August 06, 2003

Fan-fiction is (generally speaking) art, and one of the signs of an art that still lives is a vigorous critical debate. Thinking anything less patronizes us. Should an adult be unable either to cope with criticism or to develop avoidance strategies (it's perfectly respectable to keep away from criticism if you know it won't be helpful to you as a writer!), then that person is not (yet) suited to showing her work in public. That's not the end of the world. (You don't have to be a writer to be a full contributor in fandom, and you don't have to publish your work to be a writer. We aren't all impoverished beyond compensation if someone chooses not to write, or to circulate her work privately!) That's the price of being able to have an adult discourse about our art.

Of course, you could say: we *don't* have an adult discourse about our art. We have a public milkbath, while isolated groups debate critical matters privately, where access is limited based on who knows whom, outsiders can't bring in fresh perspectives, the same matters are hashed out in different corners simultaneously rather wastefully, and creators can't learn from (through either accepting *or rejecting*) various critical judgments. And, I'd add, where *critics* can't learn from each other--little wonder there's so little useful criticism out there when the chief model of negative critique is the badfic site, which certainly can be amusing but doesn't offer much in the way of modelling how to separate personal reactions from aesthetic judgment, avoid the ad hominem, or work out broader consistent principles of criticism.

That would be a good point, but I don't think the solution is more milk in the bath. Maybe there is something of a disparity of expectations...but there'd be less of one if we actually faced the sometimes unpleasant consequences of taking ourselves seriously as writers. And if you *don't* take yourself seriously as a writer, why the hell do you care what some constipated jealous bastard on the Internet says about your work?

Posted by Sarah T. at August 6, 2003 05:26 PM | TrackBack
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