Writercon Kerfuffle

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Event: Writercon Kerfuffle
Date(s): July 2006
Fandom: many, emphasis on Jossverse
URL: Writercon Kerfuffle; archive page one; archive page two
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The Writercon Kerfuffle occurred in July 2006.

It was a fannish discussion that focused on a con report for WriterCon II by a male fan named aadler.

In this con report, the fan complained of the slash discussion, what he felt to be an over-emphasis on m/m discussion, and of feeling left out and oppressed.

The con report generated 362 comments at the post itself, as well as much discussion in other fan venues.

Some Topics Discussed

  • straight white male privilege
  • Gay Panic Defense
  • Jossverse
  • inclusion at cons and in communities
  • female-centric fan spaces
  • WriterCon II
  • slash, het, and gen fic

Similar Discussions Generated by This Post

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Excerpts from the Original Con Report

(I got some unpleasant vibes during the showing [of a nearly-hour long Firefly fan vid by lunabee34, "acted" by action figures]. Not from the vid itself; actual thought and plotting had been put into it, and there were some genuine comic moments. However, the story involved Mal and Jayne having sex with each other while under the influence of a pheromone-based drug, and then dealing with the aftermath, and I think my son and I may have been the only males in the room, and raucous reaction from the wholly-or-predominately female audience was unsettling and frankly seemed to have some hostile undertones. Left me in a sour mood.)

The mood was not improved by the next panel, “Who Are You People? Characterization”. Okay, note this: there were five panelists, and among them they had slashed Xander with Spike, Xander with Andrew, and Xander with Larry; in addition to which, one of them observed casually that she wrote a lot of Real Person Slash … and these were the people posed to us as authorities regarding accurate characterization. Just as a matter of form, wouldn’t attention to characterization include NOT habitually homosexualizing a major character who had been canonically presented as exclusively heterosexual? There’s no denying that slash is a major current in fanfiction … but, damn it, heterosexuality really is the human norm (not just a presumed standard, but the actual stance of the majority of the human race), and I’m getting almighty weary of having slash automatically assigned the default position in fanfic discussions.

Break for lunch, back for more. The panel I attended was “The Gateway for Lost Souls: Fanthropology”, discussing the nature, views, and activities of the people who participate in various fandoms. This had sounded interesting, but was frankly boring. I had truly looked forward to this panel, but it was — for me at least — a resounding dud, the first time one of chrisjournal’s recommendations had missed the mark entirely.

It did, however, feature a moment that definitely got my attention. nwhepcat, not one of the panelists but offering an observation from the audience, related that there had been a lot of recent turmoil in DC fandoms, with the predominantly male population which had characterized the fandom until then being swamped by a huge new influx of interested females … and the ‘old guard’ pleading with the newcomers, “Don’t gay up our fandom!” nwhepcat related this without sympathy but likewise without glee; the others in the room, however, responded with a giant laugh. There are a couple of different ways to interpret this. If those hearing nwhepcat’s comment interpreted ‘gay up’ as simply the introduction of a less masculine viewpoint, then their response is understandable and justifiable. On the other hand, given my own recent experiences at WriterCon itself, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to see the plea as having come from a distaste for seeing an established fandom suddenly inundated in male/male slash.

Taken in its rawest form, that situation would go as follows: the people who formed and maintained a fandom for years, purely from love of the world and its characters, find themselves invaded by a new crowd enthusiastically producing (and celebrating) a mass of stories built around a premise revolting to the original fandom group and glaringly OOC for the fandom characters involved. (Imagine Buffy fandom being swamped by hordes of fifteen-year-old males who thought rapefic was the swellest thing ever, especially when the women — Buffy, Willow, Dawn, and let’s not forget Tara — discover they had actually wanted it all along.) The fandom is being flat-out ruined for its builders by something utterly alien and utterly incompatible with everything they originally loved in it … and when they beg for some relief from this to-them-horrible transfiguration, their distress is not only disregarded but seen as a source of hilarity.

That would indicate not just selfishness, but active meanness. And, even if the slashers in Buffyfic maintain that they’re not motivated by the smug satisfaction that comes from rubbing someone’s face in something that appalls him, it still feels, to those subjected to it, exactly like gleeful oppression.
chrisjournal had recommended the panel on representations of religion in the Jossverse. I had reservations, however; I still remembered my annoyance, in the Vampire Physiology panel, at the way people had tried to explain the efficacy of crucifixes and holy water against vampires without ever acknowledging that religious reality might have anything to do with it (“Hello? We’re talking about a world where demons walk around openly and an invocation to Satan brings immediately visible results, and you’re choking up at admitting that there might be a God and he might be neither disinterested nor powerless in such a situation?”). I opted for “Proper Comma Placement Saves Lives! Making Grammar Work for You” instead, and rather enjoyed it. I still say Xander and Spike’s bed is just plain wrong, and not only because of the imagery; in that phrase, we have two things — first, Xander, and second, Spike’s bed — whereas Xander’s and Spike’s bed, while still horrifying, would at least be grammatically correct.

Excerpts from the Comments at the Post


Taken in its rawest form, that situation would go as follows: the people who formed and maintained a fandom for years, purely from love of the world and its characters, find themselves invaded by a new crowd enthusiastically producing (and celebrating) a mass of stories built around a premise revolting to the original fandom group and glaringly OOC for the fandom characters involved. (Imagine Buffy fandom being swamped by hordes of fifteen-year-old males who thought rapefic was the swellest thing ever

I feel I must address several issues, here.

1. Comparing slash to rapefic is patently ridiculous, and incredibly offensive on so many levels I don't think I can express them all in the limited space available for replies.

2. The so-called "old guard" are never the whole of a fandom. For example: many "old skool" fans of Doctor Who are whining about the girls coming into their fandom...not realizing that we were here all along, watching and loving it, and now we have an easily-accessible venue for expressing our creativity as regards the show. Whether you realized it or not, slash writers were always part of the 'old guard' - however, homophobia often rendered them mute. Thank goodness that now they have the freedom to enjoy themselves, ply their craft, and participate fully in fandom.

