merricatk: (floating away)
[personal profile] merricatk
Let me start with, if you're on my flist, I'm not talking about you. I'm happy with the comments I get on the stories I post here. By flocking my stories, I know that X number of people are reading them, and when I get Y number of posts, that's cool. It's when they're unflocked, and potentially X times a hundred people might be reading them, and it's still the same Y number of people commenting that I feel like this.

I liked it back in the days when writing fan fiction was like being a small-time drug dealer: you did it to get your fix. Write a story, have it accepted, get a zine filled with stories you hadn't read! That was why I started--well, not writing, but tailoring my writing for the zine-reading public. I wanted stories to read, and I wanted to save money. It never occurred to me I could make friends through my writing, but that's what happened. People had read my stories and wanted to meet me.

(By the way, zines didn't carry warnings. Some later ones did, but I don't think I ever submitted a story to a zine that carried warnings.)

Stuff happened. There was a witch hunt in my chosen fandom, and the witch was my best friend, so when I stood with her, I was kicked out. By that time writing was such a habit, I was submitting stories to zines I wasn't even reading. My love of the characters had become so tied up with my love of the people I'd met, I couldn't bear to read the stories, but I didn't know how to stop writing. I was unwelcome in the fandom, but my stories? Oh, they were welcome all right.

I finally found another fandom to write in. Unfortunately, there was pretty much nobody there--or I couldn't find anybody, anyway. Made one good friend, wrote a couple dozen stories and a novel, but it was lonely.

Moved on to a larger, older fandom, where I started writing as though my hair was on fire. (By which I mean fast, not panicky and incoherent. Not that anybody said, anyway.) Only problem was, it was lacking in enthusiasm. The fans had come and gone, and while they still held affection for the show, there was little squee. Oh, and I was having a nervous breakdown, a manic episode of epic proportions, at least in terms of my very small life.

And the internet was upon us.

That was supposed to be a good thing, because it was so easy to get your stories to people, and for them to contact you and tell you what they thought.

That second part? Not so much.

(The humor got comments. Humor will always get comments because it's so accessible, because nobody expects profundity in comments about something humorous. And I think the problem with commenting on good writing is that it's intimidating when you try to write to the writer. Imagine if you wanted to tell your favorite artist how much you liked a drawing or painting, only you had to do it by drawing your feelings. The feeling of inadequacy is overwhelming.)

My fandom experience pre-internet was meeting a lot of new people. My internet experience has been people I knew, was acquainted with being very anxious to "work with me" to put my stories online.

Yes! That sounded wonderful! We would talk, discuss how to present the stories--they would talk to me. And maybe not just about the stories. Maybe we would be friends.

Only, well, my stories were welcome. I wasn't invited. I sent the stories, the stories went up. No discussion at all with the first time. The second time I gave approval for the design of the website--it was a beautiful, beautiful thing, and there was some discussion of me putting notes on the stories at the end, the way Stephen King does in his short story collections. But other than that.

I believe I got a comment from someone on the second website. On the first, there might have been a few more. Mostly what I got was second-hand, friends telling me someone had been raving to them about my stories.

I never heard from these ravers.

You'd think I'd have had the sense to quit writing stories, but they always seem like fun when I start them. It's only when they're done and I realize how little they matter in my life that I start to feel bad. When I started posting them on my own LJ, people were kind, people were willing to talk to me. (And my friends are kind, and very patient.)

But my experience has been that while my stories are welcome, I am not. (And before you say, "Well, yeah, you're a bitch," let me tell you: I'm being a bitch, and I'm angry about all this. But for the most part I try to be a nice, accommodating person.)

Then came the ratings. All of a sudden fandom was using the MPAA system of rating there stories. It was de rigueur.

I refused. I've posted once to a website that uses a ratings system, and I won't do it again.

Then summaries, so as not to waste the readers' valuable time. I don't write those, either. On the second website they were written for me, and they were brilliant. The author is a very, very talented woman.

