merricatk: (weirdos)
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. (Oscar Wilde)

(I started this back in February but didn't finish it because for some reason it descended into gibberish. I'm hoping I've excised the gibberish and tacked on a decent ending in its place.)


I've been reading about misaimed fandom--which I never heard of before. I'm going to summarize it, but I'm sure I'll be inaccurate and snarky, so for someone who takes this seriously, you might want to go here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MisaimedFandom.

Misaimed fandom is when fans in a significant number decide we like the badguy as much as--or more than--the good guy. We are Doing It Wrong. There are no examples given in the essay itself, but if you go to the bottom of the page, there's a list of media you can click on that gives examples. The only ones I'm truly intimate with are The Shield, Sopranos, and Gilmore Girls. And I don't think Gilmore Girls really fits. Fans who sided with Vick Macky or Tony Soprano weren't getting how violent and corrupt they were. [Disclaimer: I haven't watched The Shield since Pat died, and I didn't watch the last season of Sopranos.]

Where I read about this was metafandom, in a post where the characters' sins were neither illegal nor violent. They were politically incorrect. The author was concerned about how to write such a character in a way that readers would understand that they weren't supposed to like him.

I think you now have the context I'm writing this in.

The first badguy I remember writing is Ben Horne from Twin Peaks. There was a guy writing a zine that was a continuation of the series, and in his interpretation of the finale, Ben was killed when Doc Hayward punched him and he hit his head on the mantlepiece.

For reasons I no longer recall, I objected to this, and I ended up writing Ben back to life. The zine fizzled out shortly after that--not because of Ben, I don't think.

Now, Ben started off as a bad guy, had a breakdown of sorts, and became a good guy. I wrote him as reverting due to the hit on the head. And you know what? It was a blast writing him. There's something liberating about writing an unapologetic bad guy. I later wrote him again in my Twin Peaks novel. Still a bad guy, still fun.

The next bad guy I wrote was Sonny Steelgrave, and I'm not over him yet. Sonny is a criminal. He kills people, he has people killed, beaten up. He corrupts the the justice system. And he's homophobic, a firm believer in the Madonna/whore binary, and an unrepentant racist.

You wouldn't think it would be hard to write him unsympathetically, but the writers of the show couldn't do it because the actor who played him was both charming and skillful enough to make an audience love Sonny in spite of his moral lapses, let them see his heart and his loneliness. (I could analyze how he did it, and how the writers failed to villain him up sufficiently, but that is for another day.)

The art of writing fan fiction, as I've said before, is getting the characters right. If I wrote Sonny as nothing more than a cold, calculating criminal, I'd be doing a terrible job as a fan writer. Trying to keep other fans from coming over to the dark side of liking people who do things society disapproves of--that's not my job. It's not anybody's job.

Somewhere today I read about skinheads taking some evil characters Pink Floyd's The Wall (the movie) as the heroes. This is an example of misaimed fandom. (And I'd guess that the Manson family's use of the Beatles' White Album would be, too, though [tellingly] it's not mentioned.)

So are we talking about a some kind of sliding scale of misaim? My screen name comes from a Shirley Jackson character who poisoned most of her family when she was twelve years old; I adored her then (when I was twelve) and adore her now, at fifty-one. And she was neither the first nor the last. Badguys have a lot of freedom other characters don't. They don't have to follow society's rules, and by extension, neither do we. We share their freedom, so of course we find them attractive. What could be more attractive than that kind of freedom?

It's not that we long to be sociopaths. It's that we have so little control over so much of what goes on in our lives, that living vicariously through people who take control--even if that means breaking laws or social conventions--is something we need. The very fact that it's somehow considered dangerous of us to like the "wrong" characters proves that. Hell, we live in a society where people think they have the right to tell other people how they're allowed to feel about fictional characters! If we didn't expend real frustration through vicarious rule-breaking, we really would become weaponized.



(Melody, I pulled this quote for you from here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Applicability. "Contrast with The Walrus Was Paul, where the audience tries to find meaning in a work when in fact the work isn't supposed to have a hidden meaning — the author's just fucking with them.")
merricatk: (floating away)
I told my therapist about fan fiction.

I told her about slash, which is what I write.

