Queen (Dragonriders of Pern story)

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Fanfiction
Title: Queen
Author(s): Unwinded
Date(s): 21 December 2011
Length: 3226 words
Genre: Impression story
Fandom: Dragonriders of Pern
External Links: Yuletide 2011 collection

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

"Queen" is a short story by Unwinded set in the world of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series some time after the end of Dragonquest but before The White Dragon. It stars a pair of OMCs, with a cameo appearance by Mirrim, who is a canonical character in the series.

The story was a Yuletide gift for Xylaria in 2011.

Synopsis

Soryn is being beaten up by fellow holders for being gay when he is suddenly rescued by a bronze rider from Benden Weyr, P'Gren, and his dragon, Tagranth, who are on Search. After being treated for his injuries by Mirrim, Soryn is presented at the Hatching where he Impresses a gold dragonet.

A Male Gold Rider

From a generic perspective, "Queen" is an example of one of the commonest forms of Pern fanfic. There are many Mary Sue stories in which an underdog teenager, bullied and despised, is found on Search and impresses a dragon, often a high-status gold or bronze, and thus finds a sympathetic home at a Weyr. These stories are perfectly in keeping with McCaffrey's canon themes. The first Pern story, Weyr Search, published in 1967, is about a beautiful young noblewoman disguised as an ugly drudge, secretly using psychic powers to ruin the land stolen from her murdered family; she is found on Search and impresses a queen dragon. "The Smallest Dragonboy", published in 1973, expressly depicts a bullied youngster who struggles to the Hatching despite a concussion and broken limbs, and impresses a bronze dragon. The theme also appears in Dragonsong/Dragonsinger, where a musically gifted teenage girl runs away from home to escape extreme parental abuse, and is later welcomed into the guild of Harpers, which does not normally accept women.

Thematically, however, Unwinded wrote "Queen" to make a point about canonical gender roles for dragonriders on McCaffrey's Pern.

Background

Anne McCaffrey's Pern series initially had strictly delineated sex roles for dragon riders: fighting dragons were restricted to male riders; women were only allowed to impress the egg-laying golds. To a degree, this was relaxed in later books in the series, especially those by Todd McCaffrey: female characters now canonically impress green and blue dragons. Some games and clubs therefore adhere to the original rule, while others permit women to impress greens, blues, and browns; and there is considerable fan fiction in which women impress and/or ride fighting dragons of any colour. Nevertheless, the official policy on fanworks still requires bronze dragons to impress exclusively heterosexual men and gold dragons only heterosexual women—which logically requires leaders of the Weyr, the Weyrleader and Weyrwoman, to be always a heterosexual couple. There has long been criticism of the sex-role restrictions.

Comments

Ever since "Queen" was posted, fans have commented favourably on the conclusion.

I feel like such a bad feminist. I've gotten so growly about only men (barring Mirrim) impressing the non-golds, and yet it never occurred to me to consider a male impressing a gold. Thank you for flicking my brain into action on that topic. [...]

— comment by kitsunealyc, 26 Dec 2011 11:42AM EST

Oh, this is wonderful! I adore the idea of a man Impressing a queen, and as much as Anne McCaffery pushed some boundaries with her exploration of the bonds between dragons, dragonriders, and the gender roles that went with them, we all know she could have gone further. I, too, would love to read more of this story--the effect of a male queenrider on the rest of the Weyr would be fascinating [...].

— comment by kouredios, 26 Dec 2011 04:31PM EST

[...], I had no idea how badly I wanted to read this story until you wrote it. I, too, have balked at the gender discriminating that goes on amongst dragonriders and I cheered my heart out when Mirrim impressed her green and opened the door. However, like so many others, I'm sure, it never occurred to me that the discriminating actually went both ways. [...]

— comment by eirenical (chibi1723), 27 Dec 2011 04:17PM EST

Great story, and great original characters. I always wanted to see more diversity in the "careers" of both genders in the Pern books, with women riding dragons other than golds (and Mirrim's lone green), but I'd never thought about a man as a gold rider. [...]

— comment by dkwilliams, 02 Jan 2012 10:05PM EST

awesome story I love seeing males put on a gold; please do a sequel or add on

— comment by QueenAkadeannaHawk, 26 Oct 2014 02:28AM EDT

Thank you. I've been wanting a male rider for a Gold since the first book - might have been a bit too young to realize what it meant back then but even before Miriam impressed Path, I thought there should be a badass guy riding a gold. [...]

— comment by TheWinsomeWasp, 06 Jun 2015 04:55PM EDT

Several readers have added that they would like to see a sequel, both for the sake of the characters and to explore further the reactions within Benden Weyr to the existence of a male gold rider.

It is clear from the comments that, whether or not these readers had previously been familiar with Pern fan fiction that expands the role of women riders, many of them had not heretofore considered sexist the constraint on male characters not to impress gold dragons. "Queen" therefore opened their eyes.[1] From their perspective, therefore, Unwinded was implicitly making a cogent meta point, not only about Pern canon, but also about fannish concerns.

