The Homophobic Remix Rag

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Title: The Homophobic Remix Rag
Creator: metamiri
Date(s): August 22, 2006
Medium: online
Fandom: many, but had a focus on Stargate Atlantis
Topic:
External Links: The Homophobic Remix Rag; archive link
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The Homophobic Remix Rag is a post by metamiri made in reply to The Mission Report Challenge, a Stargate Atlantis challenge that was issued at sga_flashfic by Cesperanza on August 21, 2006.

The opening paragraph: "Given the recent defenses of CC in HP invoking bricolage and intertextuality, it was with some manic giggling (and not a small bit of head-desking) that I saw the exchanges on SGA Flashfic about the latest Not-Remix (except where it sort of is one) Mission Report Challenge.""

The essay, and the post it was in response to, was written just over two weeks after The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle, and plagiarism, intertextuality, and bricolage was heavy on many fans' minds.

Despite the provocative title, besides a few mentions of some fans being worried about their fic getting a McShep spin, there isn't a lot about homophobia in the essay or the comments.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts from the Essay

Clearly, there is a vast gulf between parts of fandom that believe wholeheartedly in bricolage and those who might possibly be intrigued by the idea as long as the bricks in question were not made by them (out of mud and thatch stolen from TPTB).

I'm not going to come down on one side or another here, because there really isn't much point. Clearly, at the present time, the vast majority of fans seem to believe that fan writers, unlike TPTB, have complete rights to view their own writing (and to have it viewed by the fandom-at-large) as protected texts, subject to no remixing without the express written permission of the author. This belief seems part of a more general desire on the part of fans to protect their own writing, not just from remixing, but from concrit and reviews by other fans. One might be tempted to suggest that their stories would be safest if left on their own hard drive rather than posted to the world at large, but then we'd miss out on all the fun of seeing people post crack fic only to turn around and demand that nobody can crack their crackfic or else, so there.

I do wonder what fandom would look like if we allowed TPTB to "opt-in" or "opt-out" of seeing their work turned into fanfic. Imagining a world in which TPTB could set aside concerns about money, what other kinds of concerns might they have that would influence them to give us the green light? I can imagine them only giving rights to those they decided were good writers (the subtext of at least some of the objections to the challenge suggested the fear of the Bad Writer.) On the other hand, they might decide to only let mediocre writers have at it, so as to prevent being shown up (as they so often are by fanfic which takes an underdeveloped premise and asks all the "What if?" questions we wish had come up during the script revisions before the damned thing aired).

But I actually suggest that TPTB might, as did quite a few people in response to the challenge, object on the basis that they were fine with fanfic as long as nobody queered their gen text.

I found myself not at all surprised by the sheer number of objections that seemed based in the fear of a queered text. Homophobia in fandom is present and, when the opportunity arises to voice it without censure, we all have the opportunity to see it play out. The WriterCon kerfuffle offered us all a glimpse into the het mind appalled at the way that fandom has, in small ways, allowed room for queer play (as long as that play stays in its designated sandbox).

In this case, there was a quick attempt at reassuring everyone that a Mission Report would not be a remix and would not involve re-pairing, but I couldn't help but think, "And why the hell not?"

Imagine, for instance, a gen story in which what happened in the original (read: derivative, fan-authored, possibly canon-episode-based remix of a story) was so potentially embarrassing to the players and/or complicated to explain that, in the process of trying to hash out how it all went down, Rodney accidentally said things that, to the wrong reader, might be read as his confession that he had a crush on (or had slept with) John.

After all, it's long been a staple of TV canon to put the male characters in situations that, viewed from the wrong angle, could be misconstrued as queer. SG1 in it's 200th episode did it. It's an old (and tired) joke, and it's certainly one that could be put to use in a Mission Report.
While thus far, those opting out have framed the issue as a matter of manners and virtues, it would be a wonderful thing if incensed SGA fanfic writers put down their copy of Miss Manners long enough to consider just what it is that they find so particularly challenging in the idea of their own stories being remixed, revised, or re-envisioned. Oddly enough, sometimes even the threat of satire is enough for us to catch a glimpse of something distinctly unsavory in the faces of those reflected back at us.

Excerpts from Comments at the Essay

[dorothy1901]:

We were surprised by how many people feared having gen stories or other-pairing stories mixed into McShep.

