Too Smart for Fandom?

There has been a recent spate of posts on Metafandom and elsewhere about whether or not academia–and academically inclined fans–should have a role in fandom. So far, it hasn’t even been a matter of how much of a role, or when academic analysis is appropriate, but a black-and-white, YES-or-NO debate such as is rarely seen in fandom.

I find the argument of those most vociferously in the NO camp to be a little disturbing.

Because what is an “academic” reading–which, based on the posts I’ve read, is being defined as detailed analysis of whether and why a story works–of fanworks if not simply one of many ways to approach a very broad and diverse topic?

Swatkat24 put it best: “I find the anti-aca/fen debates that make the rounds in fandom every now and then worrisome, and very opposed to that aspect of fannish culture I’ve come to cherish over the years: tolerance of other people’s weird obsessions.

The argument against “acafen” (those fans who enjoy and engage in academic analysis and discourse about fanworks) seems to revolve primarily around the idea that to analyze a work too deeply ruins it. In K.A. Laity’s original post that spurred this current round of discussion, one commenter put it as, “Funny thing I’ve found– when you cut the living dog into pieces, it never acts the same afterwards, even if you put the pieces back where you found them.” Twistedchick drew a similar parallel with, “I have never liked dissections and vivisections” and goes on to write,

See, when you take all the living bits of a story apart, out of context, skin them and stake them out and dance around them while they’re drying, what you’ve got is something that you’ve killed, and it’s dead. It might make stew, but it’s not a story any more. You haven’t ‘controlled the narrative’, you’ve slaughtered it, and it’s attracting flies and smelling pretty bad. You can say you’ve got Einstein’s brain, in a jar on the shelf, and you can measure it and figure out what shade of pinkish-gray it is this week, but it’s not a living mind any more, is it?

These are pretty extreme reactions, I think, when one considers that under discussion is a single way to read and interpret literature. We are not, in fact, talking about cutting apart living, sentient beings. The argument against literary analysis in no way parallels the argument against vivisection. (Take it from one who has spent a good part of her life firmly in the camp making the latter argument.)

The above arguments fail to account for the fact that a story analyzed by one reader does not leave that story in shambles for subsequent readers. If one takes apart that hypothetical dog, then that dog can be wholly restored for no one. It’s not as though you can cut him to pieces and I can adopt him and take him home, healthy and whole, the next week.

Which gets to a second issue that is being discussed in this context. The comments on Twistedchick’s post reveal both hurt and anger about having work discussed in such a fashion without consent and her own opinions being disregarded because she wasn’t thought capable of understanding the discussion because she was not an academic.

With the latter, I have to empathize … but I don’t think that it’s the same question as to whether academic analysis is appropriate when applied to fandom or fanworks. Such experiences as Twistedchick describes don’t belong to academics. They belong to assholes.

Can academics be assholes? Sure.

Can non-academics be assholes? If ff.net proves one thing, it is that stupid people can be jerks too.

Telling someone that she is not intelligent enough to understand the discussion of a story that she crafted takes a galling amount of condescension. Providing someone with unasked-for critical analysis of a story is a completely different can of worms and not that much different than the ongoing discussion/debate about constructive criticism and whether or not it is polite or appropriate to critique a story where the author has not given his or her permission to do so. Publicly critiquing a story is even more of a touchy issue.

Why should the question be any different if it is an “acafan” talking down to me about my competency as an author or a barely literate commenter on ff.net who can nonetheless lecture me on the myriad complexities of eschatology in Tolkien’s world?

Personally, I’m inclined to write off both as socially inept and possessed of overinflated senses of self-importance and to seek constructive comments from those whom I trust to provide a kind of critique with which I am comfortable.