Throughout all this there were warnings wars. I volunteered to vet my stories for anyone who wanted to read them, but no, that would require interaction with me, which is apparently too horrible to contemplate. The ante keeps going up. Before it was just that the stories might be upsetting--it's upsetting when a fictional character dies! (It is.) I remember arguing on a list that people who were so sensitive to the deaths of imaginary people seemed awfully harsh to real, live people on the other end of the computer, and being ridiculed for this. Imaginary people were more important than real strangers.

There were also people who were proud of the fact that they had no "fannish" friends. Fandom was where they came to get their stories, not make friends. I'd gone from being a drug dealer to working as unpaid labor in a pharmacy.

And therein lies the problem. In the zine days, I would have been happy to have traded my writing for something to read. But in the internet days, I'm trading my writing for rules and regulations that I have no say in. If I argue, I'm called names. Now not putting warnings on stories isn't just upsetting, it's triggering, I'm being cruel to people who have already been hurt. (In the next go-round, stories will be fatal, and that's when I'll unflock my fiction and start making notches on my laptop.)

And I'm shallow and selfish when I point out that if these people have been reading my stories while ignoring me, they've been hurting me, and how come that's OK? (I've also been criticized for posting my stories on my own LJ instead of on a community LJ, because it's less convenient for people who, as far as I can tell, don't want to get any of my life on them when they're reading.)

(You do know that you're not even supposed to mention comments, right? That comments are just the icing on the cake for the writer, that the writer writes for herself alone. We're incredibly selfless. That's part of being a writer.)

I know that writing stories is not an effective way to make friends anymore, and probably never was in any other fandom. But goddammit, I'm tired of feeling like I'm being circled by people speculating on how there must be some way to slice me open and get all the golden eggs. Fan fiction is not some inalienable (or unalienable) right. Nobody has a right to my words, or the right to do anything with them I don't agree to. (That last part's probably not true, probably the original creators of the shows do have some legal right to them. But I don't think they're part of all this, so let's keep it that way.) I'm tired of people who don't want anything to do with me telling me what to do, or what I should do if I want to be a decent human being. That doesn't seem like decent human behavior to me. If you want something done with my stories, you have to talk to me, personally. Edicts from on high will not do it. Unless you're a burning bush, or talking from that one beam of sunlight in the sky, I'm walking away. People talk about the conventions of fandom, but those conventions keep changing without notice. Strangers are suddenly screaming at me for being a selfish, heartless bitch for not following rules I didn't know existed.

Just yesterday I had someone come to my LJ and tell me how stupid I am, that I should shut the fuck up because every time I post, it looks like my IQ is losing points. (If you want to attack me, going after my intelligence is a strategically bad move. If there is anything I'm not insecure about, it's my intelligence.)

So, I've already been told how cruel and selfish I am. Even if that's true, the only thing I can legitimately be accused of is supporting and fomenting cruel and selfish behavior in others, since all of my fiction is safely flocked. I did it for my own selfish reasons, not to protect the unwary.

People compare their unflocked LJs to their living rooms, and someone else (I haven't been keeping track of who says what) made the comparison of LJ as being more like someone standing on a park bench, yelling. I think it's more like sitting on your front porch, muttering to yourself. If someone wants to come onto your property to find out what you're muttering about, they do so at their own risk. Advertising urls and such could be considered an invitation, but if the stories are just sitting there and someone stumbles across them? They proceed at their own risk. And it seems to me that as far as reccing stories goes, if warnings are necessary, they should be included by the reccer. If someone told you should really go see that woman sitting on her front porch, muttering to herself, and didn't include the little detail that she might be saying things you don't want to hear, I think the one you'd want to blame would be the person who sent you. Because I'm allowed to sit on my front porch and mutter, and I'm allowed to mutter things you don't want to hear. And that is not the same as accosting people on park benches.
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November 2013

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