Forgive me if this is all a little disjointed, but I’m kind of writing things down as they occur to me. Also, since I’m a writer, I’m going to focus on writing, but I bet a lot of what I say is true for stories is also true for art.
Since the colossal Sherlock fanfic dick move, I’ve been thinking about fanfic, and talking with some people who still actively fic. (Yes, to fic is a verb. Now you know.) To go with the utter rage at what a colossal dick Caitlin Moran was, there’s been this general embarrassed recoil among fic writers. It’s a thing of sheer horror, thinking something like that could happen to one of our little stories, like AO3 is a rock that could be overturned at any moment and we’re worried we can’t scurry away fast enough.
But why is that? Why are we embarrassed about our fanfiction?
This is the thing: I don’t think we actually are.
If you were actually, actively embarrassed about a story (or any piece of art you created), you wouldn’t show it to anyone, would you? No. I imagine a lot of people are probably like me, with half-finished (or fully finished but hideous) stories that just don’t work stashed in a padlocked trunk in the attic where they can’t hurt anyone.
But if you get your story to the point where you’re willing to put it out in the light of day where people can actually see it? You must think there’s something worthwhile there to be shared. Sure, maybe it’s imperfect, or you’re frustrated and want feedback, or a lot of other reasons. But the basic idea still holds: if you’re letting other people look at it, there is some kind of marrow to your story that you think is good. In which you believe. In which you feel pride. Even if it’s a story that has you throwing your keyboard at the wall because it just won’t fucking work, you wouldn’t be putting it out there for critique if you didn’t think it had a heart worth saving.
You don’t put fanfiction on the internet because you’re embarrassed about it.
So next question: why do other people make us feel embarrassed about our fanfiction?
Except I don’t think that’s even the right question. Because if you knew for a fact that a non-fan, when told about your fanfiction, would at worst just shrug it off, say that’s a cool hobby let me tell you about my fantasy football team, or ask you if that’s a thing you can do to make money (No.) then you wouldn’t ever feel embarrassed about it. There wouldn’t be a reason for embarrassment, because it’s just another hobby.
I think this is the real question: why do other people want us to feel embarrassed about our fanfiction?
Because they’re assholes.
Or maybe that’s too easy. Even if they are assholes, that doesn’t really say anything about the source of this dickish mode of behavior.
Embarrassment comes from shame. Shame comes from the fear of other people thinking your behavior is wrong or foolish.
Okay, so what’s wrong or foolish about fanfiction? Nothing empirically. You’re not making money off of someone else’s intellectual property. It’s sure not any more foolish than a whole host of other hobbies I could name, like say paying a bunch of money to go sit in a cold stadium and watch men in tight pants run up and down a field chasing a ball.
I can see a lot of factors in this.
Maybe it’s that poisonous idea that liking things unironically is somehow mortally uncool. Well, fuck being cool anyway. If people who pull shit like Caitlin Moran and Alan Carr are the cool kids, thanks, I’ll take my tray and go sit with the M:tG nerds again. I don’t find the practice of cultural cannibalism at all satisfying.
Maybe it’s being enthusiastic about things that aren’t mainstream. Like, it’s totally fine to go to football games and paint your face and chest, or have a fantasy football team, but god help us if we’re making shit up about anything that’s not sports. Probably worth noting here that stuff stereotypically liked by guys is generally viewed as cooler than stuff stereotypically liked by girls.
Maybe it’s the writing thing, though I can already put paid to that notion because people generally think it’s mega cool if you’re writing original fiction. But then again, that means you get the stamp of some kind of cultural approval because hey, someone gave you money for your words. That must mean it’s okay. (Unless it’s romance. But we’ll get to that later.)
So then maybe it’s the fact that you’re writing stories for free about someone else’s characters? Frankly, anyone who likes any of the plethora of Sherlock Holmes-sourced shows and movies doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to that. And so on and so forth. Anyone who has ever come out of a movie and said, Yeah that was cool but they really should have done X/Y/Z, write it down and congratulations you just did fanfic now shut the fuck up.
