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First, let me say that you may now all pelt me with fruit for being exceptionally late to the party in figuring out that the flurry of Ye Olde Fanficke Debayte pinging its way around the Web the last few days isn't solely as a result of Cory Doctorow's Locus article. Because only this afternoon did I put together that something high-profile occurred over the weekend with the curious entity known as FanLib. I'm not clear exactly what; it may merely be that the rumblings in the undergrowth, of which I've been peripherally aware for a few months now, finally hit critical mass. Or maybe it just actually went live or something.

The reason I don't know is that I have, quite frankly, been happily ignoring it. When I first heard about it, I thought, "Oh, look, the latest incarnation of somebody trying to make money off fanfic. That's going to end in tears. I do believe I shall go nowhere near it."

Dunno if we have the tears yet, but there's plenty of passion, with all the usual positions represented. Henry Jenkins, the much-loved pioneer of fan studies as viable academic pursuit, sees some new wrinkles in this latest upsetting of the status quo. I'm more inclined to believe that this, too, shall pass, but it remains to be seen. In the meantime, mostly it sounds like the same old talking past one another, not least because there's too much nuance within one's own sphere (be that the fannish community, the creative segment of the industry, the corporate segment of the industry, or other) to keep track of, never mind trying to really get what's going on in somebody else's yard. Not to say we can't give it a shot, which is why, for example, I put a little more effort into my comment to Denis McGrath than just "Because (a) you're not a jerk, and (b) we consider the crazy in that scenario to be self-evident." (On that note, incidentally, please don't go over there from here and tell him he's a jerk. Wearing a paper bag over my head would make it very hard to get any work done.) This is someone who gets the flying heebies from fanfic as a concept, which in a perfect world wouldn't matter a jot because nobody would try to foist it on him. Of course, the reason he gets the flying heebies is that some do try. Peer education and self-policing in the fannish community is (with apologies to Churchill) the worst solution to that problem, except for all the others.

Which brings us back to FanLib and the Staggeringly Bad Idea-ness of an industry-sponsored fic archive. Other voices are already handling the dissection of the TOS, the feminist concerns, and the in-depth rehash of why fandom would be something other than what it is if it operated somewhere other than under the radar. I have just one observation I haven't seen elsewhere.

See, curiosity finally got the better of me, and I actually went and looked at FanLib's front page. And if none of the rest of the baggage were happening, I would never do so again.

Why?

The damn thing looks like MySpace.

Of course, someone in a comment I read today dubbed it "the Creation Cons of fanfic." Which, in a way, is the same thing. If it takes off, it's going to be as a parallel structure, regarded contemptuously by fandom-at-large as a feeble synthetic substitute manufactured to take advantage of n00bs who don't know any better. Some will graduate to "the real thing;" others will be satisfied with what they find there, and may well try traditional fandom and not like it. Creation is still with us after lo these decades, and MySpace is a household word. I have trouble wrapping my head around either of those, but that's life.

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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
lyssie
May. 23rd, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
Heh. It is an ugly site. I mostly just wanna know why the high and might guy in charge couldn't bother to discuss things with the fans he wants to rip off, but can discuss them with another man.

Sadly, it's probably going to be as annoying an answer as the Hughes article.
wiliqueen
May. 24th, 2007 09:53 am (UTC)
It isn't just that it's ugly, it's ugly (to our eyes) in a specific way that a whole lot of people have already accepted and acclimated to. I can't make heads or tails of it for the exact same interface and structure reasons that I can't make heads or tails of MySpace. Which has largely failed to gain traction with the traditional fannish community for, as far as I can tell, mostly for that reason. But the explosion of fannish activity online means that there are a whole lot of spaces for wheel-reinvention, and that's one of them.

There are a number of people in the FanLib debate asking what the site's target audience is. I don't know that we have to look much further to answer that.
becky_h
May. 29th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
I really want someone to write RPS of the fanlib creators.

...I'm going to hell for that. Shush. It's late.
lyssie
May. 29th, 2007 04:41 am (UTC)
It's been suggested, actually. *g*
becky_h
May. 29th, 2007 04:46 am (UTC)
Good! I don't want to go to hell alone *G*
ithildyn
May. 23rd, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
Of course, someone in a comment I read today dubbed it "the Creation Cons of fanfic."

Lord, it is, isn't it?

Considering how often I've had to explain to those new to fandom why Creation is of the bad, I guess I know what to look forward to!
wiliqueen
May. 24th, 2007 09:57 am (UTC)
At least you have a ready-made template...
therealjae
May. 23rd, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love your head and its screwed-on-straight-ness.

-J
wiliqueen
May. 24th, 2007 10:00 am (UTC)
*chuckle* Thanks.
tytaniaherself
May. 23rd, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
I've been debating about making a fanlib post because the issues it raises are interesting, even for someone like me who writes in a public domain fandom (because Gaston Leroux's book is public domain even if ALW's lyrics are not, and I'm not a poor enough writer to be quoting POTO lyrics.)

