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Long time, first time.

Heya heya! I've been lurking here for about a year now, and this is actually my first post.

Someone on my friend's list linked me to this post by Cupid's Bow. Basically, she's writing about how she feels that the patriarchy is trying to keep female authors down, so that men can continue to dominate the market.

My first thought, honestly, was that this was complete bollocks: as soon as I think author, I'm more likely to think "female" than "male". Most of the books on my shelves are written by females, from the Harry Potter series to all the Agatha Christie books to Mary Burchell, a little known writer of romance (romance being a female-dominated industry, which I'm told represents about 50% of the American book market.)

Thinking about it, she might be right. Specifically the fields of Fantasy and Sci-Fi tend to be male-dominated, but these aren't the main genres I read, so I can't really comment.

She also posted two questions, however, which really got to me. And I quote:

Is the non-capitalist aspect of fanfiction actually a method of silencing the artistic voices of women? And does it take away what should be legitimate opportunities for us to earn an income from what we create?

The answer, as far as I can tell, is "no." No, no, no. The non-capitalistic aspect of fanfiction is not so that you womyn can be opressed, rather is it because fanfiction infringes on intellectual property rights, and thus trying to make money off it is illegal. Technically speaking, publishing it on the web at all is illegal, but most authors don't mind, as long as you don't try to make money from it.

Is it just me, or does this seem to be a case of someone trying to turn a non-feminist issue into "Help, help, we're being oppressed, we're being oppressed!"?

My friend has a rebuttal up here (that entry being what alerted me to the post in the first place.)

Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
hortensio
Apr. 27th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
but most authors don't mind, as long as you don't try to make money from it

By "most authors" of course we mean "excepting Ann Rice", who will send vampires after anyone who dareth publish anything touching her beloved Mary Sues.

'Course there -are- fanfics that make monies, which for some reason do (usually) tend to be written by women. Out-of-copyright stuff (there's plenty of Les Miz & Jane Austen junk out there, and it's purchaseable), as well as the infamous Lo's Diary, a lollicking read from Lolita's perspective. [There was fracas over that; I'm pretty sure Lolita is still in copyright.]

My views on copyright/intellectual property are at best medieval, so frankly I -do- think fanfiction should be marketable insofar as anyone will pay for it. Meh. While 99% of it is absolute junk, some is actually better than canon!

Incidentally: fanfic authors KNOW ahead of time and absolutely that they're not going to be paid for their work [well, within the copyrighted canons]. Yet somehow they write it anyway. People who want to be paid for what they write give the actual market a shot instead of/in addition to fanfiction. Oh noes! The patriarchy!

as soon as I think author

As soon as I think 'bestseller', though, I'm thinking 'Dan Brown' and looking around for weapons with which to cut off my head. The authors who tend to be -well known- current and consistent bestsellers tend to be guys.

Is it just me, or does this seem to be a case of someone trying to turn a non-feminist issue into "Help, help, we're being oppressed, we're being oppressed!"?

Well, in one way it -can- be indicative of something -- which is that WHY is fanfic so overwhelmingly the lovechild of females? What is it about society that keeps teenage girls writing such scary Sues? [And they are scary. I've heard that they're 'empowering', but their empowerment somehow tends towards looks and pairings. In fanfic. A sterile field.] What is it that keeps it overwhelmingly females that choose the comfortable, low-responsibility, derivative world where 'rejection' is at best a snarky review? I think there are things to be said here -- not all of them OMG PATRIARCHY HURTS WOMEN, btw.

But yeah, really, way to miss the whole point of copyright.

peterchayward
Apr. 27th, 2007 03:43 pm (UTC)
And yes, Lolita is still in copyright.
As soon as I think 'bestseller', though, I'm thinking 'Dan Brown'

Ah, yes. Dan Brown. My first thought was actually "JK Rowling", but now that I've thought about it for a bit longer, Steven King also springs to mind.

In my mind, writing is automatically a more feminine way of expressing creativity, along with singing, while acting, directing and painting seem much more male to me. Basically anything visual.

In Australia (where I'm from) it almost seems divided by age groups: Little kids authors are almost exclusively female, from Enid Blyton to JK Rowling to Emily Rodda. Possibly because it's a maternal quality, mothers telling stories to their children.

As soon as you get into teen and young adult fiction however, it's male-dominated, but this may be because that's the age where all the sci-fi and fantasy books come in.

I'm rambling now, so I'm going to get back to work. But it is making me thoughtful. Fanfiction might be a teenage girl dominated industry because at that point, the kind of guy they can get is a teenage male, and no one likes teenage males. So instead, they turn to fictional teenage males, who are always twenty times as hot. They're awkward, but it's in a cute way. And they're inevitably heroes.
darkmanifest
Apr. 27th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
What is it about society that keeps teenage girls writing such scary Sues?

When I was a kid, I mentally inserted my own female characters into every story I loved that didn't have enough girls that were interesting, aggressive, or as compelling as the starring male character(s). While the term "Gary Stu" does exist, such male characters seem to get away with it. Harry Potter, for example, is a hellish Gary Stu. I just want to smack him over and over. Male character icons, superpowered heroes with nary a moral qualm, seem rarely hit with the kind of heat that people seem to possess against their female counterparts.

What is it that keeps it overwhelmingly females that choose the comfortable, low-responsibility, derivative world where 'rejection' is at best a snarky review?

Why do you think it's comfortable and low-responsibility?
kenazfiction
Apr. 29th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)
What is it that keeps it overwhelmingly females that choose the comfortable, low-responsibility, derivative world where 'rejection' is at best a snarky review?

But really, what's so wrong about a 'comfortable, low-responsibility' world?