Another Perspective

On the Fail_Fandomanon community, however, there was a different perspective from some oldtime members of Pern fandom who were familiar with fiction from the period before McCaffrey instituted her strict constraints on fan writing. Not only were they familiar with fan fiction in which unconventional dragon/rider pairings are used to "correct" the canonical gender bias of published Pern fiction, but they considered stories of male gold riders to be a commonplace.[2]

What gets me is the commenters burbling about what an original idea it is. People were writing about guys impressing golds and women impressing bronzes back in the 80s.[3] It's one of the reasons McCaffrey cracked down so hard on fanfic and RPGs for awhile, because she couldn't deal with the idea that people were fucking around with the gender rules for impressing dragons.

— posted 2011-12-26 10:07 pm (local)

Same here! I was in Pern fandom for many years in the mid-90s, and that kind of story was so common as to be cliche: the gay OMCs, the clumsy attempt to address real-world homophobia via the Pern universe, the hurt/comfort, the surprise!Impression of a gold to a man. It was right up there with 'fiery redheaded Harper girl candidates' on the list of super-common character tropes and cliches. Not original or new at all.

— posted 2011-12-26 10:37 pm (local)

Maybe someone should remind those commenters that the Oh So Original idea has been done to death in the 90s, then.

— posted 2011-12-27 09:12 am (local)

This says much about the history of Pern fandom.

In the 1980s, fan fiction was largely published in zines, about which McCaffrey was relatively tolerant, since she felt that they reached a limited audience. The advent of the internet, however, meant a potentially enormous audience for stories published on the web; and this led in the mid 1990s to the official crackdown on fan fiction and strict guidelines for Pern RPGs—a situation that lasted for several years. As can be seen here, this break between zine and on-line Pern fan fiction has resulted in a discontinuity in the fandom's traditions. As well, of course, Yuletide stories attract casual readers who, while familiar with the books (and thus fans in the broader sense), have never been in Pern fandom proper.

Controversy

Some time after Yuletide went live on 25 December, comments to "Queen" indicated that some readers had strong objections to the author's presenting it to xylaria as her Yuletide gift. Within a few hours, discussion had become so heated that several threads of comments on AO3 were summarily deleted.

The controversy quickly also became heated on anonmemes. In the comment that opened the thread "The Preachiest Yuletide Story" on Fail_Fandomanon, "Queen" was dubbed "The Gay Bashing Dragon Story".[4] The nickname was rapidly adopted, and is now used more often than its actual title.

Background

"Queen" was written as a gift for xylaria in Yuletide 2011 to her prompt:

Mirrim

I have to admit that part of the reason I requested this is that there was some really fantastic Mirrim fic for Yuletide last year. Pern was a childhood favorite so it has been a long time since I read most of it and I never got into the newer books. Feel free to go AU. The characters are more important to me here than the cannon specifics. Other favorite characters include Manora, Menolly, Robinton, Silvina and Emily Boll (yes, she is a random one on the list, but I loved her quiet strength. I would have nominated her if I'd thought of it sooner). Feel free to write about any of them if you'd prefer. I would prefer femslash or gen for Mirrim and Menolly, but am fine with femslash, gen, or cannon het for any of the others.
excerpted from xylaria's post "Dear Yulegoat" on her LJ blog, 17 November 2011

Presumably Xylaria's assigned writer defaulted, for her prompts went out as No. 187 on the pinch hit list (apparently late on 22 December 2011).

As Unwinded later described in an author's note posted some time after Yuletide went live, s/he had already started and uploaded "Queen" to the Yuletide collection, not as an assigned gift, but as an unsolicited present for a friend who was a Pern fan. Seeing Xylaria's prompt, however, Unwinded asked this friend to relinquish the story so that it could be repurposed as a pinch hit.

This story has been started and uploaded as a treat to the Yuletide collection itself, initially without a particular recipient requesting the fandom. Instead it was begun for a friend who dearly loves the Dragonriders series.

When this Dragonriders prompt came up on the pinchhit list late on the 22nd and contained most of what I'd already written (Dragonriders, Mirrim, AU--three out of four) I claimed it (after my friend agreed to relinquish her gift), sure to be able to finish it in time and only wishing to help out. I took the Yuletide FAQ at face value in my enthusiasm of being able to fill a pinchhit prompt, [...].

— excerpted from Unwinded's first (anonymous) author note to "Queen"

What is apparent to anyone comparing the actual story with the prompt is the incongruence of "Queen" with Xylaria's request. Although, as the Yuletide rules clearly state, "optional details are optional", she clearly wanted a story about Mirrim, not merely one in which the character got a walk-on part. Failing that, she offered a list of other favoured characters, all female. "Queen", on the other hand, features two male OMCs. It is a bit of special pleading for Unwinded to say that "most of what I'd already written (Dragonriders, Mirrim, AU--three out of four)" is to be found in the prompt.

Nevertheless, nominally, since Mirrim does appear, "Queen" does fulfil the requirements of the Yuletide rules. Controversy swirled therefore around several issues: the then-anonymous author's chutzpah in proffering "Queen" in fulfilment of the prompt; the recipient's response; the Yuletide moderator's response; and the various comments posted to the story itself, i.e. on AO3.

