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Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag.

text that says Ana's Section

Stewart Lee on "political correctness". I found this quote on tumblr and loved it despite having no wider context for it. Jodie then pointed me towards a full article by Lee on the same subject, Guilt-Free pleasures.

Somebody has an issue with gender. This is all sooo familiar, and not just in comics.

How Not to Write About Female Musicians: A Handy Guide. Can everybody please follow it?

NPR has a long feature about "We Are Fine", a track from Sharon Van Etten's new album, Tramp, which features vocals by Zach Condon from Beirut. I already loved the song even before knowing what it was about, exactly, but I love it even more now. You can stream it if you follow the link.

➝ Cory Doctorow's essay With A Little Help: Digital Lysenkoism DRM, "social DRM," and the madness of publishers is a great follow-up to the conversation Renay started last week.

➝ Theodora Goss picks her Top 10 Fantasy Love Stories. I do love me a good romance storyline. I agree with many of her choices, and some of the ones I haven't got to yet seem really promising.

➝ Fatemeh Fakhraie asks: Who says I can’t be a Muslim feminist?

➝ Jenny Geras writes about why she thinks the term "chick lit" is problematic. Why are Jane Eyre, Kate Reddy and Becky Bloomwood even being discussed together in the same paragraph? They have nothing at all in common apart from being female characters created by female authors. Thoughts?

The 2011 Cybils Awards winners have been announced! I enjoyed Anya's Ghost and Blood Red Road and look forward to some day picking up the winners in some of the other categories.

The Atlantic has a long article about "How a Male Feminist Alienated His Supporters". I don't know nearly enough about Hugo Schwyzer to have a solid opinion on this matter, and experience has taught me not to fully trust mainstream media coverage of debates that largely take place in the blogosphere. But I'm throwing this link in here because it ties in with questions about the role men can play in feminism that were already on my mind, thanks to bell hooks' Feminist is for Everybody. I bet some of you out there have thoughts on this, and if so I would love to hear them.

text that says Jodie's Section

➝ Zetta Elliott's essay 'Canada's Black Writers: Achieving Excellence and Avoiding Annihilation' explores a lot of points she's brought up at her blog and in other essays: the lack of published black Canadian writers, discussion about the Coretta Scott King award, her own move to America and her struggle to decolonize her imagination. In this particular essay she unifies these subjects by examining the difference between the way American publishing approaches African American writing and the way Canadian publishing approaches African Canadian writing.

➝ Elliott's essay links to Arundhati Roy's opening address to the 1997 World Social Forum. I know that's old, old news, but I found Roy's speech really relevant to the current UK political situation. She talks about the way current events are often cherry picked and used to justify war, mentions that valid protest is often officially defined as terrorism and explores the problems of relying on governments to bring about change for people.

➝ Garland Grey provides a thoroughly sourced exploration of the problems of our current capitalism systems, at Tiger Beatdown, called 'Personal Decisions, Global Catastrophes: Capitalism is not inherently friendly to human life.'. [twitter.com profile] therejectionist said, it would melt faces off, which, yeah, seems accurate. Even if you just read the article, or only click one of the links he uses to make a point, you're going to be appalled, enraged and informed.

➝ I haven't followed the Leveson Enquiry closely, but Cheryl Morgan's description of Trans Media Watch's evidence caught my eye. She lays out the problems with how stories about trans people are reported, that Helen Belcher, of Trans Media Watch outlined at the enquiry.

➝ io9 wants to know if readers think there should be more science heroes, instead of so many science villians. I would like more heroes and heroines who like science, partly because then I would learn more about how things work (pure humanities student after the age of 16).

dovegreyreader talks about Jennifer Worth's autobiography, which relates her experiences of being a midwife in the East End. The book has been turned into a short series, 'Call the Midwife', which I want everyone to watch, but is sadly on the BBC so hard to find in other countries. The book's available everywhere though.

➝ Iris' recent post, 'Confessions of an Insecure Reader', was really smart. She just really got the insecurities that can accompany being defined as a reader by others.

