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I firmly believe that if something runs off the rail, it's important to learn from it. I'd love to hear from the rest of you out there about something that went on today, and how you would have reacted from both sides.



The Set-up:

I read a nice ficlet posted by an author whose pieces I have enjoyed and admired. This is some one, therefore, for whom I have respect. The basic gist of the fic was that a tragedy in the past had separated a character from faith, and this character was beginning to explore feelings of faith. It was wrenching, and the character took solace in the embrace of another character. It was a touching vignette, and complete as it stood. I liked it. It was also very short, so there wasn't much one could actually say in praise, and I tend to find that in print "That was really nice," and other short statements of that ilk can come across as damning with faint praise, when actually one really means that it was indeed really nice. In reading the piece I was struck by the fact that the other character must have similar issues for similar reasons, so instead in thanks for the piece which I enjoyed, I offered an equally brief piece showing the other character's response to the same issue. It began where the original ended, and gave an exploration of the same issue with emphasis on the second character's issues, and allowed the first character to help in turn. I posted it as commentfic.

The Reaction:

I received a response that stated that the original author intended her piece to end where it ended, and although my piece was well written, she did not want it there, and although she would not object to my posting it on my own journal as a reaction piece to hers, and I could even link to it in a comment, she was giving me warning to collect it before she removed it.
I found the icon (someone drawing a bead with a gun) a little startling, especially in the email notification. When I went to the journal page to respond, the other comment there (rather on a par with "That was really nice!") had the same icon in response, and it echoed a journal theme, so I realized that the effect was probably unintentional, and the result of unreflective use of a default icon, or icon-of-the-week, or some such.

I wrote back to say that her piece was powerful and complete as written, and of course she intended it to stand as was. Otherwise she would have written more herself. I explained that her piece just reminded me that the second character faced the same situation, and I was offering my take on that character's journey in response. I apologised for offending.

She responded by reiterating that she would still prefer that my piece go elsewhere and deleted it. In both cases she attempted to soften her words with a :).

My Meta:

I hold this truth to be self evident: A person's art is personal, and they deserve full control over their art and their artistic space. One's lj is one's own, and one has the right to remove items that cause offense. I have no beef with the removal of my piece. It is her right, and I defend that. Nor do I intend to post my piece here. Firstly because by writing what I have written here, if I posted it, it might lead to difficulties for the other person involved. I do not wish to do that. I thought it over, and my desire to learn and avoid unintentional offense in the future is greater than my desire to get feedback on the piece. I wrote it as a gift, not to collect kudos. Nice feedback is nice, but for me it really isn't the point. I write to do my small bit to make the world more pleasant, to offer connection, to spread glee. So I wrote this, and the piece that inspired this will sit as a file on my hard drive. I know it's there. I kind of like it. It is enough.

My Questions:

Was what I did offensive? Should I have actually written to say "Nice piece, and I have a commentfic length reaction piece if you would like me to post it here"? Did I intrude rudely on artistic personal space, or is this person a little more sensitive than most? I was genuinely trying to return the gift of fic with a gift in kind. Now I'm not sure how to reciprocate without giving offense.

What would constitute offensive commentfic in your book? I mean apart from obvious hate speech issues, or posting blatant het or slash on the lj of an ardent gen-only type, or say answering a poetic little piece of Sam/Jack fluff with an in-your face this is why the reality is that Jack & Daniel are the OTP, and here's the graphic sex scene to prove it. These things are obviously rude, and common manners of the do-unto-others type covers this nicely. Similarly it would be wrong to post a piece that egregiously mocks another's work. But are there times when a commentfic that largely matches but does not copy an original would give offense, a companion piece as it were?

Obviously a person's oeuvre should be judged on its own merits. Do you ever feel that taking part of your corpus and building from there is offensive? I can see that it would be a no brainer to ask permission to use another's AU or original character. Similarly using another's elaborate original plot twist or bunny with no credit or acknowlegement would be wrong. This particular case was all within canon (provided one assumes that this pairing is now canon - which can be debated, but not resolved as it stands), and there were only the two canon characters involved.

For those of you who have waded through all these many words, and can offer a response, I thank you. I've just never gotten a response like that, and I guess it has me a little rattled, since giving offense was the last thing I intended, but clearly that is what I did. I want to learn and grow from this, and avoid giving offense in the future.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
a_loquita
Apr. 6th, 2010 05:16 am (UTC)
Well, I think you are not going to be surprised by my thoughts on this—I love commentfic, I write it, I love reading it, and I think it’s great fun!! I think it’s another way for all of us to “connect” and hey, when creative juices get flowing that’s always a good thing in my book. All fans benefit from that.

