The Literate Union
|Name:||The Literate Union, LU|
|Moderator:||Bitter Sea Light, Lord Kelvin, Sang Noir (AD)|
|Founder:||Georgasaurus, Ever Heard of a Dictionary|
|URL:||Literate Union's blog (invitation only) |
the Literate Union forum (ff.net)
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Literate Union (LU) is a forum and a critic alliance on FanFiction.net. Its aim is to improve the quality of fic on FFN and to get TOS-violating fics removed. It has drawn heavy criticism for both its goals and its methods, often from authors whom it has targeted and their fans.
What is LU?
The Literate Union was founded on 25th of October, 2009 by Georgasaurus and Ever Heard of a Dictionary. Since then, the union has gained members and the forum has grown. As of August 31, 2010, almost a year after creation, Literate Union forum had become the 6th biggest General forum on FanFiction.Net with over 115,000 posts. In June, 2011, the LU became the biggest General forum with nearly 300,000 posts and the 2rd biggest forum-based community on FanFiction.Net. The Literate Union also has a blog on Blogspot, a region in NationStates, and a private chat room as well as a mailing list. Googlism defines "literate union" as: "an exclusive club for critics and flamers to increase the quality".
LU's stated mission is to improve the quality of fanfic on FFN both by offering critique and by reporting stories that violate site rules. LU also helps reviewers polish their skills and increases awareness of FFN's guidelines. Many of its targets describe LU members as bullies and trolls. Despite such accusations, the FFN administration has not taken any action against the LU, allowing its forum to rise to the top.
To note, Literate Union members are not allowed to flame. Breaking this rule causes expulsion from the union.
As a part of Literate Union's public operations, the LU forum has a special request topic, where FanFiction.Net members may ask for help to critique or report a work they deem inappropriate. Due to past misuse and trolling from haters, the thread now has strict regulations on what can be posted. From time to time, users would ask for help when their stories were plagiarised or a spammer or troll appears on the site.
See Critics United.
A similar group of fans were those at FanDomination.Net, see FanDomination.Net Content Control and Weeding Guidelines.
A similar watchdog group on the lookout for offensive fanworks was Warriors for Innocence.
Initially built around one concept, the Literate Union became a platform for a number of topics and activities as it grew. Over 100 threads have been available in 2011, some dedicated to general chat and others to more specific ideas. To list a few distinctive ones:
- Alpha Calling to Beta - finding or offering beta reading services
- Ate a Book? Read our Pie - discussing books
- FFN in Numbers - statistics and fandom on FanFiction.Net
- Quotiest Wits - a list of witty quotes
- Random Facts - a placeholder for noteworthy trivia
- Readable am I? - a series of automated tests on writing complexity and style
- Review Mastery: PhD Guaranteed - improving review skills and reviewing more efficiently
- State your Nation - a thread for solving political issues in the Literate Union NationStates region
- Быстро и Весело: Foreign Languages - learning new languages with native speakers
The LU also holds a number of games and dedicates threads to topical events like The World Cup and NaNoWriMo. There are several recommendation threads, where members exchange links to songs, videos, news articles etc. A complete list of community activities is placed in the House Rules & Newbie's Guide topic.
LU and Twilight Fandom
LU's effect on Twilight fandom on FFN is particularly notable. In February of 2010, LU reported a large number of Twilight submissions for being non-story author's notes, IM chat and explicit or adult themes, causing a lot of wank and even convincing some people to leave FFN for other archives like myvampfiction.com and Twilighted. It is unknown how many Twilight fics have been deleted as a result of their abuse reports as the LU started archiving deletions in May, 2010. They totaled 1100 in July, 2010.
In August 2010, LU unveiled a tool called RedBootton (RB) that streamlined the process of finding TOS-violating stories on FFN and notifying users about the problem. Its creator, Lord Kelvin, said that it did not count as a bot or spider under the FFN TOS because it operated at the same speed as a human and passed tests that show it did not have an effect on the FFN servers.
There were rumors that RB might result in removing stories that didn't violate the TOS, either accidentally or as an intentional form of censorship. The claims were denied because it was always up to FFN admins to decide whether to keep a story or delete it after receiving a report. Protesters were invited to help improve functionality and suggest features. Since the initial uproar a critical post in the Livejournal community noscans_daily has been deleted, but many other have appeared, and the entire matter has ended up on Fandom Wank.
People speculate that a lot of the criticism of RB comes from FanFiction.Net authors of popular stories that break site rules or supporters of competing websites that benefit from FFN drama.
The Literate Union has received criticism from many quarters. The majority of it starts when a story reported by a LU member is deleted. Some people are angry about the specific targets chosen or about the successful removal of a story. Others fundamentally disapprove of LU's mission. Plenty of criticism has come from individuals, but there have also been a number of groups organized to criticise, oppose, or attack LU.
Criticism of LU's Mission
LU members generally describe anti-LU views as being a product of anger over specific deletions or as stemming from misunderstandings about LU's methods and motives. While this is often true, there are many fans who dislike LU because they perceive its goals as elitist and feel that LU is likely to harm FFN rather than helping it. In the view of these fans, driving away writers and getting fics removed are fundamentally bad things regardless of whether the writers write dreadful badfic and regardless of what the Fanfiction.net terms of service say about smut. In their view, strict adherence to the TOS is much less important than creating a friendly atmosphere.
Criticism of LU's Choice of Targets
LU members defend themselves saying that some of them are bisexual and they have no problem with slash. Their goal is to enforce the TOS, so smut is only one of many types of fic targeted. LU does target specific fandoms in the sense that members often pick a particular fandom to review for rule-violating fics, but LU members say this does not reflect any particular grudge against those fandoms. On the contrary, certain fandoms on FFN tend to receive more attention only because one or more LU members have been active in the fandom before joining the union and keep reviewing, updating their stories.