But the reality of publicly posting online is that, with it, one opens himself or herself to public comments and “use” of the material as inspiration, example, and so on. I touched on this in a previous post, The Many Faces of LiveJournal, about how some LiveJournal users want their public posts to remain available to a public readership … but to simultaneously inhabit some nebulous twilight realm as far as commentary and fair use of that material goes. My feelings on this remain mixed, to an extent, but I find myself leaning toward regarding this outlook as an example of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too: If public authorship confers benefits that locked/limited or private authorships do not–such as an increased readership and level of discussion or positive attention from peers–then it seems a bit unfair to ignore the negatives that come with public authorship, such as negative attention or fair use of one’s words for purposes with which the author may not necessarily agree, as when one LJer discovered that her public LJ posts had been referenced in a published book. At the same time, I do understand that a nuanced understanding of commenting on and using another fan’s work–even when that work is public–has been not only tolerated but encouraged in fandom. So while I find myself raising my eyebrows at the writer who would publicly share a story and yet expect that story to remain off-limits for certain kinds of critique, then I nonetheless do understand from where such an attitude derives.

Rolanni brings up a related point about the appropriateness of academic study and discussion of “genre” fiction, particularly science fiction, also related to Laity’s original post. I think this is relevant to fan writings. “Genre fiction” has long been derided by many in the “literary fiction” arena; my writing program in university made its utter disdain for “genre” shamelessly explicit. But authors of both types of fiction have found common ground in their hatred of “fan fiction,” those derivative works that are subpar and escapist at best and theft at the Robin-Hobb extreme of the worst. It is a typical example of defining ourselves not by what we like but by what we hate and stomping down other people’s work to make our own stand taller.

Yet, despite the long loathing, both genre and fan fiction have found academics suddenly peering past thresholds they once wouldn’t be caught dead crossing. Rolanni writes, “Science Fiction has had an Inferiority Complex almost since its mass market birth, when it was viewed (by academics, my mom, high school English teachers, and other Right Thinking People) as being on the same intellectual level as porn, and was often displayed on the same spinners in the newstands,” and goes on to argue for the value of escapist fiction.

With which I would agree wholeheartedly.

But, again, I am puzzled by the assumption that a piece of writing must be one or the other–either worthy of analysis or simply “escapist”–and cannot exist as both to different people or even the same person. I read Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness for pleasure and loved every minute of it. I didn’t attempt to analyze it or figure out what it means. Yet it is a science fiction novel that could definitely be analyzed and could also hold its own against many works of so-called “literary” fiction. Likewise, I was rivetted by the plot, characters, and world-building of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, not with trying to figure out what she was trying to say. She was definitely trying to say something, but it wasn’t why I read the book. Oh, and Margaret Atwood is definitely a “literary” author.

For that matter, are novels so easily dichotomized as “literary” or “genre”?

Part of the reason that I insist on using the annoying quotation marks each time I type those words is because I don’t believe in the pure existence of either form of fiction. Really, what separates “literary” from “genre”? When I inquired in one of my writing courses about how science fiction is defined, I was told that it takes place in a dystopian future and uses “formulas” of the genre, like unrealistically perfect protagonists. In this case, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (which is celebrated in literary circles) can be dismissed as “genre” because it takes place in the future (and that future is definitely dystopian)?

And the acceptable “literary” stories written by my classmates–which inevitably dealt with divorce or alcoholism or prematurely dead friends–no matter how bland the writing and tired the subject, were not formulaic?

The more I write and the more I study literature (and–full disclosure–I am not an academic: I have one Bachelor’s degree in psychology and am working on a second in English, and my money is made doing work related to neither for the government; I do, however, hope to earn advanced degrees in my studies someday), the more I balk at classifying literature as one or the other of anything. Literary, genre; serious, escapist; original, derivative … I think that every story falls somewhere on a continuum between these extremes (and where on this continuum will vary from reader to reader), and no story can be wholly one and none of the other.

So, my point is that while I won’t fault Rolanni for her pride in her “escapist genre fiction,” I think that attempting to define what this is is essentially pointless: It will vary from person to person. For example, plenty of people write off Tolkien as escapist, genre tripe. And yet plenty of people also see Tolkien as a serious author with Something to Say that is worth studying.

