something's lost in translation

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Title: something's lost in translation
Creator: seperis
Date(s): July 5, 2008
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic:
External Links: page 1, archive link for page 1; page 2, archive link for page 2; page 3 (archive link for page 3; archive link page 3)
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something's lost in translation is a 2008 LiveJournal post by seperis.

The post has 237 comments.

Topics Discussed

The Post

Until now, I didn't realize there was such a sharp demarcation between fandom pre-livejournal and now.

I'm having a moment, and it's very weird, and I'm not sure I can explain it without sounding like I'm having a close and personal experience with some sort of hallucinogen. It's not fanon or tone or even style, except it's all of those things, and it's the underlying set of base assumptions that feel like I'm reading in a foreign language.

One hundred fifty something stories and it's--okay, five million years ago in SV, I was talking to this chick who had been writing since the beginning of time and there was this fic and a flamewar going on, which normally I'd go into but not relevant except for the fact I might not have ever gotten on the subject except flamewar, so we were talking about anything else, and I asked about this fic.

I have no idea how to explain how off-balance I am. But trying.

It was a Smallville fic, and it felt wrong to me, and by that I do not mean bad. I mean, I walked out of a perfectly good fic feeling like this: we were watching the same show. Exactly. And we were in the same fandom! Except in completely parallel universes that were exactly the same except her color blue was my azure, does that make sense? I could not connect with it at all, and that was the year 2002 where I met this fic so you see I remember very vividly that strange sense of disorientation, because at that point I had read everything that was posted to SSA so it's not like I didn't know my fandom. Yes, I even read the really bad stuff. I was a glutton for punishment. I'd read things that I still try too block from my memory, and for that matter, have, but I'd never read a fic in my fandom, in my pairing, that was good, that had nothing wrong with it, that I did not understand.

So far in Due South, proportionally speaking, I'm hitting ten percent where I'm not disoriented, and this is after I reduced my sampling size to authors I've read in at least two fandoms and at least once wanted to marry. It is not helping.

To return to my charming anecdote (the SV fic of strangeness, you don't have to scroll back up now), the person I spoke to gave me this long explanation that I don't even remember all that well (would that I did), but I came out of it with the vague idea it was Some Kind of Convention of Slash That I Did Not Know, Not Being a Slasher of the Old School You Poor First Slash Fandom Person or something, which is in retrospect kind of patronizing, but I could be misremembering that, since you know, 2002.

However, recent experience suggests she was kind of right, at least in the fact that the disassociated feeling is actually not a fluke and not the result of reading in a different fandom after SGA monogamy.

It's very, very disconcerting.

ETA: People, if I knew what this feeling was called, I would be explaining without analogies. I'd reduce it to a sentence.

Comments to the Post

[harriet spy]:

Fandoms can be intensely bound by their own conventions. I think pre-LJ this was even more the case, for a couple of reasons:

(1) Greater insularity. People didn't know what was going on just five blocks over; maybe they didn't know there was a five blocks over.
(2) With only one or two outlets for fic, there was a certain (unintended) pressure towards conformity in style and tone -- I mean even more than there is in present-day fandoms. If all you see on the list is a certain type of fluff, for instance, it takes either a lot of nerve or a lot of naivete to fling your 90-part epic darkfic out there. I bitch a lot, but the fact is: I could not have survived in almost any of the really old-school monofandoms. Maybe Blakes 7. Maybe.
[seperis]:
Bingo. The five block theory. Thank you. I've been trying to work out what is making me feel weird for a *week*. Early fandom + insularity + not much fandom crossover == Very Different Kind of Fandom. It's not even trope or fluff, and I'm not sure I can make a convincing argument for style, but there *is* the feeling that most of the fic I'm reading comes from a different mindset. Well, and the large numbers of first person pov, which makes an interesting difference in how the narrative is approached.
[mrshamill]:
Being an Olde Farte from the ages where dinosaurs ruled the planet (okay, some still do, shut up), I would argue that what you call (unintended) I would call very much intended, save when it was not. Your first point, greater insularity, hits it square on the head -- We are fandom, and We are not amused by your idea that Spock's dick is not green and forked.

Back in the early seventies, I remember being very much afraid of the women who ruled fandom. Even if I thought I had a chance at being accepted, I don't think I would have tried.

What LJ fandom has done is made it far easier for 'fringe' fans to find each other and realize that hey, we're not so fringe after all! And when the dinosaurs come after us with their capslocked We, all we have to do is turn and walk away.
[musesfool]:
Yeah, I think this is the main thing. there is a lot more mixing and mingling now. I mean, I was always multifannish? So my earliest writing was most influenced by the TWW people I was reading even before I started writing fic myself, even though I was writing in a different fandom altogether. But even the TWW people I was emulating all had sort of a similar style, which was different from the fic I was reading in BtVS and then early in XMM. I can't really speak to old-school slash, since I find a lot of it nearly unreadable, and not just because it's not-my-fandom. There are a handful of SPN stories written in what I think of as that kind of style, and I just can't wrap my head around them at all.
[harriet spy]:
I keep trying to tell myself it's just a different aesthetic, but...yeah. I think it did slash a lot of good to throw the windows open and let some air in.
[sageness]:
Do you mean that you're seeing trends toward wildly different characterizations or particular tropes among certain writers or within certain time periods?

Because all of that is entirely true of DS. Canon allows for so many different takes on each character that you can make a case for a LOT of different interpretations. Way more than in any other fandom I've ever seen.

And, not to bring up the Ray Wars, but they DID color how people viewed the Rays for a long, long time. We're finally at a place where it doesn't feel quite so revolutionary to use an "I swing both Rays" or FKV OT3 icon. Which is cool. Tolerance is yay!

But yes, there's definitely old school fic and new school fic.
[sageness]:
No, not trends. The way authors think. Oh! Okay, that makes much more sense to me now. And yes, I totally agree - from what I know of DS's pre-LJ zine & list culture, it was a tremendously more strictured/structured environment. Those roots possibly have a lot to do with why change has been so slow. *ponders*
[seperis]:
You know, insularity of zine and mailing list cultures *does* explain why it's happening so often in so much fic over so many different writers. I kept thinking it was the authors, but I started reading just writers I know really well, and when *that* left me still in an unfamiliar country, well. Very parallel universe.
[aubergineautumn ]:
Oh, the getting older bit might be it entirely. Some type of experience/generational viewpoint variation in thinking that is expressed in the writing style. Two of those three authors I was talking about? Are older. The other two variables that might be causing the difference in the group's style of writing are profession and how intellectual the writer is. Some professions require a cleaner, tighter way of organizing thoughts than other professions do.

.......I can only give an example: When I was reading Gundam Wing, I ran across some work by an author who was in computer science. She wrote well, but her fic was so different than what everyone else was writing, it was a little jarring. I really had to shift how I thought in order to read how she thought. I loved her fic, because her writing style was unique. However, if everyone wrote like that, I know I would have gotten bored and left the fandom earlier. I simply didn't think the same way she did. It was satisfying to read her stories, because I was absorbing another viewpoint, but if that had been my whole diet, I would have starved because I could only read so much of that kind of fic. It wasn't a problem in the Gundam Wing fandom, because she was the only one with that style.

