SlashFic Hall of Shame
|Name:||SlashFic Hall of Shame|
|Owner/Maintainer:||Sandy Herrold (as JoAnne)|
|URL:||Slashfic Hall of Shame on the Wayback machine|
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A similar site was Citizens Against Bad Slash.
- "Thank goodness for the Slashfic Hall of Shame."
In 1996-97, there were frequent flame wars around the idea of concrit (a word that did not yet exist). Writers complained that there were too few reviews and comments about stories (this was years before Livejournal comments -- many stories were still only being published offline, and even the ones published online usually had no way to leave public comments), but when stories were discussed in public (i.e., on mailing lists), any hint of critique, or less than completely favorable review, led to flames and uproar.
As a comment on this atmosphere, Sandy Herrold pseudonymously started the SlashFic Hall of Shame under the name of JoAnne, mocking bad Internet-published stories, and encouraging people to send her other stories worthy of mocking. Each update included a rant about some common story annoyance (these included rants about men who owned teddy bears, BSO's who were inexplicably drawn as pagan for no good reason, implausible crossovers, and others), that started with the phrase, "well, there's no easy answer," and then a link to an excerpt of the story being shamed.
Each story update gave the reason it was chosen, an excerpt, comments on the excerpt, and then solicited comments on whether the story deserved the pillorying it got. Links were never given to the story (mostly due to the weird link etiquette of the time), and the author's name was never mentioned anywhere on the page.
Some Example Topics
Each one was followed by: "Well there's no easy answer," --- and JoAnne's reply.
- "People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, what is it with slash and religion?""
- "People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, why is most net S/M so bad? It should be so *hot*!""
- ""People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, people say mean things about you in your guestbook. Doesn’t that get you down?""
- "People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, I understand why there has to be a Slash Hall of Shame, but can’t you be nicer about it?""
- "People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, you need to be put down like a rabid dog. And I know I'm not alone in feeling that way. How can I let all fandom know how terrible and vile you are?""
- "People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, aren't you stereotyping men by saying that male characters wouldn't do certain things?""
- "People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, why couldn't Cowley really be Bodie's father," or "Why couldn't the Simons really just be adopted" (so it wouldn't be incest, I guess), or "How do you know that Blair and Jim couldn't be half brothers" (so it *could* be incest, I guess)?""
- "People ask me, they say, "JoAnne, aren't you just trying to hold back the tide? Isn't bad fanfic inevitable?""
ContemporaryConsidering the genesis of the page, the weirdest part of all, was how (by and large) positive most of the comments were that the site received. Although there was a lot of bitching about "JoAnne" and the site on mailing lists at the time, comments actually left on the site were largely approving. As Sandy later explained:
....the number of people who basically say "Yes, Fandom *needs* this" amazes me. These fans sound like they were starved for a place where someone said that not all fanfic is of like quality, and some of it is BAD.Something else about it is how few of the names look familiar to me--even though some of them say they've been slash fans for *many* years. 
In 1997, a fan left feedback on the guestbook attempting to argue that the website violated everything from copyright law to the Berne Convention and even ran afoul of the writer's moral rights. This was quickly countered by other fans who correctly pointed out that quoting excerpts of a story as part of a critique or review fell firmly within the definition of fair use and that "moral rights" did not allow authors to ban discussion, or even ridicule, of their work.A long comment from a fan in 1997:
A fan in 1998 said:
Quite possibly, some of you are aware of the tussle that's been going on about the Slash Hall of Shame. For those of you who've never been there, this is a site dedicated to the notion that (1) there are slash stories that are pretty bad, and (2) someone's got to stand up and point that out. A recently-profiled author objected to her inclusion, and posted a message on the SENAD list entitled "Hate on the Web," in which she complained that JoAnne, the keeper of the Hall of Shame, was harassing her and she was going to complain to Geocities. Since then, I've heard several people say that JoAnne's site should be taken down.
This is something that I really hate to see. People, we are slash fans. What's our reaction when someone tells us, "I don't like slash... it offends me, and I don't think it should be allowed to be posted"? Come on, you know what we do. We stand up, join hands in spirit, and recite (in harmony), "We're sorry if you don't like it, but it's a matter of freedom of expression. If you don't like it, don't read it -- but please don't tell us what we can or can't write." Remember what I nattered about last time? And, purely on a selfish level, I don't think we want the fine Geocities people to start scrutinizing sites for "inappropriate content." If that happens, the Adoratrice is going to be looking for a new home.
