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Bandwagon, and adding a rant - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Bandwagon, and adding a rant
The daily_snitch linked to entries by calliope14 and slytherincesss ranting about the Ew, het!!! phenomenon--ie, the extremely commonly stated opinion that het fics are inherently inferior to slash fics, to the point of being a major squick.

First, I agree completely.

Fine, slash is accepted and happily cheered on. That's great, that's wonderful. We cheer open-mindedness. Woo-hoo.

But somehow or other, instead of actual open-mindedness, the trap door has been pulled in the other direction, making slash the only "acceptable" kind of fic. Everything else is treated as inferior or juvenile, as if eventually everyone will grow up and write slash, because it's the only "realistic" interpretation of these inter-relationships.

The point came up in the comments to calliope14's essay (I think) that there are a lot of women who respond to this with "Yuck! Girl bits!" I'm not disturbed by the thought that they actually hate themselves, since I don't think they do. I think it's just a "cool" thing to say. But the fact that this is the "cool" way to see women is disturbing.

I mean, I could come up with an alternate theory. I remember the first time I wrote from a boy's point-of-view--first person, at that--about a girl he found attractive (it was back in high school, and a horrid scene). I squirmed a lot. What would people think if they saw me writing like I thought a girl was hot? So I could theorize that this is the crux of it, if I wanted to--the old, "It's just icky to think people might imagine I think another girl is sexy, so, 'Ew, girl bits.'"

But I don't think that's true, at least not for the vast majority, which accepts lesbianism as much as male homosexuality (though it's not written quite as much). It's the het factor that gets abuse--"girl bits" don't seem to be a problem in femslash.

Which brings us back to the "cool" factor.

I'm not going to bring up the hackney slash=misogyny issue, because a field as big as slash is too vast to have any single attitude. Some slash is misogynist. So is some het. So is some gen. Some slash is actually misandrist, turning one or both male characters into honorary women and despising their masculine characteristics. And quite a bit just writes the characters as, you know, themselves, and is good or bad measured by standards other than sexuality. So slash=misogyny isn't the issue.

Bah. I guess I'm just griping about a trendy attitude, the same way I gripe about trendy music ("I love Avril! Britney... EW!!!!") I just wonder why it's necessary to insult every relationship that isn't the preferred style.

Even more than the "Ew, het," I'm bothered by the "Ho-hum, gen" attitude. As amberdiceless wrote in response to slytherincesss's entry, shipless fics are the true red-headed stepchild in fanfic.

Last week, I had a pure writer's panic that I was being dishonest because I didn't have Tonks notice that Remus was physically aroused in a scene. I "atoned" for this by writing a fairly explicit sex mention at hp100.

Now, I don't regret the drabble--it's sometimes good to break out of a rut--but I've since puzzled about why I was feeling pressured to be more explicit. None of my readers said, "Yo, dudette, let's get to the sex already! Let's see some full wolfie monty, there!" And yet I can't deny that I do feel pressure to spice it up, like I can't get any further until enter the "big leagues"--the smut stories. I see links to "It fics" in quickquote and it's always to something shippy, often identified by ship. I check out the art on hp_art_daily and hpart and a solid 75% of it is shippy in one way or another, quite often on the very explicit side. Popping over to the Pit, the fics with the great responses are all shippy. Stories are sorted by ship in a forum at FAP, and identified by ship nearly everywhere. And it always means "romantic and/or sexual ship."

You know what? I do 'ship Remus/Sirius--friendship. And I consider that a very valid relationship, which I'm working to develop as much as I'm working on Remus/Tonks in Shifts. I also did a pretty intense James/Snape story ("Invisible")... about James helping Snape the night he left the Death Eaters. It also had strong Snape/Dumbledore interaction... when Snape confessed his sins. I didn't feel the need when I wrote that to have Snape and James kiss or Dumbledore demand a token of undying love.

Now, if you want to ship them in some other way, that's fine, but I really hate it when writing a platonic relationship isn't thought of as really writing a "Remus/Sirius" story or whatnot.

