TheoryofFicGate/Discussion at AO3

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For additional comments: see Show Comment Thread 24063671 at Archive of Our Own, Archived version and Show Comments 24301655, Archived version and Show Comment Thread 24234776, Archived version and Show Comment Thread24336509, Archived version and Show Comment Thread 24377756, Archived version and Show Comment Thread 24344573, Archived version

The Original Comments Regarding the Story: "Delilah"

As I haven't seen Into Darkness, I cannot comment on the way in which you either maintained or deviated from the Canon storyline, but I have a few comments on the style in which you wrote. First: Not to be rude but I have to ask, did you read what you have written? There are quite a few places at which the story is disjointed and seems like you thought about the interaction but neglected to type it out, as well as multiple areas where the grammar is negligent to say the least. Such as in the following except: [snipped] Another read/pair of eyes would really help remove such discrepancies. Second: There are many areas where the scenes in the story could have used more set up. They were overall fairly sparse. I don't know if that was your intent, but more meat would have made the story more savory. Third: I really enjoyed the portrayal of Spock and Winona's relationship. The twisted way in which Winona treats essentially all the characters in your story was the main driver for me finishing it. Make sure to get extra eyes on your story and they'll flourish! Keep up the good work :) -- AeolusPantheon
Wow. First: yes, this is extremely rude, and you saying "not to be rude, but" doesn't make it less so, it just warned me that asshattery was to follow. Second: I don't know if you realize this, but I don't get paid to write these stories. I do them for fun, because I like fandom (for the most part) and this is my way of participating in a discussion of the text. Furthermore, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you don't know how damaging these comments can be. If I was just starting out in fandom and received this? I probably would have stopped. I didn't solicit your opinion, I have nothing that invites concrit in my author's notes, and general rule of thumb is that if that invitation isn't there, don't be a dick and leave it. Luckily this isn't one of the first things I've written, and I have years enough under my belt to let you fall off my shoulders, but I want you to seriously consider that you could damage someone else. Someone who might have gone on to write the greatest fic in a fandom yet to come might never post another fic because you couldn't hold back being a complete asshole in a nitpicking comment at them. And ending your comment with a "oh, but your characterizations were good enough that i finished it" doesn't read as a compliment. Third: If you really like being nit-picking, and this came from a place of well-meaning, just fantastically shittily-executed, maybe you should look into offering your betaing services for someone who's in the market. There are communities for that kind of thing. Try being productive, instead of tearing people down in the comments section." -- waldorph
Thank you for your reply. I understand that most critical comments are not invited, but I tried my best to remain constructive throughout. I wrote them as a reader of fanfiction who felt that the underlying story was great, but the delivery could use some work. I apologize if it came off as rude or ass-ish. Would the following have been a less inflammatory way of phrasing it? My Comment Rephrased: I really loved how twisted Winona was and how she manipulated everyone around her. She really bound the story and created a strong driver and sense of danger/mystery. The only problems that i had with this oneshot was that there were a few grammatical discrepancies, all of which are easily fixed. Let me know if you'd like me to send you a copy of the fixes that I've made to the copy I created for my own ease of reading. Other than that, I think the story was an interesting point of view on an otherwise underdeveloped character. Great job! ;)" -- AeolusPantheon
I think I lost you at concrit--concrit is literally CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. I don't care how well-intentioned you are, if the author does not EXPLICITLY request it, it's good manners and fandom-wide expectation that you will not leave it. I just, I don't understand how you don't see "the delivery could use some work" as WILDLY offensive? I genuinely don't. And yes, your paraphrase is slightly better. The first paragraph is lovely. The second paragraph you should never, ever post UNLESS THAT KIND OF FEEDBACK IS SOLICITED." -- waldorph, February 21
[horrid troll comments snipped] -- ShortStop08
...And you need to leave. Go back to your cave, troll, because it is pretty clear you are hear neither to be constructive or offer anything of use to this story. Wardorph, I'm going to apologize for any awfulness this is caused you. I am teaching a class on fan fiction at Berkeley and your work is on the syllabus as part of our AU studies because I personally love this story, probably because Winona is so hard to love, but so easy to respect in it. Our students were asked to leave reviews on the works they are reading, but I assure you ShortStop08 is NOT part of our class and I'm sorry that you had to listen to that bullshit. We did ask our readers to be critical of what they are reading and try not to just write "wow, I loved it" without giving it any thought, hence Aeolus Pantheon's critic on the minor spelling/grammar issues, so I take the blame for that. Again, sorry for any ugliness this has brought you. I really am a fan though, so I can say the intent was to spread the love, even if the impact might have missed the target a bit." -- account deleted (FiveMinutesTilBedtime)
Hahah oh my god, that clears up where this is coming from, and why the comments don't seem to be participating in "fannish culture norms." I don't know if it would have been better to know this ahead or not--i probably wouldn't have tried to explain why nitpicking was inappropriate to Aeolus Pantheon if I had known, but I can see where a lot of authors might be reticent about being involved so I think the way you handled it is probably the best, and since it came from a good place that's, you know. Awesome :) Really, it's just nice to finally have an answer as to why this story is getting some focus, bc honestly it was never one that grabbed a lot of attention!" -- waldorph
Wile I'm glad to see this apology, and I recognize that the world's relationship with fandom is changing, the assignment you have given your students is completely inappropriate. I think there's a lot to be gained from acknowledging fanfiction and fandom in the classroom setting, but instructing students who may have no relationship with fandom to critique these works shows a serious lack of forethought. These authors have not invited your criticisms. These stories are not here as an educational opportunity - they are written for free, out of genuine affection for or interest in the source material. I have read the comments left on Closer's works also - most begin with "though I'm totally unfamiliar with this fandom" and go on to be both clueless and cutting. I understand that it is far too late for you to rethink your approach to this subject entirely, but please ask your students to refrain from leaving commentary. Save your criticisms for the classroom. Waldorph has been incredibly gracious with you, more so than you deserve, in my opinion." -- Linelenagain
No problem, I think this conversation is important, feel free to use this space." -- waldorph
To Waldorph (and anyone else reading this), I'd like to apologize again on behalf of this student. We are a student run class at Berkeley and the majority of our students are fans with at least some experience in the fandom community who have joined this class because they love fanfiction and wanted to meet more people with the same passion. During our first class, we attempting to show our students how to appropriately review a fanfic. Here are the instructions that we gave them right off the power point: Constructive Reviews: - Be specific. - Find something specific in the story that you really liked/enjoyed and mention it. - Copy and paste lines that stood out; explain what you loved about them or what could have made them better. - If a story made you feel happy/sad/angry/giddy, mention that. Better yet, mention what specific part made you feel that way. - If you are criticizing someone on their spelling or grammar, make sure yours is perfect. - Be polite, friendly, & frequent. - Mix the bad with the good. - Avoid weasel-words like “interesting” or “decent.” - Try to address main plot points in the chapter, instead of focusing entirely on little random details. Given these instructions, we are very sorry that our student's response was so negative. We really wanted these reviews to be constructive and encouraging and most of all pleasant for the author to read afterwards. We chose these works specifically because we love them so much and we thought they were very good examples of a variety of different aspects of fanfiction that we are talking about in class. We will be following up with the student personally to address this and we will make sure that our instructions are much clearer in the future. We have asked our students to stop leaving reviews until we have talked about this in class and given them more practice. As of right now, they will simply be emailing their thoughts to us. If anyone reading this has suggestions as to how to improve these instructions (or our class in general) please send me a PM on This is the first time a course like this has been offered, and we would like to see it continued in the future as a positive aspect of the fanfiction community. We love fanfiction and we want to share our passion with others. Sincerest apologies, FiveMinutesTilBedtime"

Other General Comments: Between February 22-24, 2015

ah hon, so sorry you were on that list! Echoing what everyone else is saying below. I am so appalled by this whole concept. It's entirely inappropriate to send students into a culture they don't understand to apply literary concrit to work that has NOT been presented for their reviews, but instead posted in a supposedly safe and supportive environment out of love and for free for like minded individuals. Good on you for doing your best to alert the other authors involved. I hope they all lock their work down to members only and delete any 'student review' comments." -- MildredandBobbin
