[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. :)

Date: 2006-03-19 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katydidmischief.livejournal.com
I agree.

Some authors in SGA are recced repeatedly by many of the same people, while other authors with quality work are over looked. For instance Stockholm Syndrome (http://community.livejournal.com/sga_flashfic/309092.html?style=mine) is an amazing story by [livejournal.com profile] mousewitchy that I have not seen recced by anyone, but has a higher quality of writing than I have seen in some of the more recced stories/authors yet I'd never heard of the author before. The good stories are being overlooked again and again in favor of authors that have produced equally good works but already have recognition. It's only fair to say that their stories are known and don't need to be recced further, but bring in newer ones and let their authors recieve acclaim as well.

Date: 2006-03-19 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kalikahuntress.livejournal.com
Amothea recced mousewitchy as did sdraevn. I do agree though, that some authors don't get enough recs but i have to admit that good stories tend to get a lot of feedback, very few good stories get overlooked.

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Re: Rec

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Date: 2006-03-20 08:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cupidsbow.livejournal.com
Really? Not recced? I'm so surprised by that, as it's fantastic. I get so little time online, so I hadn't realised it hadn't been recced all over the place. I would have thought it would be a real jumping off point for discussion too.

(I only post my own recs once a week, and it's usually after the fuss is over a newly posted story, but I certainly have that story on this week's rec list.)

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Date: 2006-03-20 10:27 pm (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
I recced Stockholm Syndrome in my LJ as soon as I read it.

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Date: 2006-03-19 06:14 pm (UTC)
ext_1637: (Default)
From: [identity profile] wickedwords.livejournal.com
Instead of going with 'quality' vs. 'popular', I'm going to bring up that most of what is widely-recced in SGA is what I'd call the 'chick lit' genre: smart, witty, and light, where the focus is on romance. They also tend to be longer stories, starting at around 8K-12K words, and moving into novella length, so that the reader has an opportunity to really absorb the author's world.

Both crack!fic(meaning that the story starts with an outrageous premise) and canon!fic(meaning that the premise of the story can be derived in canon) can be written using this style, and both sources end up with a rather breezy, consumable story that's emotionally satisfying.

In contrast to the chick lit story, there's the melodrama, which is typified by plots that appeal to the heightened emotions of the audience. These stories are long -- epic level long -- and tend to tell more emotion than the easy, breezy chick lit stories do. There is much less light-hearted dialog and much more internalization; whereas the chick lit stories are archly self-aware, the melodramas are determinedly naive.

The interesting thing to me is that in this fandom is that the melodramas aren't being recced as much as I'm used to. Usually half the stories are melodramas on any given rec page, and it takes some time to search out reccers with a different taste.

Date: 2006-03-19 06:28 pm (UTC)
ext_1637: (Default)
From: [identity profile] wickedwords.livejournal.com
And of course, breaking stories out into just these two sub-genres is limiting, as people write a wide variety of types of stories in the fandom, including horror and literary works, and that's not even getting to 'experimental' genres. It's possible to write anything as fan fiction, as long as you want to work it. It's just that some of those tastes are always going to be rarefied.

Re: Like chiclets, only not

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Re: BTW -

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Date: 2006-03-19 06:40 pm (UTC)
zoerayne: (plw)
From: [personal profile] zoerayne
I would venture to say, too, that "quality" is a tremendously subjective thing. What you see as quality fic, I may think is garbage, and vice versa.

Date: 2006-03-19 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sweetvalleyslut.livejournal.com
I think the major reason people read (and rec) well-known authors more often is simply because they are known. There are dozens of new SGA stories posted every day (and still a lot in any given major pairing), and for my part, I just don't read the ones that are by unfamiliar authors; I don't have the time or the patience to wade through them all. I'm happy about this post simply because I'm hoping people will mention good, unappreciated stories in the comments, so that I can get a chance to read them.

Re: Recs

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Re: Flowers in the Reccer's Attic

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aesthetic objectivity 1/2

Date: 2006-03-19 07:59 pm (UTC)
ext_841: (eliot)
From: [identity profile] cathexys.livejournal.com
I am having trouble beginning with your first claim: quality and popularity are *not* complementary for most of literature. In fact, if you look at many, if not most of the texts that are considered "quality" (and I'll get to the attempt to establish objective aesthetic criteria in a second), you'll find that over the centuries they were, indeed, popular in their time (see Shakespeare and Dickens as two of the more extreme examples).

Instead, I think it could be argued that modernism (see icon for the worst offender :-) is to be blamed for purposefully separating pleasure from quality, for creating the concepts of high brow and low brow with popular culture being considered low quality, often by virtue of their popularity.

Fan fiction is even more complicated when thrown into the mix, because it is an eminently popularist (and I would argue in that sense *post* as in anti-modernist) movement that not only draws from popular culture with a strong egalitarian and democratic impulse that allows everyone to write and--with the web--distribute their stories, it also draws most heavily on genres that traditionally have been dismissed as low brow, i.e., sf/f, romance,...

