Tags: essay

misc - pen

Roar for Powerful Words

A couple of days ago lauredhel tagged me for the Roar for Powerful Words meme:
The idea is to list three things the taggee believes are necessary for good, powerful writing; and then pass the award on to the five blogs they want to honour.

Talking about writing is something I find hard to resist, so of course I'm playing. But I have a tradition of not on-tagging with memes, so to those I mention, please don't feel obligated to do this meme if you don't wish to.

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Five Powerful Blogs

  • At the risk of seeming recursive, I find lauredhel an interesting blogger. Her posts are topical, link through to debates I might not otherwise have seen, and always have a point; she also does a good job of warning and cutting so that people can easily skim or read more deeply.

  • At ephemeral traces, Kristina Busse discusses fandom, academia, and women in a style that is personal but thoughtful and insightful.

  • thefourthvine writes the most wonderful reviews: funny and enticing, with a good amount of information salted through so that it's easy to choose what to read, and yet she manages it without major spoilers.

  • I very much enjoy paceus's essays on writing, word use, and fandom. They are rare but thought-provoking, and her emails are even better.

  • Science Made Cool by Dianne Kelly and James Cambias has pithy, fascinating, and sometimes gruesome science news. It's very easy to waste time on this site. :)

Okay, enough from me. If anyone decides to answer the meme -- and that includes anyone on my flist, even if I haven't explicitly mentioned you in this post -- please do come back and leave a link. I'd love to read your thoughts on what makes writing powerful.
misc - cupidsbow vidding

Valuing the Work in Fanwork

I've been meaning to post about the Organization for Transformative Works for a while now, and given that the website launched this week and has generated a lot of discussion, today seems like a good day.

OTW launch
If you haven't been following the launch, you can find the latest news at otw_news, specifically: Website and mission updates, December 2007 Newsletter, vol. 1 and OTW mentioned on Zuckerman's blog and Boing Boing. There's interesting discussion in the comments as well.

Commentary in response:


Once you've read through all of that, you'll see that a big part of the response is related to the perceived worth, or worthlessness, of fanwork.

I've been thinking about why people outside of fandom seem to fundamentally misunderstand what fanwork is about, and why fans value it. It's puzzled me that people can't see at least the hypothetical value of it, partly because it seems so obvious to me; but also because the negative responses are clearly complex and intertwined with other debates, like copyright, free speech, capitalism, homophobia, and gender just for a start. That complexity makes it hard to untangle where the message goes so wrong when fans try to explain. Then, just today, as I was reading a post by cathexys, I remembered that I used to think exactly the same way as non-fans: that fanfiction was "trash" and "unoriginal" and about "silly" topics like gay romance, and generally not good enough to be valuable.

*boggles at my younger self*

So how on earth did I find myself here? As far from that starting point as it's possible to get?

Well, it's been a long and twisty journey.

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misc - cupidsbow vidding

How to write long-form stories

How to write long-form stories by cupidsbow

Over the last few months, I've found myself replying to emails from several people on the topic of how to write long-form stories. Mostly this has involved critique of particular stories, but I've also given some general advice. As these query emails keep coming in, and as I have less and less time to reply, I figured it would make sense to post my advice publicly.

What follows is an overview of the main issues that people have problems with when they transition from short to long stories -- in fact, they were the things I had trouble with too (and still do, sometimes!).

These three things are:

  • how to turn a scene
  • how to use theme
  • the importance of re-writing.

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misc - cupidsbow vidding

Re: Mixing

Having finally found a formula that seems to work for remixing, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the process. I'm not big on prescriptive Do's and Don'ts, so I've written this more as a travelogue, looking at how I went about writing "Home Fires," which is the first remix I've been really pleased with as a story in its own right.

If you just want the quick version, here's the cheat sheet:
  • Ask yourself "What is this story about?" and then "How would I tell that story?" for each of the original stories you consider remixing.
  • Think of the original story as "canon" and riff off it the same way you would in any other fanfic.
  • Stay true to the spirit rather than the detail of the story.
  • Find a way to make it your own, so that you love it the way you love your own stories.

I've also hosted two discussion after the big multi-fandom remix_redux, which are chock full of good advice: 2007, 2006.

And now, on to "How to write a remix according to cupidsbow".

