mjj (flemmings) wrote,

petronia and I get metafandomed on the same day. Looking at who else is there I'd say they must have been foraging through our end of the woods.

I was thinking the other night, after I went to bed (since alas I currently have no head-stories to tell myself after I go to bed) that one reason I don't like feedback on my fanfics is that it /will/ by god affect what I write in future. How can it not? These characters aren't mine. And I don't mean 'no they belong to Naninani-sensei' though of course they do. But in fandom we have an implicit agreement that we will play with Sensei's characters, all of us thieves/fans together.

Together. Which means the characters aren't mine, they're fandom's. Common property. I write as part of a group that writes about Sensei's characters. To treat them as totally my own is fun arrogantly to avoid the truth of the matter, which is that it probably wasn't I who first came up with the explanation of why Chara A behaves as he does here, or decided who Chara B wants to bonk, or even how he might go about it. Settei, you know- all the undecided details of a canon, all the possible interpretations of what canon there is. 'In my settei Gojou and Sanzou are doing it and Hakkai is jealous.' That's not my settei, of course. It's a bunch of Japanese djkas' and rather surprised me when I first read it.

Used to be, in my quiet gaijin anonymity, that I took a lot of settei details from doujinshika. (How supremely fortunate I was to learn fandom in Japan.) Now I get them more directly and very much as myself: talking to friends about the characters, friends' stories, friends' discussions in their blogs and ljs. It's a process, not a one-sided foraging for ideas. The things people say give me ideas for fics, or suggest a way of looking at the characters I'd never thought of, or even provide me with dialogue. Stuff that I could have sworn was all my own original (and brilliant, but natch) invention turns out, when I look again, to have been said by someone else first. The 'pale red' of Pipang that nojojojo complimented me on wasn't mine. It was mvrdrk's, and I'd forgotten it was until I reread her blog the other day.

For me fanwriting is an unconscious process of group give and take, going back to that oral culture model Henry Jenkins talks about: telling tales by the campfire, hearing someone else's embroidered version of the Hero's exploits, and then embroidering on the embroidery when it's your turn to tell the story. Others may differ- I know others do differ- but this gives me, at least, a certain sense of obligation to my fellow embroiderers and sources of inspiration. To the extent that if their view of what I've written and my view of it differ, I'm not always enough of a Solitary Divinely-Inspired ShelleyKeats'nByron Artist(tm) to say Well these are *my* characters and you're wrong. They're not my characters and you may well be right. (This is one of the things- my bank balance is another- that makes me different from JKR.)

Yes, yes- readerly interpretation always differs, and I can live with the fact that no-one reads the story I wrote. (If the semioticists were right, even *I* don't read the story I wrote. Life is tough. Deal.) But then I come to my next story. The weight of my little story-telling group's opinion is that X is so. I'm going to be a bit reluctant to write a story where X is not so. If a number of people including good friends tell me how much they liked quiet lonely Hakkai in my last fic, I'll feel a titch reluctant to write batshit insane Hakkai in my next one.

One often likes to please one's audience, of course, but in fandom I actually depend on my audience for something more than props. I don't care to put my sources off, basically. I like the feel of group inspiration- not just me but me and a bunch of other people forming the idea of this story- and I don't much like having to come up with it all by myself. There may indeed have been drawbacks to learning fandom in Japan. Group consensus matters and group expectations must be dealt with.

Which is why it's helpful if the group doesn't tell me in detail what it likes about the story I've written. I know that's an imposition on my readers, though surely not as great a one as Please *do* tell me what you loved about this story and tell me in glowing detail. I am large, I contain multitudes: of course I also want to be told in glowing detail what's wonderful about the fic. For that matter I often want to spend an evening immersed in alcohol: cocktails before dinner, bottle of wine with, couple of brandies after. The result of the latter is a TMI night and a blasted wasteland of a next day. So with detailed discussions. Nice at the time, but I regret it, and often bitterly, afterwards.

(Oh- negative feedback? Depends who it comes from. From people whose taste I trust it's useful. From people whose taste I may not even know, not so much. That's when I become the Byronic artist- 'my story and you just didn't get it.')
Tags: fandom, writing

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