The Acid Desk

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Newsletter Community
Name: The Acid Desk
Date(s): 1998-1999 (the individual months notated below are when links to the newsletters were posted on alt.tv.x-files.creative)
Moderator: CiCi Lean
Founder: CiCi Lean
Fandom: The X-Files
URL:

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The Acid Desk was an online X-Files newsletter created by CiCi Lean.

There were ten issues, plus one special issue, an essay called "Death of an Archive." The special issue, which had a focus on Gossamer, was posted to Geocities, and is now long gone. [1] [2]

Some Descriptions from the Newsletter Itself

"Welcome to THE ACID DESK, a bi-weekly underground newsletter discussing the latest fics, recs, trends, discussions, and even *gasp* gossip in the X-Files Fanfic Community." [3]

"THE ACID DESK is, hopefully, a bi-weekly newsletter, written & created by CiCi Lean and posted to XFCTalk for discussion and debate. All opinions expressed within belong solely to the author and have no reflection on the opinions of the administration or owners of XFCTalk." [4]

Another description: "The Acid Desk is my bi-weekly newsletter containing news, recs and gossip from the XFFanfic world. It's underground, irreverent, and not for those of weak constitution or sensitive Beanie Baby puppy-hearts. If you don't like frank and adult thoughts, opinions and language, then this ain't the place for you. It'll just make you angry and bitter, and then you'll want to get me thrown off my ISP. (Which I'm sort of getting tired of...) WRITE TO ME AND TELL ME HOW WRONG I AM!" [5]

Where Was It Posted?

At least one issue of The Acid Desk was posted in full to alt.tv.x-files.creative; the other issues were included on that newsgroup as simply links. All issues were posted in full to CiCi Lean's website, The Circle of CiCi, as well as to XFCTalk.

Controversies

Site's Existence and Content

[need crabby quotes]

Not all comments were negative. Lean included positive remarks in some of the newsletter's issues:

  • "AND also, I enjoyed your Acid Desk newsletters, I hadn't seen those before (I don't hang out on the newsgroup much) and they were great fun."
  • "I also would like to applaud you on having the...well, okay, *balls* to write "The Acid Desk." You're a woman after my own heart."
  • "Loved the Acid Desk 04. Damn, I needed that. Really, really badly. I've been waiting, and I mean that. You do a great service--knocking ALL of us equally off our high horses (though some are a lot higher than others )."

TOSed

Sometime after the fourth issue in August 1998, the site was TOSed; it was believed that this was due to one or more fans reporting the site to Geocities for CiCi Lean's use of the phrase "Holy Shit!". It was more likely disgruntled fans with an ax to grind. See "The Unbearable Wrongness of TOSing" by bliss in that issue.

In the fifth issue of the newsletter, Lean wrote:

AOL FANFIC JUNKIES BOARD (Fanfic Junkies): Good Heavens, is it possible that a flamewar can break out, even in the Gentle Land of The Fanfic Junkies? Of course it is! The scandal? A certain newsletter named the Acid Desk, of course, containing a TOSable word [6] directly linked to the forum boards that was promptly shot down, torn and trounced. No big deal, except that every post following it was TOS'd, AS WELL AS the link to Lydia Bower's archive, which had the nerve to clearly warn readers that NC-17 material may be lurking three or four links away. (Just so you know, TOSing Bower's archive, in the Junkies folder anyway, is an action that's akin to throwing The Koran into a Port-O-Potty.) So, what the hell was going on? A new "AOL Folder Monitor" of course, one who was not only ignorant of Junkie forum protocol, but also of the basics of the English language. All attempts to garner an explanation for the TOSing of Lydia's archive were met with illiterate rambling that not only didn't clear the matter up, it actually made it ten times worse. Things were getting truly ugly, with no relief in sight from the Forum Managers (who might not be able to read or write either for all I know), UNTIL....

...the scorched "Folder Monitor" gets the bright idea to sneak in under another AOL screen name and flame the complainers. (Still incoherently, but this time with "feeling.") However, the utter lack of punctuation soon tips off The Screamers, who in turn tip off Forum Management, and lo and behold, two days later we receive a NEW Folder Monitor, who makes her air-kissed, smiley-faced entrance, and just HOPES we can all get along now. Yeah, well, I hope so too, punky bear. But I doubt it.

BTW, this edition of The Acid Desk is dedicated to the old, freshly unemployed monitor.

A shame he or she probably can't read it.
In October 1998, Lean wrote:
Re: "The Disaster" I'm not going to pull quotes from the nearly 300 letters I received after my TOSing, mainly because I'm a lazy shit. All I can say is, to everyone who wrote to me during that excruciatingly annoying episode, is "thank you." Thank you for your support, your offers of web space, shared ISP access, Pendy smut (some of which you wrote completely against your inner muses and moral authority ,) and simple notes of encouragement. It meant more to me than I can say, and I'll admit some of the letters brought me close to tears. (But don't tell anyone that, OK? I have a reputation to uphold.) [7]

Plagiarized

In March 1999, someone posted a plagiarized and altered version of this newsletter to alt.tv.x-files.creative. See THE FLACID DESK - Full Edition.

The Anonymous Gossip Section

Each of the ten issues had a section on gossip. While some of it was fairly benign (baby announcements), most of it was very, very personal and snarky. Some fans reading it were probably mostly horrified they'd be mentioned in it; a few were likely disappointed when they weren't. Some items were in very poor taste.