Therefore, excluding a work from study because it meets one individual’s classification of “escapist genre fiction” is just as pointless. I may think that your escapist genre fiction really and truly does have something to say.

But, later in Rolanni’s post, she goes on to say,

What seems not to be understood is that academics don’t study and write articles in order to Validate the object of their study. Academics study and write articles in order to Validate themselves. As more and more people become academics, they must look further and further afield for subjects, and lo! suddenly Science Fiction isn’t genre trash anymore; it’s a way to secure tenure.

Ouch.

Considering that she froze and eventually made invisible the comments to this post, I suspect that I’m not the only one who takes umbrage at this point.

Clearly, if I think your escapist genre fiction has something to say–or your fan fiction, for that matter–then if I wish to study it, then this has little to do with my own enjoyment as a reader or curiosity as a researcher as it does attempting to strike into new territory and being hailed as pioneer in my discipline, presumably with great personal gain (i.e., tenure). This sort of broad-sweeping ad hominem attack is not only untrue but terribly unfair.

And, here, I think the argument about academia and fandom comes full circle.

The heart of the debate really has nothing to do with ruining fiction by “dissecting” it or ignoring its escapist purposes to search for something deeper (which, apparently, does not exist, no way, no how). It has to do with an intense dislike of academia and academics and–perhaps beyond that–intellectualism or finding pleasure in analysis. Here is where I come back to my original point that this is a disturbing argument.

It is disturbing because, as Swatkat24 pointed out in the above-referenced quote, fandom is obsessively tolerant of all sorts of people and ideas. While it is generally accepted that everyone be permitted their preferences in what they do and don’t like to read, it is frowned upon in most fan communities to attempt to bar someone from writing what they wish, be it smut or slash or AU. Or academic “dissections” of stories. People are trusted to avoid what they don’t like. And fandom especially stresses the importance of critiquing stories and not authors. Attempting to exclude a person from participating in fandom as an author or a reviewer because of his or her sexual orientation, race, religion, marital status, or gender identity would cause an uproar.

So why are fans sitting idly by and allowing fans to be excluded based on their chosen careers, fields of study, and level of education?

If I stated that people without college degrees should refrain from commenting on stories because their comments are inevitably shallow, uninsightful, and useless, I would (rightfully) be derided because I am not judging a review but a reviewer, much as telling an author that “Young authors like you should wait until you have more life experience before trying to write love stories,” I am not critiquing the story but the writer, and we generally accept that this is irrelevant and wrong.

Here, I find a rather intriguing connection to real (read: outside of fandom) life, at least in the United States, where there is lately an ever-escalating debate on “intellectualism” that increasingly attempts to cast the opinions of those deemed as “intellectuals” as unwelcome or inferior to those of “ordinary folks.” As the current presidential campaign really got underway, I found myself baffled at how many people I heard scorning Barack Obama’s “intellectualism” as somehow making him unfit to serve as President of the United States. “Why so?” I often wanted to ask; it seemed to me that devoting one’s life to careful thought and reasoning and problem solving was an asset in a presidential candidate.

But, as I delved deeper into this debate, I found aspects of it striking … and remarkably similar to the “acafen” discussion going on in fandom. It seemed that many people proudly titling themselves “anti-intellectuals” often spoke of suffering hurt and condescension from those whom they considered intellectual. Slate magazine’s XX Factor blog had a discussion about this, and conservative blogger Melinda Henneberger wrote of how “I did work for an intellectual at one point—and I know this because he spoke of it constantly; in fact, he talked so much about his own heapin’ helpin’ of smarts that one wondered, as he would have said, how wide-ranging his great thoughts really were.” Rachael Larimore–also conservative–wrote that, “What makes people angry, and blood-thirsty, if we must go there, is when elites and intellectuals condescend to everyone else and belittle their views.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

And whether applied to politics or fandom, this view is troubling because it excludes people based on perceived intelligence or preferred way of interpreting information. It does not analyze the merit of what they have to say but judges that, whatever is said, it will be offensive simply because of who is saying it. Being an “academic” isn’t a guarantee of asshattery, nor do academics and intellectuals hold monopoly on being jerks.