Initial Response on Fail_Fandomanon

It was early on the afternoon of the 25th (i.e., shortly after the 2011 Yuletide collection was opened) that an anonymous "friend" of Xylaria[5] posted in a "Re: Yuletide thread" on Fail_Fandomanon about the dissonance between story and prompt. (It should be noted that this was before the Author's Note was appended to the story.) The following excerpts some of the comments:

[...] a friend of mine requested femslash and got male OC/male OC in which the requested female character shows up for a paragraph to help bathe one of the OC's wounds. Yeah.

Anonymous 2011-12-25 01:25 pm (local)

eesh, that doesn't even make sense. [...] I can't imagine writing OCs for someone else's gift fic, unless the recipient specified it or asked for world building fic or whatever. What a bummer.

Anonymous 2011-12-25 01:57 pm (local)

That sounds horrible. I felt bad that I ignored the optional details on mine, but at least I wrote about the characters they requested.

Anonymous 2011-12-25 02:07 pm (local)

Ah yes. I read that one. I seriously wonder WTF the writer was thinking.

Anonymous 2011-12-25 02:59 pm (local)

What is noticeable, especially in the context of comments that came later, on FFA, on Yuletide_Coal, and on the story itself, is the relatively dispassionate reaction. This is particularly true in further comments:

It sucks but considering she got three other fics and has an unrevealed madness fic still to come, I don't think it should be that hard to fake a "thanks for writing" type non-comment. It would have been so much worse if that was the only fic she'd gotten.

Anonymous 2011-12-26 03:16 am (local)

*squint* It seems less awful to me now that I see that the recipient has another three stories and one Yuletide Madness treat, including one for that specific prompt, of more than reasonable length (didn't read them, can't speak to quality). It looks to me like someone browsing the letters got randomly inspired (... in the broadest of possible ways, apparently, but still), wrote a treat and stuck it up there just in case the recip might enjoy it (or possibly just so it would be in the YT collection.

Anonymous 2011-12-26 03:20 am (local)

Further comments in this thread come after the recipient's response, the author's note(s), and the strong reaction from other anonymous commenters elsewhere.

Initial Response on AO3 (Yuletide 2011 Collection)

By contrast, the people who first read "Queen" on AO3 after the collection opened on December 25th (that is, before the Author's Note was appended to the story), were not aware of any incongruity between Xylaria's prompt and the story that she received. These first three commenters therefore wrote only in reaction to the plot.

This was so good! I loved Mirrim rocking it out in the background, and just this whole thing. Excellent job!

— Wicked Wonder, 25 Dec 2011 01:52PM EST

YES!!!!

*shrieks glee*

Wonderfully done.

— ilyena_sylph, 25 Dec 2011 08:47PM CET

This is lovely. I would love to read more about these characters, and about what happens to S'ryn and Keith next.

— ellen_fremedon, 25 Dec 2011 08:01PM EST

Xylaria's Response

Xylaria did not formally respond to the gift until the day after the Yuletide collection opened. This may be because, in 2011, not only did Yuletide open relatively late compared with previous years, but Christmas fell on a Sunday; so that, not surprisingly, some recipients were not in a position to read their stories immediately. However, it is likely (given that one of her friends had already commented anonymously on FFA) that Xylaria was aware of the story and wanted time to compose her response with care. It was therefore the fourth comment posted to the story. (Again, the timing is significant; so it should be noted that Xylaria responded before the Author's Note was appended to "Queen".)

Thank you for writing this for me. It is well written and I really appreciate the effort you put into it. I enjoyed the appearance of Mirrim, though h/c slash isn't really my cup of tea. I'm glad others are enjoying it, though!

— Xylaria's comment on "Queen", 26 Dec 2011 09:51AM EST

First Comment on Xylaria's Response

The first comment to "Queen" after this response came from Paper Weight, who felt Xylaria had been ungracious. However, this reaction was itself the object of criticism from several other people.

I simply love this story. I wish someone had written it for me. It is true to the Dragonriders stories and written in the style of Anne McCaffrey. I must say that I found the recipient of this story to be rather ungrateful in her comment. You ‘appreciate the effort’ that the writer made, but you make little effort to say a proper thank you for a story that was written as a gift. If I had written this story I would be hurt by the ‘I am glad that others are enjoying it though.’

— Paper Weight's comment on Xylaria's response, 26 Dec 2011 11:03AM EST

Considering how far this story veered from the recipient's request (you can look up their original request, and this is not at all what they asked for), I think that was a pretty generous response. How else should should they have responded?

— Anonymous, 26 Dec 2011 06:57PM EST

Yeah, no. The recip asked for f/f or gen with Mirrim. The story is omc/omc with a background appearance by the requested character, where she tends to the male oc's wounds. Like, you honestly don't see a problem with that?

— DA, 26 Dec 2011 07:46PM EST

Paper Weight, the author was incredibly insensitive and oblivious to the wishes of the requester, so I think the requester's response was quite generous and kind under the circumstances.

— DDA, 26 Dec 2011 08:28PM EST

This story is just about the complete opposite of what the recipient requested, and the recipient nevertheless took time to write a considerate review while being honest about their own feelings. If I was the author I would be glad that my recipient was so understanding.

