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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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the return of the hummus
bored
seperis
Found it!

And by it, I mean this essay. I keep not bookmarking it. For hetrez.

Slash Fiction Is Like a Banquet by Arduinna. Published in 1999, probably one of the most read fannish essays that I know of--not that I track it or anything, but it's possibly one of the best and most fun ways to make a particular point I've ever seen.

Now, lemon-garlic hummus is wonderful stuff. And there are times when it's exactly what you want. But it's hard to eat lemon-garlic hummus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and feel satisfied. You can feel full, but you probably won't feel satisfied. Especially at one bite a bowl -- and the very nature of this particular hummus made it go stale very quickly after that first bite. So people who were used to a varied banquet, with lots of different choices, started feeling unsatisfied with all the hummus, and said so. But people who were used to just being able to get at the hummus tried to hush them -- if you start complaining about hummus, people will stop bringing it! And then there will be nothing to eat! And because everyone was feeling full-but-slightly-unsatisfied, every time someone brought another bowl of hummus a great cheer went up -- maybe this would fill that final corner up, so the diners would be satisfied.

Read the entire thing. It's short, it's fascinating, it's couched in metaphor, and it's extremely, almost painfully accurate.

Re-reading--because let's all face it, the last thing I'm going to do at work is work--it's just as interesting the first time, especially at this point, when I can apply to both types of stories (novel, pwp, gen, pairing, name it) and also, more interestingly to me personally, certain types of fanon.

Hmm.

I always read it as an essay on the value of diversity in general in fandom--sometimes as a challenge to do something new that you (or the fandom) hasn't done before, sometimes for the reader to expand on what they already read to include something new, and sometimes to please in the name of God spellcheck your work before posting, depending on what mood I'm in. But it also can be a call to break from a mental lock on what you think a character is or could be and expand to think of all the other things he or she is. Fanon!Slut!John is intersting, but Military!John and Geek!John are fun, too. Psychotically!Obnoxious!Rodney is fun, but Scientist!Rodney's perfectionism in his work is cool as well. And on and on.

Most of me knows it comes back to personal preference--there are some pairings I won't read, some types of plotlines I won't read, some characterizations I can't buy, and some things I'm just not interested in no matter how good the author is. And there are things I won't write, mostly due to the above, but also my skill level--I'm not going to write rape because I just don't think I could do it justice. I rarely write threesomes because Jesus, pronouns and body parts. Slavery squicks me so unless I had a fairly large plotline attached to it that made up for it, I'm pretty sure I'd never write that.

I do wonder, though, if it can be expanded to include fandom choice in general. A fandom is a very personal thing to anyone, but I think it makes a good argument for being willing to write outside what you're used to, especially if you're in a fandom read-only for whatever reason. I wonder sometimes if part of a reason a fan, for whatever reason, chooses not to write in a fandom (separate from just not being interested in writing, which is fair) is even at the best of times, posting in a few fandom, no matter who you are, is freakishly stressful. To post into one where you have minimal interaction with the fandom itself and that has a lot of active writers already, or to a small one with a few very loyal writers, can be a little--er. Intimidating.

Or I could be totally reading way too much into that essay. But darn it, it's fun.

ETA: Random, but thought I had last week. I wonder if any of the above in individual readers is affected by how much time they spend in a particular fandom or how long they've been in fandom in general. There's no real way to poll that, but I've wondered.


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Good essay. And a good point. Back in the day there were times when I just wanted a short, sweet piece about Mulder and Scully have an emotional moment in a random hotel room and getting it on, but not always, you know? And while I'm glad that fic is there, I'm also glad that other fic is out there too.

ETA: Random, but thought I had last week. I wonder if any of the above in individual readers is affected by how much time they spend in a particular fandom or how long they've been in fandom in general. There's no real way to poll that, but I've wondered.
Almost certainly. This summer marks my tenth year in online fandom, and while I certainly haven't contributed as much as some (understatement), there's a certain zen in being around that long. This wank too will pass, you know?

I'm willing to read in just about any fandom. I think it took me the longest to move past my first fandom, but after that? As long as I have pictures and an accurate description of characters? I'll often go for it if it looks like there's good fic to read.

I'll read just about anything once. And I mean anything. It's just words, you know? I might stop in the middle and hit the back button, but I'll try it. Not necessarily for purely enjoyment value at this point, but out of curiosity and from an analytic point of view. I think I used to subconsciously believe just reading it is endorsing it, but it's not. I fully trust my ability to read something and still disagree with it. Sadly, I think I don't randomly scour archives for new, rarely seen fic. That's more to do with how busy I am right now, and that I'm not as interested in fandom right now then anything else, I think.