I don’t believe that all authors need to encourage or even welcome an academic reading of their work. Just as intellectuals aren’t the only pains in politics, I’m sure we could all name certain kinds of review(er)s that we find annoying or detestable and would prefer not to receive. In some spaces–like on LiveJournal–an author can control this, screening or deleting comments that she or he finds contrary to her or his purpose in writing, and I would not protest that right. But I think that it is quite a leap–and a dangerous one–to say that a certain type of thinking or people who enjoy that type of thinking are wholly unwelcome in fandom or their preferences any less worthy than anyone else’s.

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5 Responses to “Too Smart for Fandom?”

  1. Juno says:

    Ha, somehow I thought you’d pick up on that discussion. *grins*

    Just like you, I found myself scratching my head repeatedly over some of the posts.

    I don’t understand how this discussion could turn into a war so quickly. Right now it feels as if you have only one choice “for” or “against”.

    The really bizarre thing about the whole discussion is that it is EXACTLY what academics and intellectuals are all about (on BOTH sides of the duelling ground!) — debating a topic and debating the discourse of that topic.

    Or, as we call it in fandom: “Meta”.

    *sniggers*

    What people fail to see is that it’s not a degree that makes an analysis. Any insightful review or recommendation will do that.

    Personally…

    With two university degrees and a professional qualification, I’m an academic for better or worse.

    And I love me my Meta! I LIKE analysing and interpreting — all kinds of things; stories, poems, history, politics.

    But that doesn’t mean I do it all the time. Or that I can’t simply enjoy a story. Seriously. I — and most other academics — are not that one-dimensional. We do not dress exclusively in black and white, nor do we see the world that way. Right now I’m wearing a lot of purple. 😉

    The comparison with a vivisection is so ridiculous that I laughed out loud.

    Just like you said… it’s not as if a story self-destructs as soon as it’s been torn apart by a critical analysis.

    Also: as far as I know there are no super-sekkritt ninja-acafens running around and forcing the un-analytically inclined fen to read such awful academic interpretations and examinations of genres and stories!

    Seriously. Don’t like, don’t read is applicable to Meta, too!

    Hmmm…

    You said:

    “Can non-academics be assholes? If ff.net proves one thing, it is that stupid people can be jerks too.”

    I don’t think you meant it that way, but I think a part of the palpable resentment in this debate is derived from the fact that non-academics have been made to feel way too often that non-academics are stupid people.

    They are not.

    There are many levels to stupidity and intelligence. In the various discussions I’ve been involved in online and offline, I’ve witnessed academics say unspeakably STUPID things, and non-academics come up with wonderfully poignant observations.

    It’s sad when societies and educational systems breed inferiority and superiority complexes. Worse, it makes getting along unnecessarily difficult. :-/

    I had to smile when I read the next paragraph about the can of worms of unasked for concrit or worse, unasked for public critical discussion.

    I think that’s actually one of the sorest points at the heart of the debate.

    Is it okay to have a public, critical discussion of fan fiction without the author’s consent?

    My personal impression of the current customs in fandom is that this is NOT okay.

    Actually, in the SMUT workshop over at There and Back Again it was only the trick of working with anonymous examples that enabled us to have an open, honest, critical discussion. Later on, someone complained in a comment for the SMUT essay about the quality of such scenes in general and in particular, but when I asked for the titles of the relevant stories and the links, so we could have a constructive discussion, the commenter declined.

    Personally, I think that situation is absurd.

    Do we need Stephenie Meyer’s permission to trash her newest novel and nitpick it to death? Do we need the permission of Tolkien Estate to interpret ‘The Children of Hurin’?

    There’s a difference between criticism addressed directly to the author and a discussion among readers!