It's the easiest thing in the world to demand that others tolerate our freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we see fit. It's a lot harder to extend that same courtesy when we're offended, though, isn't it? I'm by no means exempting myself, because I've had my moments of muttering at the screen, "Someone ought to shut that idiot up." But I try to never let that beyond my own four walls. Whatever I do or don't like to see or read has no effect on what I think should be posted.
I agree, JoAnne is tactless. But she has certain standards that she adheres to. She doesn't pick on first-time writers. She never even considers going after someone who isn't a native speaker of English. She looks at issues of grammar, punctuation, and characterization rather than attacking the writer as a person. And (bracing myself for protests) she's absolutely right a lot of the time.
The definition of constructive criticism has nothing to do with saying nice things about a piece of writing. That's not a requirement. Constructive crit means that the review looks at concrete examples of why a story is good or bad... and that's exactly what JoAnne is doing. Granted, it'd be a lot easier to take if she were nicer about it. But you know what? She doesn't have to be nice. There's no law. If bad writing offends her -- and, judging by the comments on her page, she's by no means alone -- she has every right to say so on her own page.
[...]Now, does someone have the right to protest being included in the Hall of Shame? Absolutely -- and if they can give a good argument for why they shouldn't be included, that's even better. And people have the right to not read it, and even to say that they wish others wouldn't read it. But no one has the right to say that JoAnne shouldn't be allowed to write whatever she pleases. 
I think it's... well, stifling if the only opinions that are expressed are positive opinions. Like I said above, everyone will occasionally dislike a story. But when readers are repeatedly told, "No! This story is wonderful, it's your perceptions that are screwed up!", they start to doubt their own taste and their own opinions. That's why I felt, and still feel, that sites like the Slash Hall of Shame are both useful and needed, even to people who disagree with the views expressed there. We need opposing viewpoints in order to refine our own. It's not enough to just sit back complacently and think, "Ahh, Susie Slashfan is the best (or worst) writer in the world!" Until you're exposed to a different point of view, you can't fully articulate your reasons for liking or disliking something. 
Before she came "out" as "JoAnne," Sandy Herrold commented on her own site,
I'm of two minds on it: Sure, I enjoy the Hall of Shame every couple of weeks, but most of what I enjoy is the different feedback she gets. The number of posts that basically say, 'yes, this story sucks (often much more cruelly than JoAnne said it), and then ramble on to say, 'but this page is a bad idea' amuse the heck out of me. And the number of people who basically say "Yes, Fandom *needs* this" amazes me. These fans sound like they were starved for a place where someone said that not all fanfic is of like quality, and some of it is BAD.
Something else about it is how few of the names look familiar to me--even though some of them say they've been slash fans for *many* years.
Still I say that all writers deserve a hand if they ask for it, and do NOT deserve derision in a public forum.
I agree (at least partially). I *do* wish there was a way of continuing the meta-conversation about reviewing and critiquing and quality (which I think it valuable, and different than any other going on right now; much more like a newsgroup than a mailing list, and with much mixing between fandoms, and between old and new fans), *without* holding up specific stories (which unfortunately means specific *authors*) to ridicule....
When someone has posted their fiction to the *World* *Wide* *Web*, I don't think that they can quibble if someone quotes a couple of paragraphs. Certainly not legally, under fair use, but even morally I don't think they have a leg to standon; I think they have cast it on the waters. 
The site was reviewed in turn in a 1997 debate on alt.startrek.creative about linking to fanfiction publicly available online:
There is a site called the Slash Hall of Shame. It's run by one person and in it she puts up a "Hall of Shame Story of the Week" (sometimes she chooses them, some time she takes recommendations) as well as her own rants about bad slash writing Note I say "bad slash writing." This is not a site that condemns slash in general, but a site that condemns what its owner (a slash fan) thinks of as bad slash. The site owner has a guestbook where she asks people to disagree or agree with her choices and/or her rants and she posts all of the contents of that guestbook, including the people who attack her site. Now she doesn't archive the works of fiction, but the stories are all stuff that is available for general 'net consumption and can be found on the fandom archives.
If all you write is TrekSmut and all your friends write is TrekSmut, you may have never heard of this site, because its owner has three fandoms she won't touch: Xena (to paraphrase: because bad Xena is better than no Xena), Babylon 5 and all versions of Star Trek (because she doesn't watch those shows and therefore can't judge things like bad characterizations).