3. Slash writers also participate "purely for a love of the world and its characters". The fact that their take on that world and characters differs slightly from yours does not mean that it's any less valid or valuable a viewpoint.

4. Xander slash is not necessarily 'out of character'. The show runners themselves declared that it was their intention to have Xander come out, and he was written to lay the groundwork for that plotline. Spike and Angel in slash? Joss indicated in the canon that they were lovers.

5. Altering the expression of someone's sexuality is not the be-all and end-all of their character. Most people operate somewhere between complete heterosexuality and complete homosexuality, with various degrees of attraction to different individuals. Who a character sleeps with is less important to characterization than how that character reacts to different situations, how they express themselves, how they speak and move.

And, even if the slashers in Buffyfic maintain that they’re not motivated by the smug satisfaction that comes from rubbing someone’s face in something that appalls him, it still feels, to those subjected to it, exactly like gleeful oppression.

Wait, you're "oppressed" because you can't make others stop talking about a variation of theme that you don't like because you are uncomfortable with gay people? Um...no.

I respectfully suggest that perhaps the fault lies in your own issues with sexuality, not in the faulty characterization or "smugness" of a certain set of writers.

Hmm. I am very sorry if you felt personally excluded or marginalized at WriterCon; I certainly don't think that was anybody's intent.

But as far as fanfic goes, I don't understand why it feels oppressive to have a lot of fic available that you don't like. I haven't been in fandom that long, but at least in the Jossverse people seem to be pretty scrupulous about "warnings" and listing pairings. So I don't get how that's any more "oppressive" than walking in a bookstore that has a big section on a subject you're not remotely interested in--you walk in, you look at the section sign, think, "Huh, not my cuppa," and you go browse another section.

"Mal and Jayne embark on what they believe will be a routine drop on Sappho... Little do they know that their cargo - and those who hold its secrets - will awaken their deepest erotic desires."

Dunno that I'd automatically assume that the blurb quoted means that Mal & Jayne would have sex with each other.

It could have been more clear. I especially would have wanted to know if I'd been attending with my child.


Children under 18 aren't permitted to register for the con (we are willing to stretch it to nearly-18 year olds with their parents, but no further.) Writercon is for grown-ups, and we want folks to be able to discuss themes of violence and sexuality without having to self-censor....

On a personal note... I think "awakens their deepest erotic desires" was pretty clear. Why would any parent cart their kid to such a film yet balk because the characters were same-sex?

Conventions as a whole tend not to censor and assume that the target audience is of age. The panels tend to reflect this.

Mediawest is another con that has been very fanfic-centric and as of late has had a more slashier tone. Not because it aims to offend or push the envelope. But because it is driven by the attendees that are registering. Mediawest has a huge art show. Some of it is graphic and may not be to my tastes. It may not be to yours are the person around the block. But nothing is censored. The works are there because they are an offshoot of fandom.

A concom cannot create such an artificial construct that excludes one subset of fandom or brings another one to the fore. The tone of the con is a direct product of the fans in attendence.

Two years ago the con had a very het and very Spike/Buffy face to it. Again, not because we decided, Hey, let's throw a Spuffy con. At that time, that was the was the ship/theme that was at the fore.

Cons are fluid creatures. What was ever-present this time may hardly have a showing next time. Sure we can anticipate things based on feedback, but until the group actually gathers, we have no way of predicting what the flavor will be.

But that's the wonderful thing about a con. We don't allow censorship. We allow ALL views to be seen, loved, and appreciated.

Because like it or not MANY MANY men are uncomfortable with man on man sex. That's not going to change.

FWIW, *I* am uncomfortable with man on man sex. I would defend to the death my gay friends ability to be happy and I am politically active in suppport of gay marriage but watching or reading about the down and dirty details (regardless of f/f or m/m, to be completely honest) gives me the willies.

OTOH I can't for the life of me understand why someone would need a *character death* warning.

Because like it or not MANY MANY men are uncomfortable with man on man sex. That's not going to change.

There we disagree. 30-40 years ago, people used to say that about racism here in the South, and black/white relationships on screen and off. Yet no one now would ever think to say "Why didn't this film have a warning that there was an interracial couple?!?" Things have changed.

In my opinion, I agree the phrase "awakens their deepest erotic desires" was fairly clear in it's meaning.

As a het male my deepest erotic desires automatically involve Carole Raphalle Davis, who played Ilona Costa Bianchi in 'The Girl in Question', and I would automatically assume that the deepest erotic desires of any two other men not already known to be gay would run along very similar lines. I don't think that aadler can be blamed for being surprised when Mal's and Jayne's deepest erotic desires were portrayed as shagging each other. Neither of them look remotely like Ilona.
[jeric synergy]:
As a het guy, I'm pretty sure my deepest erotic desires have little to do with other men.

Because like it or not MANY MANY men are uncomfortable with man on man sex. That's not going to change.

There we disagree. 30-40 years ago, people used to say that about racism here in the South, and black/white relationships on screen and off. Yet no one now would ever think to say "Why didn't this film have a warning that there was an interracial couple?!?" Things have changed.

Hmm. I don't know that this is the same kind of thing, though; I think that for many straight men the visceral squick they have over m/m sex is personal in a way that a squick over interracial sex is more ideological (which is a term that seems to imply a degree of intelligence and rationality that I'm loath to grant racists, but I can't think of a better term off hand).

Which is to say, at the most simplistic level straight men pretty much think of sex in terms of getting to put one's penis inside someone else, and getting to have an orgasm. The potential for being violated, or even simply getting shagged and not being aroused/having an orgasm isn't part of that visceral concept of sex in the same way that it is for women.

Men fuck, women are fucked.

I know that I'm being overly simplistic here (and you might argue a trifle archaic), but I hope that I'm also making some sense? Because it's a markedly different paradigm.

