TheoryofFicGate/Discussion at Fail Fandomanon

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Event: TheoryofFicGate
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Date(s): roughly February 18, 2015
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From: "With great power..."

Comments below from: With great power...; archive link.

So I'm still really weirded out by the way this whole "fandom class" played out and particularly uncomfortable with certain BNFs' responses.
The fandom class in particular is a unique situation, the problem is that it's not an intrafandom issue. The BNFs are reacting badly to people from outside fandom. Doxxing is never a good thing, but I can understand wanting to get the information about the class out there to other fic writers, and the teacher's email address was inevitably going to come out. In the general course of fandoming, my main thing about BNFs is that they need to accept that greater visibility = more criticism and be prudent about whether and how to respond to it. Some M/NNF mocking your ship or fic untagged on their own blog? Best move is to leave it alone, maybe block them if it bothers you that much, go rant to your friends in fanmail. Don't reblog their post so all of your fans see it and respond by tearing their ship/fic to shreds. And actually, that would be a dick move even if you were a NNF reacting to another NNF, but a BNF has the power to really sour an M/NNF's overall fandom experience in a way that fellow M/NNFs can't.
I feel like they could have just messaged impacted people with the info. The teacher's info would have come out in any case, but it didn't need to be delivered to fandom by people so widely-read. It's the difference between taking public info and putting it in the neighborhood watchdog flier, and taking public info and splashing it on HuffPo. One will be read by a small group of people in a concentrated area. The other is going to hit basically everybody. IA wholeheartedly with your second paragraph, though.
Well, and it's a matter of relevance; it's not like either of them had a fic in the syllabus, and I'd question solidly if they knew the group that collaborated on 100 Years or had any interaction with them. If someone is going to insist that fandom is a loose cooperative in one post and then rally the troops to defend some ST:AOS (when did we stop calling it NU?) fanwriter who had things under control the next, I'm not sure if we can ascribe to stupidity what might should be ascribed to malice.
What happened? That is, I know about the 'class,' but the thread on page 2 is 600+ comments long now, and filled with people yelling at each other about whether or not academic standards about participatory research should have applied. Which makes it hard to find anything about whether something new has happened in the twelve hours or so since we became aware of it.
filled with people yelling at each other about whether or not academic standards about participatory research should have applied. Oh my god. I love everyone in this bar.
I know, right? I don't want to read all of it, but I love that it's there.
Some BNFs doxxed the two students running the class.
Did they really, though? When you've openly associated your AO3 name with the class, and you have the syllabus up where people can find it ...
They were identified by name and quoted in the Daily Cal article too. I think they were public about it (and I think it will have zero impact on their future professional lives, tbh; people in fandom's paranoia about this is usually unfounded.)
I dunno if it's technically doxxing, but basically posting "here's their email, sic 'em!" to a whole bunch of followers is still shitty.
What they did was repulsive, but it wasn't doxxing. Sending thousands of followers to harass someone is such shitty behaviour that you don't have to exaggerate to make it sound worse. When someone says "copperbadge and scifigrl47 used their popularity to get their fans to harass people" that can't honestly be refuted. When someone says "copperbadge and scifigrl47 are doxxers!" they and their fans can show people that "no, they would never do that. They are being defamed by people who really hate them and want to spread lies about them." Then they come off as the victims and people start questioning whether what they've heard about what actually happened is true or just more misinformation.
What copperbadge (MCU BNF, not on the list) posted a link to the syllabus (including the emails/real names of the instructors) and said

If you’d like to share your thoughts with the “teachers” of the “Let’s go be dicks to fan authors” class, their emails are listed in this cached document. You know, if you wanted to. Unsolicited criticism seems to be the order of the day, after all.

