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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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hummus, take two
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Does anyone remember the context of Slash Fiction Is Like a Banquet? I read it within a year of it being posted--probably around 2000, a bit before I started writing slash.

One of the first qualifiers I ever learned to use, and now use obsessively, is "I think". "To me". "From what I have seen". There are a lot of reasons for this--most notably when I was very new in fandom and I'd participate in discussions that I had zero context for but was interested in, but wanted to, you know, not get my ass flamed for saying something incredibly stupid. I mean, sure, I still got singed once in a while, but the habit's been set and I think how I interact with fandom in general now tends to be influenced by that. And a lot of the things I've had problems with over time has been the absolutism of some kinds of meta, whereas I like the open-ended question best. More--I like the fact there's no single right answer, that most of the time there isn't a right answer, and that most people tend to be comfortable aware that their own way of thinking or interacting with fandom is not necessarily the only one.

So Hummus, in and out of context.

I always read it as less a 'stop writing x' or even a 'you should be writing y', but instead as a kind of challenge to writers, and readers, to expand their reading and writing into places they usually wouldn't go.



I think it might sometimes read as an accusation. Or it can be used as one, in fandoms with strong OTPs (aka 'your pairing is oppressing my pairing, and also, you are boring and your hair is stupid.' I love fandom. Until that part starts) or even between fandoms ('your fandom is large and oppresses my smaller fandom, blah boring blah hair'), or far more fun to me personally, really insiduous fanon ('oh my god you do not write anything like canon and your feet smell'). And the always popular and teethgrinding joy of long essays of explanation on how you are thinking wrong (whatever it may be, from pairing to how a story is written to how the characters act to how you interact with fandom). Always a joy to behold.

Fandoms, especially ones after their second anniversary, get into ruts. That is not new. I like ruts--ruts are comfortable and expected and, for me, make fandom fun. I like a certain level of predictibility where I can get comfortable, be able to click, and not, you know, come out marginally scarred or mildly homicidal or disliking the author for weeks and having to filter her out of my flist because I have flashbacks of horror. (Yes, it's neurotic and nuts. Seriously, I do not care. My fannish experience = my rules.) I kind of like hummus. It's comfort food. Metaphorical hummus, that is. I still haven't actually had hummus itself. Sometimes, my hummus is someone else's icky liver casserole, and this could be taking the metaphor too far and too confusingly. It is. Let's try again.

Hummus never struck me as a bad thing, even an overabundance. I mean, no, if I hate hummus, wow, I'm screwed, and trust me on this one, the hummus of SGA is not always my hummus and I spend a lot of time staring resentfully at the newsletter at all the things I cannot eat. Read. That. It's not restricted to pairing, either--I have specific hummus requirements in my pairing, and even more specific hummus requiremetns outside it. So even a hummus banquet can be frustrating.

Here's the thing. I don't actually think there's an overabundance of hummus. I don't even think, most of the time, there's that big a lack of variety in general. There's just an overabundance of what I don't like, and there always will be, forever, because I don't like it. And in almost any fannish meta or discussion, I think a lot of it can be boiled down to that single point. Which is why I hate absolutism--it *is* this way, it *should* be this way, you are *doing it wrong*, you are *thinking wrong*. I am perfectly willing to state that there is far, far too much slut!John fic--but that's because it's not my favorite characterization and I don't read it, so inevitably, I will bitterly note the fic that is and feel marginalized and you know, grumpy. Or ranty. Whatever. That doesnt' change my basic awareness of one pertinent fact--there actually isn't that much of it.

So. This is a really, really strange way of explaining--it's not that anyone should do anything, or that they're doing anything *wrong*, pairingwise, plotlinewise, etc. What it reads to me as is a reminder of what else is out there and that we could attempt. Especially if we are, say, like me, and complain that there isn't enough x fic or too much y fic or get cranky and gripe that they want z-fic and why is no one writing it?. But as an absolute? I don't think even the original writer meant it as a guide to how you should live your fannish experience. (I really love that term, fannish experience.) To me--see, qualifier? Because hey, I can be wrong)--it's more a reminder of the possibilities inherent in what we do as readers and writers.

And okay, that sounds insane. Now I will do work. Sort of. Or pretend to.


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Does anyone remember the context of Slash Fiction Is Like a Banquet?
I think it grew out of a discussion on FCA-L? Unfortunately I lost my mail archives from before late 1999 due to a hard disk crash, so I don't have that saved anymore to look it up.