The problem that Eliot et al have, as far as I'm concerned (and that your argument shares) is that it assumes that we can establish objective criteria of what constitutes "good" fiction. While there are certain minimum requirements (correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation come to mind :-), even characterization, the corner stone of fanfiction, is extremely combatted. My McKay may not be yours, so that your story is "bad" to me even though it is a wonderful story that is elegantly written with a great plot.

What makes this even harder is that fanfiction, unlike capital L literature, is--as far as I'm concerned--about more than just good writing. I read stories that satisfy certain kinks for me (plot, style, characterization, sex, etc.) and yes, fanfic is deeply tied in to the community that creates it (i.e., I'm not sure if you've ever read fanfic out of context, but it's an interesting and slightly disorienting experience).

Which is a long way to say what several others pointed out: you claim that the good fic is not necessarily the popular and vice versa, but who's to say that to me the fic that is popular *isn't* good??? And how do we decide what is good and what isn't? Can we objectively establish criteria? I may like the slick, restrained, no descriptions of thoughts and emotions style...or I may like the overwritten, overemotive, ten pages for three thoughts style...or something else entirely.

aesthetic objectivity 2/2

Date: 2006-03-19 08:00 pm (UTC)
ext_841: (eliot)
From: [identity profile] cathexys.livejournal.com
But I have difficulties declaring anything as good or bad, because I am aware of how subjective and culturally and personally and, yes, fancontextually, contingent any such statement would be.

I don't agree with Eliot when he declares that we can establish a canon based on what works are aesthetically superior to others and I can do so even less when it is in a context that is clearly much closer to the Id (to borrow ellen_fremedon's Id-Vortex concept), that is so much more personal than a lot of what we'd call Literature.

That is not to say that I do not feel with you on that sense that you're out of sync when the world and all your friends are praising a story you found mediocre at best or when you discover this gem and noone will read it. However, in my experience, good stories (or what I'd consider good) do find readers. And interestingly, they often do end up having been written by what you might consider BNFs. In other words, their popularity exists regardless of name (we see that every year in the anonymous holiday exchanges where there are few surprises in that the stories that get the most positive feedback tend to be by the writers you describe as overrated...)

This does not mean that you may not find these stories just as unpleasant or overrated. What it does mean, however, is that many readers love them *regardless* of who has written it. It means that these writers have their fangirls not in spite but because of the stories they write. You may like different stories (and I just posted a long complaint in my LJ about crackfic and have had plenty of WTF moments with various popular stories...), but I think it's highly problematic to try to introduce a supposedly objective quality judgment into something like aesthetic pleasure...

Re: aesthetic objectivity 2/2

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Re: aesthetic objectivity 2/2

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Re: aesthetic objectivity 2/2

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Re: aesthetic objectivity 2/2

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Re: aesthetic objectivity 2/2

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Ain't We Got Fun?

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I feel like a number....

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Re: I feel like a number....

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Re: I feel like a number....

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About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Re: About the fic

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Regression Toward the Mean Girls

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Re: aesthetic objectivity 1/2

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Re: aesthetic objectivity 1/2

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Re: aesthetic objectivity 1/2

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Date: 2006-03-20 01:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aka-arduinna.livejournal.com
Perhaps belatedly, I've come to realize that being a well-known author in other fandoms takes one far in this fandom.

Well... yeah. Of course. Authors don't start completely cold in each new fandom, with no history or reputation. They have the same opportunity as anyone else to be discovered by new readers, but yeah, people who enjoyed reading them in other fandoms are likely to go "yay!" and give them a shot in SGA, as well.

I've been absolutely overjoyed to see how many authors whose work I've loved in other fandoms have shown up in SGA. Yay!

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.

One of the things that utterly boggles me about this fandom is that it has a number of authors who can write what is absolutely a piece of absurd crackfic -- and yet keep it in character, and keep the writing tight and solid. Which in my terms, makes it a silly, totally enjoyable story that's good in terms of characterization and quality. It isn't true across the board, but when I find something that's completely whacked where I can get sucked in, and where I can recognize the characters no matter how strange the situation I'm in? I grin the whole day long for the sheer delight of it all.

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's weak logic on the face of it. You're assuming based on lack of recs (that you have seen) that people aren't reading widely enough to suit your preferences. It could just be that the people who are currently doing the recs pages have read, and simply don't like, the authors you think they're totally ignoring. Or that a story may be fabulously well-written but not have a strong enough emotional impact or some other factor that a reccer is looking for, and thus not be worth a re-read (which for me is one of the key points behind a rec -- would I want to re-read this story?).

You're also assuming (faultily) that the bigger the fandom, the higher the willingness to try new authors, which -- no.

Small fandoms are the ones where every new author's work gets read by pretty much everyone in the fandom. Fandoms where people are starved for stories and happy to get their hands on anything that shows up, even if they know that they're only actually going to like one or two stories a year. Not a week, a year.

Large fandoms, of which SGA is most definitely one, have to deal with the opposite situation -- tons and tons of stories to choose from, but then having to actually choose which to read, because who has time to read them all? Wraithbait has had at least 80 stories added in the last week, and a whole lotta authors don't bother putting their stories in the archive. I'm in fandoms where in five years, the fandom hasn't managed to generate 80 stories. Hell, in *25* years, one of my fandoms hasn't managed to generate 80 stories.