I've studied some law and my dad is a lawyer, so I chatted about the TOS with him. Our opinion was that despite the fact that the TOS requires contributors to accept all legal responsibility for the free content they provide, the fact that fanlib has sections devoted to fic based on copyrighted works indicates an intent to profit from them without permission and any smart lawyer would go after fanlib and their 3 million rather than the authors. However, fanlib also removes the protection that we have as authors (making no money on our activities, the difficulty of tracking down an anon author) and could ultimately be destructive to our communities by forcing us all underground (including the ALW quoting POTO fic'ers.)

I think it's in our best interest to get the word out that we're being screwed so that Fanlib will quietly fade away before it kills fan culture as we know it. Yeah, it's alarmist but that's how you get when you take law classes. Besides, My fic has already taken over a year to write and will most likely take another 6 months just to complete a draft. There is no way I'm letting something else profit from it in return for a T-Shirt and fame on the MySpace of FanFic. I don't mind giving it away to other people who love POTO as much as I do, but letting some corporation make millions using it while I eat ramen noodles? Hell. No.
wiliqueen
May. 24th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)
*nodding vigorously*
I'm very much of the mind that "alarmist" is a good thing to be whenever fanfic, money and lawyers even look like they're coming into close proximity with one another. The results are never, ever good. Maybe someday somebody will come up with a model under which they could be, but this certainly isn't it.
executrix
May. 29th, 2007 10:27 am (UTC)
moonyfae: I really don't like to say anything nice about FanLib, but I think in their inimitable clumsy way they were just trying to qualify for the CDA section 230 get-out-of-jail-free card for archives.
tytaniaherself
May. 29th, 2007 02:30 pm (UTC)
Except the part where the original TOS gave them the right to edit fic and their marketing brochure explicitly states that they would be doing so, thus negating that claim. Apparently, with three million bucks they can't get an attorney who knows more than I do after two years of pre-law and two business law classes.

And seriously, when you're operating for-profit with that kind of financial backing, there's no excuse for clumsiness.

Now, the new TOS do qualify FanLib as an archive but they are in direct opposition to the promises they made to would-be customers in their marketing brochure. Oopsie.
(Deleted comment)
wiliqueen
May. 24th, 2007 10:01 am (UTC)
Hee! There's not exactly a shortage of badfic anywhere, of course. Which is just one more reason why the notion of anyone making money off it turns my brain inside-out.
usomitai
May. 29th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)
Just wanted to say thank you for your link to the Denis McGrath post and for having written such a clarifying response to him. I remember reading that comment "you stole from fic!" on Doris Egan's post and being horrified (be good to the awesome writer open to fandom, people!) and then saddened that a whole lot of people are going juding us on that.
wiliqueen
May. 29th, 2007 11:50 am (UTC)
Thanks. I don't know if we'll ever be able to really convince him that the Lunatic Fringe are as much of a minority as they really are, in part because he still seems to be working on disentangling people who engage in that level of crazy from people who just plain write crappy fic. But as long as it's the crazies he gets exposed to, we have to try.

He's also quite new to the whole arena, as it sounds like BT is the first show he's worked on with a (visible) participatory fandom. I'm okay with him never quite getting over the gut-level squick factor -- plenty of otherwise perfectly fan-friendly creative types don't -- but if it can be diminished, I'll call it a win. :-)
thecert
May. 29th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
Yep: MySpace, but with fic
Here via metafandom

The damn thing looks like MySpace.

Maybe it's because I haven't seen every blog post in this kerfluffle (having only two eyes, only twenty-four hours in the day, and so on) but one thing I haven't yet seen anybody observe is that Chris Williams and company don't see fanfic as being about fanfic. They see ficcers using fanfic as a vehicle for social networking, period. Thus they are offering FanLib as a site not for fanfic as fanfic, but for social networking via fanfic - whether that means ficcers meeting ficcers or ficcers meeting creators.

This is a very different approach from that adopted by most fanfic writers, maybe well-nigh unimaginable to old-school fanfic writers - which is why nobody (again, nobody that I've seen) has observed that that's what's really going on. (I mean, in addition to all the cluelessness, sloppy legal boilerplate, etc.).

wiliqueen
May. 29th, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Yep: MySpace, but with fic
but one thing I haven't yet seen anybody observe is that Chris Williams and company don't see fanfic as being about fanfic. They see ficcers using fanfic as a vehicle for social networking, period.

And y'know, I really haven't specifically seen that either. In fact, there's been an awful lot of diagnosing them as missing the social aspect and thinking of the fic merely as product, and it didn't really occur to me to question that until you brought it up.

But you're absolutely right. No wonder they're so damn confused when people try to explain it's about the social connections. They know that. The thing they don't understand is why/how those connections don't work the same way as in the MySpace model.

Dude. Great big lightbulb.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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