I took this to mean that those people had gotten tired of McShep. I'm only on the fringes of the SGA fandom, but it looks like that pairing is the biggest elephant in the room. I assumed that some writers, after having made the effort to place and promote non-McShep stories, were possibly peeved at the prospect of their stories being assimilated.
[eruthros]:

I can definitely see [not wanting their gen stories to be turned into McShep] as part of it, but at the same time -- were there any writers of non-McKay/Sheppard slash who made the same point? I don't recall seeing any, and there are certainly bunches of people in the community who write Lorne/Parrish or Sheppard/Ronon or anybody/Zelenka.

If my memory of the comments is right, I have to ask: if it's just a matter of being peeved at the McShep you-will-be-assimilated, why were (some) gen and het writers upset and rare-slash writers weren't? That question leads me, at least, back to heterosexism expressed as discomfort.
[ealgylden]:
I can think of at least one McKay/Beckett writer who objected for exactly this reason in the original challenge post, and (even though I'm sure this puts me in the fuddy-duddy faction of fandom, again) I can't say as I blame her. I would never begrudge anyone their McKay/Sheppard joy; I'm happy that my friends are so happy, honestly. That part of the fandom looks like a big, awesome block party. Big. Very big. But there are others of us having little shindigs here, too (like in every fandom), and the specter of having the block party's music turned up even louder can be discomfiting
[metamiri]:

That's an interesting objection, because that McKay/Beckett writer would be objecting to the possibility without seeming to consider that it also opens up the chance for her (and those with other minor pairing interests) to play.

If it is, indeed, possible for someone to write a Report based on a McKay/Beckett story and turn it into a McShep, then it's equally possible for someone to write a Report based on a McShep and turn it into a McKay/Beckett.

Living in the City as I do, I've long ago realized that the best way to make yourself heard among the boomboxes is to blast your own music as loud as you can for as long as you can stand it. You'd be surprised how startled people are to hear folk music blaring out of your car speakers and how well it obscures anything the person next to you is playing. *g*
[ealgylden]:
I have to admit, the possibility of a remixer changing a story's pairing hadn't even occurred to me when I first read the challenge, but when someone raised the possibility, I had a very visceral "what? no!" reaction. Basically, I think, I hit critical mass on stuff that bothers me but doesn't bother me (you know? The stuff that usually maybe garners an eyeroll, if that. I'm so inarticulate today, argh!). The normal silly fandom squee of "McShep is so canon!" "The only interpretation that makes sense is that they're in love!" "Why is everyone so meeean to Rodney?" "John should be running Atlantis; then all would be well" etc etc etc. I mean, I totally do that stuff too, just not for this pairing or in such hugely massive amounts (erm, what with not my being a mob of clones and all). And I do have archives and challenges and vids and blah blah to play with for my pairings (smaller, yes, but there). And yet my first reaction when someone raised the possibility (even a possibility based on differing interpretations of a possibly ambiguous post) that none of that mattered and McShep was still kudzu and could take over all of that separate fannish infrastructure... well, basically my reaction was, "People! Not everyone worships Santa!"
[metamiri]:
... it does strike me that people are afraid of some strange things. I've written too many stories to think about in a minor pairing in a minor fandom, and that means largely writing within my own headspace. And doing that, I've really come to value the cross-pollination of ideas (different from plagiarism) that happens when people "discuss" (both in meta-conversation and also in fiction written back to fiction) characterisation and ideas. I've no doubt at all that it's a part of what makes fandom tick, and why we can all stand to read five million first time stories (they aren't all the same, but instead are an ever-evolving thing that reflects back to us all our desires as they change over time, which is Teh Cool, I think).
[copracat]:

to consider just what it is that they find so particularly challenging in the idea of their own stories being remixed, revised, or re-envisioned.

Loss of status.

Okay. There must be more to it than that. I'm being emotional myself - I find it offensive, controlling and rude to be told how to read, to have my interaction with a text constrained and ordered. I find it offensive and belittling to be referred to in that group known as 'my readers'. Any fan writer (or professional writer) who uses the phrase too often (average of 1.5 instance per paragraph is my limit) gets my back up something fierce. It's not that I'm not a reader. I am, I am a most voracious reader. It's just that I'm an independent reader. I don't belong to any writer and the control in that reader/writer relationship is not vested in the writer. We each always have the option and the power to walk away and not engage with each other or the text between us.

