Episode 33: A Hundred Thousand Worlds

Episode 33’s cover: the cover of the book  A Hundred Thousand Worlds.

Elizabeth and Flourish talk to Bob Proehl, the author of A Hundred Thousand Worlds, a novel about comics and cons that includes characters inspired by Gail Simone and Gillian Anderson. (!!!) They discuss “literary” vs genre fiction, gender dynamics in convention culture, and the fuzzy boundaries of RPF. In the second half, Elizabeth and Flourish discuss some initial results from the Fansplaining Fic Preferences Survey, in which more than 7,500 respondents weighed in on their favorite and least favorite fanfiction tropes.


Show Notes

[00:00:00] Intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax. 

[00:00:56] You can find Bob on Twitter @bobproehl (he doesn’t use his Tumblr) and also on his website!


Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, sitting in a bathtub, closes the bathroom door (shutting the camera out) with one toe.

[00:03:07] The interstitial music is “Driver” by Jahzzar from Blinded By Dust, CC-BY-SA

[00:09:49] "Stan” is actually from an Eminem song, if you didn’t know. But it also means stalker-fan, maybe.

[00:11:33] If you don’t know Gail Simone you should immediately go follow her on Twitter at @gailsimone.

[00:15:41] Did you miss Elizabeth’s article about Hillary Clinton? Also with bonus NYCC!


Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury from the Avengers movies saying “There’s a lot we’re gonna have to bring you up to speed on if you’re in.”


Fox Mulder, from  The X-files , leaning back in his chair, overbalancing, and falling down.

[00:33:53] The interstitial music is “Fastest” by Jahzzar from Blinded By Dust, CC-BY-SA

[00:37:20] OK, please don’t take this seriously, but here were the results from our pilot study.

[00:38:10] If you want to take a look at the survey questions, be our guest! They’re available here.

[00:39:40] Go take a look at @centrumlumina‘s AO3 fandom survey! It really is great work, even if it’s not the final word. (And she talks about limitations in a really great way!)

[00:41:07] What sites respondents read on:

A bar chart showing the sites our respondents read on: by far the most on AO3, followed by Tumblr, then (after a steep dropoff) fanfiction.net and then LiveJournal; fewer still read on Dreamwidth; very few responded that they read on (in descending order) Wattpad, “other,” DeviantArt, and AsianFanfics.

[00:44:14] What kinds of pairings respondents read:

A bar chart showing that respondents read, in order from most to least: M/M, M/F, Gen, F/F, Poly Ships, and Ships With Nonbinary Characters.

[00:51:48] The most beloved tropes and themes:

A bar chart showing the tropes and themes that received the most “Yay” votes, in order from most to least: Friends to Lovers, Canon-Divergent AU, Slow Burn, Rescue Missions, Bed Sharing, Teamwork, Fluff, Hurt/Comfort, Huddling for Warmth, Mutual Pining.

[00:53:51] The tropes and themes with most nope-outs:

A bar chart showing the tropes and themes that receive the most “Nay” votes, in order from most “Nay”s to least: (Very) Underage, Noncon, Incest, Eating Disorders, Major Character Death, Mpreg, Slavery, Bullying, Self/Self, Centaurification.


Good and evil versions of Willow both rolling their eyes.

[00:58:13] The most controversial tropes and themes:

A bar graph showing the most controversial tropes and themes, and that they each received approximately the same number of “Yay” and “Nay” responses. In no particular order: Corruption, Band/Pop Group AU, Omegaverse, Love Potions, Interspecies, Dubcon, Body-sharing, Cinderella Moment, Group Sex/Orgies, and Sports AU.

[01:04:43] Seriously, go support our Patreon!

[01:06:07] Leave us a review on iTunes!

[01:06:59] The outro music is “Driver” by Jahzzar from Blinded By Dust, CC-BY-SA


[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!

FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!

ELM: All right, so this is Episode #33, entitled “One Hundred Thousand Worlds.” So, I kind of think this title can work on two levels, because part two, we’re going to do some initial breakdown of our fanfiction tropes survey. And that’s like, one hundred thousand worlds.

FK: Totally! I am with you on this.

ELM: OK, great, but the actual reason we titled is because we’re going to be talking to a writer, Bob Proehl, who wrote a novel called One Hundred Thousand Worlds, about…well, it’s about a bunch of things, but it’s about fandom-y things, so we wanted to have him on. We should probably talk about that, because I bet a lot of our listeners are going to not have read it, and they should read it.

FK: They should definitely read it. So it’s a book based on fan conventions, comic book-y conventions, but like New York Comic-Con style convention, Emerald City Comic Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and it follows —

ELM: Or smaller cons than that.

FK: That’s true, there are big ones and also small ones in the story, because it’s about a bunch of people who are all doing the same con circuit and they all have different perspectives on the con. So there are a couple of people who write and draw comic books, and there’s also an actress who’s from a cult television series. She’s a version of—I shouldn’t say she’s a version of Gillian Anderson, she’s clearly inspired by Gillian Anderson, except in this world she also has a child and she hasn’t worked since she was on the cult TV series, so she’s road tripping back to Los Angeles bringing her kid with her through this circuit of cons.

ELM: Go back. She had the child with —

FK: David Duchovny. Or, crypto David Duchovny. Which is a delight, by the way.

ELM: You can’t leave that part out.

FK: Well, I assumed it was a given!

ELM: So yeah, and there are a lot of analogs for the real comic book world. There are the two behemoths, National Comics and Timely Comics. And there are a few comic book writers, one of whom is female comic book writer, so it deals with a lot of her position as the only woman writing a title at one of the companies.

FK: Yeah, yeah, it’s a really great book and we’re really excited to have him on the podcast.

ELM: Absolutely! So we’ll talk to him first, and so, definitely listen to that, and definitely stick around so we can talk about tropes a little, and I think that’s all we need to say.

FK: Shall we call him up?

ELM: Let’s do it!

[Interstitial music]

FK: I think it’s time to welcome Bob to the podcast. Hi Bob!

Bob Proehl: Hi guys!

ELM: Hi, thanks so much for coming.

BP: Thanks so much for having me.

ELM: OK, so, it’s pretty clear from this book that you are—I don’t know if you self identify as this way, but I think that you are a fan. Is that true?

BP: Yeah, I completely self-identify as that way. [all laugh]

FK: OK, good, because we were guessing.

ELM: So I wanna know, if you want to give us some of your background on that, on your fannish history.

BP: Yeah, I’m mostly a comic book fan going back to when I was a kid, but not to date myself, but right around Death of Superman era, so that’s when I started reading and collecting comics, and I worked for a dealer when I was a kid, going to what were conventions at that time. In like the suburbs of Buffalo where I grew up, but a convention at the time was just like, a dozen comic book dealers with long boxes and we’d be set up in the hallway of a mall. So not really what people imagine when you mention a convention or a con now. But I also didn’t really grow up with a fan community so much. I was just kind of reading comic books alone in my room for a long time, through college too, and sort of came to convention culture as an adult. I live in upstate New York, so I started going to New York City Comic Con, and it’s just so fantastic to see this thing that wasn’t around or I didn’t have access to as a kid. That was really what I wanted to write about, just to have that sort of community and little world available to you.

ELM: Do you ever think about how different things would have been if you were a kid today? Or is it hard to do that thought experiment?