I explained the legal grey area we work in, and why this is has to remain not-for-(monetary)profit.

She had no difficulty with any of these concepts.

I then told her--actually, gave her some printed-out posts from the last comments meta. I didn't want my feelings coloring the opinion.

That, she did not understand at all. She asked me if what this meant was that writers were supposed to post their stories for free for people to read, and be ridiculed when they expected someone to say something as simple as, thank you, or I liked this.

I said yes, that's what it meant, and it's why I keep my stories under lock & key. It's the only thing that makes me able to post them at all.
[I just posted this to something on metafandom.]

I recently read a post about how lurkers are the backbone of fandom.

OK, then let's try this: let's all of us who post, who write and draw and vid and put together cons and whatever else take a year off and let the lurkers take over. And let's see what happens.

I like being old. I like knowing what, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," means.
merricatk: (no safe places)
So! A couple of weeks ago I posted my first in what will be an intermittent series of why I write slash. One comment I got was from [community profile] linkspam, which, if you've never heard of them, is an "Anti-Oppression Linkspam Community." Their policy is to link to any posts they find-- Well, here, I'll let them speak for themselves.

[From the mini bio on the profile page]

Linkspam's goal is to serve as a resource for anti-oppression efforts. We do not subscribe to the belief that there is an objective perspective on any oppression. We believe attempting to be "objective" often results in contributing to the oppression. We will not try to present "two" sides equally. We hope to present resources for people to follow multiple perspectives expressed in anti-oppression discussions relating to fandom online, but we do not pretend to present resources in a neutral context. The organizing principles for Linkspam posts will be roughly chronological. [http://linkspam.dreamwidth.org/profile to read the full description.]

The comment told me that my post had been included in linkspam. Cool, I thought, and went over to take a look.

What I found was that [Warning: derailing] had been affixed to the front of my the excerpt to my post. Somehow, by minding my own business, writing in my own LJ, I was derailing the debate they were archiving.

Derailing is a serious thing. It refocuses people's attention from the important discussion at hand. So the question of why linkspam would want to include my post arose, particularly since their stated goal is not to present "two" sides equally. And what I was saying wasn't even a side, it was a sideroad that led someplace entirely different. Very strange.

(Personally, I think my post is relevant. But if the people who chose to link to it don't--I'm still baffled as to why they chose it. It felt like the whole reason for linking to my post was to tell people not to listen to me. Honestly, I like fandom_wank better. At least they're upfront about their purpose.)

I went to linkspam's site and read everything I could find about their policies, and what I discovered was, they will only remove links under extraordinary circumstances. Since this seemed to be pretty much SOP, I didn't see anything extraordinary about it, so I didn't ask to be removed. (I mean, my God, you know what it's like if you ask for anything above and beyond online--you're immediately designated a speshul snowflake, and held up for ridicule. I have no idea what's done to extraordinary snowflakes [or how the misspelling of extraordinary would go], but I wasn't interesed in finding out.) Instead, I locked my post.

Then I got pissed off and removed the text of the post and replaced it with an explanation of why the post people thought they were getting wasn't there, and reposted the original text in a locked post. If I'm forced to hide, I want people to know why. And I wrote to the mods to let them know that I was not happy with this policy. (To date I still haven't heard back, though last night I did hear that I will be hearing back. And I know that they're busy. But when the reply you get is silence, you don't know anything else is coming. I figured they were blowing me off.)

And that was the end of it, until one of the mods posted this:

http://hl.dreamwidth.org/58528.html?format=light

Since I hadn't heard back through official channels, I commented. You can read the whole thing. What I find interesting is how all of the policy questions get the response of, redirect these to the proper channels--even though included in the proper channels are private messages to individual mods. I'm confused as to why asking the question in a comment is different from asking it in a private post, and having the individual mod pass it along. (Although she does exactly that with regards to the official-channeled comment I sent.) And all the comment threads with questions are now frozen.
merricatk: (FERAL FAN)
Two: Why I write slash

In one of her books, Susie Bright talks about how there was a time in the feminist movement where a lesbian would be considered "inauthentic" if she showed interest in penetrative sex, particularly if the penetration involved an object shaped like a penis. At some point she found a lover who didn't buy into that, and while the sex was more satisfying for her, Susie said she also felt like a traitor to the cause. It took a while to get over that.