The truth being avoided here is that writers aren't the precious resource of fandom, readers are.
[metamiri]:

What's interesting to me is that the tension becomes one of reader vs. writer, but the source of the tension comes in the fear that the reader might become the writer (as if that wasn't always the case).

We, in fandom, muddy the waters of reader/writer all the time. We do it on a daily basis, and we do it without even noticing we're doing it. Certainly, on LJ, where it's a regular past-time to write about one's reading, that reading is being made into text, put outside of our head, and we're shifting from readers to writers. When we rec a fan story, we're likewise moving from reader to writer (and that's why so much anger happens when a rec turns into something more of a review--something where the reader as writer becomes more obviously a writer.

It's as if we're at the OK Corral, and there's only room in this town for one Writer and them's fighting words.
[parthenia14]:

I think this comment [about loss of status and tensions between writer and reader] totally hits the nail on the head. I've got so irritated both by the remix refuseniks and by (in HP) the 'OMG do not discuss or review my story' set, and in both cases I feel they want to stop readers thinking, and they don't actually have much time for readers who do anything other than read and offer praise.

Which is ...odd, really.
[kyuuketsukirui]:
Yes, they are all sounding a bit too Anne "You're Interrogating the Text from the Wrong Perspective ZOMG!" Rice for me.
[oceana_]:

While thus far, those opting out have framed the issue as a matter of manners and virtues, it would be a wonderful thing if incensed SGA fanfic writers put down their copy of Miss Manners long enough to consider just what it is that they find so particularly challenging in the idea of their own stories being remixed, revised, or re-envisioned.

For me, this is THE reason why the challenge should have been an "opt-in" challenge in the first place. Apart from the whole politeness issue (which can be argued about), the opt-out led predictably to people having to justify themselves for not wanting their stories remixed. Why? How did the opt-out option lead to not being allowed to opt out anymore? Why are people who don't want their work to be remixed (which actually wasn't the original challenge) now attacked for that? If opting-out is such a wrong thing to do, shouldn't people be complaining that there was an opt-out option in the first place?

None of this would have happened with a simple "please ask before your remix". Not only do I doubt that anyone who'd have been personally asked would refuse. I've seen lots of "opting-out, unless you ask me privately in email" comments. I think people wanted to avoid just anyone coming along remixing their stories, but weren't generally opposed to the idea. And they shouldn't have to apologize for that.

As for the whole homophobia issue: I don't see it. Just because not everyone worships McShep, it doesn't mean they are homophobic. I'm very sure that most McShep writers wouldn't be thrilled to see their stories turned into Sheppard/Weir, and you wouldn't call that heterophobia, would you?
[metamiri]:

The gen writers I am talking about did not, for example, say that they were worried that, in someone else's Report version, McKay would end up sounding dumb (or dumber than he did in their own story, upon which the Report was based). They didn't express concern that he would be meaner, or fatter, or that, in the Report, he would suddenly develop the ability to fly like Superman. They worried that, in the Report version, McKay might end up having hot, monkey sex with John. That fear of genre-crossing from gen to slash has a basis in homophobia.

You wrote: I'm very sure that most McShep writers wouldn't be thrilled to see their stories turned into Sheppard/Weir, and you wouldn't call that heterophobia, would you?

I'm not at all sure that most McShep writers would care one way or another. I certainly didn't see any slashers fearing that a Report would de-slashify their story. And if they did object, no, I wouldn't call it heterophobia because that's a meaningless term in a heterocentric culture, and I think bringing up that possibility is a specious argument.

There were slashers who were worried about the possibility of their story being remixed, and the knee-jerk taking of the high dudgeon road on that point should be something we question rather than simply accept.

You argue that fans "shouldn't have to apologize" for opting out, or even be put into the position of explaining their objections. Why not? (I'm not being facetious, here, but honestly asking why you presume there's nothing *wrong* with opting out. I think there are assumptions about the nature of fandom and the nature of writing that we don't share).

What's wrong with "just anyone" coming along and remixing their stories? What's wrong with "just anyone" that wouldn't be wrong with someone specific?

[snipped]

If there is no intention to plagiarize, and no plagiarism takes place, and if everyone involved is adequately credited, then where's the damage? What, precisely, is being rejected when an author opts out?