Large fandoms provide more opportunity to read a wider variety of authors, yes, and in terms of sheer numbers, I've read more unknown-to-me authors in SGA than in any other fandom in a long time -- but given a choice between an author I know and trust, and an author I've never heard of, I'm going to take the author I trust if I'm on a half-hour lunch break. I want to read something I'm reasonably sure I'll like during my scant free time, not make sure I'm careful to engage in socially correct behavior of providing every SGA author equal access to my time and energy (which, again... no. It's my time, my attention, my energy. My choice where it goes.)


Date: 2006-03-20 01:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aka-arduinna.livejournal.com

I do SGA recs as well as recs in dozens of other fandoms (here (http://trickster.org/arduinna/recs)). I can't begin to keep up with everything posted; I have limited time and wide-ranging tastes, both in shows and in types of fiction. I do the best I can, reading what comes my way and noting which things appeal to me particularly.

My recs page has nothing to do with what anyone else in fandom thinks. I don't care if the stories have been recced before, or how often, or by whom; I just wanted to make a nice big list of stories that I knew I'd be happy to re-read, and that I thought people who share my tastes to some degree would also enjoy. It's not about popularity, it's about my own personal taste in fanfiction.

I'm reccing across as wide a spectrum as I can. I don't know 80% of the authors whose work I rec (I don't just mean personally, I mean "wow, I've never heard of this person before, yay! new good author to read!"), and I look for anything from crack to coulda-been-an-ep, porn to pure gen, fluff to dripping with angst. If that range isn't good enough for you, there's nothing else I can do about it.

I usually lose all patience at people who say "if you don't like the [story] [vid] [fanart], do it yourself, don't bitch about how other people are doing an inadequate job". Crit is its own contribution to fandom, separate from the things that get critted, and I'm all for it. If you want to crit my work, I'm totally willing to hear it.

This is one case, though, where I have to say: if you think people's stories are being ignored, rec them yourself. This isn't like writing fiction, or making vids, or drawing art or making icons. Anyone can rec stories. All you have to do is say "Hey, I really liked this, and I think you will, too! Here's a link." and you're done. You can go into more detail if you want to, but -- that's it. That's a rec. If you have an opinion and a keyboard and a place to state said opinion, you're a reccer in the rough. Post the opinion, and you're a reccer. It really is just that simple.

So get out there and point people at the stories that you think they should read, instead of moaning about how the stories you like best don't get any attention. Give them the attention they deserve. Spread the word, share the joy -- deepen the pool of recommended stories to appeal to readers along a wider spectrum. There's nothing but good there, if you do that. Just don't expect other people to it for you; they're busy sharing their own joy.

Who knows; maybe someone will read a story you rec, and go "wow!", and rec it themselves, to other people who go "wow!", and rec it themselves, to other people who go "wow!"... and then you'll have recced one of the popular stories that gets all the attention.

a comparison of fandom's social norms and mores to the norms and mores of professional published fiction.

I have no idea what this means. "Fandom" is a subculture, a societal structure. "Professionally published fiction" is a physical body of work. This isn't even apples and oranges; at least with those, you can say "they're both fruits".

I also don't understand how or why you're making this about "norms and mores". Sometimes opinions overlap, and a particular story gets widely recced, or doesn't get recced at all. Sometimes they don't, and a story gets recced in one place alone. So what? That has absolutely nothing to do with the moral fiber of SGA fandom in particular, or the moral fiber of fandom as a whole, or on what "the group" thinks is appropriate behavior. It's just opinion and taste.

If your tastes are different, say so. Let people know what great stories they're missing. Give us examples. I guarantee you there will be someone out there with tastes like yours, who'll be delighted to be pointed at a story she didn't know about before.

Re: Cutting Board II

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Little admin nudge

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Re: Cutting Board I

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Date: 2006-03-20 09:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cupidsbow.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for opening this discussion; I've very much enjoyed reading what people had to say. Although I'm disappointed that we all seem so reluctant to engage directly with why we hesitate to crit fanfic. I've been trying to articulate my own reluctance since our brief exchange regarding MVP, and I'm still not entirely sure, but I think perhaps, for me, it has to do with the gifting nature of fanfic. It feels very *churlish* to pick apart something that is given to the public domain for free. But that isn't entirely it, because I'm more comfortable with critiquing non-fiction put into the public domain, unpaid; and I'm okay with people critiquing *my* fanfic. I wish I could articulate this better.

I do give my honest opinion of stories on my rec comms ([livejournal.com profile] rec_room and [livejournal.com profile] lotr_squee), and I have recently written an analysis of "Time in a Bottle" by [livejournal.com profile] asotlat. How much I say about stories in recs varies depending on how engaged I am, and how long it is, and who wrote it (if they are well-known already, I usually say less), and... a variety of other factors. Admittedly, I'm mainly reccing for myself, so I can find stories I like again, so I'm not trying to be totally "objective" about a fandom (although I do feel a strong sense of duty when reccing on a shared comm like [livejournal.com profile] crack_van). There are some stories I like that I don't rec, because I feel their technical faults outweigh my pleasure in them. Also, some stories I love I don't rec because I've already given a blanket "author rec".