In that light I think I can sympathise with how disturbing it must be for straight men who have not had cause to get overly analytical about teh sex to be faced with a paradigm in which they could be the powerless party - in which their sexual pleasure, or even sexual arousal, wasn't neccesary. In which they are fucked, rather than getting TO fuck.

Once they hit puberty women know on a visceral level that, if they are unlucky, sex can be something that is done to them, rather than something that they control. Guys don't.

So I think the squick that straight men have about m/m sex is somewhat different from the squick racists have about interracial sex. Which isn't to say that it's fine, but I think that it's more forgiveable.

I also think that it's something that we can still get past, though, with education. insh'allah.

I'm fine with letting people avoid slash if it's not their thing. I get that people have their squicks and I wouldn't intentionally push something at people who have clearly stated they don't like it.

But you're saying we should coddle men because slash makes them realize that they could be raped, and women have had plenty of time to get used to that idea?

I don't know if I can say "Fuck that shit" vehemently enough.

I know you're just trying to offer an alternative viewpoint, but do you have any idea how incredibly offensive that argument is?

I believe that it is better for somebody to be assisted in changing their view than for them to be just told that that view is not acceptable and will be punished

Oh, I agree with that. And in a rational world, where everyone thinks before they speak, I think that's the best way for it to happen.

But, um, I'm rarely rational and I find most people, even the ones who claim they are, really aren't. And yes, I did find his statement offensive and I did react out of hurt and upset, and I think a lot of us, to varying degrees, have as well. It's very difficult, in my opinion anyway, to go to a place where I'm allowed to talk about this with other people who do not merely tolerate me at the very best of times, but actually have the same interests as me -- and that could be slash, or het, or gen, I could care less -- and then find out that someone feels "oppressed" by that?

Oh yeah. I'm emotional about that.

Now, do I think _aadler meant that as a shot across the bow? No. From what I know of him, he's a kind, thoughtful, intelligent man and he probably didn't mean it the way half of us are taking it. But I find the comparison to rape, the lack of stated understanding that his heteronorm oppress others half the time, and that this one time when we're allowed to speak free, well, we should just shut up about it ...

No. Sorry. I respect and admire those who can be rational but I can't be. I don't want to be.

I am sad that his comment about slash is going to be the thing people remember most about his comment, because the rest of it is the mark of a kind, thoughtful, intelligent man.

But at the same time, whether or not he meant it, he still said it. And I don't see any reason for those who are hurt, insulted, or upset about it to tiptoe around the issue.

Not that it gives people the right to be rude bitches, either.

Just checking here - it sounds like you think I've been suggesting that you should shut up? I'm very sorry if I have expressed myself so poorly; this particular wee thread was entirely me being pedantic about the fact that I (personally) think the parallel between m/m squick and racism was an imperfect one. In the ensuing discussion I most certainly wasn't trying to get any digs in at the people who have commented on this thread, or saying they should tiptoe around the issue. I wasn't particularly thinking about the specifics of the thread at all, actually, but rather the tangential question of m/m squick V racism, and how one might counter insipient bigotry of any stripe.

I mean, yes, I do think it's a damned shame that everyone's piling in on the bloke over the slash=rape thing, because, as you said, the rest of the post gives the impression that he isn't a bad bloke. I totally get why people are having a go at him, because he IS demonstrating a real lack of understanding of how priveliged his heterosexual male viewpoint is, and the irony of being told that one is oppressing the poor straight white boys with one's wicked gay-lovin' femininity is quite excruciatingly ironic.

I don't know. I feel almost that I should apologise, actually - and I guess that I can see how showing any kind of sympathy for the bloke may smack of mumsyness, or Uncle Tom-like behaviour or something. It's just that I really winced for him when I read that slash=rape thing. It's like that bit in BtVS Season, er, 5, when Dawn is all new and Key-like and she's being annoying and Willow kind of feels bad for her.

The assumption you make is that all characters not shown to be explicitly homosexual are heterosexual. Which is a faulty assumption. Being with someone of the opposite sex, even more than once, doesn't make someone heterosexual, just as the converse is not true. I'm lesbian, and when I was in denial about my sexuality I was with several men. Doesn't make me any less lesbian, and yet anyone who knew me then who went by my sexual partners up to that date alone might have made the faulty assumption that I was heterosexual.

This is still a heteronormative society, and a *lot* of people who are gay or bi still hide it, either from themselves or from others. So yeah, characters not explicitly gay are fair game for slash. You never know.
The world is heteronormative because the numbers make it so. If all homophobes were teleported to Jupiter, and all closeted gays immediately came out, the world would still be heteronormative - just not quite as much so. Yes, write slash about canonically straight characters, I don't mind - but I still think that there should more stories centered on the canonically gay ones. And I would write them myself but I simply don't have time at the moment.

just because he didn't just say it was wonderful in every aspect does not mean that he should have posted elsewhere.

If it was in his own journal, that would be true. But this is a community forum, and its maintainers reserve the right to remove posts. The Con Committee does not condone any sort of sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other prejudice, and frankly to have it sit unopposed gives the impression that the Writercon Con Committee approves of such sentiments. We do not.

Again, the issue is not that he did not enjoy the convention. We welcome negative feedback as well as positive, as that allows us to make the next convention better. The issue is that he insulted other authors categorically, and in inflammatory language, and posted it here in community space.

We are pleased that it has spawned interesting and fruitful discussion (and given rise to some ideas for next time); if it had not, we would likely have removed it.

I don't think saying that the deepest desires of any two men are sex with each in any way implies that those would be the deepest desires of any other man.

I'm firmly of the belief that the whole "slash is by definition bad characterization" comes from two things. 1) Straight people have difficulty with the idea of bisexuality. They see, for example, a guy having sex with a woman, and they identify with it. Then they see the same guy having sex with a man and they stop being able to identify. So, to them, it must be out of character, whereas a bisexual man who'd seen the same thing would still be identifying and wouldn't see a problem. (Assume my default here is good writing.) And 2)The difference between straight/bi/gay is absolutely character defining. The idea that someone they identify with might be bi is just horrifying to some men, but that has a lot more to do with them defining themselves by their sexuality than with how bisexual men really act.