BP: It’s hard to totally imagine it. I was doing an interview for the book and someone who was clearly a fan about my age said, “Well, don’t you think the kids nowadays don’t understand what it means to be a geek?” And I’m not a huge proponent of the word geek, I prefer fandoms as like a self identifying term. “Don’t you think since they didn’t get ragged on for liking Spider-Man when they were kids?” As if this is a key component of who you are, and I was like “No, you’re being an idiot.”

ELM: Thank you for shutting down that gatekeeping person.

BP: Yeah, I don’t know, it’s so, it’s really at the core of that attitude, right? Like, “I got hazed, and I got beat up, and someone stole my Doctor Who novel and kicked it down the hall and that makes me a better fan than you’re ever going to be.” And like, no, it’s not. Your baggage can’t be part of it. I mean, it can, but what you see is these people who have gone through that and they’re turning around and doing the same thing to fans, which is horrible on its own, but more often than not these are white males doing this to fans of color or female fans. And you know, people who have enough of that crap in their lives, outside of fandom, and come to fandom to have something of a safe space, it just makes it that much more despicable when that type of gatekeeping goes on.

FK: Totally, and it’s funny I think because I don’t think that kind of hazing…it was more common, but it wasn’t universal even then. It was a niche pastime, sure, but not everybody had, not everybody got beaten up, you know what I mean? So it’s always weird when I hear that like it’s a center thing. I don’t think it’s universal, I think it was more common, but I don’t think it’s a universal experience.

BP: I was never a fan in public, you know. I was never beaten up or hazed, or publicly shamed about it. Public fandom wasn’t part of the type of fan that i was when I was a kid. That’s unfortunate but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shove someone in the closet for it.

ELM: Yeah, I also feel like…there’s, I mean, I’m not a boy so I had different experiences in school about things I liked, but it’s not just comic books and superheroes and stuff. Nerdy boys get bullied and you don’t see guys in Silicon Valley going like, “Wel,l I was shoved in a locker,” you know? They’ve embraced the fact that geeks have won.

FK: It was better when everyone was shoved in a locker.

ELM: But like, I think it’s awesome now that a 13-year-old can become a millionaire app developer, like, go for it. So it’s just, I think people should be proud that the subculture has become culture.

BP: Yeah, I think it’s awesome that a 13-year-old can go as a TARDIS for halloween and not get grief about it. I think fan culture is better than it’s ever been, and that’s not to say that it doesn’t have serious, serious problems, but I think it’s a better place to be. And something I wanted to do with this book was help public culture catch up. You know I see things like The Big Bang Theory and I’m like, “You guys are talking about a version of this culture that probably never actually existed. Even if it did, it’s probably moved on, and it’s not accurate if it ever was.”

FK: The worst insult my mother ever gave me—sorry, Mom, if you’re listening to this—is that she told me that Big Bang Theory reminded her of my friends, and I was like, “What are you talking about? I know you were a jock when you were a kid, but what?”

So, the way that your book was sold to me had less to do with cons and more to do with Gillian Anderson, who I am also an unremitting stan of, and who therefore I read your book being like, “He’s deep into it, he loves her almost as much as I do.”

ELM: OK, friendly reminder that “stan” means stalker and fan.

FK: OK, except I’m not actually a stalker because I’ve prevented myself—

ELM: I’m just saying, I’m just saying!

FK: I’ve prevented myself from doing that, but it’s only been an effort of will. It’s true. I’m just gonna say that, it’s true.

BP: Yeah, I mean Val, the main character, very obviously started out as—you know I joked with my wife when it was getting public that it was about to actually come out that I had gotten away with publishing a long piece of fanfic with a major press, or that I had Fifty Shades-ed The X-Files.

FK: It’s not like that.

ELM: It’s not like Fifty Shades, but I think it is a little like the first one. I think that’s a, I’m glad that you were aware of that, I’m curious about how you think about that right because it is like RPF, it is like real person fiction.

BP: Yeah, yeah, and you know when I started working on this book it was more of this big cast anthropology of the subculture you know, so I think if it had stayed there, oddly enough Val’s character would have stayed closer to Gillian Anderson and not grown up into her own person. But when I started the book I had pages and pages of notes for all these characters, and some of them were analogues for comic book or TV people, and some of them were types of fans, and a lot of that sort of fell off, and some of it got written it or edited out, but a lot of it once I started with the story I was like…you know, I really want to tell the story, this sort of mother-and-son story, and that really let me zero in on who Val was instead of this easy analogue. And I think that happened with a lot of the characters. You know, the Gail character started out very much based on Gail Simone and was gonna only be in one scene, but she was so much fun to write that she really took on this life of her own, and although she has a very similar backstory she is a very different person from where she started out.

ELM: And in a way, it sort of feels like—Flourish, you read and write RPF so you tell me—but it sort of seems like people often think it’s about depicting the world, and maybe you’re trying to show the world in this broad way like you’re describing, but what you actually do is digging really deep into the idea of a real person and constructing this inner narrative, and it sounds like that’s what you did. I don’t know that seems like one of the pleasures of it, right? You have a real person to start with and then you just, everything explodes within that.

BP: Yeah, the interesting thing with particularly Val and Gail as characters is that they’re both insider-outsiders. Val is an object of this fan culture without being part of it, and I think it’s almost easy to forget that we didn’t used to require that of actors and actresses. Now, it’s like, Brie Larson gets the Ms. Marvel part and she’s immediately got to tweet a picture of herself reading comics, or people are going to jump down her throat. Or when Kate Mara said, “Oh, I’ve never read a Fantastic Four comic,” and people lost their shit. And it didn’t used to be that way, it used to be more, “This is my job, I work in genre fiction, and at the end of the day I clock out.” So having someone who could function as an observer of that culture was really important.

But also with the Dana Scully character, she’s so fundamental to so many people that the way we think about gender in genre fiction now, she’s on that sort of short list that changed the sort of way that women in genre fiction are viewed or what roles there are for women in genre fiction. And then with Gail, it was the same kind of thing where she was a fan but being a female fan puts you in a different kind of position to fandom. Brett, the other character who’s a male comic book artist, he doesn’t have to sort of assess the world that he’s in because it’s all built for him, and you know, how wonderful is that, but it allows him to go sort of blithely through in a way that’s not available for all fans.

ELM: So, I hesitate to ask this because I don’t want to make it, I don’t think male writers should get special brownie points for this, but I do want to ask you about writing women. I don’t want to phrase it in a way that’s like, “Oh, thank you so much for writing these well-drawn female characters,” but I do think it’s interesting especially that it is a male-dominated…you know, I was just at New York City Comic Con, that space compared to San Diego, a similar size, felt aggressively more masculine to me.

BP: It did, right?

ELM: Did you feel that way too?

BP: I noticed that too, yeah, because I was at San Diego for the first time this year. There are things that I like about the way that ReedPOP runs their shows more than San Diego, like I like that they’re more public about posting stuff and consent policies and anti-harassment policies, but it did and it made me realize that it always kind of has.

ELM: Really? This was my first time going to New York, so.

BP: Yeah, more so than San Diego. I mean, this was my seventh convention this year, so —

FK: So you’ve been seeing all of the full, the full gambit.

BP: Yeah, and New York City Comic Con is a little more bro-y.

