dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
As you might have noticed, I've been away from LJ/Dreamwidth for a while, and I apologise for that. However, I have the best excuse: I finished my PhD!

For six hours on Sunday night, Matthias proofread it (a terrifying experience, considering the first thing he said to me upon opening the document was 'you need to change all your en dashes to em dashes, and all your hyphens to en dashes,' causing me to wail and gnash my teeth). On Monday, I had to go into my college library to print it (college charges 3p per page, whereas the English faculty library charges 4p, which is a considerable saving when you need to print two copies of a 306-page document, plus a billion forms). This took several hours, and included a tense half-hour where the printer had a little tantrum. Then I went to get it soft-bound. I wandered into my favourite cafe in a bit of a deranged daze, and couldn't resist telling the barista that I'd finished my PhD. (This is not entirely true. I still have to have the viva, and make corrections based on that, and resubmit the hard-bound, corrected version, but the hardest part is over.)

I waited until Tuesday to hand it in, as I wanted to do so on a day that Matthias had free so that we could go out for lunch afterwards. The woman at the Board of Graduate Studies office was a very friendly, motherly South African who congratulated me in such an over-the-top manner ('you're going to be one of our future leaders!' 'Really, with a PhD on medieval Irish literature? Really?') that I started to tear up. In fact, crying seemed to be the unifying theme of the whole experience. When I was writing a thank-you email to my supervisor I started crying. I cried when I had the printed, bound documents. I cried when I told my mother I was finished. I cried when [personal profile] bethankyou started an 'I'm so proud of Ronni' thread on Facebook.

Because look. I feel overwhelmed with emotion. I started my PhD four years ago. It's been hundreds of books and articles - in four languages, something of which I'm very proud - pages and pages of translation from Irish, countless meetings with my supervisor, 80,000 words, hours of trimming and editing and restructuring and hope and anger and anxiety and, for the past year at least, a constant, dull, crushing fear, and it's finally over. As my mother said, the process of writing a PhD is mainly an exercise in determination and endurance. Your will to finish it must be stronger than the despairing voices in your head telling you you're incapable of writing it.

I've already thanked most of the people who helped me either in person or in the acknowledgements, but I wanted to emphasise my gratitude to another group of people, and that's all of you.

Thank you to the uploaders, to the artists and writers and bloggers and content-creators, to the people who make the stories and the people who pick them apart with discussion. Thank you to the musicians and vidders, the remixers, the cosplayers, the linkers, the rebloggers, those who read and those who comment, those who bookmark and those who leave kudos. Thank you to those who open their interesting lives to me on the screen, with pictures, with words, with eloquence and with wit. Thank you all, dear denizens of the internet. You created a community, and it is beautiful. You gave me the strength to continue.

This is for you.

Cían óm eólus-sa
críoch gusa ránag-sa.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
This post is brought to you by several recent events, and the memory of similar occurrences of the past five or six years. Consider, for example, the recent kerfuffle in Supernatural fandom which involved enraged fans harassing actors and CW executives over a storyline with which said actors and executives had no control. Consider YA author John Green ill-advisedly wading into discussions fans of Veronica Roth's Divergent series were having about its ending. Consider actor Orlando Jones' thoughts on his show Sleepy Hollow and how its creators interact with the fandom. And finally, consider [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire's thoughts on being included in Twitter conversations with fans and reviewers of her books.

I'm having trouble working out where I stand on the creator-reviewer-fan interaction issue, and I think this is because of my own particular experiences. This got long, so bear with me.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I started working as a newspaper book-reviewer when I was seventeen, and that I basically got my first article published because I wrote a snotty, entitled angry letter to the books editor of a major broadsheet accusing her of not having read The Amber Spyglass before reviewing it. (In other words, I behaved just as badly as the Supernatural fans.) Looking back, it was an appalling thing to have done, but it did get me into a line of work that I found extremely satisfying.

Before I got into online fandom (or writing reviews online), I had already been working as a professional reviewer for five years, and I continued reviewing in parallel with my online blogging. Reviewing by its nature involves lots of interaction with authors and publishers - I frequently had to contact them to request review copies of books, and I also interviewed several authors, either over the phone or in person. To date, those authors are: Kevin Crossley-Holland (email interview), Garth Nix (in person), Shaun Tan (over the phone), John Marsden (over the phone), Jeanette Winterson (in person), Gillian Rubinstein/'Lian Hearn' (over the phone), Sophie Masson (in person) and Anna Broinowski, the director of the documentary film Forbidden Lies (over the phone). I have also interviewed [livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall for my blog; she follows me on Twitter and LJ and we are Facebook friends, so when I reviewed her book for the newspaper, I disclosed this.

I list all this to make the point that before I got into fandom, I was very comfortable interacting professionally with authors and discussing my interpretations of their work (with which, on occasion, they did not agree - I recall John Marsden shooting down a particular idea I had about his YA retelling of Hamlet. I stand by my interpretation and it didn't bother me that he disagreed with it). And since I've been in fandom/a review blogger, I've had extremely positive interactions with authors: it's how I got to know Sophia McDougall, Jo Walton has linked to my reviews of her work, Kate Elliott and Sarah Rees Brennan have done the same and participated in the discussion that such reviews generated, and I have participated in discussions on professional authors' or publishers' blogs without feeling unwelcome. Knowing that the authors were, in a sense, reading over my shoulder hasn't inhibited me in any way - in fact, it helped me to correct mistakes I had made (such as the time I wrote that Sophia McDougall's characters Delir and Lal were Christians, and she corrected me, saying they were Zoroastrians).

I think it helps, however, that the writers with whom I've interacted are neither hugely well-known (i.e. they're not at the J. K. Rowling level), nor are they unpleasant people. They are not going to go all Anne Rice on you all of a sudden if you 'interrogate the text from the wrong perspective'. In my experience, they've linked to my positive reviews and corrected me (as in the example of Sophia McDougall with the Zoroastrianism) when I made errors of fact, and stayed silent when I (to their mind) made errors of interpretation (that is, if I interpreted their writing against their intentions). Nor do they have vast armies of readers who organise themselves into opposing factions and attempt to recruit the authors into their battles of interpretation.

It's precisely because of these experiences (both as a newspaper reviewer and in my online interactions with authors) that I find it baffling, for example, when authors join in fan conversations about their works and are met with hysteria, accusations of 'inserting themselves into fannish spaces' and claims that their status as authors creates a power imbalance. I'm not talking about authors who go after negative Amazon reviewers or people who gave them only four stars on Goodreads. I'm talking more about instances when fans reblog authors' posts on Tumblr and then seem to get outraged that the authors respond. I like having discussions with authors, and if I tweet at them on Twitter, review their books on LJ or Wordpress or reblog them on Tumblr, it means I'm attempting to include them in the conversation if they want to be there.

At the same time, there are so many instances where authors have behaved like entitled brats when interacting with fans. This ranges from Anne Rice linking to negative reviews on her Facebook page and encouraging her fans to go after the reviewers to Ryan Murphy writing mockery of a subset of his fans who didn't like particular narrative choices into Glee. I remember a particularly irritating incident when Karen Miller (who writes Star Wars tie-in novels) went absolutely nuts at fans DARING to write fanfic of them in which 'her' characters were, shock-horror, gay. I'd never read any of her books, and was not in Star Wars fandom, but joined the masses, attempting to get her to see her own hypocrisy. (It didn't work.) Conversely, I have also seen fans act like entitled brats when particular stories didn't go their way (see: Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender shipwars, although the authors involved didn't help matters).

