Episode 31: Get Recced
Flourish and Elizabeth are joined by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, a fan culture journalist who co-curates “The Rec Center,” a weekly fandom newsletter, with Elizabeth. They discuss recommendation versus criticism, what makes a good fic (to read and to rec), the antipathy to critique in many corners of the fanfic world, and some of their favorite—and least favorite—tropes. They also respond to listener mail: comments about fanfic’s emotional payoff, “slashtivism” in the context of wider online discourse, and whether fandom fetishizes homosexuality. Also, look at that glorious cover art by Maia Kobabe!
As always, our intro music is “Awel” by Stefsax!
She and Elizabeth run The Rec Center, a newsletter you can join here.
We surpassed our $300/month Patreon goal! Hooray! We’re still looking to raise more money to be better-supported, so please consider pledging if you haven’t already. You can also use Paypal if you don’t want to use Patreon.
The cover art is by @redgoldsparks—yes, the same person who made that beautiful sketch of us as a congrats on our Patreon! 😍
The episode that inspired this one was last week’s, featuring Evan Narcisse.
Gav’s hands-down best fanfic is Leave No Soul Behind, by whochick. Rated mature. Flourish has also read it and 10/10 would read about A MILLION TIMES MORE.
Did you think that Gav and Elizabeth were joking about the Clex fanvid that features Clark pregnant with kittens? Flourish did, BUT THEY WERE NOT JOKING. Enjoy “I Swear.”
Flourish’s time traveling Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan movie is called Kate and Leopold and she is getting contact embarrassment just from thinking about the fact that she admitted to liking it.
The article about the NY Times restaurant reviewer: “Pete Wells Has His Knives Out,” by Ian Parker, in the New Yorker.
Flourish will never stop reccing Iolokus by MustangSally and rivkat. Never.
Our first listener comment was from @dendritic-trees. Thank you so much for writing in! Hooray!
We really can’t recommend Laura Miller’s “In Praise of Reader Reviews” enough, it’s one of our favorite articles in ages. *_*
We mention My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead—go check it out!
Elizabeth SUPER MUCH RECS the Gold Dust Universe, by Amand_r, which starts with We held gold dust in our hands. It’s in Torchwood fandom.
Flourish’s rec is Truth and Measure, by Telanu, in The Devil Wears Prada universe.
@buffer-overrun sent in the second listener question.
All our music is by Jahzzar this week.
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: I really am glad that you took my admonishment that you had lost that sparkle to heart.
FK: It doesn’t feel like I’m faking it?
ELM: No, it seems like you’re genuinely excited to welcome our listeners.
FK: I am, so that’s good. [laughs]
ELM: All right, this is Episode 31. You wanna say the title, I know you do.
FK: “Get Recced”! [both laugh] I’m really excited about that title.
ELM: So, this is kind of a crossover, sort of—
ELM: —with my newsletter, “The Rec Center,” and my newsletter partner, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw. You know what? I was gonna ask Gav how to say her last name. Is it White-law or Whit-law?
FK: You didn’t ask.
ELM: We’ll never know.
FK: It’s a mystery.
ELM: Gav and I have been co-curating a newsletter that I know there’s a lot of crossover between this podcast and that, but we’ve been doing it since the first week of January and we recommend fanfiction, and fandom articles, and just you know, we always have some fan art and vids and general commentary. So, that’s “The Rec Center.” But this was your idea, not my idea.
FK: [laughs] Yeah, I just really wanted to talk about fanfiction recommendations and also sort of what makes a good fanfic, like how you think about that, how different people think about that. I dunno, I think it’ll be a good conversation.
ELM: All right, all right you’re gonna drive on that one, so—
FK: —I will drive.
ELM: It’s all you.
FK: I’m like, revving up as we speak.
ELM: OK, so and after that we have a couple listener questions so we’ll talk about those for a little while, but before we do any of that, very quickly: Patreon!
FK: You said “Patreon” like me.
ELM: Yeah, like I’m trying to, like, make it accessible to you.
FK: Aww. [both laugh]
ELM: So since the last time we talked to you, we passed our last goal, which was $300 a month. We surpassed it. Thank you so much to everyone. A bunch of people pledged right when we were nearing that, and we were like, “Hey it’s so close, please do this.” So we are going to be able to start commissioning writers for our Medium collection, medium.com/fansplaining.
FK: It’s really, really exciting. I think we should talk about how we’re putting the Patreon support to good use, too because this is the first episode that we have ever had commissioned art by Maia, who is a longtime listener, and we are so so so SO thrilled—
FK: —that she has been helpful. We’ve also been able to get help with transcribing and this is making life way better for us, so we’re really looking forward to commissioning writing and to, you know, hopefully even building more support and being able to get more done as time goes on.
ELM: Mm-hmm. And as far as the writing goes—I mean obviously people were welcome to reach out before, but if you are interested in writing and you want to formulate a pitch, or just get in touch and talk about ideas—even if you just, if you’ve never written or pitched before, like don’t be intimidated. I’m happy to let you know, you know. I’m very coherent right now.
FK: [laughs] I think the point is that while Elizabeth is a fancy person, like, she’s not fancy in the sense of being intimidating and so you should send pitches and, you know, take part in this because we want to have lots of people’s voices.
ELM: EXACTLY. That was a very nice way to spin it. I think it’s like slightly disingenuous. I probably am slightly intimidating…
FK: [laughs] But you shouldn’t be!
ELM: In this regard, you really shouldn’t be. And um, also you know, even if you—there’s a ton of resources out there for pitching, so just in general, like not just with us, if you are interested in breaking into this, there’s a lot of people out there who are trying to share their experience. Particularly women and people of color, I find, seem more interested in, like, what’s the expression? What is it, like, “lowering the ladder back down” or something like that? Do you know what I’m talking about?
FK: Yeah, not pulling up the ladder behind them or something. [laughs]
ELM: Yeah. I’m seeing this movement, especially on Twitter, of you know, groups that have had a harder time breaking into the professional writing world, being very generous with their advice.
So, I dunno. Go Google it. And don’t be afraid. And you’re gonna get a lot of rejections. And it just is what it is.
FK: That turned out to not be a very, like—
ELM: I don’t wanna sit here and tell people, like, “Oh yeah, just go Google it and then write a pitch and then someone’s going to let you write an article for money.” That’s the opposite of how it works.
FK: That’s true. But at the same time, people should not be intimidated and they should try and go for it and we would love to have pitches…
ELM: Yeah, totally.
FK: PITCH US.
ELM: I really derailed this from talking about us, but you know, just in general, pitch more.
ELM: OK so yeah, so our next goal is to be able to get more help with producing, so if you haven’t donated and you’re interested, please consider it. patreon.com/fansplaining!
FK: All right, should we call Gav?
ELM: Yeah, let’s call Scotland.
FK: All right!
FK: OK! Well, I think that we should welcome Gav onto the podcast. Hello, Gav!
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw: Hi! [laughs]
ELM: Hi, Gav. All right, fanfiction.
ELM: All right, so you’ve called us here to talk about fanfiction. What do you want to talk about, Flourish?
FK: So last time, when we interviewed Evan Narcisse, I noticed that you and he, Elizabeth, had a lot of connection talking about the way that you guys are both critics in your day jobs, and I realized that I don’t ever think about what makes a fanfic good, or what would make you want to rec it, or anything like that. And then I thought, “Wait a minute, hold up. There’s this entire thing that is ‘The Rec Center’ that you two do, Elizabeth and Gav, and that you guys probably have thought a ton about this,” and then I thought, “What does make a fanfic good? And how can we talk about this?”
Because I think it’s not—I guess maybe I was just sort of like, “Hmmm. I don’t think it’s exactly the same as like recommending a book or a movie or something and how is it different?” What’s going on? So I guess that’s a very broad, broad question but that’s what I was thinking about when I said, “We have to have Gav on!”
ELM: I think it’s actually a flawed question from the start [FK & GBW laugh] because criticism and recommending are not the same thing.
FK: That’s true.
ELM: And so Evan and I were talking about critique and it’s not like we’re offering critiques to these fics when we recommend them, right? In fact, that’s not very welcome in the fanfiction community.
GBW: I mean, if I was going to offer a critique of fanfic, which I don’t think I ever have to a writer, I certainly wouldn’t be broadcasting it on a newsletter to other people, because that just seems incredibly mean. I have too much of a platform to do that! [laughs]
FK: Right, for sure. But, I think in coming up with a fanfic to recommend, there are presumably other fanfics that you’re not recommending for one reason or another, right?
GBW: Oh, sure.
FK: Not that that’s like a jerk thing – there’s too many to recommend all of them, but then there is some question of what’s good.
ELM: OK, so that’s reframing the question. So the question is, “What makes a fanfic good to us and what makes it good enough to actually recommend?” And, I also am going to say that I am not an accomplished reccer like Gav is. Because, like, prior to this newsletter, which is now nine months old, I never—I’d recced a couple stories, ever. But, so, I dunno, Gav—do you want to go first?
GBW: I feel like my answer to this is going to be too simplistic because I just want to share stuff that I really like, so I do kind of empathize when I’m recommending something.
So, for example: a couple of weeks ago, I did a Star Trek recommendations list and there was one particular fanfic where I was like, “This is hands-down one of the best fanfics I’ve ever read.” It’s 200,000 words long, so it’s a big investment in your time. It’s also a slightly atypical idea because it’s an AU of the first reboot movie where Kirk, instead of going to Starfleet, joins the space ambulance service, which is maybe not a premise that everyone’s going to be on board with, and then I was like, “You have to read this because it’s a literary masterpiece!”
But most of the time when I’m recommending something on “The Rec Center,” I’m just like, “This is really fun.” And I don’t always specify that much because we don’t have much time, but that kind of varies from, “Here’s this very romantic story with a really one-note romance that really speaks to my age,” or something that’s just really in character, or something that’s a really rare pairing that people might not see at all. That kind of thing.
