The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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something's lost in translation
children of dune - leto 1
Until now, I didn't realize there was such a sharp demarcation between fandom pre-livejournal and now.

I'm having a moment, and it's very weird, and I'm not sure I can explain it without sounding like I'm having a close and personal experience with some sort of hallucinogen. It's not fanon or tone or even style, except it's all of those things, and it's the underlying set of base assumptions that feel like I'm reading in a foreign language.

One hundred fifty something stories and it's--okay, five million years ago in SV, I was talking to this chick who had been writing since the beginning of time and there was this fic and a flamewar going on, which normally I'd go into but not relevant except for the fact I might not have ever gotten on the subject except flamewar, so we were talking about anything else, and I asked about this fic.

I have no idea how to explain how off-balance I am. But trying.

It was a Smallville fic, and it felt wrong to me, and by that I do not mean bad. I mean, I walked out of a perfectly good fic feeling like this: we were watching the same show. Exactly. And we were in the same fandom! Except in completely parallel universes that were exactly the same except her color blue was my azure, does that make sense? I could not connect with it at all, and that was the year 2002 where I met this fic so you see I remember very vividly that strange sense of disorientation, because at that point I had read everything that was posted to SSA so it's not like I didn't know my fandom. Yes, I even read the really bad stuff. I was a glutton for punishment. I'd read things that I still try too block from my memory, and for that matter, have, but I'd never read a fic in my fandom, in my pairing, that was good, that had nothing wrong with it, that I did not understand.

So far in Due South, proportionally speaking, I'm hitting ten percent where I'm not disoriented, and this is after I reduced my sampling size to authors I've read in at least two fandoms and at least once wanted to marry. It is not helping.

To return to my charming anecdote (the SV fic of strangeness, you don't have to scroll back up now), the person I spoke to gave me this long explanation that I don't even remember all that well (would that I did), but I came out of it with the vague idea it was Some Kind of Convention of Slash That I Did Not Know, Not Being a Slasher of the Old School You Poor First Slash Fandom Person or something, which is in retrospect kind of patronizing, but I could be misremembering that, since you know, 2002.

However, recent experience suggests she was kind of right, at least in the fact that the disassociated feeling is actually not a fluke and not the result of reading in a different fandom after SGA monogamy.

It's very, very disconcerting.

ETA: People, if I knew what this feeling was called, I would be explaining without analogies. I'd reduce it to a sentence.

I'm a little confused.

*nods* It's definitely an age thing. I like to think that with queer theory, etc, etc, the community deals with slash tropes in a very different manner.

I think it's because mailing lists are mostly linear in their discussions, whereas livejournal is a radial model. Ideas disseminate in a different manner.

But don't be discouraged! There's some FANTASTIC stuff being written out there at the moment! What are you reading currently?

Oh, I know! And it'snot that it's not good either, because all of it is. But the way I think and read in fandom are just--really dissimilar.

Fandoms can be intensely bound by their own conventions. I think pre-LJ this was even more the case, for a couple of reasons:

(1) Greater insularity. People didn't know what was going on just five blocks over; maybe they didn't know there was a five blocks over.

(2) With only one or two outlets for fic, there was a certain (unintended) pressure towards conformity in style and tone--I mean even more than there is in present-day fandoms. If all you see on the list is a certain type of fluff, for instance, it takes either a lot of nerve or a lot of naivete to fling your 90-part epic darkfic out there. I bitch a lot, but the fact is: I could not have survived in almost any of the really old-school monofandoms. Maybe Blakes 7. Maybe.

Bingo. The five block theory. Thank you. I've been trying to work out what is making me feel weird for a *week*. Early fandom + insularity + not much fandom crossover == Very Different Kind of Fandom.

It's not even trope or fluff, and I'm not sure I can make a convincing argument for style, but there *is* the feeling that most of the fic I'm reading comes from a different mindset. Well, and the large numbers of first person pov, which makes an interesting difference in how the narrative is approached.

