Yuletide Controversies

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Fandom: Yuletide, multifandom
Dates: 2003-present
See also: Yuletide, History of Yuletide

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

As with any large fannish endeavor, Yuletide has generated its share of wank, drama, and imbroglios.

Religion and Yuletide

In October 2007, fan mamadeb made a post in which she expressed her discomfort with the fact that signups for Yuletide were to take place during Sukkot, a turn of events that would make it more difficult for religious Jews to participate. Her post drew a lot of criticism, much of which chopchica assembled into another post, don we now our flameproof armor. In it she reposted her own first response to the situation: "All most of us are asking for is some acknowledgment that when a fic exchange takes place over Christmas, co-opts symbols used for Christmas, and goes live on Christmas, that people agree that it's Christmas-based...Instead, what we tend to get is mocking at the best, claims of playing the race card and screaming oppression, and accusations of trying to destroy everybody's holiday squee. That's what drives me (and many others) nuts." Other Jewish and Muslim fans spoke out about their own experiences of the Secret Santa phenomenon, which chopchica later rounded up in a list of links.

In their counterargument, many fans pointed out that the schedule had been created by Jewish exchange mods, that the trappings of Yule are originally pagan, and that devout Christians would have just as much, if not more, trouble meeting the demands of Yuletide for religious reasons.[1] Furthermore, while signups began on a Jewish holiday that year, they usually run for 1–2 weeks during late October/Early November.[2] As there is no benefit to an author signing up on the first day as opposed to the last day, the fact sign-ups opened on a Jewish holiday felt like a nonissue to many fans. Others noted that the framing of the conversation was itself problematic; Kass wrote, "When we define ourselves as the non-Christians who find yuletide problematic, we turn ourselves into the 'un-cola' -- a negative definition, rather than a positive one. We become complicit in a diminished definition of Judaism, one which centers around this snarl of tangled feelings of marginalization and victimhood."[3]

For some Jewish fans, the issue became a symbol of the invisibility of Jews in fandom, and was one of the original inspirations for the founding of stilljewish.

"Eastern" vs. "Western" Fandoms

Yuletide has long been plagued by problems relating to the divisions and culture clashes between "Eastern" and "Western" fandoms. Generally, these terms are shorthand for fandoms based on Eastern source media such as anime, manga, manhua, manhwa, wuxia, tokusatsu, East Asian dramas, Bollywood movies, RPF centering around K-Pop and J-Pop artists, Japanese video games on the one hand and for fandoms based on Western source media, particularly those traditionally adopted by mainly Western media fans, on the other.

Over the years, many fans have raised concerns about the representation of Eastern/non-Western source fandoms and the inclusion of them in Yuletide. Dark Agenda started partly as a result of these concerns while there have been multiple attempts to start similar exchanges or challenges with a focus on Eastern or on East Asian sources. Found in Translation was started in 2006 as a rare fandom exchange for East Asian source media, but it never made past the brainstorming stage. Another noteworthy example is Tanabata, started in 2009, which is still stuck in development stages due to the moderator's real life conflicts. Parallels, the successor to Found in Translation finally got off the ground in 2011.

However, the issues of eligibility and inclusion remain topics of contention. For example, Yuletide's franchise rule was believed to have been instituted partly because it's difficult to check the rarity of gaming fandoms, generally those from Japanese source such as the Final Fantasy franchise, and to match requests for them.[4] [Placeholder for discussions of gaming fandoms and Yuletide's franchise rule.]

When Yuletide hinted early in 2010 about using AO3 to check the rarity of fandoms nominated, many fans expressed concerns about using a Western source dominant archive as a metric for fandom presence.[5] They feared this new system of checking eligibility, for one, will work against anime, manga and gaming fandoms:

The paltry size of animangame fandoms [...] on AO3 means that damn near all of them are probably eligible, which likely means eligibility for even the big fandoms that Yuletide thankfully excluded in the past to focus on ones that actually needed some attention [...] and that makes me intensely grumpy.[6]

As well as against East Asian drama and K-Pop/J-Pop fandoms. A fear that was confirmed when Arashi, Big Bang, Hetalia: Axis Powers, Ranma 1/2, Sailor Moon, SHINee, Super Junior, Tales of Symphonia, Tekken, Tokyo Babylon, Trigun, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, xxxHoLic, Yami no Matsuei and other similar fandoms with a large online presence, historically and/or presently, were listed in Yuletide's initial list of eligible fandoms.[7] (Of the fandoms noted, Arashi and Tokyo Babylon remain eligible.) [Placeholder for discussions of Yuletide, AO3 and East Asian source fandoms.]