More than once SENAD (the Sentinel mailing list; I'm not on it but a friend is) has erupted into controversy because of this site. People claim it's mean-spirited and get all upset because of its negativity. And maybe the concept *is* mean-spirited (please note I'm not defending this site, merely saying that it exists), but how is it different than a bad review of a published work? Are we amateurs all so delicate that we can't take an opinion? Writers open themselves up to criticism every time they share their writing. Would JoeFan's "Worst Trek Fic on the 'Net" be any meaner than the MiSTing of Stephen's Marissa stories? Would it be any worse than the comments my predecessor as the TrekSmut FAQ Maintainer made about my first story back in the days of alt.sex.fetish.startrek? I dare say that if a story of Alara's was posted to such a site, she'd be hurt and upset, just as I imagine Stephen is when people make fun of his work and I was when a rather famous Trek fan told me my characterization of Picard was off. But I'll bet that Alara would still write, the same way Stephen and I still write. And I bet a large number of people would tell her that JoeFan was wrong and write to him as well and say so.We either communicate and we make ourselves vulnerable to others, or we don't communicate and never learn that many like what we have to say. Writing is creation and exhibitionism; we hang a piece of ourselves on the wall and then wait to see what happens. Like any form of art, writing can be misinterpreted, misrepresented, plagiarized, or mocked. We can protect ourselves in two ways. We can remain silent, or we can write the very best story we have in us and let our words stand up for us. Negative feedback *hurts,* and one negative bit of feedback can make a writer forget all the positive feedback for the same story (there's story that's been in the Slash Hall of Shame *and* has received a glowing review on the Slash Revolution International site). And maybe if the negative feedback is actually done well, we can learn from it."
Critics of the website gained little traction and soon other fandom-specific Halls of Shame appeared in the months afterward; none of them lasted long. JoAnne's page only lasted a year or so itself (although guestbook comments continued to appear as late as 2000), as finding appropriately bad stories became a hassle. At Escapade (1998 or after), Sandy Herrold and Maygra (one of the people with a story posted on the Hall of Shame) were on opposite sides of a panel on "should stories be critiqued publicly." During the panel, Sandy 'came out' about being JoAnne, and Maygra was as gracious as humanly possible, basically saying, "I don't care if you critique me but what about those other people out there without my thick skin."
Some fans opposed the website and resorted to legal threats in an effort to silence JoAnne. In September 1997, JoAnne posted the following to the website: "A recent author profiled on this page has threatened to report me to Geocities for harrassment, spreading of hate, and inappropriate materials" if I don't remove all mention of her story." However, given that authors were never named and there were no links to the stories, one might argue that the author did more damage to her reputation by posting her comment than JoAnne's original web posting.
There was a site in the mailing list days called Joanne's Slash Fic Hall of Fame—or Hall of Shame, rather—which was one of the first public things that went over what not to do in writing, basically. She would post examples of incredibly bad stories and explain why they were bad. And it upset a lot of people. But on the other hand, it got a lot of people talking about, You know, we ... It's not actually a bad thing to expect decent writing. 
The pseudonymity of CABS members was a wise move, as this type of public critique often resulted in banning and policies against discussing or reviewing fanfiction. In 1997, members of the HLFIC-L mailing list were inspired by the Slash-Fic Hall of Shame and wanted to start a similar website for Highlander gen fiction. They planned to call themselves "The Wham Girls" and put up a website with a review of a story originally posted to HLFIC mailing list. The list erupted in anger and the list owner banned "The Wham Girls." She then made it policy that reviewers needed to get authorial permission to review a story posted to the mailing list. 
- Comment posted to a slash mailing list in 1997. Quoted with permission, name withheld.
- Slashfic Hall of Shame on the Wayback machine
- Story of Shame example: Inuit Love (Due South)
- Comment page from 1999: Mail Feedback, Wayback machine.
- Sandy Herrold's comment posted to Virgule-L October 1997, quoted with permission.
- In fact at the time, moral rights were only extended to visual artists in the US. The international span of fandom illustrated one of the many perils of non-lawyers attempting to insert legal arguments into fannish discussions.Guestbook page on the threats, accessed February 18, 2012;Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed February 18, 2012.
- Mild dislike on the Web., Archived version by The Divine Adoratrice, September 25, 1997
- * If you can't say something nice..., The Divine Adoratrice, February 10, 1998
- Sandy Herrold, October 1, 1997, comment at Virgule-L, quoted with permission
- comment in the alt.startrek.creative thread What to expect when posting? (was:Re: Archivist and Authors please read and respond) dated December 5, 1997.
- Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Arduinna (August 2012)
- Citizens Against Bad Slash
- Morgan Dawns personal notes, accessed February 18, 2012.