— Anon, 27 Dec 2011 10:12AM EST

Similar comments were simultaneously appearing on FFA in a thread responding to the comment "Preachiest Yuletide Story":

I don't know the recipient of the dragon story, but this comment to the fic [...] is just righteously pissing me off, to the point where I very nearly said something snippy in reply. The hell do you think you are to tell someone else how to reply to a fic? Especially a fic that was written so wildly off of what was requested. I'm surprised the recipient was as gracious as they were.

— posted to FFA 26 December 2011, 07:34 pm (local)

Damn it, that makes me mad, too. The recipient was plenty gracious considering the author completely ignored everything they said they'd like to see, including sidelining the character they were downright required to write about.

— posted to FFA 26 December 2011, 08:00 pm (local)

I bet that's the author herself logged out or a good friend of hers. Most other people would be unlikely to find that review rude IMO, if they even care enough to pay that much attention to it.

— posted to FFA 26 December 2011, 08:01 pm (local)

[...] So fucking rude - the author and her white knight. The recipient was way more polite than the author deserved.

— posted to FFA 26 December 2011, 08:03 pm (local)

Several things are noteworthy here. Up to this point, no one actually responding to the story (as opposed to those doing so on anonmemes) appears to have referenced Xylaria's original prompt and compared it with the gift she received. Also, up to this point, no one had responded anonymously to the story on AO3. Indeed, the use of the abbreviations "DA" and "DDA" (commonly used on anonmemes to disentangle threads by distinguishing between different writers) suggests that it is at this point that people from FFA and/or Yuletide_Coal first began to follow links that had been posted in those communities. It is also notable how several anonymous commenters post in succession, dogpiling the person to whose response they object.

From this point on, some comments posted to "Queen" on AO3 focus on the story, while other comments focus on the circumstances of the story (i.e., the deviation from the prompt, the author's intentions, the tone of Xylaria's response, and the comments of the readers).

Further General Comments on the Story Itself

The next few comments focus more on the story, including those by kitsunealyc and kouredios that were excerpted above, with similar remarks by Sheila_Snow, greerwatson, Morbane, Ann, and pentapus. From the time stamps, some of these appear to have been made before the anonymous comments foregrounded the author's disregard of Xylaria's character request; but others clearly date after that time. Only one, however, references the issue:

I'm going to leave aside the comments on whether this was a suitable story to write for this particular recipient (which is a whole other issue) and focus on the story itself.

McCaffrey's gender rules are notorious; [...]. I suspect most readers were like me, and assumed that this would be another story in which the abused, low-ranking candidate was saved from a life of toil, therefore assuming that Soryn would impress a green dragon and become P'ren's lover. I thoroughly enjoyed the surprise of having Soryn impress the gold. I agree with others who have said that they'd like to read a sequel.

— comment by greerwatson, 26 Dec 2011 10:46PM EST

Of particular note is Sheila_Snow's comment, which suggests that a significant number of people accessing the Pern stories at Yuletide are familiar with McCaffrey's books rather than Pern fandom:

What an intriguing and original concept! I don't know if Soryn is an OC or part of canon (it's been awhile since I've read the books), but even with this brief introduction, he seems to be quite an interesting character in his own right even without the uniqueness of impressing a Gold. Very well written, and I would dearly love to see more of P'ren and Soryn in the future. You have the McCaffrey style down pat, as well. Lovely, lovely fic!

— comment by Sheila_Snow, 26 Dec 2011 06:48PM EST

Also noteworthy is Morbane's comment, which critiques one particular scene in the story:

I like the twist to canon in this; about the only thing I have issue with is that a young man who's been beaten for any indications of being gay would willingly and comfortably sleep next to a strange man - though it's a really sweet scene! I also really like the dragonrider/dragon dialogue.

— comment by Morbane, 27 Dec 2011 09:13AM CET

Feminist Criticism

Among the early comments to "Queen" was a strongly worded feminist critique of the author's failure to fulfil Xylaria's prompt:

Wow. It takes a certain type of person to take a request for FEMSLASH OR GEN ABOUT A FEMALE CHARACTER and write a story about slash between male OCs instead. Wow. Not Wow in a good way. I hope you never, ever get me in an exchange because this is a terrible thing to do in a gift exchange.

Just not enough cock in the pool for you the rest of the year? For the record, the recipient was far nicer than you deserve.

— comment by Elizabeth Rose, 27 Dec 2011 01:07AM CET

In addition, one particular comment on AO3—that of kitsunealyc (previously excerpted)—also received negative criticism. The phrase, "bad feminist", was dissected in an exchange on FFA:[1]

Ugh, The Gay Bashing Dragon Story even comes complete with self flagellation in the comments!

[NOTE: The following is is a direct quotation from kitsunealyc's comment.]
I feel like such a bad feminist. I've gotten so growly about only men (barring Mirrim) impressing the non-golds, and yet it never occurred to me to consider a male impressing a gold. Thank you for flicking my brain into action on that topic.

— comment by Anonymous on the thread "Preachiest Yuletide Story" on FFA, 26 Dec 2011 9:00PM local

. . . why would that make someone a bad feminist?