So it really varies, because you’re recommending stuff to such a wide audience, I don’t really see it the same way that I’d recommend a movie to a friend, because if I was recommending something to someone I knew, I would have a really specific kind of bunch of criteria. And if you’re speaking to thousands of people on a newsletter, it’s just like, “Here’s something really good that I liked.” [laughs]
ELM: Right, but I feel like because you rec so broadly and so much more broadly than me, that—I was saying to you guys before we recorded this that something I often worry about is that like, I am blinded by my interest in a pairing that I’m into, that I can’t tell if it’s actually good or mediocre. But I feel like because you, Gav, recommend so widely that maybe you don’t have the same hang ups because you’re not like, “Oh well these are really great whatever pairing stories.” Or do you have those moments also?
GBW: I don’t think I’ve ever worried about not recommending something good enough because I don’t feel like that would really be a problem. I’m sure that lots of people click through on the recs on our newsletter and don’t like it, for whatever reason, like taste-wise or whatever, but if I recommended something that I guess was more objectively “bad” (which is quite hard to judge), I think people would very quickly just not care because you’re just gonna backspace out of it. So, I don’t tend to be that concerned about that sort of thing, yeah. I’m sorry if that’s not the best answer, but…
FK: No, it’s a really good answer because when you said that, Elizabeth, I thought, “Well, aren’t there different kinds of enjoyment you can get out of different fics?” Right? I can definitely—I’ve thought about this a bunch when talking about fandoms that we don’t share. There’s certain things…there’s some Mulder and Scully stories that are terrible, terrible ideas but on the other hand, complete id candy and also completely great if you’re really devoted to that pairing. And that’s fine.
GBW: I think there is some really trash fic that I’ve not recced. There’s definitely some stuff where it’s just, it’s bad, it’s speaking to me on some really specific thing that I want to read but it’s not good enough that I can in all consciousness kind of recommend it to a wider audience. Not because it’s a weird kink or something, but just some really—you know, something that’s gonna be id fic but it’s really poorly written.
I think with fanfic you do have much more freedom to just say, “I’m recommending this particular fic because it’s this one really specific characterization point or pairing.” And people are gonna just be like, “fine,” whereas if you recommended a movie based on that same thing, people would be like, “What the fuck are you talking about? What about the artistic quality of the rest of everything else here?” [FK laughs] And I think we’re quite good about—when we’ve got just a two- or three-sentence blurb for some fanfic just being like, “Here’s why I love this.” It spoke to this really specific kind of I guess like the same as AO3 tags, you know. You’ve got your tag in there; you can tell what you’re getting.
ELM: So this is interesting. Why do you think that you can’t recommend a movie that way?
GBW: Well, I mean, I guess I could but—
ELM: —yeah but you’re right—that would be like—you’re supposed so talk about it like, “Well this element is good, this element is mediocre. Overall, here’s how I feel about it.”
GBW: It’s so rare to find because fanfic is something where people have very little shame about what they’re trying to create. It’s much less likely for someone to spend like $150 million on a three-character story where someone gets pregnant with like a cat baby. You know? That’s not something that happens. [all laugh]
ELM: I think there’s something wrong with society.
FK: In what story is there a cat baby? I wanna read this story. Please rec it.
GBW: I mean, I do not know any specific cat baby stories but—
FK: God dammit!
GBW: —but there’s a lot of A/B/O, the huge volume of A/B/O. There’s literally no movie for that. You know.
ELM: What about that vid you exposed me to that I’ve shown to other people now that are not in fandom?
GBW: Oh yeah, obviously that is the cat baby—the Smallville vids, the most iconic fanvid.
ELM: Flourish, you’ve seen this, right?
FK: No, I haven’t.
ELM: This is the greatest vid in the history of vids.
GBW: The greatest fanvid ever made.
GBW: We’ve spoiled it now. The twist is two-thirds of the way through it; you find out that Clark is pregnant with kittens. [laughs]
ELM: Yeah. Maybe just one cat, actually. I don’t remember.
FK: WHAT? There is a cat baby? I’m so delighted.
ELM: There’s actually an additional twist, which we’re not going to give away.
FK: OK, well I’m going to see it and hopefully—I mean, actually, dear listeners, I hope that some listeners will view it and also respond with their glee or horror, whatever it turns out to be because I’m really excited to watch this.
ELM: There’s no reaction you can have other than…happiness when you watch it.
FK: OK. I’m so excited.
GBW: In terms of the movie thing, there’s a handful of movies where you can like recommend it because “Here’s this really cathartic film where someone just goes and murders rapists.” Or, Jupiter Ascending—you can explain to a really wide demographic why you’re gonna be into this movie where someone becomes a space princess and marries Channing Tatum. But for the most part, there aren’t a lot of that type of id fic movies happening in the mainstream, and the ones that are happening are things like Batman, and they’re treated with far more lofty criticism than they deserve because it really is like a dumb para-fantasy thing.
FK: Well, wait a minute—is that true though? Because I feel like—I think about, like romantic—I mean, admittedly, romantic comedies are very rarely made lately, right? There’s not as many romantic comedies as there used to be. But I feel like there’s a lot of these that are kind of like id candy, right? There was a horrible one with like Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan that, I can’t. What was it? She’s a time-traveler? It’s not a good movie, but I watch it all the time because it’s id candy. Whenever I’m sick, I’m like, “Aww, yeah, time-traveling Hugh Jackman time,” you know?
GBW: Sure. I mean, definitely. There’s plenty of popular media that is basically id fic. But in terms of actually recommending, I think it’s like a lot easier in a culture of fanfic recommendation than a culture sort of like a weekly newspaper column, where you’re like, “Here’s this…you should be watching if you’re like really into cat babies.” [all laugh]
FK: Yeah, it’s really hard to say like, “I think that you should watch this. I know that it has Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman and it’s a terrible movie in a lot of ways but you should.”
GBW: Yeah, it’s something you do with your friends individually but not from like a media platform, whereas in fandom, it’s like everyone is sort of—you know what they want because your entire relationship with them is just about your media consumption so you can very easily be like, “I’m gonna drill down here and explain that the reason why this story is really great is because it’s about a rich middle-aged man like being seductive and morally troubled.” Or whatever your thing is.
ELM: So I made this form for the newsletter for people to submit their own recs, and one of the columns I put in was “tropes” because I want people to tell me if it’s a fake boyfriend AU and put a bunch of them together. And FYI, if you get the newsletter and you think we’re reading the guest rec stories—which I think some people do think we do—we are not.
GBW: Yeah, we’re not reading them. Uh, no. I’m not reading any of the guest recs. I think I’ve maybe read one.
ELM: Yeah, I—unless it was actually—yeah because we can’t, we just can’t. But I’ve gotten this vibe from some people who have interacted with us that they think that we are reading them. And it’s just like, “all right.” Just as an FYI. So everyone knows. [ELM and GBW laugh] But it’s interesting, I wonder, I’ve never encountered it in any other kind of media, the way you can have that kind of shorthand, where I just say, “tropes” and I’m getting an insane amount—and I don’t think this is just the function of AO3 kind of buttoning up the way the tagging is done—I think that these are cross-platform cross-fandom things. But I think that’s interesting because I can’t think of…
GBW: I mean, fantasy novels—if you have like a fantasy—not fantasy—romance novel subscription service, where you subscribe to the cowboy romances or whatever and you just get a cowboy romance sent to your mail every month. That’s basically the same.
ELM: But that’s more of a subcategory to me as opposed to—I’m trying to think of a trope, not fake boyfriend AU, but like—
GBW: For subscription romances, it’s like you go for, it’s just a trope. It’s like the same plot for every book…
FK: There’s also tropes that come through, in the titles, in the category romances also, so you can even get beyond that. So you can have your category romance where this one’s about millionaires or super aspirational people but then within that, you have the title The Billionaire’s Secret Baby or The Millionaire’s Virgin Secretary or whatever and those are gonna be different books with different tropes and you instantly know what the trope is.
GBW: It’s what Chuck Tingle is parodying with his really specific, like, oh like you know, Hammered by the Dinosaur Space Wang. That’s the kind of specificity you have within the romance publishing tropes...
FK: Which is great, by the way, because it means that I can have like, all my tropey shit that I want at any time, even when I’ve run to the end of my favorite fandom.
OK, so this brings us around though to another question, which is the question of sort of the quality in trope, because I think one of the things that’s coming up here is that I think that there’s things about like quality of writing, quality of prose, quality of plot, whatever, that I think we would all agree that we know: there are some things that are well-written where the prose does not want to make us stab out our eyes with a fork and there’s other things where the prose does make us want to stab out our eyes with a fork, but some of those things that are horrible, we read anyway, right? And we might rec anyway.
ELM: No, I don’t.
GBW: I don’t think I ever rec stuff that’s bad. I mean, I think there’s certain—just because it’s subjective and it’s kind of based on taste—I would probably be less likely, I wouldn’t really rec a coffee shop AU personally unless it was amazing, because I’m not really into that trope, whereas if I was doing—I might do like a rec list of—I dunno, I’m trying to think of like, I dunno a rare pairing, and if there’s something that’s fairly good, I’d be like, “this is amazing!” because there’s like no other fanfics for it and then recommend it, but no, I don’t think I’d recommend something that was bad.
FK: Of course you wouldn’t want to recommend something that was so distracting that you couldn’t enjoy it but I think there is a range of things maybe that—but you’re like, “no.” There’s no range for you, Elizabeth?
ELM: Well, all right. Reccing, absolutely not. And I think I have a different relationship to reccing than you guys probably do because for a long time I said explicitly that I wouldn’t rec because I didn’t feel comfortable doing that as a book critic, because I think that puts people in kind of a weird…
I don’t want anyone to think that, and I guess I kind of gave up on this but this was my party line for several years, I actually talked a lot about it with Anne Jamison who I know has had some similar struggles to this, but because of the sensitivity around constructive criticism in fanfiction, I don’t want anyone to say, “Oh my God, this book critic is assessing my work in, you know” which I think is hard because I don’t want to sit here and presume what anyone thinks and I also don’t wanna—that makes it sound like I’m so fancy, like what if someone saw, you know. I think I’m being kind of paranoid which is why I kind of gave up on it when we started this newsletter.