Do you mean that you're seeing trends toward wildly different characterizations or particular tropes among certain writers or within certain time periods?

Because all of that is entirely true of DS. Canon allows for so many different takes on each character that you can make a case for a LOT of different interpretations. Way more than in any other fandom I've ever seen.

And, not to bring up the Ray Wars, but they DID color how people viewed the Rays for a long, long time. We're finally at a place where it doesn't feel quite so revolutionary to use an "I swing both Rays" or FKV OT3 icon. Which is cool. Tolerance is yay!

But yes, there's definitely old school fic and new school fic. I have a terrible memory for who writes what, but when you get to a point where you're looking for specific types of stories, go to ds_recfinders and ask. There are people there who have been in fandom for eons and have scary-good recall for fic. :)

Edited at 2008-07-05 06:03 am (UTC)

No, not trends. The way authors think. I think harriet_spy said it the way I wanted to; the conventions aren't ones I'm familiar with. In how the writers, and I mean *most* of them, are approaching how they write the stories, how they think.

Yes. That. This is *hard* to articulate!

Wench, are you gonna reveal the story or just drive me mad with curiosity? (If it was something I wrote, I won't be offended, but I'm guessing not since I don't recall a conversation like that.)

I'd have to find the story! I don't even remember hte title--I was actually looking for it to verify I wans't having some kind of weird post-dS-viewing-hangover breakdown. I know it was posted circa 2002-2003ish, though I'm almost sure 2002. And I remember vividly reading it and just feeling very weird.

Oddly, I understand exactly what you're talking about. Pre-lj and post-mailing lists (and list-serv, though I was mostly a confused wandering soul at that point relying on individual web pages and yahoo search) are two really different fandom experiences.

Oh thank God. I was having serious moments where I thought I was, you know, going crazy.

So, you've heard the three wave theory, right? First wave, people write Could-Be-An-Episode stuff; second wave, people write backstories and future stories and characterisation-heavy fic, it's where most BNFs hit big the first time around; third wave people start writing penguin!sex and wingfic and . And this is a process a fandom will go through but it's also a process people themselves go through? You'll have someone who goes through that process in one fandom and then jumps into their next fandom(s) from a third wave point of view from the beginning. (Juls and I crack that we're fifth wave writers. It's funny because it's true.)

So I think that might tie into this. Like, not directly. But, okay, fandoms evolve and *people* evolve similarly in their own path, and so much of fandom has traipsed down that path now and people traipse it faster because a majority of fandom *is* already through it on their personal path and they, you know, therefore have this whole body of fic out there that's getting people used to the third wave stuff.


The other thing is, relatedly, fandom's sorta changed. The way we relate to tropes and characters is somehow fundamentally different. Like, for one thing, the OT3 is a recognised and if not universally followed thing, people don't look at you like you're fucking nuts for suggesting a threesome. Which I gather was not always true? I mean, I've *tried* to find Star Trek: TOS threesome fic and either it didn't exist or my google-fu has failed epically.

So, hm, cognitive dissonance is not necessarily that weird if you're delving into earlier fandoms. Online media fandom's changed a lot from zine fandom and people changed with it, because a whole hell of a lot of zine fandom made that transition just fine. So that'd be why even authors you trust are still throwing you for a loop, though, because their approach has evolved along with fandom.

I do not know if this is a helpful comment or not but, there you go. My rambling thoughts on this topic.

(On a complete tangent, I really fucking hope that the new Trek movie generates not just a movie!fandom, but a resurgence of true old school Trek fic written from the modern perspective by new and old authors alike. Basically I am selfish and, you know, GIMME MY DAMN OT3 FIC, ALREADY! *g*)

Edited at 2008-07-05 06:27 am (UTC)

*curious* What OT3? Madelyn read a ton in STTOS, so she might know of it.