If anything, it's even grosser because the author is taking away something for women and giving it to men, because god forbid a man isn't allowed to do something (like impress on a space-dragon, but whatevs).

Damn, that comment is stupid. And the fic makes me ragey. I feel like an a-hole, but when author reveals happen, I'm going to lj-note the fuck out of whoever wrote this.

— comment by Anonymous, 26 Dec 2011 9:20PM local

I don't understand what this means. Is commentor saying they're feeling like a bad feminist because they haven't thought about men more?

— comment by Anonymous, 26 Dec 2011 9:50PM local

A very similar reply was made directly to kitsunealyc's comment on "Queen":

Yes, god forbid a feminist think about women primarily. God, the self-flagellation in this comment is disgusting.

— comment by anon on AO3, 26 Dec 2011 10:54PM EST

Given that most of the wank surrounding "Queen" relates in one way or another to the circumstances in which the story was written, it should be noted that there were nevertheless a handful of people who made a point of criticizing these comments, not for their content but for the tone in which they were made.

ITA. I am stunned by how inconsiderate this was.

— comment by DDA,[6] response to Elizabeth Rose's comment on "Queen", AO3 26 Dec 2011 08:29PM EST

IDK, I think the "not enough cock in the pile" comment was actually really rude [...]

— excerpted from comment by Anonymous to the thread "That Yuletide post..." on FFA, 27 Dec 2011 06:42PM local[7]

I think the only comments that I could even consider rude were Elizabeth Rose's comment and the anon who responded to the "bad feminist" comment.

— comment by Anonymous to the thread "That Yuletide post..." on FFA, 27 Dec 2011 06:47PM local[8]

Feminist criticisms represent a minority of comments on "Queen". It is therefore important to note that they largely predate the bulk of the wank, and therefore represent a higher proportion of the early comments on the story. At any rate, they seem to have weighed heavily with Unwinded. Given the nature of anonmemes, one cannot say how many of the comments s/he actually saw, but presumably at least those posted to AO3 on the story itself.

Piqued, therefore, Unwinded belatedly decided to post an Author's Note which, among other things, addressed the issue of gender in "Queen".

Author's Note

Sometime late on the 26th or early 27th of December, the author decided to append a note to the story explaining how it came to be offered as a pinch hit for Xylaria.[9] This note is given here in its entirety, not only because it sparked considerable controversy, but also because it was later replaced by one that is almost completely different:

Notes:

Dedicated to Anne Inez MacCaffrey (1927 - 2011).

This is my first Dragonriders fic and it most likely will stay the only one. I readily confess to not knowing the whole canon. I wish to thank my beta A for checking up on grammar and typos, and my beta B for checking on male voice and homosexual behaviour.

This story has been started and uploaded as a treat to the Yuletide collection itself, initially without a particular recipient requesting the fandom. Instead it was begun for a friend who dearly loves the Dragonriders series.

When this Dragonriders prompt came up on the pinchhit list late on the 22nd and contained most of what I'd already written (Dragonriders, Mirrim, AU--three out of four) I claimed it (after my friend agreed to relinquish her gift), sure to be able to finish it in time and only wishing to help out. I took the Yuletide FAQ at face value in my enthusiasm of being able to fill a pinchhit prompt, and it seems I should not have done that.

I'd never have guessed anyone would attach such political statements to which gender gets a break or that choosing the "wrong" gender would create such a vitriolic response. I'd surely have kept my distance if I had realised this. To me genders are equal. It's not as if that story was about more than affection, emotions and finding one's place in a sexist society. I'm truly sorry I assumed gender would make no difference with such feelings.

If the current recipient prefers to not be linked to a story she so obviously loathes, I have no problem with this and will unlink her at her request. She just needs to say so and I'll do that, no hard feelings.

So, after all that, I hope at least a few of you do enjoy reading it. Everyone else, please accept my apologies.

First FFA Comments on the Author's Note

The newly added author's note was first remarked on FFA in a thread to the comment, "Re: Yuletide". Clearly unhappy with the author's behaviour, people responding in this thread nevertheless accepted what they were told about the story's history, and concluded that the author was simply unfamiliar with the customs and expectations of gift exchanges in general and Yuletide in particular.

Even though this note is stupid as fuck, I still feel kind of bad for her. She sounds like a total yuletide noob who thought she was doing the right thing, only to get dogpiled. :/

Given how elyn really bangs the optional details are optional drum, I could see how someone socially tone-deaf could make this misstep.

— posted to FFA on 27 December at 2011-12-27 12:34 pm (local)

Though I hate the way she includes the "to me genders are equal!" thing which sounds like it's trying to pretend she's on the high horse. I don't know Pern, but it seems funny to say they don't get why gender's an issue in a series with these gender issue.

— posted to FFA on 27 December at 2011-12-27 12:39 pm (local)

Yeah, I know maybe I should feel bad for her, but I really don't. Even the noobiest noob should be able to tell that a request for "femslash or gen, and I love this, this, and this character in particular!" is not going to be thrilled with OMC/OMC slash that relegates the requested character to the very background/caretaking role. I'm still boggling at just what the author could have been thinking with this.