FK: No, I would feel differently if somebody who I knew was a published book critic was critiquing my work versus if it was a person I knew nothing about, right? I think that’s reasonable.
ELM: All right, great.
GBW: But, I mean, we’re not critiquing anything. We’re just saying, “I really enjoyed this and I want to share it.”
GBW: I write film reviews very regularly. I do TV reviews and comic reviews—
ELM: So you feel OK about it?
GBW: Yeah, it doesn’t bother me at all because I don’t think of it as the same thing and I also feel like a lot of people who read the newsletter are not going to be reading my professional work and the audience of my professional work is not going to be overlapping that much except for people that follow me on Twitter with the fanfic stuff, and I think it’s very obvious that there’s a big difference between me critiquing the latest Captain America storyline compared to recommending a Captain America fanfic. Like it doesn’t seem like it’s the same thing at all.
ELM: I mean, this is something that I have given up on but that was how I felt prior to January, basically. So, yeah. And I think that people can—I mean, like, the thing is though that I don’t think I’m that much of a different reader, so I think I do have less—
GBW: You mean like the way you read fanfiction versus the way you read published fiction?
ELM: Yeah, I don’t think they’re as far apart as they seem to be for some people. So, I will not continue—if I think something is poorly written, I will stop reading it. There’s no trope that can get me passed, no thing I love about a pairing or trope that will get me passed what I think is bad writing, and I actually think that more writing is bad than a lot of my friends in fandom and then I feel like a dick, so it’s just for fun, yeah sure, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy reading it so [GBW laughs]. Yeah, I know. I sound like a—I’m gonna be the bad guy here. It’s fine.
FK: No but this is also bringing up there was recently an interesting article about the New York Times restaurant reviewer and he was talking about—
ELM: Oh the New Yorker piece?
FK: Yeah, and he was talking about what it means to review something in the New York Times and what it was worth giving stars for, and one of the things he said was that at first he didn’t give many two-star reviews because people don’t like two-star reviews. People want to either hear something be savaged or they want to hear that it was good and they should go.
ELM: Wait wait wait, isn’t the Times star-system the one where if you even get 1-star it’s good? Or am I thinking of Michelin stars?
GBW: You’re thinking of Michelin stars.
ELM: [laughs] OK.
GBW: It’s like a theater review system where you get five stars if it’s good.
ELM: You can get five stars? OK, I gotcha. All right.
FK: But there’s also the fact that they only review—he only reviews fine-dining restaurants, right? So of course, he eats at dollar slice places like everybody else, I’m sure.
ELM: I don’t go to dollar slice places.
FK: Maybe not dollar slice places unless he’s really drunk.
ELM: That’s, yeah.
FK: Hey! I love a dollar slice.
ELM: Do you go to the one by Port Authority? My friends love that one.
FK: No, I’ve never been to that one.
ELM: There’s nothing better than getting a dollar slice of pizza next to the grossest bus station in America.
GBW: Do they actually cost a dollar?
ELM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 99 cents. No, they’re not—don’t.
FK: No, there’s some that are good though! There’s a really good one in the Lower East Side where you can get like a white pizza for—OK, admittedly the white pizza is like $1.50 but still! And it’s tasty.
Anyway, point being though, right. He was talking about how people, he doesn’t feel like giving a sort of middle-of-the-road review is what people are there for, right? They’re there to hear something be savaged or they’re there to hear something be praised. And it sounds like maybe one of the questions is, “If you’re reccing, is it only praising?” Right? And so, should you feel bad about reccing something because you’re praising it? As a critic, is what I’m saying.
FK: I’m trying to talk about Elizabeth’s concern, right.
ELM: Oh, we’re still concerned about this? I told you, I’ve moved on. [all laugh] I’ve gotten past this. So now you’re bringing us back to talking about critiquing again which is something that you don’t do in fanfiction.
FK: It’s true.
ELM: I dunno, Gav—do you have any feelings about this? This turn of events in the fanfiction world?
GBW: I know that there’s a lot of discourse about criticism and fanfiction and I guess I can understand that there is an argument in favor of having more kind of constructive criticism in comments or whatever, but I mean I don’t particularly feel the need to do it, and I also feel like a lot of people are just—it’s just a place where they’re having fun. We’re not paying you any money to do the writing and they don’t owe me anything and I’m just really happy that people are creating something they can share. And if I really like it, I will share it with as many people as possible and I will leave a comment and be like, “This is awesome.” Although I actually need to leave more comments, I kind of have a bad habit of that of not doing that. Thankfully I can promote it on the newsletter.
ELM: Yeah, isn’t that enough? So one thing that, as you were saying that made me think about, is sometimes I feel like the idea that people should be leaving con-crit is like, I know you have Flourish, but Gav have you ever been in a writing workshop like in school?
ELM: So, sometimes when you—Flourish, you have been in writing workshops, right?
FK: For sure.
ELM: Have you ever been in a writing workshop where some of the people you know based on their work are not that great at writing?
GBW: Isn’t that like most writing workshops? Because my friends have been to writing circles and workshops and stuff and the impression I get is that most people are bad because most people in any activity are always kinda bad.
ELM: Yeah, it’s not gonna be like 12 incredible—unless you’re like, at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop or something, you know. Just your average writing workshop. So it’s making me think of like, you’ll get this feedback and a lot of it is just like, “I can’t do anything with this because, like everyone feels the need to give their opinion and to say something constructive, but a lot of it is just not very helpful critique and so…
GBW: I mean, most people don’t really know how to do constructive criticism and yeah, sometimes it’s just not going to be very helpful anyway.
ELM: Yeah, I’m thinking of—
GBW: I know that some people still leave that but…
ELM: On Flourish’s—so you know Flourish wrote this One Direction fic on Wattpad, I dunno if you knew this… [FK laughs]
GBW: I do know it. I’ve not read it. I apologize, Flourish.
FK: No, it’s OK you would have to download Wattpad to read it and I understand that that is a major barrier for most people. Plus I’m in the middle of revisions so it’s OK.
ELM: You can read it on the desktop site.
GBW: You can read Wattpad on the internet.
FK: Oh, well.
GBW: You just read… [all laugh] It’s a website!
FK: I never do.
ELM: Flourish is such a cool youth that she only reads on mobile.
FK: I’m such a millennial.
ELM: Anyway, I was gonna say I’m not over this comment that you got on your story, but you got this comment from someone and it was like—I can’t remember what the wording was like exactly—you know which one I’m talking about? It was like, “you should show not tell.” It was the most God-awful junior high writing advice and I was just like, I feel bad. This person’s not listening, I’m sure. I dunno how you feel about the British education system, Gav, but I think if you had gone through the American public education system you have a series of buzzwords—maybe that’s ungenerous but you say things like that, right?
GBW: I’ve heard of “show not tell.” I did not receive any writing education in my existence… [all laugh] which is how I ended up as a professional writer! Very well done, education system.
ELM: I mean, this is like in English class, you know? Like in school. There are things that are—they’re fine rules. Don’t start a sentence with the word “but” or something like that.
FK: Don’t use passive voice.
ELM: Yeah yeah yeah.
FK: Which, actually, there are very good reasons to use the passive voice.
GBW: Don’t end a sentence…we’ve reached past that. We’re now Picassos. We can break the rules. But in terms of the kind of constructive criticism thing, I’m just gonna be a simple lovely maternal aunt and just be like, “Be nice to each other, kids.” I mean, just leave nice comments and be supportive and if you want to say something really mean, don’t. And if you have constructive criticism, use your social skills to figure out whether that’s gonna be welcome or not.
FK: I guess I didn’t mind that so much, I didn’t think it was great criticism but I didn’t mind it because the reason I got that comment was because when I first got on Wattpad, I was like, “All right, I’m gonna see how to get involved in the community.” And so I signed up for like a bunch of critique-for-critique things, where you would critique someone’s story and then someone else would critique your story, and so on. And I didn’t really expect it to be a room full of people who are really great at critiquing, so I was like, “Wow, there sure is a dead dove in that bag” and that was fine. But not a dead dove because whatever, that’s fine.
So that was all right but one of the things I did think about with that was actually not being able to leave constructive criticism makes me not comment as much because often I’ll say something - I’ll be like, “I wanna write a comment and I wanna say this thing was really good and this thing distracted me from it” or you know, “This was really great but this made it hard for me to enjoy, so just so you know please keep going because you’re great” and I don’t feel like I can do that.
GBW: I don’t really get that. My kind of philosophy for that is you don’t know whether the writer has any interest in improving, so it’s like they’ve put something out there that they want other people to enjoy that they did for fun, so it’s kind of different. And with some people, it’s a lot clearer, especially if you follow someone on social media and you can tell they want to move forward and improve as a writer, and some people are just like, “Well, I just really want to write 130,000 words of Batman/Superman fanfic” so, that’s cool.
FK: Yeah, there’s a social quality to it.
GBW: Also I just tend to leave really simple stuff where it’s just like, “I loved it! Thanks for writing it!” and not going very in-depth which I probably should. I still need to leave a—I need to send fan mail to the person who wrote that Star Trek ambulance fic because it is life-changing.
ELM: So in my mind, this kind of leads us back to the starting point with Evan, because I know that when we were talking about this conversation a little bit in advance, you were saying that Evan had said that—for context, Gav and anyone new who hasn’t heard the last episode: Evan is a comics writer—
FK: He worked at io9.
GBW: He’s a comics writer and comics critic. I think he works other places as well.