And yet, I still feel the pressure. I've always had an almost Luna-esque immunity to peer pressure, but that was mostly with peers I didn't care about. I do care about fanfic peers, and for the first time in my life, I'm feeling the pressure to conform to the standards of the community, despite the fact that they don't feel right to me. I don't want to write smut, het or slash. My mind bends more naturally to writing about kids playing in the orchard up by the Burrow, or to fighting with Bella in the corridors of Hogwarts. With the exception of R/T in Shifts (and the general appearance of married couples in their pre-married lives, which I don't tend to focus on that much), romance is almost always something that's a distraction from my stories. So why feel pressured to write it just to fit in?

It boggles my mind.

So, a vow: I'm not going to force a story to go where it doesn't want to go. Ever. Not here, not in original fiction, not anywhere. If something is uncomfortable but necessary, it will go in. But if it's just something to see if I can get attention...

No.

Well, that was longer than I expected and took a direction I didn't expect. Oh, well. I have to go now.
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rj_anderson From: rj_anderson Date: July 3rd, 2004 08:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Absolutely. Write what's on your heart and/or mind, write what you enjoy writing, write what you wish other people would write but they aren't so you have to write it for yourself... and forget about what the "cool" kids are doing on the other side of the playground.

There was a time, fairly early on in my fandom experience, when I felt strongly pressured to write Trio fic, particularly an epic, heavily shippy Trio fic of some sort. It seemed to me at the time that these were the stories getting all the attention and admiration, and that nobody wanted to hear about the adult characters because they were ugly and boring (except for Sirius, who was always Cool). Later on, as Snapefics grew in popularity, I felt pressured to write Snape/Hermione since it seemed like All The Grown-Ups were doing that pairing, and there was a lot of disdain for OCs. And now, as you've noticed, it seems like the pressure is coming from the slash community and the disdain is for het.

It's frustrating to feel marginalized and unappreciated because of what you write -- worse when you know that most of the people dismissing your fics haven't read them at all and are just assuming they won't like them. But I think it's worse still to trap oneself into writing stuff one doesn't really enjoy, or which violates one's principles, in an effort to Fit In. That way lies all kinds of creative and spiritual death.
mincot From: mincot Date: July 3rd, 2004 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Absolutely. As a committed genfic writer who is utterly bored by most romance fics unless the romance is very understated, I say hear, hear! I posted a response in my LJ ... It is sad, though. I write what interests me, and what I think is important for me to write, but as rj_anderson said above, such fics are often seen as not "adult" enough and usually are ignored.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: July 3rd, 2004 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah no! Please, please, PLEASE stay true to yourself and your own style! Do not crumble to the fickle desires of an even more fickle public!
Write what YOU want to read. If that includes slash, het, whatever, fine, but I think the reason we all love your stories is because they are so 'in character'.

Also, if so much of HP fandom is obsessed with slash, that sets your stories apart, doesn't it?
From: alouette Date: July 3rd, 2004 09:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Do respect that vow - I don't want to see you writing something that doesn't really feel right for you, and I want there to be some good fanfic writers around who aren't obsessed with romance. I don't mind a bit of romantic love in stories every now and then when it has its place, but there are so many other aspects in the human life than romantic love, and I'm absolutely and thoroughly sick of the way only romantic love seems to count for anything in art. I don't read much fanfic these days, mostly just because it's so obsessed with "shipping", and you're pretty much the only fanfic writer I do read just because you can write really good stories that deal with many aspects of human life, not just the romantic one.

The slash-glorification is another thing that started killing the fandoms for me. I really wonder where it comes from. And it isn't just the fandoms and the slash; I see elsewhere examples of people thinking it's somehow better to be gay than straight, and acting like gay rights is the Political Issue to End All Issues. I'm strongly for gay rights, but I still think there are other things in this world, even (gasp!) more important ones. It's just somehow become the cool thing, the way to show that you're moral, open-minded and not conventional. Even though it's just becoming another convention in itself, if within a minor group rather than the whole society.

Sometimes I wonder if it's just a way of seeming like you care about the society and the good of everyone (or possibly a way of opposing Bush) without needing to actually do research and learn to, say, understand economics or make hard decisions about whether it's better to start a war or to leave a bloodthirsty dictator on his throne.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: July 3rd, 2004 10:41 am (UTC) (Link)
The slash-glorification is another thing that started killing the fandoms for me. I really wonder where it comes from. And it isn't just the fandoms and the slash; I see elsewhere examples of people thinking it's somehow better to be gay than straight, and acting like gay rights is the Political Issue to End All Issues. I'm strongly for gay rights, but I still think there are other things in this world, even (gasp!) more important ones. It's just somehow become the cool thing, the way to show that you're moral, open-minded and not conventional. Even though it's just becoming another convention in itself, if within a minor group rather than the whole society.