ELM: Yeah, so my friend I was walking around with compared it to a Spencer’s Gifts, from the mall.

BP: Maybe that’s it? Yeah, there was a lot more, a lot more T-and-A.

ELM: Yeah, I call them “gazongas” in the context of the comic book artists, but—

FK: Huge gazongas, let’s be clear. They’re not just normal gazongas.

ELM: True, yeah, those are unnaturally large gazongas. I also, I think my perception was skewed a little because I was handing out these fandom Hillary buttons. And people who listened to our last episode, it was the Nerds for Her campaign, and so they would be like, “Captain America for Hillary” and stuff. And people would be like, people were so hostile to me. And I just, I don’t know, it didn’t feel like a very safe space.

FK: By comparison, at San Diego Comic-Con, I feel like, it’s a very different universe. I just think of the different type of political engagements I’ve seen at San Diego Comic-Con, and thinking about the “Bernie Sanders is a Motherfuckin’ Wizard” people, right? That’s how I first found out about Bernie Sanders, was in that context, and just the way people sort of talk about politics, I don’t know.

ELM: I just feel that San Diego, to me, my read on it is that it’s so corporate and so sanitized that that has made it by default a safer space. Big Marvel is watching you from their shiny—

FK: Their giant helicopter thing. What is that called, the helicopter thing?

BP: The drone?

ELM: Yeah, seriously.

FK: I was thinking of the thing in Avengers, but anyway. The helicopter thing.

BP: Yeah, the helicarrier, yeah.

FK: Yes, thank you! The helicarrier, thank you. I have words, I am a nerd.

BP: I think the third point on this is, have you guys ever been to Emerald City? In Seattle?

ELM: I haven’t.

BP: Emerald City is fantastic. And they just got bought by ReedPOP, I think this year was the first year that ReedPOP ran them, and that seemed like a much more queer friendly space, and all of them demographically wise, the numbers on gender seem to be about even. But that, there was really almost none of the gazongas, if you will. [all laugh]

FK: Yes, my word is spreading. “Gazongas, if you will” is the pull quote from this episode.

BP: That was great. Of the ones that I’ve been to, just like, New York City is the one I’m used to and it’s dear to my heart in that way, but Seattle is kind of awesome if you get a chance to go up there. It’s smaller, it’s like half the size, but it’s really great. If you’re a comic book fan it’s probably the best one for being able to approach people, approach creators and artists and actually have a conversation with them.

ELM: All right, well maybe. I want to get out there for GeekGirlCon, too. Which was happening this past weekend. But, OK. I derailed it by —

FK: Well, I’m still chewing on the RPF thing.

ELM: No, well I wanted to talk about gender, Flourish. I think they’re connected, but I mean, like, again, I don’t want to harp on it but I think it is a notable that, there aren’t a lot of literary fiction novels about this subject, and you are a male author, and you chose to position women front and center in this narrative, and I think that is clearly a conscious decision, and an interesting one.

BP: I think a lot of that is that white male fans aren’t that interesting right now. You know, you want to look at this culture critically and not be sort of blithe about it and I want to avoid using the phrase “not all men” or “not all male fans,” but —

ELM: It’s implied, don’t worry.

BP: But, if you’re a certain type of person, or a certain type of male, let’s say, you go in with a sort of critical apparatus working all the time, and you’re seeing something through a certain lens of class or through a lens of gender. That’s how you look at systems, that’s how you look at culture, that’s how you sort of take things apart. That’s not implicit, not every dude has to do that kind of thinking, it’s not required of you. Hopefully you do it and most of the guys I know do it because I choose to surround myself with people who are more critical of the world, because people like that are more interesting, but you know, that was kind of why setting those primarily female characters, and you know — Brett is a sort of, a good dude but he’s kind of just a dude. He’s someone who would probably if you asked him self-identify as an ally, and all that kind of stuff. But he’s not someone who thinks very critically about the environments that he’s in because he doesn’t constantly have to. And a person who is having to constantly assess the world around them is certainly more interesting as a point of view character, but also more interesting in general.

So I found Brett who’s demographically closest to me really difficult to write a lot of times because he’s not that much younger than I am, and certainly not that much younger than I was when I wrote the book, but I still see elements of myself in my twenties there and I just kind of want to go back and [punching sound]. Knock him around.

ELM: This is fascinating, and I also think that as a testament to you and your skill as a writer, I think it’s really easy to take the Bretts of the world especially in this kind of subject space and be like, “Well that’s the kind of person you’re going to relate to.”

FK: Yeah, I was just gonna say that!

EM: You know, and I will say that as a woman who reads a lot of books about men, I find a lot of them very, very relatable. Which Flourish does not.

FK: I do more than I admit.

ELM: She’s just coming around to realizing that she’s controlled by the patriarchy. But I found Gail and Val to be so richly drawn and so interesting and so easy to get in the heads of and their perspectives to be…I just thought they were both just great point of view characters.

BP: Well thanks, I mean they had more to struggle with, which is what you look for in a character in fiction, and Brett not so much. I don’t want to get into the whole hero’s journey thing, but the sort of assumption that you’re going to identify with a male character no matter what, that sets up certain tropes and certain narrative devices that you don’t necessarily have to do. You don’t have to do this sort of Joseph Campbell schtick. Frankly, it’s easier to do with a male character and the assumption of identification. To say that I’m going to put this white male character in the center of a book and you’re all going to know that that’s supposed to be you, and you should abstractly relate to the struggles that he’s going to go through, but luckily at the moment I can’t remember the components of the hero’s journey, but—

FK: He finds his mentor, there is the call to adventure, then he encounters a trio of people who, I don’t know. Or worse, go through the various screenwriting books, like Save The Cat.

BP: But you know there are other stories to tell, and perhaps right now a white straight male character is not the best vehicle for that. So much of this book was about thinking about the sort of mental space about it as thinking about myself as a parent, and I thought, “Should I write this with a father-son relationship?” And there was going to be so much to sort of take apart on traditional gender roles if I did that, and I didn’t want it to be that book, I didn’t want it to be a book about, “Hey, look at what a non-traditional dad this is,” and I thought I would have to do all this work in order to do that and I was like, wow, if the way that I feel about parenting are closer to what is considered traditionally feminine concerns, then that’s probably the better way to write this.

FK: Of course, from my RPF perspective I’m just sitting here thinking, “Yeah, and also God bless David Duchovny that he would never run off with a kid of his.” No offense David Duchovny, I hear you’re very nice.

ELM: Would you trust him to watch a child?

FK: Yeah, probably.

BP: David Duchovny?

FK: He was one of my friend’s TAs, when he was doing his PhD, and apparently he was very nice and very tired.

ELM: A college student is not a child, Flourish! Would you let him take your child on a cross-country road trip?

FK: Probably, I mean, I don’t think he would break them.

ELM: All right, okay, I don’t have any strong feelings about David Duchovny.

FK: He doesn’t seem incompetent, he just doesn’t seem like, you know, anyway. I don’t know David Duchovny at all, basically at all, so I don’t think—

BP: Yeah, I don’t think I can speculate on his babysitting skills. If I was going out to dinner, I could see leaving him at home with the kids for like, two hours or so? But I imagine bedtime would be problematic, so.