Partly, the difference in her writing style was due to the increased knowledge she was able to weave into her stories because of the field she was in. But....the other difference was due to how she thought. She was very intellectual, and she was somewhat isolated from the day to day interact with common people, and she wove that into her writing as well. It broke my heart, sometimes, to get through the fic, but it COMPLETELY suited the character of Hero, who was an extremely isolated character. The isolation that appeared in her writing wasn't just due to her being in academia (I don't really consider academia to be isolated at all), it was more....due to her own personality. She talked about it a little in her preface. SO, I guess a fourth factor is how isolated the author is.
[robling t]:
I would guess that you're onto something big here; as the world gets more and more crowded both literally (population) and figuratively (communications advances that enlarge the pool that one thinks of as "their tribe", whether that be net-friends in other countries or celebrity gossip), the actual day-to-day FTF interactions can get attenuated to the point of meaninglessness. And I can't see how that wouldn't have some profound effects on what started coming across through the fiction of successive generations. If you feel more connected to Britney Spears or the half of your flist that's in Finland, you're not going to have as much of yourself left over for worrying about the shopkeepers on your street who would have made up most of a previous generation's circle of connections. I get to worrying that we're nearly to the point where we're going to forget how to interact long enough to breed, not that that might not necessarily make this a kind of self-correcting problem... :)
[j bluestocking]:
Hmmm. I remember reading an XF story once by a slash writer who'd been around in 'zines since the beginning of time, and being completely thrown by it. She'd been highly recommended to me -- not that particular story, but the author herself -- and I was taken aback to find (IMO, of course) that it seemed like any porno with the names "Mulder" and "Skinner" thrown in. I decided there was something about slash tradition that I wasn't getting. OTOH, I dipped into a number of Blake's 7 zines during a stay at a friend's house, and they were quite similar in tone and characterization to what I'm used to. And they were from the 1980s, I believe.
[emrinalexander]:
Hmmm...I was writing Professionals slash in the 1980's (I think I started in 80, as a matter of fact). I know the audience was smaller for stories - there was kind of a "knock three times and say Renaldo sent you" feel to even getting your hands on stories, especially slash. We stayed way underground. But the actually content/feel of the stories, at least ones I still have copies of, other than being dated (no cell phones, etc.) in cultural ways, isn't that different from what I see now. What has changed is the size of the potential reading audience, and despite the occasional wank about BNFs, people are not BNFs today they way they were in the old days when certain people really DID have a lot of say in what got accepted as far as fic went.
[everysecondtues]:
Oddly, I understand exactly what you're talking about. Pre-lj and post-mailing lists (and list-serv, though I was mostly a confused wandering soul at that point relying on individual web pages and yahoo search) are two really different fandom experiences.
[nigaeli]:
So, you've heard the three wave theory, right? First wave, people write Could-Be-An-Episode stuff; second wave, people write backstories and future stories and characterisation-heavy fic, it's where most BNFs hit big the first time around; third wave people start writing penguin!sex and wingfic and . And this is a process a fandom will go through but it's also a process people themselves go through? You'll have someone who goes through that process in one fandom and then jumps into their next fandom(s) from a third wave point of view from the beginning. (Juls and I crack that we're fifth wave writers. It's funny because it's true.)

So I think that might tie into this. Like, not directly. But, okay, fandoms evolve and *people* evolve similarly in their own path, and so much of fandom has traipsed down that path now and people traipse it faster because a majority of fandom *is* already through it on their personal path and they, you know, therefore have this whole body of fic out there that's getting people used to the third wave stuff.

And--hm.

The other thing is, relatedly, fandom's sorta changed. The way we relate to tropes and characters is somehow fundamentally different. Like, for one thing, the OT3 is a recognised and if not universally followed thing, people don't look at you like you're fucking nuts for suggesting a threesome. Which I gather was not always true? I mean, I've *tried* to find Star Trek: TOS threesome fic and either it didn't exist or my google-fu has failed epically.

So, hm, cognitive dissonance is not necessarily that weird if you're delving into earlier fandoms. Online media fandom's changed a lot from zine fandom and people changed with it, because a whole hell of a lot of zine fandom made that transition just fine. So that'd be why even authors you trust are still throwing you for a loop, though, because their approach has evolved along with fandom.
[ taraljc]:
I'm a First Wave girl going way back. I never went to fanfic for pairings or the hawt sex (hell, no-one ever even showed me the Naughty 'Zines until I was in my mid-20s), just stories. Though I admit, 5 years on LJ has turned me into way more of a 'shipper (in terms of gen to 'ship ratio, where gen is plot driven, and 'ship is relationship driven) than I ever was, back in my 'zine days.
[antennapedia]:
I have at least one print zine in my ST:TOS box dedicated to K/S/M stories, so it was definitely out there. It might not have made the transition from paper to the Internet, though. I haven't read it in years, but I remember a naivete about the writing, particularly about the sex. Hmm! Okay, now I'm curious and will have to dig the box out of the storage closet.
[emgeetrek]:
Oh yes, ST:TOS threesome fic does exist; I know this for a fact because I've written (and posted) some of it. But you are right that it is rare. Most of what you'll find is K/S/Mc stuff; M/M/F is very rare in the fandom, and not popular at all. I suppose this was somewhat understandable in the 70s and 80s (which I think of as the Golden Age of Trek Fandom), when even relatively tame K/S was cause for scandal and schism -- but I am at a loss to understand why the bias continues, even through several generations of fans. (And I really mourn the loss of some of the best TOS slash writers, who have moved on to other fandoms or stopped writing altogether. ASCEM-L, o my dear ASCEM-L, what has happened to you? You are a pale shadow of your former self!)
[frogspace]:
I didn't realize there was such a sharp demarcation between fandom pre-livejournal and now.

It's not just fandom pre-livejournal and now, it's different time periods in fandom. I came to fandom through The X-Files and know exactly what you mean because I experienced this when I started reading The Professionals fanfic. I read a lot of original slash or m/m romance too and there are some books where I just know that they must have been fanfic written during the middle of the eighties whereas other books read like current fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. You can even say whether the person writing it comes from slash or yaoi fandom. That wouldn't be possible if there weren't certain differences.

(For what it's worth, I call it time travel jet lag. *g*)
[aubergineautumn]:
Does that mean the new writers have already moved ahead of lj somehow? That..sort of makes sense, in light of the migration from lj that started during all of the trouble with authors being deleted from lj by management. That the newer authors would not be as attached to lj, would be more flexible about posting in other places, and may be encountering different group think than the community that more or less stays concentrated in lj.
[anonymous]:
I think this is true, I read across LJ and across other sources and there is a completely different style and attitude in LJ fandom to fandom elsewhere on the internets. The group think and fanfic are moving on and LJ is seen very much as... the BNF hangout, for established types. I would never try and put myself and my stuff into LJ fandoms because it would seem like I was invading an established social pecking order with my new takes....
[thisisbone]:
FWIW, when I started thinking about writing due South, I thought all the stories had already been written, that there wasn't really anything new that I could contribute. I actually tried to resist because I didn't want to come into this very established fandom, with its division of Ray-lovers and history, and retread old ground.

So you're not alone in that feeling. I had it back in, oh, 1999!

I do think that pre-LJ, we had that "five-block" thing going on, where I had a narrow community of fellow fans to interact with, whereas LJ allows this incredibly broad and diverse view. I think it has to change the way fic is written.

Also FWIW, when I wrote Sentinel fic in 1st person, there was a lot of resistance to it; I would get feedback that would say things like, "I never read first person, but I gave it a try and actually liked it" -- that kind of thing.
[inamac]:
With The Professionals the early fans were writing as the series aired - they didn't have to do research on the 70s because thats when they were living. Newer/younger fans tend to write 'period' series with 21C goggles on - which is one reason why the OP finds a dissonance between pre-internet (and I'm talking printed zines here, not usenet) and post-internet fanfic. Even non-Earth shows like Star Trek/Wars are 'of their time'.)

And then there's the internationalism of internet fic (though skewed to a North American metropolitan viewpoint).

And, for slashers the devastating effect of AIDS (I mean, nobody in the 70s bothered with condoms - and there weren't fifty different brands of lube and sex-toy shops on every street corner...) completely changed the way slashfic was written and percieved.
[solar cat]:
Yeah. I totally get that feeling. And I also have no way to articulate it. I came into fandom once it was well and truly on LJ, and when I wander back through archives of older stuff, written in like, the zine days? It's SO different. Yet, it's different in this way that I can't describe. So... Maybe the feeling is not the same, I don't know, because I can't describe it. But it's weird. I mean, I can tell if I'm reading "old fic" or "new fic", but I couldn't tell you the difference. :\
[aubergineautumn]:
I keep thinking how this relates to one of Phillip K. Dick's stories (I think it was in his Relative Stangers compilation of short stories regarding human/alien intercourse). In it, everyone is so specialized (and isolated), that there is a specialist who specializes in being a generalist. No one knows what anyone else is doing, and the group as a whole exhibits an inability to empathize on other people's behalf. This inability is reflected in their thinking, behavior, AND their work, which stagnates due to lack of intellectual cross pollination. It turns out that even the generalist has this problem.

Is fandom experiencing more noticeable isolation incoherency because authors are posting their fic in so many repositories that there is disorientation when they read fic from the other repositories? It seems like fandom has become so isolationalist that you can identify how an author thinks based on where she/he posted.

I like earlier fandoms like Smallville, the Sentinel, and Gundam Wing because there is one main fic repository and one main forum for discussion (at least now, at the tail end of each of the fandoms). Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out where everyone posts for newer fandoms. For Supernatural, for example, I am not even sure if the main fandom base is located on lj or somewhere else. Posting at delicio, Wikipedia, and other blogs is pretty common now, whereas EVERYTHING was located at lj when I first entered fandom. Each author is making their own decision about where to post, without much consultation with writers of ALL fandoms about where fandom AS A WHOLE should be located.
[solar cat]:
That's actually really interesting to think about. I also enjoy the "one main fic repository" thing (mainly because I love to browse and pic fics to read that happen to strike my fancy at the time, so selection=win for me).