➝ I said that I was annoyed when no women were voted into the Orange Rising Talent BAFTA short list and I still am. Despite that, I am well glad that out of all the men on the short list, which the public did create, Adam Deacon was the person who won. His win is a cool acknowledgement that talented people be seen as rising, or break through artists, even if they're not involved in American films (do not get me wrong, I love American films, but I don't think rising talent necessarily has to be evaluated by how well someone has done in American cinema). He's also strongly against British film funding being prioritised based on how much mainstream appeal a film might have. And I loved his speech, where he said this award felt like being accepted.

➝ HeheheheHehe, foxxcub put up an Avenger's gif, which is adorable.

➝ To finish, let me show you some pretty posters that move popular films to different eras. My favourite is the 'Drive' re-imagining, featuring James Dean, but the posters for 'Inception', 'Pulp Fiction' and 'The Hang Over' (that film would be so wicked with a different script and Dean Martin) are cool as well.

text that says Renay's Section

➝ I complained a few months ago about John Carter. Classic science fiction about a special dude when there are tons of awesome science fiction stories about special ladies waiting to be told (sigh). Of course, then I read The Title of John Carter, Gender and Money in Hollywood via this article about women rejecting the movie for some sweet action re: how Hollywood thinks ladies and dudes are as dumb as a brick wall cemented together with gender essentialism glue:

Stanton spoke in London last month at a small preview of the new Walt Disney distributed film, John Carter. Take a deep breath before you read this. "Here’s the real truth of it," he said of the film’s title, "I’d already changed it from A Princess Of Mars to John Carter Of Mars. I don’t like to get fixated on it, but I changed Princess Of Mars…because not a single boy would go." [....] Stanton added, "And then the other truth is, no girl would go to see John Carter Of Mars. So I said, 'I don’t won’t to do anything out of fear, I hate doing things out of fear, but I can’t ignore that truth.'"


Shit Book Reviews Say. This has been making the rounds, but it's great. Guilty as charged.

➝ On a recent Booking Through Thursday, they asked people about fanfiction. It's like asking an electrician to comment on cultural anthropology. I may have written a little fanfiction and consider my work 76% okay most of the time, so finding people unfamiliar with it is both fascinating and frustrating. Have some hilarious/horrifying highlights:

"I knew people online who would spend days working on a fic." (source)

[personal profile] justira has been promising the sequel to These Unending Alchemies of Honour since 2009. I feel like I should win a prize for knowing the person who's been thinking/working on a story this long. I still love the hell out of that story.

"And I’d like to point out that fanfiction is a much broader category than you might think. I refer you to Aja Romano’s brilliant post, "I'm done explaining why fanfiction is okay", which points out how works based on other works have been around since the dawn of time (Paradise Lost counts!) and are perfectly capable of being fantastic enough to win the Pulitzer." (source)

♥ ♥ ♥

"When I was a teenager (oh god, I’m old! When the hell did I get old!), fanfiction was pretty much all I read. I lost entire summers to the internet and fanfiction. I really get into a fandom and exhausted all resources until something else catches my eye." (source)

This person is clearly me in disguise.

Of course, then you have the inevitable:

"I think it is too unoriginal and disrespectful toward the original creators especially if the stories came out rather silly and lousy." (source)

"I’d like to write something, but i think it would have to be done very carefully because i wouldn’t want to disrespect the original book in any way." (source)

What does that even mean? I see it over and over and over and am never sure what to make of the claim of "disrespectful". I can think of quite a few things that are disrespectful to do to a piece of art. Setting it on fire, maybe? Remixing and transforming is not on the list.

"I understand why fans enjoy fan-fictions of their favourite series, especially after a series has finished or while they are waiting for the latest release, but for me those characters sprouted from inside the author's head and so the author is the only one who really knows them." (source)

This is really sad. :(

"Some of it is obscene and to be avoided at all costs." (source)

Ahahahaha. EVERYONE, PLEASE AVOID MY FANFIC. Dudes have sex in it. With each other. I might even use the word "cock".

"Fanfiction, as writte by amateurs jotting it down in Microsoft Word and then uploading it to a fanfiction site - never. It's very rarely any good." (source)

If I've written, say, 30 stories...does this means 29 of them are bad? Serious question. What's "very rarely" in this case?