I suppose, as you say, that at the end of the day it is her journal and her right to allow or delete comments. For you, I would post it on your own journal, giving credit for the inspiration and at that point you have control over it. But I still think it’s a bit strange the reaction you got. Wonder if it is because of the content? Religion can be a controversial and personal subject and maybe that was it? Or perhaps it’s the idea of commentfic alone— there are people out there (unfortunately) who don’t want the attention on anyone else but themselves. Sadly, anyone getting more comments/feedback than they have is somehow “competition.” I really dislike that, but I’ve seen it happen.
thothmes
Apr. 6th, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
I don't think it was a religious issue. In this case the attitude was basically pro-Catholic in both pieces. I'm not Catholic, but my beloved eldest daughter is, and I respect all faiths, although I don't personally follow any given one.

Unfortunately it may be your second suggestion, which saddens me. I'm basically an optomist and and I'm exceedingly fond of human beings as a general rule. I like to think the best of them.

Alas, having made this post, posting the piece would risk causing trouble for the other person, and I would not want that.
thothmes
Apr. 6th, 2010 05:26 am (UTC)
That would be the kind of optimist that kant spel.

I learned to spell in Greece. Modern Greek is utterly phonetic. So was the Arabic that followed. English orthography was the biggest shock of my return to the States!
aurora_novarum
Apr. 6th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
Ironically, some fanficcers can be awfully possessive of their work. It's kind of a two schools of thought concept and is one of the bigger but often unspoken controversies in fandom.

Some people are flattered and open to having other people be inspired by their work to write missing scenes or other pov or continue on that AU universe and such. It feeds on itself in inspiration.

Other people remain a bit more possessive of their story, and someone else riffing off their fanfic to make a different one without talking to original author would be seen as an insult.

To be honest, I'm in this latter camp, or at least I have been in the past. I've gotten a bit freer in my fandom experience--but not free enough to commit to a remixathon or anything. It's not the "competition" aspect of wanting the attention on "my story" as a_loquita referenced (although that could well be a reason for others, including the person in question--I have no idea). For me it's...I guess part of my writing process. Part of myself is in that story in creating the motivations and backstory and another person throwing in different facets and perspective by playing their own spin on it can throw me off if/when I would want to play in "my fanon world" more. I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well at all.

Obviously, since fanfic is a derivative art, it's a strange dicohotomy. How can you be upset if someone derives something from your own derivation of a canon? It's emotion as much as logic. There's always coincidences of people being inspired by the same moment/scene of a show or book anyway. Like you said, it's not like only one person can have the same questions or thoughts about canon.

But for doing fanworks OF fanworks? It's still an honor system kind of thing.

This is why "remix" ficathons are very much an "opt-in" setup. Also when both parties know each other and/or there's express or implied consent to go to town on fussing with things more. And what may be fine for the goose may not be fine for the gander. Reaction on commentficcing a PWP or crackfic may work differently than with a magnum opus or a emotionally wrought story such as this religion one. Why? I dunno. Internal author investment? Like I said, it's more emotion than logic.

It's one of these unwritten netiquette rules. Some people say doing fanworks on things (unless expressly permitted) is verboten. Others think people should get over themselves because it's hypocritical to be possessive of your own fanfic when you ripped off x tv show/book/comic/movie. Unfortunately, you kinda stepped into the grey area of it with your homage work.

In this case, I wonder if your intent came through clearly enough to this person. You were not going "cool idea, let me see what *I* can do it and I'll show him/her in her journal". Your intent, from how I read your post, was: "wow, this fic was so thoughtful and nice, just giving feedback wouldn't do justice to how it affected me. I'm going to honor her with my own effort."

You may want to clarify that was your intent to whoever was original ficcer (in email).

And rule of thumb, this may be one of the moments to ask permission before than forgiveness later.

And...I'll stop babbling incoherent nonsense now.
thothmes
Apr. 6th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
What you said was not babbling, nor incoherent. It was helpful. I'll keep your preferences in mind, and I like being forwarned.

I did clarify my intent to the ficcer. It seemed like the least I could do after unintentionally disturbing her.

