of the characters, the episodes, the writing, the production, the cast and crew, the fandom, etc. We also include in this any discussion or commentary on Sentinel fan fiction, at whatever level of complexity, silliness, or venting our members so desire. You're free to talk about what you liked, what you didn't like, why you liked or disliked it, trends you've noticed, what you hate, what you love, whatever. 
Welcome to your regularly scheduled broadcast of the Prospect-L Frequently Asked Questions list. We attempted to make this brief and concise, but failed utterly, in the interest of full disclosure.
1. What is Prospect-L?
Prospect-L is an open Sentinel Slash discussion list. This means that the bulk of our conversation will center around slash-related Sentinel topics and fiction. Discussion of gen topics and gen fiction is allowed because your Admins are completists, but the slant of Prospect-L is slash-centric, gen-friendly.
Any topic related to the television show The Sentinel is welcome. This includes discussion of the characters, the episodes, the writing, the production, the cast and crew, the fandom, etc. We also include in this any discussion or commentary on Sentinel fan fiction, at whatever level of complexity, silliness, or venting our members so desire. You're free to talk about what you liked, what you didn't like, why you liked or disliked it, trends you've noticed, what you hate, what you love, whatever. And you can discuss it to whatever degree you want, from a casual "I loved/hated/liked/disliked/didn't care for/didn't read that new story that dropped today on JoeSentinelFictionList" to an in-depth critique.
Our basic philosophy: Limiting discussion topics in a discussion group tends to limit discussion. People get nervous about posting, they get quiet, and really cool things fail to get said.
We feel that allowing people to discuss only those stories whose writers approve of such discussion is inherently limiting, and accords to the writers a degree of control over readers' activities that is unprecedented in reality. We also feel that fanfic discussion should be part of overall discussion of The Sentinel, rather than something subversive that must be kept separate (like your crazy old aunt in the attic).
2. Aha! This is why some folks call you guys the Mean List!
3. Does this mean I can finally tell Jane Q. Fanwriter that she sucks like a Hoover and should be drummed out of the fandom?
You can say Jane Q. Fanwriter's *fiction* sucks like a Hoover, though, if you like. If that's your honest opinion, no one is going to stop you from expressing it, least of all the Admins. We're also not going to stop anybody from disagreeing with you. Basic rule of thumb: Don't insult anything that might conceivably insult you back. Works of fiction, in our experience, rarely make a fuss about how maligned they are.
4. So what does Prospect-L do that other lists don't do?
Prospect-L arose from a perceived need on the part of the Admins and many others for a truly open forum for the slash-related discussion of The Sentinel and of the slash fan fiction based on the show.
At the time of its creation, though gen lists with more liberal policies existed, other slash lists within the fandom restricted discussion of fiction according to the preferences of the writers. In other words, a writer could forbid discussion of her writing on those lists if she chose to.
This is not the case on Prospect-L. Here, all Sentinel fan fiction is fair game for discussion; permission from the writer is not required.
One of the basic ideas behind Prospect-L is that readers are as vital to fandom as writers, and in fact, that most writers *are* also readers. Therefore, to limit readers in the scope of their discussions is damaging to the fandom as a whole.
5. Are there any limits to this freedom of discussion, this wild bacchanalia of conversation you promise us?
In the interests of full disclosure -- yes. We're a little off-the-wall, but we don't claim to be an anarchy. Our basic philosophy doesn't mean there are no rules. It just means the rules are a little bit different than you may be used to. See "The Rules" at the end of this FAQ.
We're also pretty firm on the whole "on topic" thing. On-topic means The Sentinel. That's pretty much it. No other shows/fandoms (unless you're talking about a crossover), no "what's your favorite book?", etc. And if you do post about another show, and you spoil that show for someone, we will come down on you so fast your head will spin. Seriously. DO NOT SPOIL SHOWS OR MOVIES FOR PEOPLE.
6. Is Prospect-L an active list?
Pretty active, in spurts. The crazy insane mad activity of our first few months has settled down to a reasonable, fairly steady rate. We also have a digest option, if that should prove too much for you.
7. Is anybody in charge around here?
You can reach Margie at [redacted], and Merry at [redacted]. We also jointly answer to [redacted].
8. Do I need to send in an age statement?
Nope. Prospect-L is an adult list. Members are required to be at or over the age of majority for their region in order to remain subscribed to Prospect-L. Remaining subscribed to Prospect-L after receiving this FAQ will be seen as a statement that you are aware of this rule and meet this criterion for membership.
9. Do I need to write an Ob-Prospect  if I send an off-topic post?
No. In fact, we insist that you don't. Off-topic posts, if you have to send them, should be short and sweet and not extended by adding story bits at the end. All replies to off-topic posts should be sent privately.
10. Can I send my new TS story to Prospect-L?
11. Is there anything else I should know?
Only that during an early vote, and in a fit of abject strangeness, several members of Prospect-L chose Cthulhu (sometimes referred to as "the Great Squid") as List Mascot. Those members are very weird. Try not to make direct eye contact with them if at all possible.
Oh, and you might want to know what the rules are.
Rule the First: The axing of a thread is the business of the Admins only, and will occur very rarely. The List Admins have no intention of stopping any conversation unless it has turned into an ad hominem attack or a metadiscussion - discussion of the value of discussion.
