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DRAMA - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
DRAMA
Someday, I will write a book about internet communities, and the title will be !!!DRAMA!!!. All caps, bold, and italics intended.

I don't know if it's our relative anonymity, the insecurity of having relationships with people you can't get a "feel" for in person, or just a strange side effect of a lot of reasonably intelligent and competitive people all coming into the same community, but there is no internet community to which I've ever been exposed which is not subject to occasional bouts of Oscar-baiting performances, either from the users or from the staff (my perspective as a member of one or the other probably determining my placement of the blame). And even the people who hate drama (aka "wank") turn around and cause it, as in the recent flap at FandomWank over an entry in Arabella's now-defunct journal, during which the F_W community managed to spew more wank than anyone they were mocking.

Why? And how do we stop it without just walking out on the show?

(Sorry. A community I used to like a lot just imploded. Total meltdown, as far as I can tell, given that I haven't been there regularly for awhile.)

I've been online since the early 90s, beginning in Usenet, where I admit, the first thing I did (under a different name) was stir the pot in a feminist group. I should have known better; I'd just gotten out of undergraduate school, and I should have realized that the 'net would be full of academics, and I could expect the same reaction. I posted, essentially, that there was no longer any need for feminism. This, I think in retrospect, may not have been the best self-intro in a Women's Issues group. Needless to say, my first online community experience was being roasted alive.

I stuck with it, leaving politics behind and going to rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap, where there were typical wars over fannish things, but which was relatively sane. Then I got into a mailing list for Orson Scott Card, which was derived half of people drawn from his science fiction following and half from his following in the Mormon community (with a lot of sf crossovers, of course). The list got into such a tiff over religion that we sat down and drafted a full-blown, written netiquette policy. It was either that or disband. Some left because they didn't like the netiquette. Oh, well.

Then there were the Mary Sues in role playing, being accused of fixing games at Virtual Battle School, trying to enforce authorial rule at the new board...

And then came Star Wars, or as deoridhe called it on fanficrants, "the mother of all wank." (That needs to be an icon.) I have been a Star Wars fan since 1977, and my experiences in the real world fandom have been universally pleasant. Kids playing lightsaber in the front of a theater, older people sitting around talking about myths, writing with my fan friends as a teenager (and again as an adult)... in the real world, believe it or not, Star Wars is a pleasant, easygoing fandom for the most part. Immediately upon entering the fray at TFN in the hopes of talking to other people who were as excited about the new movies as I was, and who wanted to talk about the structure and symbolism, I was met with ridicule and outright mockery... by someone who later cozied up to the mods at the official site, who have the same attitude. Being a proactive sort of person, I became a mod, hoping to do what we'd done in the OSC group--come up with a workable way of treating one another so that no one's feathers were ruffled, even when we disagreed. Suffice it to say, this was not a terribly successful experiment.

Harry Potter, a book series in which kindness and generosity of spirit are extolled as much as they are in Star Wars, is an almost equally wanky fandom (though, heaven bless the Quill; its boards are quite sane). I won't complain about wank at pottersues or deleterius because honestly, when you're out there to snark at badfic, you are pretty much daring trolls to drop by--if I get in drama over there, it's my own fault.

Over the past ten years, I've discovered that the sites I like best are heavily modded, with very clear rules stated at the beginning.

But administrators of such sites need to remember: the rules you set at the beginning will stay with you, because the self-selected community will come from those who are with you on them. The rules will become community custom, and whatever that custom is, you're going to have to respect as a force in its own right. A Star Wars board that allows bashing in the first place will never be able to curtail it, so if you don't want bashing at your boards, then be upfront about it. When something new comes into the fandom (a new actor, a spoiler, whatnot), then the best time to decide the policy is before people run in and start talking about it.

Netiquette counts, and so does plain old fashioned etiquette. Everyone deserves some degree of respect.

And of course, there's the old rule: If you're angry, count to ten before you respond. It's too easy to just hit "post" sometimes, and you forget that it's a real person on the other end of the line, someone with a face and feelings that may be hurt.

Bah. It's pointless, isn't it? Between anonymity, speed of communication, and jumpiness from dealing with people you don't know all the time, I guess the drama is inevitable. But I'm not a fan.


Today's story is a SW story, pretty angsty after all that. Uprising is a story of one of my original characters, Dritali Neral, when she is nine years old, and chooses an unexpected champion to defend her from her abusive father.