— posted to FFA on 27 December at 2011-12-27 12:43 pm (local)

Same, I feel kinda bad for her now. It technically did fulfill the Yuletide requirements (fandom+character), so I can see how she thought she was doing okay according to the rules. But really, having so much focus on OCs as compared to the requested character is a faux pas no matter what. I second the "socially tone-deaf" thing.

— posted to FFA on 27 December at 2011-12-27 12:47 pm (local)

However, such moderate reaction was far from universal. Almost simultaneously, fans on the "Preachiest Yuletide Ever" thread responded with round condemnation.

Ugh, what a douche.

— posted to FFA on 27 December at 2011-12-27 12:49 pm (local)

Yeah, good intentions are great and all, but did it never occur to this person that re-purposing a nearly-finished slash story that mentions Mirrim in passing to fill a prompt for Mirrim gen or femslash was not going to go over well? Claiming a pinch-hit so that you can shoehorn a story you've already written that doesn't actually fill the request into Yuletide is a dick move.

And "uploaded as a treat to the Yuletide collection without a particular recipient requesting the fandom?" The Yuletide collection is not a place to put all your random holiday crap. It's for stories written for Yuletide requests.

— posted to FFA on 27 December at 2011-12-27 12:59 pm (local)

Subsequent comments similarly expressed little sympathy for the author.

AO3 Comments on the Author's Note

Within short order, three comments relating to the Author's Note were also posted directly to the story on AO3. The first to be posted drew considerable criticism, especially on anonmemes; and will therefore be discussed after the others, which are noncontroversial.

You... seem to have missed the point of why people are being critical here. It's not the gender roles specifically that you chose to write about, but that you wrote something so totally divorced from what your recipient had requested. They asked for a Slinky and you gave them a Rubik's Cube. And now it seems clear why, because you re-purposed a gift written specifically for someone else which, while your intentions may have been all the best, seems rather crude to me.

— comment by anonymous, posted 27 Dec 2011 at 12:37p.m. EST

I'd never have guessed anyone would attach such political statements to which gender gets a break or that choosing the "wrong" gender would create such a vitriolic response. I'd surely have kept my distance if I had realised this.

No one had a problem with the dragon choosing the "wrong" gender, or with the gender roles in the story. The problem is that this was a gift story which was supposed to star the requested character, and she is written as a minor supporting character who turns up for one scene to dress the wounds of your hero. The ONE rule of Yuletide is that while optional details are optional, you must write the character or characters requested. It is not stated, but is understood, that that doesn't mean to write a story starring OCs in which the requested character makes a brief cameo appearance. That's why people are annoyed.

It was a well-meaning impulse to take the pinch-hit, but pinch-hits are highly sought-after. If you hadn't taken it, it would probably have been taken by someone else - someone who, judging by how most pinch-hits come out, would have written a story which is about the requested character, Mirrim. If you look at the other Mirrim stories in the archive, which were also written to requests for her, they actually star Mirrim.

— comment by Anonymous, posted 27 Dec 2011 at 12:37p.m. EST

The second of these comments is markedly courteous; and the other, though sharper in tone, can still be considered moderate. As such, they compare with the early comments on FFA both in style and substance. On the anonmeme, discussion had focused on the prominence of OCs in the story (and the concomitant small role of the requested character, Mirrim). It is not surprising, therefore, that there should be criticism addressed to the author on AO3 when the Note focused more heavily—and thus seemingly anomalously—on gender issues instead.

The prominence of this topic does, however, indicate that Unwinded may have been stung into adding the Note more by the criticism on that head than any other. The most "vitriolic" comments on AO3 had, up to this point, been those criticizing "Queen" from a feminist perspective.

This is not, however, to suggest that the Author's Note ignored the other objections. Recounting "Queen"'s origin was, after all, intended to explain the use of OC protagonists. Taking this tale at face value, fawatson mounted a defence on the grounds that pinch hitters—especially those writing at the last minute—should be granted greater leeway. In addition, she focused on a point largely passed over by others: the generosity of the person for whom, according to the Note, the story had originally been intended.

My sister, greerwatson (who commented above) suggested I look at this story, and told me of the controversy about it.

I note the author has now added a note explaining how he picked up the story as a last minute pinch-hit as he wanted to help out and thought a story he already had half-written as a gift for someone else, would fulfil the recipient's wishes. The sheer generosity of the friend he originally intended this for takes my breath away - she gave this fic, just as much as the author did - and sadly the recipient (who I appreciate had no way of knowing what she was doing) effectively threw that gift back in her face. However, unlike a few of the other commenters, I take note that the recipient was polite and clearly appreciative of the effort of the writer, even if the story wasn't completely to her taste.

As someone who has been on the pinch-hits list every year I've participated in Yuletide, and who has taken on pinch-hits twice in those four years, I know well what the pressure a pinch-hitter is under to write quickly, yet to a reasonable standard, in canon one may not fully remember, knowing that one doesn't have the luxury of time to find the 'best' idea, but just has to go with the one that immediately presents itself, as without you-the-pinch-hitter someone won't have ANY story to read at all! I can only hope the note this author has now added to his story makes the recipient of this story think better of it now. A huge number of pinch-hits didn't go out until the 22nd or 23rd, and pinch-hits were going out until quite late on the 24th December this year. A couple even went out on the afternoon of Christmas Day itself. This story may not have been precisely what the recipient requested, but it is a story written in the true spirit of Yuletide and for that I commend the author.