"I was heartbroken when Cassandra Claire got a real publishing deal, dropped the “I” from her pseudonym, and took the Draco Trilogy offline." (source)

I will end this tour with that. Because it's perfect.

the girls are posts a review of Lana Del Rey's new album, Born to Die. I have acquired this album and listened to it and declare it a winner. The most famous track, Video Games, is not my favorite, and the reviewer and I disagree on some of the songs. This is another case where I know very little about the artist, and the critiques are not just of the music, but the persona of the artist that's being formed. That's really not how I engage with music, and thus, am finding music criticism inaccessible.

➝ Would you like to read an excellent post? Our own Ana wrote On Objectivity, Again. She engages with a post made by Maggie Stiefvater and a definition of review that caused me to close the window in disgust. It was a definite, "Are you kidding me, lady?" moment for me (and so we come to why I hesitate to read author blogs these days). The War to Define Reviews has continued from 2006 when I first encountered it and it gets more and more tiring every year. It's a particularly vile form of community policing: "this is my definition and things that fall here count, but what YOU do doesn't!" is my biggest pet peeve about any sort of interaction with art. It's another version of "you're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective!" where people with opinions that don't toe the line of some subjective definition portrayed as objective are marginalized and erased because the person claiming these things speaks from a certain position of authority. In this case, it's an author who is horrified someone had opinions and expressed them in a way she didn't like, so they have to be discredited immediately. Ana neatly takes this apart.

Date: 2012-02-20 08:19 am (UTC)
lionpyh: A glass liquor bottle with a panther shape molded into the glass. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lionpyh
We may have irreconcilable differences on this, and I don't mean to go on at length if I'm not doing more than irritating you – I respect and often agree with your opinions, and on rereading I sounded more hostile than I meant, for which I apologize, especially as to calling most fanfiction pornographic, which is an old line and a low one. (It does sometimes seem that way to me, as someone who is not interested in reading about sex, as you must admit there is an awful lot of it in every fandom.) I would have done a lot better to state it as: I write fanfiction, I edit and comment on it, I take a lot of pleasure in it; I just don't think that the majority of it* would hold up to critical review. (Another point on which we differ is that I think there is still a tremendous and in some [not all] respects useful barrier to entry in literary fiction.) There's an essay I once read that I can't find the link to about 'what would you say the aim of fanfiction is?' that proposed that the aims of fanfiction are different than the aims of other fiction; I'm curious to know whether you think that's the case, because that may be the point of difference. I tend to evaluate fanfiction much as I do published short stories and novels – with the assumption that there is not a division in intention between them. This has not stopped me from finding and loving a lot of extraordinary writing, but it has been more difficult because of the volume of material to find in fandom than it would comparably be in a library or bookstore. I don't think of this as a dismissive statement, or one that is incompatible with believing fandom and fanfiction overall good things.

* I want to make very clear that I don't think fanfiction as a genre is somehow inherently worse than other writing – something like FictionPress has exactly the same issues – I think that the best of it is as good as the best of anything, but I do see how that would not be immediately apparent to an outsider. I appreciate what you're saying in that it seems like an anti-feminist position to say that the majority of it is not the best writing and a good deal of it is terrible, but I am extremely leery as a feminist of refraining from saying it when I do believe it only because the writers are female. The majority of writing isn't the best writing, regardless of subject or genre or tendency in gender of author, but you can't see the sheer volume of all-of-every-single-person's-efforts-ever for any other kind of writing in the way that you do for fanfiction.