It seems to me that awakening the deepest erotic desires of the majority of men would be giving them lots of females each, lots of girl/girl action,

Your implication then would be that men all have homosexual desires at their heart - but then aadler and my husband speakr2customrs both find slash extrememly distasteful - do you mean that they are therefore suppressing a desire for homosexual sex?

No, we’re not saying anything of the kind. We’re saying nothing about male sexuality. This is actually about women and what they like. If I write a slashy story and get a comment from a man who enjoyed it I’m delighted but I didn’t write it for a male readership. I was writing it for my girlfriends. I often write for specific people because I know what they like and I want to give them something I think they’ll enjoy. If people are offended by slash then the answer is simple. Don’t read it and don’t hang around discussions about it. If you’re uncomfortable leave and go somewhere you’ll enjoy more.

If there are women, who no matter how hard you dig, have no desire to have sex with men, why can't there be men who feel the same?

No reason at all. But we aren’t talking about the real world here. We’re talking about female sexual fantasy and if we like that particular style why shouldn’t we be able to write it?

Or should it be obvious because one of the men was called Jayne that they would have deep-seated homosexual desires?

You’re joking, right?

You're viewing it that a person who prefers het has an anti-slash prejudice.

Actually, I'm not saying anything at all about people who prefer het. I'm saying that I don't think writercon should add additional het-specific panels; the erotica breakout is sufficient. There is not to me a fundamental difference between the way a writer of a het story approaches narrative flow versus the way a writer of a gen story does.

Exactly one person has complained, and his complaints are without foundation, in my opinion. I was at writercon. While it's true that the "hallway" talk ran toward slash, in the panels I attended there was neither a slash bias nor an exclusion of gen and het. In the panels I attended, in fact, the majority of examples used were het or gen. If there are het writers who felt excluded at writercon, it's on them. Adding additional het-specific or gen-specific panels would both fragment fandom and ghettoize genres all for the sake of protecting *one* person..

I don't agree that genre-specific panels would fragment fandom or ghettoize anything - I think fandom is already fragmented, and that this is not necessarily negative; people should be free to enjoy and explore any genre they want to explore and that should be OK. Where it becomes not OK, is when people take one step further from enjoying what they want to enjoy, and begin to complain about or "bash" what other people enjoy (and this goes to slashers as well as het - I've seen some het-bashing brewing here and there over this whole incident, which disappoints me equally as much as the slash-bashing. One can support slash reading/writing without bashing het, just the same as you can support het w/o bashing slash). I think that if people bring an attitude of negativity and compartmentalization with them into fandom, or are inflexible and militant in their expectations toward how others should experience fandom, that's an issue that simply having panels at a con isn't going to change a person's mind one way or another.

What I'm saying is that breaking out panels won't cause fractionization of fandom - that clearly already exists, but hopefully in the minority as you pointed out. Blending het and slash into one panel won't do anything to change the mind of the people who are firm about what they believe, any more than separating the two would change the minds of people who accept both without issue..

But nobody's blending the panels which specifically deal with het and slash sex. The whole point of writercon was to discuss writing from the point of view of those of us who write fanfic.

The thing is that nobody else at that con was offended by the occasional slashy or hetty example. Most of the porn was even saved for the erotica panels. Other than the actual mechanics of sex, what's the difference between good het writing and good slash writing, or good gen writing, for that matter? Why, then, would you need to segregate, as you said, an already fractured community, by saying that those who like the man-on-man action need to move to a room to protect the delicate sensibilities of those who prefer the hot woman-on-man action? We're all writing porn.

Good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. If a story where Xander wakes up after a drunken night to find Spike in his bed illustrates narrative flow, how is it less deserving of being heard than one that has Buffy waking up in Giles' bed, or Tara waking up hung-over? Or, Joss forbid, fill-in-the-Firefly-example of your choice?

The best thing about writercon, frankly, was the willingness to listen and openess of all the participants, save one. The very first thing mentioned at the opening ceremonies was that nobody's preferred genre was inherently better than anybody else's. Nobody was judging anything but the actual writing being presented, and most of the time, there was no judging going on, either. .
[viverra libro]:
You attended an event that was primarily put together by women, for women (and it's great that you went), and then complain that the event didn't cater to your interests enough. Men - and men's preferences, in art, fiction, movies, and television - are overwhelmingly catered to in nearly every aspect of life, and women constantly have to deal with it. The fact that you didn't get catered to at an event that was generated, that exists, only because of the interest and support of women? No sympathy at all.

As a het fic person rather than a slash ficcer, I must say that I didn't feel the least bit excluded.

There are pairings (het and slash) that are not my own pairings, and pairings that I don't care for (both het and slash), but I don't see myself being excluded simply because a different fanfaction with different views exists or because they are open and vocal about their existence. There are many slashers in fandom, and, naturally, that means that I fully expected there to be a large and vocal contingent at the con. And I think that most ficcers who aren't slashficcers are aware of this and are perfectly happy to accept one another and their various forms of fan ficcing.

It all seemed very upbeat and good-natured to me. I, personally, had a great time and didn't feel that either het or slash was (or should be) marginalized. As far as I'm concerned, fanfic is about enjoying the characters and everyone is entitled to their own form of entertainment.

It's hard to believe this guy managed to be active in Buffy fandom online, and it NEVER OCCURRED TO HIM that a con that was originally Joss-centric might be a bit slash-oriented.

Sorry, but there's a LARGE contingent of non-slash oriented fans in the online Buffy fandom. Just because you personally don't hang out with them on a regular basis, doesn't mean that slash is the majority or that anyone should assume a convention about improving writing skills would be slash-oriented :) Even I, now a slasher, got my start in the substantial het fandom for Buffy, and only much, much later when I swung to the slash side in another fandom did I begin to enjoy reading and writing Jossverse slash too.