He has since deleted the post, but only because people shamed him into hit and he explicitly doesn't apologize. things-i-100-do-not-care-about

I think some people were also pissed at scifigrl47, but she's deleted the reblog and apologized.
Short version, but I don't wanna talk too much about the class here-- i just mentioned it so people would get why I was asking and where my train of thought went. 1) Two college students caught a student-taught class at UC Berkeley about fanfiction. 2) They required all students to leave concrit on the fanfics assigned. They had a long list of requirements for what "concrit" meant. 3) This meant that a few of the comments were quite mean-spirited and trolly, and the authors, who hadn't been warned, didn't know why they suddenly got a glut of comments in a very short period of time (for example, some fics that had 20-30 total comments suddenly got 6-8 over a couple of days). They were confused and hurt by some of the comments that seemed especially trolly. 4) They found out it was a class, and someone posted info about the class and the syllabus to warn the other writers on the syllabus. 5) A BNF got the email addresses of the students teaching the class and linked to them publicly, in a way that easily led directly to their Ao3 accounts and fan identities. 6) People started posting the identities of the students taking the class in the comments on at least one of the fics assigned. (They've been deleted) 7) Many opinions, so many opinions.
Well, now [the student teachers] have a very genuine and memorable view of how fandom works and wanks.
Re 2, students were required to leave a constructive comment NOT constructive criticism. Most of the comments left by class members contained no negatives at all. One was somewhat clumsily worded concrit. One was a blatant troll. That's literally the extent of this.
I'm far more worried about BNF's siccing a friends list on people who ship or like tropes they dislike than I am about them being sensitive to criticism of their own writing. Being sensitive to something that you put a lot of time, effort, and emotion into is just human nature and far more understandable than whatever it is that class was trying to accomplish. On the other hand being cruel and unfair to other people will make me lose my respect for you. We are all in fandom together and we make this place a great place to be or a shitty one depending on how we throw our weight around. BNFs can do a lot of damage if they target others for abuse.
I'm still so weirded out by the commenting requirement for the class that I'm inclined to think of it as 'taking one for the team', to be honest.
WAIT I just saw in the thread above that it was copperbadge, whom I dislike on principle. Dammit now what do I do with all this moral outrage.
Say a pox on both their houses and make some more popcorn?
I feel bad that [the student teacher] felt pressured to destroy her fandom identity.

I mean, the thing she did wasn't polite or really in keeping with fannish cultural norms, but it wasn't outright illegal. Plus, she wouldn't have had to worry about such a minor blip on the radar associating the two unless she ran for public office or something in th future, except for the whole kerfluffle, and she had written two of the far-too-few YJA fics that are readable.

Bye bye readable fics.
Waldorph handled it appropriately. I think in hindsight she (I think she's a she? Sorry if my pronouns are incorrect) might have sent it privately to the other writers, but she might not have had all their contact info.

That was the best she could do under the circumstances. She also deleted comments from her fic doxxing one of the students (not the student-teachers).

She's been very good about how she's handled the whole thing and I have nothing but admiration for her, and I'd never heard of her before.

Copperbadge handed out the student-teachers' email addresses and told people to harass them.
20 year olds are old enough to do stupid things and have it blow up in their faces.
They're old enough for it to happen but they're young enough that actual adults who have been through the gauntlet should be able to treat them with patience and dignity and not tell their many fans to go harrass them.
Copperbadge is a grown-ass man with a huge following who should know better than to target undergraduates.
And she had to put her real name on the course syllabus. It was for students, not for Copperbadge to lambast her.
In this case, the "public" is apparently the literally one person who had a problem with one comment left on their fan fic, and that justifies the entire "community" going into faster pussycat, kill, kill mode?
This entire thing comes down to one clueless thread on one fic. But everyone is reblogging posts about it like fandom has had the hounds of hell sicced on us. and not in a sexy way.
The thing is, at this point the effect this class has had on the public seems pretty small relative to the call outs.
I agree that the student teachers were uniquely stupid, but mobilising a thousand-strong force of outraged fans against a small group of people who hurt the feelings of a handful of authors? Disproportionate and shitty.
...it wasn't/isn't a real course. It's one designed by undergrads for undergrads, sort of a glorified reading group. The undergrads running it were fans themselves, and they just thought it'd be a good idea in the "I love fandom and if we put enough academic words on it it's legitimate!" kind of way. of course, it got out of control on Tumblr because no one ever fact-checks anything.