It might have been a good idea to do more of a review of the cultural rules of the space that you were sending them into before you sent them? I know that we think that college students don't need these kinds of pointers, but, for instance, I do remember dance appreciation teachers talking about how it's appropriate to talk about a performance while you're still in the theater (versus how you talk about it afterwards). Or art history teachers being clear about the dress codes for gallery events. Similarly, it might be a good idea to talk about how different communities have different expectations around criticism? I'm also interested in the expectations that would lead students to think "read these stories and leave a comment discussing them" means "school the author on basic SPAG". It might lead to an interesting class discussion - it might already have done so - to talk about whether students thought "fanworks, free, internet, by women" and jumped right to "need our helpful editorial eye". -- argyle_avatar
This is a brilliant comment. I've deleted my own several times, but I want to just support what argyle_avatar says and add that I did get a vibe that strikes me as exploitative, in the sense of "Oh! See the cool things! Go interact with that unusual group of people!" from the syllabus language. The kind of comments that the students are leaving are pretty much exactly what I'd expect from my own undergrads, which is to say, focused on pointing out things they feel confident (grammar) in rather than questioning things they are unsure of (as argyle_avatar says, "fanworks, free, internet, by women"). If you absolutely had to have students comment on the works themselves, rather than just having a Blackboard discussion group or in-class critique journal, I think adding a preliminary assignment in which students analyzed the language of some comments from actual members of fandom and discussed how those comments showed the relationship between fans would have been the way to go. More, structured guidance is always better, especially with subjects like fanworks where there is a serious overlap between literature and sociology/anthropology/ethnography (i.e. when there are real people and real cultures and real feelings at stake)." -- redscudery
You are doing your students a disservice to tell them you are "teaching" them about fanfic without teaching them proper conduct. Being 'critical' is for you to discuss amongst yourselves. In fandom and with our authors we believe in positivity and support. A good comment would be to tell an author everything you love about their story. If you don't like any of it you keep your trap shut and sit on your hands. If you feel the need to comment when you don't like something then you can thank the author for their time and all of the effort that you can see they put into the work. If I saw my fics on your list I would lock them and turn off commenting because the only thing you have successful taught here is how to bully and chase authors out of fandom. Also it is your responsibility to warn the authors of these fics that this is occurring." -- Bashfyl
Why for the love of little green apples why would you have your students leave critical comments on the fics rather than writing them up in a journal to turn in to you? I'm asking this as a legitimate question, from someone who's working on an English PhD and might end up teaching classes on fanfiction later: what is the rationale for exposing an author to this kind of unwelcome attention? Why would you not warn the authors and ask for their permission to use their fics in that manner? And why, for the love of everything that is holy, would you not make sure that your students understand the difference between thinking critically about a story and leaving scathing critique in reviews? I've looked at some of the reviews being left on other stories and I have to say that while they're exactly the kind of thing I'd expect to see in a sophomore's reading journal, I would be extremely taken aback to get feedback like that on a story. It's highly inappropriate, and though it feels almost ridiculous to say it, it feels like a betrayal of fandom and fellow fan-authors to expose them directly to this kind of criticism. So when I ask you why, I'm being serious: I genuinely want to know the rationale behind creating this assignment." -- Rainne
I 100% agree with the other comments made, but I also really strongly desire to know why you did not ask authors' permission for this. Most are accessible via tumblr, twitter, or livejournal in addition to AO3. However, you are inviting--and not just inviting, but assigning--people not in those fandoms to enter into them and interact with authors in ways that, as waldorph says, are outside of "fannish cultural norms." It seems to me that, unless blanket permission is given by the authors, as it sometimes is (and perhaps all these authors do give blanket permission to play with their work), this would be a situation in which asking for permission would be appropriate. There is a fourth wall between online fandom and real life, and some writers might not appreciate that fourth wall being broken without their permission." -- nebulia
....I just...WHAT THE FUCK? You send these kids with zero clue of how to interact with a subculture out there, don't bother to warn anyone they're coming (which, lovely), all but guaranteeing a massive explosion and then you claim to be 'spreading the love'? If you are a genuine member of fandom then you should have some comprehension of the shitstorm that's about to land at your doorstep. I'd start composing a better apology than this one. I have a feeling you'll be getting some use out of it." -- Medie
Would you send your students to the house of a published writer in order to engage them in critical discussion? No? Then why would you do that with fanfiction writers? Add to that, these stories are not reimbursed with money. No one is being paid for their fanworks. Creators get nothing for the many long hours that we spend on our work except for the love and excitement expressed in comments by our fellow fans. Part and parcel of the professional literature world is the understanding that if you've published a work (*and earned money from it*) you can expect some criticism; but in fandom that's not the case. Love is our currency, and the unwritten cultural rule is that if you don't like something you don't put yourself in debt by saying that to the author/artist. You self-identify as a fan. All I can say is, as a fan, you should have known better." -- stele3
People write and publish fanfiction for nothing but the joy of doing so. That is a completely different situation from published authors. It is incredibly disrespectful and plain irresponsible to try to treat the two the same way." -- anon
As an educator and a fanfic author yourself, I say this with the most respect possible...but have you lost your ever loving mind? Why did you even think that this was a good idea? For the love of mike, how much harder would it have been to say, 'read the fic and email me with how you would have critiqued it'. You have a bunch of young adults, some of whom probably don't even participate in fandom and you let them loose without them being familiar with the online culture or the background of the subject matter (I've seen the curriculum list on tumblr, you're becoming rather infamous rather quickly). I appreciate the concept of your little idea but your execution was extremely flawed and not fair to the authors or your students. ETA: So, out of curiosity, why did you not add one of your own fics to the curriculum? Do you fear the responses that you might get? Because all it would take is a bunch of angry tumblrs to go read YOUR fics and leave you a taste of what these authors are going to be getting." -- Amberbaka
Having your students read fic? Awesome. Want them to critically engage with a fic whose author has not invited such criticism? That's what colleges provide software like Blackboard, with internal discussion boards, for. I am sure Berkeley provides you with something like that, somewhere much more appropriate for your students to have this conversation. You can even start using it now, partway through the semester, now that you know that this input isn't welcome. If you really, really, really want them to comment publicly on the fic itself, you could at least contact the authors for permission first." -- PorcupineGirl
since you didn't notify or ask the author's permission prior to creating the syllabus, i'm wondering if you think there are any ethical issues you and your students might face for engaging with this kind of material if the author is under-age? it's one thing to read it and talk about it in your class of course, but wont there be problems raised if you're commenting/engaging with them?" -- vulcains
It was extremely irresponsible of you to link fanfiction on a course syllabus without first obtaining both the authors' permission and knowledge. You should be ashamed of yourself - if you're part of fandom, you should understand how this works and realize that most fanfiction authors do this for fun and aren't looking for or expecting critical responses of the sort one might get even on an assignment in school. It's a hobby. Would you send fashion students to critique and 'engage with on a critical level' the homemade scarves someone knitted for their friends? The news of this course has spread and authors are seriously considering deleting their fanfiction and erasing their presence on the net because of it. If anyone ever wanted proof of the harmfulness of trying to make fanfiction academically viable, this is it. Because of your selfish desire to make out what is a hobby for thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds to be something academically viable, you are driving people away from fandom and ruining the experience for everyone. You are a grade A asshole." -- Anon
I think you started this class with the best intentions but you didn't go about it the right way. From the first paragraph in your syllabus I can see it. Yes fan fiction is a valid literary form. It has been being practiced since the Victorian era, there have been lots of stories sherlock Holmes and Alice and wonderland stories before copyright was even a thing And what about things like rozencrants and gildenstern are dead or Sherlock? You can even make an argument for modern superhero comics being like fan fiction, these are not the original authors writing the stories, it is new generations often time long time fans writing the stories they want to see, they just have the copyrights in place to publish them. I don't think you went into this giving fandom the respect it deserves. You did not think about how introducing non-fannish people to fan culture without educating them about it first would go. I lobe to see fandom looked at under an accidemic lense, I find it super interesting, but you went about this the wrong way. Please, please take the other commenters feedback and use it. I would love for there to be a fanfic class in other colleges to look at fandom with an academic eye and this one going so south can change fandom's feelings about this sort of thing and even a college in accepting a course like this into their catalog." -- Dr_Fumbles_McStupid