I feel a bit...: gloomy gloomy

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Comments
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 25th, 2004 02:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, the Quill is my Potter fandom womb. I know there is Harry/Hermione and Weasley-hate out there, but go back to the Quill and all it well.
The other site (dunno why I'm circumlocuting, we all know what it is) used to be the equivalent for SW, from which I could sally forth into the scary wilds of TF.NET, but now...I'll just hide in my own LJ for a while.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: January 25th, 2004 02:32 am (UTC) (Link)
There is no escaping it. I've rotated through other fandoms over the years, and right now my main "other" fandom isn't book related at all, but game, and a very very narrow genre, of historical wargamers.

For example, the largest one I'm in is dedicated to the era of Napoleonics, and it's just gone through one of it's own periodic earthquakes.

Sometimes, I seriously think that half the problem is that there is no direct accountability in these groups. It just seems that online communites seem to nourish this sort of thing better. Maybe, in real life, the danger of someone getting violent, or leaving is more immediate, and leads people into being a bit more restrained, keeping things from blowing out quite so quickly.
leeflower From: leeflower Date: January 25th, 2004 02:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I must be one of those special oblivious people.

I definetely know what you mean about the internet drama-- we get it in a BIG way on my re-enacting group list and in some of the fandom stuff I do.
And roleplaying boards. Can't forget about the RP boards... it always seems to be at its worst there. There's always that handful that can't keep the 'political intrigue' in character and have to make it everyone else's problem. Maybe they need attention; maybe they're immature. Or maybe they've just run out of butterflies to pull the wings off of-- whatever it is, it's obnoxious.

But I always hear about the snarkiness and cliques and what-all at tf.n, but I've never experienced it first hand. Is it because I only hang out on the fanfiction (specifically writer's resources) and costuming boards, or have I just not been around long enough to piss anyone off? I got into the fandom through Balticon, so my fandom exposure's mostly limited to the costuming side of things. I've never been to SotJ.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2004 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Generally, fanfic had good boards, not too hard to mod. As long as you don't bring up the S-word (slash), of course. :)

My problem was that I dropped in during the fall of 1999, and I got into a thread about TPM and the imagery of the places, and I crossed swords within a week with TrueJedi [sic]. He doesn't like the prequels, and silly me, I thought I'd try to convince him that there was a reason things were done the way they were done. He didn't want to hear it. So he got sarcastic and nasty, and he mocked me. An older member than I was (whose name is slipping my mind at the moment; he's always in trouble for trying to psychoanalyze bashers online) came to my defense, for which I was profoundly grateful, but after a few months--and meeting enough people in the Vader Fans Unite! thread to make a little community of our own--I retreated entirely to the fanfic boards, only venturing out on rare occasions.
leeflower From: leeflower Date: January 25th, 2004 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
ah.

note to self: don't leave the fanfic boards.

You're right, though, that at actual gatherings, conventions and whatnot, most people are totally fine.
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
:: cruising in from friendsfriends ::

I'll jump at the icon idea. It's so true. Any image preference?

... by someone who later cozied up to the mods at the official site, who have the same attitude.

Honestly, I'm a mod on the starwars.com boards, but I avoid the prequel forums like the plague. Not because I'm proticularly pro or anti anything, but just because the people in there are CRAZY and beyond all help. So I haven't a clue who you're talking about, but none of our mods really strike me as bashing types... Harnassing the flow of SW fandom wank is a never-ending battle, and then you have to question whether it's even worth it. We get enough complaints and crankiness with losers who think that being asked to discuss something with some measure of civility is a form of oppression... Hell, that just getting a thread locked for redundancy is some kind of personal vendetta on our part. We DO try. But on a site with several hundred posting members, it's like trying to build the Hoover Dam with drinking straws. Of course, now I get the feeling I'm just preaching to the choir...

My first website was a victim of fanboy drama (and college), but the more I see it, the more it becomes just another way the internet manages to entertain me. People get SO worked about about these things... And you just have to step back and figure out what's important.

I can understand, and I have to say I'm not surprised, at the implosion of this other site. I've encountered a few individuals from there on TFN and sw.com, and they were just plain NASTY to other fans. How is EU bashing really any different that prequel bashing, in the end? It was bound to turn back into itself... Call it karma, dramatic irony, whatever. The circle of wank flows on. Such is fandom, and the whole point of private lists and forums. I've been a member of one SW-based list since 1996, and although we're not without our occasional kerfuffles, we've survived this long by simply evolving and, yes, instituting a no-bashing policy. That has to count for something.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 25th, 2004 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, the EU has Kevin J Anderson :-D I still hold a grudge from the Dune 'prequels' (Now there's prequel bashing I would join in merrily!)
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)
The mere fact of KJA writing Dune has practically turned me into a Dune purist. I'm not touching those books with a ten foot pole.