I wonder if the LJ comms, in some cases, are becoming a bit like fanzine circles? Separate groups with a coherent identity and "approved" (whether stated or simply understood) modes of writing, views on the characters, etc? Like your example, Supernatural -- the various communities have much more specific viewpoints than a main, all-genres-welcome archive would have, so you end up with lots of similar fics being posted on each comm, but then if an author normally associated with a certain comm writes a fic that doesn't "fit", they may end up posting it to a completely different comm instead.

That happened with older fandoms too, though... maybe the difference is in the sheer amount of differentiation being made? Like, you have the Wincest people, and then you have the Wincest BDSM people who have their own comm and the Wincest fluff people who have their own comm, and and and... So it keeps getting broken down, where before there may have been a Supernatural fic comm and a Supernatural slash comm and maybe a couple of others, now you've got seventy different communities that are all about the same thing except not.

I don't know if I'm reading your point correctly, but that's what I'm getting out of it, anyway. It's an interesting topic...

As far as determining where fandom as a whole should locate itself, that's trickier. At this point, "fandom" is so overwhelmingly massive that any "group consensus" would take several thousand years and we'd still never agree. If/when fandom moves on from LJ, it'll probably happen the same way the fandom migration to LJ happened -- one day, we'll all wake up and realize, hey, we're all in this new place. Huh. XD
[solar cat]:
Do you know about synecdochic's Dreamwidth project? After her panel at Con.Txt, I've really got my hopes up about it as a possible migration site for fandom (though, of course, not everyone will move at once; the parts I like best that have been planned are the ways to keep in touch via OpenID, etc. so you can keep up with your LJ friends even if they don't move). *looking forward to this*
[musesfool]:
Huh. SPN is my main fandom now, and I don't see that kind of hypersegmentation - not the way it is in HP, where there is a community for every kink and every rarepair etc. I think it's easy to say that there is a huge separation between, say, Wincest and gen writers, but as someone who fits into both groups, I don't see it. Off-LJ, with the various archives and messages boards, may be different, but that goes for every fandom that has an LJ base and a non-LJ base.
[solar cat]:
Well, I'll admit that I was mostly using it as an example, rather than saying that SPN fandom is like this. I read in it casually, but not much more than that. It was just a convenient name that aubergineautumn brought up and that I knew a little about the sub-genres of. HP fandom is a much better example. So you'd say, then that the different "flavors" of writing have more to do with the delivery platform (LJ vs. private archives vs. message boards vs. mailing lists vs...) than otherwise? To rephrase, that LJ, even with having a lot of communities, still has enough cross-pollination that the writing isn't clearly distinguishable as being from this group or that group the way it might be if, say, someone who writes primarily for a mailing list suddenly posted their fic on LJ? *is curious*
[musesfool]:
Yeah. I think LJ-fandom as a whole - across various fandoms - has an aesthetic that is readily identifiable: tight third person limited POV (and often only one narrator per story), present tense, shorter paragraphs, character-driven even in heavily plotty stories, heavier on dialogue and sex than on action. Less likely to be an endless WIP.

Admittedly, this is only anecdotal evidence, but I read in a wide variety of fandoms and in het, gen, boyslash and girlslash, so it's not just drawn from one fandom or another.

I've recently spent a lot of time reading Dark Angel fic off of FF.net and various off-LJ archives, and most of it is godawful and full of really dumb hard fanon, and almost all of it is written in some poor attempt at omniscient narration (which ends up giving you a lot of headhopping instead of sticking to one easily followed POV per section), past tense, a lot of actiony stuff even in the relationship-focused stories, and, of course, the endless succession of 500 or 1000 word "chapters" in works in progress that go on for 80K words.

Obviously, these are huge generalizations, but I think the stylistic (and behavioral) differences between an LJ-based Wincest writer and an LJ-based HP gen writer are a lot smaller than between an LJ-based Tony/Pepper writer and a FF.net-based Max/Alec writer.
[solar cat]:
That's interesting. I agree about the massive differences between (to use your example) fics on FF.Net and fics on LJ, though for my own part, I tended to attribute that more to the author's age/experience than to the publishing platform. My experience with LJ has been largely of more experienced authors who have been "in fandom" longer than the average FF.Net author. Part of the reason I left FF.Net for LJ several years ago was that I felt I had "outgrown" FF.Net in some sense (more to do with the sensibilities of the writing than chronological age).

So, I suppose the way I always viewed it was maybe along the lines of the "wave theory" that's been mentioned on here, though in a different sense. Like... *attempts to describe what she means* beginning writers start on FF.Net and similar communities and start stretching their writing muscles on Mary Sues and songfics and so on, and then eventually, at some point in their evolution, they move away from FF.Net (&etc.) and toward other platforms wherein dwell the more experienced writers who don't need the FF.Net sandbox to play in anymore. If that makes... any sense.

I think there's definitely elements of "LJ house style" that new writers adapt to, but I guess I'm wondering if some of the "house style" is simply elements of better writing in general? I hate to say that there's a distinct quality difference between LJ-based fic (in general) and FF.Net-based fic (in general), mostly for fear that someone will bite my head off for it, but in my experience, it's been mostly true.
[musesfool]:
And I think there are any number of stories on FF.net that are a good hard beta and a couple of drafts away from being decent, and not a few that would actually be *good*, but because that's not necessarily their ethos, most of the authors don't feel a need. Or they just don't see a difference. (This is not only true of FF.net, either.) And if I were getting 300 comments on a story, regardless, I might not see a need either. I think, to turn around and tie this back in with Jenn's original post, even good writers writing in different times/environments can produce stories that don't mesh with our expectations/wants/preferences. I mean, even in the pairings and fandoms I love, how many authors can I say, "I've loved everything she's ever written"? I gotta tell you, I can't think of any off the top of my head, and if I sat and thought, I could probably come up with less than a handful (and I am picky, but I'm not *that* picky). So going back ten years, to when those authors were ten years less experienced, and in fandoms that had different approaches to canon/characterization and different aesthetics - I can totally see why it could be jarring, because even the same fandom at the same time can produce wildly differing takes on canon just by virtue of being centered in different locales (say, HP fandom on LJ v. Fiction Alley, or SPN fandom on LJ v. FF.net or one of the off-LJ archives).
[seperis]:
It really does make me think that SV actually *was* a point of transition for slash writers who spread out later into other fandoms.
[cathexys]:
exactly! i mean, i always look toward lotrips and HP as the external (bc it brought in so many new fans in proportion to old skool ones and merged different types of fans, i.e., anime, book fans, etc) and popslash as the internal (style!style!style!) turning points, but structurally SV may be an even better benchmark...
[frogspace]:
but structurally SV may be an even better benchmark...

When did SV move to LJ? Because popslash already was on LJ back in 2001, that's when we had all the great RPS flamewars between people who used to write in the same (media) fandoms and suddenly weren't anymore. Everything after popslash was on LJ too, but I can't remember if there was an established fandom with media fanfic roots on LJ before that. The way I remember it, popslash was on LJ because the rest of fandom was on mailing lists and message boards and RPF was still that big taboo.

and popslash as the internal (style!style!style!) turning points

Genderswitch, gay penguins, animal transformations - popslash had it all. *g*
[cathexys]:
I wasn't reading it at the time, so for me SV was my first blog and then LJ fandom as well...but yes, the big Julad discovers the sparkly boys was in early 2001 if I recall, and then Puppies in a Box came shortly after and i'm sure we can still track down old LJ posts from back then... and now, as I'm tracking down in 01 and 02, i'm getting to this...gee, back then tham was where the meta was at, wasn't she???? [and I can't really say whether SV or pop has earlier entries...they seem to have developed pretty simultaneously?]
[pinkpolarity]:
This discussion is fascinating to me. I think I'm your opposite, actually. Started writing on mailing lists, pre-ff.net and pre-LJ. I've felt like a person without a country ever since my corner of fandom started dying and people migrated to LJ. I'm interested in worldbuilding-heavy genfic and het, plotty, novel-length, with action. I like OCs, don't even mind Sues if they're not especially egregious and if the author uses that outsider POV to say something interesting about the world. LJ house style and sex-centricity bores the living daylights out of me, and when I go looking for fic to read, look off LJ before I look on it. For my part, I like the slow re-decentralization of fandom. I'm surprised by characterizations of pre-LJ fandom as being overly centralized-- in my primary fandom, there were quite a few lists and MBs and archives and scores of personal websites. It could be hard to find other fans, but I had a stronger sense that people were invested in the niches they found rather than being unattached and sort of nomadic. LJ has great community if you fit in well with its cliques, but you're kind of SOL if you don't and/or you're looking for a different sort of fic.
[flambeau]:
like the entire fandom is a specific literary format Okay, I want to say something here and I'm not even sure what, this phrase totally struck a chord with me. I remember thinking, about 13 years ago (oh dear) about slash as a genre and how to learn to write in it, not so much in a deliberate and meta way as, hm, so here is this stuff, how do I do it. People explained rules and conventions to me, even. And so many fandoms have (had) a house style, not necessarily just in terms or writing style but in what gets written, the tropes, the places and (emotional) spaces where the stories play out. And much as I see a difference between old-skool and contemporary for lack of a better word, I also don't think the contemporary... standards? there's a word to get a person in trouble... are exactly all-encompassing. More like a different literary format. *g*
[seperis]:
I meant to say, those writers who wrote multiple pairings in Due South, if they were slash writers, took those conventions to their het fic. Okay, put it this way.

