I haven't been posting here, even though I've been in research mode lately, because I've been trying to channel my writing energy into other projects. But I'm starting to accumulate lots of little ideas that I don't know whether or how to incorporate into those projects, so I'm going to start stashing them here and hope that typing them out helps me figure out what to do with them.
I'm doing this partly because I'm inspired/frustrated by the newly retooled Fanhackers
—what used to be TWC's Symposium blog: inspired because I love seeing these quotes and snippets of conversation showing up in my RSS feed, frustrated because the site is built on Tumblr and, god, don't even get me started on Tumblr; the short version is that I love it for a lot of things but I hate it for conversation. I mean, I know it's possible to have conversations via Tumblr—plenty of people do—but the site is not built
for that, doesn't facilitate it, and I have lost whatever inclination I might once have had to fight my way through the structural and visual obstacles. My reaction to Fanhackers is much like elf
's: "I'm enjoying; I'm not figuring out what else to do with it
." Bring on the quotes and the animated gifsets, is what I'm saying.
Anyway! What I'm writing about today is something I've been thinking about since the annual "Best of" lists started circulating in December, and it is this:
One of the things I love about fandom is that fandom, for the most part, operates not on a "these are the best things" model
(where the criteria for "best" are typically undefined yet implied to be shared by all right-thinking people) but on a "these are my favorite things" model
, which can be frustrating but is also wonderfully democratic. There are exceptions, of course, like The Fourth Wall
and Driver Picks The Music
and plenty of other award sites—though it's worth noting that those sites are often much more clear about criteria for judgment than non-fannish critics and awards are. But mostly fandom runs not on awards but on recs and (increasingly?) on content searching. Recs may take the form of simple recirculation—reblogs on Tumblr, for example, though even there some fans manage to squeeze a remarkable amount of information about the reasons for their reblog into the tags—but many are quite thoughtful and explicit about why
the reccer liked what she liked; I saw this in many of the Festivds rec posts from January. Fandom does not, for the most part, assume that what "best" means is a) self-evident or b) shared by everyone, though it does generally assume that if one person likes it then somewhere out there is someone else who will like it too. (That's Yuletide and Festivids in a nutshell, right?)
What I appreciate about this culture of favorites, with all the reccing and tagging and reblogging that it entails, is that fandom encourages us to think about what we like, to articulate what we like, and in some cases to organize remarkable metadata structures around what we like—I'm thinking, for example, of the various kink meme (and other prompt meme) bookmark lists on pinboard and delicious, such as the sherlockbbc_fic pinboard archive
where one can sort by very specific combinations of tags in order to filter content. (Some of the trope overlap possibilities are amazing, for values of "amazing" that range from "yes of course omg" to "hilarious" to "I don't know how this exists but I love it.")
I don't want to be inappropriately utopian here. One of the reasons that the FAQs for these memes are so careful to define and forbid kinkshaming is that it does happen; "your kink [or pairing, characterization, genre preference, etc.] is not my kink and that's okay" is not as universally observed as we might hope. But there is a sense that this attitude ought
to be the way that one approaches fandom, that we are, collectively, trying not just to make space for but to faciliate, to make visible and accessible, a wide range of desires and preferences along a variety of vectors: sexual, narrative, aesthetic. Which is very cool.
As a side note, the behind-the-scenes work that goes into reccing, reblogging, running awards sites, administering prompt memes, tagging for meme archives, etc., is why I get so frustrated with definitions of "fan work" that focus primarily on writing fic and making vids and ignore or handwave all the other kinds of work that make my daily fannish experience what it is. Fandom runs on the engine of production, but a lot of what we produce is information, architecture, access
, not just artifacts.