ELM: Yeah. io9 and Kotaku and he’s written for other places too, so he had a very—I thought—a traditional male-dominated fandom kind of perspective on fans, and he was talking about how—we asked him if he identified as a fan—and he was like, “sometimes.” And he was like, “You know, well sometimes I’m a critic. And sometimes I’m a fan.” And to him, those were kind of mutually exclusive. I don’t want to put words in his mouth but that was—Flourish, you said—
FK: That was what it felt like he was saying. Evan, if we’re misrepresenting you, sorry. You’re gonna be our straw man for today, so…
ELM: I think that’s a pretty common attitude about people who aren’t in discourse or aren’t into transformative—
GBW: Analytical media fandom.
ELM: Yeah, that’s a nice way—
GBW: —because I definitely see criticism as a part of fandom, because I love all this media, but obviously almost all of it is flawed and almost all of the stuff I enjoy is also really dominated by white men, so.
GBW: I’m gonna be sort of talking about how Star Trek is sexist and simultaneously feminist for the 60s in a way, but also has this creepy legacy.
GBW: It’s very complicated but I can’t do the thing where you switch off your critical faculties.
ELM: Well, so this is interesting because the reason I’m bringing it up is that I feel like—I don’t necessarily feel like we’re being asked to not have critical faculties when we read fanfiction—but it’s interesting to come at the con-crit discussion—and I totally agree with everything you’re saying and everything everyone always says about why you shouldn’t leave con-crit—but it’s also like I often feel like I’m at odds with people when I talk about—because I get into all of these conversations with people now about what kind of things I like to read, and they like to read, and they’ll say, “I just like to read fluffy, fun. I wanna turn my brain off. I’ve had a long day.” Sometimes people even invoke like marginalized groups and it’s like, “All right. That’s all of us. Great.” You know, I don’t want to read fluffy stuff for the most part, but I feel like there’s something that’s being asked of me to be—I dunno if you feel, do you feel this is way off base? You’re making thinking faces. But you know, just say like, “I should only want to read really lighthearted fun stuff” and then not have any critical thoughts about anything I’m reading.
GBW: No, I just think that’s just a taste thing because I know a lot of people just want to read fluff and that’s fine and I read other stuff, and I kind of don’t—yeah, I just see that as a taste thing. Some people are really into sports and I’m not necessarily into that. I mean, I love fluff as well. I love a really wide variety of fanfic genres, but sometimes you’re really tired and you want to read garbage.
FK: I don’t really like fluff, almost at all, and basically nobody that I talk about fanfic with—including you, Elizabeth—no one says that to me. None of my friends read fluff primarily. It’s just not a thing.
ELM: You don’t have to have these arguments with people? [GBW laughs]
FK: I never have this argument with people.
GBW: I can’t imagine having that argument because it’s just like, I mean, if you like different things it’s fine. If someone was like, “I exclusively read fanfiction where Mulder violently murders Scully repeatedly,” I would be like, “Well, that seems like you have some strange psychological issues going on.” But aside from something really intense like that, I would just be like, “We have slightly different tastes” and I wouldn’t think of it as the shaming thing I guess.
ELM: I must be going about things all wrong because I keep winding up in these conversations. And sometimes I feel kind of against my will that maybe I’m bringing it on, now I’m victim-blaming. Maybe I’m asking for it.
FK: I do think that probably depends on certain things about the way you—just what friendships you’ve made over time. When I think about sort of some of the first people I met in fandom or people who I was following and I think about a fanfic I rec’d on the Rec Center, “Iolokus,” which is famously the incredibly dark Scully story and all of these people—these are folks that I followed in the late 90s and now I am acquaintances with on Tumblr, and so yeah, of course, those people who liked this incredibly dark fic have not suddenly become fluff monsters, right? You know what I’m saying? It’s just, who did you—
ELM: I guess my problem is that to go from being a lurker for a very, very long time with very solidified tastes and very private experiences with those tastes and preferences, to go to being a person who is publicly known as a fanfiction person, so I don’t have my “crew.” I have like, a variety of people who want to talk to me about fanfiction.
ELM: And who have a lot of presumptions about what fanfiction is or why people read it and I’m over here being like, “none of this lines up with my experience” but I also don’t think I put my experience into a lot of the way I write about this stuff. You know? I don’t stick into my articles things about how lots of fans love really depressing stories or whatever because I know that’s not true. You know?
GBW: They do. People love really popular dark fics and stuff.
ELM: Yeah, but you get this—
GBW: When you look at the Harry Potter fandom… [laughs]
ELM: I was on an episode of “Three Patch” podcast a few months ago (and this isn’t meant to throw them under the bus) but it was in a response to that Devin Faraci article and they wanted to talk about coffee shop AUs and in defense of fluffy fic, and they asked me to be on the panel. And I was just like, “OK?” I’m not gonna sit here—I will go to bat for your right to like coffee shop AUs but I’m not going to go to bat for “Here’s why coffee shop AUs are pleasurable” because they’re not pleasurable to me.
FK: So that was actually interesting. When you initially said that you were not a fan of coffee shop AUs, I think that now I understand better because it sounds like you associate coffee shop AUs with being fluffy, which I think a lot of them are, but I don’t think it’s necessarily always the case.
GBW: Yeah, some of them are really angsty. I have a different perspective, which is specifically in the coffee shop AU thing, I don’t like that AU specifically but not—I like some fluff but it’s just not that particular trope because I get distracted because I think about being in the service industry…
ELM: Me too!
GBW: …with customers and stuff. So I can’t always get into it, except in the specific instance of Les Miserables modern AUs, which I’ve read every single good one, and actually we should do a rec list for that because I’ve read all of them. But that’s fine, because the concept of that section of Les Mis with the revolutionaries is already set in a café in the original book, so that’s fine. It’s basically canon.
ELM: That’s funny. And they talk about worker’s rights, in these AUs.
GBW: A lot of them are—it’s the most social justice-y fandom because all of the characters are youth revolutionaries and it’s often like, this…communist queer activist group.
ELM: Just like in canon.
GBW: And one of the most popular fanfics in the fandom is they’re terrorists, murderers which was then published as a book with the words changed.
FK: That’s amazing. That’s funny because the thing I was going to say about coffee shop AUs I think is the thing that maybe Elizabeth, you said—I’m maybe parroting you—that coffee shop AUs—or somebody (I know I didn’t come up with this, it’s way too smart)—is that coffee shop AUs are like taking the high stakes of the Marvelverse and translating them into things that are high stakes for our daily lives. Right? It’s a big deal if you can’t work because the espresso machine is broken because that asshole Tony tried to fix it and only he knows how to get it to work now. That’s actually kind of a big thing in your day and it’s not necessarily fluffy. Maybe the espresso machine is broken and—
ELM: I didn’t say this.
FK: You didn’t say this? Somebody did and I’m going to have to figure out who it was who said this because I think it’s really good. It’s a smart comment area on what coffee shop AUs could be, right?
ELM: Oh, what they could be!
FK: Well, what they can be, sometimes. Not all coffee shop AUs are this but taking something high stakes like saving the universe and transmuting it into the actual daily dramas of normal life.
ELM: For me personally, my list of dislikes in fanfiction—it’s a long list of AUs basically.
FK: I’m gonna guess that you do not love royal AUs as much as I do.
ELM: I’ve never read a royal AU. What’s that? Where they’re like, kings and queens?
GBW: [laughs] It’s where one or both—it’s a marriage of convenience between royals of different countries. Actually there’s a really good Star Trek one that I didn’t rec in our lists and it’s one of the Star Trek epics. Or it’s like, one of them is royal and the other is a commoner and they fall in love, and I can get on board with that but only if it’s not too close to the real British royal family [FK & ELM laugh] because I think the monarchy is garbage, like I hate monarchy. So if it gets too close and it’s clear that someone loves Will and Kate, I’m like, “This is disgusting!” If it’s space royals, I’m there! [ELM laughs] It can’t get too close to my dislike of the concept of the monarchy. [all laugh]
FK: See as for my standpoint halfway across the world, I’m like, “Yeah, bring it on!” I have no relationship to this weird ass monarchy thing.
ELM: Really? You wanna read about the actual royal family, Flourish? Honestly?
FK: Not the actual royal family. I want to read about my favorite characters as though they were the royal family, but not the actual ones.
ELM: I’ve never encountered this AU but I already don’t like it.
FK: I have like a list of five that I really love so maybe I could share that with everyone.
ELM: I wanted to give my hatred list. OK, ready? High school—I hate high school AUs, I hate college AUs, I hate hockey AUs first and then the rest of sports.
GBW: So wait, you hate it when other characters are put in the situation of hockey players? Or hockey fandom?
ELM: Yeah, they…
GBW: I’ve never heard of a fanfic where it’s put in the universe of hockey. I’ve only read hockey RPF. I’m talking about real hockey players.
ELM: Sports AUs are a thing.
GBW: Oh, sports AUs. I guess I’ve never seen a hockey one but OK, sports AUs is an umbrella term that you hate.
ELM: Yes, but hockey in particular. And nothing against anyone who likes any of this stuff, it’s just not for me. And one thing that I’m growing to hate that I think lines up with high school and college AUs is the Harry Potter eighth-year stuff. I dunno if you have read any of this stuff.
GBW: I read a bunch of them back. I’ve not really been in Harry Potter fandom for like 10 years.
ELM: Oh, sorry—and texting AUs, that too. Here’s the thing, though: I understand—I get a sense of why some people like this stuff is it takes—maybe I did say this thing that you were saying earlier—takes this distant—it takes people in these scenarios like Harry Potter has to save the world, blah, blah, fight Voldemort, and really brings it down to the level of your everyday life, especially because a lot of people are in high school or college writing these. I just think for me that works against what I really love about fiction and fanfiction because I think I like that you have to mentally take yourself out of your daily life and be put into something else and—
GBW: Ah, OK. That’s why I don’t like office AUs, but that’s really specific because why would I ever want to read something in an office?
GBW: But that’s a really specific one.
ELM: All of these things I think can be executed well and I have read some, especially in Harry Potter with non-magical AUs, where in taking away the magic and the parallels they create really say something but a lot of times, I think it’s a shorthand to not really engage in the worlds that have been built because, for whatever reason, and for me that just kind of takes away from the story of the source material, like that’s just too far. Does that make sense?