I read Cesperanza, Resonant, Liviapenn, wait, looking at my tags, Shrift, Merryish, Astolat, Kormatic, Eliade, Hackthis (I started limiting to writers I knew), and they all had the same effect on me. I'm not even sure it's style, because it's hard to mistake Ces for Hackthis. I've read them for *years*. Most of them I can pick out of a lineup, and a few I read their fic in fandoms I've never been a part of.

But in Due South--and you know, now I'm curious about Sentinel and now I'm wondering if all my frustration with Star Trek TOS comes from this as well--they are different, and not in a way I can really quantify. The fandom, as a whole, feels like it's very own literary format that may sort of look like a novel, short story, drabble, but in fact is a dS.

Again, it's not bad fic at all. But my -- expectations? I think? -- keep expecting one thing and I'm getting another so I'm out of rhythm with the fic. And it's not big things. It's the way the writer, all the writers, are approaching and writing the text. Everything, including characterizations, can be completely different, but the *way* they are all writing it is very much of a kind.
[cathexys]:
Since you're mentioning TS...maybe another issue is that you're looking at specific writers in their stages of writing development? Like, seriously, reading Cesperanza's TS Nature series is fascinating in how much it's her and how much it's not her...same if you were to go back to torch's early stuff or Merry's earlier writing. [For one thing they all tend to be LONGER!!! *g*] I've often wondered how much changes I've perceived may be partly shifts in fannish tastes (like particular styles that condense more and describe less), partly technological infrastructure (LJ lends itself to short bursts in very particular ways, I think), and partly just any given writer's personal artistic journey/development....
[thepouncer]:
This is interesting to me, because I got into due South fanfiction (I'd watched the show as it aired on CBS, so this was *years* after I'd first encountered the source material) just after Smallville. Fall of 2002. And there were writers who I *adored* in dS, loved to the utmost, read eagerly in my lurkerly way. And then time passed, different fandoms, blah blah blah. I was in SGA, and a bunch of those dS writers discovered SGA, and I didn't like their stories anymore. Something had changed, and I've never been able to put my finger on what, just that I was left entirely cold by their new stuff. It was always bizarre to me, and it's kind of neat hearing about someone encountering the same sort of divide from the other direction (because it makes me less likely to be insane, ha).
[frogspace]:
There are things that I crave and that were common in old-skool fic but are now somewhat out of style and when someone does write something like that, you really notice because it's refreshingly different. The thing is, you don't notice the house style while it's still popular. A certain ficcish flavor only becomes obvious after the current tastes have changed.
[fyrdrakken]:
Coming to it even later, and from another set of fandoms, I'm wondering if the same factor may be happening in reverse in fandoms like X-Men or Doctor Who where there are literally decades of often-contradictory canon, to say nothing of tons of material whose canonicity may be accepted or rejected at will by various fans. There's room for a lot of individual interpretation based on what materials certain fans have managed to track down (or what forms of dubious canonicity they've chosen to admit to their own personal fanon) and also room for little subfandoms to spring up focusing on particular areas of content or particular fanon interpretations of same...
[cathexys]:
I actually miss old skool -- yes, I may be the only person around, and I thoroughly love all the queerness and the stylistic experimentation and...I still miss the unashamed, unabashed, UNWARNED [i.e., no crack warning just because you're going into emo territory] slash.

In the end (and here I'm recycling myself :), it's all about community shared interpretations, I think. Had you started in DS fic, I think you might have approached the series quite a bit different, might not even have been taken aback by the tropes and characterization (bc while still old skool, DS always struck me as almost transitional, writers already pulling in different directions, experimenting stylistically, changing characterizations as they went along). But starting with the show, really falling for it, you pretty much created an interpretive community of one all by yourself and suddenly faced years and hundreds of thousands of conversations and stories worth of shared readings...

By which I mean: I'm not sure this is necessarily a function of fandom age (both airing of the show and length of fandom interpretations) as much as it may simply be you having interpreted the series too differently in your head? I wonder if coming into BSG fandom now if you mainlined the show or any other current fandom might not give you a similar disconnect. Bc let me tell you, hanging out in SPN/J2 right now, I'm getting whiplash all the same, even though the show is current and I'd even followed some of the meta (and thus the shared canon interpretations and fanon creations) on my flist over the last few years...

Anyway, just totally rambling, but in the end I think I know what you mean, and it's that gap between singular and collective--may be the reason why I'm, so adamant in arguing that fanfic shouldn't be read in absence of the community that creates it....

...though I think you're very correct about fandoms having styles...but again, they develop in community, right? I like the idea of house style!!!
[merelyn]:
I'd say there's definitely a disconnect, and why I've never done more than dabble in most of the big Old Skool Fandoms. Even if I like the show and the characters, a lot of the older fic is based on ideas about storytelling, sexuality and romance that I don't quite relate to.

However, I came across most of it in my early days here. I can imagine that going backward must be a little unsettling.

Also, Due South is especially weird, as I'd say it sits right in the middle between old and new, as a show and as a fandom.
[sholio]:
See, I kinda know what you mean here. I was blown away by not just the quantity, but the quality of SGA fic when I started reading in this fandom, and I've been experiencing that dislocation in reverse when I read in other fandoms now, especially small fandoms. I just had a major case of that this spring, when I got hooked on Life on Mars and started looking for fic, because, wow, SGA has totally spoiled me. Like you said - it's not that the fic is bad - it's just that for the most part, what's considered really, really good fic over there is only up to par with middle-of-the-road fic over here. And I feel like I've learned a lot just from reading SGA fic and looking at the way the stories are put together, in the same way that I learn a lot about the writing craft from reading a good book - which is something that I really never got from any fandom before.
[calligrafiti]:
From the other side of things, such writing as I've done in the different stages of fandom (xeroxed fanzine, email list-based fic, lj fic) has seemed different from one another, and I don't think it was the different fandoms.

In highschool, before I'd heard the term "fandom" I worked on a fanzine with some local friends for the original Battlestar Galactica. We were writing about Commander Cain and the Pegasus, and put out a zine every few months for years. (I think my fondness for Parrish/Lorne shippers stems from this — talk about your rare fandoms.) This was all done plotting things out face to face or on the phone, with all the different takes on characters smoothed out before pen hit paper. (Lots of OFC Mary-Sues, too, but I think that's because we were all 16.)

Much later I joined up with the Sith Academy email list, and discussed my story a bit with the web mistress before the story went to the group, and then onto the website. There were more people seeing the fic, and an ironic take on Mary Sues, but still a very clear idea of what the type of story should be.

I got onto lj just in time for the height of Smallville fandom. I wrote a story that I posted in my own journal, and while it was based on a request from Thamiris, and was surely informed by all the SV fic I'd been reading, I felt free to play around with style and how I saw the character.

So, yes, as the fandoms and media have changed the sort of writing I've done have changed with them. (OK, the fact that I'm out of high school and 40 have also changed my writing, I hope.) The process has become both more solitary in process, and more communal in publishing and reading. My buddy down the road who runs the zine can't tell me that my idea of Cain/Maul/Lex is too weird to go into the zine. But I'm not sitting around the kitchen table tossing around plot ideas with fellow zine writers, either. On the other hand, our disagreements about what should go into the zine didn't end up in fandom wank.
[loligo]:
SGA was my first buddy slash fandom -- I read and wrote slash prior to SGA, but it was always in fandoms where the slash pairings were tangential to the main arc of both canon and fandom (XF, Buffy, the older generation in HP, etc.) And so I've been wondering what my fannish life would have been like if I'd done things differently. What if I had watched dS when it first aired? Would it have resonated with me? Would participating in the fandom have changed my fannish friendships? My approach to fanfic? I was so completely wrapped up in The X-Files back in those days. It was my entry into fandom, and it completely changed my life (both the show itself and the fandom experiences I had). And believe me, XF fandom was SRS BZNS -- the future of the universe was at stake! I don't think I would have been able to switch back and forth from that headspace to the space of buddy slash. And I say that based on my general view of what buddy slash is like now, so it will be really interesting to see if the mindset of a different era is even *more* different that what I'm imagining now, or if historical dS is actually closer in some ways to what we were doing in XF back then.
[akacat]:
It's a generation gap, except not because it's a technology gap.