Plenty o' Het in the online Buffyverse!

I'm a slasher so this may sound a bit weird coming from me but we were pretty unavoidable at WriterCon. I think the best illustration of that is aadler's quote from the grammar panel. One would not expect to be hit with slash in a discussion of proper grammar. :)

While I very much enjoyed the free range to discuss a topic that interested me, I suggest we might find broader appeal if we had a couple more panels with a stronger het or gen emphasis. Since slash talk doesn't bother me I realize now that it was virtually invisible to me. Aadler's perspective is valuable alternative input which I believe we should listen to even if we don't agree with it.

Actually, if he hadn't pretty much insulted anyone who reads, writes, or has an interest in slash, I'd agree with you -- there is something to be said for being in the majority and not realizing how certain things become invisible.

But, you know, it's hard to hold onto that when he compared all slash to rapefic. Sorry, I become a little irrational about that.
And I do understand that. I found that statement to be, quite frankly, out of character for him as he and I have discussed this issue very civilly in the past.

I'm a slasher, too... I'm not wrong in thinking that other than the erotica breakout panels, there weren't any panels with a strong slash emphasis, am I? If a panel about, for example, characterization, ended up using a fair amount of slash fic as examples because of the panelists or attendees, then that's just what happened. It's not like there was a specific SLASH characterization panel.

I personally don't think using "Spike and Xander's bed" as an example of grammar is being "hit with slash," any more than I'd think "Xander and Anya's bed" would be "being hit with het." I certainly wouldn't have any problem with a panel specifically being about het or gen writing, because... interesting!... but I would feel very uncomfortable if some panels were no-slash-allowed...

It's not that I don't understand the OP's frustration. I just don't have a lot of sympathy for it if his means of expressing it results in a fair number of people feeling insulted, dirty for liking something 'appalling,' and/or 'actively mean.'
[herself nyc]:

“One would not expect to be hit with slash in a discussion of proper grammar.”

"... hit with ..." really buys into the idea that there's a problem with slash, that anyone should reasonably expect to be "protected" from having to confront its existence. Substitute "interracial marriage" or "Jews" or something there, and you see what I mean.

I felt like Writercon was a place where I could talk openly with like-minded fans about stuff I tend to be circumspect about in day-to-day life, my obsession with TV characters, fanfic, porn, etc.

I hope that the feedback of an attendee who seems to go past merely not being into slash to being bigoted against its existence isn't going to cause the con com or other attendees to feel that we have to somehow sequester slash, or anything else, from the next con.

and these were the people posed to us as authorities regarding accurate characterization. Just as a matter of form, wouldn’t attention to characterization include NOT habitually homosexualizing a major character who had been canonically presented as exclusively heterosexual?

First off, you assume that just because someone has not been officially declared gay, they are therefore straight. I'm pretty sure Lance Bass was still queer even before People magazine confirmed it.

Second, even if it was right that those characters were previously 100% Straighty McStraighterson (which... Andrew? And Larry? Really? Have you watched the show? It's quite good, I promise.) I would argue that from a writing standpoint if one wanted to write a story about a character with a changed sexuality, knowledge of characterization must be stronger, not weaker, and ergo those who are known for being good at it would make for good panelists.

It's no different at that point from someone who writes an all-human AU. Whenever you make changes from canon, characterization is key to selling the story to your readers. "I may have changed X from the show, but Y is still constant." Frankly, NO fanfic is canon since Joss doesn't write it. Fics where Giles and Anya get married and live happily ever after aren't more canon simply because they contain a penis and a vagina.

While I do not agree with his assessment AT ALL (and may be a little in love with thebratqueen now, thanks to her response) it is interesting to hear critical thoughts on what people liked and did not like about Writercon. I'm almost tempted to throw up an anonymous thread up so people can get their bitch on.

I love this fandom and came away from Writercon feeling all kinds of love for, and from, the attendees. But we are also, as a rule, very polite. I'm sure people had gripes and personally, I want to hear them. How else can we get better? While I think this particular post boils down to "It's not my cuppa thus it is bad", the fact is not everything was hit out of the park and this thread is showing that.

The programming cabal, of which I was a part, worked hard to put together a well-thought out and well-rounded program. And we're tired and still feeling the after-glow of what we feel was a job done well. But my main concern right now is 2008. If aadler was uncomfortable my guess is there was other people uncomfortable as well. I don't think we can discount that. I don't propose we narrow our focus or go crazy with warnings but working on providing content that will address the interests of all of our attendees (which is a challenge in our lovely, multi-facted fandoms) is certainly something to strive for.

Speaking practically, I'm really not sure how you could work to make this more "comfortable" by the definition that seems to be suggested in the OP. It's not like WriterCon did a lot of slash-specific panels (the only ones that were sex oriented at all was Erotica. which had both slash and het breakout panels). Beyond that it's people who went to WriterCon both as participants and panelists talking about what they wanted to talk about. How exactly is the WriterCon committee supposed to control that for the comfort of all? Should we have all carried little clipboards so we could tick off how many times we mentioned a specific pairing, and switched to another once we met our quota?

If het fans wanted to have more het-specific things they could have. Nobody was following them with torches
Aww thanks. I feel like I'm treading a fine line here because I so do not agree with him (plus he trashed Fanthropology, the ONE panel *I* was on) but, frankly, there's no winning the slash v. gen war. To me this isn't about whether slash is good or bad or legitimate because that battle is fought regularly and rarely ends well. Are we going to change his mind? I seriously doubt it. But if there's a way we can include people and make them happy WITHOUT excluding other people or making them less happy, I say lets go for it. He did have a few, legitimate concerns and that's the only thing I'm looking at. The rest is just personal opinion that I happen not to agree with.