KJA-bashing used to be a big past-time of mine, in my fangirl days. Now? Ehh. In a way, I can kind of understand the passion of the EU-bashers because of my time in KJASUCKSville. But it's a double-edged sword... And I grew out of it. I know what my reasons were, but I have a hard time seeing why they were so important to me.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2004 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I liked that site because it gave me a place to snark about EU without offending the people who liked it, basically. I didn't like to go over to the Literature boards and start telling them not to like the books. They're perfectly welcome to enjoy them without my interference.

Bashing the books is different from bashing the movies basically because the prequels are fully half of canon. They come from George Lucas, who created the SW galaxy and all things in it. What comes directly from Lucas is SW, liked or not. The novels? Just licensed fanfiction. Some may be good, some bad, but none are binding on Lucas in his creation of new things, and therefore none are binding on the rest of us. The prequels, on the other hand, are binding canon because they come from Lucas himself and are an inherent part of the story, whether they're liked or not. The novels can just be ignored or not, depending on taste, like the rest of the products out there.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 25th, 2004 03:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Agreed on all points. Sometimes you just need to say, 'Hold on a minute, that's crap/ridiclous/riddled with Mary Sues/all of the above' without getting murdered by Bib Fortuna, Twi'lek and friends.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2004 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
And preferably without hurting the feelings of same.

Having a separate forum in which we could do this to our heart's content without bothering them (unless they deliberately came over) was a real boon.
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I can understand that; there were similiar reasons behind the forming of my group. And I can respect your reasons for using the site that way.

It's not the whole bashing of canon/not-canon/what have you that bothered me - Hell, I would have loved to discuss some of those issues without the nastiness, as I find I agree with the 'bashers' more than a lot of my 'fellow' EU fans. It was how mean these people were to their fellow fans that bothered me. The sheer venom, not the subject, is what turned me off more than anything. The assumption that because EU fans might deign to enjoy the novels made them lesser fans of Star Wars as a whole. And while yeah, some of the pro-EU people aren't running on all cylinders, they're still fans; they wouldn't have picked up the books if they weren't. And it only seemed to get stronger over time, almost to the point of trollishness. If bashers don't like the EU - if they hate it with that much passion - then why do they bother? What are they getting out of constantly discussing it? Does that reasoning sound familiar in ANY way? Because I always found the greatest irony in these people was how they reacted to the prequel bashers. It was so ridiculous.

I do agree with you on canon, by the way. I read the EU, but I have no issues with people who decide to ignore it. Canon really comes down to personal choice, in the end.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 25th, 2004 03:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm the everythin-purist. Tolkien, Dune, SW...go and read kevjand if you like, but don't try and tell me I have to accept it as canon. And leave me a corner of the web where I can talk about the PT and/or that, y'know, book, The Lord of the Rings..
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm very much a 'know what I like' type. And I know I don't like KJA: the man couldn't get Star Wars right, so letting him loose on Dune is like some kind of sick joke. The movie/mini-series adaptations, as silly as they may be, don't bother me; I find they're interesting (if often laughable) interpretations of the stories. However, actually adding new stories and 'facts' to the universe just rubs me the wrong way. I don't care how many 'notes' Frank Herbert left or how much he might have told his son about the last book... It's just not right.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2004 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)
BTW, I misspoke and I apologize. Having modded on TFN, I should know better! It wasn't "the mods"--it was mostly an old friendship from TFN, after both parties had been banned from there, as far as I could tell. (And it takes a lot for a basher to be banned from TFN.) I saw an individual who had insulted and mocked me, and I left. Didn't bother coming back.

I'll jump at the icon idea. It's so true. Any image preference?

None I can think of. Maybe just the opening scroll? The logo?
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, that I can understand... :D

I'll get on the icons later tonight - I got so into writing that post that I neglected a few things. Epp!
From: 88l71 Date: January 25th, 2004 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, TFN had gotten to the point where just about the only place I could have an intelligent conversation about SW without both sides getting all worked up was either:

1. Via AIM, PM, or email, with people I had gotten to "know."
2. On my own story threads among my own readers, or the story threads of my friends.

I got lucky - I have very intelligent, insightful readers, many of whom who are older than the average TFN population. The FF boards are usually safe until someone brings up The S Word or, even worse, Awards Time.

-Tim
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: January 25th, 2004 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Gee, I remember a time when "wank" meant something else :).