Sometimes I wonder if it's just a way of seeming like you care about the society and the good of everyone (or possibly a way of opposing Bush) without needing to actually do research and learn to, say, understand economics or make hard decisions about whether it's better to start a war or to leave a bloodthirsty dictator on his throne.


I agree with you. While I wholeheartedly support gay rights, it appears that being "gay-friendly" is, in certain circles, the latest in what Tom Wolfe called "Radical Chic." Wolfe (the Bonfire of the Vanities author) wrote a book called Radical Chic way back in the '60's. Wolfe was writing about white liberals who took up the cause of African-American civil rights to show how open-minded and non-racist and "with-it" in general they were. Of course the joke was that said Hollywood liberals didn't really care so much about civil rights as they did about showing how terrific they were by supporting them. And so it is with gays in the 21st century - they're the new avatars of "radical chic."

Honestly, it's not slash or gay rights that bother me, as I'm for gay rights and like well-written slash (not all pairings, though). It's the bandwagonness of it all, the "look how open-minded and liberal and altogether commendable of a person I am! I am on the high moral ground! I'm so KEWL!" If I were gay it would bother me to be paraded around as a means for straights to feel good about themselves.
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: July 3rd, 2004 09:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Write what you want to, Fern. I personally like fics that include well observed and developed relationships of any kind (both romantic and non-romantic) and they can be difficult to find. I usually know I'm onto a winner with your stuff though.
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: July 3rd, 2004 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Firstly, just wanted you to know that I've added you to my friendslist (this is Midge Wood from the Quill).

Secondly:

So, a vow: I'm not going to force a story to go where it doesn't want to go. Ever. Not here, not in original fiction, not anywhere. If something is uncomfortable but necessary, it will go in. But if it's just something to see if I can get attention...

Amen! The problem I have with slash is the "cool" factor. It didn't seem as if any of the slash writers were writing their stories because they felt an artistic obligation to, rather they wrote the stories to get attention and be "cool." I used to eat up slashfic until I noticed how, I guess, "cutesy" the writing was, how many in-jokes they threw in there...and it just came to the sum of a bunch of writers who didn't care about what they wrote as long as they got attention.

My mind bends more naturally to writing about kids playing in the orchard up by the Burrow, or to fighting with Bella in the corridors of Hogwarts. With the exception of R/T in Shifts (and the general appearance of married couples in their pre-married lives, which I don't tend to focus on that much), romance is almost always something that's a distraction from my stories. So why feel pressured to write it just to fit in?

Exactly. This emphasis on romance in fandom really does nothing but hurt the writer within. When one is pressured into writing something they don't naturally feel inclined to write, they separate themselves from who they are as a writer and instead become whoever the fandom wants them to be. Of course, the pressure isn't something to sniff at. Everybody wants attention, and every writer wants to know if people are reading their stuff. If they don't get the response they want, they start to question what they're doing, and why their method isn't working. Those who aren't strong enough to withstand the pressure are going to look at the massively reviewed ship fics and say, "Well, why don't I write more of that?" and will go after that. *sighs* That's fandom, unfortunately.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 3rd, 2004 10:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Of course, the pressure isn't something to sniff at. Everybody wants attention, and every writer wants to know if people are reading their stuff. If they don't get the response they want, they start to question what they're doing, and why their method isn't working.

Exactly. That's pretty much the sum of my little whinge up there. It's just my spoilt side kvetching, "What do I have to do? Dance around wearing Dobby's tea cozy?" ;P

In the end, I do have some self-respect as a writer, which is why I don't keep plodding on some dead stories just because people have asked me to. I know they aren't "real" in my head anymore. I think where this gets to me is the very real sense that I don't have the smut "form" mastered. I don't know if I could write a convincing sex scene to save my life. So it sticks to me when the idea comes up that it might be a failing, as honestly, it may well be. The question that arises is, does every failing really need correction?
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: July 3rd, 2004 09:54 am (UTC) (Link)
If a writer puts something in because they feel they "have" to, or because it's "expected," but for no other reason, that element is going to feel inauthentic, no matter how good the writer is (this means you).