ELM: That’s really funny. So…I have read a number of very little adult literary nonfiction, whatever literary means. More in the YA space.

FK: That was a powerful eye roll.

ELM: I’m just saying, you know.

BP: Yeah no, so, you know I’ve been sent out to all these conventions to promote the book, and I’m on panels with awesome sci-fi and fantasy writers, and then I have to describe my book, and I’m like, “It doesn’t have any dragons or robots in it, sorry!”

ELM: Are they really confused by this? Because I find that there is some—

BP: No, I end up like having to define literary fiction, and I’m like, “It’s the genre that isn’t any other genre.” I was on a panel with Seanan McGuire and she had read the book in galley, and it was one of the first conventions I was at, and I was being really apologetic that I don’t write sci-fi or fantasy, and Seanan was like “No, it’s totally speculative fiction. And here, let me tell you why.” And I was like, “Yes!” Feverishly writing things down, I’m using all of this, or you could just come to all of the conventions with me.

ELM: Literary fiction. It is literary fiction, which I define as like, books that are eligible for the Booker. Which is maybe the wankiest way to do it. Or like, books that I am given to review. So I wrote blurbs for The New Yorker, so also a very wanky way to describe it. But it is what it is.

FK: That’s OK, we understand that you’re fancy.

ELM: No, so, alright. Anyway. The question is, I have read a bunch of books about fandom or fans, and most of them have been YA, or YA romance, mostly written by fangirls, fanwomen. And a lot of them I’ve kind of had this feeling in the back of my mind that fan things aren’t very good subjects for very good novels, and I think it’s more on those novels than fan subjects. But I’m wondering if you have feelings about this, because it’s a tricky thing to write about, it’s this big subculture and I think there’s just this big desire to explain it, because you don’t have to sit around explaining the dynamics of sports fandom when you’re writing a sports novel. I don’t know, maybe you do.

BP: I don’t know, I’ve not written nor will I likely ever write a sports novel.

FK: Don DeLillo didn’t do that in his lady hockey novel, so there you go.

ELM: I just feel like, yeah, if I was going to pitch a book about football I wouldn’t sit here and explain, I don’t think Friday Night Lights sits here and explains what loving the football team is, and I think that fandom often has a weird space.

BP: Yeah, I think there was a real desire on my part to make it relatable. I wanted to get across to people that I don’t care how you feel about Spider-Man, but please understand that I get excited about Spider-Man is not fundamentally different from the way that you are really excited about the Mets, is not fundamentally different from the fact that you are a huge Belle and Sebastian fan, or an enthusiastic knitter. My feeling is that like, I’m really excited when people are excited about stuff, and for me, where I go with that is fandom. And it hasn’t always been that way. It used to be more about going to see bands, and it’s that same kind of thing, it’s this level of enthusiasm and engagement with some part of the world that’s not fundamentally or objectively important, but can be hugely important to you, and it’s a form of your best self when you are that way, when you’re able to just be really excited or really enthusiastic about something. It’s not a space that day to day life necessarily provides for us. Most of us don’t go in to work like, “I’m so stoked to be here! I’m totally cosplaying administrative assistant today.”

FK: I should think about it that way though, man.

BP: So, finding that thing that you’re just that you just love because you love it, if that’s sports for you, great. If that’s comic or video games for you, great. Trying to not explain but relate fandom as a common ground of like, maybe you’re not the type of person to ever go to a convention but you do know what I’m talking about, you know the feeling that I’m talking about, or you know, if you don’t you need to go out and find that for yourself, you need to find that thing that gets you that excited.

ELM: When you’ve been talking about this with people in fancy book town…I’m not gonna say literary fiction. Fancy book town, here in New York City, do you find that when you explain it that way, that they get it? Because I often find, I made this transition from book journalist to fandom journalist a few years ago, and I still do both, but I find when I’m in book spaces, there are very like, even when I explain it that way they can’t wrap their head around it. They have all these ideas about the culture, and they’re like, “Oh, those people in those costumes.”

BP: Oh yeah, it’s still “those people in those costumes.” And I remember when I was at San Diego, I was at the hotel bar afterwards talking to somebody, and they were like, “Do you think it’s ever going to be a situation where it’s not ‘look at those geeks?’” And I don’t know that it is, you know. That’s always going to be the clip on the morning news, the line of people in costumes, and even though that some of this stuff is ubiquitous to the culture now, it’s almost sort of looked at askance. And as far as it’s viewed in literary fiction, yes, yeah, it is. And as much as there’s a bias against literary fiction from the genre end, the same is true in reverse. You know?

ELM: Oh yeah, totally. And that’s where it comes from, you know. The chip on your shoulder that they’re such jerks about everything that’s not literary fiction.

BP: And it’s like, “Ooh, daring,” when a literary author does sci-fi. And it’s kind of nonsense and it’s kind of marketing. It’s been a challenge with this book to find an audience because there’s the risk of it falling in between those things. I’m going to conventions and trying to sell the book to people that doesn’t have dragons and robots, and I’m going to like, grown-up bookstores or whatever and it’s just such a false divide to me because that’s not how I read. I’m reading Batman comics one day and…I was gonna say Margaret Atwood but like, talk about people who tromp all over genre boundaries.

ELM: Thomas Pynchon.

FK: Yeah, well Thomas Pynchon is a terrible example!

ELM: Oh, well that doesn’t count though? No, because he’s the fanciest.

FK: Despite naming —Yeah, Don DeLillo gets to be fancy.

BP: I think if you look long enough at any author of literary fiction, you’re going to find literary stuff not that far under the surface, and you know that’s part of the problem with calling it literary fiction. If you’re writing sci-fi, does that mean it’s not Literature with a capital L? Yeah, it sells, darling, but is it art? [all laugh] At the author party at San Diego, where everyone else knew everybody, they go to all these cons and they’re all going out, and they’re all like, “Who the hell are you?” And I’m like, “Well I wrote this book?” And they’re like, “Oh, hardcover, huh?”

FK: No, that’s the pull quote from this episode. “Hardcover, huh?”

ELM: That’s funny. I mean, I’m so glad, thank you for being a trailblazer in this like—

FK: And thank you for taking time out of your fancy life to come to this nerd podcast.

BP: Oh yeah, it’s been super fun.

FK: Mr. Hardcover.

ELM: Yeah, Mr. Hardcover. No seriously, I’ve had a book proposal in the works for several years, for non-fiction, but that’s because it’s in between these spaces, and I don’t really know.

BP: Yeah, it’s tough to figure out, it’s tough to figure out how to market it. It’s tough —

ELM: What I’m willing, which part I’m willing to let go of to fall into those boxes that I’ve created, and I haven’t decide yet so I’m just dragging my feet for 1,000 years. Hopefully the people who’ve talked to me about this are listening, I’m sorry guys.

FK: All right, well we are so glad you came on the podcast.

BP: Yeah, thank you so much.

ELM: And I can’t wait for your next book…wait, is your next book going to be about fandom?

BP: No, I’m not sure what it’s going to be about.

ELM: Fiiiine.

BP: I’m not sure what it’s going to be, I’m sort of working on two projects, I’m going to run into the same problems of being like, half a genre book.

ELM: Well that sounds exciting.

FK: I look forward to it in any case because this book was awesome.

ELM: Yeah we didn’t even say that but—

FK: It was really good, we recommend it to our listeners. Yes, let’s be clear.