Maybe it’s the porn thing? Ah, well, there is that. We live in a country where for entertainment, graphic torture is a-okay for pretty wide consumption and consensual cunnilingus is just way too shocking. And we’ve all read stories about a teacher (almost always female) who moonlights as a romance or erotica writer getting fired because some parents found out her dirty little secret. Funny thing is, you don’t get fired if you write mainstream literary fiction, hard crime, or even scifi/fantasy.
I don’t think that point should make us feel embarrassed. It should make us angry. The puritanical (and often hypocritical) attitude about sex isn’t something that deserves to be fed with our embarrassment. And in this case, the people who should really feel ashamed are the ones who dump porn in the lap of a person who did not consent to it. Because as I said on Monday, that is never okay.
Maybe it’s because fanfiction is dominated by women, and it’s always fun to take a steaming shit on anything women do creatively? Wish I could say I didn’t think this was a factor, but considering the last several sexism shit storms I’ve witnessed as a writer of original sf/f, this one deserves to be pinned on the board. It’s kind of fascinating to see on one side, DC Comics basically cancelling a show for being too popular with girls, and on the other Alan Carr showing Tom Hiddleston porny Loki fanart like it’s the fucking Ark of the Covenant and he’s expecting faces to melt. (And by the way, you are never getting a movie about Wonder Woman or Black Widow.) Yes, women are taking an interest in fandoms that were originally aimed more at men, and we’re doing it in the ways we always have, and maybe some people find that shocking? (God, why can’t you people just shut the fuck up and buy action figures.)
Maybe it’s because the world is full of assholes who just want to return to the natural order of tearing up the nerd’s notebook of carefully plotted dungeon crawls and feeling good about themselves. (Though considering some of the people doing this crap are pretty damn nerdy themselves, one does wonder.)
Whatever the reason, hey, don’t be a dick. That shouldn’t be such a difficult idea to grasp.
Weirdly, this entire question of embarrassment, makes me think about my niece. Stick with me here. I love my niece to bits. She’s young, and inquisitive, and still at the stage where she’s scribbling pictures on pieces of scrap paper and giving them to everyone as gifts, telling you proudly that the figure on the paper (almost unrecognizable as human) is you. She is happy with the art she’s made, and proud of it. And because she’s happy with it and proud of it, I’ve taken the marker squiggle masterpieces home and given them a place of honor on my refrigerator, as I was told to do by my Evil Auntie’s Handbook.
In our childhood, we are all artists, and we all know the joy of creation.
I remember being like that. I remember writing stories as soon as I could form letters with a pencil, and proudly showing them to anyone who couldn’t run faster than me. (I was a chubby kid. I wasn’t hard to outrun.) I bet you were like that too. At some point, we all take a hit to that enthusiasm to share.
When it’s because we’ve gained enough experience to realize that not every piece of art we make is a masterpiece, that’s called learning the craft. That’s called self-editing and growing and improving. And that’s good, so long as we never hit a point where our internal editor becomes so megalomaniacal that he keeps us from letting our art see the light of day.
But there’s another reason people stop creating and sharing. And it’s because some asshole out there (or many assholes) said that what we’re creating is bad, and stupid, and we should be ashamed of it. And then instead of finding the good heart of what we make and believing in it, we only believe that other people will laugh at us. All art is in some way taking a piece of yourself, some feeling or experience or idea, and making it manifest. No one wants to feel like what comes from inside them deserves shame.
That’s what bothers me the most, about these assholes out there trying to shame fanwriters and artists. Creativity is a muscle that requires exercise to be healthy and strong. Art needs oxygen and sunlight to grow, like most other living things. And everyone, everyone in the goddamn world who has ever made art, has an endless learning curve they have to travel.
You know what I’d call someone who shoves an artist off the learning curve just for a nasty chuckle? A bully. And someone who tries to make an artist feel small for having the cojones to rip out a little piece of their heart and say I made this myself and I’m proud of it? A mean-spirited coward.
Fuck ’em. They don’t deserve any more of my words.
Never stop creating, darlings. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Believe in your art and grow.
