Log in

No account? Create an account

The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
between a rock and a hard place
Today is a Ramen day. I hate to admit it, but I've been on this serious Ramen kick for like a month. Is it the delicious sodium, the rich powdered artificial flavor, the thin, sad noodles? I have no clue. But it is total, total crack. I feel like a junkie hovering over my little bowl-thing.

My day yesterday ended pretty well. Just so everyone knows.

Metaish Kinda

I'm really intrigued by the concept behind the SPN comm nostairway.

Quoted from the nostairway:
No Stairway - an introduction & overview
You know how it goes. You turn on a classic rock station, and they are guaranteed to play Stairway to Heaven at least 23 times a day. Everybody loves Stairway, but there are some amazing songs that you only hear once in a great while; songs that are buried on the b-side of out-of-print platters, songs that weren't deemed commercial or hits. Why hasn't anyone put together a radio station to play all those great songs, songs that you might love if only given the opportunity?

This project is to showcase stories that you might not otherwise see and to offer classic examples of literary fiction in the Supernatural fandom. No Stairway is not a greatest hits collection, but an anthology of work that values both style and substance, and a chance for readers to discover those unrenowned b-sides that might become dear favorites, or replay an old favorite that they lost four moves and five cars ago.

Please note that 'literary' in this instance refers to form and function and not to genre. Romances, science fiction, fantasy and all other so-called "genre" forms are welcome here. What, after all, is Supernatural if not a genre story? We are looking to share your best work with our readers. Be it prosaic or experimental, sexy or plain, featuring dragons, robots, or just two boys on the road, we want to give your songs a chance to be heard.

winterlive started the discussion here on the general concept of a comm based somewhat on objective quality standards. There are links going from there.

esorlehcar weighs in here on the subject.

I started having a moment of significant cognitive dissonance when I realized I kinda completely agree with them both. But it's complicated.

One of the things its very hard for most fangirls--not people, but fangirls--is to express these three true things*:
1.) Wanting to write popular fic.
2.) Wanting to be *acknowledged* as an awesome author.
3.) Wanting lots of feedback.

*to disclaim that. Yes, there are exceptions. Hence the use of 'most', not 'all'

I actually don't think it comes from a self-denigration place, but more from a wary place of generalized equality; there's also the blank terror of being called elitist, snobby, attention whore, bully, but you know, not so much. The big thing I think sometimes comes from inside; we can be hard on each other, but I don't think anyone, anywhere, is as hard on us as we are on ourselves. If we walk around with a little voice saying "your writing sucks", we also have an extra one muttering whatever specific social failure we worry about seeing in ourselves.

The concept of objective quality is one of the things everyone flinches on kneejerk. We are all married to the "I" statement in a very big way when discussing fic we liked. "I liked". "I think". "I enjoyed". "I consider this the best story ever in the history of the world". And seriously, you forget to make the "I" explicit--well, don't forget that. You will be taken as literally as a piece of paper. Actually, it's kind of weird like that; in the textual medium, the explicit is chosen over even the most overt implicit. I have no idea why. Probably because in the right mood, we can raise deliberate misunderstanding to an art form.

Most of us can say "I didn't care for that fic for xyz reason" but rarely do we say "Wow, that was incredibly bad; why did you do that? Please stop writing like that." anywhere we think it'll be seen by more than our flock as the gods of fanfic intended (and whoever gets emailed the entries; we are totally not above that sometimes when it's just too interesting to leave alone). It's kind of a good way to plausibly deny, to be honest; you really don't want that kind of crap to haunt you later if you change fandoms and become really close to someone who is Sucky Writer's BFF. Yes, I'm sure we are all honest. Except when we are totally not. And few of us really want to go to bed at night after having like, five people tell us we destroyed someone's soul with our critique. Seriously, we could have been writing porn with that time. A lot of it.

On one hand: quality control. Fic that is betaed, grammar checked, spell checked, might have known the basic rules of the English language; has a solid plot; is at least to those people canon-compliant (if they go that way) or pairing-etc, or yes. Various tests to see if a fic complies. Awesome. I love this.

And then I love esorlehcar's reasons why not. It could be discouraging. It could lead to a style stultification in writers trying to copy the styles in the community as the only ones acceptable. It can be intimidating to new writers.

It's this:

So here's the thing. I loathe quality fanfiction communities. I hate pretty much everything about them -- the attempts of a limited group of people to pretend their subjective taste is an objective barometer of "good" writing; the solidification of a fandom class system with "worthy" writers set apart from the rest of the riffraff; the cookie-cutter fiction they tend to inspire, once writers get a handle on how this particular comm is defining "good" and, if a comm succeeds the way it's intended to, the choking out of authors who are deemed unworthy or choose not to participate.

The comments on both sides are fascinating; compare and contrast a community to a rec list; compare and contrast the community to elitism; how will new writers feel; what will happen to diversity; what are the objective standards. It's kind of a lot, and seriously, read all comments, this is some very thoughtful stuff.

