Okay, we are going chronologically-ish through the rest. This doc is up to page 11 in Word; I don't have the energy to organize it in any more nuanced way!
The Rule of Names with lizweisharr
Navigating legal/"real" names, pseudonyms and anonymity. As someone who tries hard to keep my "real life" unconnected to my fannish life in as many ways as possible—including using several different email addresses and account names and opting out of all the Google/Facebook/smartphone/cross-platfor
Reasons for and against using one's legal/real name (henceforth "RN") online—"I'm old and I figure what the hell" vs. people who have unique legal names or sensitive job situations they don't want linked to fannish activities (government/contracting, security clearance, teaching, queer org).
Advantages of pseuds: "It gives me the freedom to construct my identity online. I'm judged only by the quality of my writing or how I interact with people." Balancing RNs and pseuds: using first name only, using RNs once you get into email exchanges with specific people. Using multiple pseuds, like one for fic and one for pro writing; one person uses a different pseud on Fetlife than in fandom because they don't want people to think they want to do what they put in their fanfic. Hard to separate personal/family content from fannish from professional on for example Twitter if your account is your RN. Concerns about technology and corporations overriding your careful separation in the ongoing trend toward interconnectivity. Some people only care about being able to control which people in their life know what, while others care about the IP address side, etc.
Advantages of anonymity:
- Anon memes give me the opportunity to talk to someone about a kink or a hobby without any other context. And I can walk away when I need to and no one can track me down.
- You don't have to be the token X person [trans*, black, disabled, whatever] .
- You don't have to deal with whatever assumptions are tacked onto your pseud or any pseud [i.e. white cis female].
- It can bring about productive discussions that wouldn't happen otherwise. Anonymously, you can say: "I'm a classics scholar / I spent two years in prison / I'm undergoing surgery and can tell you about T. Ask me about it." Reddit page for "I am a …"
Ambivalence about anonymity; changing standards of pseudonymity vs. anonymity:
- Kink memes seem to be propagating a subculture of anonymity. If your pseud is attached to your fill, you're whoring for attention. If you're anon, it's a gift to fandom. *I thought this was really interesting, a new iteration of fandom as gift culture.
- You can avoid kink memes etc. if you don't like the culture of anonymity, but they're becoming the only places to find real discussions of general fandom issues. fail_fandom_anon. And they're among the most popular places for new stories.
- But there's a lot of abuse there too. Kink meme author bombarded with negative anonymous feedback; said it was the worst experience she'd had in years of fannish activity. I shared the story of an anon kink meme writer who got in an argument with prompters/readers and I dismissed her, only to learn months later when she de-anoned that it had been a friend of mine whose work I respect.
- Vicious behavior is not new to anon memes.
- 'The prevalence of anonymity in LJ/DW comms is puzzling to me because you already have a pseud. Maybe an outcome of that social justice wank, people who got dogpiled on and are hesitant to say anything now with their pseuds attached.'
- In the memes people often have a "coming out" moment when they de-anon – "I'm the car sex nonnie." Then others realize, "Oh, I've talked to you before."
Gender and Sexuality Across Cultures with deelaundry
Poor Dee confessed at the start of the panel that in order to properly prepare, she'd wanted to do all the research, and that we only had an hour to cover a huge topic; but the session turned out just fine as audience members talked about personal experiences with gender and sexuality norms in different geographical areas across different decades in the U.S., the historical vacillation between conservative and liberal attitudes toward gender roles and acceptable sexual identities as well as their (perceived) relationships to race and class, and tips and resources for researching such topics in different eras and cultures when writing fiction.
Personal observations included the varying amount of gender differentiation in schoolbooks and children's toys, the use of feminization classes, the waxing and waning of gender equality in specialized classes like home ec and shop, and a high school prep/booster club for girls whose sole purpose was to make treats for male athletes and who as a reward received a kiss from said athletes at the end of the school year. Some experienced gender role dysphoria growing up rather than gender identity issues – they wanted to act as men could in the world.
On gender and misogyny in reading and writing and the dangers, as Chimamanda Adichie said in her TED Talk, of having a single story:
- "I realized I was writing about certain kinds of characters or topics because I was indoctrinated, not because, as I'd thought, I liked them."