Groups Opposing LU
Feeling the need to quickly respond to fans and counter messages they feel are misleading, the LU created a special forum topic to document any movements dedicated to either persecuting LU members or bringing anarchy into FFN. As of August 31, it has documented at least 15 groups intended to harm the LU or FFN.
Anarchy was one of the first movements started in January, 2010 after a FFN member lost several stories with over 4000 reviews after repeatedly breaking the interactivity rule. Anarchy supporters could be distinguished by special avatars with FFN's logo crossed out. Initially, the forum was to avenge the deletions and attack the LU and Lord Kelvin, but the site's administration was labeled as the real enemy. The forum owner has reportedly lost many supporters because of such behaviour. The current forum description is as follows: "Tired of FF's oppressive rules? Tired of months of work being pissed away? Tired of trying to reason with them, and being ignored? Then come on in." It is considered inactive by the LU.
The AntiFanfiction forum rose off-site on 10th May 2010 when multiple interactive fanfics written in chat format were deleted. Founded by Yellow Mew and AntiMew, it was originally advertised on all stories flagged as illegal by Lord Kelvin and LU members as a haven for chat format "truth or dare" fanfics, amongst others. Although neutral to The LU itself, a large portion of its original users were opposed to Lord Kelvin, who is closely associated with The Union. At first, the topic "I hate Lord Kelvin, do you?" was one of the most read. Later, however, the forum grew to a more general, less hostile attitude due to a combination of an increased user base, AntiMew enforcing the forum's Terms of Service and Lord Kelvin himself visiting the site to answer questions.
The Anti Flamer Army was established by a FFN member Golfer (nicknamed "Gopher"), it was a short-lived attempt from the Super Smash Brothers fandom to eliminate the LU. It was started after several very long scripted fanfics were removed, and many people in the founder's friend circle, Golfer himself included, were banned. The forum was deleted very quickly after a friend of Golfer's admitted condoning rape. Many girls in the forum were outraged by such views. Golfer has since tried to hinder the LU's doings by spreading dislike on various forums, leading to an argument with Lord Kelvin in the "No Man's Land" forum. After that, the opposition joined FanFicUnderground off-site and did not meddle in LU's affairs. Golfer returned on February 14, 2011 to celebrate Valentine's Day with the LU. 
Civil initiative is a FFN forum started in spring of 2010 for the purpose of discussing LU's actions and debating with LU in a civil manner. The forum did not receive much attention from FFN members other than the LU. Active debating ended on April 28, 2010. It also has a blog.
The Fanfic Underground (FFU) is the oldest anti-LU movement, originally a group of banned authors that formed in August, 2009. After a period of no response to abuse reports, a large amount of chat format story removals struck the Sonic the Hedgehog fandom. Coincidentally, most removed stories were warned by Lord Kelvin. Some of them had over 1000 reviews. Fans of deleted stories were in dismay, and did not feel safe breaking the site's rules themselves anymore, as it had become a fad to do so. They moved to an off-site forum in an attempt to create interactive chat format stories and roleplays in peace, scheming against Lord Kelvin. Since the LU favoured illegal story deletion, they also became a hate target. Eventually, many topics became inaccessible to non-FFU members to host plans on how to trick the LU to report legal stories. However, their plans were put to a permanent halt when Lord Kelvin joined the site in July 2010, settling disputes.
Free Writers Liberation (FWL) started in the Spyro the Dragon fandom as a forum on FFN by several interactive story writers. It later got a separate website when the forum proved itself popular. The founder advertised on other anti-LU venues to gain support. With over 2000 posts, FWL quickly became the most active on-site anti-LU movement. However, the forum's occupation quickly changed from disliking the LU to having friendly conversations and roleplaying. Since then, the forum was renamed and the founder joined the LU.
Almost immediately after creation, The Literate Union proved itself to be difficult to write and pronounce for some community members, so it was misspelled and mangled. While the official name remains The Literate Union, acronyms like LU or The LU are also considered correct. Misspelled versions include: Leterate Union, Literature Union, Letter Alliance, Literature United and Lu.
- Literate Union's blog (invitation only)
- The Literate Union forum on FFN
- A Literate Union member's description of what they do
- The Twilight Awards' view
- Fandom Wank Post on LU and Redbootton
- General forums rank - FanFiction.Net (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- Literate Union on Googlism (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- Critique/Flame request (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- LU House Rules & Newbie's Guide. (Accessed July 13, 2011)
- The Graveyard
- Lord Kelvin's Livejournal. (Accessed August 30, 2010)
- Lord Kelvin's Blog. (Accessed August 30, 2010)
- The RedBotton Issue and what it means for FFNet (Accessed August 30, 2010)
- FF.Net: This might of interest to some members(Accessed August 30, 2010)
- RedBootton Log (Accessed August 30, 2010)
- Report on Redbootton wank on Fandom Wank. (Accessed September 3 2010)
- The Fire Brigades. (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- Anarchy. (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- AntiFanfiction. (Accessed August 31, 2010]
- No Man's Land (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- Golfer's return (Accessed February 16, 2011)
- Civil initiative forum on Fanfiction.net. (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- Why I created this Forum by DiesIrae-TheVampireArmand. Posted April 11, 2010. (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- Civil initiative blog at Blogspot. (Accessed August 31, 2010)
- Fanfic Underground (FFU) (Accessed August 31, 2010).
- Free Writers Liberation (Accessed August 31, 2010).