I feel like a good rule of thumb for creators might be to stay offline entirely unless they are comfortable reading criticism of their work. And I feel like a good rule of thumb for fans might be to refrain from posting material visible (or Googlable) to creators unless they're comfortable with the creators reading and potentially responding to their material. (And seriously, Teen Wolf fandom: don't engage the creators about Sterek unless you're prepared to hear any answer. Same goes for Dean/Castiel fans and Supernatural.) The vast majority of creators don't respond, in any case (Kate Elliott, Jo Walton, Sarah Rees Brennan and Sophia McDougall are the rare exceptions among the hundreds of creators whose work I've reviewed and talked about).

The internet is not going anywhere, and over the years I've been online, I've seen the fourth wall slowly dismantled. It's not going back up. Some creators are going to be good at interacting with fans, some are going to be bad, and some are going to be Ryan Murphy. Some fans are going to be good at interacting with creators, some are going to be bad at it, and some are going to Tweet porny fanfic at actors (seriously, please, please don't do that). My conclusion is that I have no absolute conclusion: I personally enjoy interacting with creators as a fan and reviewer, but can understand why some people don't. Ultimately, I think we are going to have to take each set of interactions on a case by case basis: some will be positive, some will be neutral, some will be awful due to the fans' actions and some will be awful due to the creators' actions. Interactions, like the internet itself, are only as good as the people involved in them.

What are your thoughts? I'm particularly keen to hear from those on both sides of the creator-fan divide.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
It was the post about tags, an innocuous, one-sentence affair that had got tens of thousands of notes, that finally did it for me.

'People who put their comments in tags instead of in the comment section are my heroes,' the post proclaimed.

It confirmed to me, once and for all, that Tumblr is not for me, its culture is baffling, and its platform ill-suited for the kind of communication that I want to have. Lest anyone misunderstand me, I want to state unequivocally that what I am talking about relates to me only, my problems and issues are my own, and I'm not seeking any kind of universality in this post. If Tumblr works for you, if you enjoy it, I'm very happy for you, and keep doing what you're doing! I'm talking about myself alone (and whingeing about Tumblr as a platform, to a certain extent).

The background
Although I've been using the internet since the mid-'90s, I don't consider myself to have 'been online' until 2007, when I was 22. My main online hangouts, since then, have been three forums, Dreamwidth/Livejournal, the comments sections of various off-LJ/Dreamwidth blogs, and my own Wordpress blogs. The off-LJ/Dreamwidth blogs (my own included) are entirely public, tend to have a narrow thematic focus (books, pop culture, publishing, feminism, author blogs). Interaction there is entirely based on having a conversation in the comments section about whatever the blogger has been discussing.

The first forum I joined is a (relatively) small fansite for a closed canon (although the author has claimed to have been writing a spin-off book for the past ten years or so). Because it's a closed canon, there is very little discussion of the source material, and the more active threads tend to be about the other interests of the posters. There is also a section of the forum that is invite-only, and hidden to those not invited. The people I know from that forum (about 45 people) are also Facebook friends of mine, I've met most of them in 'real life', and when they have blogs, I also follow those blogs. We also have a dedicated IRC channel, where we talk about anything and everything.

The second forum is also a small fansite, but its canon isn't closed. Because the source material is Australian, and for a variety of other reasons, the membership skews very heavily Australian, and female. Unlike on the first forum, where people are much more open about their lives and identities, the boards on this second forum tend to be much more focused on its source material and other texts, and the mods are very opposed to people revealing anything to do with their 'real life' identities in the public sections of the forum. It also has a hidden, invite-only section. Again, I'm friends with a lot of people from this forum on Facebook and other social media, and have met many of them in 'real life'.

The third forum is concerned with fundamentalist religion, especially US-based isolationist, fundamentalist Christian patriarchy. Because of the sensitive nature of its subject-matter, most of it is hidden unless you're a registered member, but it also has off-topic sections. Because I'm a lurker here, my participation is much more superficial, and I don't know any of the posters in any other context, but I know that it has much the same culture as my other two forums - that is, people are friends off-site, and have had 'real life' meet-ups and stuff.

I joined the LJ/Dreamwidth world as a uni student, initially because all my high school friends were doing the same as a way to stay in touch. Over the years, my LJ/Dreamwidth friendship group expanded with the addition of the aforementioned forum friends, and later with people I'd met through specific communities, friending memes, or just by searching through interests and introducing myself to people who shared similar obscure interests. LJ/Dreamwidth culture makes a lot of sense to me, because it distinguishes between locked and open posts, conversations unfold in a logical manner in comment sections, communities can define their scope as broadly or as narrowly as they like (e.g. they can deal with a whole canon, or just one ship within it, or they can deal with, say, a whole city, or one subculture within it).

The point I'm making with outlining all these different communities that (pre-Tumblr) together made up my online world is that they were set up for conversations. It was up to you to choose how you wanted to converse - whether you wanted everything to be public or not, or whether you had a mixture of public and non-public conversations. If you wanted a more private or ephemeral conversation, you took it to IMs (IRC, I love you forever). It was perfectly possible to lurk and not participate, but if you wanted to say something, it was expected that you participate, to whatever degree you felt comfortable with. To participate in threads on a forum, you had to say something. To participate in a blogging platform, you had to post something, or comment on something.

Tumblr culture
To do so on Tumblr, you have to work a lot harder, and, to my mind, use the site counterintuitively. This is, in part, due to how poorly designed the site is as a platform for communication and conversation. You cannot reply to replies (which are essentially comments). Instead, you must reblog someone's post and add your response to it. This quickly leads to popular posts being reblogged with comments by multiple people, leading to multiple reblogs, each with their own separate series of comments, rather than one original post with all the responses unfolding underneath it. If you submit an ask to someone, that cannot be replied to or reblogged at all, leading to a discussion that is essentially limited to one question and one response. (People find ingenious ways to work around this, usually by taking screen shots of replies or asks and reposting them as pictures.) I cannot imagine, for example, hosting a friending meme on Tumblr - how could you, when by its very nature, a friending meme requires people to reply to replies?

Secondly, Tumblr is entirely public. I think this has led people to be much more cautious about what they post. (There's nothing wrong with this. This is a sensible reaction.) And because of the lack of facilitation of conversations, you end up in a situation where you barely know most people with whom you interact. My Tumblr friends (excluding those whom I know 'in real life' or from elsewhere online), are people who I followed because their interests/the theme of their Tumblrs align with my own, or because people I know kept reblogging them and they seemed interesting. But beyond reblogging their posts, I don't interact with them at all, and I don't know how to even begin doing so.

I feel that on forums and the pre-Tumblr blogging platforms, the 'rules' which governed communication were much clearer. You talked to people about whatever was being discussed, you didn't link to or quote locked posts, and it was up to you how much you participated. Participation was entirely within your control - you either made posts and comments, or you didn't, and you either locked/filtered your posts or you didn't.

And then you come to Tumblr, where apparently it's not okay to add your thoughts to the body of a reblogged post, but instead you should confine them to your tags, where only you and your followers can see them, unless the original poster or some later reblogger should click through to your post and read it, and in any case they wouldn't be in a position to respond because no one can reply to replies anyway. If that's not killing communication, I don't know what is.