There was drama even when I started out with fanzines. In the early '90s it was a pretty small community (for SW, that is). But Lord have mercy, the internet has taken it to a whole new level. I happen to think the fact we're dealing with people who really don't know each other has a big part to do with drama. I don't just mean with bashing, which I see as a game unto itself, but with relations among fans who were allegedly on the same side. Last spring I saw a "war" break out among A/P fans who *were* friends until some egos got bruised and they took their business out on the message boards. Then the friends of the combatants got involved. It was insane! Yours truly got chewed out once just because I offered an opinion on why slash shouldn't be included on TFN's board, if that's what they wanted. Nothing controversial or political, just facts. No matter though. Didn't really get an apology either. All of this from folks who are old enough and smart enough to know better. Then last year on this Hayden Christensen list (of which I'm still a member) we had daily "culture wars" between this faction and that faction. On a fanfic list, people were posting some angry anti-American diatribes that reallly ticked me off. I cut it off--before the mods arrived--by simply stating, "I go out of my way to leave my politics off this list because they are not relevant. But if you want an argument, you will get one." Ugh.

As for bashing, I've seen music fan sites run by 17-year-olds who have good enough sense to have "no hater" policies for their boards. The problem is these boards long ago permitted bashing as a legitimate point-of-view and once you let that genie out of the bottle, forget it.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 25th, 2004 03:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Gee, I remember a time when "wank" meant something else :).
Yeah, me too. I don't know if Americans in general know what exactly, it does mean :-D
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, if you check out fandom_wank regularly, you'll see they, uh, know QUITE well. I'd wager that's a large reason of why the term evolved.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 25th, 2004 04:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I didn't mean f_w (who in the collective make a point of being as vulgar as possible, says she who lurks because she cannot remember her Journalfen password), but the general LJ community, who use it purely in the 'DR4M4!!!WTF1!!' sense (eg, "Amusing bit of wank going on in randomuser's journal"), without perhaps realising quite how offensive that sounds to British ears.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2004 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it's just one of those words that we're going to have to accept has added a new definition to itself. But yes, most people are quite aware of the old definition. It's a visual.
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Well then. :D

I am quite desensitized to profanity of any kind, so I get it it... sorta. Still, it's quite appropriate in many cases.
ivylore From: ivylore Date: January 25th, 2004 03:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Nothing unites keyboards from near and far quite like a shared bout of on-line theater. Despite it all (even with the woes of late), the people I've wound up meeting have made being part of the fandom worthwhile.

There's my gallant attempt to find an upside in the midst of the madness.

Edit: Delete and re-post. Grrr... late night typos.
duncatra From: duncatra Date: January 25th, 2004 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)

the icons

Base model, comes in two popular colors: blue and gold.



I'll think I'll whip up more when I have time to go picture hunting and have the proper software. Been meaning to create a page for all my f_w icons anyway.
silverhill From: silverhill Date: January 25th, 2004 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Over the past ten years, I've discovered that the sites I like best are heavily modded, with very clear rules stated at the beginning.

I completely agree. I've been a part of various discussion boards. But there are only two I've stayed at (and they are sister-sites, owned and run by the same people): a smallish Harry Potter forum and a larger Lord of the Rings forum. The admins and mods (I mod the HP lit discussion) take things very seriously. As a result, it's a wonderfully pleasant place to be.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: January 25th, 2004 12:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
So it Star Wars is 'the mother of all wank' and Harry Potter is 'the father of all wank', what would happen if they bred???
brightcupenny From: brightcupenny Date: January 25th, 2004 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't ask. Just don't. ;)
brightcupenny From: brightcupenny Date: January 25th, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi! I got here from duncatra, who apparently got here from friendsfriends. But I know you from the Quill. :)

I think, as you said, that fandom drama is inevitable. Whenever you hit a critical mass of people in any one place, messageboard or mailing list or whatever, drama is going to happen. It's only a matter of time. (And when it does, f_w is there to point it out for you!)

I'm not quite sure *why* this is, though. Probably has something to do with the way people present themselves online. For example, on one board I visit, there is a man I absolutely despise. He's a bigot, a homophobe, and a misogynist, and he's never shy about expressing it. But had I met him in real life, without seeing what he's like online, I might *like* him, since I gather from his posts that he doesn't spew this vitriol in his daily life, and aside from all his nastiness, he's very well spoken and intelligent. I guess the anonymity of the Internet allows him to say things he wouldn't say in front of his co-workers. I think that's probably true for a lot of people, as far as Drama! goes. (Of course, some people are already openly nuts in real life, but the Internet certainly doesn't take the crazeh *out* of them.)

And yeah, heavily modded boards can escape this for the most part. There is one system of boards I visit though, that has almost no moderation, where the members simply police themselves. The owner will step in and delete a post if enough people complain, or ban a member if they're offensive enough, but it's a rare event. It works surprisingly well for some of the boards, although other still regularly have screaming fights. It probably helps that the site went pay two years ago. :)

And I've gone and written an essay in response to your essay. Oops!
manicwriter1271 From: manicwriter1271 Date: January 26th, 2004 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Hi Fern,

My own comments on good ol' ID...