First there were the dinosaurs, with their zines and communicating via mail. *And* the secrecy; you didn't know slash existed unless you knew the secret handshake and got to see the zines that were kept under the table at the cons. Which got you the mailing addresses to integrate further.

Then came the beginning of the industrial age, with its newsgroups (alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, anyone?) and a bit later, yahoo/delphi/etc groups. Secrecy dropped away, but, especially toward the beginning, only the hardcore geeks knew how to use the newsgroups. (That also led to an overlap in the timeline, because some old zine diehards didn't want to shift to the newsgroups.)

Now we're in the modern age, with lj and all its clones. Zines have mostly died off, even as a print novelty. Some yahoo groups still exist, but we're evolving separately from them.

Enough survives from each age (like the term 'slash' itself) that you *think* it's all the same. But it's not because the secrecy, and the way fen communicated, shaped society and language.
[klangley56]:
Two points for consideration.

Slash zines were not any more secret than non-slash zines were. You could find them advertised side-by-side in the same adzines, reviewed in the same review columns, sold in the same convention dealer's rooms. *Some* slash was--at least temporarily--more underground than that (like early "Starsky and Hutch" slash zines), but that was an exception to the rule.

And zines didn't *need* to "shift" to newsgroups; fandom merely expanded to include the newsgroups without losing the zines. Zines have not died off -- if I were so inclined, I could manage to spend all my disposable income on the zines being published each year.

Oh, and I still belong to several Yahoogroups, some of which remain fairly active, even in the face of LJs.
[wickedwords]:
Do you remember the Hummus rant? The hummus rant grew out of Sentinel fandom, and the theory at the time was that too much communication led to the same story (same length story, same takes on the characters, same themes, same tropes, same fanon) being written by many different people (aka, everyone new thinks it's a hummus banquet.) So when you sit down at the table, there's a lot of stuff, but after awhile there's the feeling of 'that's it? where's the cherry pie? And I would kill for a hot dog right now.)

In reaction, there was then a wave of 'dark stories' that would come out, but again, similar badfic characterization, similar takes on 'edgy' behavior, etc, etc, etc. Then another wave of some other variety of story -- let's say post-betrayal fic, since everyone had to write it--and then another after that.

And every single one of those waves of stories is stored in the big ol' archive, and lucky you, you get to read them all at once. No wonder your brain wants to explode. You have no idea what triggered each of the waves, and have no context for why so many stories are exactly the same. (Just, you know, written by different authors.)

Modern stories don't tend to react to each other the way old ones did. We have fests and challenges, but even with the 1K word count limit, it doesn't feel as thematically the same as it used to. You can still get into waves of similar fiction -- McSmooch, actually, is very reminiscent of what you are calling old skool slash -- but in general, unless you read an author and their posse exclusively, there is a lot more variety in the base of work because pools of people don't necessarily come in contact with each other. So the weird stories don't get wiped out of the gene pool before they begin.
[jacquez]:
Yes. Reactivity. A lot of stories in list culture were fish evolving in the same pond, mating with the same idea-fish and so having similar youngsters until a new mutant sexy idea-fish came along.
[wickedwords]:
So in a sense, balkanization has enhanced my life as a reader, as long as I am willing to read widely in a large fandom. I get more variety in the types of stories I read, and as I cross author-idea pools in my reading, I get to see more variety in characterization and theme. A story by isagel has a different view of John and Rodney's characters than a story by helenish, while a story by helenish may be emotionally similar to a story by kyuuketsukirui. And none of those stories are going to be a story written by sheafrotherdon, who tends to bring a softer and gentler John and Rodney to the party. And lucky me, I get to read them all.
[jacquez]:
Yeah -- on lists, you had...kind of clades of writers, I suppose, where the types of writing and characterization they did had commonalities (whether or not the writers were any kind of functional cadre or clique). Now, I can still go out into post-LJ fandoms and find isolated instances of writers that fit into those clades, but they're not reacting to each other in the same way, and not, hm, pressured in the same way to fit a mold.
[harriet spy]:
Interestingly, I'd say that, despite its size, SGA fandom is as close to a callback to the old days as you are going to get in terms of lack of diversity (tone, style, genre, pairing, conceit) and continuing domination by fanon established early on. I often feel that I can trace every idea I see in the fandom's dominant pairing back to no more than ten stories written by two people. It's quite weird and discomfiting for me at times (though of course I respect people's right to write whatever takes their fancy)--even much smaller fandoms I was in before, like DCU, just had more range.
[sholio]:
This is something I've observed too. The quality of fic in SGA is fantastic - as I noted in a comment elsewhere. But the diversity is surprisingly small for such a huge fandom, not just in terms of pairing but also how people write that pairing. There is a generally understood fannish consensus on who the characters are and how they behave, and not really a whole lot of fic that falls outside that consensus. I was mentioning to someone else the other day that dipping my toe in the John/Elizabeth side of the pairing divide is weird, like visiting a different country within my own fandom -- the characterization and tropes and everything are just a little bit "off" from what I'm used to.
[cathexys]:
Yes, though to me it's fascinating to see how these contradictory interpretations were negotiated there for a while (implicitly and explicitly).

In other fandoms, of course, you may simply create two competing subfandoms...I know that Remus/Sirius for a while had the puppylovers and then the 'other' group :)