Now, no idea if you like X-Men or not, but I'm going to pimp Minisinoo to you anyway. She completely transcends gen/het/slash in a way that's missing in most of the fanfic I've read, and focuses instead on relationships--of whatever sort.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 3rd, 2004 10:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I know that, intellectually--that's why I let the scene in Shifts be written the way it wanted to be written. I'm just having a whine-and-cheese fest here, I think. :)

But it is tempting. I have found myself saying, "Well, I could write one that way, and then use it as an in to pitch my genfic..."

It's just not a pressure I felt when I was writing SW, which makes me a little resentful and a little whiny from time to time.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: July 3rd, 2004 10:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't have to tell you that a) I love your fics and b) I want "your" Ted Tonks for my harem. I want to post a longer response in my LJ when I have time - as this touches on so many things besides slash, het and gen.

As many of the posters here before me noted, part of this glorification of slash is people trying to be oh-so-hip and KEWL and cutting edge and epater les bourgeoises. "I write slash, therefore, I'm one of the in-crowd. Het is for squares! And genfic is for LOSERS!" My friend Carl had a very incisive insight on this - years ago, long before I'd ever heard of fanfic, but it stuck with me. He said that if you try to be cool you'll inevitably come off as an uncool ass, but if you don't try to be cool and just be yourself, you'll be cool by default.

Personally, I love romance, and I am an incorrigible shipper. But within limits. It has to be plausible and in-character - Hermione/Ron, yes. Hermione/Draco, no. Sirius/Remus, yes (though I'm so sick of the S/R fangirls that it's soured me on the ship), Sirius/Snape, who are you kidding?

And I've read genfics that I've enjoyed hugely. ashtur's Bones to Bones and its sequel Cry Havoc come to mind. Good writing will shine, no matter what.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 3rd, 2004 10:39 am (UTC) (Link)
(though I'm so sick of the S/R fangirls that it's soured me on the ship)
Yeah, that's where I am. It's the only slash pairing that I find to have a plausible place in canon (making a handful of assumptions about subtext that I don't happen to make, but I don't care), but the "OMGitssocanon!" attitude makes my hair stand on end.

(This, of course, is combined with my deep depression at the thought of populating even my fantasy world with attractive men who'd find me entirely unattractive. Just not a big thrill for me. ;))
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: July 3rd, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
::applauds::

I find myself strongly reminded of high school, where I got this idea that most of my classmates were thinking, "I'm different, just like everybody else!"

Don't feel pressured! Now is the true test, when "everyone" has abandoned you. I, too, much prefer genfic (more happens, for one thing, and they're much less predictable) and hope that you stay the course and write what you like.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: July 3rd, 2004 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, see, I got into the fandom because I thought Snape needed some love, dammit. So I looked for 'shippy, it's what I wanted to read, it's what satisfied the itch that the books were leaving unscratched.

Now that I've read enough Snape-centric stories to feel satisfied, I read all over the fandom, het, slash, femslash, and gen.

I like romances, I really do. If I have a slight bias towards slashy romances, it's because the boys have a built-in obstacle already, and it's dull to read romances where there are no obstacles. If the het pairings have obstacles, great; if the slash stories are all cute and fluffy and everybody smiles at them and pats them on the head for being in love and they're planning a wedding, that's as dull as any "ew, het!" fic that the rabid slashers complain about. I have nothing against femslash as a category, but I haven't often seen it done in a way that pushes my fic buttons, story even more so than smut.

With genfic, I like it if it makes me think about some of the weak points in canon. I like that in my romances, too, honestly... but if you aren't writing about the romance, then that's the sort of thing that will catch my eye. I see it more often in essays than stories, but I *love* it when I see it in stories.

If you see a story that needs telling, tell it. Don't worry about slash/het/gen.

It's all about the stories.
chibisophia From: chibisophia Date: July 3rd, 2004 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, one of the reasons I love your stories so much is because you don't write a story just to have X and Y get together in the end. I like that a lot; when you do write any romance at all it tends to feel natural, a part of the story, rather than a coupling that bends the story so it can happen. ...Does that make sense? Bah. I hope it does.