- "If you avoid the romance you end up writing male-centric. When you imitate what's out there, you end up shoehorning in romance."
- "I remember saying, 'I don't want a love interest' when asked why I didn't write female characters. I had to give them permission to have agency."
- Important to support stories from a variety of genders (and sexual identities and cultures and races etc. etc.) to encourage and generate a greater diversity of stories that will inspire the next generation to tell their own stories instead of the one story they see out there in popular media, and so on.
- One audience member likes to play the "bookstore game": go to the new YA fiction section, look at the book covers, and ask, Are they sisters or rivals for the same guy?
- Another speaker liked the Silver [Something] vampire book because the stalky boyfriend dies and the heroine gets therapy.
- Someone's male friend doesn't like the label "bronies" (male My Little Pony fans) because it implies that most/normal fans are female; but he finds comfort in the community that now he can say he played with My Little Ponies when he was a kid.
- Transformers and Homestuck do interesting things with sex and gender.
- Darren Criss on Glee is half Filipino; culture has a third gender; influencing his portrayal? Fandom did research. Nice subset of stories that mess around with Blaine's gender identity.
- People who were invisible don't get recorded in history. "All we've got about the Celts is what the Romans said about them."
- Try memoirs. Diaries. Evidence and diversity of lived experience.
- Those who want to better understand expected/stereotypical gender roles in different cultures might try researching missionary documents
- Scientific and academic papers are subject to the biases of the archaeologist/anthropologist/etc. Keep this in mind when reading research. And any secondary sources on gender. And also primary sources. And also consider your own biases.
- The question you and others should be asking about your characters' experience in your fic is, is it plausible? Not "that couldn't have happened because Scholar X said so." Nor "it must have happened that way because Person Y said so."
- Remember that transgender/genderqueer categories here today don't always cross-reference to different times and places.
Size Doesn't Matter (except when it does) with sharkie – reading and writing long fic
I actually started this hour in the Ultimate AU panel, but switched after a couple of minutes because it seemed like it'd be just like the other AU panels I've gone to at Muskrat Jamboree and the last con.txt and that it might be more educational to hear about something different. Am still reading other people's notes to catch what I might have missed. Regardless of whether it was the "right" choice, people in the long fic panel had some interesting opinions to share.
Discussion questions included: What characteristics define long fic? What do you want to get out of reading a long fic, and why do you like writing long fic? (Answers: more than one plot; room to develop characters and relationships; ability to cover a lot of time; my ideas are long-fic ideas.) How do your schedule and reading habits affect when and why you choose to read a long fic?* Has your average story length increased over time? How do you overcome the many challenges of writing a long fic/engaging in such a long-term project? Do you outline, do you do character sketches? As you're writing, do you go back and read what you've already drafted?
*May I add here that it would be so helpful if all comms and challenges required word counts in their headers (*coughMcShepMatch*), because clicking through to find that a story is 60K words instead of 2K is irritating when you haven't got the time to read it right then and/or haven't mentally prepared yourself to settle in for the long haul? I love a good long story, but I want to know it's a long story ahead of time.
Pros and cons of posting long fics as you go, as works in progress:
- I can't edit out filler or know for sure where I'm going
- I'll consider it when there's a spike of fandom interest and I'm afraid it's going to trail off
- I've done it out of fear of being Jossed or looking like I was Jossed ("I started writing this a while ago, this takes place just after Episode X" doesn't always satisfy)
- It offers immediate feedback for motivation/assistance/accountability. Alternately, could share with a limited first-readers group.
- Afraid of writing myself into a corner, or being/looking inconsistent as I iron out characterizations. 'I did that once years ago and only recently figured out how to end the story. Of course, I won't actually finish it now because I've lost interest and my writing style has changed a lot.'
- Makes it harder to abandon your story – which could be good or bad.
- Often when writing long fic you need to go back and insert something on page 10 so something else can happen on page 90. Can't do that if posting as WIP.