Full disclosure: I’m one of only a handful of human beings who hasn’t seen
Rapunzel sorry I mean Tangled haha that’s right these movies totally aren’t about women. At all. Anyway, I haven’t seen that movie. I keep meaning to, and then don’t get around to it.
I’m honestly not sure if Frozen makes me want to give Tangled a chance or not. I have really, really mixed feelings about this movie.
So, spoilers coming if you care about those.
Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a dick.
So this happened. It’s just part of a long pattern of interviewers basically trying to embarrass both actors and fan writers/artists by bringing them forcibly together. (See also: people showing Tom Hiddleston pornographic fanart during interviews.) These people are dicks. Dicks of phenomenal magnitude. I’d say they should be ashamed of themselves, but the very fact that they’re doing this kind of bullshit pretty much shows that they have no shame.
This is the thing about being a fan writer or artist: your creative space is implicitly under the radar, made by the creators of the original work willingly turning a blind eye to give fans room to play. I wrote fanfiction for years and years (and still do, to be honest, very occasionally) and for the most part you do so on the understanding that the creators of the original work will never see what you’ve done. You’re writing for yourself, and for other fans. That’s what makes it fun and joyful. It keeps fan communities strong, which for the most part is a good thing, since yay loyal fan base. No one gets hurt (outside of shipping wars casualties), no harm, no foul, everyone is happy.
Now, it’s different if a creator (or actor) asks for fanworks to be sent to them (like the amazing Trollando Jones asking for fanfic!) or if, say, you come up with something beautiful and tasteful and want to send it as a tribute*. It’s also different if someone actually goes looking for work on the internet. It’s the internet. Enter at your own risk.
But this pattern of taking fanwork and shoving it in the face of people involved in the original movie (etc) is beyond gross. It’s mean-spiritedly shitting in someone’s sandbox for the sake of being a dick. And I shouldn’t even have to say that it’s gross to force something embarrassing on unsuspecting people in public, and megagross when it’s pornographic.
And it’s gross to search out fanworks just for the purposes of publicly mocking them. I feel like I hit my head and woke up back in high school, when the mean girls were stealing my notebook and staging dramatic readings of my horrible teen angst poetry. Fuck you for trying to make the act of creation feel unsafe. Fuck you for punishing people for loving something. No, really, fuck you guys.
And for good measure, fuck everyone who thinks what is basically cruelty for the sake of being cruel is funny.
*-I shouldn’t even have to say this, BUT: sending pornographic work to someone who hasn’t asked for it is never, ever okay. Kind of like sending other people pictures of your genitalia is never okay. Same principle. Including someone in your sex life non-consensually is never okay.
Since it was a meme some of my friends were doing today, and I thought well why not. This would make a darn good blog post.
- Alanna: The First Adventure (Tamora Pierce) – I cannot begin to tell you how much this book has affected me. It was one of the first real YA books I ever read, and it was the first that had a female character confronting and triumphing over institutionalized sexism using her wits. (Well, once you get into the rest of the series.) Alanna becomes the first female knight of her country, and becomes one of the best because of her determination. She changes the world because she refuses to give up, and then later she continues to become a knight but also decides she wishes to be a wife and mother–but only is willing to marry a man who doesn’t expect her to give up everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. All of these were incredibly powerful messages, particularly coming out of the age where it was basically all Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High all the time. (This book is also why, when someone tries to tell me that representation isn’t important, that seeing women be the heroes of their own stories isn’t necessary, I I know they’re full of shit.)
- The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) – my mother used to read to my brother and me, and one of the books she read to us contained all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Sometimes it would be one or two a night, and the novellas were stretched over several nights. This book (and the character) was the reason I created Captain Ramos.
- Dragonflight (Anne McCaffrey) – This was one of the first proper grown-up science fiction novels I read, and it had a huge impact on me. Written by a woman, and with a main character who was a fierce, cranky, imperfect, and driven woman. That Lessa is the one who figures out how to save civilization made this book stand out. I loved it, and it made me want to write science fiction.