I'm often a bit conflicted about what I say in recs, which I wouldn't feel if I wasn't aware that other people are reading what I say. I find this strange, as if I like a story enough to rec it, it means I've engaged with it, so it's an endorsement even if I then say a few negative things about it. I never rec stories I don't like, and often I find flaws the most interesting part of a story.

Obviously with a fandom as big as SGA it's impossible to be a completest, even just within the McShep pairing. But, to give you an idea, I probably rec between 10% and 30% of what I read in SGA (which is my current "hot" fandom). I read way, way, way more than I rec, and I even like some of the unrecced stories a lot, but there's something about them that doesn't quite satisfy or intrigue me enough to put them on the rec list. I sometimes think I should list all the stories I read, just to be able to do a compare and contrast with what I rec... but again, that would be like *anti* reccing, and I'm very uncomfortable with that.

I do agree with you that some of my favourite stories are by authors who aren't widely known. Yet.

Thanks again for a thought-provoking discussion.

Date: 2006-03-20 09:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com
While I definitely do appreciate how reluctance to critique stories publicly could impact this topic and discussion, I want to state preemptively that discussion in this thread should stay focused on the original post; I see what you're saying here as encouragement to others to provide specific examples to illustrate their points, or a desire on your part to see those examples given, and not a desire to open discussion about public crit, but others might not. That's a discussion for another time and place; let's keep discussion in this thread centered on the original poster's ideas. (I'm sure you weren't intending to open such a discussion; this was intended for anyone who might want to follow up on your comment with discussion of public crit rather than the original topic.)

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Date: 2006-03-20 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iibnf.livejournal.com
Quality isn't necessarily what the readers are always looking for. It helps, it's preferable, but I know that I have authors who's work I will seek out, even knowing that they are B grade at best. They write what I want to read, they hit a certain kink or, more likely, a certain emotional tone, even if they do it badly. Fanfic is a drug, and like a heroin addict who'll take a hit even knowing their horse is cut with baby lax, I'll take feeding my addiction over quality.

Date: 2006-03-21 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ceares.livejournal.com
Primarily agreeing with many previous comments. When I was much younger, I read anything I could get my hands on-some excellent, some crap. I also felt obliged to read the entire thing once I started, whether it was working for me or not. It was the same when I first got into fandom. I would literally go alphabetically through an archive.

I have a lot less time now, in terms of hours of the day, and in terms of hours of my life basically, so I have to be a little choosier. Even in my small fandoms, if I start reading it and it does nothing for me I stop.

I basically followed a BNF into the SGA fandom and was so happy to immediately find authors I liked. I branched out, but SGA newsletter alone has 10+ McShep stories a day posted. I immediately scan for an author I know and trust first, then since there aren't summaries, I'll check out titles. Unknown authors usually get chosen by title or story summary.

Another place I usually will read anything is in challenges. If the challenge topic appeals I'll check out pretty much all the stories unless the summary makes me run away.

As far as rec pages all having the same stories-well, I only check out a few rec pages, period, so I might see the story a few times, but not constantly. Also I've only been in the fandom a few months, so even some of the most popular stories might have slipped by me. I really enjoy rec's from places like CrackVan because you do get a nice mix of stuff you might never see otherwise.

As far as quality and popularity-well I find that with authors I love, even their middle of the road stories, I probably enjoyed more than a lot of other things out there. Or, well I'm going to enjoy so so pizza, better than the best prepared brussel sprouts in the world so to speak.

Date: 2006-03-21 04:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] millefiori.livejournal.com
SGA newsletter alone has 10+ McShep stories a day posted. I immediately scan for an author I know and trust first, then since there aren't summaries, I'll check out titles.

I like both het and slash, so with SGA newsletter, I tend to scan down along the pairings to see if anything looks good. There are some pairings I just can't stand, and some characters I don't particularly like, so that's the first, best way for me to narrow down the options.

Unknown authors usually get chosen by title or story summary.

With completely unknown to me writers, if the title/summary sound interesting, but not *quite* enough to convince me, I've found that the writer's name can make the difference in me taking a chance on a story or passing it by.

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Date: 2006-03-21 01:06 am (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
I rec a lot of stories and browse recs from friends and anyone that has a website of recs. I think there is plenty of diversity. It seems like I find stories I haven't read before just about every time I go looking.

My own method of reccing fics is rather informal and I rec stories I probably won't read twice, not often but sometimes. I don't always rec stories from popular writers or writers I love. I'm willing to read het, slash, gen, PG-NC-17, torture, crack, rape...basically because I'm willing to read a little bit of everything I think my rec list shows that.