    “No public critical discussion” strikes me a bit like “wanting to have the cake AND eat it”.

    Fanfic writers want the public to read their stories. They want the public to give them feedback. They want the public to recommend their stories. They want the public to nominate their stories for fanfic awards. Etc etc

    At the same time they want to control which feedback they get, how their stories are recommended, how their stories are discussed…

    *shakes head*

    Frankly, I find that bizarre. I always end up imagining how people discussing a published novel would react if the author butted in and told them how to discuss her work…

    The PROBLEM is the same as the one in the concrit discussion, I think. In fandom, we’re all on the same level. It’s not a neat divide between author and readers. Many, if not most readers, are also writers. I don’t think I know anyone active in fandom and fanfic debates who hasn’t at least tried to write a drabble. So it may feel not so much like readers discussing an author’s story, but COLLEAGUES dissecting the writing of a CO-WORKER.

    And that is much more personal than readers at the local book club discussing the current novel…

    I like the point you make about fandom and tolerance/inclusiveness.

    “fandom is obsessively tolerant of all sorts of people and ideas”

    Meh.

    Fandom PRETENDS and CLAIMS.

    But truly?

    In my experience fandom falls very much in line with the famous Rosa Luxemburg quote: “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently”

    …which for her really meant: “–as long as they think the same as I do.”

  2. Doc Bushwell/pandemonium_213 says:

    [Signing in with “Doc B” first since I find it impossible not to be snarky.]

    I jumped into a few of the metafandom links and then some to get a feel for the issue at hand. My readings raised a couple of questions.

    1) With regard to analysis of literature, classic, genre or otherwise, what are the metrics applied and are these metrics applied evenly across all academic institutions?

    2) Why does “the community” insist on coming up with such blithering cutesy jargon as “acafan” or “aca/fen?” and in the same breath describe themselves as “intellectual?”

    I’m sitting on the fence with regard to this one. I’m all for knowledge and digging past the surface for new insight. I think that can be applied to literature of all sorts — from classic literature to contemporary novels on the NYT best seller list to genre to fan fic. It’s all fair game. I will shamelessly quote myself: “he who does not seek to discover the order of a thing will never comprehend it.”

    However, as I noted in a comment to your essay under separate cover, such analysis is not rocket science. That is to say, it strikes me as extremely difficult to apply objective measures to the subjective like art and literature. It seems to me that academicians do not (and perhaps cannot) apply a universal standard of metrics to the subjective which confounds the issue even more.

    For example, I like contemporary abstract art and sculpture. When I look at such works of art, I have enough training to note use of space, color balance, etc., but then I let my perceptions take over and appreciate the whole without articulating specifics. If a “post-modern deconstructionist” art critic were to stand at my shoulder and delve into excruciating minutiae and explain what I was (or should be) perceiving, I would likely turn and bitch-slap said boor and then advise the person to take up analytical chemistry in which measurement is meaningful.

    So what my sideways brain is attempting to say is that analysis of literature is fine, and it’s fair and even desirable that fan fic is subjected to such scrutiny. However, a critic must be aware that her deconstruction is also subjective and is also fair game for push-back. “Academicians” (whatever the hell that means) must realize their limitations in enforcing sometimes nebulous metrics on subjects of perception versus true measurement.

    Within fan fic, such critique is dicey for the reasons you gave in one of the comments in “meta,” that is, the personal relationships make full-on critique challenging. Plus,

    I have to confess the “intellectual” navel-gazing that some of the metafandom essayists engaged in made me chuckle and roll my eyes in derision. Throw”Foucault” and “post-modernism” around a few times in an essay and you can proclaim yourself an “intellectual.” Bullshit. Just a cursory glance at the essayists’ profiles revealed interests and education that were not exactly expansive. Color me intellectually unimpressed.

  3. Dawn says:

    Juno: I, too, was incredibly surprised to see you weighing in on some of the Metafandom posts. 😉

    Right now, I am wearing a white shirt and gold trousers, so no black-and-white for me either. 😉 Thank you for vouching for the fact that it is possible to both read for analysis and read for fun.