ELM: Absolutely recommended. Thanks so much!

BP: Bye!

[Interstitial music]

FK: That was wonderful. It was so great to talk to, I don’t know, someone who’s just written a really great book and also just to have them be delightful on the podcast? I don’t know.

EM:  Yeah, no, he was great. Hopefully everyone will go read the book.

FK: Yeah, seriously, I do think it has something to appeal to basically…I’m having a hard time thinking of any of my fannish friends that I wouldn’t recommend it to because it does deal with such a broad swath of things going on within fandom.

ELM: Yeah and also I feel like, I’m not interested in comic books, but I think by sheer osmosis of being in this space I know some basic stuff about it, and even still, it’s also very funny because he makes up all these names for all the characters, and I’m like, “these are ridiculous names.” But then I’m like, actually, all the ones in real life are ridiculous, and we’re like, “Oh of course!” I don’t know I can’t think of anything, like, Power Girl, or like, what does Gail write, The Speck & Iota? And every time I read one of the names I had to be like, readjusting my thinking because if you told me that was Marvel’s number one property I’d be like, okay.

FK: And it’s funny because with the Guardians of the Galaxy not particularly being a comic book person, when I saw it I was like, are these real characters? You could tell me that they faked this, that they printed out the old vintage-y comic books and hid the long boxes, there was never any group, all of these characters were just made up to be comically ridiculous comic book characters. But, it turns out, they’re real.

ELM: So the moral of the story is that we don’t know very much about comics.

FK: That is pretty much the moral of the story. But yet we enjoyed this book very much.

ELM: Yeah, it was fantastic, so thanks again to Bob. And if anyone wants to tell us what they though, it’d be awesome to hear readers’ perspectives. Speaking of reader perspective…

FK: Ah! Guys, so we did the survey, and it got, like, over 7,000 comments.

ELM: More than like, 7,500, wasn’t it?

FK: 7,510. Who was the tenth? Thank you.

ELM: Great number.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: So in case somehow you completely missed this, and you’ve been asleep for months, in which case congrats because you also missed a lot of Donald Trump. We decided, because—how did this come about? Oh! I remember, I remember. Sorry, I've just been looking at Donald Trump, so my brain is dead.

FK: I am so sorry.

ELM: Eh, I know. So, the afternoon of, two episodes ago with Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, my newsletter partner, Flourish asked our Twitter followers what their favorite and least favorite tropes in fanfiction were.

FK: Right, because it was about recommending fic, and I was like, “Eh, let’s find out.”

ELM: Trying to get people hyped up for it, and we also did it on Tumblr, and we got a total of like 70 people responding on two platforms, you know, it was going around.

FK: Yeah, yeah.

ELM: It was a bit of a conversation, but it was not very many people.

FK: Right, and then we published a little thing about what people had said, and folks started to take it seriously, and I was like, “Oh shit, no no no no no, guys, guys you cannot take this seriously just because I put this into a pie chart—which isn’t even the right format for how you should display this kind of information—you can’t take this too seriously!”

ELM: Yeah, I love how people were responding like, “I guess I’m doing the wrong thing!” It’s like, no, these 70 jokers, don’t let them tell you what to do.

FK: Yeah, it was especially bad because you could literally see someone post it, and all their friends like amnesia, and suddenly amnesia is winning—so we were like, “We need to solve this by having a real survey.” So we wrote a real survey about people’s fic preferences.

ELM: So thank you so much if you filled it out. Thank you especially if you shared it with people. Obviously this is a much larger sample, in fact, it is more than 100 times larger, so hopefully that gets us some better data. Unfortunately, it is also, you know, done in a very different fashion. We gave, how many tropes were on the list? Do you know?

FK: It was like 130? But I’m not sure, it was maybe over 150, there were a lot of tropes on this list.

ELM: So, basically, instead of just open-endedly being like, “Shout ’em at us!” you know, we asked you to assess how you feel about some of them were different types of AUs, like high school or coffee shop, and some of them were kind of tonal stuff, like crack versus angst. Right? Some of them are format stuff, like do you like texting fic, do you like case fic, which apparently a lot of people didn’t know what that meant, so I guess they haven’t been in fandoms where people solve cases, because that’s a fandom thing, but perhaps if they’re not crime solvers you may not know that one.

FK: Yeah but I think before actually we get into that more deeply, we should say something more about the limitations that still exist in this survey, just because I want to cover my ass for people who think it’s the final word.

ELM: Can I just say before you start to give your disclaimers? I think that anyone who thinks that any survey is the final word, something needs to be readjusted. I think we have too heavily relied on that—Centrum Lumina, that fandom stats person, who, I love their work, but you know, and I’ve cited this in articles because we haven’t had any more data, but the one about the 10,000 AO3 respondents and their demographic information. I think that’s awesome, but that’s not the end all be all and so, I think people do that with stats all the time, they’ll say, “Well this survey said…” And it’s like, OK—

FK: Right, there are limitations to any survey, obviously, and you know, I do some of these things for my work and I spent the whole time thinking about how I’d do it differently if we had you know the resources of a giant corporation or whatever else. So, okay, I think this is a good survey, I’m glad we’ve done it, but there are limitations within it. So when we look at the people who responded, most people, like 98% read fic on the AO3, and that’s obviously skewing the data, because there are lots of people who read fic on Wattpad, there are lots of people who read fic on AsianFanfics, on DeviantArt for that matter, on LiveJournal, on Fanfiction.net, on Dreamwidth probably less? But actually, weirdly enough, LiveJournal and Dreamwidth were both more represented than Wattpad, so I think that that’s a big flag right away, to say that this is a group of people who have a certain culture.

ELM: Right, and you know, I know that there’s still, I mean I read on LiveJournal still in the sense that there’s a lot of fic fests that are still being run through LiveJournal, and you also maybe are reading older stuff, so that needs to be taken into account, same with Fanfiction.net, but the thing with Wattpad is we just couldn’t get, we tried but we just didn’t attract a lot of Wattpad readers.

FK: We reached out through Wattpad stars and everything and they were very lovely to try and help us do it, but it just didn’t happen.

ELM: Didn’t happen, and I guess I feel like there’s this attitude amongst people who I know in my spaces, and your spaces…we’re in the same space, but, the AO3 crowd, that I think this is lessening over time, but they’ll say things like, “What’s Wattpad?” Or, “I don’t know, is anything over there?” And like, there are millions of people reading fanfiction on Wattpad, far more people than AO3’s active user base, right? Would you say that’s active for the fanfiction element of Wattpad?

FK: I believe that.

ELM: So it’s like, there’s a massive culture, there are many, many, many different cultural norms on Wattpad, and I think that there’s a lot of ageism going on. I don’t know, it’s tricky.

FK: And to be perfectly honest, I think that we also, the survey was definitely constructed from a sort of Archive Of Our Own perspective. There was a bunch of things that are common on Wattpad that we did and didn’t include. For example, we asked about Imagines, which is a very common thing on Wattpad, and in fact, in some areas of Tumblr, and a lot of people didn’t know what they were, and a lot of people really liked them, but it was one of the terms that…out of all the terms that people didn’t know, that was one of them, which was very surprising to me because that felt like something that someone who was in a Wattpad fandom would probably be interested in.