But again I'm only reccing what I like, and I know I happen to like a lot of the "popular" writers. I think they are popular because they are consistantly good, maybe not everything is as good as their best work but it's still good. I'd be hard pressed to pick my favorite [livejournal.com profile] astolat fic. At this point when I see she's posted a new story I get this Pavlovian excited response because she has yet to dissapoint me. She's not the only one I feel this way about either, but I really do think the "popular" writers are the ones that turn out a lot of quality fic. Or if not "quality" in the traditional sense, still highly entertaining.

I can also understand time constraints as a big reason most people are hesitant to try new authors.

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Date: 2006-03-21 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hardlyfatal.livejournal.com
I really can't say "word" loudly enough, in agreeing with you. I read fics by BNFs expecting them to be fantabulous after all the hype, and I'm just not impressed with any of them. Way too many cater to shippers' fanon instead of actual canon characterization, and assume we're all down with speeding from the introduction to the mighty mighty sex scene.

I'm fine with writing a fic about two people getting it on for the first time, but in some cases the narrative is completely devoid of any mention of growing awareness and attraction, and then all of a sudden WHAMMO there's the buttsex. That, to me, is terrible pacing, poor relationship-building, and just plain bad writing.

It's like they're trying to dress up a PWP but honestly, there's only so much you can do with explicit porn. You can give it a plot, throw in some angst or humor or whatever window-dressing you like, but if you rush through it to get to the sex, it's still just porn. Not that there's anything wrong with porn-- I love me some good smut, I surely do-- but there's a definite difference between it and genuine, well-written erotica.

Date: 2006-03-21 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] reginabellatrix.livejournal.com
When I started my recs page (http://sga.creativemachinations.com/recs.html) I made a deliberate choice to only rec stories as I read them precisely because of how similar most rec pages I'd encountered were. I didn't feel that it was necessary, or that there was any value in retreading familiar ground, as it were.

Because of my own frustrations with rec pages often focusing on BNFs and ignoring lesser knowns, I try to make a point of reading new authors' works. I will include the caveat that, if the quality of any author's work is, in my view, substandard (either because of poor grammar etc... or because I find the storytelling too flat), after giving her a couple of chances, I'll put her on a do-not-read-unless-really-desperate list (and in some cases, I'll put her on the do-not-read-ever list). It's just my way of cutting down the number of stories I have to read while still trying not to overlook potentially good authors just because they're new to me. (I also narrow my reading list by sticking with gen and Sheppard/McKay, for the most part.)

Date: 2006-03-21 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com
Interesting thoughts, and I think this line: Fiction and its attendant trappings in the SGA fandom can be very frustrating, and the points you bring up that seem to be connected to that assertion, have been the center of my ponderings over your ideas. Two questions occur to me to try to answer:

-- Is there a real problem, and why? What's happening in fandom that inspires these thoughts and feelings? Your mentioning 'frustration' is key, I think--some people do feel frustrated when they see certain writers/stories receive oodles of gushing praise, consistently, when they feel the praise may not be warranted, may be more inspired by the writer's name or certain buttons pushed rather than by the 'quality' of the work. They may also feel frustrated when stories they feel do merit that kind of attention aren't getting it, whether it's their own, a friend's or something by a writer they've never heard of. Name recognition is a big deal in fandom, but it's a big deal in the original fiction market, too. I have a friend who writes horror, and I think her stuff is great, but Steven King and Anne Rice sell a lot more than she does--that's understandable, because they have the name recognition. The fanfic and profic worlds do have some similarities; they get paid in sales, while we get 'paid' in hits and recs and feedback. Big pro names make lots of sales, as do big fandom names, while lesser known writers in both areas get less. Big names in both realms gather loyal readers who depend on those names for a good read and who'll pick those names over unknowns on a store display rack or a newsletter post. Profic writers can become 'in' to read ("I haven't read any Writer X, yet, but I really should...."), as can fanfic writers. Not a lot of differences, there.

Fanfic offers something most profic doesn't, though, and that's accessibility. That's changing, some, as profic writers are making themselves more available than in the past, but it's not the same as the opportunity to sit at the right hand of the BNF, to become her bud and bask in her reflected glory, to have one's social status elevated through association, to have one's stories noticed because the BNF recced or betaed them. I think that when people feel frustration over seeing the same people lauded and applauded while they feel others are overlooked, they're suspecting something of that sort, some toadying and ass-kissing. This is probably especially frustrating when EVERYTHING that writer writes seems to get that kind of attention, and the frolicking throng doesn't seem to be exercising any kind of objective standards, in the frustrated individual's opinion, but seems to be mindlessly and slavishly devoted more to the writer than to the stories.

That may well be what's going on, in some cases, but it also may not. I think I'm a pretty discriminating reader, but there are a few writers whose work never fails to please me and who I've followed into fandoms, just to be able to continue to read their work. Anna, for instance, is one of mine; I've loved everything she's written, for a lot of reasons. I've enjoyed her plotting and narrative voice and style and sense of humor and dialog and areas of 'interest' for a decade, and, on those rare occasions where I've been in a fandom before she arrived, I've definitely greeted her stories with an ecstatic, "Yay! Anna's here!" and much rejoicing. I've never said, "Yay, Anna's here! Now we'll get some GOOD stories!", which could be, yes, frustrating to those who've thought there were some damn fine stories in the fandom already, thank yew, but I've expressed similar delight at the collected works of a couple of writers who consistently please me, and I don't think there's anything potentially damaging about that, even if people don't agree with my assessment of her ability, nor do I think it indicates an inability on my part to appreciate other writers in the fandom. We just all have favorites.