Some examples:

From issue #2:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which Vicious Circle of Fanfic Authors have been sitting on their naughty duffs writing cruel "parodies" of other authors' works, giggling in secret, only to find to their absolute horror that snippets of the pieces have been making the E-mail rounds, and that it's just a matter of time before their "victims" get a hold of them?"
  • Blind Item #2: "Which self-admitted plagiarist is STILL posting not only to Gossamer, but to ATXC as well, not even having the odd decency to change the name & ISP they plagiarized under?"
  • Blind Item #3: "Which old time author has been posting works under a pseudonym, while masquerading as a clueless newbie? And, if they come up for a "Best New Author" award (which is very likely), whatever will they say? (And NO, it's NOT me. Sheesh...)"

From issue #3:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which minor list owner has been acting in such an erratic fashion over the past few months, with furious rages one day, and endless cyber-crying jags the next, that frustrated list members have taken to referring to said owner as "TLQ", with the "L" standing for "Lithium"?"
  • Blind Item #2: "Which longtime fanfic denizen has gotten into the habit of pontificating righteously and then uses alternate identities and addys to zealously support their own posts, not realizing that a quick peek at Deja News unmasks them PDQ?"

From issue #4:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which seethingly jealous fanfic author, in a sad attempt to become a Big Bad Fanfic Queen, is trying to write in ANY popular genre, even slash, in hopes that it might be her ticket to everlasting fame? (And, no, it's NOT me. Bastards.)"
  • Blind Item #2: "Which angst-writer is terrifying her beta readers, not only with her hair-trigger temper, her accusations of plagiarism, her strange, "true-life" tales of dog collars and whips, but also with constant demands for editing of an endless torturefic that has taken over two YEARS to write?"
  • Blind Item #3: "Which creaky guardian angel of atxc publicly implores people to remain calm and polite on the newsgroup, while sending private emails -so- foul to people who have incurred her wrath, that she's been reported to her ISP nearly a dozen times?"

From issue #5:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which poor slash author is so notoriously bad, that their pen name has become a euphemism in certain circles for -any- particularly lousy fic?"
  • Blind Item #2: "Which inseparable pair of merry fanfic pranksters are having -way- too much fun with pseudonyms, even up to the point of making bestest E-pals with their worst enemies, writing purposefully putrid MSR's and "flaming" each other's identities mercilessly, both of them laughing all the way to the nuthouse?"
  • Blind Item #3: "Which lean and mean fanfic author has absolutely NO qualms about anonymously recc'ing her own work, which she does shamelessly in any forum that will listen?"

From issue #6:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which starry-eyed band of fic writers have taken a pilgrimage out to L.A. to learn at the feet of Actual 1013 Writers, for their annual script writing class, a few of them probably hoping somewhere within their ever-optimistic hearts that Vince G. himself might ACTUALLY be blinded by their hereto with untapped brilliance and take them under His Wings of Secret Shippyness? I wish these writers luck, but hope that they brought enough chocolate with them to see them through the inevitable disappointment."
  • Blind Item #2: "Which list owner has done such a good job at making a whole batch of bitter, life-long enemies, that these folks have actually banded together to start their own secret society, its only goal being to devise ways of making their former tormentor miserable?"
  • Blind Item #3: "Congratulations to two very well-known, respected fic denizens who have just recently gotten engaged! Good luck, and if you need names for the kids, I have a WHOLE list of pseudonyms that I haven't used yet. [grin]"

From issue #7:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which cranky denizen of atxc and atxf became infuriated when another member of the cyber-community failed to recognize her by name at this year's eXpo, even though she is, as she so succinctly put it, "-very- famous"? Move OVER Madonna, X-Egodonna is HERE!"
  • Blind Item #2: "Which author has astonished myself and everyone else with the shocking information that they are NOT a twelve-year old with a grammar problem, but actually a big ol' twenty-five year old, with a showtune fetish AND their very own HATE page, erected in their dubious honor by an entire group of detractors? (Yes, I've been there, and it ain't pretty...brrr.)"
  • Blind Item #3: "Which slash author is their very own best friend, not only casually reccing themselves in the slash chats (under a pseudonym of course,) but also making sure that the topic of conversation always seems to stray back to that very special, oh-so-talented, FABULOUS author -- themselves?"

From issue #8:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which optimistic fanficcer is still coyly insinuating to pals that it's just a matter of time before their script is on Carter's "to-do" list, even though the 1013 director the script was handed to made it *very* clear that they were not accepting ANY unsolicited scripts of ANY kind from ANY writer who didn't have an agent and a good resume in the biz, and handed it back?"
  • Blind Item #2: "Which lively author recently confided in me that they've slept with three other fanfic writers during *one* recent sojourn?*"
  • Blind Item #2a: "Which batch of Acid Desk readers will be incredibly disappointed to learn that when I said "sleep" for Blind Item #2, I meant SLEEP. (Ha! Gotcha, you dirty-minded little nudges. [g])"
  • Blind Item #3: "Which fabulous fanfic author just became the mom of bouncing baby TWINS? You go, Mom! Twice the fun and double the lack of sleep! What say we all snooze an extra hour in her honor this weekend? I'm sure she'll appreciate it. :-)"

From issue #9:

  • Blind Item #1: "Which poor deluded sap was left twisting naked in the wind by her good *pals* who had convinced her that USENET flaming under a pseudonym was not only FUN, but that it was perfectly SAFE provided she use a certain encrypted gateway that they themselves eschew, only to be proven wrong, wrong, WRONG? All together now, boys and girls... WHOOPS!"
  • Blind Item #2: "Which plucky megalomaniac has caused quite a snarling stir during their delightfully shameless bid for readers and top dog honors during a recent award giveaway, especially after it WORKED LIKE A CHARM! Good for her -- doing what we all only dare to dream. Thank God there's always next year, non?"
  • Blind Item #3: "If someone throws a retirement, and no one notices, how long will it take for them to sneak back? The Acid Desk Bookie Office is now OPEN! Odds are, whoops, 1 to 1 for less than a week later! Hmmm, sorry, but all bets are now off ladies and gents. (Hey, I give you plenty of my damn time, so my money is totally off-limits, punky bears.)"

Issue 1

unknown month, 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol. 1, No. 1, Archived version

It contains:

  • recs for fic
  • "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"
  • humorous typo mention
  • gossip and drama
  • reports of discussion on other sites


"Rant-O-Rama's topic was Lean's approval for less "sappy" MSR:
While there is always much to complain about in XFFanfic, there are some *hopeful* trends that I'm really impressed with lately.

And the most hopeful is...

The virtual disappearance of *whoo-hee-nelly!* sap from MSR's. No, the usual sweet kisses and cuddles are still there, but the real horrible, god awful stuff, like the FBI masquerade ball, the deathbed weddings, and the screaming kiddies, with Ma & Pa Scully-Skinner coming over for babysitting duties, appear, for the most part, to have gone the way of All Schmaltz. (I throw mine down the toilet; it clogs up my sink, doncha know? )

There's a nice hard edge in MSR coming into focus here, no doubt reflecting the *truly* dark turn the show has taken in the last two seasons. (Yeah, it was dark before, but now even those super-duper flashlights can barely cut through the murk.) There is also a burgeoning trend toward plotting and honest characterization, the likes I haven't in a while. IMHO, people are realizing that Scully isn't just a gorgeous, smiling saint and Mulder isn't just a sweet, tormented little boy in a hunk's body and no, they aren't running toward each other through a field of daisies in slow-mo like some sort of cheesy margarine commercial, that's for darn sure. But, does that mean that a good MSR fanfic is impossible to write without this sort of obvious character manipulation?

No way. I think they have definite romantic possibilities these two (in fanfic at least), but only in the darkest, cruelest of worlds. These characters are intricate, tormented, with a host of problems literally the size of the Earth itself. Sure, they might kiss someday, but dollars to donuts, there'll be blood on their lips when they're done.

And yes, there's still the occasional groaner (read a *serious* FBI ball fic just yesterday, in fact), but there's also Nascent ("Eye of The Beholder"), Jill Selby ("Ever After"), Rivka T, Mustang Sally ("Iolokus 1&2), and even Paula Graves, who's latest unfinished fic was more hard-edged than any fic I've read from her so far. Perhaps these aren't your *typical* M&S fics, sometimes they are downright scary in their dark intensity, but they are very hot in their own way (even without actual smut) and a hell of a lot more honest.

So here's to "Noir MSR". Long may it depress us."

Issue 2

unknown month, 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol. 1, No. 2, Archived version

It contains:

  • recs
  • gossip brief Gossamer comments
  • reports on discussion on other sites
  • amazing typo alert: "'He started screaming loudly, as seamen shot out all over his chest.' Ahoy, mateys! THAR SHE BLOWS!"
  • "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"


The Rant-O-Rama discusses fans who "hate" slash without having ever reading any:

"I hate that stuff."

"Did you ever read any of it?"

"No."

"How do you know you hate it then?"