The moderators have been upfront about the fact that they aren't overly familiar with Eastern source fandoms and frequently ask participants for help judging fandom rarity or identifying nominated fandoms.

In early years of Yuletide, complaints were usually about the difficulty of being matched if one requested too many Eastern source fandoms. In 2010, complaints focused on the unresponsiveness of the moderators and how media fandom cluelessness about topics like anime and manga makes fans from those fandoms feel unwelcome.

Yuletide Madness: Stocking Stuffers and Treats

Prior to Yuletide's move to AO3, the final run-up to the opening of the archive was billed as "Yuletide Madness", a period during which all Yuletide prompts were revealed and writers were encouraged to write "stocking stuffers"—stories of less than 1,000 words, earmarked for any recipient. This had a twofold purpose: it provided more stories for everyone to read, and also offered a "safety net" against emergencies where a pinch-hitter might unexpectedly bow out at the last minute, perhaps leaving a recipient with no story at all.

At around the time of the initial move to AO3—which allowed the mods to segregate a given year's stories into a "main" collection and a separate "Madness" collection under the shared Yuletide umbrella—the phrase "stocking stuffers" began to fall out of use. It was supplanted and eventually replaced by the term "treats", referring both to works with word count below the 1,000-word minimum and to works of any length written by someone other than a recipient's assigned author. Treats meeting the 1,000-word length minimum and which fully comply with the a recipient's original prompts may (per the mods) be posted to either that year's main story collection or to the Madness collection. All other unassigned stories, of whatever length, are expected to go to the Madness collection, which thus consists entirely (if not quite exclusively) of treats.

While stocking stuffers were generally viewed as a positive feature, with many participants considering Madness their favorite part of Yuletide, others argued that any "extra" story written at the last minute—especially a full-length work (i.e. over 1,000 words) -- steps on the assigned author's toes, taking away from the specialness of the official gift. This can be especially problematic if a treat is better-received than the assigned work, whether by the recipient or the Yuletide readership at large. Those holding this view sit out the last-minute Madness phase so as to avoid hurting an assigned author's feelings.

Some contributors also believe that a rush of quickly written last-minute stories, often uploaded without benefit of beta, lowers the overall quality of the archive, in contrast to the care most writers take with their assignments. This perception may also be colored by some Yuletiders' campaigns to increase the story count from one year to the next, implicitly emphasizing quantity over quality. (It should be noted that the impetus for such increases has arisen almost entirely from the participants, not the moderators—probably because more stories create more work for those running the challenge.)

As the exchange has grown, the distinction between full-length treats and assigned works has become somewhat blurred, as it's not possible for the recipient to distinguish between a treat and an assigned story if both are posted to the main collection (unless the treat's author tags the story as such, or otherwise identifies their work as a treat). Though uncommon, it's also possible for a full-length treat to effectively become a de facto pinch-hit if the treat is posted early and the originally assigned writer defaults late in the game. (Under practice present as of 2018, both the main and Madness Yuletide collections open for posting as soon as assignments go out.)

Yuletide & AO3

Editing & Deadlines

The switch to the Archive of Our Own has allowed authors greater control over their stories, with both positive and negative results.

On the plus side, authors are now able to correct minor typos before the exchange goes live. The flexibility of the AO3 tag system has also enabled authors to add treats in fandoms not actually nominated for Yuletide at all (for example, the gag fandom Ghost Soup Infidel Blue).