Even in a remix, the "original" work remains intact, suitable for framing, even, no matter what happens in the derivative (squared) work. This "we must ask permission first" argument is, as I've noted elsewhere, also frequently invoked in cases when a fan has dared to review other fanfic writers' stories in a fandom (or discussed them on a fiction review community) without first asking the authors if it was alright to discuss their work. I suspect that there's a similar motive in these demands for permission, and it's one we should question, interrogate, and even challenge.

In the pro-writing world, writers like Stephen King regularly "remix" writers like Lovecraft. We see the writers of SG1 doing parodic sketches of Farscape and we laugh about it and recognize that we're still capable of going and watching Farscape and enjoying it (or not) as we see fit. And we see publications (and even ordinary people on their webpages and LJs) writing reviews of published fiction. I rarely (if ever) hear any fan arguing that Lovecraft needs to be protected from King, or that King needs to be protected from reviewers or any writer who comes after him to try to write a haunted house story. If we're mature, thoughtful people, we recognize that Lovecraft continues to be readable by anyone regardless of what King chooses to do in his own interpretation of Cthulhu. We recognize that King continues to be readable (and even to be enjoyed) even if the critics pan his work, at length and in depth. And King, being a mature and thoughtful person, writes critical reviews of the work of other writers in his field, all without anyone crying foul.

So how is fandom different? I'm not asking you to defend it, btw, but just saying that this is a question that remains unanswered to all our detriment so long as we simply accept that "That's just the way it is" and argue that anyone who dares question it is rude or insensitive.
[oceana_]:

See, I just don't understand why the opt-out option was created in the first place, if obviously opting out is a bad thing to do. But it existed, and people used it, and then they are criticized for using it? Why? They didn't make the rule? I don't care if you think optin-out is wrong or not, it's just not right to attack the people who are using a rule to their advantage that wasn't made by them. And I haven't really seen anyone criticize Speranza for daring to suggest that people are allowed to opt-out, no, the only ones who are being criticized are the people who did opt-out. I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense to me. That's just like offering people free candy and then telling them off for taking it.

And that's why (I know I am repeating myself), I think it would have been easier to write a simple "please ask the author first." That's just an invitation to what IMHO counts as polite. No one is forced to do ask. But it would have been a lot simpler and a lot more wankfree than the whole opting-in/opting-out thing that is going on just now. And I say that without any conviction of what would have been the right thing or the wrong thing to, because in my experience in fandom, but also in life in general, right and wrong doesn't count for much when you can predict an outcome. And this outcome was predictable.
[metamiri]:

[much snipped]

Many things that are considered "polite" are still ethically problematic. For example, it has long been considered "polite" for men to open doors for women, but many women have challenged those social mores, and for good reason. If we do only what is considered polite fannish behaviour without ever questioning why it's polite, we abdicate our responsibility for thinking about ethics in fandom.
[oceana_]:

Maybe, and I really mean maybe, because I'm not sure of my opinion on this, this answers why fandom is different: because we are some sort of community, of which the creators of Stargate and Stephen King are not a part. Because we actually have the possibility to ask for permission before we use someone else's work. (Okay, there will be people who say we can ask Stephen King for permission as well, but in reality that is not possible. Imagine MGM getting a zillion emails per day asking if writer x or writer y can write a fanfic about last week's episode. Even if they were to say yes, this would just not work.)

This is just an idea of how fandom is different, if it is different at all. Fact is, every society needs rules by which to play, and fandom, there is enough evidence for that, sets itself rules. But everyone needs to decide for themselves what these rules are. For me, that means I will ask before I remix someone's fic (which I don't intend to do, so let's not worry too much about that).

In a different, though related matter, I wonder if the opinions we have on this are influenced by age, or rather by the time we spent in fandom. I know (or at least I think I know), that you've been in fandom a long time, and I've had someone on my lj comment that "before" (the internet) no one would have even thought about asking before touching another fan's work. [1] I don't know about the people who participated in the original SGA flashfic thread, mainly because I don't care much who said what (that only end in name-calling), but I think I recognized a few names, and they seem to be people who have been around a long time. I don't know if it has anything to do with it, but maybe it would explain why there are so many different opinions on this: the rules a society sets for itself change and develop with the society, and the internet, but also things like yahoo groups, automatic archives and livejournal, must have changed fandom somehow.
[metamiri]:

I agree that all societies need rules and social mores. But I'd also say that all societies need to question those rules and mores, and do so rigorously.