Likewise, I think that some fandoms split pretty hard along the lines of who bottoms....I'm reading off a delicious list right now that warns for bottom!Sam like it's a real squick...quite interesting!
[sholio]:
The way that different fandoms are so radically different on those issues -- it's fascinating to me! Just the other day I was reading a discussion off Metafandom in which one of the participants was talking about ship wars in Naruto fandom between Sasuke/Naruto and Naruto/Sasuke shippers -- and I had to stare for a minute going, "Uh, isn't that the same pairing?" until it clicked, because it's been awhile since I was in a fandom where the top/bottom distinction was meaningful. People in SGA fandom don't even talk about topping/bottoming unless they're discussing BDSM, and it's essentially the fandom norm for the characters to switch roles throughout the story. I had completely forgotten that in some fandoms, there are ship wars over that.
[anatsuno]:
I think the [SGA] fandom moved away from the word at first because it thought it was 'over' the concept, had moved beyond; but then sedimentation happened and some characterization became so mainstream as to be The Way we think of them, and it's as thought the concept ahd come back. Which annoys me to no end, because I love the versions we have consensually settled upon, but I would love other takes on them as a pairing as well. We're back to the lack of diversity discussed above...
[sholio]:
I'm with you; I really do enjoy the mainstream John and Rodney characterizations, but it's a little overwhelming because there's just so much of it, and it's so similar -- as much as I enjoy it, after a while it feels like reading the same story over and over again. I find myself seeking out darker stories and more unusual takes on the characters, just for something different. This whole conversation is making me want to write slash that veers from the established characterizations, not to "be different" but simply because McKay/Sheppard slash is so huge that I'm reluctant to write anything for them -- it feels like everything that can be written has been written, which is leaving me wanting to poke around the edges and find some fresh ideas.
[sholio]:
... I agree with you about SGA fandom being "grown up" in that sense. This isn't true of everyone in the fandom, of course, but a lot of people, especially the most prolific and well-known writers, cut their teeth in other fandoms. This isn't their first lap around the pool. And that does affect the tone of the fandom quite heavily. Actually, it seems to me that there's this shared "complex" of Western fandoms that tend to have huge overlap (X-Files, Sentinel, Due South, SG1/SGA, Smallville), and SGA is really benefiting from being a latecomer to this mega-fandom because it's slipping right into an already-established social network with a lot of established writers who already honed their craft in other fandoms and are now applying that to SGA.
[saeva]:
The problem is that it's not just benefitting -- it's also losing things that other portions of LJ fandom take for granted. The insularity, the "one true reading," etc. are all things that I would, as a multifandom, multishipper with a variety of beloved characters, see as a sickness, as a playing up of what was wrong and what was fixed when the insularity of first 'zine culture and then list culture exploded to be more inclusive and diversified. So, a lot of the forerunners of the SGA are "oldbies," many of them even once BNFen in other fandoms, but it feels a lot like they're repeating their old mistakes and soldifying them so that SGA is, in a way HP hasn't been in years, very hostile to new ideas, new conventions, or the breaking of convention altogether. It makes SGA a weaker fandom, to me, than its big sister HP or its little sisters like Chuck or even Supernatural. It's as if when people began to really feel their way of being fannish being threatened, they mass migrated into a single fandom where they could put up walls, plug their ears, and go "Lalala, can't hear you!" and it leads to what I see, as someone who understands the impulse but lives outside those walls, in newer fen or the "outcast" fen, who wander between fandoms and conventions and are ultra-diversified, being shut out at the gates because, boy, has that drawbridge been pulled up.
[cereta]:
Honing in on one thing, because I just wrote an essay on this (and plus, well, you can take the girl out of cybertheory, etc): I am slowly becoming convinced that the impact on fandom of the switch to Livejournal as our dominant medium of interaction really cannot be overestimated. It's sometimes easy to dismiss, because hey, here we are, still arguing about warning labels, but I think the impact of Livejournal on fannish culture is almost as profound as the impact of the internet itself. I'd expand on that, but I'm still kind of teasing it out myself.
[proleptic fancy]:
Chiming in a little late here, but I think I know what you're talking about. Moving from almost exclusively LJ-based fandoms into an older fandom that was largely zine/newsgroup based has been really disorienting for me. It's not that most of the fic I've found is bad, because most of it really isn't, but I still can't seem to get through more than a few paragraphs without giving up because something just bugs me.
[unloveablehands]:
I had a similar but not the same reaction when I was kind of into Starsky & Hutch for a while there. With this it was old enough that the differences felt wrong, but it was also... as I kept reading, it became clearer and clearer that, yes, this was still a mailing list fandom that hadn't made the jump over to LJ. (Actually, it was when I went to the mailing list that I had the "wow. this is a fandom from an alternate universe!" reaction. It looked like fandom, it did the things fandom does, but it was all wrong. (And I used to be on mailing lists back in the day; apparently going back now just weirds me out too much to handle. *laugh*)
[jacquez]:
Actually, I think S&H is more a zine fandom that has been ass-slowly transitioning into something more like a mailing list fandom, but isn't there yet. I found S&H mailing list fandom disorientingly old-skool when I was primarily in mailing list fandoms generally.... I eventually flung up my hands and just stuck to reading archives. I know SH has an LJ arm of the fandom, but other than nosing about in the recs I've stayed away from that, too. It was just too weird for me!
[teenygozer]:
Interesting... you're talking about something that I've wondered about with regard to my own reading choices for quite a while. I've been in fandom since 1973 and didn't enjoy reading slash right up until I hit SV and drank the rainbow-colored kool-aid, and SV was my first non-zine, non-mailing list, non-old-skool fandom. SV was when I started reading fic on LJ. I had sort of wondered about why I suddenly adored slash when it was not particularly to my taste before. I figured it was just the SV characters working for me as slashed characters, just as the SGA characters also work in a slashy way for me. So whatever it was with the old skool stuff, that difference we have trouble put our finger on -- I didn't like it back then. I'd say the closest I came to reading slash pre-LJ was my love of Avon/Cally/Vila fic in B7 fandom. The people publishing some of the most popular slash zines were very good friends of mine, so it was never a case of not being exposed to it or encouraged towards it. I was slash-friendly, just didn't enjoy reading it.
[pirl]:
I'm talking the early 00s. But you're right, every fandom is different. I think for those fandoms that survived before the LJ era were definitely more like the big-bangs and zines. I mean, that's what most people wrote for pre-lj were zines. And unless you were in a special zine of short stories, most of those suckers were looooong. ;)

Stuff like SGA, Smallville, Supernatural, etc, those have only (primarily) existed on lj. They have their zines, obviously, but it's not for the zine that the writers are writing for anymore.

Also, and I'm just speaking from my experience in a very small fandom at the time (Oz), we only had a couple boards where everyone posted allll of the fic that was out there. Nowadays there can be dozens of lj communities per fandom that are specially created for different challenges.
[ithiliana]:
First, I was in Trek fandom in the 1970s and I never got invited into teh sooper sekrit slash closet (and am still somewhat grumpy about it).

So I learned about slash from academic papers, but I've read with great fascinating Joanna Russ' and Lamb and Veith's essays on K/S, and I think I see the same difference you talk about here: part of it involves the assumptions underlying the slash (for one thing, LUBE not known back then if the essays are to be believed), part of it involves how closed the community was.

Even thinking of broader fanac than slash, you had to be invited in -- I was invited to join APA-5 for example. The guys wanted members, but the only way to get was word of mouth recruiting. And I left because I got bullshit over my feminist stuff, so again, a group peer pressure to focus on certain topics/issues (and heck in LJ that happens, but you can go start your OWN LJ community for your thing and there you go).

And I have written about this great footnote in Camille Bacon-Smith's Enterprising Women where she makes this astounding claim that BDSM only happens in K/S fic by Australians and British writers -- NEVER by Americans (if you want to read it, let me know).

My personal theory is that a lot more work needs to be done on specific things within specific fandoms, instead of what the earlier scholarship did (which had to be broader, perhaps, or was just unchallenged in their focus on mostly Trek fandom and mostly slash which I think was much more.....controlled?.....back in the day--it's natural in both cases, but both fanfic/slash and scholarship have changed since then). And people who are careless about fandom as "my specific corner of fandom" and fandom as "universal" need to be a lot more careful (not at all saying that is happening here--didn't see it at all--I think it does happen a lot in fandom, and the aca-fen need to be careful they don't pick it up and run with it).

BTW, I LIKE LJ fandom a whole helluva lot more than my earlier expereiences which were pretty cool--I missed the whole listserv/usenet/mailing list entirely, but I don't think I'd have liked them as much. LJ is different.....and we need to do more thinking/working about that.
[solar cat]:
I don't think it would be interpreted as necessarily negative to say that pre-LJ and earlier fandom were different than what we've got today. Looking from my perspective, which is as a fairly young member of fandom (I'm 21), everything I've read about and in older fannish circles seems very different. It's recognizable as fandom, but... Well, I'm a religion person, so I'll address it in terms I understand -- it's like looking at Catholicism in the Vatican versus Catholicism in the Caribbean. Both sides would say (and be correct in saying) "we're Catholic", while an outsider would look at both and could see how the underlying structure is similar, but the expressions are very different. I guess that's the closest I can come to explaining how I look at it. Neither side is "bad" or in any way inferior to the other. They're just shaped by different circumstances and viewpoints. I think I agree with your point about both Bacon-Smith and Jenkins' assumptions. It was one of the things that nagged at me as I was reading their books, though I sort of chalked it up to the difference in time period between when they were writing and when I was reading (in that they were dealing with an earlier evolution of fandom, etc). Of course, I really don't have the background in the relevant issues to judge whether those viewpoints are valid or not, so I tend to avoid making concrete judgments on anything. *is a wuss*
[nymphaea1]:
Huh. I definitely agree that DS is very much it's own beast, but I'm not sure that at least for me this is an old school/new school sort of phenomenon. I'd argue that in many ways SGA is more old school than DS. I certainly agree with harriet_spy that at least in terms of characterization SGA feels very monotone to me. It feels very much like "The Sentinel" in terms of approach to character (although with possibly somewhat better quality writing). Indeed, for those authors who've written both TS and SGA, I find their SGA stuff is much closer to their TS stuff than other fandoms they've written in in the in between years.

Due South is different from either though in some ways, and I don't think it's so much a period thing so much as it's harder to post fandom's usual characterization tropes on Fraser and RayK than say Jim and Blair or John and Rodney. In SGA, SG1, SV, TS, Highlander, you name it, the second lead or side kick is the more popular and in some cases tremendously so. And the second male lead often shares a number of traits in those fandoms. They're perceived as unfairly receiving less attention, they're the geek and often the picked on one and generally the one who gets the girl less often. There's a lot of things there that fandom seems to identify with. And so in fanfic, these things are "fixed". All of a sudden, being "the Guide" is more important than being the Sentinel, being the guy who protects the world from Superman is more important than being Superman protecting the world from supervillains--the sidekick is suave and sexually confident (and also often some kind of unbelievable sex ninja), he has far fewer identity crises than his partner etc. etc. One of my absolute favorite stories of Cesperanza's is her TS story "Cheap" because it kind of exposes a lot of these tropes for what they are and turns them on their head. Except, DS changes up the rules a bit by muddying up the traits fandom likes to associate with. RayK is the sidekick, but he has many of the markers of the usual hero. He buts against the rules, he's an angry kind of loner, he has a jealous possessive relationship with his ex-wife, he's got the cool car. And while again he is the sidekick, he explicitly and repetitively fights against being shoved into Fraser's shadow. Fandom has to rescue him from unappreciated sidekick land less because Ray's already pretty active at forcing Fraser to value him already. And Fraser, while he is Super Mounty and absolutely clearly the Hero of the show, is the geek. He's weird and mocked for it, he's also an outsider. And he's Canadian, which seems to magically rescue any fictional character from ever having any kind of issue with being gay.