The following are our two most important rules, so we're gonna be VERY SPECIFIC:
Rule the Second: No metadiscussion. This means we do not allow discussion about what we should discuss, whether we should discuss, or how we should discuss. In our experience, discussion of how people *should* discuss stories in public is the kiss of death for the actual, real discussion of said stories. Therefore, we do not and will not allow metadiscussion on Prospect-L.
To clarify, a few examples of story discussion:
Good: "How can you not like stories by Writer X? Are you nuts?"
Good: "What makes you like this story/a story or not like it?"
Good: "You're so wrong I don't even know where to start."
Good: "HA! As if!"
(Note that the above examples pertain directly to fiction and the poster's opinions about fiction, rather than to the *discussion* of fiction.)
And then there's metadiscussion...
Bad: "You shouldn't be so negative -- can't you find anything *nice* to say?"
Bad: "We shouldn't be so hard/soft on writers because they're _________."
Bad: "Criticism should only be constructive."
(Note that the above examples all pertain directly to the *way* people discuss fiction, rather than to fiction itself.)
Metadiscussion also includes discussing the conversation itself, instead of the conversational topic:
Bad: "I'm entitled to an opinion."
Bad: "The list's rules let me say this."
Bad: "You can't say that, it's against the list rules."
(Note that the above examples are all about justifying a post's existence, rather than contributing to the actual conversation at hand.)
This is not a comprehensive list of all comments that may fall under the heading of metadiscussion; rather, it's just a few examples to give those who are confused some idea of what metadiscussion actually is.
In instances of confusion about what is or is not metadiscussion, the List Admins will make the final decision.
Furthermore, anyone who tries to stop discussion by saying "you have a delete key, use it if you don't like a story" will be tossed to the rest of the list while the Admins sit back with snacks to watch the destruction.
Rule the Third: No ad hominem attacks. An ad hominem attack is marked by an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made in the debate.
Good: "That story sucked!"
Bad: "YOU suck!"
Good: "You're wrong!"
Bad: "You're stupid!"
(Note that the "good" examples refer only to fiction or opinions, while the "bad" examples refer to actual living people.)
In instances of confusion about what is or is not an ad hominem attack, the List Admins will make the final decision.
Rule the Fourth: You are expected to make allowances for people of different backgrounds.
Rule the Fifth: You are expected not to take offense if someone forgets to make allowances for you being of a different background.
Rule the Sixth: Flames will be handled by the Admins. The Admins read the list. Don't whine to the Admins that you've been flamed on the list - if you've been flamed, we'll know it. This means that the Admins will decide what constitutes a flame. (Be advised that we consider anything short of "You just *suck!*" to be non-flammable. Discussion is allowed. Venting is allowed, too. We like snarky people and snarky posts.)
Rule the Seventh: Don't whine to the Admins that you've been flamed in private email. The Admins neither have nor want any control over what anybody does in private email.
Rule the Eighth: This isn't actually a rule, as such; more of a Notice:
We would like to inform you that all posts to Prospect-L are completely private and will never be passed on to any non-list member. However, our powers are not that extensive (damn it). There is no practical way to enforce a rule against forwarding posts from Prospect-L to other lists or individuals, and it would be irresponsible of us to pretend otherwise. That being the case, we want to make this perfectly clear:
Prospect-L is a public list. Once you post to Prospect-L, it is entirely possible that your posts will find their way to unexpected places. Privacy is not something any Admin can promise you; anyone who says different is selling something.
-But.- If you are a member of this list, and you publicly put someone else's post on the web -- e.g, on a Livejournal, to MySpace, etc. -- and we find out about it, you're banned. No exceptions. We can't stop private forwarding to lists, individuals, or locked LJ posts, but we won't stand for publicly republishing someone else's posts.
Rule the Ninth: With regard to the forwarding of posts *to* Prospect-L from non-members or from other lists: The list member who forwards any post to Prospect-L will be held responsible for the contents of that post. This means that the head-smack for any forwarded post that violates the list rules will fall with lightning speed upon the list member who forwarded it.
Rule the Tenth: With regard to the forwarding of private email to Prospect-L without permission from the person who sent it to you: Don't do it. If you want to refer to something on-topic from your private email, feel free to paraphrase.
Subbing: Send an email to [redacted]
Unsubbing: Send an email to [redacted]
Posting: Send email to [redacted]
And that's it for the FAQ. If you have any other questions, please let us know. This FAQ will be posted automatically once a month by the Prospect-L list software, and can be found as a text file in the Rules & FAQ folder located at: http://www.groups.yahoo.com/Prospect-L/files/.
--Merry and Margie Admins, Prospect-L
In 2012, one of the listowners, Margie, discussed the history and formation of Prospect-L. See Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna (September 2012) for more.
...in 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.
Meta and Further Reading
- So What's a Real TS Fic? (2006)
- Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Therienne (2012)
- Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna (September 2012)
- Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna (September 2012)
- from a fan in July 2000: "there's a new discussion list, the likes of which this fandom has never seen and has aways needed. Prospect-L, welcome at last to the universe! If, like me, you were keeping away from TS fandom because of Senad and related stupidity, this is the list for you." -- comment by Julad at yearningvoid
- Source: Group Description, accessed July 1, 2010.
- a reference to Obsenads
- Source: monthly FAQ post sent to the mailing list. Posted with mod permission; email addresses redacted during posting to Fanlore. Accessed November 12, 2013. It is also publicly here: Prospect-L FAQ, Archived version