True, we cannot easily ask King for permission (and King couldn't ask Lovecraft, who was long dead when King started writing about Cthulhu). But just because one can do something doesn't mean one should. So the "because we can ask each other" doesn't really answer why we should ask, and what we gain or lose by doing so. The 'net certainly makes it easier to get a quick answer, but doesn't explain why we feel we need to ask the question. Perhaps there's something in the way that the 'net displays fiction that has convinced people that it's somehow less stable (and more vulnerable) than a printed text and therefore there's more chance a remix or criticism might damage it?

Certainly, these ideas change over time. I think one of the reasons they change is because, every so often, we explicitly confront the rules we never noticed before and start challenging them. And doing so is bound to cause some discomfort. But I like to hope it's a good discomfort, and valuable.
[fanaddict]:

I do wonder what fandom would look like if we allowed TPTB to "opt-in" or "opt-out" of seeing their work turned into fanfic.

I believe Lynn Flewelling was on an email list for fans of her Nightrunner books and when she saw fans were writing fan fic based on her characters/universe she got very upset and said she was not at all ok with having people play in her universe. Now, I can't say why she felt that way (I happened upon the list as it was imploding from her statements and left immediately), but I do know that the fans reacted as if they were justifiably horrified by her attitude/didn't she know they were her real fans, etc. And that there was discussion of forming a different, underground list where people could continue to post fan fic. Many of the names were familiar to me from previous TV fandoms.

This is, of course, all based on the impression people have that as fans of show/book/movie, they are essential to the success and should be catered to/allowed to do as they please with the characters. Yet at the same time within fandom, the creator/writer of stories is considered the end all be all and the reader is there to read and offer reward of positive feedback - if it were otherwise there wouldn't be the furor over constructive crit that comes up so often; and writers wouldn't have a problem with readers for "remixed" (aka wrote fan fic) based on their stories.

It all seems a bit hypocritical to me. I mean, I understand that fan fic writers pour a lot of emotion and thought into their stories and so it is very personal to them - the stories are their children, and in general who wants to see their kid criticized or come back from someone else's house dressed up all different (sometimes even gender-crossed). Yet these same people assume that TPTB writers are hacks who have no souls or emotions and are just writing for the almighty dollar, thus they are fair game. And while I'm sure that's true in some cases, it often isn't, and fandom doesn't have a sorting mechanism that says - these guys are hacks so we can play in their universe guilt free while these guys really care so we shouldn't do it. So, you know, whatever.

Obviously the fannish culture is such that we are intimately connected with each other while not knowing each other at all. And this creates tension that suggests that courtesy is always the best policy, even when it is a hypocritical courtesy not offered to TPTB. However, demanding courtesy is rather ill-mannered as well, and that's what many people seem to do - whether it involve warnings or remixes for feedback. So again, I just shrug and say, whatever media fandoms, you're a lot of fun until people get their knickers in a knot and then you suck like a hoover.
[cad27]:

Also here via metafandom, and agreeing with the majority of what's been said. I was reading down the page waiting for some people to point out that there are quite a number of authors or creators who politely (or not so) say "Please, no fanfic" which is, of course, their right.

I don't really think there was anything particularly wrong with the way cesperanza set up the challenge - which is, admittedly, something that could easily go nasty - but as someone I'm too lazy to scroll up and find again said, perhaps it would have been better to make it an opt-in thing, rather than an opt-out. If nothing else, it would have made for a nice simple list of the fics available for the challenge, if people linked in their comments. Yes, like you said (to borrow the kiddie metaphor) you can't have complete control of children, and once a story is out there, it's out there. But something in me finds the notion of someone trawling out some of my mediocre little efforts and doing something I didn't like a little off-putting. On the other hand, someone pulling brilliance out of my stories would make me very happy (on a side note, I'd be very interested to know if any creators actually enjoy much fanfic, rather than just simply not objecting or objecting to it)....