GBW: No no, I get that. I mean, I kind of definitely see that as a taste thing rather than a critique thing because there’s one or two fandoms where I wouldn’t want to read a Muggle AU in Harry Potter and I usually don’t want to read a Star Trek AU that’s too different from the Star Trek universe, like I would like them to still be in space or for there to be some kind of space travel-y stuff, like I don’t want it to be in a coffee shop, but then at the same time, I would read exactly that kind of AU in like, X-Men fandom or something.
ELM: Hmm, that’s interesting.
GBW: It’s not really like ideological, it’s more just like there’s one or two universes where I’m just so attached to the setting and then for the rest of the time, I’m like, “If it’s good I’ll read it and I’m sure it’s great.”
FK: To me this has to do also a little bit with people’s depth of engagement with canon because there’s some stories that are very unengaged with canon, because they’re like, “I love this trope. I love these characters. I watched the show for a little bit. Here’s these characters shoved into a…”
ELM: Like two guys?
FK: Not just any two guys, but also this happens in het fic. This happens in other fic, too.
ELM: I just want to throw slash under the bus. I’m allowed to since that’s my thing, so.
FK: Yes, you’re totally allowed to do that. But anyway, all I was going to say though is that to me that makes—this happens in Harry Potter also, right? Like sometimes people will write stuff that they don’t know. Or they don’t care about details of the universe. And to me that’s like deeply unpleasant. I don’t like that at all. But, that’s totally a taste thing and I wonder how that has to do with people’s perception of fanfic because I think that there are some people who think that fans are always obsessive about detail about the worlds that they’re into and that’s not always the case, either.
GBW: I mean, I’ve read a couple of good fanfics from people who hadn’t read the source material, because you can write a Superman fanfic without ever having experienced any Superman media and you can always tell. Even in that example, there’s a huge difference between someone who’s seen one Superman movie compared to someone who’s writing something really intricate and they’ve read 50 comics.
There’s some fandoms that—their audience comes in before they have the source material, the most obvious one being Teen Wolf, right? Because I am one of the many people who read Sterek fanfic without having seen the show because it was such a huge pairing—it still is a huge pairing—but it was this huge fandom that came out of nowhere one summer because there was nothing good out at that point and everyone was like, “We’re all gonna get obsessed with Teen Wolf.” And then of course the joke was that so many people experienced the fanfic which was the Sterek pairing which was like the OTP and then you have a kind of Buffy-esque familial relationship with the side characters. And then when you watch the first season of the show, you’re like, “These characters barely interact. They don’t like each other.” The older one is like significantly older in a way that’s like, potentially illegal because one of them’s like, 15 and the other one’s this 26-year-old guy who like beats him up. And the main casts aren’t actually—
GBW: —yeah because Derek was like early 20s and Stiles is like, 15 at that point. And also the main characters in season one are like, not friends. It’s not like the Buffy dynamic. There’s like two or three that are friends and mostly they’re kind of unwilling allies at best. But because fandom loves those tropes, they put that onto the fandom and the fic in that fandom never really gelled with what was happening in the canon of the show because it all could have been built from those tropes.
FK: Right. This is similar to Merlin, which is a show I tried to watch, and I couldn’t even get through the pilot. Sorry, people who worked on Merlin—I don’t like your show at all. But then, of course I’m gonna read the fanfic.
GBW: I had a really specific problem with Merlin, which is that my brother’s name is Merlin and it’s a really rare name—
GBW: —and you don’t come across it so I can’t read Merlin fanfic. I read one but I pasted it into a Word document and changed the names. [laughs]
ELM: Wait, wait, Gav—did I tell you about when I was reading that story and my nickname was in it? Did I tell you guys about this?
GBW: I feel like you maybe did. Or someone else told me about their exact same experience.
ELM: OK, don’t tell anyone (shh) but my nickname is Lissa. L-I-S-S-A, but I don’t really go by that very much, especially not now that I have this professional name, and I was reading this Harry/Draco story and they had a daughter named Lissa and I was like, “I cannot. I literally cannot handle this.” Because it’s not like it’s Susan or something, like a normal name. But I’ve never ever encountered that in any other media ever. And it was their daughter. Their child-daughter who’s like jumping in with them while they were in bed and I was like, “this is too upsetting.” And I actually thought about modifying the source of the page and changing the names, and then I was like, “I don’t care about this story enough to do that, so I’m just gonna backspace out of it.”
GBW: I feel bad for people who have more normal—I’m sure you’ve seen loads of movies where people are called Elizabeth but it’s also like, some fandoms—it’s like your brother has one of the names of someone in One Direction or something. Oh, it’s like my dad is named Louis. [laughs]
FK: Oh my God. My grandfather was named Louis so I think about that every once in a while. I’m like, “Oooh.”
ELM: Do you think about that when you’re writing your MPREG A/B/O...?
GBW: I think of him as granddad so it’s actually probably fine.
FK: It’s OK because it’s far enough away, right? OK, I think that we have gone down the garden path at this stage a little ways, and we also are kind of running out of time. And I don’t have a clever wrap-up question.
ELM: All right, Gav—any final statements about fanfiction? Go!
GBW: [laughs] I don’t think I do because my whole philosophy of it is like, “Be nice. Recommend stuff you like.” So I’m sort of grandmotherly showing up with my knitting like, “How’s it going dears?” I don’t really go for the literary criticism thing so much, specifically with fanfic because I kind of focus all of that energy on movies and TV. So yeah, I dunno, my wrap-up is: if you have any cool “Rec Center” rec list ideas, email them to us. And fandom primers. I love fandom primers.
ELM: Yeah, yeah! Yes please.
GBW: I’m totally happy to jump into fanfic if I don’t know the source material that well.
FK: So sort of Crack Van-style fandom primers, right?
GBW: Yeah, love the Crack Van.
ELM: Flourish, do you want to do a primer for us on something?
FK: Sure, I’ll do a primer for you guys on something. I don’t know what I’ll do the primer on. Maybe X-Files. [laughs] As always.
ELM: Yeah, and I feel not even a primer for fanfiction. You could do—that woman that you like—
GBW: Are you speaking to me or Flourish?
ELM: To Flourish. The regency…
FK: Oh! Georgette Heyer?
GBW: Oh! I know someone who was named after a Georgette Heyer character.
FK: That’s amazing.
GBW: Someone I went to college with.
FK: Is her name Venetia? Because that’s the best Georgette Heyer character.
ELM: I know, Aja loves them too, so you guys could maybe co-write—
GBW: People fucking love Georgette Heyer.
ELM: —a testimony.
GBW: Like, they love her.
FK: You would like Georgette Heyer if you’ve read something by her, Elizabeth.
GBW: At some point, I’m going to do a recommendation for The Lymond Chronicles, which are the best books. And they’re also—everyone in fandom should read them because it’s extremely high quality, very dense writing but it’s also 100% id fic because it’s like this handsome genius troubled man, running around having affairs with people and being very conflicted and misunderstood.
FK: The thing about Georgette Heyer is that she’s just so good. She’s so well researched and she’s so also completely id fic. It’s perfect.
GBW: We should do a double-bumper list where it’s like, Georgette Heyer on one side and Master and Commander on the other.
FK: Yes! No, what we should really do is we should do a list of non-fanfic authors that scratch the same itch as fanfiction does.
ELM: Oh, that’s a really interesting idea.
FK: Because that’s what Georgette Heyer is for me. She’s like the perfect—
GBW: Yeah, there’s a lot of overlap. If you’re into Regency AUs, either you’re coming from Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer or both.
FK: It’s so true. But it doesn’t have to be Regency AUs either because a lot of the tropes, if you can get used to the fact that it’s set in the Regency, then most of the tropes are things you can also do outside of the Regency.
ELM: Oh my God, you guys, what am I gonna recommend now?
FK: What’s your id fic?
ELM: Hmm, maybe A Little Life.
GBW: It’s like literary fiction.
ELM: Actually there are elements of a Little Life that I think would appeal to people ...
GBW: That’s why Elizabeth and I are such good team because she’s read A Little Life and I’ve read about 40 Animorphs books and between us, we’ve covered all of Western literature. [all laugh]
FK: OK, to me this seems like a great note to end on. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Gav.
ELM: Thank you, Gav.
GBW: Thank you!
FK: OK, so when we started going into this, you were like, “I’m not sure how much we’re gonna have to say about this,” and then it turned out, you both had a ton to say and it was great. So, can I just say—
ELM: Don’t put this on me! Gav was the one who said that. [FK laughs] I feel comfortable with throwing Gav under the bus here. Gav said, “This’ll probably be more of a segment than a full hour,” and look how wrong she was.
FK: She was wrong.
FK: She should sit there and be wrong in her wrongness.
ELM: That’s right, that’s right.
FK: [laughs] OK but it was actually really timely because one of the two reader letters we got I think connected up right with some of the stuff we were talking about.
ELM: Well, yeah, I mean it’s timely because you also conceded to this in response to our conversation with Evan so…
FK: So timely. In every regard.
ELM: All right, I’ll read it because you always go first.
ELM: We got a message from dendritic-trees on Tumblr who wrote: “Dear Flourish and Elizabeth, I was totally fascinated by the definition of fanfiction that came up in your latest episode ‘Games and Fandom.’ I think it’s totally true to my experience of fandom that the drive to create fanfic does often come from the desire for a specific emotional payoff. Whether that’s the desire to route around a disappointing canon, get a favorite ship together, even just spend more time with characters that you love. But I also think that drive is more or less independent of quality. I’ve read incredibly high quality fics that, if they were original works, would most likely be considered literary fiction that were openly about shipping, for instance, and I don’t think they were any more or less genuine in their emotions as lighter or even less well-written fic.”
ELM: Do I read the last line? “I love the podcast and this episode was especially good.” I didn’t have to but I felt like I should.
FK: Thank you, dendritic-trees. Actually, it’s funny because I totally agree with what she’s saying here. I don’t know. I agree.