I'll read just about anything once. And I mean anything. It's just words, you know? I might stop in the middle and hit the back button, but I'll try it. Not necessarily for purely enjoyment value at this point, but out of curiosity and from an analytic point of view. I think I used to subconsciously believe just reading it is endorsing it, but it's not. I fully trust my ability to read something and still disagree with it.

I go through phases on, outside my squick, what I will and won't read. In SV, I literally tried everything once, just to see what it was like. SGA, less so, but possibly because I already know what I like pretty much.

I've always been dubious about the premise though that back in zine fandom, before it was opened more there was really more diversity in percentages (obviously with hundred thousands of stories there's more diversity in absolutes even if 99% was hummus). I mean, I couldn't really say for certain since I only joined fanfic fandom online, but I've certainly seen a fair share of growth in various fandoms since 1997/8 when I first joined, and it never seemed to me that things start out as small and most diverse then grow and become more uniform. Sure, some fanon and story conventions from popular early stories propagate, but with growth always come more opportunity for counter trends, too.

Hmm. I wonder sometimes if it's a product of how old a fandom is. There is a higher perceived diversity in everything early on, with less people concentrating in any one area. I do think that at least part of perceived sameness in later fandom is simply the age of the fandom and the length of time some people have been in it, writers who have been there two or so years and found their voices and their comfort zones.

And it could be the older a fandom is, the less likely in general there's a desire for diversity as well.

Is that premise there? I've always felt that zine fandom (and even pre LJ fandom) was much more homogenous... *ponders*

Thanks for the link. I know some of the places where the newcomers won't see other than the lemon garlic hummus ;)

One thing, though; I don't think that the praise (without merit) that the hummus receives would or should discourage the original good meal writers to not try anymore. As I see it, the praise for the hummus isn't away from the good meal writers (and how could it be, since in the original esseay, the table was endless and more people joined, so there wouldn't be one fixed amound of attention that all the fics would receive combined). So, blaiming the hummus bringers for the lack of good meals wouldn't be something that I would agree on. However, they can be blamed for the difficulty of finding anything good for all that hummus, and foor keeping bringing the same stuff in a point where the cooks would have originally trained and transferred to more difficult stuff.

Hmm. I agree on the blame issue for the most part, I do. However.

There is a part of me that wants hummus writers to, you know, expand their food repetoire. Er. They don't *have* to of course--their fannish experience--but at the same time, when there are ten hummus plates on teh table, you kind of want to ask someone to bring cake.

So no, not blame, but maybe a challenge to work beyond what you know or are known for. Sort of. Maybe?

I agree. But which one would it be, the hummus bringers keeping with what they know because they are blind to see that there should and could be other things, too, (This is the recipe that it's supposed to go!)or, thye know about the other foods but they are too lazy to try to make them because the hummus will give the cook the same praise with lesser work? The first one The second? Both?

And anyway, why we are discussing about praise anyway, wasn't the fanfic supposed to be NOT about the praise??

(Deleted comment)
Oh, you give me joy.

*goes to read*

Thanks for the link, I haven't read that before.
It's very interesting.

It's all one big bowl of hummus to me

(Anonymous)
Or maybe there's an apples/oranges fruit salad thing going on here. Because it seems to me that diversity and originality in fiction and stepping outside the box can be at odds with the basic premise of fandom, which is to perpetuate a beloved universe. Fan fiction can enrich the universe and explore its outer boundaries, but there's a limit it can't cross and still be part of the fandom (although, I've got to say that Atlantis is the most flexible fandom I've seen - even more than the Whedonverse, with all its magicks and other dimensions). So, I guess I'm saying that Fandom = Hummus, and all the variations of its fiction are just different flavors of the same thing.

I've been in fandom since...before I was born, I guess. My grandmother was part of a Sherlock Holmes society in Greece. My mother was in several sci-fi groups (also in Greece), became a Star Trek fan when we moved to the US, and is now devoted to SG-1 and Atlantis. We've always been able to spend hours debating "what if." I don't know if your "poll" implied that long-time fans are more or less likely to venture into a new fandom. From my experience, being a long-time fan makes it more likely that my imagination will be captured by a new fandom - but it will be a fandom of a similar genre or "feel." I might venture from sci-fi to the Whedonverse (in which I was very active for 8 years even though I hate horror) but I won't be reading any Law & Order fanfic.

Eurydice

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