And as for the merits story [sic] itself?

I squee'd with delight over its conclusion. Well done for a very enjoyable and very well written fic!

— posted to AO3 on 27 December 2011, 11:47am EST

On AO3, this immediately generated direct response from other readers, all of whom addressed fawatson's comment.

This reaction is perhaps best compared with the earlier series of comments when Paper Weight had reproved the recipient's restraint of gratitude. In both instances, a comment was made that ran counter to the opinion of multiple other fans; and, in each case, these voiced their disapproval. However, Paper Weight remained silent in the face of criticism. As fawatson decided to respond, the result was a sequence of negative comments that escalated in severity.

They are presented here in entirety, since all were shortly deleted:

That is really, incredibly silly. The recipient absolutely, in no way "threw the gift back in her face." She very graciously said that she appreciated the effort and said that despite it not being her thing, she was glad for the enjoyment others are receiving from this. Have you read her request? If you did, you would know that this story is not even the tiniest bit close to what she had asked for aside from the barest of mentions of Mirrim. It's not that it wasn't "precisely what the recipient requested" - it wasn't at all what the recipient requested, and to me, repurposing a gift that you have written for someone else rather than writing a fic specifically for a particular person isn't in the spirit of Yuletide at all.

— comment by anonymous, posted 27 December 2011 at 12:01 p.m EST

I have read xylaria's request; and I can also see by both her request, and her comment to this story, how she was disappointed, and that (as I said in my comment) that she was polite and appreciative of the work that went into the story she received. Also, as I said in my previous comment, xylaria had no way of knowing she was effectively "throwing the gift back" in the face of the of other person. As I said, xylaria was polite. Not all of the commenters have been - something which, in my opinion, is not appropriate for Yuletide.

— reply by fawatson, posted 27 December 2011 at 01:05 p.m. EST

To say that the recipient effectively threw the gift back into the face if the writer isn't exactly coming down in their favor. Your criticisms are just as impolite as the comments you say have been inappropriate. To criticize the recipient for not being appropriately groveling and accuse them (whether or not you then turn around and say that at least they were polite) of throwing the gift back in the author's face isn't really appropriate for Yuletide either.

— reply by anonymous, posted 27 December 2011 at 01:46 p.m. EST

If you can't write a pinch-hit to the requirements, you shouldn't take that pinch-hit. If the author hadn't taken the pinch-hit, someone capable of writing the requested fic might have.

By providing this story, the author has a) given the recipient a gift they didn't want, and b) blocked the recipient's chance of getting a gift they did want. How very, very generous! And now you're chastising the recipient (who left a courteous comment) for not being grateful enough for the present they didn't want?

This story may not have been precisely what the recipient requested, but it is a story written in the true spirit of Yuletide

The spirit of Yuletide is giving the recipient what they request. That's the point.

— comment by Haver, posted 27 December 2011 at 12:06 p.m. EST

Then I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree, because I think the spirit of Yuletide is giving, and it is clear to me that this was a story that was given twice over. Moreover, sadly, the comments made by a number of people to this story have displayed a lack of generosity of spirit that I find quite astounding.

— reply by fawatson, posted 27 December 2011 at 01:08 p.m. EST

because I think the spirit of Yuletide is giving, and it is clear to me that this was a story that was given twice over.

No, that's nonsense. This is a gift exchange, in which the explicit purpose is for people to receive a fic within certain specifications. If you want a gift exchange where people write fics that are the opposite of what people request, go start one - Yuletide isn't it. If you want a gift exchange where people make requests and those requests are ignored, go start one - Yuletide isn't it.

— reply by haver, posted 27 December 2011 at 02:23 p.m. EST

The "spirit of Yuletide" is giving someone something you think they'll enjoy. Not something you think they SHOULD enjoy. Unless you're the type who also hands out brussels [sic] sprouts on Halloween.

— reply by cry moar, posted 27 December 2011 at 02:23 p.m. EST

it is a story written in the true spirit of Yuletide and for that I commend the author.

I always thought the the true spirit of yuletide was to try and write a fic that will make your recipient squee with joy.

The recipient's wishes were for gen or femslash focusing on a single female character, and listed several other characters she likes. She specifically said that it's the canon characters that she loves most about the books and how she loved a previous yuletide story that was centred around her chosen character.

The writer gifted an m/m story that focused on OCs and in which the requested character shows up only briefly. It doesn't just deviate slightly from the propmts [sic] it's almost the exact opposite of what was requested. And honestly from the author's note at the end of the fic, it seems like they just looked for a prompt they could say matched their already written fic, so they could get their story into the yuletide collection.

Under the circumstances I'm awed by how calm and polite the recipient was in their response to the fic. And the writer comes off like a petulant toddler who can't stand the fact that people aren't impressed with their masterpiece.