I take issue with the way you're asking your students to leave critical commentary where the author can see it. First, and as waldorph pointed out, critical feedback can be damaging, especially to newer or more anxious authors, regardless of experience level. Secondly, fandom is very much a gift-oriented culture; all of these stories were written for free. Thus it is rude to provide or post critical commentary unless the author indicates they welcome it. Lastly, while your students aren't here to be trollish (I hope!) humans take their social cues from their environment - while I'm sure that troll up there will always be trollish, they might not have felt inclined to post if your students were not here as possible allies. In all, I feel that if you're teaching fan fiction and want to ensure that your students are doing their due diligence with the reading, having them submit commentary direct to you or post it on an online forum for discussion would be of equal benefit to your students, with the added advantage of being less rude and/or disturbing to authors. Not everyone wants or appreciates constructive criticism! If you want to teach about fannish culture in addition to the fiction, I recommend a few refreshers on fannish etiquette to help your students blend in. And finally, having read your syllabus, I have to commend your excellent taste - you're teaching some of my favourites :) I hope your class goes well!" -- bluelittleheart
so this whole thread is gold. I think you can still turn this around and do something good with the situation. Y'all fucked up, but you can have a discussion with the students about how and why and how to correct the situation. You can start with concrits. Even if they were welcome here, I've read some and they weren't very good. grammar and spelling? really? is that the best they can do? It seems to me like a lot of the students came in with either a negative or dismissive attitude from the start, or they didn't know enough about the story to be able to talk about it and so they fell back on easy things. Have the students at least read a bit on the canon before starting a fic maybe? Have them talk in class about what it changes, to read something dry or to read it knowing the canon? does it make a difference when reading AU? Can AUs stand alone or are they, still, products of their canons? (my opinion is that if you can change the names and get different characters, like with the intent to publish, then it wasn't a very good AU. To keep characters in character even while changing everything about their lives, there lives the true craft.) Usually the norm is to comment about what you loved on the story, and what you would have wanted to see more of, or speculations about what might happen (especially on chaptered work.) If you intend to leave concrits, there are ways to phrase them! "I thought that bit went by too fast, I would have loved to see more of the world building as it was very interesting!" or "the POV gave us a very limited understanding of the other characters motivations, I wonder why he did that thing? Is there any possibility of a continuation in another POV?" always, always be supportive and positive! fanfics are works of love." -- SainaTsukino
FiveMinutesTilBedtime: Many others have commented on the social tone-deafness and outright rudeness of sending students out into a subculture to "interact" without properly preparing them, so I'll not touch on it again, but I hope you've read them twice. And taken notes. What I would like to know is what in the world you think you're accomplishing by having students read works for canon some of them are undoubtedly unfamiliar with? The entire point of fanfiction (and fandom in general) revolves around a shared canon. Canon is a touchstone in fanfic. Imagine attempting to critique The Last Supper or Paradise Lost with no knowledge of the Bible. It would be utterly impossible to achieve any meaningful commentary, because the depth of meaning would be utterly lost due to lack of context. And yet you've rounded up a collection of fic and sent a collection of students off to interact with it without ensuring that they have the background necessary to fully understand what they're reading. Did you even discuss what meaningful commentary means? (Outside the scope of fandom, that is, since you clearly didn't discuss what it means within fandom.) Tell me, would you give a passing grade to a student whose reviewed a short story with a critique of the author's spelling and grammar? What are your goals in having students interact with this material at all; what do you expect them to learn from it, to draw from it, to be educated on? Are there any critical thinking requirements at all here, or is this just an easy A? You're doing a terrible disservice to your students, to your school, and to fandom. Fandom and fanfic are definitely worth studying, and perhaps even teaching a basic literary course on, but this is not that course. The least you should do is pull back the requirements for interacting with the subculture, but personally I think you need to rethink your entire approach. You're not teaching your students to engage with the canon at all, and if they're not engaged in a canon then they're not actually gaining any education from the assignment. They're just punching a keyboard in order to get participation points." -- tsukinofaerii
As for the person who came up with this idea in the first the very least you should have asked the authors of the fics you linked to. Sometimes people have good reasons for not wanting their works to be known outside the fannish bubble. You've written fic and posted it here. What were you thinking?" -- Ellidfics
I saw the debate about this issue on tumblr. From your response here with the assignment's details I see now that your students are not to blame at all. The reviews were full of negativity, because your students were told to make them that way and they just followed your points like sheep. YOU are to blame by giving them false information about how the review for fanfiction should look like. None of your points are a requirement: you don't need to be specific, you can use weasel-words like "interesting", your grammar doesn't need to be perfect, you can entirely focus on small details if you want, no one is interested how YOU would make a specific line better... do I need to go on? If you have any sense of responsibility you would stop this assignment to spare yourself more embarrassment." -- Tarabotti
For goodness' sake, the problem is you thought it was appropriate to do this as a course. You want to start a fanfic club and make new friends have at it, but nothing about this is appropriate for academic credit. And even then, if you were absolutely determined to go forward with this, speaking with potential authors before the course even started would have been the way to go, not making an apology that misses the point after the fact. Also I agree with the above commenter that your points about constructive criticism are really unnecessary and highlight why you should have reconsidered choosing to position yourself as a supposed multi-fandom expert (which is what you've done, inadvertently or not). -- Anonymouse
"nothing about this is appropriate for academic credit." I disagree with this in the strongest possible terms. While the specifics were kinda messed-up, especially, requiring comments on works without seeking the authors' consent or even notifying them about their works' inclusion in the course, I think the basic course outline is EXACTLY what an introductory study of fanfiction should be. Read fanfiction, write about it, understand how fanfiction writers create folk culture, understand how fandoms create fandom spaces and AUs and doujins and pairings and ships, and then write their own fanfiction projects. Hell, I'd expand the study and creation of fan-works to include fan-art, for those students who might be more comfortable drawing/painting/digitizing than writing fiction. I'd also suggest replacing fics that you don't get consent to use with an assignment where students identify their own fandoms and seek out works in those fandoms. I have found, in my own sphere of special interests, a short bit of slash pairing Ulysses S Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, generals of the American Civil War. I think it would be really interesting to be in a class where everyone brought in a short review of a work *they'd* found like that, to really drive home the diverse crackiness (I say that with all due love to all the crackficers) of the fandom community." -- lyingmap
There are two basic ways of approaching fanfic from an academic point of view. One is in the cultural-studies mode, which may require participation in the community. This would fall under basic anthropological studies, which have very stringent requirements for ethical treatment of research subjects--in other words, if you are going to interact with people, you better make sure not to be a jackass about it. (This includes needing prior consent for such contact, which was not done in this case--there was no notification.) The participation requirement--would seem to be coming from a cultural-studies milieu, except none of the ethical work was done. The other way of approaching fanfic is from a literary mode, taking fanfic as literature and analyzing it thusly. From the syllabus, that is what the class mostly is, and glancing at that part of the syllabus, it seems to be decently well done--taking aspects of the stories (i.e. various fic tropes) and analyzing them and presenting an example of each fic. The thing is, having studied English in college, a literature-studies approach does not generally include any contact with the author, unless you invite the author in to speak. That is, you analyze the work in class, and not in the author's living room. You may write and publish a review in a public space, but the author is free to read or ignore such reviews, be they critical or praising--they are not in the author's space. This is the literature equivalent of requiring students to call up the author and tell them personally what they think. And from a literature-studies pov, that's ... weird. As in, I've never heard of anyone doing it, and can't see what might be the value in it. The basic idea of the course seems to be sound, and certain aspects of it seem to be well-thought-out, but ... this one part of it is either unethical or just plain weird, depending on which side you're coming from." -- Beatrice_Otter
My current hypothesis as to why commenting on the fic was made a requirement, given that the "teacher" in question apparently loves the fic on their list, is that the teacher naively thought that it would be a treat for the authors to get all these free reviews, not realizing that their students were still too ignorant to be let loose on an unsuspecting world. After all, they're students, they're there to learn, and they hadn't learned yet." -- KerrAvonsen