Date: 2012-02-20 09:32 am (UTC)
lionpyh: A glass liquor bottle with a panther shape molded into the glass. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lionpyh
OK, rereading this, something else I want to make clear is that 'that may be the point of difference' is not code for You Are Doing It Wrong. I am in all seriousness willing to believe that I am, to some extent, doing it wrong when I read fanfiction – that many fan-authors have objectives that are not the ones I am expecting them to have, and that they fulfill those objectives and I ignore it. (Basically the longer I think about this the more I think I should have kept my mouth shut, but AS IF TO PROVE MY POINT ABOUT THE ACCUMULATIVE POWER OF THE INTERNET, my dickery is now ineradicable.) However, what bothers me about this reading of the situation (i.e., fanworks are trying to accomplish different things than other kinds of works and shouldn't be judged in the same way) is that I feel like it's kind of a pat-on-the-head thing to say and ignores that fanfiction has literary merit in a way that can hold its own with, say, something in the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. So I am really wary of not judging harshly, because I feel that takes value away from the fanworks that are exemplary.

Date: 2012-02-20 07:51 pm (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
Oh, I don't think either of us are doing it wrong! I think we both smacked into walls of perspective that we now have to take down, brick by brick, to see what's on the other side. Learning: It's for Awesome People!

The first rule of being awesome on the Internet: NEVER REREAD YOUR COMMENTS. I live by this. The internet may never forget, but I do. I said what three years ago? I have no recollection of this. Oh, you have a link? That won't load, sorry! I know it's my journal, but maybe Dreamwidth is just having some server issues! I'LL TRY LATER, SEE YOU. #winning

Ana just wrote a post about this. TIMELY.

Date: 2012-02-20 07:44 pm (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I get irritated in general when I talk about fanfiction as considered by the wider world. It's not you, it's me. *g* Plus I responded immediately after a terrible shift at work! So I apologize for that because it made me sound much angrier than I actually was. I was angry at $dayjob, not at you. #losing

I think there must be a lot of corners and maybe our perspectives are different. There is quite a bit of sex in fandom, it's true. However, I joined fandom and made friends who mostly write gen and if they're writing fic with sex, it's also extremely plotty fic (I cited a story by [personal profile] justira, which is 38,000 words where some dudes kiss once, to my eternal frustration.) I also come from a fandom where instead of a porn battle, we have a kiss battle, because the fandom that developed in that corner was uncomfortable with so much sexy times. It's not wrong to say that in some areas, porn is the driving force of a fandom. I would say Inception fills that nicely, a porn motor that keeps interest in the fandom alive and allows smaller niches like gen/het to stay alive that much longer.

I know there's quite a bit that won't hold up to critical review in fandom, but it also depends on what type of critical review you're performing. I know that there's lots of traditionally published work that won't hold up, either, and it often suffers from the same type of writing off, but never to the extent fanfic does.

But these opinions I take issue with aren't about critical review, it's about (to go back to your subject) an cultural anthropologist trying to rewire a house without reading a book and learning the proces and then complaining because they failed/don't get it. They have the ability to read and learn about a thing before they try to do it or comment on it in order to be respectful of something they don't (yet) understand. If they don't have the drive to do it, that's another thing. It was definitely a failed metaphor, but that's another complaint I have that's related to the book community only. It's a meme and even if people have no clue what is being discussed, they take part, spout nonsense about something in order to take part, waste space, and make me, as discussed above, foam at the mouth. Which is pretty standard for me. One day I will run out of foam. It's fine if they think it's terrible, but they should try to remember that in a hobby, there are people, and try to imagine not the hobby they don't quite get, but that there are people performing the hobby at all levels. It's dehumanizing otherwise.

I don't think I read literary fiction unless Ana or Jodie shove it in my face so the barrier there may, in fact, be useful! I don't know, does that mean I'm slumming in the genre aisles? *g*

I do agree that the aims of fanfiction are much different than regular fiction, but that's just like how the aims of YA are different than westerns and the aims of westerns are different than picture books. It might also be because I don't tend to ever look for fanfiction on my own anymore. I stopped in about 2006 and started using fandom's recommendation systems instead of searching on my won. Hilariously, I still don't find much I actively like (my pinboard account that lists my favorite stories is a joke compared to some other fans) because I am awfully critical, and won't recommend a story publicly unless I unreservedly love it. Criticism in fandom is so complicated and not something I want to start a war over. But I do the same thing with books. The only difference is I feel it appropriate to criticize because there was an exchange of money for art. I don't think we actually disagree on the whole, it's just I am considering that fandom has engines, just like Goodreads and Amazon have engines, fan built, fan powered, and fan controlled, that will help discovery — all someone new needs to do is ask.