"I just do."

````````````````` Now, you'd think I was talking about The Grateful Dead, wouldn't you?

You know, that band that everyone hates, even without ever hearing them play a note, on stage or otherwise?

Wrong. This is a typical conversation I've had with fanfic readers about slash.

Yes, slash. You know, those same-sex-love stories, the ones that I like to call the "licorice" of fanfic. It appears that you either love slash or hate slash ...passionately. There are people who think that slashers, both the readers and the writers, are "weirdos", "freaks", "creeps", and a whole host of other funky adjectives. (And if you are in this particular group, don't feel so smarmy. Slashers have some "interesting", albeit private, names for you, too.)

And then, there are the politer, but just as adamant naysayers, who absolutely -refuse- to even -contemplate- giving The Dark Side the teensy-weensiests of looksies. Not even a peek of the best works XFslash has to offer, such as "Ghosts" or Antrim.

And while they all are certainly entitled to their opinions and their choices, this knee-jerk negative reaction to slash really puzzles me. I could dismiss it as homophobia, plain and simple, but not all people who refuse to read slash *are* homophobes (hell, some of them are probably gay!)

Therefore, I have this sneaking suspicion that many people who claim to *hate* and *never, ever* read slash have actually, on one daring day, given it a quick try, and, ooops...they accidentally picked up a *real* dog of a slash fic. (Usually the one where the "smears" and "anal vaults" make a dramatic appearance right after the diapers.)

And, mournfully, they just never recovered from it.

I might be wrong, but I'm convinced that this is one of the biggest problems with introducing (reintroducing?) fanfic readers to slash. While the ratio of good to awful slash is almost identical to gen or MSR fic (with the rare "great" fic tossed in as well), there -is- something about a really "awful" slash that leaves the reader feeling, well, somewhat...tawdry. Unclean, even. You feel as though you need to take a shower -right away-, and not because you're all sweaty with joy either.

And while there are just as many rotten gen/MSR fics, they just don't engender the same reaction. Sure, I've read gen/MSR's that made me roll my eyes, hit delete compulsively, even grimace with distaste. But I've read slash (in particular, one unfathomably endless series that will remain nameless here) that had me blasting the Showermate, while desperately trying to loofah off my entire top layer of skin and brush my teeth at the same time.

I mean, it was just *that* bad.

And, while I'm not sure why this is, it appears to be an unfortunate fact of the genre. So, when I introduce people to slash, I try to be super careful to only pick out the pairings and level of smut they are able to handle. And for those who are brave enough to give slash a try, choose your fics and your authors carefully.

And remember, an educated slasher is your friend.

So, if any slashers here want to introduce a newbie to *our* world, be sure to go slowly and gently with them...

And don't forget the lube. ;-)

Issue 3

July 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol. 1, No. 3, Archived version

It contains:

  • recs for fic
  • "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"
  • humorous typo mention
  • snarky, personal gossip


"Rant-O-Rama's topic was fanfic, its quality, and fantasy fulfillemnt by bliss (guest commentator). Excerpt below, see Fanfic? Art or Fantasy Fulfillment for full essay.

Fanfic by its very nature is fantasy fulfillment, right? I mean, after all, we're extending the parameters of a program we enjoy, with characters we find compelling, we're creating situations that go beyond what we see on the screen. Whether it's romance, X files, crime thriller, or anything else, we're reproducing something that came out of the back of our minds.

But is it art?

Sometimes.

Does it have to be?

No.

Is it fun when it is?

Depends on who you ask.

Right? Am I right? I've seen dozens of really stunning fanfics where the characterization is so right on it smacks me in the face. And they're ignored in favor of the fantasy fulfillment stories.

Does that make me cross?

Damned straight.

Issue 4

August 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol 1. No. 4, Archived version

It contains:

  • recs for fic "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"
  • humorous typo mention
  • "Handy-Dandy Guide To ATXC Flame War Tactics & Survival"


"Rant-O-Rama's topic was Mary Sues.

"Mary Sue, Who The (#$@! Are You?" by CiCi Lean

Ah, the infamous Mary Sue. That famous fanfic bugaboo, alternately loved and hated by readers of all fandoms and genres, the original character that is just a little too familiar, or just a little too smart for her own good.

Yes, we've all heard of her, but do we really know who she is?

According to Lisa Schultz, an academic who actually studies fanfiction (yes, there are such people), Mary Sue is defined as "an idealized original character, more often than not having a close similarity to the author herself, who enters the fic as a catalyst for romance between, or as savior of, the main characters."

While this is an excellent definition of "Mary Sue", rooting her out of fics, for both the reader and the author, is slightly more problematic. Authors often create all sorts of disguises for their Mary Sues, most of them subconscious and completely innocuous. Readers too, have the occasional problem recognizing her, so, for ease in identification, I present to you:

HOW TO SPOT THAT MARY SUE:

1. Her Name Is Neither "Mary" Nor "Sue"

Oh, no, our heroine could *never* have a name as dull as that. "Winter", "Emerald", "Tornado", "Amber", "Alexia", "Constantinopia", those are all names that are worthy of such a very exciting, very vibrant -- very -special- character. Bonus points if she has a good pseudo Euro-sounding last name such as "Von Pluto" or "De La Farge."

2. She Ain't From Around Here

Mary Sue never comes from a place like good, old Shitcreek, Kansas. Nope, she comes from Tunisia! Brazil! Transylvania! Or, if you're very brave, another PLANET entirely! Now, don't ask yourself -why- this person is working for the FBI in the United States, or -how- they're breathing the oxygen heavy Earth air that is nothing like their home planet's, because, hell, you're just going to ruin it, OKAY BEAVIS?

3. She Isn't Like The Rest of Us