I don't know. Well, that's lie, I do know, but that's changed eighty time since I started writing this and it'll change eighty more while I read. It's interesting from both sides, though, in that way that makes me want to nail down what I believe philosophically compared to what I think practically and where the two mesh.

I don't actually understand if there's any philosophical or actual diff between the proposed community and crack_impala.

I'm of half a mind to wonder if this comes down to semantics.

From what I've seen of this dabate, (and I freely confess to only going through little bits of it), the idea of the comminity is to only publish good thing, while the oppoinents think that it will damage crativity. I'd say that rec pages and communities provide the first function, while the second is pretty much impossible in any fandom. So it's a moot point either way.

Or, conversely, I just missed the point of this discussion entirely.

Nah, that pretty much sums it up. And in two sentences, even!

I'm on the fence about this community. on one hand I love the idea of having a community that should have lots of good fics but on the other, I don't want people to stop writing whatever comes to mind and I feel that rec communities have done a very nice job so far of pointing out stories that are worth reading.

Basically, I think I'm a bit conflicted too.

p.s. I think a lot of the problem has more to do with sematics? I think if they had created an online zine with the same process people would feel different. Truly, every zine I've heard of has beta readers and editing and etc...the only difference is the stories get printed out. Not sure how the community would work long term.

Hmm. Good point. I wonder if the problem is a zine is finite, while this would be more an ongoing process. *ponders* Hmm.

I'm against quality control and whatnot, but I guess whether or not the comm stifles creativity depends on who the mods are. If there's enough people with a wide range of tastes, then it'll just be like another crack_van, right?

Not quite. This would have a sharp limit on number per issue, for one, but--hmm. I wonder if they're more alike than not.

Here's the thing that's bothering me, and a whole lot of other people. Rec lists, or rec communities, those are awesome. Crack_van, crack_impala, the absolutely amazing All About Spike website -- those are all awesome and the idea of wanting a place to go where you know the fic isn't going to suck, even if it's not to your taste, is kind of like the holy grail of fanfiction. We all want it.

The problem I'm seeing is that they're going to require submission. It's like the issue with awards times a million, because writers who write to just write, the ones who are often considered to be 'good' writers, tend (so, so generalizing here, massively generalizing) are not going to put their names in for an award. There are tons of reasons, from the most selfish to the most selfless, but given the amount of writers in SPN who have already said 'yeah, maybe I won't submit' the idea holds pretty true.

Somewhere in esorlehcar's post someone says: they aren't going to get writers, they're going to get the writers who think they can write. And I absolutely believe that is what'll happen.

They can have all the double-blind anonymous whatevers they want, but so long as they have submissions, I honestly think this idea is not only destined for wank, but for complete failure.

Edited at 2008-01-28 08:11 pm (UTC)

Actually, that's something that's come up in general on fannish behavior; we really dislike the idea of submitting our own work for anything. It does make an interesting point on that; the wank part, I'm on the fence about. That this has *potential* for it, yes, but not doing something solely on the potential-wank factor seems a bad reason not to do something.

See, everyone else has had intelligent things to say about your meta- I'm just here to commiserate with you on the whole Ramen Addiction thing. I've ben an addict since I was... 7? I think? By high school, I was eating it every morning for breakfast, much to my mother's dismay. And I'll go through phases where I manage to kick the habit- I've been on the wagon for about two years now- but then just seeing you mention it is all it takes to get me jonesing for another fix. Maybe there's some sort of support group available for this?

God yes. It's like the hugest--must have, and I am totally not resistant. It's so wrong and yet so delicious.

(Deleted comment)
I had some--faint stirrings of deja vu too.

...then again, cotterize. Total justification. Though in the world of livejournal, I now really wonder how that would have been seen?

(Deleted comment)
I would love to *not* be skeptical about SGA's fandom's ability to pull this off, but... well, I admit it -- I'm skeptical.

Personally, I think the wank is a given, but even beyond that, I think such a thing has the potential to be incredibly divisive to the fandom. The thing is, there is already an established hierarchy of writers in SGA fandom, in practice if not in theory. I think *non*-established writers would be likely to feel skittish about putting their work forward for judgement as a result of that, and so we'd end up with a comm full of the fics we all already *know* are really good, those that are already well-known and popular and recced to high heaven -- a situation which could, potentially, make new or lesser-read wirters feel even *more* intimidated. I think it could be a vicious cycle that in the end accomplishes little.

Or, you know, I could be totally wrong. It sure wouldn't be the first time. *g*

ETA: I should amend this to say that I'm skeptical about fandom in general being able to pull something like this off, not specifically SGA. I didn't mean to refer specifically or exclusively to SGA fandom.

Just felt compelled to clarify that!

