Compare - Contrast
Things you will read when you are 48 hours into a new fandom trawl.
Things you will not read when you are 48 weeks into a fandom, even if that means you read nothing.
It’s May. Fic season is coming. :3c
When I was in school I thought of the space between terms as “holidays” or “breaks.” Summer break, winter break, Thanksgiving, spring break, etc.
Now that I am out of school, in the world of work, I think of them as “fic season.”
Archive of our Own.
What they say it is-
“A super special private place for only us GOOD authors to keep our QUALITY work!”
What it actually is
A place to keep your porn that looks less suspicious on your browser than adultfanfiction
No seriously. 90% of it is porn
… Aw, man, this made me actually want to find out the numbers.
With the caveat that this probably changed while I was writing it because new works have been posted, here’s what I got while tag-searching for ratings, along with percentages.
Explicit: 124,883 works - 17.94%
Mature: 110,969 works - 15.94%
Teen and Up Audiences: 215,857 works - 31.01%
General Audiences: 201,834 works - 29.00%
Not Rated: 42,440 works - 6.10%
So what does this show us? Let’s see…
- Most people do assign a rating, so that’s awesome.
- If you define ‘porn’ as ‘M or E rated’, then it does in fact comprise a full third of works posted to the archive.
- T is the most common rating, with G right on its heels.
This, of course, will vary by fandom, but the numbers in general are pretty darn fascinating.
That is fascinating!
I typically assign the mature or teen and up rating to my fic due to violence, trauma and mental issues, swearing, and general adult behavior between consenting adults, including sexual situations.
I wonder how much of the ‘mature’ rating is purely for things other than sex, or for people who are exploring concepts that they feel are inappropriate for underage readers.
Lots of really amazing writers denigrate their work (or have their work denigrated by others) because they write fanfiction rather than “real stories.” The more I think about this, the more messed up I think this is, and I’d like to talk about why.
Part of the reason fanfic is often denigrated is because a lot of it is erotic, a lot of it is about escapism and wish-fulfillment, and a lot of it is queer. So much fanfiction is queer, in fact, that it should come as no surprise that it is widely reviled and made into a joke; homophobia is still very real and I trust that I don’t have to explain how it would cause queer literature to be denigrated.
But that still leaves the fact that a lot of fanfic is erotic. Given that I’m a sex educator, I’ve seen first-hand the effects of sex-negativity and its accompanying effects of silence and shame. People’s lives are ruined or ended every day by what they did not know, have had hidden from them, and could not find out for themselves. I’m not exaggerating this in the slightest; ignorance about sex and sexuality regularly causes death, either from dangerous abortion procedures, suicide, disease, or murder. With that degree of violence surrounding sexual information, I see an obvious connection between cultural sex-negativity and the fact that erotic literature is so widely viewed is worthless. Of course this extends to fanfiction.
The fanfiction which isn’t directly sexual is often still about wish-fulfillment of desires other than sexual ones, many of which center around the desire to be loved and able to recover from trauma. Hurt/comfort is one of the most popular genres in fandom, and this is for good reason. The fact that anyone sees a problem with people exploring pain and recovery and love is deeply disturbing. Why would anyone complain about people spending time fulfilling their desires in a way that hurts no one? The only answer I can think of is “Because people are supposed to suffer.” I obviously disagree with this.
And this is, finally, where capitalism comes into it. One of the biggest reasons people see fanfiction as a waste of time is that it’s unpublishable because of copyright infringement. And since fanfic can’t be formally published, no money can be made from it. This is, fundamentally, the ONLY difference between fanfiction and “real” stories—copyright infringement prevents fanfiction from being given a monetary venture.
We might like to hope that published material is, somehow, of better quality than that which is unpublished or unpublishable. But this is not true, as anyone who has tried and failed to get published will tell you. More crap gets published every year while more masterpieces languish in anonymity than we can ever truly know, because it’s not about quality, it’s about money.
Which then begs the question: if the only difference between fanfiction and “real fiction” is the capacity to make money, why is fanfiction considered so worthless? Because capitalism wants us to believe that monetary value is the ONLY system of value with any meaning.
Nevermind the fact that many of us have learned more about consent, negotiation, gender, and sexual orientation from fanfiction (and other ‘unpublishable’ content on the internet) than we ever did from anything published or offered to us in school. Nevermind the fact that fanfiction is the first and ONLY place many of us will ever see people like us being represented. Nevermind that fanfiction is often written to help us explore and heal from issues of trauma, abuse, internalized bigotry, and self-loathing. Nevermind that fanfiction gives so many of us access to characters we love, cherish, admire, and look up to being like us, feeling like us, loving people like us, or just plain representing us in a way we often cannot get from the real people in our lives as a result of bigotry and shame.