ELM: Yeah, I was a little confused by this letter because I’m not really sure who this is written in opposition to, though. And you were saying that it’s in opposition to what Evan said, but I’m still not quite sure what—like, I agree with this statement.
FK: I think that Evan said that he felt like the purpose of fanfic was solely sort of to scratch an itch and it’s sort of like that’s what matters most about it, and maybe that implied that quality was not as important. And I do think that I have different expectations depending on how much I really want to read the trope I really want to read, but I don’t think that that means quality is unimportant or that you can’t have both quality and trope-y id candy goodness.
ELM: OK, wait, wait, wait. So I sent you this article by Laura Miller—did you have a chance to read it?
FK: Yeah, I have. I thought it was an amazing article, actually. I really liked it.
ELM: OK, so Laura Miller—friend of the show—it makes me feel like Stephen Colbert saying “friend of the show”—is a book critic now at Slate and has written for a wide variety of places and I think I’ve talked about her book, The Magician’s Book, which is about Narnia—
FK: Yeah, you have.
ELM: —that I recommend, I think is great. The kind of book that I want to read more of in terms of recommendations. It’s a book about being a fan but not—it doesn’t use that word, you know? But it’s about those desires and I have a little section on my bookshelf with books like that.
FK: You should publish the list because I want to read all these books. I haven’t read The Magician’s Book yet and I bet that I haven’t read the other ones either.
ELM: Oh, sure. OK. Some of them I haven’t read either. I just collect—I’m collecting books like this. One is My Life in Middlemarch, which I still haven’t read, by Rebecca Mead, but that seems like a similar – it’s very fannish. She revisits Middlemarch over and over again in her life, but I don’t think she’d say like, she’s in the Middlemarch fandom. [FK laughs] And we’re back on “what is fandom.” Anyway, OK, so Laura Miller in Slate. Do you have the article open? Can you read the title?
FK: I do. The title is “In Praise of Reader Reviews: A Book Critic on What She Learned from the Masses on Amazon and Goodreads.”
ELM: So I really enjoyed this, and one thing—the reason why I thought we should talk about it and hat-tip to my friend Sulagna who sent it to me yesterday—it talks about when you look at these reader reviews, when readers say what they want out of a story and what they want out of prose and what they value and what they don’t connect with, and it doesn’t match up with how a lot of critics talk about books. And I think that is pretty directly relevant with us talking about fanfiction and you know, what people want out of fanfiction and also fanfiction in opposition to literary fiction, which we touched on last time—
ELM: —and obviously is a continuing theme in my life.
FK: Yeah. Well, you know one thing that really struck me in it was that I often get into arguments with people about how I like to identify with a character in a book. It’s not the only pleasure that I think that I can have but most of the time I like to identify with somebody and if I can’t identify with anyone in a book, then that’s a barrier to me enjoying it, particularly if I didn’t come into it assuming that it was going to be something I would have to sort of work for, right? I thought it was really great that when I read this, I was like, “Yes! People do want to identify with characters.” That’s something that a lot of people enjoy in reading, and there’s other pleasures you can get from books but this is a big one!
ELM: Right, right. It’s interesting because I think that the identify with question is kind of thorny though, and I’m not sure what it means in this context versus the way we see it used a lot in discourse.
ELM: Like when you say identify, do you mean you want someone who looks like you, has the same ethnic background, the same sexuality? Sometimes identify with intersects with conversations about representation and that’s interesting because I totally obviously am here 100,000% for more diverse representation in books, but I also think it’s interesting – I’m not going to sit here and say, “People who aren’t like straight white dudes need to identify with them.” But I find that sometimes that kind of conversation can get sort of stymied and it’s not like I see a lot of straight white dudes talking about how they identify with women of color characters either, right? You know.
ELM: I’ve identified with plenty of characters who don’t look like me in the past.
FK: And I think that sometimes I say that I can’t identify with men and when I actually look at the way that I read, I discover that that’s not true.
ELM: Oh, you talk a big talk, Flourish!
FK: I talk a big talk, but when I actually look at—when I read Lord of the Rings, I identify with plenty of male characters.
ELM: You don’t really have a lot of choice on that one, so…
FK: No, I mean you don’t but I still like it and I still can identify with characters in it, and that’s fine.
ELM: I have in my queue if someone made a comment about the no female characters in the Lord of the Rings films, and then—
FK: There’s more of them in the—
ELM: —in the films than the books. It’s still like, four people, right?
FK: Well, there’s not actually more characters, but they have more time—
ELM: They have more to do.
FK: —doing things, yeah. They have more to do.
ELM: So the same person reblogged their own post and said, “I lost six followers for pointing out the number of female characters in Lord of the Rings. That’s more than there are female characters in Lord of the Rings.”
FK: [laughs] That’s more than major characters, for sure.
ELM: Yeah, I’m sure you could spot six ladies walking around Hobbiton—Hobbitown? Hobbiton?
FK: It’s like when people say “Downtown Abbey.”
ELM: OK, so it’s just curious. I feel like sometimes—there’s so many archetypes in our popular media and I’m not gonna sit here and say that literary fiction is the end-all and be-all of artistic achievement but I do think that oftentimes, that’s one of the few places that you’re not finding those archetypes, and I have to wonder if sometimes people say they can’t connect with it because they haven’t been trained to connect with it. That’s not to say like, look at frickin’ Jonathan Safran Foer’s debacle going on right now. There’s plenty of whiny middle-aged white guys in literary fiction, but like, if you want a list I can give you…
FK: Yes. There are many. Completely. I agree with you. There’s also books that are actively opposing some of those ideas of some of those well-worn grooves that we find familiar and comforting and that are actively opposing that concept. Yeah, it’s not restful, necessarily and maybe you don’t want something that’s not restful and that’s OK. But on the other hand, there’s also actual pleasure in those things, too. Like, one of my favorite books is Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson and that is a book that makes it real, real hard for you to cling on to any archetype idea in it. I still enjoy reading it as relaxing reading, in fact. I know that sounds perverse but I find it relaxing and enjoyable. So maybe it’s just finding the right thing or—
ELM: Yeah, and that’s not to say—I’m not gonna sit here—I don’t want to bust out the “eat your vegetables” or “take your medicine” but...
FK: But it shouldn’t be. It’s not medicine when it’s good.
ELM: Well, that’s the whole “eat your vegetables” thing is like, it shouldn’t have to be vegetables and vegetables are delicious.
FK: And maybe you haven’t tried it with enough peanut butter sauce on it or something. I came up with peanut butter sauce and that’s a terrible thing.
ELM: Peanut butter sauce. [laughs]
FK: Maybe you’re like trying to dive into some awful dry thing that is pleasant for some people but that you haven’t worked up to yet and that’s OK. People aren’t born reading Proust.
ELM: I also think the public education system does a lot of damage to people in terms of their relationship with capital-L Literature. If you just beat it to death and then you’re like, “What? You don’t enjoy this?” it’s like, well, who’s gonna? It’s analogous to, if we’re talking about vegetables, you know the whole Brussels sprout thing, right?
ELM: So like, our parents’ generation—a lot of them hate Brussels sprouts because decades ago they were always boiled and apparently if you boil Brussels sprouts—do you know about this?—it’s something like, seven minutes, it releases a specific smelly chemical if you hit a certain point in boiling water, so then they smell foul and taste awful. And so it’s like, “Well, you’re cooking it wrong! They’re actually incredibly delicious.”
FK: Right. Completely. But there’s also ways you can get into things, like for me, one of the first—I guess it wasn’t one of the first but a novel that really opened doors for me was House of Leaves—I think a lot of people feel this way, actually—by Mark Danielewski. It’s an experimental novel, which is normally something that people think of as the most inaccessible and weird and not able to get into, but it terrified me. As I was reading it, it creeped me out so much. It’s the only book, other than “The Pit and the Pendulum” is the only other story I’ve ever read has actually been able to make me not sleep, but it was this incredible emotional experience. I was like, “OK, so if this is what experimental literature can potentially be, then maybe I’m willing to try a bunch of other weird stuff.”
ELM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
FK: Because I found something that was an experiment that worked, and I was like, “oh, ho, ho.” You know?
ELM: Right, but that’s hard because it’s like, I just hear from people all the time and they’re like, “Well, I saw this on a ‘Best of’ list and I tried it and it was terrible.”
ELM: It’s just like, [noise]. I don’t know a way around that. I could sit here and tell you the five best novels that I’ve read in the last few years and you might hate them.
FK: We don’t have the same taste in everything. By far. But this is funny because it also gets back to the idea of what we recommend people. So if you or I recommend fanfic to someone that doesn’t normally read fanfic—in fact, when I read fanfic at The Kitchen yesterday, we talked about this a little bit—The Kitchen, this fancy-shmancy literary venue thing.
ELM: Arts space.
FK: Arts space. And you were like, “I don’t think that anybody here would get this because they don’t understand the tropes you’re playing with, they don’t know what fanfiction is, they don’t have a context.”
ELM: And for context, because your story is—for anyone who doesn’t know—deliberately plays with tropes and responds to—each section is responding and is flipping each thing on its head—
FK: Right. It’s responding to different tropes.
ELM: And I specifically said I thought you were trying to have it both ways. And you seemed a little off put by that.
FK: No, I think I am trying to have it both ways.
ELM: Yesss. I won!
FK: I’m just trying to find the way to have it both ways in a way that works. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s possible and I want to find a way to do it. The point being though that somebody—people seemed to respond well to it but not for the same reasons as people in fandom who have read it and liked it. So then there’s this question of how do you recommend something to somebody? Will they like it? Will they not like it?
ELM: Sure, and I was going to say even the reaction of—so I went with our friend Allyson, who is actually in the One Direction fandom, and her reaction—to be fair, I had heard those excerpts before—my reaction is appreciation as a fanfiction person and hers was just like, “Ahhhh! You said Louis out loud!” So, sorry Allyson. That’s your shoutout.