[snipped]

I really think everyone is sort of losing sight of the inherent compliment in the mission report/remix; it is a compliment, because it's saying that the fic inspired you, in the same way that the show inspires us. I don't know about you, but being compared to the source material in inspirational value is something I would be tickled pink about.
[metamiri]:
I don't think that people really do see the remix as complimentary. And I'm not sure quite why. I think that maybe it's partly that the notion of it as a compliment gets buried somewhere in the neediness of the fan author who wants the illusion that she has power.
[rez lo]:

I do understand the instinctive clutching-to-one's heart of one's stories, but really, what's the choice of remix targets but another kind of fannish currency? What I mean is, the very fact that my story makes another writer (who in parallel is also a reader) take off on some tangent found therein is surely, overall, a good thing, a thing that enriches my community standing? The source story's circulation widens and the author's sphere of influence with it. Isn't that why most writers write? (Don't answer that.)

I wanted to ask, about specific fears I saw expressed in that thread: Is the existence of badfic attributable to some inferiority in its source text? Clearly not. Does the fact that some fan writers write as well as or better than the writer(s) of a given (pro) source text lessen the influence of that source? Again, clearly not--in fact, the opposite is true.
[metamiri]:
I think there's such a general mistrust of readers (and it's to some extent shared by RW non-fannish writers as well), who are assumed to be undiscerning, untrustworthy, etc. So it's not simply that writers fear badfic will reflect badly on their stories, but that perhaps a reader might not recognize the difference between the remix and their own story, conflating the two into a single bad thing. Though with the threat of a superior derivative work, I think maybe the fear is that the original, by being the lesser, will be obscured and even seem worse than it did without the new fic. With regards to the source material of canon, it has behind it has presence that I don't think people believe their own fanfic shares, so even a bad canon episode seems to fans (if not to TPTB, who have a market interest in canon) to be less fragile, less likely to disappear, become devalued, etc. by fanfiction.
[marag]:

I don't speak for everyone, of course, but I know that most of my friends who were incensed about this were concerned about the courtesy issue. They (and I) believe that fandom survives on mutual respect for each other. We couldn't each ask TPTB for permission, even if we wanted to, but we certainly can ask each other.

Personally, I wouldn't turn anyone down if they asked to remix one of my stories, but I'd probably roll my eyes in mild annoyance if they did it without asking first.

Also, I would note that most of the people on my flist who complained about this write slash, gen, *and* het. So I'd hardly consider them homophobic.
[metamiri]:

I guess what I wonder, then, is why is it considered disrespectful (by some fans) to remix (or Report) without asking first (beyond the obvious "we do it this way because we do it this way because we've always done it and you're not supposed to ask why" reasoning).

As for the homophobia, I will just note that I don't believe that all those who objected were homophobic. However, opting out and then specifying that your concern is that your gen story might be slashed? It's hard to read that as anything other than homophobic, as those folks might just as well have said, "I'm worried that my story will be ___" (where blank reads changed in some way) without specifying that slashing was the transgressive gesture to which they objected.
[marag]:

I think it's considered disrespectful because we don't make any money off our creations. Our "payment" is feedback and when someone borrows a character or idea from us without asking, it's impolite and a little like stealing. (I say "a little" because I don't think it's STEALING OMG THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END. Just impolite.)

I think many people are irked because it's just not that big a deal to send an e-mail and ask for permission, but we're being made to seem like ogres for thinking it might be nice if folks did it. Nobody's being oppressed because they have to take five seconds and write "Hey, I'd like to remix your story "Insert Name Here" for the SGA_flashfic challenge. Is that okay?"

I think that people used the example of McKay/Sheppard because it seems like that pairing has taken over the whole fandom. I like and read that pairing, but I deliberately don't write it, because I like to promote variety in ships and genres. If I gave someone permission to remix, though, they could do whatever they wanted. ::shrug::
[metamiri]:

I think it's considered disrespectful because we don't make any money off our creations. Our "payment" is feedback and when someone borrows a character or idea from us without asking, it's impolite and a little like stealing. (I say "a little" because I don't think it's STEALING OMG THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END. Just impolite.)

Okay, so I'm trying to figure this out (honestly). It's true that we don't get paid (as do pro writers). So while Stephen King's readers hand him money as recompense for his books, our readers hand us LoCs, sometimes. And sometimes, we get nothing at all.

So when someone likes our character enough to borrow it, or finds our story interesting enough to play with in a remix, we might consider that a sign that we're being, in essence, complimented. We could read that as a fictionalized LoC--a great big thank you to you for writing. We certainly say often enough that fanfiction is a compliment to the source material.

Yet you say it's stealing....