And I know this is the fault of Tumblr as a platform, but platforms shape the culture of a community, and I can't help but feel that something is being lost. I know Tumblr works for some people, but for me, what the internet meant, what it means, is communication, an ongoing conversation, a way to deepen friendships and engage with people with whom I share interests. And I just cannot see how posting reaction gifs and replying to asks which swiftly disappear in a tide of REBLOGGING FOREVER is a way to do that.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
When I was 12, in 1997, our English class studied Harp In The South, Ruth Park's classic story of a poor family living in the slums of Surry Hills in Sydney. (This is hilarious on multiple levels, because Surry Hills is now one of the most expensive, posh parts of the city. What a different fifty years makes.) I loved the book, but the important point is that it had a character in it called Dolour Darcy. I'd never heard of the word 'Dolour' before, and I looked it up, loved its meaning, and promptly adopted it for myself as a kind of pen-name in my paper diaries. You have to remember that I was a very emo teenager, and a word that meant 'sorrow' appealed to me. At some point, I started sticking 'Inviolate' at the end (because unbreakable sorrow was clearly better than just sorrow), and at least one of my email addresses still has that as the name of the account. I joined a couple of online forums around 1999 with the username 'Dolour', but I drifted away.

By 2001, the word 'dolour' itself had lost some of its appeal. I didn't like how it sounded the same as 'dollar'. But then I realised that the Latin form of the word, Dolorosa, was even more beautiful and appropriate. It sounded lovely, it meant the same thing, and it had even more histrionic allusions contained within it. I joined the Republic of Heaven with the username 'Aletheia Dolorosa' (the 'Aletheia' is an allusion to the alethiometer in His Dark Materials) in 2003. I joined Livejournal as [personal profile] dolorosa_12 the same year. As I spent more time online, the number of Dolorosae increased. 'dolorosa' on Obernet. @ronnidolorosa on Twitter. RonniDolorosa on IRC. And so on.

The point I want to make is that I've been using some form of the name 'Dolorosa' since the mid-90s, and using it online for over ten years. Where I could, such as on Tumblr and Ao3 and forums, I used the name in its pure form. When another Dolorosa had got there first, I modified it with numbers or my first name. And this didn't bother me very much. The issue is, the word, in whatever form it takes, has become something of an identity.

I know people online who shed names like skins, slipping between identities when the old one stops having any meaning. But I have never wanted to be anything other than Dolorosa. If I could be bothered, I sometimes think I would make it a middle name, although in actual fact I associate it only with online life. But even though almost everyone online calls me by my real name, Ronni, and I certainly don't hide it, I feel so strongly Dolorosa, and love my online moniker so much. I couldn't contemplate changing it.

Dolorosa, most specifically, designates the part of me that is articulate, whose words are listened to and understood. I struggle so much in real life to give my words meaning and purpose and clarity, and I fail dismally a lot of the time, and I fear above all things not being listened to, not being understood or not being believed, that it matters so much to me that here is one place, one identity, where that's never a problem. For whatever reason, I express myself best in written (and, most specifically, blogging) format - in words attached to the name Dolorosa.

All this is by way of preamble to an encounter I had this morning. I woke up to find a message in my Tumblr inbox from another user, who said they'd 'been monitoring your Tumblr for three months', and asked if I would exchange URLs as I'd not posted. I politely told the user an abbreviated and less emotional version of what I've just said to all of you, and that seems to have been the end of it - but this isn't the first time that I've been contacted with this particular request.

I can understand the user's frustration, especially since I suspect they want Dolorosa for its Homestruck allusions (am I correct in assuming there's something in Homestruck called 'the Dolorosa'?) and I don't appear to have chosen my username for any particular purpose, but as you can see, I am someone who puts a great deal of weight on names, identity and the intersection thereof. Whenever I encounter a name online, I assume it's been chosen with as much thought, emotion and deliberation as mine (which makes usernames like 'ilovetoast' even more hilarious). I wouldn't dream of asking a random stranger to change their username because they don't seem to be doing much with it - that name is the identity they have chosen for themselves. And, as has happened many times to me, if someone has got to my preferred username first, I have just shrugged my shoulders and modified it with underscores, numbers or additional words. That's the internet I grew up with. It seems so entitled to behave otherwise.

On a lighter, but related note, one of my friends at Cambridge has become known as 'Eugene, Lord of the Stallions'. Eugene is the anglicised version of his (Irish) name, and Lord of the Stallions is a somewhat inaccurate translation of his surname.
dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
Sorry for the extremely long absence here. In the past three weeks I have been
a) moving house;
b) applying for postdoc positions;
c) attempting to finish my PhD; and
d) reevaluating just about every aspect of my life, including my relationship with the internet.

All of which means I simply haven't been online. But I've got a bit of time right now to catch my breath, and feel that an update is in order.

So yeah, Matthias and I moved house. We've moved out of the share house which has been in the hands of people from our department for the past three years, which he lived in from 2009-12 and I lived in from 2010-11, into a small house on our own. You cannot believe how happy we are to finally be living on our own. Housemates can be great, but there's only so many times you can clean their dishes before you start to get resentful. The move was made doubly difficult by the fact that the house has had numerous residents over the past three years, and of them only Matthias, D2, J1 and I were responsible enough to get rid of all our stuff when we moved out. Our friend R kindly drove loads of rubbish to the tip - rubbish that did not belong to us. I've moved house at least once every year since 2007, and I'm over it.

These postdoc applications are massively stressful. Every one wants something slightly different - 2000-word statement vs 1000-word statement, 10,000-word writing sample vs full draft of your PhD, three referees vs two and so on. It's turned me into a somewhat deranged, hair-tearing, anxiety-ridden person, and it's not going to be over for another two months at least. On the plus side, I get to write lots of lists of things and cross them out, which is oddly calming.

This is the final year of my PhD. It needs to be finished by next (northern) summer, not only in case I get one of these postdocs, but also because my funding will run out then. I'm in a position to be finished, but I realise this year is going to be rather stressful, and sleep may not be an option for a lot of the time. On top of the thesis work, I'm going to be doing a lot of the teaching in my department as my supervisor is on leave during the first two terms. I'll also be going back to my part-time library job.

Last year was a rather horrific year. It wasn't quite as bad as 2007, but it was one of those awful periods in your life that makes you sit up and take notice. A year of learning, if you will. And what I learnt while in Germany were some fairly ugly truths about myself. I'm not as strong as I thought, and my physical, mental and 'spiritual' (for want of a better word) health are more connected than I previously imagined. The result of all this soul-searching is that I've resolved to do more to take care of these three aspects of my health. That means much more exercise - daily runs (which I've been doing since moving into the new house), weekly yoga and kickboxing classes (which I'm beginning this evening) and much more time spent walking every day. I also need to find a daily working routine and stick to it. But, much more importantly, I have decided to severely limit my exposure to, and participation in, things that upset me.

After a lot of thought, I realised that I spent pretty much all the time feeling extraordinarily angry about something. That was hardly unexpected, considering the amount of time I devote to online social justice-related stuff. And that's a big part of my life, and I don't plan to give it up entirely. But I am going to avoid particular topics unless I'm feeling completely on top of things. And those topic are:
1. Victim-blaming, apologism and rape culture in general in relation to instances of rape, abuse, stalking and sexual violence
2. Religious fundamentalism in general and Christian Patriarchy in particular
3. Discussions about corporal punishment of children

It's got to the point where these issues upset me so much that I'm incapable of working, which is neither healthy nor productive. I realise that I'm incredibly lucky in being able to simply walk away, and that there are many people for whom these issues are inescapable. I struggled a lot with this decision, because it feels like a betrayal of these people. But I just can't anymore.