From: "Class makes commenting requirement on fic"

Comments below from: Class makes commenting requirement on fic; archive link 1, archive link 2, archive link 3, archive link 4, archive link 5, [ archive link 6], [ archive link 7].

I can see it in some sort of higher-level English class. I'd think that anyone who's familiar enough with fandom to be able to pick out good fics for that would be aware that you have to ask permission for that, though. Printing some copies out and handing them out to the students for in-class discussion is one thing, and I wouldn't necessarily think they needed to ask permission for that, especially if they stripped the author-identifying information out. But giving them the link and requiring critical comments? You don't do that to someone without warning. I wouldn't necessarily mind my fics being used for this, depending on what exactly the class is trying to teach using them, but I'd damn well want advance warning so I know it's not just that a bunch of people have decided my story desperately needs concrit.
You don't have to ask permission though. These are publicly available stories. Do you think anyone asks pro writer's permission before teaching their stuff in class?
If pro-authors regularly posted on a site like AO3, you can bet there would be classes where interacting with the format was required. I've done classes with similar requirements.
Teachers have assigned students to write letters to authors probably since teachers, authors and students first existed. Usually the letters aren't critical, but they can be. I do think requiring someone who didn't choose to read a fanfic to leave a critical comment on a public site where the author will see it is different, though. That's not the same thing as an author getting a kids' letter in the mail or via an agent or whatever.
I think you're confusing illegal and inappropriate/wrong. It's not against the law to do what this teacher is doing, doesn't mean it's right.
Honestly, I'd delete every critique if I got a clue that was going on. I didn't write my fics to benefit your English class, and I would consider all the critique to be biased and untrustworthy, since it was done for to please a third party for a grade, rather than because the giver wanted to talk to me.
Surely there are better ways to learn how to critique texts (or whatever the point is) than attacking strangers on the internet?
I'm honestly more upset that all these tender undergrads with their whole lives ahead of them have their full names on comments about how they're really into f/f mind control. No, babies, no! Don't do that! Some day you might need a job outside of urban California!
Damn. Not_poignant does not deserve this shit. And Esama deleted their entire catalogue not that long ago, meaning that they are one of the last authors I want targeted by this. And AvacadoLove is generally quite nice as well. The rest I don't know. Whoever decided on this is kind of a dick with much more enthusiasm than sense. For god's sake, pick My Immortal, Methods of Rationality, and Nightmare of the Future Past and that ilk to show the heart of fandom, not a heaping serving of id fic.
Eh. Honestly, I think fandom lives too much in its own little bubble and the reaction to this is highlighting it. These fics are posted publicly on a site anyone can comment on. There's no requirement at all for anyone to ask permission before they link your stuff, no etiquette for commenting you can possibly enforce short of turning off comments altogether. Acting like this is some kind of violation is absurd, and the whole "How dare you leave concrit on my fic!" reaction from that writer is frankly bratty.
If you own an art gallery, any one is free to walk in and criticize your art. That doesn't mean you don't have a right to feel a little weird and put out if a teacher requires a bunch of their uninterested students to go into your gallery and give you their uninformed, worthless opinions. That's not "living in a bubble," that's someone else making weird, rude choices.
It would be entirely normal for a teacher to send a bunch of students to an art gallery and ask them to comment on what they see there. It's called "teaching". And as for "uninterested" presumably they were interested enough to sign up for the class.
Most artists don't have such an easy way to leave them reviews as a comment box on AO3. I suspect the point of the exercise is to explore the fandom economy of fics in exchange for feedback, and for students to engage with that. And I suspect the requirement is for comments which engage with the text critically because a) a bunch of "Aww, this was great!" comments don't demonstrate to the teacher you actually read the fic and b) that's what academics do. I also suspect the teacher didn't realise quite how hysterically negatively some authors would react to even the nicest constructive criticism; as far as some people are concerned, the fact there's a comment box means comments are invited. Which tbh is not exactly a crazy assumption, if you're not familiar with how crazy fandom can be.
Yeah sure, I must be the teacher right, because no one else could possibly disagree with the fandom hivemind with our special cultures and our rules that all of us know and no one else does.
I must admit I also find the THIS IS OUR CULTURE response a bit cringey.
Fandom does tend to get precious over its "special culture." OTOH subcultures have their own mores, and that of AO3-based fic fandom is not cool with this kind of criticism.
I thought that some of the "culture" stuff in the AO3 comment thread was a bit OTT. But the basic point of people making terrible comments and behaving in a way inappropriate to the environment was a fair one.
If it were normal for artists to put a whiteboard under their pieces in a gallery and invite viewer commentary, I bet teachers would assign students to comment. What would be truly odd would be if artists started putting out comment cards to invite comments and then got mad when people didn't comment in exactly the way that the artists wanted, as fanfic writers so often do. I mean, I think the class is bizarre, but pretty much the same level of bizarre as fandom commenting culture in general.