    For example, in my Tolkien class, we had to read Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara. It was a class assignment, so I went into it fully in analytical mode. I loathed the book. The writing was terrible, and the ideas (which were patterned after Tolkien’s) were weak and, sometimes, contradictory.

    At the same time, when I was finished with it and had catalogued all that I thought was wrong with the book, I realized that if I’d taken it to the beach for fun reading and hadn’t made a point to notice all the adverb atrocities and rather flimsy philosophizing, it was an entertaining story, and I probably would have liked it a lot more. I almost wish I’d read it that way first. I found reviews from a lot of people indicating that they loved the book because it was fun and entertaining.

    On vivisection, as someone who has in the past identified strongly as an “anti-vivisectionist” (even though, in my “old age,” the complexities of these sorts of issues bely such tidy titles), I found this comparison almost offensive. The anti-vivisection movement largely focuses on the suffering of sentient beings. No matter how “alive” a story or its characters may feel, taking it apart in no way compares to some of the more atrocious vivisections, where sentient beings suffer terribly. It’s an awful comparison.

    Also: as far as I know there are no super-sekkritt ninja-acafens running around and forcing the un-analytically inclined fen to read such awful academic interpretations and examinations of genres and stories!

    Well, that’s a relief! 😉 But I agree with your point in this: Just like with choosing a story, it’s incredibly easy to just click away if you don’t like the direction a particular reviewer is taking. I’ve seen comments on some of the ensuing posts on Metafandom from authors who don’t read the discussions that evolve around their stories at all, even if they take place in the authors’ own journals. So, yes, it is possible.

    I’m also baffled as to why it seems so difficult for people to figure out what groups and sites tend to attract certain kinds of writings (and, by writings, I mean both fiction and analysis/review of that fiction).

    I mean, it’s not a mystery to me that if I want a really deep and involved discussion about writing, then I go to the Henneth-Annun list. If I don’t like that sort of thing, I don’t go there. There are plenty of other sites that focus “on the squee,” to borrow that fannish phrase.

    On the ff.net/stupid people comment … no, I certainly didn’t mean it that way. I’ve gotten brilliant comment and feedback on ff.net as I have on SWG, HASA, and my own LJ. But the lowest common denominator there, because of a lack of mod oversight, is also really low. These are people whose narrow views and lazy writing (like reviews critiquing grammar that are barely legible themselves) would not be tolerated on the other archives where I post.

    Intelligence is a difficult topic because it’s not as easily pinned down as people think. It is much more than test scores or the ability to dissect Shakespearean sonnets. There are multiple forms of intelligence according to some theories, including emotional intelligence, which often seems to lack in the most precocious possessors of intelligence’s more traditional forms. Psychologists still argue over how to measure it (or if it can be measured at all).

    I sometimes think that people allow themselves to be made to feel unintelligent by boors like some of those quoted in both the “anti-aca” posts and the Slate articles who wish to pigeonhole intelligence as possessing their particular set of assets. None of the writers who proudly claim to be “anti-intellectuals” appear to be unintelligent; they are all well above average as writers, certainly, and can reason their halves of an argument and certainly appear to be well-read. I’d even identify all of them as intellectuals (*gasp!*) in that they do seem to enjoy analysis, even if it is analyzing why analysis is bad. 😉

    On the appropriateness of public, unasked-for concrit (or analysis), I think the example about coworkers criticizing colleagues really makes the point for me. I think that reading published novels, readers assume authors to be on a level removed from them (usually above). But, in fandom, everyone is on the same level, so it seems that someone who is providing criticism or analysis of a peer is assuming a place above that peer. Which, of course, results in resentment and so on.

    I think it’s also much harder to remove personal feelings from a discussion of the work of someone known personally. I would find it hard to publicly critique the work of my fannish friends. Even when they ask for it, I find it hard; I usually email them privately. I think it would also be hard to watch a friend’s story publicly critiqued as in a book club; it’s harder to separate the story from the person.