Moving beyond this specific resolution, I've also decided to give up Tumblr entirely until my PhD is done. I'll look at individual posts that people link me (hi, [personal profile] thelxiepia), but I'm not going to be active, I won't be reading my dash and I doubt I'll be reblogging anything. It's not good for my mental health.

In general, I think I'm going to be way less active online. A while ago, John Scalzi referred to three principles of internet-usage that I feel I'd do well to follow. And they are, before I post online, to ask oneself:
1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this need to be said by me?
3. Does this need to be said now?

It's high time I started asking myself those questions.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
My mother sent me this article by Annabel Crabb about Facebook. While I have no particular issue with the article (because I agree with Crabb in thinking that Facebook is not a benign entity, and because I think there are other forms of social media that are better), the comments enraged me. I normally know better than to read comments on internet news articles, but I couldn't look away for several moments, which meant I was blasted by the usual garbage about young people who spend too long on the internet and don't have any 'real' friendships. There was no way I was going to let that one lie.

You've heard it all before when I've rhapsodised about my internet friends and so I won't wax lyrical on that particular point again. We're all on Livejournal or Dreamwidth, so I think I'll take it as given that everyone reading this knows that internet friendships are, indeed, real.

One of the other weird - and unexpected - benefits of having online friends is that you end up learning a lot about the life, history and politics of a variety of other countries and cultures. Due to the demographics of my particular set of internet friends, I have a much more solid knowledge of what it's like to live in Iceland, France, Finland, Ireland, various parts of North America, and, indeed, Britain and Germany, years before I lived in any of those places. (My friendships are limited to a certain extent because I only speak English - and now rather bad German - and I imagine if I were multilingual, my circle of friends would come from even more places.) Online friendships give you a much broader perspective of what it is to be human, and I'd like to think they help to make you a more empathetic and knowledgeable person.

A second point to consider is this. I am an Australian, and lived in Australia until I was 23 years old. Then I went to the UK to do an MPhil (and later PhD) degree. I'm currently living in Germany. Even if you take online friends out of the equation, a significant proportion of my friends live scattered across the globe. Many of them, understandably, live in Australia, but a lot of the Australians have wandered off to the UK, the US, France, Italy, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Cambodia and so on. Then take the friends I've made since moving to the UK. They are a mixture of people who were undergrads at some point when I was studying in Cambridge (and have since completed their degrees and moved elsewhere, either for work or for further study), or they were postgrad students or postdocs, working in a field which requires you to move in order to be where the jobs are. And in two months, when I'm back in Cambridge, I'll have a similar bunch of Germany-based friends whom I'll have left behind. If you take my last ten Facebook interactions, they were (in reverse order):
1. Messaging my boyfriend, who lives in Cambridge, in order to organise a time to talk on Skype;
2. Talking about music with people who live in Stockholm, Michigan, London, Lahti and Thurso respectively;
3. Chatting with a friend who lives in South Wales;
4. Chatting with my boyfriend's sister, who lives in another part of Germany;
5. Discussing the potential Galax-Arena film with a bunch of Australian friends;
6. Talking about the LGBTQ pride Oreos with an Australian friend;
7. Organising a group present with a bunch of friends from Cambridge;
8. Wishing a pair of formerly Cambridge-, now Peterborough-based friends congratulations on their engagement;
9. Commenting on an article my (Cambridge-based) boyfriend posted on my wall; and
10. Talking about Cirque du Soleil with an Australian friend.

Not one of those conversations could have taken place without the internet. I loathe the phone, even if I could've afforded those kinds of international calls, and in any case, it is the internet that enables the kind of spontaneity that typifies the above interactions. Quite simply, without the internet, I wouldn't be able to interact with the vast majority of my friends in a way that is natural and spontaneous. And I think I'm fairly representative of my age and demographic.

Finally, while I am at my happiest when I am interacting with people both 'in real life'* and online, with some kind of balance between the two, in my years online, I have encountered many people for whom the possibility of online friendship was utterly transformative. For whatever reason, these people found or find 'real life' interaction difficult, undesirable or impossible, and the internet perfectly suited to their personalities and interests. And I think that the existence of the internet, of online friendship, is incredibly valuable for this reason. I personally find it easiest to have meaningful conversations through the medium of text, either through blogs and comments, Twitter conversations or various chat platforms, and I am incredibly grateful that such things exist.

We're never going to convince the cane-wavers. And that's okay. If they can't see that what we have is valuable, that what we do is friendship, I don't want them here anyway.

___________________
* I put this in quote marks because the internet is, of course, part of real life.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Just letting everyone know that I'm not going to be online very much for the next week. Tomorrow, I'm flying out to Britain for a wedding, and from Sunday to Thursday, I'll be in Finland for a conference. I'm not bringing my computer, and I don't have a smartphone, so any internet I'm able to use will be thanks to the generosity of my boyfriend and other friends.

So, don't expect much online contact until at least next Friday. I won't be checking LJ/DM or other social networking sites, so if you comment or post, it's not that I'm ignoring you, just that I'm not around. I will endeavour to catch up with everything when I'm back.

Have fabulous weekends!

In other news, I cannot stop playing this song. I'm up to 70 plays. In 24 hours. I think I need help.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
First up, I am sorry that I haven't replied to anyone's posts or comments for quite a while. I've been in a very bad place for quite a while, and it's left me with little emotional energy. But know that I am reading.

A conversation with a friend a few days ago on Facebook made me realise how much of what I take for granted as being common knowledge, is, in fact, anything but. She was talking about 50 Shades of Grey and mentioned that it reminded her of Twilight. Hardly surprising, I replied, since it originated as a piece of Twilight fanfiction. It soon became apparent that this was new information to her, and indeed to everyone else participating in the conversation. I found this hilarious. Weeks before the book was even published, the internet was flooded with posts about its origins, compare-and-contrast articles where those in possession of the original fanfic went through it line by line to see what had been carried over into the published work.

I've been shocked at this kind of ignorance before* (when, for example, I had to explain to my sister what macros were - she knew what I meant, but had never heard the name), but I really shouldn't be. For one thing, five years ago, I did not know how to do tabbed browsing. For another, I know very little about anything that isn't literature, some areas of history, or geek culture. I'm sure there are groups of lawyers, or mathematicians who would be horrified at my ignorance of what they consider basic elements of their respective fields. But after five-and-a-half years online,** the whole thing is fairly intuitive and obvious to me. Very little that I see shocks me (although to be honest I don't go around actively looking for things that might shock me), and most of what I see makes sense in the context of the culture in which I find myself immersed. What surprises me (but really, really shouldn't) is that the rest of the world does not find it equally fascinating and immersive.

This isn't really the place for it, but have a link for Isobelle Carmody speaking about her latest collection of short stories.

I felt as light as sunlight in the face of the weight of history that people carried. ... It made me feel light, but also insubstantial. That is exactly what it feels like to be an Australian in Europe.

__________________
* And in my other life, I am shocked when people don't know stuff relating to medieval literature or history. 'You just described Shakespearian English as "Old English"? Seriously, how poorly-educated are you?'
** I used the internet before that, of course, but I don't consider myself to have been online. I had a couple of email addresses, which I checked from time to time, and that was about it.

Foz Meadows

Mar. 6th, 2012 09:15 pm
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Every so often, I'll come across a new blog that is so good, that lines up with my own tastes and beliefs and interests so perfectly that I'll scream its praises to the sky, fling links and quotes about with abandon and generally behave like an excitable toddler hyped up on sugar. 'This is what the internet should be like! It should be like this all the time! And now I'm going to READ ALL THE POSTS! INTERNET! FOREVER!' I shout excitedly when I encounter a blog like this.