Date: 2006-03-21 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com
So, there's frustration, which is, you know, part of life. There'll be unfairness, or perceived unfairness, in fandom as there is everywhere else, and people's motives for doing what they do will always be pretty much unknowable. But is this damaging to fandom, in any way? Is there a problem here beyond people feeling miffed, dissed or underappreciated? Is there any kind of chilling or repressive effect happening because of perceived favoritism? Hard to say. I think it matters where you hang out, for one thing; I see recs for lesser-known stories and writers on my flist. Maybe people need to expand their reading list to find similar posts. Maybe people need to make more of this kind of rec, themselves. Does anyone stop writing because they don't get the volume of feedback and number of recs bigger names do? Maybe, but, you gotta remember, even the biggest names were unknown, once. They became known because enough people liked what they did that word about them got around, and that's still happening. Are the big names putting out so much recced work that no one has time to click on the lesser-knowns? Obviously not, since new names are getting recced and recognized, though maybe not as much on some of the recs pages (if that's true, and I don't know that it is, over-all.) Is it possible that unknown writers have to fight their way upstream against the tide of better-known writers and their fans for readership and recognition? Yeah, maybe, but that's the case in profic, too. Why should we expect it to be different, here?

-- Which leads me to ask, is this really more of a problem in SGA than in other fandoms? I don't think so. I've heard this same frustration being voiced in every fandom I've been in, over years of reading and writing, and I don't think it's much different in SGA fandom. Maybe your expectation that it would be colors your reactions. I've never been in a fandom where people didn't bemoan the fact that the big names garner more of the attention, even when some don't feel it's warranted. I've also never been in a fandom that grew this quickly, that pulled in so many good, recognized writers from other fandoms so fast or that offered me so many new faces, along with the older favorites, that I've been this spoiled for choice.

Solutions? If there is a problem, I think it could be addressed by encouraging readers to rec promising new writers, maybe in a collected, public way--I could make a "rec a hidden gem" post, here, for example; readers could create a list or a recs page or a community centered around reccing/reviewing new names and then publicize it highly, and such like. People are interested in new names and stories, as commenters here have said. So, don't just sit there, rec something. :)

Re: Cont.

From: [identity profile] cupidsbow.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-03-21 08:10 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Cont.

From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-03-21 10:40 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-03-21 07:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cupidsbow.livejournal.com
Okay. Take-2.

What I was fumblingly trying to articulate with my ramble about "how I rec" yesterday, were a couple of problems I have with the "popularity" aspect of your theory.

To make my own bias clear, I have noticed the trend you have, and have often wondered what caused it. The answer I ended up settling on was pretty simplistic and went like this:
-that reccer probably hasn't read story x
-if they have read it, then they just didn't like it

More recently, I added a coda:
-maybe they read it and liked it, but something stopped them from reccing (RL, no internet, rec document lost during computer crash, etc)

I have come to similar conclusions about why people comment or don't comment.

Before settling on this, I'd occasionally indulged in wild and mean-spirited speculation, bought on by too much contact with self-interested academics: that reccer only recced because story x is written by her friend; they are such a trend follower; blah, blah, blah.

I gave up on that kind of speculation, though, for the many reasons outlined by others in this thread: the variables motivating people to rec and/or comment (and not-rec or not-comment) are numerous and not easily broken into neat explanations, and when not dealing with the lunacy of post-grad work, I was fully cognisant of those issues.

That was what I was groping at yesterday. As I pointed out long-windedly, I don't necessarily use the same criteria from rec to rec, because I will like different things in different stories (or dislike the same things to different degrees in different stories). And if there's no standard criteria in the recs made by the same person, how do you compare their recs to other people's? Especially as the people contributing to this conversation have pointed out that they are motivated by many different things when they rec, and have different levels of time and commitment in which to take part in their fannish pursuits.

Which brings me to my main problem with your theory: I don't think that recs and/or number of comments are a good indicator of either quality *or* popularity. Yes, we could do a number count of how many rec sites on my handy list (http://www.livejournal.com/users/cupidsbow/147221.html) have listed a certain story, but that really only tells us that it's popular amongst a certain sub-set of reccers (and as I've already discussed, we can't easily compare their criteria qualitatively, only the quantitative fact of the recs themselves). What else can we conclude from it? I'd argue, not much. Just because that sample story is widely recced doesn't necessarily correlate to popularity amongst other readers (although it probably does, but how do we tell? Comment numbers also aren't a reliable factor—invisible hit counters a friend of mine played with on her LJ bore this out). We also can't prove a negative: lack of wide reccing and/or commenting doesn't necessarily mean a story is unpopular amongst readers (or even that it's unloved by any given reccer who hasn't recced it).