ELM: You’re saying that you got feedback from Wattpad people that they didn’t know what that was?

FK: No! From other people, I thought it was a sign that it’s much more of a Wattpad…similarly, reader x whoever, or reader x Official Canon Character, the type of thing where it says [reader] and you insert your name into a story. And that we didn’t include.

ELM: Wait, what’s the way they always do it? It always confused me.

FK: [Y/N].

ELM: Oh yeah, that’s right! Which is just “your name,” and I remember I saw so many of these, and I thought, “yes/no?” I remember it took me like a year to figure out what that meant.

FK: Right, so we didn’t even include that to the survey, and that might have been more welcoming to a Wattpadder, or to people in certain areas, so obviously there’s a long way we could go to making this friendly to those people. This obviously doesn’t even touch on things like people who might not be writing in English, or it just—there are just limitations within that, and I think we should all be aware of that as we go forward.

ELM: Definitely. Okay, so other limitations and critiques.

FK: Well, I think that we actually had a pretty good split. Some other surveys that I’ve seen have had many fewer people talk about, or have had many fewer people be heavily slash oriented, so they’ve had many more people read male/male fanfic than any other type, but in this case that hasn’t been the case? It was actually interesting, 63% of people who took the survey said they read femslash, or female/female fanfic. So, I thought that was interesting, I don’t know what that means entirely.

ELM: It was interesting, so we did a Rec Center reader survey, which we had a fraction of the respondents probably, because you know we don’t have 7,000 subscribers…we should! Tell your friends. But, I think we probably had about 500 total, which is a pretty good ratio considering how many people get the newsletter. And we did the same thing with checkboxes as opposed to radio buttons for “What do you read?” So you don’t have to say “I only read slash,” or “I only read male/male pairings.” You can say, “I read all of these, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

FK: That’s how we did it, ours was—

ELM: I know, ours was the same thing, so I think that we had similar results. The grass looked very similar, so male/male pairings definitely won both. But in the sense that like, 10%, 20% more than everything else.

FK: Yeah, in our case 87% of people said they read male/male pairings, and 75% said that they read male/female, which was the next most popular.

ELM: Interesting, OK, so 10%. So a similar sort of thing, it seems like there are some people, obviously there is a small contingent of people who are reading exclusively slash, but I think that actually people were pretty diverse.

FK: I think it’s interesting to think about what we would do if we were to run another survey in the future, to say, “Do you identify as a slasher?” “Do you identify as a het reader?”

ELM: Well, I would also be curious to know if you said, “If you had to pick one, what do you predominately read?” Because like, you know, I have my OTPs, but there are always hetero people in the background, right like most Remus/Sirius stories have James/Lily doing something, being a couple in the background. I’m not like, “Ew! Get out.” I wouldn’t be able to watch any media ever. So I would say, yeah, but I’m not reading, they’re not my primary pairing. And I think this is a critique of the way that a lot of this stuff is done with femslashers, especially the way that, you know this is a huge thing on the Archive Of Our Own, saying that there needs to be functionality, and I would love for them to implement this, where you can mark “primary pairing.” Because like, you know…

FK: All right, well I think we’ve covered that. Should we get to the results a little bit? Because we’re going to continue talking about this, I think we’re going to write about a lot of the…you know there’s been a bunch of critiques and things, but I think it would be nicer to share the results now, and then we can talk about the critiques and so forth either on Tumblr, or next episode, or what have we.

ELM: Sure, let’s do it.

FK: All right, so…

ELM: Raise your hands if you were not surprised by these results. My hand is up.

FK: My hand is pretty much up, with a few notable exceptions. OK, so just so we can get everybody on board. I’m going to read the top ten list of the tropes with the most enthusiasm, which means just the pure number of people who voted “yay” as opposed to “nay” or “meh”—

ELM: Well, I know we were about to do the results, and I hate to do a little aside here, I think one critique that we do need to discuss that’s related to this is people saying…first of all, clearly a massive amount of humans, a massive percentage of humans do not read, can I just say? Because we got a lot of people being like, “What about?” or “Why didn’t you?” and it was literally right there on the page. One of the things that frustrated me was that so many people wrote to us, to me, to you, to Fansplaining, to be like, “Well you know it really varies!” And we said right in the intro, we know it’s complicated, we know you may only like this trope in a certain pairing, from a certain fandom, from a certain writer, but we can’t work with that data. We can’t have checkboxes for “only when Astolat writes it,” you know?

FK: So like every pairing for me, I would just be like, “Yeah, all of these, only when Astolat writes it.”

ELM: But you know what I mean? I just got a little frustrated, I really appreciate that everyone gave a lot of enthusiasm and love to the survey. But it also felt like, “Well, I have a lot of complicated feelings about this,” and I’m like, I don’t care, just take it. When you see “coffee shop AU,” do you go “Ugh,” like me, or do you go “Yay! I love it!” Or do you go, “Eh, sometimes?” Like, I think that saying that—this is what we wanted to boil it down to. What gives the most pure joy, or the most pure like, “Ugh, no.” Those were the results we were trying to pull out of this. Not like, “What is your sentiment on a scale from 1–10 about the bed sharing trope?”

FK: I think the reason that we wanted to do it that way is that we were trying to do a survey that would be short enough that people could take it, and that would produce results that we could understand, and crunch the data for in a sensible way within a pretty sensible period of time. And our focus was really more on getting that aggregated input, rather than providing a service for people who enjoyed taking surveys and thinking about how they liked tropes. I think the latter thing is good too, maybe sometime we’ll put out something that people can take and rate on a scale, and think about their preferences with each trope and really do some soul searching. I think that would be cool too, but that wasn’t the project we were embarking on.

ELM: This was my qualitative trumps quantitative perspective here, but I’m not sure that there is a survey that could really capture that.

FK: Oh, I don’t think there is.

ELM: I think that it’s much more interesting that, if this was your response to the survey, sit down and write a Tumblr post and say, “You know this really got me thinking. There’s only sometimes when I like coffee shop AUs and here’s why: I only like it in the Les Mis fandom because, you know just the dynamic…” OK, maybe that’s not gonna be super interesting to people outside of your fandom or ship or whatever, but I’d be happy to sit down and write a little essay about why I usually hate this, and here’s why it works for me in this context. Or like, here’s the one, or even better—what’s the whole thing about rec positivity? Don’t say what you hate, say what you love?

FK: Right, like “Here’s a story I love…”

ELM: Yeah, like, “Usually I can’t stand coffee shop AUs, but there’s a one exception and let me tell you why it’s wonderful, and let me tell you why I don’t really love coffee shop AUs, and let me tell you why this one transcends it.” I think that, as opposed to getting mad at the survey, I think that might have been a better use of everyone’s time.

FK: All right, well, why don’t we be positive and ask everyone to do that? Because I think I would love to do that with my own survey results, I’d love to think through this and write those kinds of recs.

ELM: Okay, so here’s a challenge: write between the lines of the survey questions. If there are so many exceptions in your fanfic life that you found the survey hard to wrap your head around, I want to hear what those exceptions are.

FK: Totally.

ELM: I wanna hear, I mean, you could write about like, “Oh sometimes here’s why I hate this,” but like, it’d be really awesome if you usually don’t like something and there are exceptions, tell us why you love it. And we’ll share them, I’d love to hear why.