That's ridiculous. There's no purity test for commenting on fan fic. Nor are these organized spam attacks just because one guy criticized someone's spelling. Jesus, fandom, learn some fucking perspective and go back to friendlocked journals if the idea of someone commenting on your fic for a non-approved reason is that horrifying to you.
I am of two minds. On the one hand, I feel like the nonnies upthread who think that a professor should get permission to refer students to a publicly-available webpage, or get prior approval to have students leave a comment on said publicly-available webpage, are being really ridiculous. On the other hand, the professor is not teaching the students the rules of how to conduct themselves in this space, culturally. An art appreciation class that goes to a gallery will, with undergraduates, usually drop at least some notes about dressing in a certain way if there's an event there, appropriate volume in the space, etc. In some theater communities, there are politeness rules about ripping into the performance in the lobby. Whether our extreme tenderness around concrit is good for us or not, it is a pretty standard part of our culture right now, and encouraging the students to barge in and interact with authors in a way that's very very unusual for the culture of the AO3 seems like poor pedagogy.
I disagree. There's no consensus at all on what our culture of concrit currently is. It varies from fandom to fandom and individual to individual. That some fics are available for public comment but only particular kinds of public comment is something not even some people in fandom could reasonably guess, let alone people from outside. And yeah, plenty of people in fandom really don't get what public posting entails. You choose to put the fic out there, you can't control how people use it and how people respond to it. If you literally cannot handle that, you should not be posting your stuff publicly for your own sake. Fandom culture as a protective bubble is an illusion - people from different parts of fandom or from no fandom at all access AO3 all the time. Your unwritten rules of etiquette agreed upon by you and your tumblr friends are not a magic website-lock, and acting like someone broke into your private bedroom and shat on the floor because they commented on your public fic makes you look ridiculous.
Just because something takes place in a nominally-public space doesn't mean that subcultural rules aren't in force, and I do think that there's at least a loose subcultural consensus that concrit isn't always welcome all the time. I mean, the lobby of an auditorium after a dance performance is also a public place, and loudly critiquing the performance in it is often considered really rude. I hear you, but I think you're being a little silly.
I often hear people critiquing what they've just seen in the lobby. It's perfectly natural thing to do; people will talk about what they've just seen, and if they didn't like it, they'll say so. I don't think there's any "no negative comments in the lobby" etiquette in existence at all. But even assuming there is, it's not a sound analogy - the lobby of a dance auditorium isn't a public place, actually, it's a privately owned building with admission restrictions. Posting publicly on the internet more akin to a street performance, in which anyone might wander past and make remark, even if they're not especially interested in what you're doing and might not have watched your whole performance.
It's a public website, not the writer's doorstep. AO3 is not a private or personal space for authors or for people in fandom only.
It kind of is? You still need to get an invite to sign up for an account, and people do post their fic under members-only lock. No, these authors didn't do that, but to say Ao3 isn't a personal space for people in fandom is inaccurate to say the least. I mean, if someone's Facebook page is public, does that make it acceptable for strangers to go insult and harass them on their wall?
It's a liminal thing, the space belongs to AO3 but the fic and whatever belongs to the author, so you have a weird dissolve between private/semiprivate and public like so much on the internet these days. The same thing happened with that girl who photographed herself goofing off in front of a monument and never thought anyone would ever see it. Yeah, it was on her public Facebook account, but she didn't think of it as a public space.
I reject your metaphor. Posting a fic on a public website where you know and expect strangers to read it is not the same thing as being invited to a relative's house for a meal, or your grandmother giving you a hand-knit sweater, or any similar situations. It is a public site. The work is being put up for display in a place with an inbuilt mechanism for feedback. If people are going to construct metaphors to explain why they think unsolicited concrit is horribly rude, then they should at least keep those facts in mind when they do it.
Then you friends-lock it for those fans who you expect to be the only ones looking at your fic. Otherwise it's fair game to anyone who comes by. This is a silly argument, especially for anyone who knows how the Internet works. It's not a private treehouse with a 'Friends Only' sign, except in the places where you can specifically make it one, like Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Posting something in an open space and then expecting only people who will comment positively to look at it is ridiculous. Obviously the hope is that it won't draw the attention of anyone who might comment negatively, but you have to know that's a risk you're running when you do it.
I think on AO3 you can turn off comment notifications for sure.