Foz Meadows' blog is one such blog. I can't believe I didn't discover it sooner. Hers is one of those voices that has been floating around the same circles I frequent (SF/F and YA online literary communities and commentariat, social justice sites that focus on pop culture), and from time to time, someone I follow has linked to one of her posts. But I never sat down and read her blog (or her books) in any focused kind of way until today.

And what a treasure trove I was missing out on! Here she is on the problems with the current crop of YA dystopian novels:

It’s the Ferris wheel effect: a nostalgia for the present day rooted in being grateful for what we have, rather than in asking where we’re headed. It’s dystopia with the safeties on - and that is, to me, an alarming inversion of how the genre should work. I have nothing against stories being written purely for escapist purposes, but dystopia is not the ideal genre for it. Of course, as in all things, your mileage may vary, in which case you’re wholly entitled to disagree. Yet I’d ask that you ask yourself: what, exactly, is escapist about an uncritical dystopia? While critical protagonists set out to change society, allowing us the fantasy of being world-altering revolutionaries, uncritical protagonists remain wrapped up in themselves, dealing with immediate, personal obstacles rather than tackling their root causes. Such characters can still change the world, of course – or rather, be instrumental in its change – but the difference is one of intention: their rebellion stems from a desire to be left alone, not to combat injustice, and this difference shows in how the story treats them. They are kept safer than their critical counterparts – exposed to action and loss, rather than danger and consequence – because if something sufficiently bad were to happen or be realistically threatened, then their stories would no longer stand as purely escapist fictions: the audience would no longer want to share in their experiences.

To which I say, yes, and yes!

Like me, she's an Australian living in the UK (in fact, she's only a year younger than I am, and her time at Sydney Uni overlapped mine by at least two, and possibly three years, so I'm sure we knew people in common). Like me, she finds being IDed at UK supermarkets annoying.

She writes with eloquence about the frustrations of being a teenager, of not having your voice heard (and although I loved most of high school, her words resonate):

High school students of the world: you are not prisoners. You are not stupid. You have rights. You have opinions. You know what you feel. The rest of us have either forgotten or are in the process of forgetting, because where you are now? It’s about survival. Once you’re out of the jungle, you don’t go wading back in to fight the tigers and tame the lantana. But that’s why those things persist. You get out, and you’re safe, so you forget. You see the little tweaks and changes on the news, and you forget how bad it really was. You grow up. You start to doubt your teenage intelligence. You wonder if it was just because you were seventeen and an idiot that you hated your creepy geography teacher, the one who knocked the girls’ pens off their desks so he could peek down their shirts when they bent over to pick them up, or that you couldn’t find any practical or intellectual application for what you were asked to do, or that nobody would listen to you or had the power to do anything when you told them you were depressed or being bullied.

Her social justice awakening was almost identical to mine:

[W]hat I’m coming to realise is that being white and well-off is like living in a bubble, and that racism – and sexism, and homophobia, and all those other terrible creeds and isms – are like a raging river on which you float, unaffected. And if none of the river’s attendant perils threaten you personally – if you are not really interested in what goes on beneath your feet – then you will never notice the un-bubbled masses dashed against the rocks; or see the snares which threaten so many others; or worry about a shifting sandbank changing the course of the river; or spare a thought for those who drown, unable to fight the current. And even if you inflate your bubble with a spirit of kinship, love and charity, without that further awareness, you will be a lesser person than might otherwise be the case.

Her words about growing (up?) are taken from my mouth, where they lay heavy like stones, and given an eloquence I couldn't possibly manage:

Nobody ever grows up. We just grow. But our language, which betrays so much of culture, suggests otherwise: hierarchies are linear, top to bottom: growing up means growing better. Nobody grows down. And yet up connotes even more than that. It makes us think of a fixed destination when there is none; it makes us want to not only cast off who we were, but disparage it as unnecessary, as though the very notion of ever being someone else is embarrassing, taboo; as though that prior person were utterly unrelated to every single subsequent incarnation.

Hello, new internet hero! Where the hell have you been all my life?

ETA: We also both used to write for the ABC Book Show's blog. Can't believe I didn't remember that!
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I haven't had internet at home for a while, so I'm just now catching up on all my feeds, There's been a lot of interesting stuff posted recently, so I thought I'd make a linkpost.

Sarah Rees Brennan posted this thought-provoking piece about what it means to be an author and have an internet presence.

And then, for a total change in tone, she wrote a hilarious liveblog of Teen Wolf, making it sound so funny that I might be tempted to check it out.

Catherynne M. Valente posted about how she was fed up with arguing about ebooks.

She also wrote about the misconceptions social conservatives hold about 'women's work', and the supposed golden age of pre-industrial times.

[livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall made a Romanitas playlist. I geeked out.

Here's an article from Rolling Stone about the effects of global warming in Australia. I found myself nodding away to pretty much everything being said.

It's been said before, but it needs to be said again: unpaid internships are exploitative and perpetuate inequality.

Our forum interviewed Philip Pullman.

Finally, I blogged about the start of the semester in Germany.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I haven't had internet at home for a while, so I'm just now catching up on all my feeds, There's been a lot of interesting stuff posted recently, so I thought I'd make a linkpost.

Sarah Rees Brennan posted this thought-provoking piece about what it means to be an author and have an internet presence.

And then, for a total change in tone, she wrote a hilarious liveblog of Teen Wolf, making it sound so funny that I might be tempted to check it out.

Catherynne M. Valente posted about how she was fed up with arguing about ebooks.

She also wrote about the misconceptions social conservatives hold about 'women's work', and the supposed golden age of pre-industrial times.

[livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall made a Romanitas playlist. I geeked out.

Here's an article from Rolling Stone about the effects of global warming in Australia. I found myself nodding away to pretty much everything being said.

It's been said before, but it needs to be said again: unpaid internships are exploitative and perpetuate inequality.

Our forum interviewed Philip Pullman.

Finally, I blogged about the start of the semester in Germany.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
1. I spent much of yesterday morning sitting in my favourite cafe drinking coffee, writing poetry, drawing and writing in my paper diary. Apart from making me a complete cliche of a humanities student, it reminded me how little I write in my paper diaries these days. Most of the reason for that is that so much of the part of me that is about words and thoughts takes place online. Whereas before, when I had thoughts I would write about them in my diary, I now take them to my blogs. I think this signifies, to a certain extent, an openness that I did not have when I began writing diaries. This openness was hard-won. I used to be a very untrusting person; I didn't trust the people around me to understand my feelings or to react in the right way when I shared them. I credit the internet and the people I've met online with this transformation, whose most important effect has been that I trust other people (both on- and offline) with my feelings, and that I trust myself enough to not collapse when someone misinterprets my meaning or intent when I reveal something of my interior life.

2. Someone on Twitter posted a link to this article about Google+ and it took me while to figure out why I found it extremely irritating. Then I realised it was the smug Twitter evangelising. Don't get me wrong: I love Twitter. But I love Livejournal, and I love Last.fm and I love my forums and I love Youtube and I even love Facebook, and I don't think using one or the other makes me inherently superior. Certain types of sites/social media will suit different people better; I like Livejournal (as I would probably like LJ-clones such as Dreamwidth or Insane Journal) the best because it suits me best for my own online activities and persona. I'm all about the words, reading and writing them. Livejournal's friends page function is perfect for me, as it's the best way to present all the words of others that I want to read, and obviously, being a blogging platform, its purpose is to give me the ability to post my own words online.