I was interested in discussing frustrations about how writers don't always know how to structure and pace long fics, particularly regarding Big Bang challenges where participants who may not be used to crafting long stories have to "fill" a certain word count and too often end up with flabby writing or a rushed ending to meet the deadline. People didn't seem to have much to say about that, though, other than acknowledging that it isn't something we tend to be taught in school. Granted, I'm not sure what there is to discuss beyond an airing of grievances, but I did ask for resources that I might point people to whenever I feel moved and safe enough to offer concrit. Beyond taking classes, people suggested following the blogs of writers who offer tips (John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman). They also noted that after you've written your first 10K story, the next is easier.
The most useful general piece of advice I heard in the panel for both readers and writers is one that applies to any length or genre of story (or nonfiction, or other creative media...) you may be interested in: Study other examples of what you're reading. It's not a new concept, but you really can't emphasize it enough. To learn how to write long, read long. If you're reading a good fic, ask yourself: How did they do X? If you're reading a bad fic, ask: Why doesn't Y work? (If you can stand it without hitting the back button, that is. :) )
Last, people talked a bit about sustaining your drive while writing your long fic. Some people need to write outlines while others find it saps their enthusiasm. Some use partners, mentors or first readers so they have someone else they're telling their story to as they write. Don't tell too many people your story in person, or else you've already told it and then there's no motivation to write it!
Writing Trans Characters with Vik/v_angelique
Vik started by handing out a sheet with helpful resources and 101-type background. (Looks like they plan to post it on their DW at some point along with a panel write-up, so definitely keep an eye out for that.) After they set ground rules and gave an overview of the points they wanted to hit during the hour, we launched into questions people had.
Questions to ask when you're writing a trans character and building your head canon. There is no clear "pre-" and "post-" transition phase. Where in the process is your character? Are there parts of canon that need to be addressed? How does the character relate to their gender in canon? How do other characters in canon think about gender and queerness?
So many trans-themed stories are coming out stories. But sometimes when you don't make trans issues the focus, it never comes up, whoops. One possible solution: Work in an offhand reference to someone taking T. Think about themes other than first time or coming out stories: someone else finds out, i.e. during an intimate relationship; creepy enemy blackmail; incidental trans rather than focus (character is out, etc.). Mod wishes there were more stories where trans people are in relationships with other trans people.
Discussion of the issues raised by stories that feature clones, magic, advanced technology and other ways of changing bodies (and minds) that are not available to people today. Trans themes in historical canons and AUs have different context/possibilities. Remember that labels are/were different in different cultures. Historically, genderqueerness can be about performance rather than identity, i.e. women acting as men not because they feel they are men but because they want more agency. Be careful not to fetishize (especially the medical aspects) or be appropriative. Remember there is no trans monolith; "trans people" don't all share one opinion on any topic.
Recs: Vorkosigan books, Hit or Miss (web), Dirty Work (web comic/TV thing), What'sNormalAnyway.com, a lot of books by Octavia Butler or Ursula LeGuin, Glee, Finder (comic).
Personality Typing and Character Analysis for Better Fanworks (Greg House is an INTP) with deelaundry and ciaan, a.k.a. The Panel for People Who Don't Care about The Avengers
Now I know I'm biased because I'm friends with one of the mods, but I enjoyed this panel a lot. We didn't waste time going into the minute details of any particular typing scheme, nor did we fill easel sheet after easel sheet with proposed types for a bunch of characters. Instead, happily, we spent enough time on Meyers-Briggs and the related Keirsey.com temperament sorter to get everyone more or less on the same page (or so it seemed to me, who was familiar with the MBTI going in), and then when we assessed the types of one easel sheet's worth of characters, we did so while examining their relationships to each other (when in the same canon), noting popular types and complementary pairs across canons, and discussing other meta-type aspects. A nice balance.
So for instance, we started with House—arguably INTP—and Wilson—arguably ESFJ. Mod believes they're deliberately written as complete opposites. Complementary. Foils for each other. Dramatic conflict; different views on the world. Even though total opposites don't make for healthy relationships because you don't have much in common personality-wise. Then we noted that the pair type is the same for Holmes and Watson, and for Dean and Sam Winchester. Hard to figure out whether Watson is a P or a J; we decided he's a submissive J, always ditching his own plans with a sigh to follow the whims of his genius friend.