But I do want comments. I want them from other fans who've been in the fandoms I'm in forever. I want them from the random people who got recced my fic from the BNF who just got into my fandom. I want them from the newbie who just discovered the awesome of my fandom. I want them from people who love the canon like I do, even if we disagree on what is and isn't in character.

What I don't want is some random student who has no idea wtf my fandom's about suddenly popping into my fic and ripping it apart. Not, mind you, because it caught their eye and they found it interesting, but because if they don't, their GPA drops due to failing their class.

I don't want it because I didn't sign up to be a goddamned teaching tool. I signed up to enjoy fandom with other people who enjoy fandom.
For me it's not about defending the right to be an asshole. As far as I can tell, there was nothing legitimately "assholish" in the behavior of this class, and that's the problem - that "go read this fic and comment constructively" has somehow morphed into "go harass and humiliate this unsuspecting innocent by shitting all over their writing in a way that proves you are both illiterate and hate fandom" in the collective fandom consciousness. I'm not defending anyone's right to be an asshole, I'm saying FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST THIS IS AN OVER-REACTION. So a handful of people got a handful of comments that weren't the exact right kind of comments. But the comments weren't like, offensive, or hateful, or combative in any way. They were just marginally less positive than preferred. Okay. How is the end of that story NOT "and then nobody gave a fuck and continued going about their business"? How is this a big deal?
It's not just unusual for the culture of AO3; it's unusual for the culture of literary criticism. Most people, when reviewing books--the kind which are being sold for money, even!--don't send their reviews to the authors. I mean, who here has read a book and then written the author fanmail that's giving 'constructive criticism' on the text? Generally, if you're contacting the author directly after reading a book, it's to offer enthusiasm, or maaaaybe to point out a factual error or ask a question. AO3 [comment] culture roughly parallels fanmail, not reviews, as responses to literature go. Encouraging students to send constructive criticism to the authors of pieces is strange because that not how readers usually interact with writers, not because fanfic writers are unusually sensitive in this regard.
I think you have it the wrong way around. It's not usual for the culture of literary criticism for comments to be sent straight to the author, but it is usual for fanfic because of the existence of the comment box. And to equate the comment box to "fanmail" is a very narrow definition, historically comments on fic have been used for much more than just fanmail to the author, from constructive criticism to reviews for other readers. What's unusual is people acting like leaving a comment with concrit on a fic is a massive faux pas and an affront when it's been a part of fan culture for years and years.

From "Concrit and Fan Culture:

Comments below from: Concrit and Fan Culture; archive link part 1; archive link part 2; archive link part 3; archive link part 4.

