Merlin Missy has been active in online fandom since 1994. She likes fanfics with plots and happy endings.View all articles by Merlin Missy
Dr. Merlin has recently had opportunity to speak with someone who asked about what it is like to be her, and she was put in mind of another conversation regarding life on the autism spectrum. To whit, living with autism or its cousin Asperger's Syndrome is akin to having moved to another country while very young and then spending the rest of one's life trying to figure out the odd customs everyone else takes for granted. It's trying to translate the words in one's head into English and know what to do in social situations. It's also the unspeakable hope that somewhere, there are other people who don't blink at wearing a duck on one's head at formal occasions.
So, it's like being a fan in many ways, is what I'm trying to say here.
True, waterfowl-related apparatus involved in fandom tends to be sparse, but the point is that as fans, we are not perceived as Normal People by the rest of the world. A blog post earlier this week at the
We are not considered to be Normal People, especially by anyone who styles him or herself a Normal Person. We're all wearing ducks on our heads, people. This is why it is unfortunate and a bit sad to look around our feathery little space and realize how often we criticize each other for wearing the wrong ducks.
Before we go further, I should clarify that I am not espousing the line of the Cult of Nice. Fandom has rightly navel-gazed that particular aspect of fannish interaction unto death. Complaining that people are "not being nice" silences discussions by hitting (primarily female) fans with the culturally-imposed dictate of "if you are assertive, you're a bitch." The Cult of Nice feeds on that, smacking anyone who disagrees or becomes (even justifiably) angry with the B-word.
This isn't about that.
This is about not being stupid. Arguing over the type of duck someone is wearing is stupid. Disliking someone because they like slash / het / gen / this pairing / that character / RPF / 'cest 'fics / J.K. Rowling / Cassie Clare / Fandom Wank / etc. looks from those standing outside our little world like disliking someone's duck. No one else cares.
This has come to my attention this week due to the experiences of a friend. Thanks to Livejournal's unfortunate reaction to this spring's Warriors For Idiocy fiasco, reporting journals (and MySpace pages, and Fanfiction.Net accounts) has been made even easier. My friend was reported for a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation (also see OCILLA) for posting a list of songs in her journal. Not links to songs, not links to a download site, not even links to YouTube.
Fandom enemies make fandom not fun, whether it's someone who tattles on you in retaliation, or someone who makes up sockpuppets and/or flames you anonymously. Some fans make a whole career of it. (Read if you dare the full story of The Many Faces of Ms. Scribe.) Fandom enemies can pop up for reasons as varied as political differences, 'ship preferences, or simple personality conflicts.
Pointing and laughing at people because they don't like the same 'ship you do? Dumb.
Flaming people? Dumb. Flaming people because they like a character you don't? Dumber.
Starting a smear campaign behind someone's back because you didn't like a post they made? Dumb.
Doing the above in order to get someone kicked out of a group you're in? Way dumb.
Fandom is hard, people. It shouldn't be. It should be the place where we all hang out with ducks on our heads and go, "OMG, you know how to quack too? I thought I was the only one!" It should be a decades-long party with chips and dip and music we like and feathers all over the place, and sure, they're going to get ruffled. But seriously? Work it out. Chat it out. And if you can't work it out, go into separate corners already. Save it for something important. (For example, the racism, sexism, and religious bias arguments? Important. The arguments over who Harry eventually marries? Not so much. Fun to discuss, certainly. Fun even to argue about. Not to flame.)
I'm not saying you have to be nice. I'm saying before you enjoy that bit of schadenfreude when your current fandom foe gets struck by a run of bad luck (something we all do), take a step back and ask yourself if you really want to be adding to the pain in someone else's life. Enjoy their bad day if you must, but again, heaping more onto them just makes you a jerk.
Short essay tonight, folks, sorry. I have to go feed my duck.
(As a bonus, please see the following poem on fandom harmony: "Slash Is Like Pants")