SGA is the biggest fandom I've ever been an active participant in--not to mention the most livejournal-based and the *fastest*--and there's a certain intensity to it that I've not experienced before. I didn't think anything of it at first, but as I've been typing this, I've been wondering if that intensity is making this issue of "low profile" versus "highly recced" (or quality/popularity) seem more pronounced than it really is. Perhaps reccing always works this way, but I've never read widely enough before to see the holes.

In any case, the conclusion that I've come to is that the "over" representation of certain authors on rec lists probably has to do with brand-recognition, and the "under" representation of other work is probably largely due to time constraints, rather than any fannish norms and mores creating a quality/popularity skew. But this is really just as speculative as your theory, as I have no real proof to back it up with.

Thank you for your essay. I've very much enjoyed re-visiting this issue, especially now I'm no longer filled with academy-inspired bitterness.

Date: 2006-03-21 04:21 pm (UTC)
ext_841: (Default)
From: [identity profile] cathexys.livejournal.com
There's also another issue that I realized as i was reading some stuff recced on stargates rec or that I come across when reading crack_van or that *really* comes out in the storyfinder communities.

There are stories utterly beloved by large numbers of people that would never ever make it anywhere near the rec lists I read. Or, said differently, before I was part of any community, I would randomly search rec lists and discover that there were certain groups that were quite incestuous but not with one another.

Whivch, to me, all comes back to...yes *g* interpretive communities. Different people do not only have different interpretations of the text but also different expectations of what constitutes good writing. Last year SGA seemed to divide into cold pricklies and warm fuzzies and while there were many that crossed the line and with the influx of many, many more writers and fandoms, there still remains the ffnet/LJ dichotomy (and I'm clearly simplifying here b/c it's much more complicated and more nuanced, of course).

You and I were just sharing our love for melodrama, but for one reason or another we might not admit to that by reccing it in a public post. In fact, I have entire subfolders with comfort fic which hits my kink yet I'd never rec it. And yet there are people who own up to that love, who might either not acknowledge or be able to overlook the serious flaws or are just more honest than my pseudo-academic self :-)

So, if all the rec lists look alike, it might be because we've stayed within a self-selected interpretive community. Clearly, another group of people has very differnt criteria in what makes a good story..it's just that I may have filtered out their recs as i've filtered out their stories!!!

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From: [identity profile] cupidsbow.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-03-22 06:51 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-03-21 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harriet-spy.livejournal.com
What troubles me whenever I see this conversation occur in a fandom--and it occurs in every fandom--is the view of recommending that it implies. That is, it treats recommending as though it were some kind of collective process that the rest of fandom is somehow jointly responsible for, but the individual observer has no power over.

The fact is, there is nothing more individual than a rec. Even if she claims to make reference to objective standards of quality, the reccer can never speak for anything but her own assessment of the story. To treat this as a collective action problem is thus mistaken. Although she might be able to increase the overall volume of recs, the most community-minded, most beloved BNF can't get people to rec stories they don't actually care for.

If a fan feels that stories to her individual taste are not being recommended, there is exactly one thing she can do, and that is rec those stories herself. Spread the word about what strikes her, and she stands some chance of helping to mold fannish taste. Objecting to what other people rec simply can't accomplish anything. Even though I actually do feel that it wouldn't hurt if fannish taste in general were a little more diverse, I can't possibly expect anyone to rec a story that doesn't suit them just to advance that cause, because I wouldn't do the same. The responsibility, in the end, rests with the individual who loves the story; and if the individual really loves the story, normally she should be glad to share the love.

Date: 2006-03-22 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grey-bard.livejournal.com
Yes. If you like it, rec it. If we all do the same for the stories we love and are moved to talk about, how can that be wrong?

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] harriet-spy.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-03-26 08:20 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-03-22 09:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sheron.livejournal.com

I have some thoughts on this...

I think it's pretty simple. These people often have been known to write good stuff for SG-1 or other fandoms and therefore are trusted. Personally, I don't read unreced fic anymore (I used to be able to handle sifting through hundreds of fic to find that one gem but not anymore), and of course, people rec what they read, so if I were to rec (which i do rarely), my recs would naturally be a subset of someone else's recs.

I think with the popularity of fanfic these days, most people just can't handle the volumes of it so they concentrate on stuff and people they know. (Look at music/film industry, it's exactly the same trend, no matter how unfortunate.)

I'm merely trying to say that it's been heading that way for a while, and perhaps this is a natural course of evolution. Maybe eventually some kind of a wake up call will sound (sort of like P2P has been to the music industry) and the "indie" fanfic will become better read once more.

Date: 2006-03-22 11:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cupidsbow.livejournal.com
Ahahahaha! I *love* the idea of indie fanfic! Thank you :)

Date: 2006-03-22 03:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drlense.livejournal.com
I think you have some good points, but in my mind, the biggest problem I have with the popularity vs. quality argument is that it seems to take away free will, and assign me (and other readers) to some kind of lemming status, as though we can only like a story because some bnf recced it. It kind of leaves me with a bad feeling.