I didn't realize there was such a sharp demarcation between fandom pre-livejournal and now.

It's not just fandom pre-livejournal and now, it's different time periods in fandom. I came to fandom through The X-Files and know exactly what you mean because I experienced this when I started reading The Professionals fanfic. I read a lot of original slash or m/m romance too and there are some books where I just know that they must have been fanfic written during the middle of the eighties whereas other books read like current fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. You can even say whether the person writing it comes from slash or yaoi fandom. That wouldn't be possible if there weren't certain differences.

(For what it's worth, I call it time travel jet lag. *g*)

Hee! Okay, now *that* is cool. And makes sense!

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
Yeah. I totally get that feeling. And I also have no way to articulate it. I came into fandom once it was well and truly on LJ, and when I wander back through archives of older stuff, written in like, the zine days? It's SO different. Yet, it's different in this way that I can't describe. So... Maybe the feeling is not the same, I don't know, because I can't describe it. But it's weird. I mean, I can tell if I'm reading "old fic" or "new fic", but I couldn't tell you the difference. :\

So yeah. No idea if it's the same thing or not, but. *shrug*

No, you are expressing the exact feeling. Thank God. I am not alone.

I thought I had a bunch of posts about old-skool vs contemporary, but apparently I don't tag very well so I have trouble finding them. Or maybe they're all in cathexys's lj and I have just mentally appropriated them. But I do think this post about wave theory is at least tangentially related, especially since nigaeli brought up a version of wave theory above.

(Oh, and a post about what freaks me out about DS fiction. I'm starting to think I won't ever have to post to lj again, I can just... recycle myself. And doesn't that sound icky.)

*fascinated* Claustrophobia. That's--hmm. I like that.

Then again, keep in mind, I spent a lot of season four thinking RayK woudl be a lot happier if he broke with sanity and became a serial killer, so what do I know.

...which actually comes around to what you said (now you are looking at me funny, but wait!) about claustrophobia. I think that word encompasses what's making me so jumpy. The strictures built around the writing of the pairing are very specific and feel like a sonnet or a haiku, like the entire fandom is a specific literary format.

And actually, not just that pairing. With a few exceptions, every pairing written by a slash writer I'm familiar with (which are a lot), have that same feeling of working inside a set of very strict rules.

(Deleted comment)
I'm weird, aren't I.

Just... when I'm writing, I don't read fanfic in the same fandom (because I need to keep the soruce in my head, and concentrate solely on my take on it, without getting distracted by trying to differentiate it from Everyone Else's Take On The Same Characters/Show/Situations) and I think I missed the memo about fandoms having (or ending up with) a "house style".

*thoughtful* Hmm. Reading you in SV, I was never disoriented. In fact, in any of your fic. In fact, I can ciick around in Yuletide and not hit a strong feeling of disorientation. Just--here, in this fandom, everything feels a color spectrum off. Now that there is all this data? I'm kind of getting a kick out of it.

i had this exact same experience upon trying dim-sum for the first time. by every objective evaluation, it was food: everybody else was eating it. it came on dishes. they charged you for it. it even looked familiar. but when you put it in your mouth?


not that it was wrong or bad - in fact, had it tasted BAD, it would have been easier to acclimate oneself to. i could have rationalized: this is bad food, ergo i do not like it. but no, in fact, it was just... weird. and therefore disturbing on a seriously fundamental level.

i'm pretty sure you're not hallucinating, anyway. my point. :)

Ooh. Snow lobster. I remember this. It was not bad. But it felt very weird. And wrong. Even though it was tasty, it *felt wrong*. Yes. That.

I'd say there's definitely a disconnect, and why I've never done more than dabble in most of the big Old Skool Fandoms. Even if I like the show and the characters, a lot of the older fic is based on ideas about storytelling, sexuality and romance that I don't quite relate to.

However, I came across most of it in my early days here. I can imagine that going backward must be a little unsettling.

