not your typical annihilatrix (furiosity) wrote,
not your typical annihilatrix

  • Music:

taking its toll and I'm leaving without you

Stuff about that poll I did last week!

On one hand, "NO FLAMES PLZ" is such a thing to do that it makes some people cringe with embarrassment for the author. On the other hand, what harm is there in letting individual writers set their own boundaries for their fandom experience? Is it really inappropriate to come out and say, "I basically don't ever want anyone to criticise my writing"? And if it is, towards whom is it inappropriate -- potential readers? The fandom at large? The entire internet? Humanity?

I can see a few of you going, "But, but -- fandom doesn't work like that -- you can't expect people to behave according to your standards." And you're absolutely right, generally speaking. In any public forum, people are expected to behave in accordance with pre-established standards; anyone who bucks the trend is quickly billed a newbie, a troll, or just plain clueless. But who sets the standards for fannish behaviour?

Within fandom, some wide-ranging standards exist -- almost as one, we turn on anyone clearly malicious (e.g. attack sockpuppets), anyone who outs a fandomer to work/school/family. These are just two examples; generally, the rule of thumb seems to be that whatever's considered Not Okay in RL is Not Okay in fandom, too. But wait, what's this? We condemn ficcers who try to sell their shit on Amazon, but fanart commissions are generally acceptable (not by everyone, I realise, but there is a clear disparity here -- a ficcer is guaranteed to catch flak for selling fan fiction, but an artist is far from guaranteed to catch the same amount of flak for selling art).

Is this a double standard? Some think so; I don't -- there are good reasons in favour of fanart commissions. Not the least of which, for me, is that the media are completely different and copyright more nebulous -- does JKR really pre-emptively own every possible visual rendering of one of her characters? Do her publishers? Obviously, if a fanartist started selling HP art commercially for large profits, it'd be a different situation, but that situation hasn't arisen. By contrast, there are no good reasons in favour of fic sales, because the medium is the same in which the books are copyrighted, and yes, Virginia, JKR owns the characters and the world, so even if you write OC-dominated epics that never so much as mention any of the names from the books, you still can't sell 'em without her say-so.

ANYWAY. What about people who make and sell custom wands? Fandom-related buttons and decals? They're not really violating copyright, so it should really be okay, right? But where does that leave fen who think fannish involvement should never generate a profit of any sort? Some people think so, and they're a part of fandom just like anyone. You would think that something as vital as fandom's continued under-the-radar existence would be more heavily "policed", but different considerations coming into play make it impossible for everyone to have the same stance on money and fandom.

I'm not saying what I think about fanart commissions vs fic commissions is RIGHT; it's just what I think, and I know people who think differently. But we can think differently on this subject and still coexist, whereas someone who makes it their business to out fandomers to their RL social network is far, far less likely to get the benefit of "agree to disagree". Most of the bones of contention we gnaw lend themselves readily to "live and let live", which is essentially what I'm driving at -- "accepted behaviour" in fandom is a nebulous thing most of the time. On a personal level, some people think I'm a total douchemuffin because of the way I behave. Other people think I'm awesome for the exact same reason. Who's right? Who cares? There's room for everybody who doesn't cross the "major" lines. That's my point. So back to concrit.

I do think that fandom -- especially a large fandom like HP -- can accommodate different approaches; why does it need to be an issue of "suck it up and cope" if a writer/artist has an opportunity to avoid needing to suck it up at all? Who is going to suffer, exactly, if writers start putting "no concrit, please" (or the equivalent) in their headers?

Some readers feel they should be allowed to have their say. I certainly do, because I believe that anything posted in a public forum is fair game for reactions/opinions, be they positive or negative. But if you're that into reader freedom, how hard is it to simply skip a fic whose writer doesn't want you to exercise that freedom and says so at the outset? It wouldn't be hard for me, I'll tell you that much. Nobody's time is wasted and everybody goes home happy.

But if you don't say you don't want concrit, get concrit, and then want to bitch about it? Suck. It. Up. If you post your shit in public, you're an entertainer, not just an ~*~artist~*~. But because fandom is not the world at large -- we are a community, however loosely organised -- there's no reason why other fen shouldn't respect individual boundaries. Writers respect reader boundaries by adding warnings to our headers. Why can't writers ask for something, too?

I think we can agree at this point that no, writers can't have their cake and eat it too -- complaining about criticism for fanworks posted in public is generally considered in poor taste (which is why you'll rarely see writers actually complaining in public). Because even on the most love-and-bunnies friendslist, there's always someone who balks at the idea that a creator has any room to control public response to her work. I am one of those people: I think it's a given that if you post it for public consumption, not everyone will adore it -- and while not everyone will be moved to say they don't adore it, some will. The law of averages doesn't discriminate in either case.

Some fen think it is rude to criticise; I think that trying to silence critics is rude. But is it rude or unacceptable for a writer to try and preempt negative feedback? I don't think so. Yes, it will mean that some readers will skip their fics. But if your goal is to just have fun with your fics, free from icky negative vibes, you don't want gung-ho critics reading your fics anyway, do you? And those readers who aren't gung-ho about their "reader rights" aren't going to skip your stories -- unless your disclaimer actually says "no flames, please", and maybe not even then.

Another difficulty is that people have very differing ideas as to what concrit means -- for example, if you tell me "Draco wouldn't do that!" I won't see it as concrit, because it's a matter of opinion and does nothing to help me improve. If you say "Draco wouldn't do that, because [insert pertinent canon detail]!" I will be more likely to see it as concrit because while canon interpretation is also a matter of opinion, if my interpretation of canon didn't come through clearly enough in my fic, then I could stand to work a little harder on that fic. But I also know folks who wouldn't consider any character criticism as constructive because they see all characterisation as a matter of opinion. There's enormous room for misunderstanding when someone says "no concrit, please", in other words.

There's also a stigma attached to not wanting concrit -- people can take "no concrit, please" as a sign that the writer's work is subpar. I can understand why writers would be reluctant to allow such preemptive judgments of their work -- though, as the poll I did seems to show, this sort of thinking is the case for about 20% of potential readers, so the stigma is not as widespread as it may seem.

Is there really a correlation between quality of writing and ability to take criticism? Logically, it seems there would be, because those writers who welcome criticism have a greater chance at improvement than those who don't, but that's neither here nor there, because a chance at improvement doesn't guarantee improvement actually happening. There's also the risk of sounding up yourself when you say you don't appreciate concrit -- some people (me included) will think that if you reject concrit in any form, you likely think your writing is fine just the way it is. And there is nothing wrong with thinking this, actually. Whether you're right to think it or not is a question beyond the scope of this here post, because there's more than one reason a person might think her writing is beyond reproach.

Bottom line? If you don't want concrit, say so. It's your fandom experience and you can make it whatever you want to make it. The trick is asking for what you want; demanding that everyone want what you want just doesn't work.

My thinky thoughts. I have shown you them.

Tags: criticism, meta:fandom

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