If you stand in the middle of the crossroads, you get an unrivaled view down all the branches.
Until a lorry trundles over you.
One more post, to clarify (hah!) my conflicted and complicated feelings about the longlisting of an unfinished piece of fanfiction for the Tiptree award. And as my feelings are conflicted and complicated, I am going to make pro/con/meta lists.
Pro: (reasons why it's kind of cool that the story was longlisted)
- Well, it's fanfiction, listed for a major genre award, and that is hard to beat for values of "You can't make this up." Also, as a natural-born lumper and straddler of fences, I like it that the boundaries are blurring.
- badgerbag maintains that the listing is sparking discussion, and I can't argue that it has, as one of the discussors.
- I have now read the fic in question, and that is surely valuable to my street cred in some circles.
Con: (reasons why I think it's a travesty that this particular story was longlisted)
- I think it tends toward reducing the credibility of the Tiptree Award. Which, like any right-thinking pervert, I covet for my very own.
- There is a rudeness element (see "meta," below.) Which becomes even more complicated, because as I see it, it's not exactly nice for people outside the, um CSI/HP noncon mpreg community (the Internet is for porn! the Internet is for porn! [the Internet is a strange and wonderful place]) to point out that the fic in question is not very good. But, the lack of perceived literary value is vital to the discussion of whether the longlisting of incomplete badfic, not to put too fine a point on it, is appropriate to a "literary" award. So, to me, the argument that literary quality is not an issue, genderbending is, doesn't hold water. Otherwise, we should be awarding Tiptrees to a significant fraction of the magnum opiates on alt.sex.stories.moderated.
- I understand that some people did find that the story had some value as an edgy discussion of gender roles. That seems a little petit bourgeois to me: "If it's shocking, it must be edgy and of value!"
(I don't mean to be dismissive, but if this is the edge, there are more people straddling the abyss than I realized.)
In the era of performance art, I guess I can't argue, but... Well, but. I'm going to argue anyway. Shocking does not always equal thoughtful (there is a difference between A Clockwork Orange and Saw II), and mistaking shock value for useful discussion is common, but... the story in question isn't all that shocking, even. Problematizing requires self-awareness, and while this fic is probably functional as a type example of crackfic--
- Dangling modifiers. Just say no.
- I have now read the fic in question, and that is surely damaging to my street cred in some circles.
Meta: (cultural artifacts informing my feelings on the issue)
- This is a fantastic demonstration of one of the more interesting differences between the fanfic and profic communities. Specifically, the difference in public and private spheres, and how fluid it is. Throughout the fan side of the conversation, I read (over and over) a protective response--"It's just fanfic, and people (outside of the community) should not be pointing out how bad it is."
To which, of course, the typical response would be "but it's on the Internet for anybody to read! It's public! You can google it!"
Well, yes. And yet, no.
Fanfiction is never truly released, the way profiction ideally is. At some point, in other words, for me, the novel or the short story ceases to be my responsibility. I still love it, of course, and I'll keep its room for it for a while, but eventually a novel is going to go out, get an education, get a job, and maybe if I'm lucky start sending money home. At that point, on some real level, it's not just mine anymore. Hundreds or thousands of people who have never met me and who have nothing in common with me are going to read and judge that, and write bitchy Amazon reviews.
Some of my colleagues (*coughcoughmecoughcough*) sometimes have problems with the release and closure process. Some of us become suffocating mothers. God help us.
Most of us eventually shrug, go "okay, that went all right," and adopt another book to raise.
Fanfiction is not written in this expectation. It is written in the expectation of being enjoyed in an open-membership but tight-knit community, and the writer has an expectation of being included in the enjoyment and discussion. It is the difference, in other words, between throwing a fair on the high road, and a party in a back yard. Sure, you might be able to see what's going on from the street, but you're expected not to stare.
Nominating a fanfiction story for a literary award is, to my mind, the equivalent of somebody who doesn't live in the house where the party is going on sending invitations to everybody in town. The flowers are going to get tromped on, and the people who were wincing over Drunken Uncle Bob's bad behavior may still not want to see the entire town shouting "DANCE MONKEY DANCE" at the poor man.