However, AO3's editing features have also allowed authors to post unfinished stories (so long as the word-count minimum is met). This technically fulfills the assignment, and permits an author to push their deadline much closer to the moment of the reveal than was previously possible. Some authors use this "feature" successfully. Unfortunately, not all of these deadline-pushing authors actually complete and upload finished works prior to the reveal, a situation that leaves recipients with unfinished works—or sometimes no story at all, if the writer deletes an incomplete work entirely at the last moment. This puts additional pressure on the moderators (and on prospective pinch hitters), as this sort of "phantom default" can't be monitored or tracked until the reveal actually goes live.

The OTW Connection

The move to AO3 prompted some fans to end their participation in Yuletide, on the grounds that archiving their stories on AO3 would associate them with AO3's parent group, the Organization for Transformative Works—an organization they did not wish to support. This tension has continued in the years since the move, most recently in connection with the importing to AO3 of all stories archived at yuletidetreasure.org, which was finally executed in May 2014 after several years' delay. Open Doors has indicated that authors of stories so imported will be permitted to orphan those works, but even that measure seems unlikely to satisfy all parties involved.

Some 2010 discussion (five pages of comments!) is at fandom_wank, see: Beat your breasts, maidens, and rend your tunics.

American Idol

Before Season 7, American Idol fandom was eligible for Yuletide. After Cookleta, the fandom was split into seasons for Yuletide purposes, and Season 7 was allowed under the first year rule. After Kradam, Season 8 was also allowed under the first year rule. In 2010, the fandom was excluded, and grouped as one fandom instead of separate seasons, thus excluding the rare fandoms of Seasons 1-6 and 9. This prompted some controversy. Reference: http://ignaz.dreamwidth.org/375110.html

Lack of F/F

In 2011, a fan wrote: " If AO3 if an accurate indication, we have somehow gone through nearly ten years of Yuletide without anyone requesting Sappho. How on Earth did we all miss this? Somebody, please, tell me I'm wrong -- I did a tag search and couldn't find a single thing in the archive." [8]

Feedback & Recs

As with many large fannish endeavours, hurt feelings can arise due to (lack of) feedback and recs.

The yearly post where everyone is invited to complain about their gifts; the creation of yuletide_coal in 2010, thread on fail_fandomanon about gifts, etc.

The "Cult of Nice" & Fest Etiquette

Some Yuletide participants feel that Yuletide suffers from "the cult of nice" - any comments that question the mods or fest policy are out to "ruin Yuletide." Other people point out that the mods are doing a favour to fandom by hosting such a large fest, and that criticisms run counter to the spirit of Yuletide. It is generally agreed that it is poor etiquette to speak badly of one's gift in public.

Elynross says of the matter: "We get flak for our supposed "Cult of Nice," but people can go be shits anywhere else they want. We'd rather not deal with them here, if at all possible, and I honestly don't see anything wrong with asking for respect and politeness and generosity in your dealings in the Yuletide arena. Fortunately the vast majority of Yuletiders seem to agree." [9]

The main Yuletide community has several unofficial spinoff communities where people can anonymously complain about the fest: Yuletide Coal and Yuletide Unofficial. Yuletide also generates a lot of discussion, both positive and negative, at Fail Fandom Anon.

For further discussion, refer to Exchange Etiquette.


  1. ^ Yuletide persecutes Jews, in: Fandomwank, 09 October 2007.
  2. ^ Yuletide Schedule accessed December 31, 2008
  3. ^ On Judaism and fandom, accessed November 3, 2008.
  4. ^ Discussion on Yuletide and gaming fandoms in cyper's Dreamwidth, posted on 11 November 2010. (Accessed on 19 November 2010.)
  5. ^ Discussion on Yuletide's plan to use AO3 as a metric in elf's Dreamwdith, posted on 27 August 2010. (Accessed on 19 November 2010.)
  6. ^ Discussion about possible changes to Yuletide eligibility in naraht's Dreamwidth, posted on 28 August 2010. (Accessed on 19 November 2010.)
  7. ^ Astolat. last chance to yawp about eligible fandoms! signup coming soon!, posted on 08 November 2010 at yuletide_admin's LiveJournal community. (Accessed on 19 November 2010.)
  8. ^ Wow. How have we not done this yet?, firecelydreamed (May 6, 2011)
  9. ^ http://yuletide-admin.livejournal.com/132372.html?thread=5251860#t5251860 (Accessed Dec. 28, 2011)