FK: Okay, so now that we’ve covered that, why don’t we…aside over, let’s go back to talking about the results. Okay, so Most Enthusiasm… This list is just determined by pure number of people saying, “Yay! I love it.” And I’m going to countdown from ten. So, ten was “Mutual Pining”...

ELM: I feel like you’re like David Letterman right now.

FK: Nine was “Huddling for Warmth.” Eight was “Hurt/Comfort.”

ELM: Ugh, we’re all so basic.

FK: Seven was “Fluff.” Six…“Teamwork!” Five was “Bed Sharing.”

ELM: Similar to “Huddling for Warmth,” but like, inside.

FK: Well, and also, you can huddle for warmth inside, let me be very clear, but I think we also said “One Hotel Room Left” was part of “Bed Sharing.”

ELM: Yeah, I think “Bed Sharing” usually implies, “We weren’t going to share this bed but now we have to.”

FK: Yeah, OK. And four was “Rescue Missions or Saving Each Other,” which actually I was kind of surprised was so high up there, along with “Teamwork,” even though I like those things now that I think about it—

ELM: Yeah, why not?

FK: Three was “Slow Burn,” surprising exactly no one. Two was “Canon Divergent/Alternate Universes,” meaning like the kind of alternate universe where you alter like, one thing and everything changes, or you—it’s basically canon but with a difference. And then the number one thing that everyone loved was “Friends to Lovers.”

ELM: All right, all right.

FK: And we found so much so that we got people responding and being like, “It’s not just that I like Friends to Lovers, it’s that I specifically like Childhood Friends to Lovers.” So there were a lot of those.

ELM: Really? Interesting.

FK: All right.

ELM: Two people didn’t know what “Friends to Lovers” meant.

FK: I’m so sorry, you two.

ELM: You know what, also? Call to response. Those two people are invited to write and say they didn’t know what that meant. Some of them, I was like, who are you? I remember when we had like 1,000 responses and it was like 10 people had said that they didn’t understand some AU where it was like, I don’t understand how you could not understand—maybe it was like “Pop star AU” or something.

FK: They are pop stars. This is the alternate universe. It says on the tin.

ELM: I don’t get it. That’s fine, that’s fine.

FK: Shall we talk about the most nope-outs now?

ELM: Yeah, this is also a deeply, deeply unsurprising list.

FK: Okay, but the order was interesting. The list of things that people “Nope!” out of is, number ten, “Centaurification.”

ELM: Why do people? Actually, this was one of the most surprising things. This was something, all along people were nope-ing on this. Why do people hate centaurs?

FK: Because there’s a bestiality thing kind of going on, if they’re having sex?

ELM: They didn’t hate merpeople.

FK: That’s true, and merpeople definitely have even weirder genital situations.

ELM: Not weirder, just different, Flourish. Don’t judge.

FK: Okay, number nine, interestingly, was “Self/Self,” as in the thing where you have sex with yourself, like an alternate version of yourself, like time travel—

ELM: Clearly, these were not Buffy fans, because I don’t know a human on the earth who didn’t like doppelgänger Willow, slash fluffy pink, with a fluffy pink sweater Willow.

FK: I was just gonna say that. That’s the ideal to me, so.

ELM: There’s literally nothing better than that, but I mean—I’ve read a fair amount of “Self/Self” because in Torchwood, you’ve got like, Captain Kinky over here, who’s also a time traveler, so like, of course.

FK: Right, so eight was “Bullying” as an element in the fic, and actually I thought that was interesting because there are a lot of stories on Wattpad that feature like, a character being bullied or whatever, and that was noted that this was something that people didn't like here. Seven was “Slavery” which a lot of people had questions and comments about, and that’s a thing that exists in fic and well, it turns out a lot of people don’t like it!

ELM: Also notables, “Slavery” is a massive, massive thing on Wattpad—I mean, it depends on how you define it. We’re not talking about slavery in the American South in the 19th century, not necessarily. It could be that, but selling someone like a slave auction, like “I bought you, you’re my slave now?” That is massive, massive in bandom on Wattpad.

FK: Or on anything else, I’ve seen a lot of those stories in any fandom.

ELM: Yeah, yeah, but it’s notable in my observations.

FK: So let’s continue on. This was the thing that actually surprised me, which was that number six on this list was “Mpreg,” which means that more people disliked “Mpreg” than disliked slavery as something that happens in fics, which I was like, “Woah!” about. Number five was “Major Character Death.”

ELM: That position goes hand in hand with the position of “Fluff” on the other list.

FK: I mean, that was unsurprising to me. Number four was “Eating Disorders” as something in a story. Also something that I see a lot of on Wattpad, especially in band stories. Number three was “Incest.” Where are my twincest shippers at, guys?

ELM: You’re problematic.

FK: Eh, whatever, I knew it. Number two was “Noncon” and number one was “Underage,” neither of which really surprised me.

ELM: Note though that “Dubcon,” not on this top list.

FK: No! Because it’s on a different list. It’s on the most controversial list.

ELM: All right, should we go to that?

FK: Sure—

ELM: Well, wait, let me clarify on the most nope-outs. I know we’ve gotten some comments about this, and I know you’ve been deeper in the comments than I have, that some people were like, “I do read stories about this topic, but I want to read stories about eating disorders, right? But I’m not saying yay to eating disorders.” I think that was a hard distinction for people to make.

FK: Yeah, in fact there was someone who put it really nicely, who responded in the comments who said, and I quote, this was an anonymous person of course because it was all anonymous, who said, “The tendency to want to self-edit even on an anonymous survey even with tropes that are on the outskirts for being problematic or viewed as inherently kinky was surprising. I didn’t expect that reluctance to disclose. I mean, I was honest, but I was surprised by how much the community and other people’s value judgements were in my head.” And I think that’s related. I don’t want to say “Yay, I love reading fics about eating disorders,” even if it’s an element on—

ELM: On a wholly anonymous survey.

FK: It’s tough. I’ll be honest, I said that I was fine with “Noncon,” which is true, because it appears in lots of fics I read.

ELM: I said I was fine with it as well, because if it’s labelled?

FK: Let’s talk about what was most controversial. Number ten—

ELM: Hey wait, define “most controversial.” That means most even split?

FK: Yeah, that means the most even yay to nay ratio.

ELM: Was it yay to nay or yay to meh?

FK: It was yay to nay.

ELM: Well, looking at these numbers, they all actually seem pretty evenly split.

FK: Between yay, nay, and meh. Yeah. That did come out also, but I was just looking at the yay versus the nay.

ELM: Interesting, so this is if you were to look at the little bar graph, and all the “I don’t know’s” are tiny. So for example, the first one on the list, 2,700 yays, 2,300 nays, 2,500 mehs. So like, really, it’s pretty even. Which is interesting.

FK: That’s pretty much true across them. OK, so, number ten was “Sports AUs.”


FK: Number nine was “Group Sex or Orgies.” Number eight was, this one surprised me, was “A Cinderella Moment or Unexpected Makeover.”

ELM: That’s very surprising that people were so mixed about that.

FK: It feels like that’s such a common trope in most fiction, and yet here people were real split.