- Night Watch (Terry Pratchett) – This book taught me that the best comedy has pain and marrow beneath it. The next book, Thud!, made me laugh out loud, and then it made me cry three times. There’s just such an emotional core to them. It’s meant that every time I have written something even mildly silly, I first think about what’s behind the silliness so that the story has a proper skeleton. I just wish I could write like this.
- King Henry V (William Shakespeare) – My favorite play ever. I read it out loud to my cats regularly. Stop judging me.
- On Writing (Stephen King) – “Kill your darlings.” Best piece of advice ever. And like everything Stephen King has ever written, it’s very fun to read.
- The Black Unicorn: Poems (Audre Lorde) – Audre Lorde taught me how to love poetry, and for that I will be forever grateful. There’s just so much beauty and rage and love in what she writes that I can’t help but come back to it again and again.
- History of the Kings of Britain (Geoffrey of Monmouth) – I cannot begin to tell you the number of ways I love this book. Obviously it made a huge impression on me because I love telling people about it. But it’s basically a completely fictional “history” of British kings, where Monmouth makes some amazing things up out of whole cloth, like the Britons repelling a Roman invasion, and then counter invading and sacking Rome. (It’s also likely the literary origin of Merlin as a character.) It was assigned reading in my British history class, and I loved it to pieces. The professor assigned it because she wanted us to really start thinking about the biases of people who wrote primary source material. It’s a strong lesson for that.
- A Man With No Talents (Oyama Shiro) – This book provides a view of modern Japan that I wish more people would read. It’s also an incredibly beautifully done translation.
- Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri) – If Audre Lorde taught me to love poetry, Jhumpa Lahiri taught me to love literary short fiction.
- BONUS (if you can call it that): Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs – I randomly quote from this book. It makes me laugh uncontrollably. It’s got an entire chapter about MacArthur Park.
In perfect Rachael World (you know, the same place where my best friend Kat will be Minister In Charge of Hot Forking People Wot Deserve It) everyone will be required to take at least one basic geology class. And not be allowed to escape until they have at least a rudimentary grasp of the concept of Deep Time. (That thing that involved metaphors about if the life of the Earth was a football field, humanity’s entire existence would be the last blade of grass, etc.) This is because once you’ve had your mind completely blown (no drugs necessary) by the immensity and longevity of the universe, you end up with two contradictory but true conclusions:
- The world is immense and old, and we are tiny and brief. What happens today is less than the blink of an eye in the grand scale of mountains and planets and stars. Whatever happened? It’s okay. It’s not a big deal. The stars are still there, the Earth still turns. In ten billion years it’ll all be dust anyway. Let it go.
- The world is immense and old, and we are tiny and brief. And yet somehow in this moment that is less than the blink of an eye to the universe, you have sat next to someone, you have fallen in love, you have hated, you have laughed, you have cried. You stand at the confluence of infinite rivers carrying sand without number, and yet somehow you have plucked one grain from the flow and licked it from your finger. This will never be repeated. This single, beautiful heartbeat is all you get.
Make it count.
Christmas actually is my favorite holiday. It always has been. I grew up atheist, so for me it is all awesome dinners and family and presents and eating cookies until you collapse into crumb-covered torpor. I think I love it just a little more now that I’ve gotten to spend Christmas-time in the UK, even if my in-laws get me so drunk I don’t question wearing a silly paper crown until later when I’m looking at the pictures and wondering what is up with that again?
My favorite part of Christmas though, is actually the music. I think this is because I’ve been lucky enough to never work retail during this holiday, so it isn’t part of job PTSD for me. Though I will admit, hearing The Little Drummer Boy over and over on the radio one year kind of killed that one for me, not that I liked it that much to begin with. But here are my five favorite carols–they all also fairly uncommon ones, which is why I think the relentless creep of retail Christmas has spared them.
O Holy Night
Just something about “Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices!” gives me chills, every time. Every time.
I Saw Three Ships
Holly Jolly Christmas
I think this one can be entirely blamed on the number of times I watched the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a kid.