Nope. Mary Sue is special. Super special. With very super-special, super powers! She's psychic! She is pyrotechnic! Photogenic! Anencephalic! She can SHOOT LIGHTNING OUT HER ASS! Yes, our Mary is nothing if not amazing, even more amazing than the characters that you are -supposed- to be fawning over. And because she is so super special, you can do all SORTS of things with her that you can't do with your main characters. Hey, can't have bad characterization with your own creation, can you?

4. She's Everyone's Best-est Friend

She's sarcastic to Mulder, who adores her anyway (but only as a friend. We know who his TRUE love is.) She trades girl talk and giggles with Scully at impromptu pajama parties for two. She commands grudging respect and admiration from Skinner. She gleefully plays Yentl The Matchmaker and yells "FINALLY!" when M & S are caught doing the nasty in her kitchen sink. Proudly wears her maid-of-honor dress at Scully's wedding, and cries tears of joy when they engage in a warm and bonding "group hug." Goes on their honeymoon with them, because they just *can't* bear to be without her, but never engages in a threesome, because that would be, well, just ICKY.

All right, you get the idea. Now, you might ask, what exactly is *wrong* with Mary Sue'ing?

Well, to be honest? Nothing.

Mary Sue is an acceptable device, (especially for young authors), with a long and fine fanfic tradition. She can help the author visualize and even help them to work out the fine art of characterization. However, when your device begins to become your trademark...

That's when you should start worrying.

And how do you -know- when she is starting to take over your fanfic life with her exotic ways, her fabulous name, and her super-special powers? Well, counting is a good method. If your Mary Sue shows up in your first two or three fanfics, and she disappears after that, then you are pretty much within the norm for most fanfic writers and you can chalk her up to youthful exuberance.

If she appears in a dozen or so fanfics, I'm afraid you've succumbed to her super-special powers of persuasion, and desperately need to retire her back to her homeland, whether it be Tunisia or Mars. Ship her there quickly and don't look back. Don't worry, someone else will take up her banner, and one day you will able to pull her off of the archives without attracting too much notice.

However, if you've written over a hundred fanfics with her as a leading character....

Well, I'm sorry, but it's time for shock therapy, dear.

But don't worry. My shrink has *excellent* rates.

Issue 5

October 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol 1, No. 5, Archived version

It contains:

"Rant-O-Rama's" topic was ballot stuffing for the Spooky Awards, an interview with a ballot stuffer named Elysavets. An excerpt:

CL: Well, I suppose the first question that's on everybody's mind is -- why? Why did you do it?

EL: Well, I guess I have to answer two different things. I thought that the idea of fanfic awards was pretty neat to begin with. But the more I looked at the nominations, the more I realized that it really had nothing to do with who the best writers were. It had to do with who wrote the most popular stuff. And the more I looked at that, the more I realized that the writers who were writing fan fantasies were really going to win, instead of the best writers. So, one night, my husband and I had some friends over, and I confessed my secret fanfic addiction and told them about the awards. We'd all had a few drinks, and were feeling sort of playful and I logged in and showed them the ballots. I don't remember who suggested it, but it might have been me, I admit it; anyway, we started voting and I created a screen name for each of our guests and advised them on what I'd vote, with various differences. I had to describe each story, since there certainly wasn't time for them to read them, and they'd tell me which one to vote for and so on. Once we got rolling, we just kept on rolling, and we used the most awful screennames imaginable. I think ultimately, we voted about forty or fifty times. I'm not positive, we were all a little tipsy by then, and laughing hysterically. The guys were competing for the most smarmy screen names and the girls were right behind them. Toward the end, we were voting strictly by writers who weren't like total raves in the newsgroup, but who wrote decently.

Issue 6

October 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol 1. No. 6, Archived version

It contains:

  • recs for fic
  • "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"
  • humorous typo mention
  • snarky, personal gossip
  • reports of discussion on other sites
  • the rise of the Debbilmice
    At first, I blew off this page as a rather acidic prank played by a couple of feuding individuals, but I have to say that I'm becoming more and more impressed with this evolving and malevolent band of miscreants who have even LESS reverence than I do for all that's "holy" in fanfic. A series of unflattering "reviews" of "fanfic classics" is followed by the "Tipsy Pitchfork" awards, (two of them already won by yours truly,) and surrounded by a truckload of, God help me, funny-as-hell MST's of fanfics that had me chuckling while I winced. (I'm due for a MSTing of "After The Louvre", and to be honest, I'm sort of looking forward to it.) If you go here with an open mind and a can of beer, you might enjoy this page after the initial outrage has passed. Yes, these folks *are* bad, rotten and evil, but according to their "Empress," they wouldn't have it any other way.


"Rant-O-Rama's topic was TOSing for revenge and personal gripes, "The Acid Desk" is one victim; the guest commentator was bliss: Excerpt:

The Unbearable Wrongness of TOSing

Well, well, well, what have we seen of late but a veritable tempest of people using the Terms of Service of various providers to shut down various web sites.

It does seem to be that slash is pretty heavily targeted, but other sites have also been hit hard.

We don't know how many sites might have gone under before Cici Lean's very visible TOSing. I know of one site belonging to a slash writer whose stories were among the best that was taken down without notification by Geocities.

Then, Cici Lean's site--in such a way as to be very suspicious. First, the Acid Desk was TOS'd for one phrase: "Holy Shit". [8]

Now, the Acid Desk was distributed to a fairly wide audience, if I'm not mistaken, and I certainly don't know the membership of the XFCTalk list, on which it was featured. But I seriously doubt that AOL was just browsing through the Acid Desk issues, looking for TOS issues. I could be wrong, but I think that even with recruited monitors of such things, they've got far too many subscribers and problems to lurk around looking for a "holy shit".