Also, Due South is especially weird, as I'd say it sits right in the middle between old and new, as a show and as a fandom.

I feel weird answering this post, because my first language isn't English, so you might not even understand what I'm talking about, or I don't understand what you're talking about, but damn, you always make me think. I'm relatively new to this whole thing, so it can't be called talking about experience either.

The first fandom I read fanfic in was QAF. I liked it, especially because it was a whole new world for me, so until about three years ago, I didn't even know what fanfic was (obviously partly because of the lack of internet and cultural precedents in my country) - so saying I started wallowing in it isn't an exaggeration. But I was very naive thinking that it's the first and last fandom I'll read fanfic in. I started to wander around LJ, coming out of my safe bunker of QAF fandom and found Smallville. I didn't spend much time there, though, but the short time I spent with SV fanfic was fun. So that was when I found your fics and saw that you wrote a lot in SGA and started to watch SGA just to read your fic.

Now, starting to read in SGA fandom was like - you know, it's a very harsh thing to say because I read good fanfic in QAF, but - eating something very exotic and fine after eating simply good bread. Silly analogy, but don't have the energy to think about a more appropriate one. It was so much more complex and it's eaten me alive, totally, because I found myself not reading any books anymore (I've read a lot of literature before that), 'cause there was so much good fanfic I couldn't stop spinning around like mad. (And I'm not even talking about SGA fandom here in general that is so amazing I don't even have words for it - even though I'm usually only lurking without really taking part.)

And now that I read DS fanfic (and again, no "experience" 'cause I obviously started with writers I know from earlier), I find that it's so much different from everything I've ever read, indeed, and it's not only because of the characters. I suppose it could be about the possibilities (and maybe SGA is so good because with those characters the possibilities are seemingly endless), but compared to the quantity of fic around, it's much harder to find what I'm looking for and writers that make me want to read everything.

I feel bad about writing this a bit, 'cause I feel like I'm a bit ungrateful for all the fic I've read (and I'm not writing at all), but at the same time it's good to write down because it keeps bugging me. I hope it makes sense.

See, I kinda know what you mean here. I was blown away by not just the quantity, but the quality of SGA fic when I started reading in this fandom, and I've been experiencing that dislocation in reverse when I read in other fandoms now, especially small fandoms. I just had a major case of that this spring, when I got hooked on Life on Mars and started looking for fic, because, wow, SGA has totally spoiled me. Like you said - it's not that the fic is bad - it's just that for the most part, what's considered really, really good fic over there is only up to par with middle-of-the-road fic over here. And I feel like I've learned a lot just from reading SGA fic and looking at the way the stories are put together, in the same way that I learn a lot about the writing craft from reading a good book - which is something that I really never got from any fandom before.

From the other side of things, such writing as I've done in the different stages of fandom (xeroxed fanzine, email list-based fic, lj fic) has seemed different from one another, and I don't think it was the different fandoms.

In highschool, before I'd heard the term "fandom" I worked on a fanzine with some local friends for the original Battlestar Galactica. We were writing about Commander Cain and the Pegasus, and put out a zine every few months for years. (I think my fondness for Parrish/Lorne shippers stems from this—talk about your rare fandoms.) This was all done plotting things out face to face or on the phone, with all the different takes on characters smoothed out before pen hit paper. (Lots of OFC Mary-Sues, too, but I think that's because we were all 16.)

Much later I joined up with the Sith Academy email list, and discussed my story a bit with the web mistress before the story went to the group, and then onto the website. There were more people seeing the fic, and an ironic take on Mary Sues, but still a very clear idea of what the type of story should be.

I got onto lj just in time for the height of Smallville fandom. I wrote a story that I posted in my own journal, and while it was based on a request from Thamiris, and was surely informed by all the SV fic I'd been reading, I felt free to play around with style and how I saw the character.