I know the feeling. It took me a long time--and reading Susie Bright--to stop feeling like there was something fundamentally wrong with me because my fantasies didn't include me. I needed to distance myself, to fantasize about two men together. And the two men were always from TV or the movies. (That last part didn't bother me.) What the hell was wrong with me?

The answer is, nothing, at least nothing that has to do with what I fantasize and how I write. My attitude toward fantasy is that it's a waste of time to fantasize about things I could actually be doing--why not just do those things? Fantasy is about finding the breadths and depths of myself in a safe way.

Writing slash is like that, too. I write characters I find empowering, characters I feel attuned to but I could never be, characters who get to do things I could never do.

And I like to do to them what I'm doing to myself: open them up and force them to look at themselves and see who they really are. With me it's voluntary and I use my writing, and I do it with help and distance and some care. With the characters, I use sex.

Take a guy who has always considered himself 110% straight and have him fall in love with another guy, then watch what he does. Have an identity crisis? Become violent? Bury himself in denial? Or just accept this new facet of himself? Does he kick the guy out of his life, or drag him to his bed? What happens the next morning--in either scenario? Does he tell himself that just because he's attracted to this guy doesn't mean he's attracted to all guys, so he's not really gay, right?

And what's the other guy doing? Trying to figure out what's going on with his friend? Or has he already figured it out and is just waiting to see what happens--or maybe having his own freak-out?

I have been in a position where I've felt so vulnerable that it seemed as though people could read my emotions in my eyes. I've been so depressed I could barely move. I've given both of these conditions to the characters I write, to look at them from both the inside and the outside--and I've made the other character deal with these issues, to see what a pain in the ass I was.

Am I claiming that because I write slash I know what the gay male experience is like? No. Or that I've done something for anyone besides myself? No.

But I'm not appropriating anything but the make-believe lives of make-believe people. The characters I write aren't canonically gay, and--and this is the part that seems to get lost, or maybe I'm the only one who thinks it's important--they aren't supposed to be real. They're fictional characters. Whatever I do with them has no more bearing on the lives of actual human beings than my using a toy cat to work out my frustrations in some way hurts real cats.

ETA: Apparently some of the problem is that when writing slash, we girls are leaving out the real world problems and issues that men who sleep with men have. This is another case that seems to be about (supposedly) realistic pro fiction. Because the worlds I'm writing in are the ones set up and maintained by the TV writers--which is certainly not the real world. I'm not writing The Purple Rose of Cairo here. I deal with what was given to me on the TV screen, I extrapolate from that, and I try to make it all more realistic by making the characters more well-rounded, and dealing with the repercussions of their actions even when their original writers left them hanging. But my writing is not set in the real world.
merricatk: (specs)
I write slash.

I've been writing slash for a good many years now--about half my life. I first heard about slash in a feminist newspaper, Off Our Backs, which had printed Joanna Russ's essay, Pornography: For Women, By Women, With Love. That was when I discovered that the stories I'd been telling were being told by other women, too. It was revelatory.

Unfortunately, it didn't provide any access to "organized fandom." Nor did the book that essay was published in, though it did tell me about zines. But how to find them? I didn't know the password!

That access came serendipitously from a friend at work. She'd heard about zines from a friend, and she knew I liked Starsky & Hutch, so when she got a zine with an S&H story in it, she loaned it to me. I expressed my gratitude, and when she got a copy of an adzine (a zine that advertised fannish things for sale, zine editors looking for stories, and upcoming cons), I surreptitiously wrote down the names and addresses of the people selling S/H. (My friend is not a slash reader.)

One of the women was here in town, and Pat and I went out to her house one night and bought a big box of zines and unpublished stories. (She had edited zines, and so had copies of rejected stories. This was probably not kosher, but we didn't know that.)

Besides having stories to read, I now had people to write to, places to submit my fiction.

I got published pretty quickly, started meeting people, became an active part of SH fandom.

Since then I've also written slash in Twin Peaks, The Man From UNCLE, and Wiseguy (which I'm still writing). In all of this writing, there's only one thing I've strived to do in terms of characterization: make it match up with what I see on my TV screen.