Maybe my annoyance comes from the fact they didn't ask. They never ask. They don't even try, they just make a sweeping claim as if it's truth. That's frustrating.

Unfortunately, I have no further tools to unpack why I believe that agreeing with people who say, "most of that stuff is terrible!" is anti-feminist. :( I do this all the time, mire myself in debates I can't figure my way out of. I will try, though!

Quite often, the people saying it don't even realize the community is majority female (the case here). But it feels dangerous, given how women's work is portrayed, to agree with them on any score with serious caveats and issues taken with their generalizations if we're inside. If we love our community, we love the whole of it, all the bad parts, the good parts, the superb parts we think are extraordinary. It's the same as people who argue as they write their 50th story that fanfic is illegal, which is emphatically not true. If we're discrediting ourselves, how will people outside the community ever see us and people like us as doing anything but wasting our time writing terrible things? Part of the joy of fandom is getting to write terrible things, and maybe get better, and then if we love it, get good enough that we're producing those extraordinary things. That's why I feel like agreeing with people who say it's mostly bad is a fine line. They mean it one way, negativity to the max. We mean it differently and with respect to the culture of fandom and unless we unpack it, agreeing with the statement made by these people only confirms their negativity.

tl;dr clearly I have too many emotions about this topic I'm sorry. ;___;

Date: 2012-02-21 03:11 am (UTC)
lionpyh: A glass liquor bottle with a panther shape molded into the glass. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lionpyh
Don't apologize! You were being completely civil and I was being a twit, and I am really glad you responded with patient discussion rather than being like, dude, have you read anything I have said in this entry, stuff it and begone (which would not have been unjustified). The thing I got hung up on was my position of 'can we JUST ADMIT that when an outsider goes looking they're going to find a lot of writing that it is really difficult to defend as good', but in retrospect it's not that you're denying that, it's that you are saying that Mr. or Ms. Outsider should not stop there and decry the genre. Which is something I have said, several times, to people I know who look down on fanfiction because they took one cursory glance: like, look, person, you may have to thresh through an initial thicket of incoherent smut, but be brave and keep going, and you will find really beautiful things. It is just that sometimes (and you didn't even do this) when people write things in defense of fanfiction they make it sound like it is all Pulitzer Prize quality all the time and this turns me into a snide devil's advocate monster. IDEK. I think you are right about not beating up on it from the inside, though, and that the fact that it is an environment where it is expected that not everything you do will be High Art is not necessarily a bad thing (I, uh, just kind of rebel against it from personal neurosis).

(Gosh! The internet! The only place I have ever been where I have met people even more feminist than I am.)

There is a definite difference in the way you and I look for fanfiction, in that I don't go by recs because sometimes the things I love best are mysteriously unrec'd, but just start in a fandom and read (or, yes, ninety percent of the time, glance at and confirm that I don't want to read) EVERYTHING. And it's not that I don't ever find really excellent writing (especially on the AO3, which has a higher batting average than anywhere I can think of and is pretty much the sole reason I started participating in fandom), but it is also true that I spend what sometimes feels like a high percentage of time looking as compared to the time I spend reading and I do find an inexhaustible source of phrases and plots that make me roll my eyes. Also, the only other thing I read besides fanfiction is 1. poetry 2. literary fiction, which I often literally select by closing my eyes and pointing in the library, and which I'm beginning to think I must have really remarkable luck with, because I can only think of 1 book in the last three months that I did not finish or enjoy or feel I was learning from.

As to sex, it's not that I won't read a story if there's sex in it (how much slash did I read before I was sixteen, oh man I don't even know) or even if it's a story that is essentially one sex scene; it's the sex that is not about the people having it that I mind. I read pretty much all fiction for two things: indefinable texture and technique of writing, and... a sense of principles larger than any single person as they manifest through a single person (which is a long way to put it but 'characterization' doesn't suffice; characterization that's sensitive to people acting both consciously and unconsciously and how circumstances alter character, perhaps, except that is even longer). These are my criteria for srs business Booker Prize literary fiction, and they are also my criteria which are fully and intelligently met by, sometimes, stories about non-human characters from videogames having sex with each other. I just cannot honestly say that the one type of narrative achieves what I want from it as often as the other, or that percentage-wise it's even close.