The gigantic thread on fanfic turning into assigned reading got me thinking: has giving concrit always been such a cardinal fandom sin? I don't know if I'm looking at the ~days of my youth~ through rose-colored glasses or something, or that, since I swore up and down at the time that I was going to be a professional author, I was way more open to concrit when I jumped into fandom 15 years back, but it feels like a weird sea change in recent years. Like, yeah, you don't say "your story sucked and everything about you suckeD!!!!" but saying, "I liked this, this part could use a little work, here are my overall feelings," didn't lead to such an explosion of OMG SO RUDE. Maybe I'm just finally at the age where idgaf about this kind of stuff anymore, and that's why it feels so baffling. Who knows.
It varies by author. I think it's always varied by author. Some people will say, "It varies by author, therefore you should err on the side of not doing it unless it's requested!" Some people will say, "It varies by author, but they put their work out there, so who cares as long as you're polite." If it helps, I follow a bunch of people who recently posted about how they were 100% fine with it.
The thing is, while the context of the comments was different, I didn't see the content as terribly different from that of other awkward critical comments I've received. (Not to say that all concrit is awkward, but some of it is.)
I don't think you can divorce it from the context. It's fundamentally different when it's coming from an outsider, especially an outsider who doesn't know the canon and may not even be into fic at all. They have no idea whether you've written the characters adequately, or tapped into pre-existing dynamics or emotions, or done something interesting or faithful with regard to tone or POV. It's a bit like reading only chapter 14 of a book and giving "concrit." And if they're not into fic at all, it comes off as condescending in addition to misguided and useless. Concrit from someone who's actually in the fandom is at least coming from someone with a baseline knowledge and an actual investment in those characters/canon. It may still be useless or crappy, but that context is important.
I've seen quite a few people comment on this class thing with "The professors should have explained that concrit on fic is not welcome!" as if it was a universally accepted fandom rule.
Except the only comment Wardolph got which was actually concrit, she responded to before she knew where it had come from. So the context, at that point, as far as she knew, was just another fan.
I think part of it might be a mix of Cult of Nice influence, which astolat and a lot of the original AO3 BNFs were a big part of and the influence of Yuletide's 'don't bad mouth your gift' mentality.
I've seen the type of concrit comments you describe ("I liked this, this part could use a little work, here are my overall feelings") show up on most of my fics at least once, and don't mind them. One thing I noticed--I'm mostly in more recent, western fandoms, but I wrote a little for Harry Potter (also recently--within the last few years) and received more concrit there. One thing I noticed: a few of the comments on Ao3 in response to the student-instructor's apology emphasized that authors might be neuroatypical and critical comments could be harmful to their well being. This made me wonder if some of the sensitivity towards concrit is tied to concerns about triggers and whatnot, which I see as a more recent thing. I could very well be wrong, though.
That point about neuroatypicality is interesting. It muddies the waters somewhat. My gut instinct would be to say that those authors should be specifying that they don't want concrit -- that the onus is on them to opt out, in other words. But then that might be like "outing" themselves, or might end up being a way of alienating people who think concrit shouldn't be opted out from (and my hunch is that they do exist; a lot of the posts I've seen from authors who discuss why they welcome concrit carry a whiff of that attitude).
Yeah, and the comments I saw weren't people saying they were neuroatypical authors, they were saying some authors might be neuroatypical and/or they knew of authors who were. Which sort of ties the argument to how safe fandom should be, or how much people should warn for...I don't know. I've been involved with kinkmemes and things where authors are expected to opt in for concrit, and I think that can be a solution, but the problem is that that's most effective on a smaller scale, where everyone knows the policy and can assume that the other members of the community know the policy.
Yeah. You can't really make anything a policy across all fandom, or even across all large fandoms, or even across one large fandom, much less something as potentially divisive as the idea that crit should be opt in. I suspect that opt in would be a decent route if you could do that, though. Though I also wonder how many people are afraid to opt in because it might give them no recourse when they get flames, or trolling, or grudgewank, or any kind of deliberately unhelpful comment that is still touted as crit by the commenter. Because I've seen that happen too, and seen authors clam up in response to it. Actually, now it occurs to me that there are as many different rules about what constitutes "crit" as there are about how to give/receive crit.