Which suggests logically that someone deliberately reported the Acid Desk for this mild profanity.

Moving along, Cici's Socks site was TOS'd a week or two later. Yes, it was not only slash, but Pendrell slash. That was on Monday.

On Friday, Cici was permanently TOS'd from AOL for the contents of her Genfic site. Which contained, among other thing, After the Louvre, which was NC-17.

Offensive content.

Sometime shortly afterward, or perhaps at the same time, Sheryl Martin had a page of NC-17 stories TOS'd. Her archivist was at least alerted, but that may be the difference between Geocities and AOL, who knows.

We've had discussions about TOSing people for mistings (or mstings or whatever we call it) of their work, for copyright violations. We've had discussions on whether or not slash is okay, or considered offensive, of whether NC-17 stories are considered offensive regardless of which gender.

We come back to offensive content.

There are certain things that I think we can all agree are offensive. Hate sites targeting people for race, creed, or belief. Sites created by pedophiles for targeting and luring children. Sites containing child pornography. These are past offensive merely to me or you, these are violations of law.

Once we get past those obvious choices, what we have left is a shifting matrix of moral evaluations. You may find that a slash site is offensive to you; it is not offensive to me. You may find Gay and Lesbian sites offensive to you, they are not to me. You may find romances so offensive that you wish they could be removed; I'm not a romance fan, but as a TOSable offense? Please, reality check time.

I have a few hot buttons of my own, and none of them involve romances of either flavor, slash or hetero. My personal BIG HOT button is atrocious writing. Not that I claim to be the best--God, I wish--but Jesus please us, have you seen what's out there? Only a few of the really awful can claim that English is not their native language, the rest have no excuse.

I mean, if we're going to start TOSing people right and left because their writing isn't to our taste, I have, as Gilbert and Sullivan wrote, a little list! They never will be missed.

Well, maybe they will. We should all miss them, if they've been shut down because someone has a personal grudge, as I suspect in a number of these cases. I'm not sure if the grudge is merely against slash, against noncanon presentations or against actual writers. I'm not sure it matters--once we take this kind of censorship into a realm where there is ANY personal bias, all fanfic in all fanfic realms is going to be at risk.

ALL fanfic. Not just X Files. ALL fanfic.

And once the egomaniac doing it moves on from fanfic, where will they go? If you have a site that expresses your personal beliefs, what then? You're TOS'd because someone finds your personal beliefs 'offensive'?

Because someone finds your sense of humor, however lame, offensive? Because you've parodied something and they find THAT offensive?

Hey, I have an unfinished authorized parody of Oklahoma, and far from being offended, both authors reportedly laughed their asses off. I know Goo did, she did it in my ear over the telephone. Heck, she snorted a piece of grapefruit through her nose and nearly choked to death.

And even if I had my way and only TOS'd really atrocious writing, I'm not God, I'm not foolproof, I'm not the sole arbiter of taste for the world.....and nothing gives me the right to make that kind of judgement for others. Sure, I have certain standards for writing. Sure, I'm probably well enough educated that I'm not always completely off base. But I sure as hell am not the Diva of Critique.

Are you?

I doooooonnnnnn't Think So, Rubber Ducks!

So where do we draw the line?

We draw it at the end of our noses, I would say. If we are offended by something, and it doesn't fall into the areas I mentioned above, let's use our native intelligence and not bookmark the place, okay? Let's stay the hell away from it, and let other people enjoy as they will.

I don't like Muldertorture, so I stay away from the Muldertorture site. Shirley Smiley is a nice lady, and just because the idea of site dedicated to Muldertorture creeps me out doesn't mean that my personal feelings oughta rule the Net.

I know some folks who really don't like slash. You know how they deal? They don't read it. They don't TOS it.

I'm not a big romance fan. I'll read 'em by writers I know and respect, but I avoid them the rest of the time.

I vote with my feet, not with bogus and spurious complaints that they're 'offensive' to my sensitive widdle eyes and feelings and therefore must be removed from the Net like a spreading plague.

I'll even go one further. As someone wisely suggested--let's not support the sites that allow this petty sort of retaliation, let's support the ones that do. Let's make 'em feel it in their bottom line. Heh.

There isn't a lot we can do about this epidemic. We can keep backups of our sites, we can keep backup ISP arrangements on hand. But that's really a damned shame for a community that started out to be fairly cohesive, despite differences of opinion.

Whoever opened this very nasty door deserves a whuppin'.

Issue 7

December 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol 1. No. 7, Archived version

It contains:

  • recs for fic
  • "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"
  • humorous typo mention
  • updates on what fans on other lists are discussing
  • personal and snarky gossip
  • a slash rant:
    Well, my love affair with slash is cooling slightly, due in no small part to a furious debate a short time ago on SlashX which really opened my eyes to a few things. I discovered that slashers are (or have suddenly become) -intensely- rigid in their pairings and preferences, many of them more so than even the most vehement *shippers I know. Unusual pairings are often scoffed at publicly, and discouraged privately, even up to the point of what I'd call harassment. As expected, I've gotten some toasty heat for my Pendrell slash from Day One, but that was always balanced out by the folks who seemed to enjoy it and I took the flames in stride figuring they'd eventually go away. However, since Pendrell-slash, along with LoneGunman slash has now actually become a staple of the genre (how the HELL that happened, I have no idea) with stories written by more than a few talented writers, we are seeing a loud backlash from readers who are demanding more "traditional" slash, ie, M/Sk and M/K and wishing the rest of us would stop writing that god awful stuff about guys whom they Just Don't Like. Of course, since 90% of all fics posted to the lists and archives are still M/Sk and M/K, I'm at loss as to what the hell they are talking about, unless it's a fear that Geekslash (tm) is taking over and M/Sk - M/K will soon be going the way of the passenger pigeon (something that will never happen as long as XFSlash exists, believe me.) It's very disappointing to see readers that I'd always championed as mature and flexible, turn out to be not quite as open-minded as I once thought them to be. And that's a shame, because even though most XF-slashers are insulated from genfic completely, many of them unaware of the scorn and hatred that's heaped upon them outside of slash circles, it's a cruel world out there, one that is bound to intrude and sticking together -- publicly defending all slash, even the stuff you won't read or Just Don't Like, is, IMHO, the wisest route to go. Even if Frohike's in it. [grin]).