I have a problem with, well, numerous aspects of this whole thing, even as it's changed somewhat from the original conception.

Yeah, sure, we all want to wallow in nothing but good fic, and we all want the truly bad fic to go away. But it's the condescending and irritating assumption of authority - "WE will TELL YOU what the good fic is" that chaps my ass.

Of course, I also hate fan awards, because after a certain level of technical proficiency is reached, it's all a matter of taste, and taste is personal and idiosyncratic. (And that's not even getting into the other branch of discussion, about stories that aren't as technically well-crafted but still manage to pack that emotional wallop.)

Recs lists tend to admit that openly - or, at least, recs lists I follow. "Here's what I like; if you like the same stuff, you might like it too." With the occasional, "Sometimes, this author forgets which POV she's in, but the story is worth it." Not, "If it ain't on this list, it ain't good." Which is very much how the original post came across, and all the reassurances have not washed the bad taste from my mouth.

If they just want to put out an ongoing e-zine of fic they think is really great, that's awesome. They should do that. But touting it as a one-stop shop for all the "good" fic in a fandom is just dumb.

Hmm. I can see that, but I'm not sure that's precisely what they are trying to do, with the "Tell you" aspect. While reading the original threads and the current concept--and this is just me, so YMMV--the feeling I got wasn't it was going to be "The Only" concept but rather "Here Is Some Really Good Fic" and have that be the focus. Anything that advertises "Best Of" is by definition wrong, but--hmm.

I'm still undecided on that.


I think what worries me about the set-up here is that - due to the submission format - it will attract the sort of people who want to be part of an elite clique. Those who don't require that sort of validation and/or don't feel the need to display their credentials in this sort of community would be less likely to bother to submit their fic, leaving people who want to - to some extent - prove their worth and show that to other people. Certainly not all, and quite possibly not most, but the potential for dramatic wankery does increase rather with each. And then there is automatic dismissal for people too shy/modest to submit their own work, which seems a little ridiculous since this is not a professional field and it shouldn't really have to be a fight to get noticed.

And I have no idea if I make any sense at all since I've just woken up from a nap and require tea before brain function initiates. Huzzah!

Good point. *thoughtful*

I'm still--see-sawing? I think the problem is my context; as a newbie, I was really terrified but also--hmm. IT's complicated in how I interact with the text and the people, it never would have occurred to me *not* to at least try to submit, so it's hard for me to find a common ground with that.

The bigger question si would I submit *now* and take the hit to my ego?

Ha. nice to know I am not the only one running back and forth behind the fence.

Yes, I feel completely like a gullible voter on this going Yes! No! Yes! No!

(Deleted comment)
Okay, now you have to elaborate that one. I'll wait. Right. Here.


(Deleted comment)
I don't think I have ever eaten Ramen...

Food of the gods. Totally.

The concept of objective quality is one of the things everyone flinches on kneejerk.

From my POV, that's probably because objective quality just doesn't exist. I'm with musesfool here. Anything above bare bones spelling and grammar is going to be very hard to define. I don't think you could get fandom to agree on what constitutes objective quality even in terms of pure writing, let alone if individual stories match those qualifiers. Even with the highest recced stories out there, I don't think you would have to look too hard to find people who have serious issues with them even from a craft stand-point.

And I have to agree that I would think a comm like this would have a homogenizing effect on fic. I think popularity already has a homogenizing effect on fic. There are some pretty common characterization tropes will get you readers so long as your writing's not egregiously bad and which ones won't . Having these things imprinted with an official stamp of "objective quality" I think will only make that worse.

Now, I think the people behind the comm are very well meaning, and while I don't know them personally from all I hear of them they seem like the types who would strive to make it as wank-free as possible. But I'm still left wondering the point. Ultimately, it's still going to be a recs list and we already have those. If they want to cast a broader net so it's not always the same authors and stories being recced, I'm all for that, but that doesn't seem to be what they're trying to do.

Edited at 2008-01-28 11:46 pm (UTC)

Ideally--and this is just from my pov, so not canon--it looks like an effort to get as wide a range as possible, with the double blind submissions and no automatic entry by author.

I think it *could* get wanky, yes, but I'm kind of minded to see what happens first. The very worst that could possibly happen is it will fail, but--I don't know. I feel like sometimes, we're so worried about it that we wont' try anything new for fear of that, and that worries me more than wankiness.

I think I'm just a little confused. In the introduction and overview, it looks like the community is about showcasing really good fics that it seems like no one's really read, which is great, good, awesome, and all that. In fact, that's a pretty darn good idea! But then I'm reading all these posts where people are saying that's *not* what the community is about; the community is about just letting in the authors everyone knows and who write (more or less) objectively awesome fic.

Can someone clear this up for me?

Honestly, I'm going by what I read on winterlive's lj and teh community and what she said below; with this person says that says whatever, for me it's easier to ignore that and go straight to the source.