In other words, they were whiteknighting.
The comments I saw reminded me of that 'care and keeping of writers' (or whatever it was) comic that was linked a few posts back, which makes me associate the whole thing with some of the aspects of tumblr culture I'm skeptical about.
I don't think it has, but my experience in old-ish fandom (early '00) was mostly on FF.net and fandom platforms in my native language, and on both of those it was pretty much expected that you would get negative comments alongside positive ones (at least in the fandoms I was in). On FF.net, the general policy seemed to be something like "you can say whatever you want about a fic, but don't expect the author to be gracious about it."
I wonder if posting fic on LJ caused a change because LJ felt like a more "personal" space where you'd post in your own journal and comments were often more like a conversation, as opposed to on a searchable archive without threaded comments and so on.
It has always varied by fandom, the particular corner of that fandom you're in, and individual authors' preferences. The thing about "concrit may hurt the sensitive author and ruin their self-esteem forever" has gotten more traction in more recent years due to overall changing fandom moods around those things, it does seem. But I know that I personally disliked concrit since I first got into fandom 18 years ago, and though I wouldn't pitch a fit if I got it, I was aware back then of many people not wanting it, and would never have left it uninvited. But maybe I was more aware of that since I myself also didn't like it.
No, I think you're right and there's been a real change in cultural norms. I recall that when I posted baby's first fic, back on LJ a decade ago, I hesitated over including the boilerplate line about how I welcomed critical comments because I wasn't sure it was necessary, and because I was legit afraid it would come off as begging for attention. Then for a long time I stopped bothering with it because it really didn't seem like it had to be there, because people would talk to me about what worked and what didn't anyway. Now I wonder whether there's any way to even indicate that you'd be okay with criticism that wouldn't upset people. I've seen complaints about the kind of author's note that says, "I know there are things wrong with this, and I'd be open to hearing from readers about what worked and what didn't," on the grounds that apparently that's humblebragging and attention whoring, or else pathetic neediness. So I still don't bother, but it's for the opposite reason. It used not to be necessary, and now it wouldn't work.
It has always been a divisive topic, in my experience. I've been in fandom for almost 15 years and all this time I've seen the same "why are you writing if you don't want to improve" vs. "why don't you just let people enjoy their hobby" discussions over and over.
I've been around for a similar time frame, and yeah, let's sing along with Shari - 'this is the wank that never ends...' I was in an old school fandom where loud commenters proclaimed the glory of concrit. When my newbie self attempted to offer the stuff, I found that what the loud voices said and what the actual writers preferred were two entirely different propositions.
It's always been argued, I think - like you, I've seen it again and again in fandom over about 20 years - but recently there's more of a "Negative comment? OMG HDU!!" reaction (and sometimes a pile-on by the author's friends) where once the reaction would have been more "lol your opinion, bye". And the threshold of offense has lowered, too. Stuff like "I thought Character X's change of mind happened kinda fast" is being treated the way "Character X was way OOC" once was; and "Character X was way OOC" is being treated like "wow, you suck" was.
I think that depends on the fandom circles, actually. I've seen people writing author notes with OMG HDU!!! reactions, and even deleting their fic, back in FictionAlley times. "HOW DARE YOU FLAME MY FIC, DON'T LIKE DON'T READ" was old news in the early 2000s already.
Mmm, true, but I think in the 2000s the general fandom reaction to people who reacted like that was a kind of amused pity, and now it's to agree and support the reaction. The extreme has become the norm, in other words.
I always seem to have hung out in fairly earnest ~I want to improve my writing~ corners of fandom where concrit was always encouraged so yeah, in my limited experience concrit does seem to have become less fashionable. When I started out, in my corner of HP fandom there was a lot of emphasis on how to review which amusingly sounded a lot like the Berkeley student teacher's manifesto (quote lines you liked, be specific ) and I used to feel under pressure to find something to say about what the author could improve because there were people out there who thought reviews were valueless if they didn't contain criticism. I'm not sure that attitude was always helpful - people scrabbling around for something negative to say but without the skills to actually locate something useful may just put the author off doing something that was actually quite good. Also, there were some people who used ~constructive criticism~ as an excuse to be a patronising ass. Overall the actually useful concrit I've received has been small in comparison to what has been offered and most of the advice that was most helpful came from