My first instinct is to assume that the problem is that, if someone remixes our story and doesn't notify us, we might not know we're being complimented, and so it would be like that person who recs us to all their friends without ever letting us know they read and liked our work. Unless one of their friends is one of our friends, the compliment to us could never reach our ears. And I can see where that seems impolite.

But people aren't saying it would be polite to notify them. They're insisting on others asking for permission to remix (and permission, unlike notification, suggests prior approval and the possibility of being denied.)

And that suggests that a remix is not considered complimentary at all (because we don't ask for permission before thanking someone, or paying them for a book at a bookstore.)

And if the word "stealing" comes up, then the idea that a remix is complimentary flies right out the window.

So is the real issue that the whole LoC system not enough to appease our sense of our writing as property and, being fan writers who can't copyright the stories, many of us have so much insecurity over our ownership over our fan writing that we need the power fix that comes from knowing we could prevent someone else from doing what we do to pro writers every day? (So we kind of one-up the pros, as it were?)
[marag]:

You're overthinking this. Nobody (well, nobody rational) is saying that their world comes to an end if somebody remixes/borrows/whatever. What we're saying is that fandom runs on communication and it's impolite to not ask permission.

And it's *easy* to ask permission. It takes a few seconds and then everyone feels good and we all live happily ever after. How hard is that? Why *not* ask permission? Nobody has given me a single good reason why somebody should *not* ask permission first, except "I don't want to."

I'm sorry, but "we don't ask the pros" is not a good reason. We *can't* ask the pros.
[sphinxofquartz]:

But the problem with asking permission is that if a fanwriter has to ask permission then the answer might be "no." Do you get this? (This isn't rhetorical or sarcastic--saying "it's easy to ask permission" seems to ignore this.) Because if the answer is "no," then either the fanwriter can write and post the fic anyway and is doing something like going back on her word (it's implied in asking permission that the questioner'll obey the response, yeah?), or she doesn't, and there's a story she isn't allowed to tell.

People get het up when pros say "no, you cannot write fanfic of my work," because it doesn't seem right for them to give us a story and then tell us that we can't write the stories our investment in it--which they were deliberately creating--inspires. So, a lot of fanwriters have no problem writing in fandoms whose creators may not like fanfic. Many of us think, for exactly the same reasons, it's also not right when a fanwriter says "no, you can't write fanfic of my work," and based on the objections to the challenge, a lot of fanwriters definitely do and would say "no" to fanfic of their fanfic. It's better to change the standard from "be polite and ask!" to "go ahead!" so we don't have to deal with situations where a passionate fanwriter's possessiveness clashes with another passionate fanwriter's desire to write the fanfic-of-fanfic.

(When pros get upset about fanfic, it ends up on F_W, people point and laugh or make a few meta posts arguing for The Right To Fanfic and Fanfic As The Impulse To Reclaim Cultural Agency, and then life carries on as usual for just about everyone. If other fanwriters got upset about it, it'd bring the dissent within the fannish community. And, y'know, changing LJ fandom's standards of behavior wouldn't prevent wank, but at least it'd ensure that people would be able to write whatever they want with some assurance that they'd be considered in the right by the community at large should the original fanwriter blow up.)

The reason not to ask permission is to keep permission to do something we believe is basic and important from being withheld.
[marag]:

See, but the difference is that the pro writers aren't actually going to be hurt by fanfic, because they're not a part of the community. As I believe Lynne Truss articulates in her book "Talk To The Hand," there's a difference between me spreading gossip about Brad Pitt, who doesn't know me from borscht, and me spreading gossip about mscongeniality. If, by some chance, Brad Pitt learns that Mara Greengrass of Rockville, MD is talking about him, is he really going to care? But MsC, who's one of my best friends, most certainly will.

Also, I think that the majority of people are flattered by such requests and will say yes. I know in my case, I've never refused a request, even when I knew I might not necessarily like the result. (And in at least one case, I didn't.)

If someone says no, you have the choice to write and distribute the story anyway, because there will certainly be people with few manners to support you. You have the choice to write the story for yourself if it's that important to you that it get written. Or you have the choice to think, "Well, there are millions of other stories waiting to be told and I'll just tell one of them. Maybe the original author will change her mind later."
[sphinxofquartz]:

The thing I don't get is *what the harm is.* You said in a previous post, "I think it's considered disrespectful because we don't make any money off our creations. Our "payment" is feedback and when someone borrows a character or idea from us without asking, it's impolite and a little like stealing." But how does my making a remix of your story take feedback away from you?