"Rant-O-Rama's topic was Ephemeral, the fickleness of feedback.

EPHEMERAL FOLLIES: (or "How To Go From 2 to 48 in 2.9 Seconds")

Don't get me wrong, I like this new archive.

Scott Miller's Auto-Archive of ATXC, Ephemeral is a very well thought-out, neatly planned, kinda nifty site, efficiently updated, and without a lot of hassles. In there, you will find the stories, and *only* the stories, posted to atxc, usually within a few hours of their appearance on the newsgroup. A great place for people who *really* can't stand the heated little "discussions" whilst tripping down the road to Wonderland, and want "just the fics, mam'."

But the section of the archive that kinda cracks me up, is the "Hits" and "Recommendations" areas, where, with just a flick of the mouse, you can be the most popular kid in Wonderland, bar none. Sure, I'd suppose it's on an honor system, but what writer in their right mind could POSSIBLY resist making themselves Queen For A Day, especially since there was little or no way anyone could find out about it.

As a small prank, a friend of yours truly heard me bemoan my lack of love in general, and decided to make me Miss Popularity, just for a laugh. And, after it was done, we did laugh, but it was a hesitant sort of laughter, the kind you croak out when someone makes a joke about their two broken legs.

I have to be very honest when I say that I NEVER know which fics of mine people like, and which they don't, if I go by the information on download stats, recs pages or even feedback these days. I've been rec'd on The Doghouse approximately six times under a few different names, and for only one of those fics did I get more than five letters of feedback from atxc and the lists. I've seen works of mine downloaded from Gossamer, over ONE THOUSAND times, and received no letters for them. I've gotten tons of feedback for fics that have never made it to any recs page or bulletin boards, and that I personally didn't think were all that good (actually, I knew very well that they stunk of dead skunk,) but posted them anyway, because I don't get paid to do this, and I'm just having a laugh. One of my favorite cases is a fic that I received NOT ONE letter for personally, but was gushed and raved over on Feedback Friday on the XAPEN, which utterly astonished me.

I thought no one had even read the thing.

So, I've come to the sad conclusion that after two years of contributions to XFFanfic, I haven't a clue as to what works and what doesn't in my writing, or even what the readers want. Luckily, I'm not cynical enough to try to cater to or design my fics to please any particular batch of readers (okay, I did try it twice, but one worked and the other one sank like a rock) or write my fics to adhere to any given formula, because, honestly, there appears to be none.

I've heard that slash got you tons of feedback, NC-17 MSR's get you all the love, case files with UST is where it's at -- honey, I've heard it all. And none of it seems to be true, or, conversely, ALL of it seems to be true. Posting has become a real coin toss into this reading public, and that's a disappointing realization, especially if you're here to improve your writing, or if you feel that your best work is being ignored in favor of your throwaways. Fanfic readers are fickle, of unknown tastes, and don't seem to be very willing to give us balding and nervous authors a single clue as to what they'd like to see more of.

Or even what they'd like to never see again.

I may be alone, but the only consistent factor I've noticed is that the amount of feedback I get is always directly inverse to the amount of time I've spent on a fic, writing and editing combined. For an eight minute fic, which I timed as an experiment in speed-writing, I received over a hundred letters. A six-month fic... five. Which I find, well... rather scary. My "Inner-Beast" is drawn to the idea of cranking out endless throwaway fics and getting tons of ego-rub for them, but my id wants to show the world the best I have, praise be damned.

How can a poor writer win?

Finding that balance is nearly impossible, and, without the proper reader-clues as which way to go, I'll bet I'm not the only writer lost in Wonderland without her hot-air balloon or her Ruby Slippers.

Issue 8

December 1998 THE ACID DESK - Vol. 1, No. 8, Archived version

It contains

  • recs for fic
  • "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"
  • humorous typo mention
  • some possible Debbilmice blowback on alt.tv.x-files.creative:
    I'm not sure if it is just me, but I've noticed a definite change in ATXC in the last two weeks. Maybe it is the growing popularity of the Mice, but I hate to place blame or credit there--however you choose to look at it. I sort of think we create our own monsters and don't need to go looking for them where there are none. We had another troll this week, and yeah, I know, big hairy deal. So what. It was evident early on that we were dealing with someone whose school projects go under the refrigerator magnets, and is still looking for the perfect cure for zits, but still the same...troll.


"Rant-O-Rama's topic was commentary on Debbilmice, opinions about, one fan's outing, and ethics.

Issue 9

March 1999 THE ACID DESK - Vol. 1, No. 9, Archived version

It contains:


"Rant-O-Rama's topic was awards in general, Whammy Awards specifically, and conflict. Excerpt from a MUCH longer essay:

Ah, Award Season. The smell of boiling blood is in the air and hot, sweaty jealous glances are being strewn about with measured carelessness and itchy trigger fingers are poised over those "send e-mail" buttons with intentions both good and evil. Stuffers and pranksters, ulcer-ridden authors and gung-ho readers, egomaniacs and sobbing newbie hopefuls, every one of them shoving, pushing, KILLING for their chance to become a player in the ultimate game of Fanfic Chess -- becoming the Queen of FOREVER via an actual award!

