[identity profile] paradise-city.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] the_comfy_chair
Quality and popularity are two separate concepts that, in theory, are complementary. In practice, however, they are often intimately entwined and certainly play an important role in what gets read, watched, listened to, etc. That the same mechanism is at work in fandom and fan fiction is not surprising, though perhaps, with the independent community nature of fandom as opposed to professional published fiction, it should be.

What follows is a discussion on quality vs. popularity in SGA fan fiction, with the purpose of exploring the structural dynamics of fandom and the social norms and mores that contribute to those dynamics.

Fiction and its attendant trappings in the SGA fandom can be very frustrating, in that I've noticed the same authors get recced and acclaimed repeatedly, regardless of the quality of their work. There have been multiple instances where I've read a fic whose quality struck me as notably out of proportion to the amount of glowing feedback it received and I needed only to double check the author's name for the proportions to make sense. Perhaps belatedly, I've come to realize that being a well-known author in other fandoms takes one far in this fandom.

Of course, this isn't unique to the SGA fandom, but it is happening more often here than I've seen in other fandoms. This could be a function of the little black dress nature of the fandom as a whole: perhaps, as SGA is drawing many popular authors from other fandoms together, these effects are being multiplied to noticeable levels.

I find this problematic because (a) it implies a lack of objectivity on the part of readers and reccers, which likely means (b) less well-known authors with high quality work are left undiscovered (or at least unpublicized). Many rec pages look incredibly similar, with the same authors and the same works. That's to be expected, to an extent, but I've noticed many authors who have nearly all their SGA pieces recced. Now, there are many professional authors, musicians, etc. I enjoy, but I wouldn't rec 80% of their back catalog nearly as often as happens with SGA authors. Are all these authors' works really that good? Is it the quality that's driving the rec, the recognizability of the author's name, or some other factor?

Related to this is the proliferation of crack fic in the fandom (which, arguably, could be a different issue entirely). There are several crack fics I've enjoyed, but there are many more that left me scratching my head and wondering about authorial intent. Previous discussions have looked at authorial distance and the merit of the crack fic label, but I've been feeling a shift from considering crack fic to be good in terms of silly enjoyment to good in terms of characterization and quality, most often when a well-known name is associated with the piece. It was this phenomenon that led to me to question the depth of the relationship between popularity and quality.

I suppose the questions I'm trying to raise are those of perspective: this has been my experience with SGA, having come late to the fandom party (post-S1) and having been largely unfamiliar with the staple authors. However, from discussions I've had with others, it seems as though this has become a trend. If that is indeed true, it then becomes a question of extent and, relatedly, fandom norms and mores and how they create fandom homeostasis.

Of course, this is the same lament seen in many other fandoms likely since the dawn of fandom. I had, however, anticipated SGA being different because of the aforementioned little black dress nature of the fandom as a whole. With many authors being brought in from many other fandoms, I had expected there to be more open and experimental air in terms of reading new authors. That doesn't seem to have happened and I'm not entirely sure why that is.

I feel the need to disclaim this this is (a) nothing personal and (b) certainly isn't intended as wank against more popular authors in favor of less popular authors, but rather as an exploration of fandom dynamics and, perhaps, a comparison of fandom's social norms and mores to the norms and mores of professional published fiction. As such, I'd love to see any discussion this may prompt.

ETA 1: For any newcomers to the discussion, the issues I originally posted about are related to public crit and easily segue into a discussion on that topic. However, as per the admin's kind reminder, please keep your responses away from the topic of public crit and on topic with what was said in the original post. Thanks!

ETA 2: Thanks to everyone who's participated in this discussion. I benefited quite a bit from reading others' opinions and I hope some of y'all did, too. Kudos also for keeping the discussion friendly and polite; perhaps it was naive of me, but I hadn't realized how incendiary a topic this could be. Thanks for sharing your ideas and opinions. :)
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The Comfy Chair

June 2010

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