FK: I’m sure you can think of fanfics that you would recommend to somebody who was really in your pairing that you wouldn’t recommend to somebody who was outside of your pairing and you would not recommend to somebody who was outside of fandom in general, whereas there are other stories that maybe you would.
ELM: Yeah, there are a few stories that I recommend that I would wholeheartedly recommend to people outside of fandom because I think they’re especially—there’s one in particular that I rec a lot in Torchwood fandom that I think, I know, fanfiction isn’t some magical utopia, diverse, fuck-the-man, paradise but this story actually is so I like to say, “This is what it can be.” You know? And this is takes what is already a pretty queer show and makes it like, extra queer.
FK: [laughs] Just an extra helping of happy queerness.
ELM: Why aren’t all these people just sleeping together? How about that? And it’s very well-written and it’s a very big story, very warm-hearted, and so that’s one that I would recommend outside of the context of…
For the most part, when I’m reccing stuff, I am not like Gav. I am thinking, “Would this stand up?” A lot of the stuff I recommend in “The Rec Center,” and I don’t recommend that much, honestly, is stuff that I think is literarily pretty good.
FK: But if I were to say, if we were in the same pairing, you might send me something and be like, [fangirl noise] that you wouldn’t normally rec on “The Rec Center.” Maybe.
ELM: I dunno if I have that much of a reaction to stuff like that. You know.
FK: OK. Maybe it’s just me then. I’m just thinking about all these Snape/Hermione fics that will never see the light of reccing day because I’m like, [fangirl noise].
ELM: Oh, I don’t think it’s just you at all. In fact, it makes me feel like the odd man out a lot of the time in fandom where I don’t—the stuff that really speaks to me the most is the stuff that has more. The story I’m working on—I’m constructing an entire Wizarding law system, and my very favorite Harry/Draco story is 80,000 words of just conversation. It’s not about smushing their faces together for me at all. And I think that puts me in the minority in fandom.
FK: All I was trying to say—I wasn’t necessarily—this went in a direction that wasn’t what I was trying to think about. I was trying to think about why you wouldn’t just drop somebody headlong into the center of literary—like, “Here! Go read Proust. You’ll love it!” You wouldn’t do that to somebody nor would you necessarily rec a highly referential, highly trope-y fic in your pairing that isn’t—to somebody who wasn’t already fanfiction-familiar.
ELM: I think that there is something that is lost when part of the pleasure—I mean, I’m sitting here saying, “yeah, I would rec that Torchwood fanfic” which is called “And We Held Gold Dust in Our Hands,” which we can put in the show notes. Part of the pleasure is the fact that it is an AU. One thing changes very early in the timeline in the show that affects everything, and so the pleasure of seeing that storyline unfold in contrast to what happens in the show which is just—spoiler—death and destruction for everyone involved—that’s missing, if you don’t have that context.
FK: And there’s also how easy it is for you to get context. We had talked about reccing our favorite fics, right, and I was going to rec “Truth and Measure” by Telanu which is in The Devil Wears Prada. I guess this is maybe not my favorite fic of all-time but it’s definitely in the top five.
ELM: And that’s interesting because it’s not like even one of your fandoms.
FK: Well, I read a lot in that fandom. I love The Devil Wears Prada. You can send me Devil Wears Prada fic and I will read it. But it’s Miranda Priestly and Andy Sachs, the only valid pairing in Devil Wears Prada and I would rec that to someone who didn’t know fanfiction because it’s easy to get caught up. There’s one movie, and you’ve probably already seen it.
FK: And you probably already know that pairing from the movie because anybody who’s seen—
ELM: It’s—mm-hmm. Flourish, there are other pairings to be had in there. I can see a triangle with Emily Blunt’s character.
FK: The awful boy? A triangle with Emily Blunt I accept, but that awful boy, no! Nigel is gay and there’s no other man he could be with in the movie basically.
ELM: What about the man from The Mentalist?
FK: Oh, you mean the journalist? I’ve even forgotten his name because I care about him so little.
ELM: Simon, maybe.
FK: I don’t care about him at all.
ELM: I could pair him with any man in there. That’d be fine.
FK: OK, maybe he could be paired with Nigel. I accept that Nigel could be paired with him.
ELM: OK, so this is the fic you’re recommending.
FK: Yes. And—was that your fic?
ELM: [sighs] You know I always do this. I’ve recced all of these in “The Rec Center” so if you read it, you’ve already seen these but the Harry/Draco one is “The Pure and Simple Truth” by lettered. It’s just shockingly good. If you are, as I know some people are, one of those people who complains that it takes too long to get to the sex scene, then you can give it a miss. [FK laughs] That’s fine! More power to you. But it’s sometimes a little frustrating that that’s such a loud conversation in fandom to me.
And then I’m super, super obsessed with Remus/Sirius writer who used to be called rosemaryandrue and is now called Rosie_Rues on AO3. And I think I’ve rec’d this one to you before, the “Rising Storm” series, and it’s like, 160,000 words long.
FK: You have.
ELM: I have really strong feelings about these stories.
FK: I think we better read our other listener letter because we’re gonna run out of time, right?
ELM: OK, we saved this one for last because this is somewhat unrelated.
FK: I think that I’m supposed to read this one.
ELM: Yeah, you do it.
FK: This is from buffer-overrun and she says:
“Thank you to Rukmini Pande and Lori Morimoto. I feel it’s always important to understand more about how fandom feels to other people and to be reminded to pay attention of where my biases and blind spots are. And I do agree that male/male slash is not a form of queer activism but I’m not sure how much slashtivism has to do with fan studies. I feel it has more to do with how Tumblr and Twitter work, in a way that all arguments seem to get reduced to progressive or problematic in very black and white terms. It seems to show up in almost any progressive issue that people are arguing about—by sexuality, trans identity, sex work, kink, sex positivity. And platforms allow and to some degree encourage the worst internet behavior across all of these issues, starting with things like spamming ship tags with hate, leaving vile comments on people’s fic, anon hate or ad hominem attacks, through harassment and bullying and bloggers calling out their followers to attack people, up to and including doxing and death threats. And if someone sees what they’re doing as activism, that just gives them that much more license to name and shame other people they disagree with.
“Though, I bristle when people talk about certain fans’ fetishizing homosexuality, I think, largely, because I haven’t heard a clear definition that would distinguish things that are fetishizing from the rest of male/male slash fandom. I would absolutely die of shame if I had to admit to any of my gay male friends what kind of fandom trash I read. Uni!lock with Sherlock as a sexy strung-out waif and Lestrade as a cop with a heart of gold? Political animals Captain America crossovers? Teenage Kirk undercover as the boyfriend of a Martian drug dealer? It is fetishizing, objectifying, reductive trash and in no way related to the actual lives of gay men. But it seems like people means something different when they say someone is fetishizing homosexuality?”
And that’s the letter.
ELM: There’s a lot in here. Thank you very much for this, buffer-overrun.
FK: It’s great. I feel like there’s two big chunks and one of them is the queer activism fan studies thing and then fetishizing homosexuality. And I think you’re the one to talk to this.
ELM: Well, let’s start with the easier one which is talking about slashtivism and the culpability of Tumblr. I do see overlap between conversations that are happening in fandom right now and conversations that are happening in social justice spaces. I am regularly very frustrated by the discourse that I see removed from fandom conversations on Tumblr about this stuff. There is a lot of ahistoricism. I think there’s a lot of younger people repeating arguments.
FK: Right, like being asked not to use the word queer because it’s a slur.
ELM: That’s one that I’m thinking of prominently, yes.
FK: I feel that a lot. I’m like, “No. You don’t get to tell me that.”
ELM: Yeah, and that’s the kind of conversation. It just feels like often people are having a very empty critical conversation that’s a reflection of longer—it’s tricky, I dunno. Maybe I don’t really want to go into all of this. I don’t really know why I’m talking about Tumblr in general when actually we should just be talking about fandom.
FK: I agree with that. I think there are things about Tumblr that make it hard to have good discussions about this stuff for a variety of reasons, just hard-coded into the thing. The fact that statements get taken radically out of context, the fact that things get so far away from the original source, the fact that you can say anything on Tumblr and there’s no way to fact-check it really, unless you go and fact-check it yourself, so if it comes from somebody who normally knows their stuff, you’re like, “OK.” When your grandma sends you something desperately inaccurate and you have to Snopes it. That happens on Tumblr, too. It’s not just geezers.
ELM: Right. And can you think of the number of times you’ve seen a reblog that’s debunking something? And then you see the same original post without that reblog because once it’s out in the atmosphere, there’s no taking it back even if the original poster deletes it. It’s gonna be on 10,000 other blogs, uncorrected.
FK: Completely. So, I agree with all that and I think that’s a really good point but I think that there’s also something to do with the way that fan studies—not even fan studies as an academic discourse—but just as it’s snuck in, like people who have never read Henry Jenkins or one of those early fan studies people, still do have a narrative about fandom as being revolutionary which is not all wrong, but I do think that’s part of this.
ELM: I agree. I’m not gonna place all the blame on Henry Jenkins.
FK: Henry. You’re definitely listening to this. It’s not your fault. [both laugh]
ELM: Wait, really? Is Henry Jenkins listening to this?
FK: He totally listens to this podcast. Shout-out Henry.
ELM: Oh, hi! No, it’s not your fault that your quotes get taken in this context.
FK: Well, once you’ve written a book, there it is, right.
ELM: I think that every journalist including myself who writes empowering articles is culpable, too. And I’m sure Aja would be willing to take some of the blame on this one. Gav, maybe, but Gav doesn’t tend to write articles like this as much as I feel that Aja and I and a few other people do. In terms of being like, “Screw you! Stickin’ it to the man with our…” which I think is a necessary first step and it also—that was the thing that I was so frustrated about with the Faraci stuff because it’s like, it came just at the heels of when we—the big conversation about race, at least in our corner of fandom. I was shocked this summer when I went to both Leviosa and Comic-Con, so many people I’d encountered hadn’t seen that at all. I dunno if it’s just people have blinders on or just, it was only happening in certain spaces…
FK: Or both.
