amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)
Ammie ([personal profile] amielleon) wrote2015-12-10 07:56 pm

On Creation, Respect, Scholarship, and Dissent

I'm nursing a headache from work and I'm not in the mood to confront the particular person who brought this idea up this time, which might be as well, because it's not really about one person. I've heard of it popping up all across fandom and I suppose this just happens to be the first time I got to see it myself.

And that idea is this: "I worked very hard on producing these translations and poured my heart and soul into it, so don't you dare use them to make an argument I disapprove of. It's disrespectful, fuck off."

I don't think this is a stance that fandom can ever afford to take. I mean, I'm not going to say that any single person ought not to feel pissed off. You're allowed to feel pissed off about anything at all. But we cannot, as a culture, sanctify translations of official sources and prohibit their reuse.

(Obligatory "license and insurance" check: I've written a goddamn lot of fanfiction and ran a translation blog for about two years. During that time I translated three doujins (one of which was over 100 pages long), all of the FE13 Nintendo Dream comics, and I am currently helping with the Project Naga fanpatch for FE4. And yes, I've had people use my translations to criticize things I've liked.)

Here's the thing: If you want a lot of deep, thoughtful meta-filled fic in your fandom, you've got to let its writers talk to each other without being scared of saying what they really think. You know why there's a lot of FE8 fic that gives Eirika agency and attention? Because FE8 fandom has been criticizing its canon's misogyny for years. You want to know where MyCastle crackfic comes from? It draws off of all of the time I've spent ridiculing the MyCastle/MyRoom/second gen system with other people, often in the context of disparaging FE14 itself.

You want to know why I'm here writing FE fic right now? Because in 2011, I went on the budding kink meme and was annoyed at how other people were characterizing Soren. I threw myself into writing a fic which itself wasn't that great and never got finished. In the years since, I've written around 200k words of finished FE fic.

And then there's Joining of Worlds, the most well-received thing I have ever written. It took on the scope it did out of feelings of profound disappointment with FE14: disappointment with modern FEs' weak sense of worldbuilding, weak character work, fanservicey female characters, etc. It grew out of these intensely critical feelings toward the game as a whole.

These are feelings that writers need to have. These are thoughts that writers need to exchange with each other to further develop their understanding of canon. This is the shit that needs to be plowed into the fields of fandom to make them fertile with fic.

There are a number of attitudes that I think are toxic to this process, all of which involve sanctifying something such that it's placed above criticism. I think some of these attitudes coming from well-meaning places and I'm willing to acknowledge that.

But denying dissenters access to canon itself is absolutely crossing the line. What kind of message does that send? "If you don't agree with me, I'm not even going to let you know what's going on. Pretend you never saw it"?

And you may say, "But I don't mean fic writers wishing Camilla had more screen time. I mean these other acafen assholes who are just here to tear us down!"

The problem is that social norms, like the law, often end up being blunt instruments. Restricting citation of fan translations conveys a very strong message that free discussion is not welcome. Your socially anxious fandom friends are going to see these sentiments and think, "we must respect fan translators' wishes!! it is Important!! fan translators are precious cinnamon buns and i do not want to alienate them... i guess i won't say what i thought about this support since i didn't really like it...."

A piece of meta probably died in that moment.

And you might say, "But I don't want this person's fic that's critical of my favorite character, I want this other person's adorable fluff where my OTP shares a bathtub."

But creative communities don't work like that. Writers are not singular entities vomiting out the pure unadulterated contents of their soul. Writers need to have discussions with each other. Writers need to argue. Writers need to have rivals whom they desperately want to prove wrong. Writers need to have popular ships that annoy them into fighting back with fic for their own OTP. And writers need to feel secure enough to vomit out the contents of their soul.

That's not going to happen if we uphold an atmosphere where people are being told that dissent means they don't even have a right to access canon itself.

There's a lot that could probably be said about this topic. Personally I think it is really important to allow reproduction for scholarship purposes, including literary criticism (hence why it's just about always part of Fair Use in copyright law). I think it is also important to recognize that fan translation for which there is no official equivalent to date is a critical source of information, and Freedom of information is important to the intellectual health of any community. And you may or may not agree with that.

But at the very least, please recognize that these attitudes are toxic to the creative output of the fandom for the work you hold so dear.



ETA: I was informed by a mutual fandom acquaintance of more context about the original post in question and I feel reluctant to make a Big Deal out of it now, so I took down the link on tumblr to this post. But I'm keeping this here in case anyone wants it.

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