This is a detailed and interesting account of Writercon, and I'm sorry that, inevitably, it's the slash stuff that's garnering all the responses. Because even though I meandered here following a friend's link mentioning your objection to slash, I do think that it must be a strange and slightly daunting experience to participate in what is a predominantly female, and predominantly queer-friendly culture if one is neither female nor queer. And I think it's cool that you're in fandom, and that your son is in fandom. Go you.

I can understand why you might find homosexual sex distasteful, if it is something that you do not find at all erotic; and all the more so when surrounded by women who DO enjoy it. I can see how this could be disconcerting. I think that many women would be uncomfortable to find themselves watching 'lesbian' porn in a vocally appreciative and mostly male environment.

Taken in its rawest form, that situation would go as follows: the people who formed and maintained a fandom for years, purely from love of the world and its characters, find themselves invaded by a new crowd enthusiastically producing (and celebrating) a mass of stories built around a premise revolting to the original fandom group and glaringly OOC for the fandom characters involved....The fandom is being flat-out ruined for its builders by something utterly alien and utterly incompatible with everything they originally loved in it … and when they beg for some relief from this to-them-horrible transfiguration, their distress is not only disregarded but seen as a source of hilarity.

That would indicate not just selfishness, but active meanness. And, even if the slashers in Buffyfic maintain that they’re not motivated by the smug satisfaction that comes from rubbing someone’s face in something that appalls him, it still feels, to those subjected to it, exactly like gleeful oppression.

I think that you have made a sincere attempt to explain your sense of distaste at what you perceive as bullying and/or insensitivity, and I do rather wish you hadn't chosen rape for your simile, because it's going to prevent your concerns from being taken seriously by most of the people who read this post. And that's going to mean that communication and understanding doesn't occur.

However, let's try to address the specifics of the case in question. Yes, there is certainly an Old Guard of comics fandom which is predominantly male. Those male comic geeks have been around forever, and they're still around. They're still the majority. The assumption that they are the majority still colours what happens with the source texts, even (compare Stephanie Brown's fate to that of Jason Todd). But girls read comics too, and have been doing all along. You wouldn't KNOW it, because fandom has been like the boys clubhouse with the 'No girlz allowed!' sign, and girls weren't supposed to like comics, so they often weren't part of a comic fandom community. But that's been changing with increased access to the internet, and the increased ease of finding likeminded people - and so fangirls HAVE found each other, and created communities. Female comic readers bring a perspective to the texts which is often different from that of the male reader. They don't only see Batgirl or Wonderwoman as tits'n'ass, they see them as heroes. They don't only see Batman and Superman as heroes - they also see them as pieces of ass. And a lot of women also have no qualms about looking at the big gay subtext and saying 'Look, Big Gay Subtext!' In fact, for some of them it's part of their enjoyment of the text.

Now, fanboys who are appalled by the concept of Big Gay Subtext are understandably upset about the notion that their perspective is not the one and only objective truth about the text. It is threatening and disconcerting to realise that there is more than one way to see the world, and that what you think is standard is actually just one way of seeing things.

But it's hard to feel really upset for them, you know? Because they are still the majority in their fandom, and heterosexual white men still run the country, and men are still being paid more than women for the same work. I mean, it's not like the girls burned down the boys' club house. They just built their own next door, and played their music loud enough to hear. Their empowerment (which consists of nothing more than finding the other fangirls) is not at the expense of the fanboys. The fanboys still have their club house, and it's still the biggest.

Being forced to see that there are other ways of engaging with the world is really no bad thing. We've grown up with the vast bulk of texts (movie, novel, comic, TV show)in which there is the assumption that male and heterosexual (and white) is the normal, default setting for human. We've grown up with Hamlet and Superman and Oedipus and Frodo and Aragorn and Ulysses and Paul Atreides and Kirk and Luke and Han and all the rest of them, and we've seen the girls relegated to cyphers and prizes and wicked witches, and we've bloody LOVED these stories, and identified with the heroes regardless of the fact that they have different genitalia. And it didn't hurt us to see the world from this masculine pov, any more than it's going to hurt the DC fandom Old Guard to realise that there are other ways of looking at things. If anything, I think it's a good thing.

(Imagine Buffy fandom being swamped by hordes of fifteen-year-old males who thought rapefic was the swellest thing ever, especially when the women — Buffy, Willow, Dawn, and let’s not forget Tara — discover they had actually wanted it all along.)

Oh, dude. Why did you have to go there? I'm going to suppose that you felt this was a good parallel because male/male sex involves penetration which you think is inappropriate, and that it is demeaning and disempowering to the men in question, and a physical and psychological violation, and that the characters are being manipulated and distorted by the slashers for their own sleazy gratification. Which said 'rape' to you. That about sum it up?

See, I get that, actually. I've read badfic which made me shudder and yell 'No! Step away from the characters now, missy!' The fic I'm thinking of was het, actually, but it was excruciatingly out of character.

What I'd like you to consider, though, is the possibility that slash is NOT neccesarily an abuse of character, or out of character. If you are a straight man, then you get to go through life assuming that the people to whom you are attracted are probably attracted to people of your gender, and so you just need to figure out if they're attracted to you specifically. You don't have to develop anything as subtle as gaydar. Those of us who are not straight have to pay attention to the nuances of how people interact and how they present themselves. Having had relationships with the opposite sex does not, in fact, preclude one from being attracted to people of one's own sex. People who are attracted to members of their own sex do not all walk around wearing rainbow T shirts and introducing themselves to strangers as gay, or bi, or whatever. That doesn't mean that all the people you see in the street everyday are straight. It doesn't mean that all your work colleagues are straight, or all your family or friends. Most of them will be, but some of them are just discreet.

Logically, this should also be true of fictional characters. Hell, Willow Rosenberg is the obvious example there, isn't she? The writers decided to go there in canon. The fact that she had not previously had a sexual relationship with another girl didn't make us all spork our eyes out and yell "But that could never ever happen! She likes boys! She loved Xander! She loved Oz! That means she cannot like Tara! It's unpossible! People don't work like that!"
[liz marcs]:

I'm not going to add to the pile-on here, since we spoke on Sunday and you already know my position and that we are not in agreement.