Mod finds some characters or personality types hard to understand and therefore hard to write. The MBTI framework provides insight into why they're making the decisions they do. Also, using the Kiersey categories can help you select the most useful description for your character and work backwards to fill in any MBTI dimensions you couldn't figure out.
Complexities in assessing type.
- Aliens wouldn't necessarily fit the four dimensions.
- Some characters have a conflict between how they're internally driven and what they're actually performing. Example of Bruce Wayne: Mod argues that everything everyone thinks he is is not actually what he is. Inside an ENTJ where people think I, F and P.
- Is the character operating in stress mode – something happened that's pushing them out of their comfort zone in one or more categories and making them act differently. Example of Hawaii 5-O, Danny forced into an unfamiliar situation, NJ to Hawaii.
- Not just stress can affect behavior but mental health issues – anxiety, depression. Autism can skew people toward a certain personality type – better at details than big picture, might make them seem S where they actually skew N.
- Characters with multiple identities may have multiple personality types. Bruce Wayne vs. Batman, Bruce Banner vs. Hulk.
- Characters may have different types in different iterations of canon. Example TOS vs. Reboot Kirk & Spock – slightly different personalities because of slightly altered histories.
- Characters can behave differently in different environments (work vs. home) and over time (childhood vs. adulthood, after raising family, after life-altering events). Once you've mastered and grown comfortable with your strengths, you often begin to explore the other poles.
Right, so we did give a group of Harry Potter characters a shot. (Someone said there's an HP MBTI list online, but that they don't necessarily agree with the conclusions.) Harry: an E raised in a closet. S/N unclear. F and P for sure. Hermione INTJ. Ron ESFP. The performer. Total opposite to Hermione; sparks. Draco: Hard to judge S/N because he's so constrained that it's hard to know what he'd do if free. INFP maybe. Working to take care of himself. Snape: INTJ – the evil mastermind category. Also computer programmer. Same as Hermione; also opposite Harry. Remus: INFJ. Sirius: ESFP. Almost complementary "but they have lots of feelings."
Miscellaneous notes on other characters. The Sentinel: an obvious S for sensory. Spock: struggle to tamp down the F. Lex (Smallville) INTJ; Clark ESTJ. A bunch of comics characters.
We ran out of time to discuss other assessment mechanisms like the DISC and enneagram, but that was all right. Mod added that she always wants to know when characters' birthdays are so she can do their astrological signs.
Subtext Is Not the Only Text with zvi sounded like fun, but turned out to be a crowdsourcing exercise in making a list of books, TV shows and movies with queer characters. "There are things out there that are actually gay/lesbian/trans/queer and we can enjoy them. What are they?" I figured I could get the list later, so I skedaddled. Until that is posted somewhere, I remain satisfied with the answers to thingswithwings' request for queer media that are not tragic (even rarer).
Femslash Fandom Faire with zvi and ambyr had a similar structure, but I should know more about femslash than I do, so I sat in the back and listened. Turned out I had a few sources to offer for the list that I hadn't really thought about from an f/f angle before: the newer BSG (which, okay, no, I'd thought about plenty of femslash in that one), True Blood, The Vampire Diaries. Learned that Queen of Swords (heavily pimped throughout the con) has Peter Wingfield and that the SyFy Channel is running Lost Girl and not censoring any of it. Again, I'm sure the list will be posted somewhere. ETA: recrudescence posted photos of the brainstorm papers.
My Kink's OK, Your Kink's OK Revisited with sharkie and Aral
A good time, especially since I was so disappointed at the last con.txt to have accidentally missed the first occurrence of this panel.
Contained much familiar conversation for those who've read or participated in discussions over at Kink Bingo and thingswithwings' and eruthros' journals and whatnot—stuff like how calling something a kink can be shaming in itself, and how leaving "I usually hate this but you made me like it" comments doesn't work, and how you can't assume that people's RL kinks are the same as the ones they put in their fanworks, and how much fun it is (not) to deal with the sort of identity policing that goes around where people say "I'm X and all people with X are offended by this," or "My friend is X and he's not offended, so you shouldn't be" or whatnot—so I mostly took notes on the parts that were less familiar. For instance: I didn't know that Harlequin's Presents imprint is basically a line of dubcon books!