In this homophobic, sex-negative, capitalist society, minorities of all sorts are supposed to be worthless and fandom is often the only place they can seek representation. In this bigoted, capitalist society we are not supposed to believe that our pleasure and fulfillment is worthwhile. We are not supposed to see ourselves as having intrinsic value. Lots of us need escapism because the world around us hates us so much that the only way to survive it is to escape it sometimes into a created place that views us as valid and good. Fanfiction, moreso than mainstream published media ever can, gives value and space to people and feelings and experiences that are given no space or value elsewhere.
But we are supposed to think that’s worthless.
Answers About Canons (And Cannons)
So I asked the internet about the use of cannon vs. canon and why people use one when they mean the other.
Eminently acceptable answers I received:I’m dumb (edit from Sam: Dumb is not acceptable from you! “Can’t spell” however, I understand :D) and can’t spell and spell checker doesn’t catch the two n version as ‘wrong.’ So I use them interchangeably. 8)I use canon, but I google which one is correct every time I use it because I just can never remember.I only say “head cannon” when I’m making a joke about the info being like a cannon ball.
Pretty awesome answers I received:“Head-cannon” should totally be a part of Tony’s armour.for the longest time i thought it was cannon because it played off the ship metaphorTheory: Cannon people are subliminally influenced by the frequent discussions/connotations of homoeroticism so often embraced in fandom? Because: balls.
BEST ANSWER EVER:“Cannon” because it frequently sinks my ships. :(
For all the women I have loved who were dragged through the mud
I’ve read a lot of great essays about how fandom is female-majority and creates a female gaze and a safe space for women and etc. But spend five minutes in fandom and you’ll have an unsettling question.
Why does a female-majority, feminist culture hate female characters so much?
It’s not a question of if it happens. You know it does. You can go into any fandom and see it. Some fandoms are worse than others, but it’s always there. Scroll down the Tumblr tag for any show, movie, book, comic, whatever, and you’ll see nothing but love for the men, and a lot of unjustified hate for the women, maybe with a few defenders here and there insisting on their love for the women in the face of all that hate.
To be clear, we’re not talking about female villains. Male villains get just as much hate. It’s fine if you hate Bellatrix Lestrange or Dolores Umbridge, you’re supposed to. (I personally stan for Bella, but I realize that wasn’t the authorial intent.) This is about people hating Hermione, Ginny and Luna, but loving Harry, Ron and Neville. This is about how ambiguous male antiheroes, like Snape, Zuko, or pretty much any male vampire protagonist can get away with walking that fine line between good and evil and not only remain sympathetic, but be even more beloved for how ~tortured~ he is, but when a female character is morally gray that bitch has to die.
So you can’t tell me it’s okay that you hate Sansa because you also hate Joffrey and he’s a dude. They’re not comparable. It isn’t even comparable if you pick a female antihero. Let’s do this apples to apples, here.
We all know that fandom does this. We all know that it’s fucked up and symptomatic of internalized sexism. What’s really fucking weird about it, though, is that the women doing this hating often aren’t ignorant. These are feminists. These are women who can go on meta-analyses of the writing. Some will hide behind pseudo-feminist reasons for their hate—oh, it’s the writing, we just aren’t given strong female characters! (I saw this used for the women of AtLA: Katara, Toph, Azula, et al. This was about when I just backed away slowly because I know a lost cause when I see it.) I’ve seen women who denied being sexist, but couldn’t name a single female character they liked. And it’s always that the female characters aren’t good enough, even when they obviously have a double standard, and they’re measuring women on an impossible scale full of contradictions and no-win binds, while the men are just embraced and loved pretty much for existing.
The reaction nearly every time one of these women is called out is not to say, “Huh, you may have a point, I should examine the way I judge and process women’s actions more closely,” but an insistence of their feminism, followed by a more detailed description of why that particular woman is terrible and she hates her, as if the whole point were not that fandom is already oversaturated with that kind of hate, and as if the person doing the calling out were not already 110% done with that bullshit.
Particularly telling is that male-dominated corners of fandom do not have this problem. They fetishize, they objectify, they ignore. They don’t hate like this.
We know it happens. What I want to know is WHY.
Theories follow below the cut.