Anyway, I hope that you'll stick to what your heart tells you. IMO, writing is much less fun when you're writing for an audience's expectations, rather than your own.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: July 3rd, 2004 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly. It's just a subplot at most, there's plenty of intrigue in it. The stories I try to write end up having romantic relationships all screwing the involved parties over, which is odd considering my lack of experience, especially with manipulating agents of the despotry next door, but hey! It's what feels good. Yeah, "write for yourself" is definitely the best advice I've picked up from Rowling so far. And FernWithy, you follow that to a tee. Stay that way.
alkari From: alkari Date: July 3rd, 2004 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I happen to agree completely with your rant! And please don't feel you have to be a sheep and follow along with the rest of the mob, just because 'smut' is trendy.

I happen to love your stories simply because they ARE so well written, with such believable characters, and they are NOT overwhelmed by smut, sex and general shippiness.

If I may say so, the way to stand out from the morass of yukky fanfiction out there is simply to be yourself, to write well, and to write "a good story". And "a good story" does not have to involve any form of shipppiness or sex whatsoever - well, at least as far as *I* am concerned!

Frankly, I think it is rather refreshing to have an author close the bedroom / dormitory door on whatever sexual activities may occur, and let the characters get on with it in private. After all, there ARE only so many descriptions that can occur before the whole thing becomes rather 'paint it by numbers' ... LOL.
no_remorse From: no_remorse Date: July 3rd, 2004 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gen is the true stepchild of this fandom. I thought that slytherincesss's assessment that slash is more popular than het in this fandom is probably wrong. It is true for a certain part of fandom, but beyond that there are places where slash is definitely frowned upon. In any case Gen fic is unpopular anywhere, but then... you know I feel reminded of the Hollywood cliche - if you want to sell tickets, put a love story somewhere in your movie. If you want to have readers, have a ship.
musesfool From: musesfool Date: July 3rd, 2004 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Writers should write what they feel like writing. I agree 100% that no one should feel pressured to write a genre they don't enjoy - it rarely works out well and leaves everyone unsatisfied.

Me, I'm in fandom for the romance that'll never happen onscreen, or that happened and was cut short ::coughJossversecough:: and I want more of it.

I write het when characters of both genders spark; I write slash when I see those sparks between two characters of the same gender. I write romance bcause I write stories I want to read.

While I think there is a definite "Slash is where the cool kids hang out" view in fandom (and not just HP fandom), I've found that most of the good writers I like write both, and also write gen sometimes (even if many of them focus on characters or ships I prefer not to read).
shagsthedustmop From: shagsthedustmop Date: July 3rd, 2004 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi, I wandered in from the Daily Snitch.

I personally believe that there is both good and bad quality fic in both slash and in het. What I think might cause the "Eww het" phenomenon is that the squeeing fangurl types are more likely to be writing het, so one might need to wade through more crap to find the good stuff. But I personally have read a lot of excellent het as well as slash and as well as gen.

I love it all. I really like a good gen fic, because I think it is actually harder to write a good gen fic. Romance and sex can be a crutch in fiction and to thus to write a good gen fic is (IMHO) more of an accomplishment.

What I *haven't* seen in the fandom and would really like to is a good, novel length femmeslash. It seems that though we have no trouble writing a dissertation about Snupin, Snarry or Harry/Draco (Haco? Palfoy?) almost all the femmeslash I've read consists of one shot "discovery" type fics. I would really, really love to read a good novel length femmeslash. *sigh*
verstehen From: verstehen Date: July 3rd, 2004 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Try lasultrix's Veela Magic.

Surfing my way in from daily_snitch, just a thought, gen might be more popular if there was some place to find it easily. AFAIK, there's only one mailing list in the fandom devoted to strictly gen, only been one fic fest, and no archives whatsoever. I know there's a surprising number of people who write it and read it. It's just a matter of getting distracted sorting through the 50 to 1 ratio of het/slash to gen to find it.
miranskeeper From: miranskeeper Date: July 3rd, 2004 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
*applauds enthusiastically*

I've read a lot of great posts of yours now, coming in from daily_snitch and whatnot, and they're always interesting to read. May I friend you?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 3rd, 2004 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. And I like friends.
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