50 Shades of Grey, tolerance, and kindness. (C'mon, you knew we couldn't get through a con without this book coming up.) Lines blurring; people find themselves talking about fannish lessons with non-fannish people. Judgmental "mommyporn" language being used all over the place. Everyone/every woman should have porn they like. Oh, it must mean we women secretly want to submit to men, ugh. Book is a complicated topic within feminist communities too. Fandom is way ahead of the curve on what's depicted in the book. A lot of fannish shaming of the book, its author, its readers, and of young girl Twilight fans. Can backfire: girls getting slapped down when they venture into online communities can think, "If that's what fandom is, I don't want to be part of it." We're losing out on an opportunity to educate. ("Stalking is bad. This negotiation fic is better.")
Changing and expanding definitions of kink. "Kink memes" have become general "request memes," but don't the narratives being asked for count as kinks, too? AO3 wranglers trying not to mess with specific kink tags out of a desire not to get something wrong. Does "kink" even always necessarily mean "sexual"? "Erotic"? Some fanworks invoke a sexual response on the part of the reader without explicit sexual content in the story. There's asexual kink too. "Fascination" maybe a better word. [*Love this, btw. Definitely going to find it useful in future.] With more experience, some things don't feel kinky anymore. Also, once more for the record, you can't ask for sex stories that don't have kink! There aren't any! How are you defining "kink" and "vanilla"?
Engaging in difficult conversations.
- Don't use identities as kinks. Trans* is not a kink. What about when you want to write about something as kink or as a part of kink, like amputeeism, as erotic fantasy rather than an accurate representation of reality? Author's notes and labeling is one way to mitigate. Addresses people who might incorrectly think this reflects reality; addresses people who'll know this is not at all like reality and might be upset. Possible to reach a mutual acceptance of "Your kink is OK but it's a kink, not a representation of our community"?
- How do we productively respond/engage with people who get hurt?
- Can't respond constructively to "This story sucks." Try "Thank you for your comment" or "Thank you for sharing."
- "You've hurt me." Say "I'm sorry." And stop there.
- If one or both of you is open to dialogue: "Where did I go wrong/how can I do better?" Or even better, "I will try to do better," so you're not putting the onus on the commenter to educate you.
- You can say "I'm sorry, I'm not able to engage with this conversation." If they push back, then they're the one who looks bad.
- It's hard not to feel defensive. It's hard not to post the reflexive response.
- I'm not sorry I wrote the story. I'm sorry it had this consequence for you.
- Sometimes an unreconcileable clash – I can't stop having this kink; I can't stop hating this kink.
- On the bright side, by engaging in such a discussion publicly, you're educating other people too (bystanders).
- How do you as a commenter convey your willingness to discuss if poster didn't invite? "BTW, if you'd like to discuss…" Helps if you the author/creator say in a note that you're willing to discuss.
Shifting Genre Lines in the Sand with ciaan
I like when things are delineated. I like giving and receiving details when traditional and/or broad categories don't fit or don't permit enough information to be conveyed. So I thought I'd try this panel to be challenged, to be informed, and/or to share with like-minded people the frustrations of fanworks that don't fit neatly into categories.
There was some of that. However, the conversation went off on many tangents (and to be honest, I was on panel overload by then), so I didn't take a lot of notes.
Questions about categorization, labeling and community: Can you post an m/m/f threesome fic to a slash community – or to a het community? Example raised of the mckay_sheppard kerfuffle a couple of years back over whether trans* and always-a-girl AUs were allowed. How do you know what to use or what to expect when people use ratings schemes differently? How do you rate a story where people spend the whole fic talking about sex but there's no actual sex? How do different people define gen, and will we ever agree on what it means? (Wish you'd been there to contribute, sholio!) Are we trending toward expanded authors' notes and tags to convey nuance not captured by traditional headers? Maybe, but we don't like tl;dr or the bloated/uninformative/nonstandard tumblr tags taking over the AO3, either.
What we need:
- A Kinsey scale for each of the different dimensions (sex, feelings, explosions...)