You say that you assigned the fics you did because you love those fics - but you love those fics because you have a relationship with the source material. It resonates with you in some way that allowed you to open your mind to the possibilities explored in those fics. Your students do not have that relationship with the source material. They did not go searching the internet of their own volition to find a deeper connection or explore a different conception of that source material (which is basically what fan fiction is all about). Heck, they dont even have an accurate conception of what the FAN in fanfiction is all about it seems! Fan does not refer to the author having fans of her/his work but of the author being the fan of the source material. Secondly, those directions can be misconstrued in a number of ways - as demonstrated by your students... - and moreover, there is no real prescribed way to respond to fic. Most of us, when we comment, it is out of pure love and emotion. We're not conlit-ing and dissecting what we liked about the material or reguritating the author's words back at them to go OMG LOVE. We just want the author to know that WE ARE ONE OF THEM; we too like this interpretation or analysis or whatever of the source material. Third, as I'm sure people (I hope at least) have brought up to you by now: you should have gotten permission from the authors/fandom to bring these random strangers into what is essentially a 'safe space.' (Or at the very least it is "our" space) Its pretty much a violation of ethics in terms of inviting strangers/mainstream into the exploration of niche/non-mainstream communities. Yes. In recent years, fandom and fanfiction has been brought way way way into the mainstream. In case you missed it though, nobody in the actual fandom has exactly championed that aspect/light shined on us; we've just sort of accepted it (and probably starting doing a lot mroe to protect our actual identities). Also, reiterating what has been said already about "constructive" criticism. Just as it would be inappropriate to track down an author of published book and wave a bunch of errors and vulgar critique in their face - accosting a fanfiction author over the internet is just as inappropriate." -- Li
Fanfiction isn't (generally) put online as a way to gather con-crit or writing advice. I've always operated under the assumption that unless the author states otherwise, criticism isn't wanted. So to make it mandatory for an entire class to review fanfiction even though they may not even be familiar with the source material is... ignorant at best. Something I would have expected from someone without any kind of interest in fandom, not a class full of people who supposedly love fanfiction. I'd say the class should probably keep their thoughts and reviews within the class and not share them with the authors, who really should have been asked permission first." -- Spinnennetz
okay but if most of you are in fandom, then you should be aware that most people in this community discourage concrit of any kind unless the author explicitly asks for it. like that's a major taboo?? how do you not know that?? so what's the point of your "good review" powerpoint when you steamroll right over that very important first step???? (also: "how to appropriately review a fanfic" oh my god. i have been in fandom for half my life and i'm telling you right now, your list is nonsense.) you don't have to be constructive to be a fan. fandom isn't didactic in nature. we're not here to become better at anything--some of us are, sure, but that's not our first priority, and it's not the primary reason we do this, and to assume that somebody wants concrit without knowing for sure is why you're getting so much push back from us. it's shortsighted at best to not only tell your students to interact with us with that intent, but to make it part of their grade, like??? seriously now. if any of you really knew anything about the social standards of fandom then i can't imagine you wouldn't have seen this coming. we might be on the internet, but that doesn't mean we're here for your open consumption. you wouldn't waltz over to a group of friends having a private conversation in a restaurant and start critiquing their grammar, so what makes you think it's okay for you to do the same to our fic?? i mean, honestly." -- Anon
"like that's a major taboo?? Depends what circles you move in. On, it's all egoboo and delicate snowflakes, yes. In other places, people are more mature. I've been in fandom since 1985, and I didn't come across the "all authors are delicate snowflakes" attitude until I stumbled into Sentinel fandom in 1999. Yes, we ARE here for open consumption. This isn't a private conversation in a restaurant, it's graffiti on a wall. If we didn't want the public to be able to see it, then we shouldn't have posted it in public. However, I do think it is a reasonable expectation of any fan writer that someone who reads their work is familiar with the source material. So telling a bunch of ignorant students that they have to post "concrit" of all these works about which they know nothing - to require it of them, as a compulsory part of the class - that is thoughtless and disrespectful." -- KerrAvonsen
I have been in fandom a shorter time than you, but one thing I've definitely observed is that it's generally not polite to give concrit on AO3, unless the author specifically asks for it. It really depends on the social mores in different circles and platforms, not maturity. I know plenty of mature fannish folk who work hard at their craft but would rather the crit came from a beta, because fanfiction is written for pleasure in their own free time." -- Claudine
Exactly this, and I wouldn't even personally put AO3 or FFN on the extreme side when it comes to concrit being considered taboo. It is generally considered inappropriate but more of a social norms than actual rules of the website thing... whereas I know some kink memes and a few UBB-based forums where unsolicited concrit might get you warned by the mods or even banned if you keep it up. And +1 that it's not about maturity but about social norms in different spaces and there are upsides and downsides to each and people who will deal more or less well in each. Personally, I like hanging out in the less crit-friendly spaces - I haven't found unsolicited crit very useful in the past (taking a beta over a random stranger anytime here!) and I spent a lot of time writing while dealing with mental health issues that meant I had a really hard time coping with crit. To each their own, you know? I wouldn't post fic on e.g. the Beast's Lair fanfic forums because I know I couldn't deal with their culture around criticism, but the people who do post fic there seem to be having fun with it and I wish them much joy. But I hate it when people act like being "thin-skinned" is a crime of "immaturity" that bars you from posting fic - it seems like an attitude taken wholesale from professional publishing and it leaves a lot of people who wouldn't dream of going pro but write fanfic for the fun and the community participation in the cold." -- Kaz
There's a difference between open consumption within the community (which is what hosting fics on ao3 is about really, it's not widely advertised out of fandom circles. Yes there is a chance someone outside of fandom may stumble upon it but it is /not here for them/, ao3 and the fic on it is for the fans who are looking for fic. And as such I think any author is very justified in thinking something posted on ao3 will only be consumed by other fans, not just randos who don't really know what's what in fandom." -- Imaginesurrender
Here's the issue with this particular apology. You didn't ask for the author's permission to include their fic on your syllabus, you didn't even inform them of it. How you passed this class through an ethics board, I will never know. Furthermore the author NEVER ASKED FOR CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM ON THIS FIC. So why the hell would you think it's a-o-fucking-kay to tell your students, who have no ties to this particular community, to submit a public review of it?? You shouldn't have had them review these works AT ALL. IT'S NOT YOUR PLACE TO DO SO. These reviews from your students are not coming from a good place, they aren't commenting because they loved this fic so much, they're commenting so they get points for a class. Fanfiction is for the FANS. This is for people who want to explore an expanded view of the world that was created by the original book/movie/show ect. So having random people read this fic when they have no background on it is pretty insulting. Fanfiction writers do not get paid for writing. They are independent people writing for themselves and their own community so you getting your students to tear their work apart, no matter how well intentioned your motives may have been, is not acceptable. You say you have some experience with fandoms, but you obviously don't know the first thing about it, especially not enough to run a class on it. At this point the only thing I can think for you to do is Stop This Assignment. Don't have them read any more works, especially when you do not have explicit written permission from the author to do so." -- BoxcutterBaby
The worst part of this 'apology' is that it's about what you would like to see happen in the future. Have you apologized to the authors you used without asking? Have you considered the impact this will have on less confidant writers? Have you consider at all if the people actually in fandom want such a course to continue? I don't see how this passed anyone's mind as ethical. Talk to the first poster all you want, but maybe sit down with yourself first. Fanspace is supposed to be safe space. No one invited you. Think back to all the things you read when you first walked into fandom, would you want anyone, and everyone to know them, to give their opinion on them? Did you ever try writing fanfiction, did you offer it up to your 'students' to be torn apart or nitpicked to death? I don't know what kind of person in fandom would think it was ok to make people read fanfic from a list. A list that might have trigger warnings or consent issues not all readers want. I don't even think someone who doesn't have the decency, or courage, to ask the authors they supposedly respect or enjoy, if they can use their works, should be considered part of fandom, let alone qualified to 'teach' it to others. If there was a way, I would report the accounts in this thread. There are actual fans that don't have ao3 accounts. The idea that a bunch of accounts are just going to be taking up space that could be for someone who want to actually leave caplocks, encouraging, mindless 'i loved this SOOOO MUCH' comments makes me sick. If you want to share your passion with others, write your own fic, don't hijack authors who didn't invite you. As a lurker fan you suck because people who would be posting fic see shit like this and decided not to. Why would they, when people who are supposed to understand that fandom is a safe place to play with worlds sends other people to judge them. I don't think you understand ethics, I don't think you have any understanding of fandom. As a side note you should not only apologies to the writers you violated, you should thank Waldorph. If they weren't being so amazing about this you would have alot more outright hate coming at you (which I think you deserve but :shrug:.) These authors sit down and craft worlds for themselves and they share it with us. It's a gift. They don't have to. I'm, honestly, sure that if Waldorph had handled this differently the fans who read and love her works would be alot more upfront with how grossly invasive and wrong all of this is. Waldorph if you are still tracking this you are a gem. Thank you for letting people use this space, for taking on the headache of letting people know, and the endless questions you've been getting about this. Edit: When I said you deserved that hate, well I was wrong. Now I just feel bad for you. Still feel worse for any fanworks that might fall under scrutiny because your syllabus appears to have underaged things listed. This is a mess that just keeps growing for everyone. You should change your email and delete this account. I hope you update someone on what the hell you're doing with your 'class' first but yea, this is a shit show." -- San_Culottes