But other platforms might suit other people better. I imagine Tumblr really appeals to people who are into picspams and graphics, while Goodreads and Last.fm work really well for people who want to catalogue their reading or listening libraries and connect with people who share their tastes and interests. Evangelists for any type of site or social media forget that the internet is simply a tool, and its value lies in what its users make of it. And that's a matter of personal preference, intention and ability.

3. This led me to think about my opinion of Tumblr. I've had a Tumblr for about a year now, and I post really rarely. I really tried hard to avoid being one of those cane-waving 'get off my lawn' types about it, because I spent so much time defending Twitter to various real-life friends and their scorn ('it's just everyone shouting Facebook statuses at one another!') really irritated me. And yet...every time I went onto my Tumblr dashboard, I'd start to feel anxious and headachey. Everyone just posted too quickly, although I think graphics are pretty, I've never found them as appealling as words, some people just seemed to use their Tumblrs as a sort of extended IM session with artwork and cutesy hashtags, and after about five minutes I'd feel stressed because there seemed like this pressure to be constantly posting and reblogging.

So then I'd avoid Tumblr for another month before giving it another chance. I'd almost got to the point of accepting that it just wasn't for me, and then I tried something different. Instead of viewing the Tumblrs I followed through my dashboard, I switched to reading through the new posts on the few individual Tumblrs that actually interested me. Voila! It worked! No anxiety, no sense of pressure, and no irritation. I'm glad I didn't give up on Tumblr, because my experiences prove my point at 2 that if you want to enjoy a particular form of social media, you need to find a way to use it that works for you.

4. This then sent me spiralling back to point 1. While I'm really happy at the openness and trust that blogging has given me, it's also had one negative effect, which is that I'm pretty much incapable of thinking about anything privately. If I have thoughts or feelings, they need to be shared. But there are a lot of things I've been thinking about recently for which there is literally no place online where it would be appropriate to share them. This is because although I am happy for (and indeed want) certain people to know about these issues, there are others with whom I'd be really uncomfortable sharing them. Short of endlessly PMing [livejournal.com profile] thelxiepia or [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae (my go-to counsellors and confessionals), I don't really have anywhere to go. Maybe I should revive my paper diaries.

5. Finally, I had thoughts about shipping issues in Pagan's Daughter. But since no one my flist has even read the book, let alone obsessed over the Pagan Chronicles series for 16 years like me, I thought [livejournal.com profile] pagansfandom was a better place to share them. Count yourselves lucky.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
1. I spent much of yesterday morning sitting in my favourite cafe drinking coffee, writing poetry, drawing and writing in my paper diary. Apart from making me a complete cliche of a humanities student, it reminded me how little I write in my paper diaries these days. Most of the reason for that is that so much of the part of me that is about words and thoughts takes place online. Whereas before, when I had thoughts I would write about them in my diary, I now take them to my blogs. I think this signifies, to a certain extent, an openness that I did not have when I began writing diaries. This openness was hard-won. I used to be a very untrusting person; I didn't trust the people around me to understand my feelings or to react in the right way when I shared them. I credit the internet and the people I've met online with this transformation, whose most important effect has been that I trust other people (both on- and offline) with my feelings, and that I trust myself enough to not collapse when someone misinterprets my meaning or intent when I reveal something of my interior life.

2. Someone on Twitter posted a link to this article about Google+ and it took me while to figure out why I found it extremely irritating. Then I realised it was the smug Twitter evangelising. Don't get me wrong: I love Twitter. But I love Livejournal, and I love Last.fm and I love my forums and I love Youtube and I even love Facebook, and I don't think using one or the other makes me inherently superior. Certain types of sites/social media will suit different people better; I like Livejournal (as I would probably like LJ-clones such as Dreamwidth or Insane Journal) the best because it suits me best for my own online activities and persona. I'm all about the words, reading and writing them. Livejournal's friends page function is perfect for me, as it's the best way to present all the words of others that I want to read, and obviously, being a blogging platform, its purpose is to give me the ability to post my own words online.

But other platforms might suit other people better. I imagine Tumblr really appeals to people who are into picspams and graphics, while Goodreads and Last.fm work really well for people who want to catalogue their reading or listening libraries and connect with people who share their tastes and interests. Evangelists for any type of site or social media forget that the internet is simply a tool, and its value lies in what its users make of it. And that's a matter of personal preference, intention and ability.

3. This led me to think about my opinion of Tumblr. I've had a Tumblr for about a year now, and I post really rarely. I really tried hard to avoid being one of those cane-waving 'get off my lawn' types about it, because I spent so much time defending Twitter to various real-life friends and their scorn ('it's just everyone shouting Facebook statuses at one another!') really irritated me. And yet...every time I went onto my Tumblr dashboard, I'd start to feel anxious and headachey. Everyone just posted too quickly, although I think graphics are pretty, I've never found them as appealling as words, some people just seemed to use their Tumblrs as a sort of extended IM session with artwork and cutesy hashtags, and after about five minutes I'd feel stressed because there seemed like this pressure to be constantly posting and reblogging.

So then I'd avoid Tumblr for another month before giving it another chance. I'd almost got to the point of accepting that it just wasn't for me, and then I tried something different. Instead of viewing the Tumblrs I followed through my dashboard, I switched to reading through the new posts on the few individual Tumblrs that actually interested me. Voila! It worked! No anxiety, no sense of pressure, and no irritation. I'm glad I didn't give up on Tumblr, because my experiences prove my point at 2 that if you want to enjoy a particular form of social media, you need to find a way to use it that works for you.

4. This then sent me spiralling back to point 1. While I'm really happy at the openness and trust that blogging has given me, it's also had one negative effect, which is that I'm pretty much incapable of thinking about anything privately. If I have thoughts or feelings, they need to be shared. But there are a lot of things I've been thinking about recently for which there is literally no place online where it would be appropriate to share them. This is because although I am happy for (and indeed want) certain people to know about these issues, there are others with whom I'd be really uncomfortable sharing them. Short of endlessly PMing [livejournal.com profile] thelxiepia or [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae (my go-to counsellors and confessionals), I don't really have anywhere to go. Maybe I should revive my paper diaries.

5. Finally, I had thoughts about shipping issues in Pagan's Daughter. But since no one my flist has even read the book, let alone obsessed over the Pagan Chronicles series for 16 years like me, I thought [livejournal.com profile] pagansfandom was a better place to share them. Count yourselves lucky.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
This rant has been building in me for quite some time. Three things, however, convinced me to finally write it.

First is the increased number of secrets posted on [livejournal.com profile] fandomsecrets along the lines of 'social justice types are ruining fandom'.

Second is the number of people I've encountered over the years who react to any criticism of their favourite books/films etc with 'But it's just a story!!!!! Why can't you just ENJOY it?!?!'

Finally, every so often I'll be talking to my boyfriend about a particular book or series or whatever, and he'll say something like, 'I don't know how you can enjoy anything if you're always thinking about these sorts of things [meaning a combination of social justice issues and general thematic concerns]'.

I think he at least gets it now: that is precisely how I enjoy all texts. I can no more switch off that part of my brain than I could give up breathing. But I must confess that to the first two issues, I can say little more than 'huh?' Fandom, to me, seems to demonstrate that everything is interesting or enjoyable to at least someone. You like kids' tv shows from the early 90s? There's a comm for that. You want to make icons of a particularly obscure anime, or discuss continuity issues in Marvel comics or write porn about what band members get up to on tour? You'll fit right in somewhere. There's a corner of the internet for those who like men in tights, vampires who sparkle and knights who say 'Ni'. And if there isn't, you can make one.