(The gossip analogy only works if there is actually harm being incurred, and if, due to the nature of that harm, it actually is more severe between members of a community. You haven't shown that. Also, pro authors, unlike Brad Pitt, have, in fact, said that they do get upset at the idea of anyone--Mara Greengrass of Maryland or not--writing fanfic of their stuff.)

It doesn't matter if most people say "yes," as long as people can say "no" (and get the community's support rather than condemnation for it). People who read and write fanfic generally think derivative works are an important and worthwhile way to respond to other stories. I don't understand how a person can say "I believe in the importance of being able to write derivative works," even just by spending time making and reading them, and then turn around and say "our community should ostracize those who make derivative works from our stuff," which is what it looks like your side is saying. (You can't say "asking--and accepting a 'no'--is the only way to be polite" without saying, by implication, that people who don't are impolite, are violating the community's standards, are doing something unacceptable.)
[marag]:

I honestly don't know how to respond, because we seem to have such fundamentally different views of fandom, that I'm not sure how to explain my point of view.

Yes, derivative works are important, but not so important as to be worth harming the community. It *is* unacceptable to most of the community to rewrite someone's story or borrow an OC without asking for permission. I hope that never changes. Mind you, I *also* hope that everyone will give that permission.

A year ago, I had a fabulous idea for a sequel to a story by thete1 and I asked for her permission. But her style of writing is very different, so in my message I said I would totally understand if she said no. I hoped she would say yes, as the story was eating my brain, but if she'd said no, I would have survived and understood her point of view.

Manners are *important*. Saying "thank you" and "please" and "excuse me" are not just empty courtesies.
[spinxofquartz]:

So-- Okay. So you're saying it's harmful to make derivative works without permission (within fandom) *because* people at this time think permission should be asked. Is that where you're coming from? Changing the community standards is harmful in itself because it upsets people?

(I'm assuming here that credit would always be given, by the way--and, if permission not being asked were standard, that the assumption would be that double-derivative stories were not authorized. If that makes any difference to what you're thinking.)

I do think manners are important--I get that part :) I'm not advocating at all that courtesy be ignored, I'm saying that the rules of good manners change, and this particular behavior is one that should be actively replaced.
[marag]:

I don't see why this is a rule that should change. What is the great benefit to fandom if nobody asks permission any longer? Under the current etiquette, the majority of people who ask, get permission. The original author is happy and the new author is happy. In a few cases, the original author says no, but that isn't the end of the world.

Why not concentrate on changing things so that more people say yes? That would solve the problem just as well, while keeping a courtesy intact.
[metamiri]:

You ask why this rule should change. I think the primary reason it should change is that, as it stands, no one has yet established or explained how/where any harm comes from remixing a story, and so there seems to be no reason for the rule's existence (except that, perhaps, it allows the writer of fanfiction to preserve the illusion of control over her work which she may need as an ego-boo in the absence of monetary compensation/professional standing as a writer).

And we have, I think, established that the rule itself harms the community at large, in that its existence tells us that we cannot view remixes (however they turn out) as compliments to the writer of the source material. Instead, they can only be viewed as potentially harmful (in a vague, undefined way) to the original writer (who, apparently, takes on responsibility for her own harm if she says, "Yes" to a request to remix her work) while being potentially harmful (in terms of social ostracization) to the remixer who dares to continue when she is told, "No."

As for your above comment that I'm "overthinking this," I'd suggest that we risk doing far more harm in not thinking about our communities codes than in thinking deeply about them and asking questions.
[marag]:

I really don't think this particular conversation is getting anywhere, since I don't think you've proved the harm in asking permission and you think I haven't proved the harm in *not* asking ::grin::.

I don't think the rule harms the community, whereas I *do* think that people flouting it harm the community.

In some cases, remixes are a compliment to the writer and are a good thing. I'm *dying* for someone to remix one of my stories, because I'd be incredibly flattered :D Even if I didn't like the remix, I'd still be flattered.

But without permission being asked, it's much harder for an author to know if they're being complimented or insulted. Is the remix an homage or a notice that the second author thinks the original story sucked? (Personally, I'm not of such delicate disposition that I'd be worried about the second, but some folks are.)

References

  1. Perhaps it was less common, but see Unauthorized Sequel for some examples of pre-internet discussion of this topic.