So, yes, as the fandoms and media have changed the sort of writing I've done have changed with them. (OK, the fact that I'm out of high school and 40 have also changed my writing, I hope.) The process has become both more solitary in process, and more communal in publishing and reading. My buddy down the road who runs the zine can't tell me that my idea of Cain/Maul/Lex is too weird to go into the zine. But I'm not sitting around the kitchen table tossing around plot ideas with fellow zine writers, either. On the other hand, our disagreements about what should go into the zine didn't end up in fandom wank.

*thoughtful* I'm marking this one. The combination of factors.

Hmm, interesting.

It's not something I ever noticed with dS myself - I started reading dS slash probably about... 1999ish? Pre-LJ anyway; I was reading on archives and personal websites - in fact, at one point I think I had read everything in the due Slash archive (I was a student, I had time) - but I only joined fandom on LJ in 2005. I don't think I ever noticed an assumption shift particularly between them. There were many stories in the archives I didn't care for but I always figured that was just an author thing.

But like someone else commented above, I really did notice it when I started reading some Professionals slash not that long ago - just this feeling that the authors' were coming at it from a completely different starting point than I was. It is disorientating.

Actually, I can think of a dS instance - there is a series that I read initially and loved and when I went back to it recently I just couldn't connect with the feel of its landscape at all. That was weird. But most of the dS fic I loved to start with still works for me - maybe if I was reading some for the first time I would feel a difference, but they are familiar favourites now.

Maybe your brain was pre-set to undersatnd those? Like knowing a foreign language. You know Spanish so the French adn Italian, ahh, logic, but then there's, I don't know, Estonian, and you're kind of, huh?

I've just started watching dS, too (inspired by buying the complete collection for $25 at Deep Discount DVD), and I've been looking forward to finishing it up so that I can start reading fic by all these authors I love, so it's very very interesting to get your take on this!

SGA was my first buddy slash fandom -- I read and wrote slash prior to SGA, but it was always in fandoms where the slash pairings were tangential to the main arc of both canon and fandom (XF, Buffy, the older generation in HP, etc.) And so I've been wondering what my fannish life would have been like if I'd done things differently. What if I had watched dS when it first aired? Would it have resonated with me? Would participating in the fandom have changed my fannish friendships? My approach to fanfic?

I was so completely wrapped up in The X-Files back in those days. It was my entry into fandom, and it completely changed my life (both the show itself and the fandom experiences I had). And believe me, XF fandom was SRS BZNS -- the future of the universe was at stake! I don't think I would have been able to switch back and forth from that headspace to the space of buddy slash. And I say that based on my general view of what buddy slash is like now, so it will be really interesting to see if the mindset of a different era is even *more* different that what I'm imagining now, or if historical dS is actually closer in some ways to what we were doing in XF back then.

I can email you the fic that were--transitional? That felt off but didn't leave me quite so stranded, if you like. I mean, there is *ton* of good fic, just tons, but none I feel melded with yet.

It's a generation gap, except not because it's a technology gap.

First there were the dinosaurs, with their zines and communicating via mail. *And* the secrecy; you didn't know slash existed unless you knew the secret handshake and got to see the zines that were kept under the table at the cons. Which got you the mailing addresses to integrate further.

Then came the beginning of the industrial age, with its newsgroups (alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, anyone?) and a bit later, yahoo/delphi/etc groups. Secrecy dropped away, but, especially toward the beginning, only the hardcore geeks knew how to use the newsgroups. (That also led to an overlap in the timeline, because some old zine diehards didn't want to shift to the newsgroups.)

Now we're in the modern age, with lj and all its clones. Zines have mostly died off, even as a print novelty. Some yahoo groups still exist, but we're evolving separately from them.

Enough survives from each age (like the term 'slash' itself) that you *think* it's all the same. But it's not because the secrecy, and the way fen communicated, shaped society and language.


See, that I kind of knew about, though I hadn't connected it to the concpet of style before now. Fascinating.