Fanfic is supposed to be a space where people who love a show or subject matter can come together and share that love with the rest of that fandom. It's a place where fandom goers can explore head-canons, what-ifs, and possibilities. It's a place where fandom can go to see that they are part of something bigger, that there are others in this world who love these characters and shows just as much as we do. This is something that someone who is not part of that particular fandom could never understand, let alone connect to. You may love these fics, but that is because you have that connection. Forcing people who do not have these connections will obviously never illicit the same emotional ties that it will with someone who is on the same level as the writer and their fellow readers. Thus, you basically open fanfics to people who will not view these fanfics as they were meant to be viewed. You put them in a situation where their anonymity and disinterest or misunderstanding of the subject matter lead them to looking down on stories that lift the fandom up. You open stories, that were meant to be shared with love and understanding, up to ridicule from, for lack of a better term, outsiders. Comments on a fanfic don't have very strict regulations. Rudeness is discouraged. Constructive evaluations are only provided when asked by the author, and even then these evaluations are to be helpful and kind, never critical and/or hateful. There are no rules for grammar and syntax. All-caps is often used to express strong emotions. Excessive use of punctuation further shows a person excitement. Fanfic is so often the place where writers can practice their craft before introducing their original works to the world. It's a place where they can not only practice their writing, but also learn how others react to their styles of characterization and story-telling. Fanfic was never meant to be scrutinized. It was never meant to be studied in a classroom setting. It was never meant to be studied under a microscope and torn apart in an archive that was made specifically to give fandoms a place to gather and share their stories safely. This is why I hate the media's fascination with fanfic. It is not a new phenomenon; fanfic has been around for centuries. Yet now it is being shoved out into the open and made fun of by the very people who could never understand why we need fanfic in the first place. It is publicly made the butt of so many jokes, while no one mentions how fanfic can save lives, can bring a voice to someone who would otherwise stay silent, can show a person that they are not alone, can bring people who would never meet otherwise together, can allow people to improve on a past-time that can become a career, can give a person a creative outlet when otherwise there is none, can explore characters and their motivations in a way that could never happen on screen. All of this goes unmentioned. Not only do you open this archive to those who could not appreciate how deeply fanfiction affects fandom and its communities, but you do all this without the permission of the writers you intend to exploit. You are no better than the media that makes us out to be a dirty little secret that they are exposing to the world." -- BetaZ
i think it would be best if the students kept emailing their thoughts to you instead of leaving them on the fic. it seems counterintuitive for your students to leave comments on a fic when students aren't necessarily fans on the canon being explored. i think you committed a major faux pas in not alerting the authors to what was in store for them in the first place. i get that fandom doesn't exist in a vacuum but this entire course seems to have been thoughtless at best and unlikely to contribute much to the community." -- augustbird
Good lord, for people who say they're in fandom and are passionate about it, you certainly are clueless. Did it even occur to you to ask permission from the authors to include their fics? These aren't books put out there by publishers to make money, they're works of love, where hours upon hours of work have gone into them, by both the author and their betas. At the very least you all should have thought about doing some sort of ethics review before giving your 'assignment'. As a PhD candidate myself, I can guarantee you that as posted, this would NOT have passed ethics in any way, shape or form. You say this is a 'student-run' class - is there a prof somewhere overseeing it as an advisor? If there is, and they let this pass, I'm shocked and I'd be going to your ombudsperson. Sheesh. Just shaking my head at you people. And it looks like you're going to be continuing with this gong show. Unbelievable. Stop this now before you really hurt someone - I've already seen one comment on Tumblr that it's because of practices like this that they took down all their fic." -- Shaindy
+If you wanted students to indicate that they were interacting with the text substantially, their comments should not have been published on the work itself (this isn't even done for published books - the classroom forum stays in an insular space). The comments were completely context-less and done without notifying the authors or asking for their consent (which is a huge ethical violation in almost every academic community). It's also a gross misrepresentation of fanfiction to suggest that your students be critical of the work as a primary way of interacting with the text. The internet is replete with fanfiction, so much so that people are actively encouraged to seek out fanfiction that they like rather than responding negatively to an author. Fanfiction may interact with the text, but outside of collaboration and inter-community interactions, its presence is not an open invitation for critique. That just, that isn't what the fanfiction community is. And inviting people who aren't familiar with the norms of the community, or the etiquette, into a space (created by people who are unaware of their presence) is intrusive at best." -- Astonished
I don't think you're getting Waldorf's point that unsolicited concrit and how it's a giant effin fandom NO NO in fandom space! i.e "Did anyone ask you?" "No." "Then shut up." Of course, every author would love to hear more than "this was cool, amazing, interesting, blah blah blah". Long critics are great, but they're great only because the fic resonated deeply with the person and motivated them to comment that way. Requiring your students to write these kinds of critics makes them seem forced, superficial, and inauthentic! And while your intentions were good, this is really harmful stuff!!" -- Nonnie
I can appreciate the idea behind a fanfiction course, but I must agree with the majority that this wasn't executed well. Fanfics are exploited all the time, but usually not in the author's face, which was probably the biggest problem here. And as the students of the almighty Berkeley are clearly having trouble differentiating between what is acceptable and condescending, I don't believe you've much a choice but keep the discussion inside the classroom, anyway. I saw on your syllabus that you've included Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality--great choice. I hope everything works out for you guys. I just wanted to add: I see a lot of people are giving you crap about this and disregarding the students as "it's not /their/ fault." Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I was always taught what I said and did was a testimony to where I come from. I admit this was a weird assignment, but these pupils of yours are still responsible for what they put out at the end of the day." -- Concerned Spectator
I love how every comment from fandom I've seen so far has been polite, calm, well thought-out pieces. This is how a real discussion happens. Also! I'd like to jump in on the "grammar" thing: not my first language dude. Not the first language of, like, half the fanfics writers out there. Can *you* write 90 000 words in french? This might also be something to discuss with your students! Why to people write fanfics, and why do they write them in english? because fanfics are love I remember the first time I wrote a fanfic. It was, what, seven pages long? And the longest thing I'd ever written in english so far. I used - as conversation markers the way you'd use ", so it looked a bit like this: -blabla, she said. -blabla, he answered. and someone really, but I mean, really, tore into me because of it, even though I didn't know why? In french you use them to mark dialogue? I didn't know you apparently couldn't use them the same way in english also. Long story short, if it weren't for a couple of frenchies jumping in to comfort me, I might have been scared off fanfics for good. I was, like, thirteen and being told I was the scum of the earth. the fuck." -- SainaTsukino
why did you think having the students comment to the authors directly was a good idea? you critique short stories in class all the time without having the nerve to tell the authors what you think they could have done better to their faces." -- angelsaves
I am not sure what your majors are (you and the other student instructor), but here is the root of the problem: It is one thing to offer a literature course on fanfiction. It is a different thing to offer a course on fandom as a subculture, and it is quite another thing altogether to expect your students to actually do some kind of ethnographic participation in that subculture. That last one really should not be done (no matter what the culture/subculture you are studying) unless you, as instructors, have a good understanding of ethnographic methods and ethics and can first train your students in those. It almost certainly should not be done by undergrads teaching other undergrads. Taking your students and saying "Here, go participate in this subculture that you are not a part of!" with only a bare minimum of instruction about that subculture is irresponsible and disrespectful of those in the subculture (even if you consider yourself to be a member). Teach fanfiction as literature. Have your students engage with it critically. Keep all that between you and your students. Teach about the culture. Let your students observe the culture passively, and analyze it privately. Do not require them to participate in that culture if you do not know how to do so responsibly." -- PorcupineGirl