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misc - cupidsbow vidding

Women/Writing 2: That Classic Combination: Sex and Violence, by cupidsbow

That Classic Combination: Sex and Violence

an essay by cupidsbow


I wasn't planning on the second essay in this series to focus, once again, on Joanna Russ's feminist writing. However, in response to the events of Strikethrough07, there's been a discussion about fanfiction texts which explore the dark sides of sexuality, particularly through the themes of incest, pedophilia and rape. As I've just finished reading an essay by Russ in which she discusses exactly these issues, but with relation to feminist concerns about pornography rather than fanfiction, I thought it worth taking a look at what she has to say, especially as Russ takes a decidedly different approach to that of the binary split fandom has so far tended to take ("responsibility" versus "artistic freedom," to shorthand it).

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misc - cupidsbow vidding

Women/Writing 1: How Fanfiction Makes Us Poor, by cupidsbow

How Fanfiction Makes Us Poor

an essay by cupidsbow


"How fanfiction makes us poor" is a provocative title, isn't it? You might well be feeling a knee-jerk frisson of anger in response, which is pretty much the effect I was aiming for. Not because I want to start some huge wank-war about the commercialization of fanfiction, but because I've recently been reading a lot of feminist theory, and frankly it's felt kind of like being kicked in the head. Hard. As I want to discuss some of those reactions--why I had them, how they apply to me as a fan-writer and as a woman, how they might apply in a larger sense to the fanfiction community--I thought sharing something of that unsettling knee-jerk feeling would be a good place to start.

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misc - cupidsbow vidding

A Genderfuck Reader in SGA

Recently, I've been trying to explain to non-fanfiction readers that one of the most fascinating aspects of fanfiction is the way in which it exists as a giant meta-text, rather than lots of individual stories (although, of course, it is that too). It's hard to point to concrete examples of this back-and-forth conversation because, as you'd expect on the internet, the conversational threads are all so sprawling and ad-hoc. In the last few months, however, there's been a trend in "genderfuck" (people changing gender) stories in Stargate: Atlantis fandom, as well as a concentrated analysis of the politics of genderfuck. These stories and essays interrogate what it is to be gendered and often deal with issues such as misogyny, sexuality and identity to various degrees. The extraordinary cohesiveness of the theme allows me to put together a kind of "primer" foregrounding the inter-connectedness of these fannish texts.

The links below should be considered a starting point, rather than a definitive list. Genderfuck is a conversation which crosses fandom lines, as the theme has a long history; SGA is not the first fandom to use it, and many of the ideas articulated in SGA stories build on what has gone before. Likewise, the conversation is not yet over, and is branching out in new directions all the time.

Another thing to be aware of is that I'm privileging the texts I found most interesting, but they are just a sample: the tip of the proverbial iceburg.

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misc - cupidsbow vidding

The Return of the Mid-List?

I've been reading this fascinating book on how internet-based businesses might change the current "hit-based" sales model, ushering in a new age of infinite consumer choice. It's called The Long Tail by Chris Anderson (link goes through to a short article published in Wired that was a precursor to the book).

To summarise the main argument: if you no longer have to worry about paying a lot of rent on display-shelf space in a shop, but instead you have cheap warehouse storage and your customer interface is a website (with virtually unlimited, cheap display space), you can make profits from things that don't sell very many units per month--from niche markets, in other words. In fact, you can make as much, or more, from selling lots of little niche items as you can from a handful of the old-style "Best Sellers." This interests me as a writer, because I find many "Best Selling" novels and films to be bland and generic (as you'd expect, given that they're designed to appeal to as many people as possible). In the book, Anderson gives examples of profit ratios for businesses like Netflix, Amazon and iTunes to illustrate his point, showing that they make a third or more of their income from the niche sales. It's very convincing.

I don't know enough about business to see the flaws/weaknesses in the argument (I'm sure there are at least a few problem areas), but I'm definitely liking some of the flow-on implications.

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misc - cupidsbow vidding

John Sheppard: Blue Collar or Bastard?

While mainlining SGA (season one) over the weekend, I compared notes with a couple of friends on how we read John Sheppard. It was freaky and fascinating, because it turned out we had two wildly divergent versions of John--I'm talking quantum-mirror type differences here--and up until that point we had all thought we'd been talking about the same man.

Here's my take on the two versions, in broad strokes:

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And now I'm really curious. I'm wondering if there are other John Sheppards out there. Other really different Johns.

So tell me, what is your John like?


ETA: Whoa, over 80 comments! And such good comments too! It's gonna take me quite a while to answer in depth (stupid internet cafe prices limiting my fannish time!), although I'd like to clarify a few of my earlier points. In particular:

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Thank you all so much for taking the time to leave your thoughts. Feel free to continue the party, although I probably won't be online again until Thursday.