— comment by NA, posted 27 December 2011 at 12:29 p.m. EST

The writer had the good grace to explain and apologise. Quite how that is "petulant" is beyond me.

The recipient was polite. The story isn't to her taste but she recognises others will enjoy it. Well done to her too.

But as for some of the commenters? I think they should be ashamed of themselves. (Have you read how appallingly rude Elizabeth Rose's comment is?!!!!)

Need I remind people of the rule "Optional Details are optional!"

— reply by fawatson, posted 27 December 2011 at 01:20 p.m. EST

Optional details may well be optional but writing a fic that is the exact opposite of the rquest [sic] goes against everything yuletide stands for. And by relegating the requested character to nothing more than a cameo supporting role, the writer is skirting the edges of the rules, and is breaking them in spirit if not in fact.

I don't see any of the comments as being excessively rude, and your whitekinghting [sic] of the author is coming across far ruder as are your judgements [sic] of other responders comments.

— reply by anonymous, posted 27 December 2011 at 10:46 a.m. PST

You should be ashamed of yourself as well, especially considering how you continue to perpetuate this. I'd agree with the above poster that this author sounds quite petulant in their inability to grasp why people have taken issue here.

— reply by na, posted 27 December 2011 at 01:48 p.m. EST

Yep, nothing so polite as going around policing the behavior of others.

— reply by cry moar, posted 27 December 2011 at 03:00 p.m. EST

Rolling my damn eyes so hard at your comment right now.

"Not precisely what the recipient requested"??? Try the opposite of what the recipient requested! It's like a diner requesting a vegetarian meal with mushrooms and onions, and then the chef whipping up a turducken with mushrooms and onions on the side. The chef has no right to be insulted or passive aggressive when the diner isn't happy with that meal.

— comment by DDA, posted 27 December 2011 at 03:02 p.m. EST

Reaction on the Yuletide Admin Site

Revised Author's Note

At some point on the 27th, Unwinded revised the Author's Note.[10] The new version read:

Dedicated to Anne Inez MacCaffrey (1927 - 2011).

This is my first Dragonriders fic and it most likely will stay the only one. I readily confess to not knowing the whole canon. I wish to thank my beta A for checking up on grammar and typos, and my beta B for checking on male voice and homosexual behaviour.

This story has been started and uploaded as a treat to the Yuletide collection itself, initially without a particular recipient requesting the fandom. Instead it was begun for a friend who dearly loves the Dragonriders series.

When this Dragonriders prompt came up on the pinchhit list late on the 22nd and contained most of what I'd already written (Dragonriders, Mirrim, AU--three out of four) I claimed it (after my friend agreed to relinquish her gift), sure to be able to finish it in time and only wishing to help out. I took the Yuletide FAQ at face value in my enthusiasm of being able to fill a pinchhit prompt.

I have since been contacted via the mods by Xylaria who clarified that she wants to be associated with this fic, appreciates it and considers it well-written. Which is way more than she needed to say (a thank you would indeed have been totally enough for me!). The feeling that she did not do so was created off this site and is in error of her take of this story.

It was agreed by all parties concerned, and specifically including the mods, that comments will be cleaned up in line with rules laid down in the Yuletide FAQ on the Yuletide website.

As the last paragraph of the revised Note indicates, the comments on AO3 were censored. Deleted were Paper Weight's comment about Xylaria's thank-you and the replies to it; Elisabeth Rose's critique on feminist grounds; and the discussion about fawatson's comment (which was not itself initially taken down).[11]

References

  1. This is not to say that there are no other recent fanworks in which men ride gold dragons. See also Xazz's Southern Gold (started in 2011, unfinished) and vamprav's The Boy Who Immpressed a Gold (started in 2014, unfinished).
  2. For the full FFA discussion of male gold riders in early Pern fan fiction, see this subthread in the "Re: Preachiest Yuletide Story" thread, posted 26-27 December 2011.
  3. More like the 70s.
  4. The term "The Gay Bashing Dragon Story" was used in the comment that opened the thread, "The Preachiest Yuletide Story", in which three stories were proffered for discussion. The post was made to Fail_Fandomanon on 26 December 2011 at 04:49 pm (local).
  5. This "anonymous friend" may, of course, be Xylaria herself.
  6. In anonmemes, "DDA" stands for "Different Different Anon".
  7. http://fail-fandomanon.livejournal.com/25729.html?thread=111962497#t111962497
  8. http://fail-fandomanon.livejournal.com/25729.html?thread=111964289#t111964289
  9. The Author's Note had not been posted prior to 10 p.m. EST on the 26th, but was up by 11:47 a.m. EST on the 27th, at which time fawatson mentioned it in her first comment on the story.
  10. The text of the second version of the Author's Note was recorded in an anonymous comment to FFA in the thread "Re: Gay Bashing Dragon: The Mods Side with the Writer", posted on 27 December 2011 at 03:22 pm (local).
  11. That fawatson's initial comment remained up for a short while after the others were deleted is mentioned in a comment on FFA, "Gay Bashing Dragon: Delete Fucking Everything", posted on 27 December 2011 at 3:22 pm (local).