Carol of the Bells
This has got to be one of my new favorite versions. Though I love it when sung as well. And it’s actually not the easiest song to find a good vocal arrangement on…
The St. Stephen’s Day Murders
Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer ain’t got nothin’ on this song. I love it. I love it love it love it. I cannot manage to sing the whole thing through without busting out laughing. Maybe I just need to be drunker. (Hey kids, Christmas tip–if you give Rachael enough wine, she WILL sing this song. With a horrible fake Irish accent.)
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Secret bonus sixth song, Song For Ten
I love this song with all my nerd heart.
I pledged $1 per time, so that will total $154! I chose to give the full amount to RAINN.
And done. It felt wonderful.
Given a rough Earth analog that experienced a major nuclear war about 1 Ma, would there be any evidence of in the rocks in modern times?
So I finally watched episode number 5 (Blood Brothers) because I was doing a…thing…last night and missed it then. You know, Almost Human, I want to like you. But after that turd of an episode I am so close to breaking up with you it’s not even funny. I’d rather spend the time running on the elliptical.
Karl Urban plays
Murdery McMurderson John Kennex the worst cop ever, with Michael Ealy as Dorian the sassy black robot who is 1000% done with Kennex’s shit. This sounds like an excellent setup, really, except for the part where every episode reminds us that these cops are apparently going to SAVE US ALL from this terrifying future where everyone wears blue. No other colors JUST BLUE. THERE WILL BE ONLY BLUE.
Considering the rate at which Kennex casually kills people (and robots) without consequence, I don’t want him to be in charge of saving anyone. Look, I don’t have a problem with cops being the hero of a show. I’m a faithful devotee of several incarnations of Law & Order, after all. But you notice what happens in Law & Order when one of the cops shoots someone? SOMETHING HAPPENS. IT’S A BIG DEAL.
I am trying so very hard to suspend my disbelief because Karl Urban. And Michael Ealy. And Dorian makes everything worth it. But then this episode. This. Fucking. Episode. Thoughts as they occurred to me during this episode:
- Of course there is a joke about the black guy having an enormous wang. Admittedly, the whole scene is amusing and Dorian puts the burn on John as fabulously as always, but REALLY? REALLY?
- “On good days I’m a petite psychic.” HAHAHA because yes it’s totally funny to make women joke about their size! (Also, you DO realize that petite means short,right?) And just the entire psychic thing to begin with his megabarf through and through. YOU HAVE FUCKING ROBOTS IN THE FUTURE WHY ARE WE PLAYING WITH PSYCHIC BULLSHIT.
- Seriously did the creepy serial killer just insult Captain Maldonado’s LOOKS? And she just kind of took it? “You’re a son of a bitch” is the best she could do? For fuck’s flying sake. I AM SO DONE WITH THIS EPISODE.
- Oh, glad to know the only reason the police are going to rescue Valerie is because she is important to Kennex and not because, I don’t know, she’s a fucking police officer.
- So then at the end, Moldanado gets her own back from the serial killer and walks away with her chin held high, and that’s kind of awesome… and then we FUCK IT ALL AWAY with the guy telling her she’s pretty BECAUSE THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS.
I feel like those pretty much sum up everything that has bugged the shit out of me about this show since the get-go, but I was giving it a chance and enjoying the sass. I was already kind of done in the sexbot episode where 99% of the sexbots were women. (Yes, there were some male sexbots kind of around, which I did appreciate, for the three seconds they were on screen.) And now in this one, the two female cops finally get to do things, and basically…are entirely ineffectual. Moldanado gets schooled by the evil serial killer because she isn’t pretty or something. Valerie is out of the station just long enough to end up as the damsel in distress, and it’s made clear that the only reason she’s important is because Kennex has a thing about her! She’s important to him! Glad we got that covered.
COME ON. Seriously, it’s like the women in this show could be replaced with post-it notes that have smiley faces drawn on them. (Or frowny faces for when someone tells them they aren’t pretty and no one wants them.) And maybe I wouldn’t be so critical except you know what comes on right after this show? Sleepy Hollow. Which gave us Abbie Mills, Jenny Mills’s right eyebrow, and Jenny Mills’s left eyebrow.
AND DO I EVEN HAVE TO MENTION TROLLANDO JONES
I want to love you, Almost Human. But you are making it so very, very hard.