I'm seeing some people, mostly on tumblr, saying that fanfiction and fandom should never be studied and I don't really agree with this point of view. But I do agree that immersion in a culture that isn't your own is something else entirely <3 I would like this comment if I could." -- Sophie
It isn't that the idea of a course on fanfiction is inherently bad, it's that this one was really not well thought out at ALL." -- KerrAvonsen
I'm the author of one of the stories for this week class, according to your syllabus. I understand what your class is trying to do, but as others had said there's an expectation that fandom is a "safe space" . I think you've underestimated how important this is. My concern is not for my work or my feelings but for others who may not be so lucky. There are a lot of emotionally sensitive people in fandom, of which fanfic is their only outlet. I have seen a harsh review derail someone's mental well being. I can't imagine the havoc a classroom of well meaning, but tough analysts may do to someone who does not have the shields to absorb it. YES A03 is a public venue, but the unwritten laws of fandom are strong, and they are there for a reason. You don't know if the person on the other side of the screen is 14 and stretching their writing muscles for the first time, or someone who has recently attempted suicide and posting out to the void just to be heard. This is not Goodreads or a professional venue. You aren't dealing with authors who has been paid for their work, or expecting (or prepared) to be dragged into your classroom. I have a night school GED, and now I have to wait on tenderhooks to see how well College Joe thinks my slash fic holds up under literary analysis. That's a mind job I don't think I'm fully prepared for, and I'm a mentally stable adult who can take my lumps. Paraphrasing from a friend: You wouldn’t see a freshman clinical psychology class showing up at an AA meeting and start tossing around opinions. If this goes on, you're going to end up hurting someone, if you haven't already. I urge you to amend your student's instructions regarding leaving feedback ASAP." -- AvacadoLove
You have the option of locking your AO3 fic to members only; at least one other author seems to have done that. (Or else the course creators didn't notice that non-members wouldn't be able to read it.) That might not keep them all out, but it would at least delay things a bit. You're under no obligation to keep your fic visible to everyone at all times, especially since you weren't asked if you'd like it to be reviewed. (Note: they've said they'll be telling students not to leave comments on fics until they've sorted things out.) I'm thinking about how I might react to random "hey lemme critique your fic even though I don't know canon at all and this AU idea of yours is whacked--now I'm going to tell you how much it doesn't read like a mainstream short story." One, I might just ignore. A small flurry? I'd look for reasons. And if I found out they were assigned to students who hadn't bothered to figure out the communication norms of the area before leaving comments... I'd be happy to turn things around and tell them what I thought of their potential future careers, if they were that careless now. Find some nice sporking community and post excerpts of the comments as examples of "Clueless Mundanes Do Not Get Fanfic." ... Or I might just delete the comments, and leave them with no way to prove they'd left one. Side thought: You wouldn't be getting literary analysis. Real literary analysis starts with an understanding of the genre, not with "read this and tell the author what you thought of it." Not even "read this and tell the teacher what you thought of it." Learning the tropes and patterns comes first--selected readings are part of that, but they come with classroom/book instruction that then points out what features were being shown. Telling non-fannish people to read fanfic--of fandoms they don't know--and expecting them to figure out what the unique and notable aspects were, is just sloppy teaching. You don't teach music appreciation by saying "listen to this classical music, and then critique it," to someone who's never heard that type of music before." -- Elfwreck
Dear FiveMinutesTilBedtime, I am not sure who approved this course, and it is not really clear from your syllabus or from the DeCal web sites what credit this class carries, but as a longtime fan, acafan, and teacher of fan studies-related material, I am pretty appalled at the class and your approach. Or, rather, I am appalled at whomever allowed two undergrads to teach a class that would involve heavy interaction with a community that historically has striven for privacy. Universities demand strict ethical procedures when engaging with human subjects in research, and most scholars who work in these fields have learned this along the way. You jumped in there (or rather, were allowed to jump in there) without the pedagogical training such a subject might require nor the awareness of research ethics that an academic teaching this material would have had. And someone permitted the Berkeley stamp to be all over this, which makes it look like you are faculty there or that relevant faculty condoned this. (FWIW, there are amazing fan studies scholars at Berkeley, most importantly Abigail DeKosnik, who has done some great work, and I really hope this entire thing will not reflect badly on acafandom in general or Berkeley in particular). I am writing this as someone who's published on fan fiction for 15 years and who's taught fan studies. And yes, I've assigned fan fiction in the classroom, but I've either divorced it from the fannish spaces or have made very clear that these are spaces whose members often feel protected and which many consider semipublic at best. To purposefully push students into fannish spaces, especially without proper context, seems inappropriate for students and for fans. So I am not speaking as the co-founder and co-editor of Transformative Works and Culture, the OTW's academic fan studies journal, but it might be useful to look at our author submissions guidelines....As others have pointed out, there are many classes that use fan fiction in the classroom and courses that exclusively focus on fan works. The page on Fanlore ( needs to be updated, but it gives you a sense on how different people teach the subject. As others have pointed out, Anne Jamison's course this semester at Princeton ( might have been a model given that she focuses exclusively on fanfic as the two of you did. Hopefully, you can use this discussion here to turn the class around. Maybe you will change the assignment to have the reviews submitted to you rather than the fic writers; maybe you can begin explaining why context matters and discuss some of the things I mentioned above about protecting fannish spaces and how not to do harm in research and teaching. And maybe you can talk about how fan fiction is deeply steeped in the culture in which is is written and read, thus requiring readers to understand these cultures so as to read them appropriately. It's not unlike teaching Sophocles without talking about Ancient Greece or Paradise Lost without reference to the Christian Bible. Context matters for all writing, and it matters more so for these incredibly intertextual, highly context-dependent stories that are intentionally not directed at many but rather at a small group of like-minded readers. That, to me, is as important to understand as any discussion about Mary Sue, slash, or AUs." -- Kristina Busse
Since I and my class have been cited here, I want to clarify: I don't ask permission for fics to be on my syllabus. I used to. I changed my thinking about the ethics of that situation. I restrict my teaching to fanfics housed in publicly available archives. I don't teach from locked accounts. Usually, I don't remove fic I teach from the archive, because the archive and platform is part of what I'm teaching. I will teach very historically significant fics that have been removed. I advocate private communities, locked accounts, mailing lists and paper zines for people who value privacy but want to share. It's not just other fans reading here. Maybe it once was, but it just isn't true now. That said, I try to minimize the impact of my work where I have not sought permission. Each one of them has pros and cons, negative and positive effects. 1) I tend to teach and write about major fandoms. It's a problem, but a) it's more likely non-fans will know the subject matter and b) it minimizes the impact I might have on a small, perhaps "safer" and more private fannish space. (not nec. in that order). 2) I tend to teach major fics in those fandoms. Teaching a work that already has many readers and would come up quickly in a search minimizes the impact my class might bring. Where I want to teach shorter fics, which are important, I tend toward older fics, award winners or top stories in "Gen" or "One-Shot" searches/filters. 3) I try very hard only to teach work by adults, who can be reasonably trusted to understand the public nature of public spaces and to have considered the potential risks of unwanted attention. 4) Sometimes I ask. NOTE: these policies skew my presentation of fanfiction. They mainstream. They make it more "adult" in all kinds of ways, as more popular fics tend to be more sexual. It also means lots of the fics are long. I teach excerpts. Older fics have different rules--it's usually impossible to find the author and many of the archives are gone. The history is important. I try for fics that were famous back in the day, won awards, etc. "Findable" without me. But for history, historical importance wins. I used to require that students leave reviews. I always stipulated that they be positive, and that students identify themselves as such. It was a solution I came up with in conversation with fans as a way for students to give something in exchange for having read the fic. I've since stopped doing that because I heard from fic writers (although never from ones I was teaching, at the time of teaching) that they wouldn't welcome it. That said, people whose fic I'm teaching are sometimes surprised and displeased I'm not requiring students to comment. My students are under strict orders never to say anything critical to or about an individual fic or fic writer as a student in my class in any public forum. I emphasize that writers are unpaid, writing for a different audience, and did not sign on to be college assignments. I teach fics with sources, always w/the reminder that fics are best judged in the fandom context and are written for an audience with intimate familiarity with the source. I am teaching texts, not people. I won't teach from tumblr. That means I leave a lot out! but there's way too much personal data mixed in, and that's not my training. It may be a false, fast-blurring distinction, but disciplinarily & methodologically, it's huge. The reasons I don't ask are complicated, but a big one is: Given the visibility of my work, I decided a top priority for me must be never to contribute to the wrong, potentially disastrous assumption that a publicly accessible internet archive is in any way private or "safe" in this day and age. This trumps other concerns for me. I have personally and professionally dealt with the aftermath of young people who have shared stories based on personal trauma in "safe" fannish spaces. I'm sure the people commenting thought they were policing something important. Not asking is a controversial position. I do listen to criticisms, I get things wrong, and I adjust. But fannish practice/tradition doesn't dictate my pedagogy. There are many competing ethical and professional obligations." -- Anne Jamison
