The Book Burning That Wasn't: Thousands of Works of Fiction Destroyed and No One Pays Attention

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News Media Commentary
Title: The Book Burning That Wasn't: Thousands of Works of Fiction Destroyed and No One Pays Attention
Commentator: Hannah Ellison
Date(s): June 14, 2012
Venue: online blog, Huffington Post
External Links: online here; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The Book Burning That Wasn't: Thousands of Works of Fiction Destroyed and No One Pays Attention is a blog post by Hannah Ellison.

For context, see FanFiction.Net's NC-17 Purges: 2002 and 2012.

FanFiction.Net's Statement

On 4 June 2012, published this statement on their front page:

"Please note we would like to clarify the content policy we have in place since 2002. FanFiction.Net follows the Fiction Rating system ranging from Fiction K to Fiction M. Although Fiction Ratings goes up to Fiction MA, FanFiction.Net since 2002 has not allowed Fiction MA rated content which can contain adult/explicit content on the site. FanFiction.Net only accepts content in the Fiction K through Fiction M range. Fiction M can contain adult language, themes and suggestions. Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA and has not been allowed on the site since 2002.


While most of the world carries on unaware, the last couple week has seen trauma, in-fighting and mass exodus in the world of fanfiction authors and readers. The catalyst for the current outrage being voiced by this community of creators and consumers? enforcing a ratings policy that has been in place since 2002 by deleting thousands of stories.
The enforcing of this rule is not what has most users up in arms, many online reactions agree that much of the content on the site was unsuitable for the M rating and was in violation of terms of service. What does have these people riled is the method by which this sudden enforcement took place. Many are calling the mass deletion a 'purge'. To give a sense of the numbers one user ( compiled data which showed that as of 4 June the top 20 most popular categories had lost 0.39% of their stories, or about 8,000 works. This number continues to grow. Stories were deleted without warning and with no opportunity for recourse; for many their work was lost for good. Communities began to rally around, anonymous people sharing copies of works they had secretly saved on their hard drives. Conspiracy theories abounded about them only targeting slash fiction (stories involving male homosexual relationships) or that a group of vindictive critics, going by the name Critics United, were to blame. None of this appears to be wholly true. Rather it seems that has decided that now is the time to have a clear out.
There is a cultural hierarchy of taste at play here, one which places fanfiction as lowbrow geek fodder undeserving of any real attention. Were a library filled with thousands of works of 'legitimate' fiction destroyed, it would make front-page news.
[t]hese unpaid authors are at the mercy of the sites willing to house their work and as such must adhere to the lines drawn in the very murky sand of copyright law. Some of these authors spent months writing and editing novel length works to then have them deleted entirely, as if they were something with no artistic or cultural worth; artefacts that either follow the rules or don't.