Date: 2012-02-26 04:21 am (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I think the only people I actually say "stuff it" to about fanfic are authors who write books and then disallow fanfic. You're safe. ;)

It occurs to me that the people most likely to defend fanfic could easily fall into those "it's good! where do you get off!" traps because like me they've surrounded themselves with a trustworthy recommendation engine (pinboard is great, AO3's bookmarks are good) so to them, their community is full of talented people writing interesting things particular to whatever canons they adore. They aren't privy to less talented or betaed parts and therefore tend to dismiss them which I find just as harmful since I sort of consider myself in those less talented circles half the time. *g* It does no genre or community any good to imagine it as a flat line regardless of whether it's people outside or people inside.

I find the looking versus reading criticism much more valid, because if you do look for fanfic instead of using recommendations, you have a better view on what's on offer. I uh, tend to be a slasher. I have gone through huge amounts of guilt over this through the years with my friends who prefer gen or het fic and I hid my preferences for a long, long time out of fear I would lose my friends and only recently gave it up at a lost cause and embraced my slasher nature wholeheartedly. So yes, wow. Our perspectives are totally at odds! Which explains things. :D

I have no response for this, but I loved it! It summed up your position really well:

I read pretty much all fiction for two things: indefinable texture and technique of writing, and... a sense of principles larger than any single person as they manifest through a single person (which is a long way to put it but 'characterization' doesn't suffice; characterization that's sensitive to people acting both consciously and unconsciously and how circumstances alter character, perhaps, except that is even longer). These are my criteria for srs business Booker Prize literary fiction, and they are also my criteria which are fully and intelligently met by, sometimes, stories about non-human characters from videogames having sex with each other. I just cannot honestly say that the one type of narrative achieves what I want from it as often as the other, or that percentage-wise it's even close.

Case closed. *g*

Date: 2012-02-20 11:05 pm (UTC)
chaosraven: Chopper (Default)
From: [personal profile] chaosraven
I may be missing your point, but when you say "it has been more difficult because of the volume of material to find in fandom than it would comparably be in a library or bookstore"... um. Are you serious?

I only ever go to one ROOM of our local bookstore (Powell's is, admittedly huge and has multiple stories) and I still find sifting through the titles for something new and interesting to be so much more challenging than doing the same thing on any fandom archive, even ff.net. Going to the library is even worse. At least in the bookstore the employees note which titles they particularly recommend on the shelves.

Unlike fandom where I can browse easily and can distinguish, almost at a glance, what I will or won't enjoy, I almost never go into a bookstore or a library without knowing ahead of time what I want to leave with. Otherwise, I simply spend hours pulling books and putting them back without the same certainty that scanning summaries online gives me.

So, your experience might be that the volume of content is too massive in fandom to find anything worth reading, but my experience is the exact opposite.

Date: 2012-02-21 03:28 am (UTC)
lionpyh: A glass liquor bottle with a panther shape molded into the glass. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lionpyh
I am serious, yes! We may be looking for different things (read: I may have lower standards for hard-copy fiction than you do). I find what I am looking for ('stories with the qualities I reliably prefer' is probably the best way to put it) at greater density in a library or bookstore than in any fanfiction archive I've seen. Although it is definitely easier to identify and discard what I don't want when browsing fanfiction, there is less don't-want in formally published fiction to start with, for me, and so less sorting to do in the first place. Which doesn't equate to 'the volume of content is too massive in fandom to find anything worth reading', because I (like, I'm pretty sure, everyone reading this) have found many stories I am intensely impressed by and reread and admire the technique of in fandom - only that the bycatch is higher, so to speak, in how many stories I pass over to get to those that I like most. I don't think that this is inconsistent with what you're saying about the ease of browsing for what you know you'll enjoy, just that I am perhaps more optimistic about my prospects in a library or bookstore than you are about yours.


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