friends and betas not random reviewers. So, it's not the biggest loss in the world necessarily. But I do miss the days in which fandom culture was a bit freer and we weren't all terrified of accidentally triggering someone's neurosis by saying the wrong thing. Nowadays I'll always accept concrit with thanks although unlike my earlier days in fandom I'll be less likely to assume the concritter is right and I am wrong. I respect that some writers aren't necessarily in fandom to educate themselves and improve though - and I don't give concrit in general to people who haven't asked or who I don't know well enough to know they'd like it. I do think the writer has the right to tell a commenter to fuck off if their concrit is rudely phrased ('did you even read what you wrote back' type reviews like that one student review IMO is rude) but if it isn't I think writers should grit their teeth. A simple 'thanks, but I'm not actually looking for concrit on this' is fine.
There's been a definite sea change re: criticism in recent years, and I'm wondering if it's a reaction to things like the MST/sporking communities of yore or those ~Fanfiction Defense Squad~ type groups that would leave really pedantic, hypercritical, self-important comments on fics written by earnest 12-year-olds. There was a lot of petty, mean-spirited bullshit that claimed to be concrit floating around, and I think a lot of the anti-criticism stuff arose from that as many people (understandably) responded with "Calm down, it's a hobby." I feel like we've gone too far in the other direction, though. I think waldorph's response to what was an awkward and tone-deaf but not hugely impolite comment that wouldn't have been out of place in a college-level creative writing class would have been seen as really inappropriate and thin-skinned 10 years ago. It's very unusual for a creative writing community to reject constructive criticism in the way that fandom has. I don't even particularly want to openly criticize other fans' work, but we are writing in a public forum, we don't get to control how people react to what we write, and I think it's important that fans understand that criticism might happen and pitchforks and torches aren't always the appropriate response.
I think it's inappropriate and thin-skinned today, though I do admire waldorph for the way they've handled it otherwise.
Yeah, don't get me wrong, the second critical comment they received was wayyyy over the line in terms of rudeness, and waldorph's original callout post was completely reasonable and made sense in context of reaching out to people who's fic would come under scrutiny. But her reaction to the original commenter's follow-up comment with the revised, more polite and complimentary review was kind of OTT. Maybe I'm unusual, but I generally appreciate it when people are like "psst, you misspelled the thing," because then I can go fix it really easily.
I was surprised by how mild I found the first comment, tbh. The commenter seemed like a little insufferable, but it wasn't anything you wouldn't get on FFN, and waldorph's insistence that it was offensive struck me as melodramatic. Waldorph has the right to opt out of "you misspelled the thing" comments, but I think a better way to do it would have been to just say, "Sorry. I'm not looking for this kind of feedback. Please don't leave it for me. Thanks." Of course, there's a whole secondary conversation about whether or not you'll get flak for opting out in some corners of fandom. But I still think a calmer response is better than declaring even very mild concrit to be offensive unless the author has asked for it.

Definitely agreed, especially after the student tried to phrase it more politely (the first comment was kind of rude) and she continued to respond with anger. But I kind of think Medie's response was worse, because she had no personal investment in the fic and she just jumped in and started telling the guy to go back to kindergarten.

I can see why criticism still stings even if you're as popular as Waldorph, but being able to respond to criticism with maturity is a skill that all adults need to cultivate.
A lot of the most critical comments I see are continuations of fandom wars by other means (shipwars and character wars). And at least some of the fics they appear on are in fact more shaped by polemics than by more literary considerations. While this is tiresome, I think it does reflect an extreme version of something I like about fic when I see it in less extreme versions: the ways that fic continues meta discussions and meta discussions arise out of fic. I wonder if some of the increased anger I see now comes from the move to AO3 for fic and Tumblr for everything else. When I was starting out in fandom my platform was LJ, and people's episode responses and meta essays and fic were all together in one place, and even though most people didn't flock that stuff, it was still seen first by a group of acquaintances with shared interests and views within the canon. When you put your fic up on AO3 that's less the case; people sort by pairing, of course, but lot of LJ community was also sorted around less definable preferences. I never used ff.net myself, but I did hear of people having more in the way of wankstorms around their fics there than on LJ, which could have been a similar difference of context.

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