There are a lot of folks on this thread who already pointed out that a lot of the 'bnf' authors have those kind of reputations because they're actually good writers, who produce quality stuff that also manages to hit the kinks of a majority of readers. Not everyone is going to like everything, but I like to think things are popular because they have some intrinsic appeal or value to the majority of folks. I'm sure there are a few people who just follow the herd, but I like to think that I know my own mind enough to know what I like and what I don't.

As with any social group, people are comfortable with who they know. I don't think it's that crazy that someone who has years of friendships and writing in another fandom won't have the "blank slate" in a new fandom that a total n00b would- it would be like expecting Reagan to have the same name recognition as a congressman from a small state- (kind of a bad analogy). Is it unfair? Maybe.

As much as I hate the term 'bnf', it exists for a reason. There are folks that everyone seems to have on their friends list. Someone who has 700 eyes reading their lj is going to impress a lot of people with a rec, where a smaller, lesser known author won't get that kind of visibility. I can (and have) rec a fic, but with only 25 people reading my journal it's just not going to have the same impact.

I'm sort of rambling here, but I don't think this is an argument that specific to SGA, or even fandom. I could certainly talk for hours about books and authors and movies and tv shows that are really good, but don't seem to get as much attention as other shows.

Date: 2006-03-23 10:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cupidsbow.livejournal.com
books and authors and movies and tv shows that are really good, but don't seem to get as much attention as other shows

A good point. I guess I still think of fandom as a relatively small place, compared to the big pond of the mainstream, in which there's still some chance of getting an overall feel for what's going on. But now that I'm thinking about it, that's just plain wrong. Of course we use channels of selection for all our information!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] nymphaea1.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-03-24 03:17 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-03-24 07:09 pm (UTC)
ext_1246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] dossier.livejournal.com
Interesting discussion, and one that I'd been thinking about recently. During the first half season 1, it was almost impossible to find SGA stories of any decent length or quality, there were some that were long and I didn't agree with the authorial intent, or I liked and they were just not long enough.

But, given a few months and some authors who migrated in from other fandoms, the virtual explosion of the choices available has been *huge*. I went away for a little while from SGA and I came back to a cornucopia!

I virtually re-immersed myself in SGA fanfiction. I read everything I could lay my hands on, in many venues, and I noticed that many 'unknown' (to me) writers have their own fanbase, of people who enjoy their stories, consistently leave comments and rec each other, and that fanbase seems to be less objective in nature. Sometimes these groups overlap with others, sometimes they don't. The more palatable the story is to a larger audience, the more recs it gets; so I'm going to wobble into the 'yes I think they are related' camp.

However, by my own trolling and netting, I have found a few authors that I think are seriously under-considered, though I can see *why*--they posit ideas and scenarios that aren't particularly popular and might even be dark, and so for me they fall into the category of quality, not popular by dint of subject. Do they deserve more frequent consideration? Sure, but it's a bell curve--the risks they take make them less tasty to the population in general; not everyone wants to live on the edge, but a whole lot of readers will enjoy a whole lot of stories that fall into the popular rank.

I'm almost at the point where I'm tired of reading 100 stories that make me want to scratch my eyes out, in order to find those 6 gems, so I'm temporarily retreating to recs. I'll get tired of that after a while, and I'll dive back into the pool...

Re: Cont.

Date: 2006-03-25 05:11 am (UTC)
ext_841: (Default)
From: [identity profile] cathexys.livejournal.com
I'm really curious what you mean by megafandom. Coming out of HP which can eat SGA for breakfast and still have room for lunch and dinner, SGA is a good sized fandom to me, but not mega in any sense.

It's a little black dress in terms of TEXT, i.e., it accomodates a lot of different desires, het and gen and slash, buddy and ensemble, various types of dynamics from so same they just have to be together to snarky opposites, etc. etc. It is episodic and thus gives us sufficient room to tell longer narratives (as well as an incentive to do so since that's lacking on the show); it's fun but not so good that it suffocates creativity and so on...

In terms of fandom that means that there are differnt groups interested in different things...we bring our own lenses...and again it's the id thing. I totally love the warrior/scientist dynamic, so that's how I'll read the central pairing that invites this reading. And, at times, we then fit the pair to match our dynamic (see Daniel constantly getting demilitarized or the fanon complaint about Blair supposedly not holding a gun).

I'm still not sure why readingmore in smallre fandoms would be counterintuitive. It's supply and demand. If I can get 10 good and great McShep stories right here on the newsletter a day, I don't need to go out of my way to search other pairings or venues. Looking for Gil/Nick that's readable, I go through loads of painfully bad stuff and then expand into Gil/other characters to get my Gil fix... That seems the most intuitive thing to me...

In fact, if the fandom gets larger, we'll probably see more splits (like in HP where you can totally be happy reading nothing but future Harry/Draco or Remus/Sirius puppy love or...)

Re: Cont.

From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-03-25 08:19 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2006-05-23 06:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaizoku.livejournal.com
Interesting discussion - too bad I found it late. I wanted to add, since I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere in this thread, that sometimes quality writers get overlooked if they don't have a large body of work. There's exceptions, but I think most of the really popular writers are the ones who consistently produce new stories.
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