And so, in the end, I feel like fandom feels like it has less to "correct" in DS than in other fandoms. So we get a Ray who's an asshole more than we get a Rodney who is one (I mean, Rodney's often snarky and rude in fic, but it's treated as adorable most of the time and not something we're supposed to dislike about him). We get both of them being mutually annoyed at each other. You sometimes get stories where their relationship is being prevented by one of them not being honest with themselves about their feelings and/or sexual identity--but it's Ray at least as often as Fraser who has those issues. And when Ray or Fraser finally reaches the moment where they are ready to have a relationship, it's rarely because one of them conveniently lectured the other on his flaws. Like we get over and over again with Blair and Jim's repression issues (and from my view, like we get from Rodney and John in the same dynamic if admittedly not as much as with J/B). Ray and Fraser will tell each other when the other's pissing them off sure--they do that a lot. But it's mutual and the guy who's getting yelled at usually reacts to it like an actual human being. You never, for example, have Fraser passively sitting there while Ray tells him he never thought of him as a tame lion, for example.

On the whole, I just find that more honest a representation of relationships than we usually get. I agree that it's hella claustrophobic, but again I feel like DS stories are a bit more honest that they're writing a claustrophobic and possibly not entirely healty relationship. And I find it more supported in canon than in SGA by a mile. Rodney's so often written as the only person John's ever had a real relationship, or the only guy who's ever seen the "real" him or whatever, and it makes me roll my eyes so hard I nearly sprain a muscle.

I do understand where you're coming from, because the same thing happened to me, just in reverse--going from DS to SGA and not vice versa. There were some DS writers whose stuff I just loved beyond reason. I still love their DS stories beyond reason. But I got to SGA and was so excited to have a whole rash of new stories to read from these amazingly talented people only to discover I found them very very generic. Not badly written by any stretch, but containing the same dynamic I'd already tired of in TS with nothing new or specifically tied to the way John and Rodney behaved on the show. A good percentage of the time I feel like I've already read that story and didn't believe it the first time around.
[nola nola]:
I guess it comes down to the fact that fandom is a huge, teeming, uncontrollable, ever-evolving mass. Your personal background and your entry point into the mass completely colors your perception.
[deadlychameleon]:
Hmm. I think there's at least two things going on here.

One, you're right - depending on the archive, the tone, assumptions, and well, many things, were very, very different pre-lj. You can still find enclaves within lj where folks have made a stand against some aspect of Fanon, but it's less common. Highlander Quill Club stands out as being significantly different than what I read and was recc'd by the EgoSlashCoyotes mailing list in the Highlander fandom, or what you'd find at the fanzines that came out around that time (I'm forgetting the names here, but there was a major one). Heck, the tone of even the fanzines changed over several years *after* new episodes started airing.

So yeah, on top of the ebb and flow of Fanon, there's also the issue of getting Jossed. First season X-Files fanfiction is much more lighthearted than 6th season, or dear god the stuff that came out after season 4 ended on the cliffhanger Gethsemane.

There was also less drama. If someone got snooty about a fic and emailed the author, that was really between them. And mailing lists were more insular - random passersby couldn't step in and check them out as easily.

Heh. I remember back in the day, there was a Due South archive adjacent to the MKRS site. With the zipper you had to click to enter. Heh. Good times.
[twistedchick]:
I started in fandom in the time of zines, then bulletin boards and mailing lists, then Blogger before LJ. What I have noticed as a difference is the sheer amount of meta and particularly of both academic literary critique and psychological terminology that are prevalent on LJ in fandom that simply were not there before, say, Blogger (2000). I'm not just talking about the meta that goes on about stories after they're written, but the meta that goes into writing them. It's a different way of being fandom. It's not wrong -- there are a lot of other ways of being fandom than what exists on LJ -- it's just less familiar to you.
[denynothing1]:
I've had that experience recently with a fandom I *know*.

If you don't count Star Trek published fic, I started reading in XF, on the newsgroup and then later, mailing lists, circa 1993/1994, and though I read the slash XF had to offer off and on, it wasn't my primary focus at all (M/S]] and gen were). It's not that I bounced off the slash so much as it had very little resonance for me.

But I thought for the longest time that the issue was slash, but it turned out that the issue was XF slash of a particular era, because once I started reading SV, I fell so fast down the rabbit hole I couldn't see up anymore. Since then I've transitioned back to reading more widely in SGA and SG-1, but my primary focus is slash.

Recently I've been organizing my personal archives of XF stories from back in the day, and I'm astonished at how *foreign* a lot of it feels to me now -- and not just the slash, but the gen and het as well. I know where the tropes and characterizations came from -- I remember what generated them very well -- but the stories don't at all read the same to me as they did back in the day. As you say, everything feels just a little... sideways.

I can't imagine what it might be like to dive into an older fandom and try to understand the characterizations and where the main fannish POV is coming from. Particularly after falling into a fandom after devouring the source and forming a solid POV of one's own -- something I didn't do before reading SV (where I'd never seen the source before reading) or SGA/SG-1 (where I had only casual, spotty knowledge of canon before diving in).

I wonder if thorough, recent knowledge of source with its accompanying personal canon interpretation vs. blissful ignorance of (and lack of a pre-formed POV of) source has something to do with this reaction as well.
[kalpurna]:
Oh, this is totally interesting to me, and now I'm wondering what it would be like to go back and do that first-flush-of-fandom thing in DS after I've been out of it for more than a year. I've been in bandom, too, which is a very very new fandom, in the way that Due South is a very old fandom - not just in how long it's been around, but in what kinds of people are in it and what kinds of meta issues the canon produces. Due South has a mailing-list and zine history, and it's made up of older, more experienced slash fans, and it has very little het, and it's essentially a buddy cop TV show closed-canon fandom. That's, like, twelve different ways of being old.

Bandom has no history, and the teenagers for whom this is their first fandom vastly outnumber the people who even know what a mailing list was. Not to mention the live canon and the RPS thing and the four hundred meta issues that I've never seen mentioned in any fandom before. (What do you do when an RPS subject replies to fic (directly, on LJ, logged into their own account) with "dialogue rings true"? WHAT?!) And all of these things, these young-fandom-characteristics, influence the fic in tiny imperceptible ways that you get used to without knowing what you're getting used to. If that makes any sense.

Anyway, I should really go reread some Due South, and see if it pings me weirdly the way that Star Trek pinged me weirdly back when I was in Due South. I think this is one of those things that makes fanfic so bizarrely different from other genres - published fiction doesn't become dated as fast. Although I suppose science-fiction and romance kind of do, don't they. HMMMM.
[trinity clare]:
I have a couple of things to say that I don't think have been said outright yet.

First, you know sometimes an author posts first to a forum and then crossposts to LJ? I can always tell when that's happened. Always. Shorter chapters, long WIPs, third person omniscient POV, different fanon - all of that. And it disorients me to the point that when I find a fic like that on LJ, I will go check forums to find where it was originally posted and bookmark it there, because reading it on LJ is too weird.

Second, I think the wave theory applies not only to types of stories but to quality. When I start writing in a new fandom, most of what I churn out at the beginning is badfic. I'm still getting a feel for the character voices, the style of the canon, whatever. It's bad, no matter how long I've been writing in general. But - this is the interesting part - I would consider posting that stuff to FF.net instead of LJ, because that's where my brain automatically places it anyway. So I still write stories that aren't "LJ-style" fics (I'm really partial to the long serial angsty epics that I loved so much in HP fandom), but I don't think I'd post them on LJ even if I thought they were good, because LJ is the wrong medium for it. (And come to think of it, I bet it would get fewer comments too, regardless of quality. Huh. That's a theory for another day.)

And finally, I thought SGA had ruined me for other fandoms but bandom has really finished the job. On the one hand, a lot of experienced fandomers are in bandom, so their fic reads like the slash I'm used to from SGA and SPN. But on the other hand, there are a ton of newbies. So sometimes I'll be halfway through a story that's pretty good (because there's a lot of good fic to imitate) but gets totally derailed by a rookie mistake.
[starwatcher307]:
I don't exactly understand what you mean, since my pre-LJ exposure to fandom was limited; a couple of years of HL-only (forum), followed by a couple of years of mixed TS-(mailing list)-and-HL. But it makes sense to me that, as someone else suggested, LJ gives us the freedom and knowledge to be much less insular.

