February 6th, 2012


Being in fandom in public

Fandom is something we do outside, out in the open, where anyone can see us. It hasn't always been this way, of course, but that's pretty irrelevant because we are now.

I found fandom through a friend of a friend, but not through 'zines. I was a lurker in those days, hunting through Geocities archives with shitty design and bad organization and always being too afraid to e-mail any authors my feedback. I remember the mailing lists, which also gave an illusion of privacy, an extra hoop to jump through, a way to prevent people from getting in when they didn't want to. I remember when you had to send an e-mail to certain archives to prove you were of legal age in order to read the porny fic. I remember the first move to LJ.

I think in some ways, fandom has always been feeling this tension between becoming more public or trying to be less public. The lines between creator and fan have been coming down especially fast now that we have things like tumblr and twitter giving us access to celebrities. And it doesn't help that tags get aggregated outside our own semi-walled journals and communities, making it even easier to stumble across each other in new and interesting ways.

People are able to find us. I don't think we'll ever be able to go backwards, to go less public, less open. Being mocked in public is a blip. (Yes, there has been a blowup in the TSN community over this, unsurprisingly.1) Having jokes about it on SPN is a blip. Jokes at our expense are a blip. Even Strikethrough, that wonderfully epic shitshow, came and went fairly quickly.

I guess this counts as fannish history now, as it happened five years ago now (omg!), but the reason why AO3 even exists is because fandom wanted to learn how to control its own image in public, wanted to stop hiding to some degree. This isn't to say that you can't or shouldn't if you're more comfortable that way. If the OTW were that dogmatic about their views, they wouldn't give people the option to lock their fic. But the AO3 is there to be seen, to be public. The OTW does have a public relations arm. They helped Lev Grossman with his article about fanfic. They do legal advocacy for vidders. Fandom is public. It's out in the open. It lets the lurkers see us. It lets the gawkers (pun intended) see us too. There are prices we pay for that openness, but I think it's worth paying.

At this point, I don't think there's any point in trying to force the genie back into the bottle when it comes to slash fic. And to be honest, I think if we start shutting things down, if we start forcing the lurkers to stop lurker fandom will become a much smaller, much more insular place. I don't want that for us. I don't want a return of the password-protected archives. I don't want all our fic disappeared until someone can prove that their intentions are good.

Fandom means too much to me. Even though my lurker days are long since past, I remember what it was like on the outside, looking in. I don't want to take that away from anyone else.

1 For the people who need the background: Gawker wrote an article about Mark/Eduardo and I won't link it because they don't deserve the page hits. TSN fandom is in total meltdown mode right now, not just because of the article, but because of some other stuff that is just so stupid, I won't even dignify it with a full explanation.

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