However, I do want to just say something:

1) The concom, I thought, worked hard to make writercon welcoming and safe for everybody to talk frankly and be themselves. The only caveat (as far as I can see) was that different points of view were respected. Failure to speak up means that your point of view can't be respected in the arena of, say, a personal conversation. People cannot read minds. Most people will change the subject if someone speaks up about their discomfort with a subject.

2) As a gen writer, I didn't feel at all oppressed or repressed by anyone, nor did I sense any hostility. As a Xander-centric writer who doesn't write slash, I also didn't feel oppressed or repressed by anyone. No one in my circle expressed any notion that they were being repressed or oppressed or felt they were the subject of hostility, either, and that includes the straight males who were most certainly present. So I'm rather surprised, outside of our conversation Saturday night, that you felt that way overall.

3) Het/slash/gen are the three major divisions in fanfiction and many writers quite often comfortably cross the boundaries. As such, they are legitimate subjects of conversation at a convention about fanfiction and original fiction. They are also legitimate subjects to discuss on panels. While RPS is waaaaay outside my comfort zone, this too, is a legitimate discussion since there are quite a few fanfic writers who do it. Outside comfort zone =/= not a legitimate discussion in any venue.

4) When it comes to fanfiction, everyone has a different take on the characters. By definition we're all working in fanon because the shows are off the air. Even just taking het/gen writers into account, we both write gen/het but I don't think anyone is going to confuse your version of Xander with my version of Xander, nor would either one of our versions be confused with the versions written by nwhepcat, bastardsnowinvisionary, or bellatemple, just to name a few who write a lot of het Xander.

Even though I don't write slash, I, for example, definitely come down on "Xander is bi." The actor has said in interviews that he played the character like that all through S2 and S3 because he was told that either Xander or Willow would be the gay character come S4. As others have pointed out, Spike and Angel as a slash pairing is actually canon (mentioned in AtS).

5) That said, you are perfectly well within your rights to disagree with any of the above. I don't think anyone is saying that you don't. But the word choice in your above report (comparing slash to rapefic, for example) is obviously going to raise hackles (as it has here) because, like it or not, it is inflammatory. Furthermore, I think you're being unfair to the other attendees, the concom, and people who just simply disagree with you.

6) This goes back to my first point: Disagreement with your point of view is not the same as being repressed or oppressed. Unless you've been threatened with violence or subject to eliminationist rhetoric (which I know you weren't when we interacted beause I sure as hell would've said something to the individual who threatened you and I would've said it very loudly and then I would've found the concom to report the incident), I can't see how you can argue how people were hostile to you....

I'm still mystified how anyone can go to a convention that focuses on writing (let's even forget the fanfiction part), and expect that they're not going to come face-to-face with people discussing issues that are outside the ol' comfort zone?

What I'm truly mystified about in this particular situation is that this is the second WriterCon that aadler has attended, so the fact that slash and RPS/RPF exits and is openly discussed should not have been a surprise.

The hostility that I see dripping off aadler in the post above is simply baffling beyond words. He knew exactly that he was walking into, he is not at all unaware that this stuff existed, and the slash/RPS/RPF stuff was not any more prevalent this year than it was last year.

I'm not sure what aadler's goal was in posting this con report using this particular tone and these particular words. He had to know that people would be rightfully angry upon reading it (ah, hell, let's call it what it is: "homophobia.")

Congratulations [aadler], you now know what it feels like to be queer.

It's uncomfortable, isn't it? That sense of being the "other" in the room.

Good. Remember how it feels. Learn from it. Remember to be compassionate to the next "other" you meet when you are in a position to be in the majority.

Now be thankful that most of the Writercon people, though holding a different opinion than you are largely intelligent people who can discuss your discomfort without (in most cases) resorting to insults and hatred.

Be thankful you don't have to fear for your life.


As someone who screens submissions to a huge fanfic archive (FictionAlley) I often need to correct our authors' misapprehensions about this practice. You are quite correct that one object possessed by multiple people ("Harry, Ron and Hermione's train compartment") gets the possessive form only on the last name in the list, no matter how many people own the object in question, whereas multiple people each owning something each get the possessive form. ("Harry's and Ron's brooms bounced on their shoulders as they walked to the Quidditch pitch.")

As for the slash issue... WOW. I just returned from my third HP symposium, every presentation that mentions slash even tangientally is clearly labeled and easily avoided by anyone who isn't into that, and even one of the fandom's biggest slash-averse fans is slowly coming round to being reasonably tolerant of the practice of slashing canon characters (or at least he is able to joke about it now, when he wasn't at one time). There is often far more controversy in the HP fandom if slash is NOT adequately addressed at a gathering, or there is a sensation of its being quashed, but it is also quite easy to go to Vegas for several days, sit in on numerous panels, roundtables and paper presentations, and never once encounter a MENTION of slash. I have occasionally written slash--and even in my long otherwise het stories it's always in the background just a wee bit--but I don't really GO to such gatherings for the slash, whereas many other people specifically do. (They wear buttons, for instance, saying, "I'm here for the slash.") This time around, since I am working on a book about the series, I was more interested in talking to other people who had already published such books, and slash rarely comes up in such conversations.

Anyone who thinks newbies are "gaying up" their precious fandom needs a reality-check; in most fandoms of any size there is adequate space for everyone to play and not get in each other's way, especially if the majority of the fandom activity is online. No one is forcing anyone to go to a part of a fandom where people ship something you don't, where they ship at all (if you prefer genfic), where slashing takes place, where AUs are accepted, etc. I find, "Don't gay up our fandom," to be one of the most patently offensive things I have ever heard. What about the people who, for instance, don't accept Buffyverse stuff that came after Oz left Sunnydale, because Willow/Oz is their Willow OTP? (One of these people would be my daughter, who loves Tara, but is completely attached to the idea of Willow/Oz.) Should those people be jettisoned from the fandom, on the grounds that they are ignoring the creator's intent and the subsequent canon that developed out of Willow/Tara? Should they be greeted at fandom gatherings with, "Don't het up our fandom!"?

