metatxt: (voy: astrometrics)
[personal profile] metatxt
I'm on a serious fic bender and I don't want out. It happened a couple times before - BSG (the smoldering hot steady) and Alex/Olivia SVU fic (the compulsive insane fling). I have read many many many other fandoms on a semi-consistent basis. I still read quite a bit, usually at AO3 or via Femslash Today.

But right now? this is that Thing where I just burn through fic fast and furious and it just crashes over me. I have to read every one even if I know it won't be exactly what I'm seeking just because every alt timeline that fic creates is like another layer in the quantum world of that pairing or more broadly, the femslash dimension of that fandom. It's that pleasure that comes from disrupting and obsessing and celebrating and contextualizing the "universal canon timeline" of surface text.

When the bender is good, like BSG, details MATTER. I read indiscriminately, but I get frustrated with poorly executed fic. And when it is well-executed, it is sublime; it challenges my perceptions and reveals added depths to the characters I love.

When the bender is oh-so-wrong, like A/O, diversity MATTERS. I want it ALL - even the fucking song fic (for serious). Bad characterizations do not make weak fic - just psychotropic fic. Every story feels intoxicating, precisely because it fulfills or denies my personal taste.

So now I can't stop reading Voyager. Ideally, that should read "couldn't" - I couldn't stop reading Voyager - but I know better than to trust my resolve to stop reading and start writing.

To contextualize my fannish engagement (with bonus! digression):

When Julie and I moved in together 2.5 years ago, we each chose a show we loved that the other had not seen to watch together. I chose Xena; she chose Voyager. Voyager was her first fandom, however, I had never been active in Xena fandom.

These shows have been ideal choices to carry us through the lean years of tv since BSG and TSCC went off air. And even with our contemporary engagements, such as Once Upon a Time, Doctor Who, and Downton Abbey, Xena and Voyager are our two true steadies of femslashy goodness. The gendering of both shows (not the exact gendering of the characters, mind you) feels like the stability of soft butchness*, like Applejack (mlp), or Rachel Maddow, certainly dynamic, but always dependable.

*I do NOT mean to infer that these qualities are uncharacteristic, let alone incongruous with other genderings. Rather, this is a positive characteristic that for me is associated with soft butch gendering and these two shows.. and this pony and this pundit.

Their steadiness is a feature I'm inclined to attribute to the structure of the shows themselves: episodic with seasonal arcs, each episode featuring a plotty A arc (80-100%) that is contextualized by a character B arc (20-0%), a strong inciting incident or premise that drives the entire series forward from start to finish, and characters who will never die. It's the inherent pleasure of repetition, of exploring difference within sameness (GAY GAY GAY); and that modality of repetition is an essential quality of television.

It's presence in Voyager and Xena, though unremarkable in the long history of television, feels remarkable because of its absence or mutation within the current tv screenscape. Contemporary shows with an episodic structure are almost certainly procedurals, and usually feature B or C storylines that are isolated from the A story. If the premise is simple, it will be some (exotic) form of "they solve crimes." If the premise is more complex, it's probably a medical soap. Everything else, episodic or not, is a fucking endless mystery or question requiring more attention than my level of trust allows.

I think after BSG 4.5* this is a particularly winsome quality: the ability to watch without fear of losing what makes the show yours.

* or whatever your fannish relationship that made it hard to trust! Fringe fans, welcome to this horrible club.

Right, so the FIC:

At first I just integrated reading Voyager and Xena fic as it came up within my usual AO3 reading habits. But there wasn't enough! More than that, it only answered my curiosities about fanons on an individual level, not a communal one.

Following this spiral to its logical conclusion - I am now reading fic via WaybackMachine. At first, I was only reading live links, and the bender seemed to trend more towards my Oh-so-bad style of consume-all-the-fic! But within the live archive links are dead links to well-reviewed fic, and so the slippery slope...

I would like to now note that since this is timed perfectly with WaybackMachine transferring half of their servers, nearly every story I read must be unearthed through multiple attempts at finding a Wayback date on a live server. FOR SERIOUS.

And maybe this is what now defines this bender more than anything: the anthropological/genealogical dimension.

Just as the structures of Xena and Voyager are not unique, but are also no longer contemporary, similarly, how we perform fandom has evolved since then. This is fandom pre-YouTube and pre-LiveJournal-adoption. It's the era of epic manips and WebRings! Listserves and MessageBoards! Everyone has their email posted as a way to comment or connect. Sometimes they even host Mailing Lists so new fic is delivered to your inbox. New content is highlighted in bold text or with "updated!" and dates. Use of Comic Sans sans irony! AUs are called Uberfic!

And most notably, there are large blocks of text preceding fic defensively warning:

"These stories, for the most part, deal with same gender romantic relationships and varied sexual situations between women. It is categorized as slash fic in the Star Trek fandom, but I prefer the much gentler and more attractive 'alt fic' term as derived from the Xenaverse. Some stories are sexually explicit and are detailed on occasion, requiring the age of consent in your respective area, so read them at your own risk."


"This story is an original work of fiction set in the pre-existing universe of Star Trek: Voyager. As such, many of the characters and references used within belong solely to Paramount Pictures. I have borrowed them for the purpose of creating this scenario and promise to return them unscathed, and smiling, as soon as I am done. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use and no copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred."

Of course, most of this information is not new to me (I was in XF fandom off and on... no romo!). Though, it did take me forever to figure out that yes, Subtext Fic is another way of saying HERE THAR BE GAYNESS, rather than their relationship is confined to subtext. And certainly, every fannish modality has simply evolved with improved infrastructure, not disappeared.

What is striking to me now is the representation of connectedness between fans and the obvious intimacy shared, hosted on public sites. The type of content that we place behind friends locks is clearly exchanged via email or listserve, but even so, the relationships between these fans is so visible within their recs, fic notes, or beta thanks. And all of this occurs without a unifying platform, their sites individually floating in the interwebs, loosely tethered through these individual acknowledgements or recs masterlists...and of course the ultimate form of recs, the Golden O Awards (Voyager) and the Swollen Bud Awards (Xena).

Time-traveling through the internets has revealed this added pleasure - not just immersion within someone else's fanon, but immersion within their fandom, their way of performing fandom. And these differences in fannish infrastructure clearly influence the choices being made in how one writes fic, its goal and its audience. As fandom evolves with newer social networking sites, like Tumblr, it is easy to feel a projected threat looming over what has been built in DW/LJ cultures. How we perform fandom in these spaces is more visible with contrast.

And so, aside from my discovery of all the fics I have to write, or don't (recs to follow!), what I am taking away from this bender is far more rewarding than I anticipated: it's a renewed sense of purpose in this space and an intense desire to nurture my fannish network, all of you, my flist.
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metatxt: baby femslasher (Default)

July 2017


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