Doncha just LOVE it?

I'm not going to talk about the ATXC Spooky Awards today, mainly because they are deserving of their very own Special Edition. (Lucky, lucky them! *cough*)

Instead, I'm going to talk about a much smaller, lesser known award, one that went off surprisingly well in its first year of creation.

Yes, I'm talking about The Whammys.

Ah, the poor, innocent Whammys, the annual XFFanfic Slash Awards. An award that quietly imploded upon itself during the very last days of voting and has now disappeared into that sad and overcrowded bin labeled "Ideas We Thought Would Be Fun."

It's a crying shame really, because the Whammys were created by very nice people with the excellent intentions of promoting a genre that is *not* beloved by the other awards in our fandom, but has a quality of writing and a stable of talent that doesn't deserved to be so roundly and casually ignored by all the other awards, big and small.

From my observations, the Whammy committee consisted of three honest, sensitive, idealistic people, who decided to take a large chunk of time out of their busy real life schedules, while also abandoning many of their more pleasurable on-line activities to run this award and their intentions were, *gasp* -- good.

They really believed that they'd be presenting the best that slash had to offer in a relaxed and fun environment and that everyone would be so happy that the genre was finally getting a fair shake, that they'd actually behave themselves. It would be a gay, educational time for all involved and with any luck, an award like this would give a much needed shot of legitimacy to a genre that's been called everything from "garbage" to "trash" to "canonless porn" by the ignorant masses over in GenLand.

Unfortunately, what the poor Whammy committee *didn't* realize that in fact what they were offering was as far removed from a public service as one could get even if they were presenting a "Do It Yourself" suicide booth at a mental health clinic.

That unbeknownst to them, they were facilitating the presentation of one of the most fearsome, the most violent, the most shameless, the most TERRIFYING of all the green-eyed psychodramas that could ever plague the narrow confines of this universe or any other...

An ego contest between amateur writers.

Issue 10

unknown month, 1999 THE ACID DESK - Vol. 2, No. 1, Archived version

It contains:

  • recs for fic
  • "Gratuitous Pendy Mention of the Week"
  • humorous typo mention
  • personal gossip
  • info about what was being discussed on other websites and forums
  • info about The Basement, Gossamer, Ephemeral
  • a list of MSR lists on egroups
  • the Rant-O-Rama is fairly tame, and isn't much of a rant; it's about crossovers
  • free speech, personal attacks, separating the story from opinions about the writer, and the internet, short post by Solomon Grundy:
    It's Free Speech, but is it Memorex? Just recently, we had a dandy little flame war that involved some stories largely disliked by many of us. No problemo, sez I, if you're gonna post here, ya might as well get used to the idea that everybody has an opinion. And everybody did. And lots of people posted it. Are you with me so far? Good. Now, folks didn't just have an opinion about the writer's writing, they had opinions about the writer, too, and they shared lots of those. Free Speech? Exactimundo. Bad Manners? Double Exactimundo. Sue me, that's my opinion. I haven't been here from the start of this newsgroup, but I've been hanging since early '96. I've seen plenty of other witchhunts and personal nastiness, believe me. Even played in a few, cuz I lost my temper. That's free speech. And as people tend to forget, this is Usenet, home to chaos, and I'm not talking about the Gossamer lists; Usenet is this electronic zone of free speech to the nth degree, of chaos, of mixing it up and bashing and what have you. [snipped] Yeah, you have the absolute, inalienable right to call anyone an asshole for what they've written and posted. You have the absolute, inalienable right to shout that we should notify the FBI in said asshole's vicinity. You have the inalienable right to lie your ass off on the newsgroup about the asshole, or post their E-mail or whatever. It's ironic that the only thing beyond the pale here is posting someone else's E-mail. I'm only asking one thing. The next time you find someone's story/subject matter/punctuation/manners detestable, get a grip on yourself before you light up that blowtorch. Ask yourself if you really feel qualified to psychoanalyze someone because of a story. Go read Thomas Harris. Go read Charles Dickens--now, there was a sick puppy--or HP Lovecraft or half the detective fiction written in the 1960-1970 era. Hey, if you wanna assassinate someone's character when you don't know them at all personally, be my guest. It's your right of Free Speech. Just don't be surprised when it happens to you.

References

  1. "Since one of my last "Special Editions" was on Gossamer, I won't rehash old hat as far as Gossamer's problems are concerned, most of which seem to have boiled down to an severe overload of 5K fics and not enough time in the world to stick all of them somewhere. I will, however, admit complete and total shock to the reaction to my essay, "The Death Of An Archive," mainly because I had prepared myself for the roasting of a lifetime, and received almost *nothing* but kudos and complete agreement, at a ratio of 200-3. (Two letters that *did* disagree mostly berated me personally for "meanness" and "mud-slinging" which, while always fun to read, wasn't exactly debating the problem at hand.) I -did- receive an excellent rebuttal from Gem, the Gossamer Database Upkeeper, which was sensible, informative and constructive, the basic gist being that the problems between Gossamer and its users is one of communication. With her permission, I'm going to post that to the Acid Desk Web Page, and I'll let you guys know when it's up. (Hopefully one of us still has a copy after my blow-up.) It's well worth the read." -- from The Acid Desk #7
  2. The "blow-up" Lean refers to is when many of her webpages were TOSed from Geocities.
  3. THE ACID DESK - Vol. 1, No. 2
  4. THE ACID DESK - Vol. 1, No. 2
  5. The Editorial Page
  6. The word was in the phrase "Holy Shit!".
  7. from issue #6
  8. Used in a review in "The Acid Desk" #4
  9. Some context to "Naughty Nanny" is Fanfic plagiarism