The mood was not improved by the next panel, “Who Are You People? Characterization”. Okay, note this: there were five panelists, and among them they had slashed Xander with Spike, Xander with Andrew, and Xander with Larry; in addition to which, one of them observed casually that she wrote a lot of Real Person Slash … and these were the people posed to us as authorities regarding accurate characterization.

Hello. I'm the RPSer from the panel. I also write regular fanfic that is het, gen, and slash. I write in Buffyverse and other fandoms. I write original fic. I write poetry. Basically, I write.

And I write anyone in any situation. If you were there, you heard me say that I participate in a lot of ficathons because I like the challenge. I find it improves my skills as a writer to try new things. It's easy to write the same thing over and over again. There are a lot of good writers who I don't read because they write the same story over and over again with a new title.

I'm not going to argue whether slash is good or bad or whether writing real people into fic (whether het, slash or gen) is good or bad. I just want to talk about characterization.

As a panelist, I wish you would have asked questions of us, because maybe then we could have addressed what you were personally interested in. But you didn't and neither did anyone else.

As I was trying to explain on the panel, when I approach a character (no matter the romantic pairing or lack thereof) I try to get inside her/his head. I think about movement, speech, relation to other characters and I look at this stuff as it happened on the show. I constantly go back to canon to get inside the characters heads and to get them inside my own head so I can write them.

When I mentioned RPS it was to highlight how this presents a different problem, how it's a unique challenge as a writer to get the details of who this person is. And if you ever read any RPF (it doesn't have to be slash) you can see that different writers write the people differently. Some of it feels real to the reader and some of it is just crappy porn because the writer thinks two people look hot together. To me that's not even fic, it's just crappy porn.

But back to my point, if you write Spike and Buffy happy together, isn't that OOC? If you write post-Chosen Xander happy with two eyes, isn't that OOC? If you write any character pairing that didn't happen on the show OR you write something that's canon but differently than it was on the show, isn't that OOC? Not necessarily? Why not? Because the writer only took canon to a certain point and had Buffy admit her feeligns? Because Willow did a spell that restored Xander's eye and D'Hoffryn somehow made Anya a demon again when she died, so she's still there? Because characters X and Y had chemistry at some moment in time and the author jumped off from that point and told a different story? Because even canon gives us AUs to play with so we can do what we want?

Anything is in character if you can show the motivation that brought the character to the situation they're in. You do that by writing them the way we know them from the show. You do that by being true to the character, even if not to the whole of canon.

Every week The show writers had the chance to take the storyline in any direction they wanted as long as they made us believe it. So why shouldn't fanfic writers be able to do the same?

The fandom is being flat-out ruined for its builders by something utterly alien and utterly incompatible with everything they originally loved in it … and when they beg for some relief from this to-them-horrible transfiguration, their distress is not only disregarded but seen as a source of hilarity.

Poor dears, having to beg for some relief from frottage and rimming! Because it's not as though they could simply choose to not read the stories that make them feel so uncomfortable.

Fandom elitism sucks. We're all pilfering from a television show/comic/book so it's not as though any fanfiction writer gets to whine when someone decides to write Snape/Giant Squid, Batman/Joker or indeed, Spike/Xander. If someone decided to write a bunch of foul Xander-rapes-Tara-and-they-live-happily-e​ver-after!fic? I wouldn't be 'distressed', I'd roll my eyes and get on with it. And I'm a 16 year old girl, so I even have an excuse to be dramatic!

That would indicate not just selfishness, but active meanness.

Meanness? Honestly, grow up.
I'm 47 and I've been in fandom since 1976 - and I was reading slash (Kirk/Spock) back then too. Women in fandom as writers and, in particular, slash, are hardly a "new" thing. We've been around for at least the last thirty years plus years.

Exactly! When I started writing we were publishing our fic in tiny little magazines with circulation of twenty, run off on bad photocopiers. You and I were here when we jumped across to the net. We were the ones the ones that came up with the idea in the first place and we were the ones who put hours and hours of work into the innitial organization. Not just us, obviously, but we were a sizable contingent. It was great to be part of a community that (for the most part) welcomed it even if they didn't read it themselves.

To be passed off as some kind of importunate, johnny-come-lately makes my blood boil!

Like it or not fandom is for the most part women's space. We hugely outnumber the male authors and it's arrogant in the extreme for men to tell us what we should and shouldn't be writing and complaining when we write to please ourselves rather than them.

A society, whether "real" or virtual, needs to include some mechanism for dealing with people who feel differently, or else it cannot hold together. I can respect that you find slash squicky - I'm a straight guy, and I do, too. That is why I don't read it. I think the fandom and fanfic communities are tolerant of people who find slash squicky - if they aren't, they certainly should be. But they have no need to be tolerant of people who can't be tolerant of the existence of it, nor should they.

Writercon, like any other gathering, is for the interests of the people who attend it. If it's not for your interests, that's not the end of the world, but it doesn't mean the event should change to suit you.

You are welcome to a closed mind. You are welcome to a closed lj, a closed chatroom, even a closed fandom, one that you and other like-minded people build and sequester away from those who aren't like you. You could make all of those happen. And you are welcome in the larger fic community, to present what you like and and read what you enjoy and talk about it all at impossible length, because ficcers do that. You're welcome to go to any con and express yourself (within the conventions of politeness) at any panel or discussion.

The only thing anyone here has told you is that you can't build a community of like-minded people, then go out into the wider community, denounce it for having interests outside yours, claim oppression, and expect it to change for you. The problem you have is not with something that's actually harmful, or it might be different. But you're equating something you find unsettling with something that involves violation and degradation and a glee in sexual violence, and that's - well, sickening to a degree that I never post anywhere and I wasted this long to try to make you realize just how sick you're allowing yourself to be if you really believe in your analogy.