    I do agree somewhat with your feelings on fandom inclusiveness (or the illusion thereof). I do think that fandom is, in general, more inclusive and accepting than the world at large. At the same time, there are plenty of people who preach acceptance who aren’t themselves accepting. I’m recalling, for example, an incident on the HA list some years ago when a slash writer made a big deal about inclusiveness for slash and then turned around to bash “Mary Sue.” And people manifest their intolerance in fandom as well as elsewhere, they just tend to be subtler. Running into a room and introducing oneself with, “I DON’T READ SLASH NEVER EVER EVER EVER!!!” is one such example of this; on the surface, it is nothing but a personal preference, but when half of fandom is doing it, it quickly becomes a way to discourage and cheapen the authors of a certain kind of fiction.

  4. K. A. Laity says:

    Thanks for injecting some welcome nuance into the on-going (and probably endless) debate. I don’t understand the polarization other than mirroring the recent political past in this country.

    As a genre writer and academic, I don’t see the problem that clearly raises strong emotional welts in others. But I get tired of putting up with the snarkiness of (mostly older) colleagues re: my genre writing (and as you rightly point out, MFA-style writing is just another genre with very clear tenets) on the one hand and the anti-intellectual stance of a sector of genre fans (which unfortunately includes a number of editors).

    So much of that point of view does seem to come from having bad experiences with individuals. One of the primary arguers insisted this was unrelated, but at the original Albacon panel which started this round, it was clear that the individual’s unfortunate experiences were both vivid and traumatic — and the source of a lot of this anger at not being validated. As you point out, there’s no human arena free from assholes. So it goes. But I reiterate, consigning academia to the dungheap because you’ve had a couple of bad experiences is akin to refusing ever to eat out again because you once had bad service. It happens.

  5. Dawn says:

    Doc B: I had to laugh at your comment on the jargon, which is almost completely absent in Tolkien fandom. (Although we have such treasures as Mae/Fin.) It is has taken me a long time and many months of reading on Metafandom to figure out all the jargon. (“tl;dr” stumped me for months!) I suppose it is not much different than the shorthand speech that develops in any group, though. I’m thinking, particularly, of the many bizarre terms we had for things in my restaurant days. (“OMG! A twelve-top! I’m in in the weeds!!”)

    I agree with you on attempting to apply metrics to art: It’s not so cut-and-dried as that. I sometimes try to figure out why my favorite passages of writing work so well for me, and I can come up with a wealth of ideas on how the passage is constructed right down to the level of how the syllables work together, but then there are passages of such stark simplicity that really have nothing special about them, yet I’m a puddly mess on the floor upon reading them.

    And I would be inclined to bitch-slap that art critic too. (Okay, I’m a pacifist … I’d have to settle for a stern telling-off. ;)) I think that what perturbs me the most in this whole debate–and the cynic in my snarks that it is so like fandom–is all the hand-wringing and crying as though people are being chained up and forced to listen to the deconstruction of their stories. It’s eerily close to the similar brouhaha that erupts when *omg* someone writes something that I don’t like, so I have throw a fit like I’m being made to read it. I doubt that most analyis going on in fandom even comes close to the level of deconstruction that you’re talking about, but if people like that sort of thing, go for it. Those who don’t like it don’t have to participate or read it.

    I had to chuckle at your observations about Metafandom. There are certain “Metafandomisms” that drive me batty. (Bobby can attest to this; I rant and rave about them sometimes in the privacy of our home, not wanting to attract the sort of shitstorm that outright critique would draw over something so silly.) Yet I keep reading there … I’m something of a Metafandom addict (and it gives me good Heretic Loremaster fodder, if nothing else!).

    K.A. Laity: First, thank you for stopping by and for starting the disussion based on the Albacon panel that we’ve all seized upon with such joy. And well said in the comment–I can only nod heartily to each one of your points!

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