ELM: Yeah I think if you don’t spend that much time on Tumblr—I don’t think it was in a lot of Reddit threads, but anyway. It felt like this big moment to be super critical about fandom and this is great and I felt like I’d reached a point where I feel like so often I feel like I have to spend time defending our house that I don’t want to turn around and get it in order and clean it up inside. It’s just like, “No no no, everything’s fine here.” Protecting it. So with the Faraci thing coming on the heels of that, I had to be like, “Ugh. Now I have to defend this whole sail,” because I don’t think that’s the moment where you’re like, “Fandom isn’t broken.” You know?
ELM: And then you’re like, “Ugh, but kinda.” I was thinking about my trajectory with writing about fanfiction because I was thinking about the “Three Patch” sex survey, which I think by the time this airs, will have concluded but the “Three Patch” podcast is doing this sex and fanfiction survey and I was thinking back to when I first started writing about fanfiction which was 2012 during Fifty Shades of Grey stuff and my first article, literally the genesis of that was to be like, “this is not all about sex. Stop it.” Because all of the coverage was like, “Sexy Times in the Fanfiction Land” and also it was kind of sleazy like, “those housewives with their BDSM.” You know.
FK: I know exactly what you’re talking about.
ELM: And so I wrote that, and so I found myself a couple of years later feeling confident enough in my own intelligence to be like, “Yeah, yeah, but there are some sexy times, too.”
ELM: And now I’m coming back around and wanting to be critical of that, and saying like, “Yes, but also there’s problematic things happening in these sexy times. Not just because it turns you on that it’s above impeachment.”
ELM: That’s my long speech about some of my feelings. [both laugh]
FK: Well, and of course, if this were on Tumblr, one of those five things you just said would have been quoted, and probably will be quoted because I will probably quote it in this episode’s quotes thing, radically out of context and then shuffled around, and then that’s fine.
ELM: I don’t really post anything on Tumblr anymore because I just don’t want to have to deal with that. I mean, I reblog but I’m not going to write a—
ELM: Just briefly, I actually think that does bring us to the second part of this.
ELM: Talking about how your desire is not above impeachment. I know this is a robust conversation in the professional male/male romance world. I think that those conversations are fraught because I don’t think that either side of the argument, which usually goes about cis women, often straight cis women, writing male/male romance are fetishizing getting off on gay male sex, male/male sex. But often the critiques venture into gross, anti-romance land.
ELM: So then that gets misogynistic and you see people saying, “If this is the garbage you’re defending,” (well I’ve actually seen people saying this recently), “great genre, if that’s what you’re defending.” And I’m just like, I dunno what to do with this conversation right now.
FK: Yeah, completely.
ELM: And I think that there’s a difference with fanfiction because we’re not talking about money. There’s infinite space for uncompensated fanworks.
FK: Right, yeah. I think that when I read this comment, saying “What would distinguish things that are fetishizing homosexuality from the rest of slash fandom?” and again, taking all of this with a grain of salt, because as we’ve talked about, whatever a slasher is, I’m probably not it. Whatever our feelings are about that. But I think that there is a big difference between enjoying slash and enjoying a pairing or lots of pairings, being part of migratory slash fandom, whatever, and some of the stuff that’s about “my gay babies” or the sign that says “I support gay marriage because Dumbledore should be able to get married” or whatever it is—
ELM: That one would be less annoying to me than ones that are about “Now my ship can get married.”
FK: Right, like “Now Destiel can happen for real.” Or whatever it is. I do think there’s this spot where—we can objectify, from the het side, people objectify everybody, right? In femslash, you can objectify people. We can always objectify people and we can always feel bad about objectifying people because we’re objectifying them, but there’s a difference between that and specifically fetishizing gayness and gay male culture.
ELM: Mm-hmm. And I think also having read a lot of slash, there is a fine line between depicting homophobia and this woobifying, gay-bashing stuff you see, which is very fraught. And it’s also complicated.
FK: Do you mean if you have in a fic where somebody is—one of your two characters is struggling with homophobia in his life and people around him being homophobic in his life, and that is used to make him a woobie?
ELM: No, I mean actual gay-bashing. Like actual physical violence. It’s definitely a trope.
FK: Right, so somebody—since I said Destiel earlier, Dean gets beat up by somebody because he’s gay and then Castiel has to salve his wounds, or whatever.
ELM: Right, right, right. And it’s just sometimes tonally it can feel a little—what’s the word?—I don’t want to say “oppression tourism” or something but there’s something—and fetishizing doesn’t even feel like the right word either but there’s something—if you’re going to wallow in this—this is really complicated, right because a lot of the writers are queer women, obviously and plenty of people can be victims of violence. But there’s just something about some stories I’ve read that have a tone that just doesn’t really sit right in the way they’re describing acts of homophobia.
FK: Right. Just coming from a het perspective, it makes me think about reading a story that includes a rape that is maybe intended to be somewhat titillating and having that be written by a female author or a male author. Right? The two books could be similar in a lot of ways, like it’s intended to be like, “Aw, does she really want to? No, she can’t because she needs to be virginal” or whatever. Like that sort of creepy trope. And when women write it, it’s one thing and when men write it, it feels like it’s a different one.
ELM: Hmm. Yeah, I’m not sure –
FK: I mean, it’s not the same thing but I think it’s related maybe.
ELM: I wonder. I mean, I don’t know. I just think it’s complicated. I’m not going to sit here in this camp and say that all stories about marginalized groups need to be super happy and positive all the time and I actually get pretty frustrated when writers choose to ignore systemic oppression in the real world—we’ve talked about this—like explicitly say in the author’s notes, “I’m just gonna ignore that this exists” and it’s like, “OK. Do what you want to do. This is a fantasy land for you that you’re creating and that’s your prerogative, but I turn to fanfiction to muddle through real-world problems.”
FK: Which is funny because it’s the opposite of what you said earlier when you said that you don’t like coffee shop AUs because it’s too real-worldy in a certain sense, or it doesn’t transport you.
FK: I think I see what you’re saying. It just seems like they contradict each other. But I think I see what you’re trying to say.
ELM: They do not contradict each other. I’m sorry. Send me all your coffee shop AUs, please, that actually deal with the realities—
FK: I actually love coffee shop AUs.
ELM: —of working in the service industry. I’ll write you a racetrack AU where a man will grab at your breasts and we’ll see how much time you have for—also, I’m sorry, I’ve worked in the service industry for a really, really long time. No handsome customer walking by. I actually hate that this encourages that—that is a toxic belief in our society that you flirt with your service industry provider and the number of times that men leave their numbers, and you’re like, “Get the fuck away!”
FK: My feelings, by the way, entirely relate to—I have one friend who works in a coffee shop and has written some coffee shop AUs that actually deal with these things so I don’t actually read them very much, but…
ELM: Great, great.
FK: So I’m not trying to make any kind of actual statement or stance here. [laughs] I’m just problematizing things. I’m just throwing wrenches into the works.
ELM: I just think I’ve worked in the service industry for too long to be able to even remotely create—
ELM: I’ve written a lot of original fiction that’s at the racetrack and there’s a lot of interaction between her and her customers but it’s never situations that I’d want to put two consenting sweet halves of an OTP into. You know?
FK: This is a little bit about how I feel about college AUs after teaching college a bunch. I know that other people have different experiences of this and people like writing college AUs who’ve done that—
ELM: You mean professor/student stuff?
FK: No, not even professor/student stuff but just specifically colleges. American college stuff, whether it’s professor/student or whether it’s students together, or whatever it is. I just don’t want to read anything that’s set in university.
ELM: All right, fair. I just find that very interesting.
FK: No, I just don’t want to because I have to deal with too much university stuff in my daily life, so.
ELM: I’m not sure we solved any of these problems.
FK: I don’t think we ever solve problems but we do hopefully talk about them some and move the discourse along.
ELM: The discourse!
FK: The discourse! [both laugh] All right, I think this has been a great episode.
ELM: Don’t oversell it!
FK: You always say that and I always say that it’s been great because it has been.
ELM: All right, that’s cheerful.
FK: I am cheerful.
FK: You know it.
ELM: OK, so…
FK: You’re the pessimist here.
ELM: Pfft, you better believe it.
FK: All right.
ELM: As always, if you want to give us money…
FK: Head on over to Patreon, which is patreon.com/fansplaining.
ELM: If you are an artist and have any interest in working with us and our somewhat limited budget, please get in touch: fansplaining@gmail. Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook as well. You can leave us messages. And if you are a writer, and want to run any ideas by us, same channels.
FK: And you can always, always, please reach out to us. Send us letters, send us comments. It’s been a while since we’ve had someone send in an audio clip and that could be really good. We like reading your letters, but if you’re able to record it, we can also play you reading what you have to say, which is even better.
ELM: Yeah. Much better than when I read them, honestly. I’m not being modest here.
FK: Yeah, me neither. Please. If you have the ability to do so, send us audio clips. We love that.
ELM: Yeah, just record it in a quiet space. Make sure you listen. No white noise. Send it over as an MP3.
FK: All right, so I think that’s it!
ELM: OK, I’m gonna go read some fanfiction.
FK: OK, me too.
ELM: OK, bye!
FK: Bye! [laughs]
FK & ELM: Fansplaining is brought to you by the Patreon donations of Elliot Byrom, Destination Toast, Christopher Dwyer, MCF, Chloe-Leonna Steele, Clare Muston, Christian Gossett, Menlo Steve, AR, Katherine Lynn, Clare Mulligan, Heidi Tandy, Megan C., Anne Jamison, Jay Bushman, Lucas Medeiros…
FK: Bradlea Raga-Barone…
ELM: Yeah! Jules Chatelain,
FK & ELM: Jenna Hale, Georgina, and in honor of Jacob Sanders and One Direction.
FK: This week’s music is from Jahzzar at betterwithmusic.com and it’s used under Creative Commons License.