I guess, after reading some responses and thinking it over, there is another factor in here that I sometimes lose sight of. (Eeek! Preposition at end of sentence! Internal editor, like Lady Catherine De Burgh, Seriously Displeased!) My dad has published several novels, a book of short stories, and several volumes of poems. He defends his oeuvre very seriously, but then for him there is some money in the way of royalties, and it his life's work, in many ways more important to him, these children of the mind, than we flesh and blood kids are. I'm here precisely because I don't feel the need to get in to that. If I did, then I'd be writing my own original work, trying to find an agent, and trying to be published. If I like what I make, that's sufficient for me, and I am well aware that sometimes I settle for good enough, because rl is out there, and the priority is not here. I forget that others may be playing my fathers game in this not-for-profit sandbox.
ziparumpazoo
Apr. 6th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
Auroa and a_loquita have both said it better than I can, but for context, many years ago when fandon was pretty much confined to mailing lists and usenet groups, I posted a short ficlet. Only to be bombarded later by accusations that I'd plagiarized another story that had just been posted. The original poster was just irate that I'd apparently copied the whole story, right down to the exact plot line and some dialog. What finally killed the accusations was when I pointed out that my story was posted a full three hours before hers had been, so, short of breaking into her computer and stealing the file, there was no way I could have possible plagiarized her story. Turns out she was more upset that somebody had apparently upstaged her brilliant idea and this was her way of getting attention. Fandom is home to all kinds, I guess.

Personally, I don't take anything I write that seriously and I'm flattered (and often amazed) that words that I throw on paper have the power to inspire other people. I guess it's the upbringing I had - 'yes, telling stories is nice way to pass the time, now go to school and learn a real skill dear'. Others take it far more personally, get more invested, and are more protective of their works.

I hope this doesn't leave you feeling too burnt by fandom though - I always look forward to reading your thoughts on stories - they are always much better put forth than my own 'eeeeee! like this much!' reactions. :)
thothmes
Apr. 6th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
Funny. We come to the same place from opposite directions. My father is a published author, with a few novels, a book of short stories, and several volumes of poetry out there. Words were serious business in my home. I don't take what I write seriously precisely because I chose not to go the pro route, and it's fanfic! The characters and situations are already borrowed. But it is one of the beauties of this world that we are all individuals with different stories, talents, backgrounds, quirks, and foibles, and what applies to me may not to another.

Thank you for the kind words, and fear not. This will definitely not sour me on fandom, firstly because the good and the moments of kindness far outweigh the occasional dicey moment, and secondly because as much as I spend time here when I can, rl is where my heart is invested. Besides, as you know, I may not play hockey, but I'm surrounded by people who do. I figure if you're going to play the game, you better learn how to take a hit and keep moving. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to learn how to outskate the hit, which is what I was doing with this post.
bluewillowtree
Apr. 6th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
I don't think that what you did was offensive. I'd actually be kind of honored if anything I wrote ever inspired comment fic. I suppose one exception could be if it were a multi-chapter story and if the next plot twist hadn't been revealed yet, but otherwise, I think it's nice (though I can only speak for myself).

That said, I think you couldn't really go wrong with your idea of asking the author if it's OK to post the comment fic first...I do hope you'll keep writing it, because I enjoy your comment fic :) I'm sorry I missed this one, but I respect your decision not to post it.

So, I've been meaning to ask you, if one wanted to write you a birthday ficlet, what sort of thing might make you happy?
thothmes
Apr. 6th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
Oooh!

Anything really. Obviously with me being a Sam/Jack shipper a Jack/Daniel girls-are-ikky-lovefest would be a little off-base, but other than that, I'm easy! It's one of the things that I really enjoy about the world of fic out there, is that each person brings their own skills and obsessions to the table, and I get to enjoy them all. Share something you enjoy.

Ouch! I was just landed on and bitten by a ladybug of all things! This seems a little unfair, as it was totally unprovoked. I wonder what the heck was going on? Mother Nature taking her revenge for every plastic bag I've used over a lifetime? Ladybug pheromones in my shampoo?
not_a_zatarc
Apr. 8th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
Personally, I am totally flattered if someone leaves me commentfic. I've never written it myself, but that doesn't mean I have anything against it, or that I never will write it.
I guess some people are just sensitive about those things. Maybe a little overprotective of their work? Not sure. So I'm also not sure if this response actually helps you.
But I guess what I'm trying to say is that I wouldn't let this one incident deter you from writing future commentfic.
thothmes
Apr. 8th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Yeah, actually it does help. I'm trying to get a sense of what most people think about the matter, and every datum point adds to the overall picture. Thanks!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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