But if everything is worthy of enjoyment or interest nothing is above - or beneath - criticism. And, shock horror, it is perfectly possible to like something without thinking it's a paragon of perfection. In fact, sometimes it can be more interesting to like things in spite of their flaws.

I enjoy some pretty problematic stuff. I love Supernatural, which has almost parodic levels of sexism, racism and the odd bit of homophobia. All its female characters end up either evil or fridged. Every PoC is evil. It is quintessential tale of a couple of White Dudes with Issues. And yet I find those White Dudes with Issues completely compelling. I love what it says about family, about sibling relationships, about how to be good (and, more importantly, to do good) in a bad world, about the tricksiness of words, about how to communicate when you mistrust the slipperiness of language and feelings. But the part of my brain that allows me to see and enjoy all these positive and interesting themes in Supernatural also enables me to see that there is much in the series that is deeply, deeply wrong and in need of criticism.

I see no contradiction in being able to adore Firefly for the way its characters talk, for the beauty in the relationship between Simon and River and for its story of a family that is made, not born, while at the same time taking issue with a universe dominated culturally by the US and China with no Asians, and being absolutely disgusted with everything to do with the characterisation of Inara. I can admit that Buffy got me through highschool and is to a large degree responsible for my feminism while at the same time acknowledging that there are things that happened in the series that (rightly) hurt a lot of queer people.

It is possible to love His Dark Materials because Pullman's language is beautiful and its characters are compelling and it gave me the words as a child to articulate my own atheism, while also noting that Pullman's depiction of organised religion is a parodic interpretation of the worst excesses of Catholicism. It's possible to enjoy The Vampire Diaries for its fantastic portrayal of female friendship, because Elena is just awesome and the series goes where Twilight feared to tread, while at the same time thinking that there's some dodgy stuff going on in terms of race and don't even get me started on the character of Damon.

Because nothing is 'just' a story. Stories do matter.

If you don't want social justice getting in the way of your squee, if thinking with some nuance about stories is so annoying that you can't enjoy them, well, fair enough. It's perfectly easy to avoid. Stay in the corner of fandom that suits you best. If you see someone criticising your beloved tv series, film or book, walk away. The internet is big enough for all of us.

But don't you dare tell me I'm ruining fandom by talking about these things, that I can't enjoy texts unless I encounter them passively without criticism. To me, the unexamined text is not worth reading (or watching). That's just how it works for me. You stick to your corner of the sandbox, and I'll stick to mine.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
This rant has been building in me for quite some time. Three things, however, convinced me to finally write it.

First is the increased number of secrets posted on [livejournal.com profile] fandomsecrets along the lines of 'social justice types are ruining fandom'.

Second is the number of people I've encountered over the years who react to any criticism of their favourite books/films etc with 'But it's just a story!!!!! Why can't you just ENJOY it?!?!'

Finally, every so often I'll be talking to my boyfriend about a particular book or series or whatever, and he'll say something like, 'I don't know how you can enjoy anything if you're always thinking about these sorts of things [meaning a combination of social justice issues and general thematic concerns]'.

I think he at least gets it now: that is precisely how I enjoy all texts. I can no more switch off that part of my brain than I could give up breathing. But I must confess that to the first two issues, I can say little more than 'huh?' Fandom, to me, seems to demonstrate that everything is interesting or enjoyable to at least someone. You like kids' tv shows from the early 90s? There's a comm for that. You want to make icons of a particularly obscure anime, or discuss continuity issues in Marvel comics or write porn about what band members get up to on tour? You'll fit right in somewhere. There's a corner of the internet for those who like men in tights, vampires who sparkle and knights who say 'Ni'. And if there isn't, you can make one.

But if everything is worthy of enjoyment or interest nothing is above - or beneath - criticism. And, shock horror, it is perfectly possible to like something without thinking it's a paragon of perfection. In fact, sometimes it can be more interesting to like things in spite of their flaws.

I enjoy some pretty problematic stuff. I love Supernatural, which has almost parodic levels of sexism, racism and the odd bit of homophobia. All its female characters end up either evil or fridged. Every PoC is evil. It is quintessential tale of a couple of White Dudes with Issues. And yet I find those White Dudes with Issues completely compelling. I love what it says about family, about sibling relationships, about how to be good (and, more importantly, to do good) in a bad world, about the tricksiness of words, about how to communicate when you mistrust the slipperiness of language and feelings. But the part of my brain that allows me to see and enjoy all these positive and interesting themes in Supernatural also enables me to see that there is much in the series that is deeply, deeply wrong and in need of criticism.

I see no contradiction in being able to adore Firefly for the way its characters talk, for the beauty in the relationship between Simon and River and for its story of a family that is made, not born, while at the same time taking issue with a universe dominated culturally by the US and China with no Asians, and being absolutely disgusted with everything to do with the characterisation of Inara. I can admit that Buffy got me through highschool and is to a large degree responsible for my feminism while at the same time acknowledging that there are things that happened in the series that (rightly) hurt a lot of queer people.

It is possible to love His Dark Materials because Pullman's language is beautiful and its characters are compelling and it gave me the words as a child to articulate my own atheism, while also noting that Pullman's depiction of organised religion is a parodic interpretation of the worst excesses of Catholicism. It's possible to enjoy The Vampire Diaries for its fantastic portrayal of female friendship, because Elena is just awesome and the series goes where Twilight feared to tread, while at the same time thinking that there's some dodgy stuff going on in terms of race and don't even get me started on the character of Damon.

Because nothing is 'just' a story. Stories do matter.

If you don't want social justice getting in the way of your squee, if thinking with some nuance about stories is so annoying that you can't enjoy them, well, fair enough. It's perfectly easy to avoid. Stay in the corner of fandom that suits you best. If you see someone criticising your beloved tv series, film or book, walk away. The internet is big enough for all of us.

But don't you dare tell me I'm ruining fandom by talking about these things, that I can't enjoy texts unless I encounter them passively without criticism. To me, the unexamined text is not worth reading (or watching). That's just how it works for me. You stick to your corner of the sandbox, and I'll stick to mine.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I always seem to find myself defending slash. I don't really know why. I don't write slash (I don't write fic of any kind). I read it extremely rarely. On first glance, I don't appear to have any horse in this race. But post like this one from Gav Reads never fail to rub me the wrong way. (To be fair to Gav, he wrote this post as part of an ongoing discussion he was having with [livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall and others at Eastercon, and I think it comes from a curious-trying-to-understand-slash rather than a this-stuff-is-icky-why-do-you-write-it position.) [livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall's response goes some way in explaining why this issue matters to me. In one of her comments, she sets out the argument in relation to slash at its most positive and socially responsible:

But a lot of people find that it is liberating. I know queer people who have found enormous solace in slash as they go through the coming out process and beyond. (I kind of AM such people). And I know straight women who have found it a space to shed inhibitions and create for themselves something mainstream culture is not very interested in providing for them, and they have felt liberated by that. It's pretty presumptuous to say that they're wrong about they're own experience.

Of course, people write slash for a variety of reasons, and I've often felt that some of the unease or disgust people feel with it is due to the fact that it is a form of writing mainly written by and for women (cf romance novels and chick-lit), and in particular as an expression of female sexuality. It's indefensible to criticise it (at least it alone) on grounds of implausibility, as a relationship between, say, Harry and Draco is equally as implausible as one between Draco and Ginny (or, indeed, a gen AU where Harry and Draco have traded places).