- Option to move away from het and slash and gen as top-level genres so we can search for "adventure" or whatever across all of those categories (more of an issue in comms than on archives where you can customize searches)
- Easier way to indicate major vs. incidental relationships (more of an issue on archives than in comms where you can customize headers)
- A way to convince people to use some kind of standard tagging system... which will likely be impossible since we're talking about a community that in general loves to subvert authority
Fandom and the Law with cesy and lizweisharr
More interesting than I'd expected, given the mods' disclaimers about not being lawyers (cesy) or copyright lawyers (liz). To group the most salient points into four categories:
Definitions and tensions:
- Common confusion between trademark (you need to register and defend to keep) and copyright (you get it by default)
- "Derivative" was originally used to cover things like official Star Wars merchandise. Is a knitting pattern for a Dalek derivative or transformative? A case about an Ood knitting pattern; solution if the speaker remembers properly was to license it.
- It's come to be that "pornography" is considered a parody and therefore it is protected speech in the U.S. Yet slash somehow is not protected. [How does the legal system define porn?]
- Obscene speech (designed to harm) is never protected. Pornography is not designed to harm. But people tend to decide that if they don't like it, it's obscene.
- Copyright law (devised not to protect the author/creator, but to protect the right to copy) vs. the right to create or engage in free speech. Fan-related cases are always brought under copyright claim; if they were brought under 1st Amendment, they would lose.
- Tension between individual freedom (do what you want) and social contract (gov wants to make sure what you're doing doesn't hurt other people)
- One audience member asks non-fandom photographers about using their pix for manips, rather than plucking what they want from Google Images. Audience guesses pro artists/photogs would be more likely to say no if they don't understand what their work is being used for; awareness-raising is key. Still think it's worth asking. If no, worth acknowledging that sometimes they don't want you to use it for that purpose, and respect that. Proposal to draft a form letter; speaker may work on that with OTW lawyers. Went on to say that most of the time she gets a yes. Sometimes it's "this is an awesome idea, let me send you a better version of the graphic." Remember, pros are creative artists too who often love to see their work inspire something.
- Reminder that fan creators are not (legally) required to ask permission of other fan creators to transform their work, but socially it's considered nice to ask.
- The OTW has lawyers who are prepared to help people in transformative work-related court cases. They have responded to authors who've come complaining with "No, it's Fair Use, go away" and so far no cases have gone to court.
- OTW list of sites with good/bad (bad/worse?) takedown policies for vids
- EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). Has regular newsletters.
- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has helped people get acquitted in cases e.g. that argue manga is child pornography
- Creative Commons
- TALL project/Onion router: Your ISP can't track what sites you're visiting. The more people use it for non-suspicious browsing, the better it works.
- Dreamwidth policy that if someone files a DMCA complaint against something you've posted, you will have the opportunity to file a counter notice
- Know that your fanwork content notes can inadvertently serve as flags or points of accusation ("You've already admitted that it's X")
- Watch what's happening! Watch your legislators! Talk to your representatives!
There were a few other panels I would have liked to have gone to, if they hadn't conflicted with something else—Hunger Games, Going Pro, On Beyond Pairings, and Doctor Who: Moff's Long Game. Looking forward to other write-ups on these. I see duskpeterson has already done one on the Pro panel.
What else haven't I mentioned. Well, I tried to say something in each session I went to, which was unusual. It helped to know a lot of the people. Starting to read other people's reports about skipping programming and hanging out with people makes me wonder once again if my con experience will ever evolve into attending fewer panels and engaging in less structured socializing/room parties, maybe as topics become less new and appealing. It's not like the panels have a monopoly on intellectual dialogue (I must remind myself). I dunno; I've always been more of a lecture person.
Whatever: That was my weekend at con.txt in a nutshell. A... really big nutshell. Whew! As Mark Twain might have said, I would have written you a shorter post, but I didn't have the time.
Running ETA: Links to other people's write-ups
General: recrudescence one and two | v_angelique | hannahrorlove
franzeska on the vid show
sailorptah on the AO3 panel
v_greyson on the hockey RPS DIY
fairestcat on the Avengers panel
cincodemaygirl on fanfic & e-readers
melannen on (the con and) programming structure