I'd wondered about what was going on at the time that inspired it. There are a lot of reasons it could have been written, and I'm wondering now what exactly it was.

Something I noted from the Hummus Essay were the references to how the good, hard-working cooks who do everything from scratch and invent new recipes etc wonder why they should bother if everyone just likes and wants hummus. It seems to be missing the point (as it is for me, anyway). I "cook", albeit much less frequently than I'd like (the rarity being due to work-and-home demands on my time). When I do cook, however, I do it for the joy of the thing. I'm not a BNF. No-one knows my name, or really gives a shit about my dishes, and sometimes no-one ever even tastes them, but cooking them is fun, and they look pretty (to me) on the table, and seeing them there, seeing them exist like little creatures I've given birth to and then set free (oh the torturous mixing of metaphors), makes *me* happy. I don't care if other people think they are creme brulee or hummus, or even don't notice them at all in the rush for the chocolate cake next to them. They make *me* happy, damnit. I think once one loses that joy... well... the only person poorer for it is oneself.

Yes! Exactly! All hummus is not equal to everyone else. And I love my specific hummus, by God. Even if others don't.

God, there has got to be a new way to say that.

I think it might sometimes read as an accusation.

I think that's because the exact same rhetoric of diversity that can be used to encourage people can (and is) also used to criticise people with strong preferences. It's - a delicate balance, I guess, and sometimes context matters rather a lot. I can't now remember whether I've read this particular essay before, but reading it out of context earlier, I did have something of a knee-jerk reaction. I doubt the writer meant to say that hummus is inherently inferior, and people need to eat other things for their own good, but the metaphor lends itself to that kind of interpretation.

Hummus never struck me as a bad thing, even an overabundance. I mean, no, if I hate hummus, wow, I'm screwed, and trust me on this one, the hummus of SGA is not always my hummus and I spend a lot of time staring resentfully at the newsletter at all the things I cannot eat. Read. That. It's not restricted to pairing, either--I have specific hummus requirements in my pairing, and even more specific hummus requiremetns outside it. So even a hummus banquet can be frustrating.

I kind of love this passage. And I completely agree - we always notice the things that bug us far more, precisely because they bug us.

And I totally agree with your point about possibilities. Variety is good! And that's exactly the problem with absolutist arguments - you can't encourage variety or exploration by setting up a Right/Wrong dichotomy. I don't think the essay in question is saying that, at all, but I'm admittedly bothered by a metaphor that can too easily be interpreted that way. (Mostly because, you know, actually living on hummus? Not so healthy! *g*)

Okay. That - sort of made sense in my head?

And I totally agree with your point about possibilities. Variety is good! And that's exactly the problem with absolutist arguments - you can't encourage variety or exploration by setting up a Right/Wrong dichotomy.

Exactly. Mostly it just sets up resentment and honestly, I'm can be ridiculously contrary when that happens. And also, it simply discourages discussion, and I hate that.

(Deleted comment)
I keep being told to try it, and I keep--not. *sad* One day.

erm... you can always ask aka_arduinna, since she wrote it? she might remember what touched off the discussion.

Hummus never struck me as a bad thing, even an overabundance. I mean, no, if I hate hummus, wow, I'm screwed, and trust me on this one, the hummus of SGA is not always my hummus and I spend a lot of time staring resentfully at the newsletter at all the things I cannot eat. Read. That. It's not restricted to pairing, either--I have specific hummus requirements in my pairing, and even more specific hummus requiremetns outside it. So even a hummus banquet can be frustrating.

Here's the thing. I don't actually think there's an overabundance of hummus. I don't even think, most of the time, there's that big a lack of variety in general. There's just an overabundance of what I don't like, and there always will be, forever, because I don't like it.


I raise my half-empty can of Diet Coke to you, because you have hit the nail on the head (for me, at least). Especially the "because I don't like it, there's too much of it. Except that there's really not that much of it; I just don't like it" bit.
Also, thanks for linking to this; I've got a big ol' love for meta, and I've now got enough to last me at least an hour.

It's my favorite fannish essay in its flexibility--it really does cover so much of general fannish behavior.