OK, so number seven was “Bodysharing.” Number six was “Dubcon,” which did not surprise me at all. Number five was “Interspecies,” and a lot of people had comments on this because I had read “Interspecies” and thought of it as being between a human and an alien, two consenting, whatever. Anyway, I hope most people were reading it that way because it doesn’t specify anything about consent, so.

ELM: If you did not read that as two sentient beings, possibly from two separate planets, you need to read some element of science fiction.

FK: Or, Harry Potter and read Hogwarts and the Giant Squid getting it on.

ELM: You know, the Giant Squid is a sentient being?

FK: In that fic it is.

ELM: I think the non-human interspecies in Harry Potter is complicated, and I’m not sure that I want to put like, a human/house elf story into a “Interspecies.”

FK: Um, we could go on a long conversation about this, but let’s move on to number four.

ELM: This is what I actually want to devote the rest of the podcast to: Magical creatures.

FK: So, number four is “Love Potions,” which is also unsurprising because it also sort of fits into that “Dubcon” space, right? Okay, number three, also unsurprising was “Omegaverse.” For the person who was like, “Where’s A/B/O in this?” Dude, right there, totally in the survey.

ELM: We wrote “Omegaverse/A/B/O” in the survey, right?

FK: Yes, we wrote that.

ELM: But also if you’re into that, I can’t imagine that you knew one term and not the other, but whatever.

FK: Right, so that was a thing. Number two, surprising to me, was “Band or Pop star AUs.”

ELM: Okay, so the final count on the people who didn’t know what that meant was 48 out of 7,500. So, all of you 48, I would love to talk to.

FK: And the number one controversial trope that was the most evenly split for people was “Corruption,” aka the opposite of redemption in which a good character is corrupted.

ELM: Interesting.

FK: Which actually, I feel that, that doesn’t surprise me too much.

ELM: Right, I think that goes into the kind of divide that we’re seeing in terms of like, I don’t know, it’s part of the morality conversation with characters and what they should do and whether a character has to be a good person to be a character. This is a fraught discourse.

FK: Exactly, extremely fraught. So I think that there’s a lot more to talk about with this but I think we’re running out of time, so I think we should just—

ELM: Are we going to take the most important comment into consideration? We should probably read that out loud.

FK: Oh, you mean, and quote, “I hate fanfiction. Nine times out of ten its”—no apostrophe—“disrespectful to the very actors that create the characters.” I’m sorry to harp on the no apostrophe, but if somebody comes into my house and tells me about how much they hate fanfiction most of the time, then I have the right to critique their writing ability.

ELM: This was literally like, the fifth comment we got.

FK: It was amazing.

ELM: And I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” I don’t think we really need to take the time to break that one down.

FK: Maybe we should just say that we’re going to cover some of the more useful comments and critiques both on our Tumblr and Medium and on the next episode as well. There’s a lot more to talk about within this survey.

ELM: Useful critiques like all the people who wrote in to say which ships they hated, because that was…

FK: Well there were other things, there was a lot of how we should list off the things that we didn’t include that we would…

ELM: No, I just wanted to throw those comments under the bus too. Life’s too short people, you’re given a space to comment about what you—

FK: Stop judging! Stop judging the people who wrote in, no one is going to want to take our surveys anymore.

ELM: People need to get over it. Like the ship you like. They weren’t saying they hated problematic ships like, “I hate Reylo.” It was like, “I hate Destiel.”

FK: Okay, but who doesn’t…

ELM: Who doesn’t hate Destiel?

FK: Like, everybody on the internet?

ELM: It’s the most popular ship on AO3, so…

FK: I know, I know it is.

ELM: And who cares? Life’s too short to hate Destiel.

FK: That is true, and by the way, as a result of this survey, I have been developing an optimized fic, an optimized fic that features all the things that people say they like, and also is in the fandom with the most people who like it and so on, which the goal is to bring as much joy to as much people as possible. We’ll see if it works if I ever write it, but I definitely sat here looking at these results going, “How could you combine them into an uber-fic?”

ELM: Typical Flourish.

FK: Typical me.

ELM: Yeah, so we’ll talk more about this. Your homework is, if you felt hemmed in by the rigid format of the survey, please write exceptions about things you loved.

FK: Please do it, I will do it. Elizabeth, will you maybe consider doing it?

ELM: Eh, sure. I said no to so many things on this survey. Someone was like, “Did I do it wrong? I said yay to all the things.” And I’m like, you didn’t do it wrong, but I’m gonna let you know I said “no” to almost everything—actually, I said “meh” to a lot of things.

FK: Alright, alright, so we’ll all get together and do that and hopefully we can come up with a list of fics that people feel break the mold of their tropes, and—

ELM: Oh yeah, that’d be awesome. Let’s do that. OK, so before we go, a very quick plug—our Patreon has kind of hit a plateau.

FK: It’s true, it’s true. The Patreon is what has made this survey possible, and makes our whole podcast possible, so if you enjoyed taking the survey and listening to this, please consider going over and kicking us a dollar or two.

ELM: Or five, or ten, or you know, a thousand dollars, so Flourish will knit you a Weasley sweater. No, no I was actually looking at someone’s Patreon the other day, I don’t know who it was, and you know they were a successful creator bringing in more than $1,000 a month, and I looked and they had only maybe $10 a month contributors. And I guess we can take away from this, “Oh, this person, everyone thinks they’re worth more than a dollar a month,” but I actually, we have out of our 100 contributors, maybe a 1/3, maybe 1/4 are maybe $1 a month.

FK: Which is wonderful.

ELM: I genuinely, it makes me like tear up when I think about like—it’s not a massive, it’s a dollar a month. I understand if you don’t have any money, obviously, but it feels like a really nice gesture. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I don’t have very much money but I want to give you a little.

FK: Yeah, so thank you to everyone who contributes, and that includes dollar a month contributors.

ELM: And one final thing that is free, that is zero dollars a month, we also haven’t had much engagement with our iTunes in like, months. And a bunch of people left a ton of nice comments and really nice ratings, and maybe if you’re newer to the podcast and would consider writing us a review, it’s another way for us to reach new listeners—

FK: Yeah, if you don’t have any money and you can’t afford to give anything a month, that’s something that you could do that would support us that would be incredibly, incredibly value to our hearts.

ELM: And to our general audience reach.

FK: That too. Elizabeth, it was great talking to you!

ELM: I like how you’re saying goodbye to me like I’m the guest of this podcast.

FK: I am!

ELM: Flourish, thank you so much for coming on!

FK: I don’t know! Thank you, thank you for taking the time Elizabeth. But, for real though. We’ll talk to each other later.

ELM: Okay, bye.

FK: Bye!

[Outro music]

FK & ELM: All right, so thanks go out to all of our Fansplaining Patreon supporters, but especially… Lindsay Smith, Elliot Byrom, Christopher Dwyer, Chloe-Leonna Steele, Clare Muston, Christian Gossett, Menlo Steve, AR, Katherine Lynn, Clare Mulligan, Heidi Tandy, Megan C., an anonymous patron, Maria Temming, Anne Jamison, Jay Bushman, Lucas Medeiros, Bradlea Raga-Barone, Jules Chatelain, Jenna Hale, Georgina, and in honor of Jacob Sanders and One Direction! The opinions expressed in this podcast are not those of Chimera Media Group, Chaotic Good, or our clients, or employers, or anyone’s except our own. The music this week comes from Jahzzar.