At TF.N I think it's caused by, one, over 100,000 members (maybe--of course 90 percent of those are probably socks), and two, a bunch of cowards who are hiding behind a computer screen and saying things they wouldn't dare say to anyone's face in real life. At the other site you were referring to--I'll just say a couple of folks have their panties in serious wads. I've met some great folks on the 'Net--hell, I met my best friend here--and I think it's sad that people will be so abrasive and not take more of an effort to read before they hit "post".
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 26th, 2004 05:55 am (UTC) (Link)
:waves: (And invites the teacher to drop by edurants.)

I've also met great people online, probably the best friend I've made in several years I met on TFN.

I think one of the reasons we're seeing more codification of netiquette is the anonymity factor--one of the major things that makes people behave in RL when they're not inclined to is that bad behavior will follow them around; social stigma can do wonders for bad attitudes. (I made the mistake of adopting my Fern-self at work once--you know, the pedantic lecturer who's pretty darned sure she's right about everything--and the person who I told "I disapprove of the method of interviewing you use for the following reasons..." for some reason has not been eager to include me in meetings. ;))
mafdet From: mafdet Date: January 26th, 2004 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)
The Quill is a lovely place. It's where I cut my teeth on HP fandom, and it spoiled me. I post on FA but the calibre of discussion there is much lower.

I think the Quill is a nice place to be not only because the mods are proactive, but because it attracts the kind of people who like boards which are heavily modded (is that a word?) and contain intelligent, PG-13 discussion. It's not so much age - some of the nicest SQ posters are quite young - as it is levelheadedness. The "teeny" crowd who like to squee in netspeak, or endlessly discuss why Snape and Hermione are a match made in heaven, go elsewhere.

Some of the HP fandom - well, most of it! - I find distasteful - not the Quillers or the little kids, certainly, but I think you know which segments I mean. I wasn't prepared for it really because the only other fandom I am active in is the Earth's Children (Jean M. Auel's novels) fandom. And this is an atypical fandom in so many ways.

First of all, it's tiny. Since only one, spectacularly bad, movie was made of JMA's series, the EC fandom doesn't pull in the squeeing fangirls that the HP and LOTR fandoms do thanks to the movies. So the EC fandom is limited to those who want to read big, thick, books heavy with anthropological, archeological, and geological detail. Right away, you've culled many of the drama-queenish types who don't have the patience to actually read big books (all of JMA's books are at least as long as OOtP).

Second of all, most of the readership tends towards people in their twenties and up, often married with families. The Earth's Children fan website has lots of grandparents. When you work and have a family to take care of, one's time for engaging in flamewars is much more limited.

Third, the EC-fans website has a cordoned-off area called "The Hot Zone" for those who wish to partake in "heated discussion." Those who want debate go there, those who merely wish to discuss the books or read/write fanfic go to other sections of the board.

Fourth, due again to the small size of the board/fandom, the board mods have a pretty easy job and are often participating in discussions and posting along with everyone else. The mods are omnipresent and yet neighborly, a "just one of us" type of thing. People don't feel like the mods are power-tripping jerks and yet any trolls know that the mods are ready to step in. Which leads me to...

...Most of the board regulars know enough not to feed the trolls. Only a few people have had to be banned outright; mostly trolls just slink away of their own accord because We're Just No Fun To Tease.

There have only been a few real EC-fans kerfluffles. And all but one I remember has centered around one thing: Creation Vs. Evolution. This is due to the peculiar nature of this fandom. We attract, in droves, both very conservative Christian types and hardcore anthropology/archeology/other science buffs. About once a year, someone's bound to say, "There is no biblical base for evolution" and that will set one of the science-types off and the fun begins.

Other discussions (such as one where I participated which discussed whether matriarchies existed or not) have been spirited, yet civil. Debates, yes. Flaming, no.

So I've been spoiled. I am re-reading the LOTR books which I haven't for years and years but I don't think I am going to touch the fan boards (let alone the fanfic!) with a bargepole for now.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: January 26th, 2004 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)
And oh yes, one more thing. There are plenty of fanfics on the EC board (I am writing one!) but everyone has to keep it PG-13, which cuts down on a LOT of drek. That, and the canon statement that incest is an abomination according to the religions of all the tribes in the EC books. EC fanfics contain much romantic mush, but little of the truly gawdawful bizarre stuff that plagues HP fandom.
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