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.
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.