I'm not saying you personally do this forced-contact, especially since you explicitly said you didn't. I'm saying that these other folks cannot, CANNOT use your rationale in any way, precisely BECAUSE of that forced-contact aspect that they included and you don't include (any more). I reread this and realised that it sounded like I was going off on you rather than the reasoning, and I seriously did not mean to. "fannish practice/tradition doesn't dictate my pedagogy. There are many competing ethical and professional obligations." OMFG. I'd love to see how this would apply to literally any other situation, like, say, leading a bunch of your students into a kink dungeon in a class on the psychology of sexuality and telling them "just go tell people how their flogging technique looks to you". Or telling a bunch of history undergrads to beetle around a museum tacking little reaction-post-its onto the information panels. Professional obligations? You're going off about professional obligations, as if this kind of nonconsensual contact is something that is permissible in literally any other context - as asked upthread, when was the last time you or one of your colleagues told all your students to write to the private email of, say, Margaret Atwood, and make snide remarks about the inadequacy of her phallic symbolism in the latter third of The Robber Bride? I mean, if practice and tradition are meaningless and engaging with the authors is sooooo bloody important that you simply can't in good conscience not do it (bcuz pedagogggieeeee!!!eleventy!!, amirite?), you would want this kind of engagement with all kinds of authors in all your classes, wouldn't you? If you have done this kind of forced contact-making with creators in literally any other pedagogical context, I'll take my argument back and apologise profusely, but if you haven't, you are entirely full of it." -- macavitykitsune
As you say, I don't require *this* kind of contact at all and never have. I don't think it's a good idea. I tell my students not to do this. I forbid it. I do feature interviews and interactions with all kinds of writers--including fan writers and professional writers--but if they are actually interacting with my students, obviously they have consented to do so. I do agree that professionally published writers signed on for this attention in a way fan writers didn't. But. Posting a fic on a public archive where comments are enabled is an invitation to comment. It doesn't require consent, the consent is really implicitly given by the action, and that's a perfectly reasonable interpretation. And fandom to fandom and platform to platform, feelings about comments and concrit differ. It's one reason I couldn't possibly let my syllabus be dictated by fandom opinion--fandom opinion differs very widely and yet most fans generalize their own fandom experience and speak with authority on this basis. I think it is a very good idea for writers to be specific about the kinds of comments they would like to receive to avoid misunderstandings, though I don't think such notes are binding. REMEMBER: It's long-time fans who designed this assignment, I'm sure in good faith and with the belief it was in keeping with fandom norms. If I had been advising, I would have advised not to do this this way, which they could well have argued was imposing my academic norms on their fandom norms. I do go off about professional responsibility. I think it's important. These instructors aren't professionals. The advisor is a Shakespeare scholar with little to know knowledge of fanfic. He had every reason to defer to the authority of fans in this case--and this was the result. I also worry about protecting my students from the wrath of fans! that is a legitimate professional concern. They are my students, and my primary responsibility is to them. That is a major reason for not requiring them to interact in this way." -- Anne Jamison
We're p. much in agreement on your first two paragraphs. Where I see an etiquette difference between us is in your sentence here: "Posting a fic on a public archive where comments are enabled is an invitation to comment. It doesn't require consent, the consent is really implicitly given by the action, and that's a perfectly reasonable interpretation." You're absolutely right in that posting a fic is an invitation to comment. However, it is an invitation for a specific kind of comment - from fans, about the work, and in keeping with the forms of the community. When I post a fic, I am expecting comments from people who have read the works in question, who understand my fanfic (if not the fandom) within the context of its source. When I talk about my favourite book at a party, I am expecting to hear from my friends who are at that party with me, not to be suddenly mobbed by several dozen people who burst in off the street, Kool-Aid-Man style, to tell me how I am Doin Book Likings Rong. When I post a picture of my child on my personal blog, I am not expecting to hear from some creepy dude who wants her for "one-on-one modeling" (this actually happened). It's a matter of where one reasonably expects responses to come from, and not being plonked down into some entirely different context for entirely different critique. REMEMBER (please don't capslock at me): I (and most reasonable people out there) don't give a gently hovering fxxk how long someone has been in fandom, only what they do in it. These people behaved obnoxiously; they exposed multiple people to unnecessary stress, without asking them; they required author-student contact in a way guaranteed to ensure that would happen. I boggle to imagine what kind of fantastically bumble-brained ethics committee would have approved this - if indeed one was involved. You say these fans have the right to get students to mass-dump nasty reviews on unsuspecting authors: well, then, don't turn around and tell me and others that they themselves are somehow particularly fragile little lilies that can't handle being told they've behaved unethically and unintelligently. If they can (get their flying monkeys - ahem, I mean students - to) dish it out, they can take it. (To a reasonable extent; I am in no way recommending directing vitriol at the students, who wouldn't have done this if it wasn't for a class, or for harassing the instructors.) And if the advisor doesn't know what he's doing, might I respectfully suggest that he, you know, consider not doing it? I daily avoid giving speeches on the foreign policy of Iran for this very reason. You're right to protect your students; the majority of annoyed fans will leave it at dropping pissy comments, like me, but we're not lacking for harassers and stalkers in fandom, unfortunately. I'm very glad you do that, and wish heartily that these people had also considered their students' safety and peace of mind before splattering their ill-considered fribble of a class assignment over the interwebs." -- macavitykitsune
I think I've mentioned something along these lines before, in reply to one of your tumblr posts, actually. You are a humanities scholar. You view yourself and your students as engaging with texts. However, once you start interacting with authors (or anyone else online, no matter how public), you are no longer engaging with texts, you are engaging with people, and that starts to slide things into the social sciences. And in the social sciences, there are very strict guidelines as to how to engage with the public ethically, whether for publishable research or just a class assignment. imposing my academic norms on their fandom norms: Well, yes. Exactly. When students in an ethnographic methods class go out to do observations, they are expected to follow the academic norms governing the ethics of such a situation. It doesn't actually matter whether they themselves are a part of the culture they are observing. In actual research, of course, a researcher who is a member of or is embedded in a culture will participate much more than a new observer - but undergrads? Or even grad students, for a class assignment? No. Jesus, do you have any idea how hard it is to get IRB approval for the most basic of interactions? Especially if anyone you'll be interacting with is a minor? Thank goodness you don't need IRB for a class assignment, but trust me, if you were actually studying fandom ethnographically you would absolutely have to justify all of this, and you'd probably need the authors to sign freaking consent forms before you could actually engage with them about their stories at all. And if it would require IRB approval for real research, then in a classroom situation it needs to be governed by the same ethics considerations. The advisor should not have been deferring to the authority of fans, he should have talked to someone in the social sciences who understands the ethics of such a situation and deferred to their authority." -- PorcupineGirl
I emphasize that writers are unpaid, writing for a different audience, and did not sign on to be college assignments. I teach fics with sources, always w/the reminder that fics are best judged in the fandom context and are written for an audience with intimate familiarity with the source. This is a critical point for me. Thank you for making it. I hear you on why your policy re: asking permission to teach people's fic has changed, and I appreciate your choices to link to public fic (not locked), to choose relatively mainstream fandoms, etc. I do agree that once someone's on the public internet, it's on the public internet even if it wasn't intended for a non-fannish audience. That said, the context piece matters -- I keep remembering how people outside of fandom completely missed both the point, and the meta-fannish-commentary, in Killa and TJonesy's Star Trek vid to "Closer" -- and I'm pretty appalled by this whole situation because it sounds to me as though the person teaching this class *isn't* paying attention to context. Oy. :-)" -- Kass