If you asked most of these characters if they were gay, they'd at least equivocate, if not downright deny it. I write old fashioned "I'm not gay, I'm just in love with my partner" slash. I've read that's homophobic. Well, some of those characters are homophobic. I write 'em as I see 'em.

And like the name of Joanna Russ's essay, I write them for women. Specifically, I write them for women who are fans of the show who also see the characters as potential lovers. Because here's the thing: what I write about, first and foremost, is TV characters. TV characters who, for the most part, are seen by their creators as straight, but because of the chemistry of the actors, and the limitations of television, could be seen as more than just good friends. (By the limitations of television, I mean that literally. The physical closeness of Starsky and Hutch, that shared space--one sitting on the arm of the other's chair even when there's an empty chair right there--has to do with the size of the average TV screen at the time. If they were both going to be in a close-up, they had to be close up.)

A good friend of mine--straight, male--once told me that the sex scenes we slash writers write are unrealistic because men just don't think that much during sex. And I smiled at him and said, "Yeah, we know. But we don't care." I then told him that Hemingway was considered a great writer, but I found his women unrealistic.

I think the problem I have with the whole idea that gay men are upset because women are writing fictional characters gay is that I've never identified that closely with a TV character. (Well, I was Catwoman in the second grade, but that seems to have passed.) No matter how well-rounded the characterization is, their lives are make-believe with, when you think about it, glaring holes in the narrative. Real life isn't like that.

And I don't understand how trying to write about already-fictional characters has any effect on the lives of--well, anybody. Maybe the actors who portrayed them, if they feel very close to them, but otherwise--I don't get it.
merricatk: (FERAL FAN)
So, I heard it through the grapevine that all of the yuletide stories are being moved to A3O. I don't move in that circle, so everything I know comes secondhand. I've only ever written one story that's on the yuletide website, a NYR story. It was a whim, and I was still thinking that fandom might work for me.

This was several years ago. There was nothing bad about the experience.

Since then I've come to a few realizations about myself. One of them is, I was born, and will probably die, an outsider. I don't fit. Sometimes, for short periods, with certain groups, I can be part of the in-crowd. But I always ask the wrong questions, the ones nobody else thinks of. I always cause trouble, and I need way too much down time from people, and I'm way, way too needy.

The movers and shakers of fandom don't want to answer my questions, they don't want to be bothered with my moodiness, and they certainly don't want to cater to my needs, which are emotional in nature.

They do want my stories. I've had more than one offer to archive my stories, and I've said yes more than once because of my neediness. I thought the offer to "work with me" on putting my stories online meant they wanted to spend some time with me. What I found out was that except of approving a layout and emailing the stories, I was now extraneous to the whole process. So I've put my stories back in my pocket and am (slowly) posting them on my LJ.

Now the yuletide stories are being moved to what I, in my infinite ignorance, consider to be a potentially more public venue, which I'm not comfortable with. (Why do I see it as being more public? Because it's supposed to be easier to find things there, because it has been so publicized and so has yuletide. Am I wrong about this? Everyone says so.)

It's also being run by movers and shakers--things always are; they're the ones who run things, they have the temperament for it, it's nothing against them. But I'm not comfortable with them. And I'm in a position of either letting them take my story and be quiet while put it wherever they want it--without, so far, them saying a word to me about it; or taking my story back and have people call me names.

Or I can orphan my story by taking my name off of it.

I wish they weren't using the word orphan. It's too poetic, it puts to sharp a point on the abandonment, it makes me feel terrible. I have abandonment issues. Call me a thief for taking my story back and I can deal with it. Say I'm making my story an orphan, I'll cry.

And I wish they weren't telling me again that I can go--just leave the story. Because I already know I'm extraneous, except for the stories.

I'm perfectly aware that I'm completely wrong about all of this, but being told how wrong I am is only going to push me harder into putting this story in my pocket, too. I'm perfectly aware that my feelings--and all this is nothing but my feelings--are indefensible. But I don't like it when the powerful people come and tell me how unreasonable I am not to want to do things their way. Not ask, just tell.

I can live with being disliked, considered a screwball, or an angry, shitty, classless, selfish jerkass, and I can live with people believing the lie that I'm doing this because I hate OTW and/or A3O. I can live with the whole rest of the world considering me irrational.
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