Ultimately, I think the reason why I constantly leap to the defence of slash is because I am someone who has spent a lifetime engaging with the written word. Nothing gives me greater pleasure. My way of engaging with words is to analyse, discuss, review and study. If slash writers' way is to write m/m porny fanfic, who am I to stop them?
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I always seem to find myself defending slash. I don't really know why. I don't write slash (I don't write fic of any kind). I read it extremely rarely. On first glance, I don't appear to have any horse in this race. But post like this one from Gav Reads never fail to rub me the wrong way. (To be fair to Gav, he wrote this post as part of an ongoing discussion he was having with [livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall and others at Eastercon, and I think it comes from a curious-trying-to-understand-slash rather than a this-stuff-is-icky-why-do-you-write-it position.) [livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall's response goes some way in explaining why this issue matters to me. In one of her comments, she sets out the argument in relation to slash at its most positive and socially responsible:

But a lot of people find that it is liberating. I know queer people who have found enormous solace in slash as they go through the coming out process and beyond. (I kind of AM such people). And I know straight women who have found it a space to shed inhibitions and create for themselves something mainstream culture is not very interested in providing for them, and they have felt liberated by that. It's pretty presumptuous to say that they're wrong about they're own experience.

Of course, people write slash for a variety of reasons, and I've often felt that some of the unease or disgust people feel with it is due to the fact that it is a form of writing mainly written by and for women (cf romance novels and chick-lit), and in particular as an expression of female sexuality. It's indefensible to criticise it (at least it alone) on grounds of implausibility, as a relationship between, say, Harry and Draco is equally as implausible as one between Draco and Ginny (or, indeed, a gen AU where Harry and Draco have traded places).

Ultimately, I think the reason why I constantly leap to the defence of slash is because I am someone who has spent a lifetime engaging with the written word. Nothing gives me greater pleasure. My way of engaging with words is to analyse, discuss, review and study. If slash writers' way is to write m/m porny fanfic, who am I to stop them?
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I knew my productivity would kick in as soon as term ended and the sun started shining, and I was right. This week has been fantastic. Every day I left the house around 9am, got to the English faculty library, worked until about 11.30 (by which time I would have written 1000 words), then went home. Then I'd go for a run, then eat lunch. By 2.20pm, M would be home, and since it's the holidays, he's only working his morning job (no teaching out of term time, of course), leaving us free to do whatever we wanted in the afternoon. The only unfortunate thing is that we're both ridiculously poor: I'm waiting on my April stipend cheque, and he's waiting on being paid next week, so we can't really enjoy all our free time in lavish style. Oh well.

Anyway, I actually came over to LJ to post some links. First up, a post by yourlibrarian on Dreamwidth about the ingredients for a particular fandom's success. I agree with the general argument, although I don't think it takes anime fandom into account enough (honestly, anime fandom is HUGE), nor of fandom that's not focused on fanworks. It's an interesting discussion nonetheless.

Check out Ursula Le Guin's rather excellent blog post about swearing. (Unfortunately, you can't link to individual posts and will have to scroll around a bit on the page to find it. Obviously it's full of swear words and NSFW for that reason.)

John Scalzi's got an open thread where commenters can recommend interesting writers' blogs. I think I'm going to have to check some of them out.

Over at The Book Lantern, they're discussing Australian YA books. Actually, if I haven't mentioned it before, The Book Lantern is awesome. You should be following it.

Finally, Pop Matters is doing a whole series of posts about Joss Whedon and his work. I've linked to the introduction.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I knew my productivity would kick in as soon as term ended and the sun started shining, and I was right. This week has been fantastic. Every day I left the house around 9am, got to the English faculty library, worked until about 11.30 (by which time I would have written 1000 words), then went home. Then I'd go for a run, then eat lunch. By 2.20pm, M would be home, and since it's the holidays, he's only working his morning job (no teaching out of term time, of course), leaving us free to do whatever we wanted in the afternoon. The only unfortunate thing is that we're both ridiculously poor: I'm waiting on my April stipend cheque, and he's waiting on being paid next week, so we can't really enjoy all our free time in lavish style. Oh well.

Anyway, I actually came over to LJ to post some links. First up, a post by yourlibrarian on Dreamwidth about the ingredients for a particular fandom's success. I agree with the general argument, although I don't think it takes anime fandom into account enough (honestly, anime fandom is HUGE), nor of fandom that's not focused on fanworks. It's an interesting discussion nonetheless.

Check out Ursula Le Guin's rather excellent blog post about swearing. (Unfortunately, you can't link to individual posts and will have to scroll around a bit on the page to find it. Obviously it's full of swear words and NSFW for that reason.)

John Scalzi's got an open thread where commenters can recommend interesting writers' blogs. I think I'm going to have to check some of them out.

Over at The Book Lantern, they're discussing Australian YA books. Actually, if I haven't mentioned it before, The Book Lantern is awesome. You should be following it.

Finally, Pop Matters is doing a whole series of posts about Joss Whedon and his work. I've linked to the introduction.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
Just some further, rather flippant thoughts on the whole YA Mafia thing. Basically, it boils down to some genuine concerns being lost in miscommunication. Let me break it down for you.

YA bloggers who are also aspiring writers: Hey! We love YA literature! We love talking about YA literature. We find some popular trends in YA literature slightly disturbing, and so we will discuss them!

Some YA authors (whose works were being discussed as containing said disturbing trends): Somebody is being mean to me on the Internet! We don't like being called misogynistic! Being misogynistic is A Bad Thing, and we are nice people! We will warn these bloggers that actions may have consequences, especially if you want to work in the YA field!

YA bloggers who are also aspiring writers: Hey! Some important YA authors told us to be nice! We weren't aware that we were being mean (although perhaps some of our commenters were being kind of vitriolic, but we'll ignore that)! All we were doing was pointing out that some popular YA literature seems to us to be misogynistic!* Also, all those YA authors seem to be leaping to one another's defence! They're all friends! They're so cliquey! There is a YA Mafia! We're scared!

Some YA authors: HAHAHAHA YA Mafia! *proceed to make light-hearted posts about fedoras and sleeping with the fishes* *ignore bloggers' point about misogyny*

YA bloggers: *get more annoyed and defensive*

Sarah Rees Brennan: *continues being awesome* *actually addresses the bloggers' concerns about feminism or lack thereof in YA literature*

[livejournal.com profile] dolorosa_12: *disagrees somewhat that writing posts about readers' responses to confident, awesome female characters vs readers' responses to confident, awesome male characters is the same thing as writing posts about problematic misogyny in YA books* *is happy, nonetheless, that Rees Brennan at least noted that bloggers' concern was more about fears of silencing than fears of the non-existence YA Mafia*

In other words, your standard internet drama. Lots of high emotions, lots of people being Wrong On The Internet due to people avoiding listening to one another's most important points.
_________
* I'm sorry, but when your book has the designated love interested sexually harassing the protagonist in class to the point that the protagonist asks to change lab partners, and the teacher says that the harassment is 'probably because said love interest has a crush on you', when the designated love interest HOLDS THE PROTAGONIST DOWN ON A BED AND THREATENS TO KILL HER AND IT'S TREATED AS ROMANTIC, something isn't right. I'm not saying that the author is a misogynist, but there is no way you can argue that that is not a disturbing and misogynistic book. And there's no way that I - and others like me - are going to avoid discussing it.

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rushes into my heart and my skull

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