Hey Anne, I'm really glad you commented, if only to show that there are diverging views and opposing opinions within academic teaching and research on fan works. You and I have disagreed about this before, and to me it is very clear that you see yourself still as more of a literature professor than as a media/cultural studies one. And while my training is the same, I have spent a lot of time thinking through the repercussions and the different disciplinary approaches and have thus arrived at a different place. I think mostly this has to do with the fact that even as we are studying TEXTS (and I agree with you that the only requirement here would be their accessibility in an online public space), the very moment students interact with the surrounding culture (in this case, commenting), it has ceased to be merely about texts and becomes about PEOPLE. [And I'm pretty certain we are both alluding to Michele White's seminal essay, "Representations or People" When you cite the competing ethical and professional obligations, I think it remains important to make certain that you are applying the disciplinary ethics of the discipline with which you are actually engaging. And I know that your syllabus is very careful about that and that you have changed your position, but I don't think your professional and pedagogical integrity argument should stand there without that acknowledgment. Moreover, I am bemused that you are excluding Tumblr which to me seems the most public of fannish spaces at the moment, and I wonder if it is because that is the platform on which you are fannish yourself, thus indicating that you both understand and respect certain fannish norms. We have also disagreed before about the idea of safe fannish spaces and how we as acafans can and should engage with this myth. I agree that many if not most spaces are more visible than many fans know or assume, but as researcher and teacher, I prefer to err on the side of caution and the motivation to first do no harm. It is not my role to teach other fans that the Internet is a cruel place by purposefully exposing them nor is the internal fannish cruelty that we all know exists an excuse to toughen up fans. Moreover, even if we didn't have a responsibility to our fellow fans, we certainly have a responsibility to our students, and teaching them best practices when engaging in unfamiliar cultural contexts seems mandatory. Ironically, as you point out, you actually do all these things, so my concerns are mostly with your justifications rather than your actual syllabus and behavior." -- Kristina Busse
Thank you for this; I am glad to see a description of how to assign fanfic (and potentially reviews) in a way that mitigates potential harm to the authors. Requiring them to ID themselves as students would help a lot--it carries a clear message of "I am an outsider, and I am not reading this because I want to or because anyone I care about said I would like it." That make would make any criticism (you said that you instructed them not to criticize, but not all students are going to understand what that means) or weird focus in the comment easier to understand. I can see both points about asking/not asking, about commenting/not commenting. I agree that both decisions have ethical considerations and pros and cons in several directions. Both you and Kristina are approaching the problems with as much care and consideration as you can; you've reached different conclusions on which aspects are more important--I could maybe figure out which I agree with more (I'm really not sure) but can't say that either is better for fandom in the long run. One of the factors that less conscientious instructors may miss: the safety of the students is also at stake. Leaving an inconsiderately rude comment runs the risk of very harsh backlash, especially if those students are (eep) later posting their own fic in the same community. Students whose only exposure to fanfic is a handful of AUs with nonstandard writing styles is not going to prepare them for the detailed critique and sporking that fandom can do if inspired, and many college students have never had anyone read their writing with the sole intent of shredding it. Sending students out to interact with fandom without telling them how to be polite about it, is setting them up as targets." -- Elfwreck
The course requirement is analogous to requiring students to interact with traditional Navajo culture by insisting on direct eye contact throughout a conversation, or visiting an Orthodox synagogue and insisting on cross-gender handshakes. In other words, the course requires interaction with a culture in a manner that violates community norms. It's upsetting to everyone for no purpose." -- Villeinage
Perhaps we could move this discussion in a more reconciliatory direction? We've all acknowledged that instructing students to provide concrit to an author without that author's permission was an unwise move... But we're talking about students who have chosen to spend some of their time formally studying something which many people should be treated with more legitimacy. Are there authors on AO3 who would volunteer one or more of their fics, fitting the tropes being studied, for the class to respond to? Perhaps if we can offer a list covering enough fandoms, then the students will be in a position to respond to a 'verse that they are already familiar with (or even personally invested in)." -- Echo
I started this comment with a combination of anger and curiosity, because the behavior of some of your students was beyond rude, and you did mess up in your approach to this topic. But your Chair, your guiding instructor, and at least a couple other people didn't catch this before you opened the class, either. Reading up on DeCal, and the regs and guidelines under which this is supposed to operate, I can see that there isn't anything you *explicitly* did wrong. So I do understand how this class set-up was not approached with malice; it was out of love. And I know you've gotten a lot of vitriol for all your trouble. So please don't quit teaching or anything. Don't quit fanfiction. Or English. Just ... try to think of this excitement as prep work for the Doctoral board." -- ChristinaK
"Actually in my experience fandom as a subculture is primarily about wank and drama. This whole kerfuffle was hopefully a very valuable learning experience not only for the students and teachers but for everyone who watched the whole thing go down. Because this is what fan culture really is: a lot of investment and defensiveness of fanworks, clique-ish behaviour fuelled and supported by performative statements of community and inclusiveness, and a lot of people just waiting for the okay to lecture and shit on some clueless newbie and be as mean and condescending as they want and feel like they've done good in doing so." -- Anon
"When we refer to fandom as a "safe space" we are using a misnomer. It is not safe. It is welcoming. It has a sense of community. We are among our tribe. But it is not, and never will be "safe" as long as it's taking place in public spaces. And maybe that's our fault for terming it as such. And again, if it needed to go up the chain of command, that needed to be done by those who were directly affected. Not a band of torch-and-pitchfork-wielding fans. Misguided as this course was, the end result is running at least one fan out of fandom. I don't think anyone deserves that." -- algonquinrt (d0t)
"I've taken a student- run class at UCBerkeley, on conlangs. It was wonderful. There were about 8 students, all passionate about language and wanting to build conlangs of their own; it didn't run into any of these problems. I have no idea if the students of this class loved fanfic to begin with--or had heard about it and were looking forward to finding out what it was. (In the latter case... geeze, start with Yuletide fics of childhood fandoms, not current megafandoms fraught with ABO and Rule 63 and "character X was never born" AUs. You don't teach "American Novels" by starting with House of Leaves.) The student-run class system at UCB is a delight. Here, it ran into problems that (1) the academic advisor likely knew nothing at all about the topic, and (2) the syllabus is a mixup between "study this literature" and "participate in this community." -- elfwreck
"Fandom and fanfiction is supposed to be like finding a door to Narnia, only people who want and go looking for it, are supposed to find their way there. It's not an ~educational exercise with a bullet pointed list of how to participate invented to make you blend in with the locals. Fanfic is for people who love a canon so much, or who are so consumed with thoughts about how it could be (better? if this happened instead of that? or what happened next?) that they go looking for others who feel the same way. Oh, sure, it's public, and yes, writers accept the inevitability that people may take it upon their arrogant selves to leave crit, but it's written with love, with inspiration, with frustration, with passion, with humor, and it's meant to be shared with others who want to participate in the same feeling. Fanfic is an open source endeavor that equals the playing field when most playing fields are decidedly unequal. The quality of writing may vary but it's 100% inspired and no one can slap a price on it, or a GRADE on it, or grant any amount of participation points, that will give it merit. The merit is in the writing of it and it doesn't need unasked for criticism to validate it." Show Comment 24348620, Archived version
"No one deserve to be targeted or harassed whether they posted their fan fic in public or not. Anyone trying to justify harassment and/or abuse by focusing the conversation on the actions of the victims are clearly victim blaming. This line of reasoning is likening posting fan fiction to wearing a short skirt. There are ethical guidelines around how these kinds of course are supposed to be conducted, and this instructor has obviously either ignored or bypassed them. Waldorph and the other fan fic authors are well within their rights to report and complain. Speaking publicly about the course and instructor's actions is an act of defense, not abuse or harassment. Trying to shame and vilify an act of self defense is also victim blaming. I don't anyone wants to be in a fandom with someone who values harassing strangers over the safety and security of the members of the community." -- einfach_mich
"The heart of this issue comes from a huge misunderstanding, in a sense. There's a general disconnect in fandom when it comes to realising the true publicity that comes with posting fic online. Not that I think this makes presenting fic to outsider criticism okay, but the fact that the rules are unwritten makes this somewhat of a grey area. I can definitely understand the hurt that comes from the words of a harsh critic (the fact that we all have personal experience with hurtful comments is undoubtedly what caused this mess in the first place), but the knee-jerk, defensive reaction has clearly taken this too far into witchhunting territory. I mean, the fact that people started doxxing just goes to show how explosive fandom's reaction can get. It's both baffling and infuriating to me that people thought that was an appropriate response. The course instructors could have taken a more cautious approach when teaching a class about a subject that receives enough vitriol to leave its fans on-edge and ready to tip over at a moment's notice. Their execution wasn't ideal, and the fallout was both expected and unexpected. We've had the spotlight shone on us before, and yeah, it has the potential to be really humiliating and upsetting. That said, fandom's response was absolutely disproportionate compared to what it should have been. This was not constructive, this was as bad as the unwanted criticism that started "theoryofficgate" in the first place." -- Driverpicksthemooseic (Ratkinzluver33)