Do you remember the Hummus rant? The hummus rant grew out of Sentinel fandom, and the theory at the time was that too much communication led to the same story (same length story, same takes on the characters, same themes, same tropes, same fanon) being written by many different people (aka, everyone new thinks it's a hummus banquet.) So when you sit down at the table, there's a lot of stuff, but after awhile there's the feeling of 'that's it? where's the cherry pie? And I would kill for a hot dog right now.)

In reaction, there was then a wave of 'dark stories' that would come out, but again, similar badfic characterization, similar takes on 'edgy' behavior, etc, etc, etc. Then another wave of some other variety of story--let's say post-betrayal fic, since everyone had to write it--and then another after that.

And every single one of those waves of stories is stored in the big ol' archive, and lucky you, you get to read them all at once. No wonder your brain wants to explode. You have no idea what triggered each of the waves, and have no context for why so many stories are exactly the same. (Just, you know, written by different authors.)

Modern stories don't tend to react to each other the way old ones did. We have fests and challenges, but even with the 1K word count limit, it doesn't feel as thematically the same as it used to. You can still get into waves of similar fiction -- McSmooch, actually, is very reminiscent of what you are calling old skool slash -- but in general, unless you read an author and their posse exclusively, there is a lot more variety in the base of work because pools of people don't necessarily come in contact with each other. So the weird stories don't get wiped out of the gene pool before they begin.

edited for horrific formatting

Edited at 2008-07-05 03:01 pm (UTC)

Yes. Reactivity. A lot of stories in list culture were fish evolving in the same pond, mating with the same idea-fish and so having similar youngsters until a new mutant sexy idea-fish came along.

This is what has me excited about the idea of you writing DS. Your fic's sensibility (for want of a better word) is different from typical DS fic's, and might actually be more in keeping with the show's vibe, if that makes sense.

*worries* Or--I won't speak the language well enough for others to enjoy. That does worry me, actually.

Honing in on one thing, because I just wrote an essay on this (and plus, well, you can take the girl out of cybertheory, etc): I am slowly becoming convinced that the impact on fandom of the switch to Livejournal as our dominant medium of interaction really cannot be overestimated. It's sometimes easy to dismiss, because hey, here we are, still arguing about warning labels, but I think the impact of Livejournal on fannish culture is almost as profound as the impact of the internet itself. I'd expand on that, but I'm still kind of teasing it out myself.

Since I was just having this discussion elsewhere: I think one thing LJ did (or maybe it just coincided with LJ?) is that the community all of a sudden got much much bigger and less similar (if that makes sense and I mean that both in the way that media fans became more diverse themselves and in the way there's been less of an initiation/how to behave way of approaching things which creates all kinds of positive and negative results).

So, yes, you know I'm 100% there with you on technology and infrastructure, but I also think that different needs and expectations and desires and ways of interacting may have a lot to answer for....

I would love to see this discussion include examples. The lack of examples is interacting with the fact that I'm on my first cup of coffee to give me the feeling that I *might* know what you're talking about, and then I might be thinking (or in my case "thinking") of something else entirely.

I love specifics. And more coffee.

You know, the one I want to use is Cesperanza, because I actually know what fic finally clicked for me so I could re-read and understand teh rest. Eight Sessions transitioned me enough to *read* the others again and follow like a learner of a second language. It was close enough to what I was used to that I could follow it.

Chiming in a little late here, but I think I know what you're talking about. Moving from almost exclusively LJ-based fandoms into an older fandom that was largely zine/newsgroup based has been really disorienting for me. It's not that most of the fic I've found is bad, because most of it really isn't, but I still can't seem to get through more than a few paragraphs without giving up because something just bugs me.

I think your comment about the underlying assumptions just being different hits the nail right on the head. Now I just wish diving in with my own assumptions wasn't quite so daunting.

Yes. That. Not bad. And enjoyable! But--distant in a way that feels odd and unconnected.


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