Because I friend people who have interesting things to say, regardless of fandom, I'm exposed to differences and similarities in how people think of / discuss the broad ideas. In what way do the customs of fandom A match the customs of fandoms B, C, and D? In what way do they differ? Where are the comfort zones of the various fandoms, how broad or how narrow are they?

Because writers I enjoy move on to other fandoms, I'm likely to start reading in fandoms I don't yet know -- unheard of in my list-only days. From reading authors I know, I'm encouraged to try authors I don't know in those new fandoms. Some I'll like, some I won't, but I'm thus exposed to different styles and conventions of story-telling.

The ideal result is more tolerance for those who don't "toe the party line", less insistence that "the old ways were best" and "the new writers in our fandom are no good", a greater possibility that the "different" fic will be able to find a niche. (Not that every fan reacts that way; as I said, "ideal" result.)
[cathexys]:
You know, you made me just realize that my constant emphasis on this (on the community aspect of fanfic and the layer of comprehension only accessible when being there in the moment, on interpretive communities and all that stuff that I've talked about ad nauseam for a while now) is probably a direct result of going through half a dozen fandoms exactly like you're experiencing DS right now, i.e., I always saw that there was a level I wasn't quite privvy too...but unlike you, this is how I started out more or less, so I didn't know how it should be or what i was really missing... And it never occurred to me that most fans have always been so much more immersed in fandom that looking at it like this seems strange to them...it's kinda like coming to a foreign country and suddenly realizing their weird habits BUT ALSO YOUR OWN...because once you realize that the totally coolest brand that everyone around you seems to need to wear is just another brand to you, you also realize that the one you yourself so desperately wanted is equally arbitrary...
[cara chapel]:
I know exactly what you mean about the disconnect between communities in fandom (regardless of the means of separating them) and the disorientation and the bafflement about why. For example....

There was at one time (possibly still is?) a huge disconnect in due South fandom. I had been a fairly successful and well-regarded writer in two previous fandoms when I moved to due South and suddenly found myself alone in a strange and hostile world where nothing worked the way I expected, and I couldn't do anything right.

I wrote in the fandom for a time as a F/V shipper, but the majority of Vecchio fans with whom I attempted to interact on various Vecchio-centric lists and communities disliked my stories and treated me with a hostility that I found both baffling and painful. The Ray Wars were still fresh in people's minds, though I had missed them, and the Vecchio fans had apparently developed a very defensive, insular community that had its own very strict conventions. Woe be unto anyone who came in and broke them unwittingly! As a result, I stopped writing F/V and left that fandom much faster than any other one I've been in.

Ironically, the people who have responded best to my due South F/V writings are the Kowalski fans; though few of them spoke to me at the time, in the years past several have commented positively and some have said they would like Vecchio in fic if more people wrote him as I did. Evidently I was following conventions that were far more acceptable within their community, except for focusing on Vecchio, and when they read my work they were able to embrace it because it fit their value system even if it had the wrong Ray.

Go figure! Sometimes you find a fit, and sometimes you don't.
[shayheyred]:
Honestly, I think it's just a symptom of how the world itself has changed in a very brief period of time. We live in the land of meta and irony now. I came to DS and wrote one story on the lists, and then was on LJ, so I'm kind of a post-Cesperanza-wave person. The diffence I've found is this: old-school slash might have a story in which the characters are, say, a were-unicorn (Man from UNCLE) or an elf (pretty much every older fandom pre-LJ) or the boys are pregnant. They were SERIOUS about this,even if there was an element of whimsy. But today writers routinely give characters wings, tentacles, pointed ears, impregnate them, change their gender - whatever.Now they're chockful of irony; sometimes they're labeled crackfic. We've gone post-modern. We're winking at the reader more these days, something that I don't remember seeing often back in the day.
[littlemousling]:
Ah! Finally one that resonates with me. And I think this is particularly interesting because Cesperanza's DS stories quite often wink at the reader---with meta references to CKR movies, say. She's a thoroughly post-modern Millie, which does, I think, set her apart from the DS crowd and a lot closer to the SGA norms. I do feel like I'm reading a story when I read her DS stuff and most SGA (not in a bad way); I can tell it's being written to be read, not just for the sake of writing. You can hear the writer thinking, in a way, and I do think meta on "how to write a good sex scene" (Resonant's, say) and the like have contributed heavily to that. Even with little PWPs from people like Chelle and TheGrrrl, I can hear the very intentional character development or arc. The PoMo stories are very deliberate. They're writing crack because readers like crack, or they're writing an arc because it makes it a worthwhile PWP, or they're writing flashbacks because they want to flesh out some part of the character. A lot of older stuff seems much more slapdash, even when it's well-edited; it's more, "You know what would be cool? If Mulder and Scully found an alien in the basement."
[elspethdixon]:
Honestly, I got the exact same "WTF everything feels wrong" feeling from most of the dS fic I've seen and it's not the writing styles or the era of slash (because I adore and can read old school zine fic for Star Wars, S&H, Man From Uncle, etc with no problems). It's the fact that a good two-thirds of the dS fics that I'm assured are "classics" by big name fans contain a completely different Frasier than the one I saw on the show. Apparently I'm the only one who saw Frasier and instantly went "ZOMG, it's Terry Pratchett's Captain Carrot if he were from the Yukon! So the big characterization question in fandom is going to be whether he's totally sincere or quietly screwing with people for his own amusement, right?" I'm guessing there were some early, influential F/K fics that characterized Frasier in a certain way and that they influenced everyone who followed, and it's a fanon thing I missed by watching the show on my own on dvd years later? That or I'm the only person who was watching the Canadian version of a Coen Brothers' film while everyone else was watching an angst-fest (similar to my experience with MASH, where I was watching a darkly comedic drama about how people slowly go insane when under terrible psychological stress,with only their gay love of their fellow surgeons to keep them clinging to the fragile edge of sanity while most audiences were watching a non-angsty comedy about some straight doctors' wacky hijinks in Korea).
[icarusancalion]:
I struck up a friendship with an old school slasher who'd been away from fandom a long time -- a generation or two in slash time. She came back. And she ranted at me about how people are casually writing "slash" stories that are not really slash.

"Huh?" I said.

It turns out that the old definition was slash was that the characters weren't gay. They were straight but "true love" broke down those sexual boundaries.

There were even flamewars over people slipping gay characters into slash stories. "My slash characters aren't gay!" and "That's not slash, that's --" oh, hell, now I'm trying to remember the term. Gay fic?

"Uh..." I said to all this.

I realized that the societal definition of gay/straight has changed.
[wemblee2]:
This post is fascinating -- your entry, the comments, all of it. I agree that there's definitely a difference, and I'm so relieved that musesfool put the "LJ-house-style" thing into words. I remember feeling like popslash really strongly hewed to this, to the point where I was writing some originalfic after reading a boatload of popslash, and suddenly my story was sounding just like the popslash -- spare, and in present tense. I feel bandom also has its own version of the LJ house style that it sort of cleaves to.

I have to admit that I feel nostalgic for the old-school-mid-'90s style and feel, since that's when I came into fandom (Trek, on usenet). But then, I was also reading a lot more fanfic then. I agree with the comment about it being pre-ironic-detachment -- that makes a lot of sense to me. I also feel like, at least in some of the stuff I read and enjoyed, there was an element of... I almost want to call it, "showing your work"? Like, "Here is everything your OTC is thinking and feeling. For pages." I loved that shit. I mean, he's my OTC, of course I want to hear everything he's thinking and feeling. *g* Or at least I did at the time.

What strikes me is also how the meta has changed. I feel like, at least in the mailing lists I hung out at, there was this urge to grapple with Why Badfic Happened and how one could Keep It From Happening Ever Again ("do badfic writers care more about fitting in with the community than with honing their craft?"), whereas now I feel like a lot of meta has looped around more to a view of, "What is it about this kink/trope/what-have-you that fascinates people, why does this show up over and over, what is this doing for people?" Like, to me it's the difference between this and this, both written by the same author (with the latter written in '04, which is, I dunno, about a thousand years ago in LJ-time).

...which maybe is just an effect of being in fandom longer, so maybe there are waves of meta just like there are waves of fanfic; after you've been around 10, 20, 30 years and you're seeing the same stuff spring from the fannish Id, whether it hits your kink or squicks you hard, I guess you're more likely to go, "Huh, where does that come from" after a while rather than, "How can I stop the madness?" since you can't stop the madness. *g*

References