From what I know: There was a discussion on the sentinel slash list run by bast (it was not long after it started)) and low and behold a critique discussion start right around the time that I subbed. I lurked, forwarding interesting bits to sherrold as one does--even though this was of course forbidden behavior--and the one of those posts was the post on Hummus. After contacting aka_arudinna about it, sherrold hosted it until trickster went tits-up years ago, and by that time, it was out and about, hosted on her own site and I think the symposium.

hee! I thought it was you who forwarded it to sherrold, but I wasn't positive. It was actually a pan-fandom list (oneslash), not a Sentinel list, and -- hm. I'm not sure if Bast ran it, now that I think about it. That hadn't been in my head, but it's possible. Huh.

Does anyone remember the context of Slash Fiction Is Like a Banquet?

I do. *g*

But first -- a friend pointed me here, and I have to say I'm tickled pink that people are still reading and talking about this essay. This is so cool!

The context was pretty specific, actually, but I'm delighted that the metaphor was open enough that people could get so much out of it.

I wrote it one Saturday during a list discussion on... er. A pan-fandom slash discussion list on onelist, which in my head is called "oneslash" but I'm not entirely certain that's correct. The memory, sometimes she fails me.

Anyway, iirc (it's been a while!) the conversation was one of the interminable rehashes of public discussion about stories, and whether it's okay to say you don't like a story or whether you should only ever praise things. As always, several people on the list were vehemently insisting that no one ever say anything negative in any way about any story, because omg, if writers are not praised to the sky at all times, they will stop writing! And then there would be nothing to read! (With the general implication being that if there were even a chance that someone might not be praised because fandom said it was okay to say you don't like a story, that authors would be too intimidated to ever post anything.)

A few of us (me, z_rayne, a few others) were trying to point out that sheer quantity isn't everything, and people have a right to have their own taste in fiction and say so, etc. And pointing out that if a writer is producing nothing but poorly written dreck, encouraging her just results in *more* dreck, and at least saying "um... spellcheck? maybe?" might make it more palatable. (The dreck in question, to clarify, was a spate of people posting what amounted to story *ideas*, without bothering to flesh anything out at all, posted as fast as they could type them up, and expecting to be praised for that.)

The return argument was that dreck was better than nothing, so quitcherbitchin', already, and be thankful that people were writing anything at all.

So I started writing up a reply. The arguments I'd been making, about stories per se, were just making people defensive, so I decided a metaphor was in order. And I was, um. Really hungry. *g*

I know, not very uplifting!

I originally had only intended it for a list post, within the specific conversation that was taking place that weekend; it wasn't until someone (sherrold, who iirc had been forwarded the email by someone else) wrote to me asking if she could put it up on her site as a guest rant that it occurred to me that it might work as a broader-themed essay. Shortly thereafter, I got a site of my own and put it up there as well.

And that is the context of the essay! I'm really chuffed that people are getting more out of it, and that it seems to be staying relevant. Too cool.

onelist became egroups became yahoogroups. But onelist was the first one to allow MLs outside of majordomo and make it easy.

I mean, no, if I hate hummus, wow, I'm screwed, and trust me on this one, the hummus of SGA is not always my hummus and I spend a lot of time staring resentfully at the newsletter at all the things I cannot eat. Read. That.

All hail Blair Sandburg *grin* and that hummus essay. I just wanted to say that sometimes it only takes a year or a season. I flinch at the predominant pairing in the Torchwood fandom and have backed out of the main comm as a result. But what the hell, if I had time I'd be writing the x-over I want to write, or rediscovering Ronon or celebrating being a multi-fandom addict by writing instead of reading.

It's all good. Even when it's a little depressing.

*sighs* I know the feeling. I have two squick pairings and always remind myself perception and also, to stop being so freaking neurotic about it. *G* OTOH, I have friends who do like them and if that's what they are here for? Yay squick pairings! It's a fair trade.

There's just an overabundance of what I don't like, and there always will be, forever, because I don't like it.

That's a perfect way to describe it. It's not that what I personally like isn't being written, it's just that everyone has this basic little selfish bit that wishes that all of the stuff written was the stuff that personally appeals. Which is downright impossible.

But as long as people can acknowledge, with a bit of humour, that it's just that little selfish bit of them talking and that the whole fannish experience is incredibly subjective and personal it'd all be good. It's not about having one ethocentric "right" way of participating in fandom; it's about having enough different ways that everyone can find the niche that satisfies them.

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