I have plenty of uncomfortable, high-responsibility choices to make in my professional real, and thus I prefer my hobbies to be the complete antithesis of that. I am not a professional writer, nor do I have any aspirations to become one.

The vast majority of fanfic writers write purely for fun, and perhaps because interacting within the fandom community is rewarding in and of itself. To that end, it's no different than someone who enjoys knitting scarves for friends and family, but isn't compelled to open their own "Boutique de Hande-Craftede Artes" :)

fizzyland
Apr. 27th, 2007 03:41 pm (UTC)
J.K. Rowlings is the world's first billionaire author. A lack of talent or writing in obscure genres is not an indicator that The Man is keeping you down.
peterchayward
Apr. 27th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
A billion is a lot of dollars.
Ah, so she is the wealthiest. That's what I thought, but I wasn't sure.
fizzyland
Apr. 27th, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC)
Re: A billion is a lot of dollars.
And considering that all her wealth is derived from one series of books(and the first few are as poorly written as any fan fic out there), it's impressive. Stephen King churns out 800 page novels every other week it seems and he's not even close. In fact, I'd almost bet that Anne Rice outstrips his income.
peterchayward
Apr. 27th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
Re: A billion is a lot of dollars.
One series of books!? That's just what the patriarchy wants you to believe, that she has "no other work of any value"! You must have forgotten about the hundreds of letters she's written, not to mention the books she must have read!
Re: A billion is a lot of dollars. - fizzyland - Apr. 27th, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
puf_almighty
Apr. 27th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
Yeah I basically agree with you. With the addition that fanfic is also not published, because it's mostly garbage. And people just turn randomly gay for no reason in fanfic. It's wank. It's hardly "authorship".

Guys write more fantasy and sci-fi, because guys read more fantasy and sci-fi. That's my bookshelf- encyclopedias, textbooks, and pretty extensive collections of weird anthropology (like The Golden Bough and The Key and also Jared Diamond's stuff) and then a ton of fantasy and sci-fi. I'm sure women read it as well, just, I doubt, in the same numbers.

This, I agree, is BOLLOCKS AND BALONEY.
(Deleted comment)
puf_almighty
Apr. 27th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely true, but I meant "for no plot reason".
(Deleted comment)
puf_almighty
Apr. 27th, 2007 09:35 pm (UTC)
See I was thinking of how offended I was by the Spock/Kirk and Xavier/Magneto homofabulousness. I mean come on that's not even sexy. They're old men!
kitashla
Apr. 27th, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Nothing hotter than M/M action. Provided the person in question can actually write good M/M. There are some REALLY bad slash writers out there.:)
skepticultist
Apr. 27th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
I love "The Golden Bough", truly fascinating book.

have you read Forbidden Archeology? You'd probably dig it. It was written by Vedic scientists and is an attempt to prove that mankind has existed for over one million years, but unlike most religiously-motivated science, they are very keen on keeping their science and religion seperate, and you'd hardly believe you were reading a book with a religious agenda if not for the foreword where they clearly state their bias and agenda. They even admit that their case for one million years is very, very weak.

But the case they make for 140,000 years? Rock solid research that is utterly compelling. For 500,000 years? Compelling but not convincing. Totally blows the 40,000 year figure out of the water.
puf_almighty
Apr. 27th, 2007 08:45 pm (UTC)
Like "mankind as homo-sapiens" or "mankind as spear-chucking innovators"?
skepticultist
Apr. 27th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
homo-sapiens
puf_almighty
Apr. 27th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
I think that's actually pretty agreed-upon. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens was about 500,000 years ago, as I'm led to understand it. 40k years ago is generally the date for "stopped being stupid and started making art and spears."
(no subject) - skepticultist - Apr. 27th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
chessdev
Apr. 27th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
The Golden Bough -- I haven't seen that in years!

In my early teens I used to read all kinds of paranormal/metaphysical stuff,
but haven't even thought about it until I saw the title in your comment.

puf_almighty
Apr. 27th, 2007 11:26 pm (UTC)
Isn't it a neat little bit? Totally undigestable in a single titanic sitting or even a month or two of dedicated reading, but you can just flip that open to any given page and learn something neat and interesting, any day.
estu_k_aftadai
Apr. 27th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, pretty much.
45degreeangel
Apr. 28th, 2007 01:16 am (UTC)
I think fan fiction is a great way to practice writing and getting a bit of publicity.

But if you want to make money, write your own stories. Expanding a non public domain universe only benefits the original creator.
skepticultist
Apr. 28th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
IAWTC
ovariancyst
Apr. 28th, 2007 02:06 am (UTC)
The original publisher of Rowling's first Harry Potter book requested that she use ambiguous initials rather than her real name (J.K. being the result) out of concerns that people would be reluctant to read a fantasy novel written by a woman. How legitimate that concern is up for debate I guess, but the concern does exist among publishers.
solvent90
Apr. 28th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
here from metafandom
the patriarchy is trying to keep female authors down, so that men can continue to dominate the market.

I think that's a misreading of her essay. As I read it, she's talking about the historical trend, in part, of women suppressing their own work and discussing whether some of the conventions of the fanfiction community are part of that trend. When she talks about "the non-deliberate, non-malicious sexism built into many of our organisational systems", I think part of that includes women's own ideas of themselves and their roles and their creativity? Trends towards anonymity and hiding. I think the bulk of the essay is addressed to that point; the extent to which women police their own silence, and how the fanfic community, by definition tending towards secrecy and hiding, might be part of that. I think. I'm not sure, it's a complex argument - but I do think your reading of it as "help, help, we're being oppressed" is an oversimplification.
(Deleted comment)
peterchayward
Apr. 29th, 2007 02:29 am (UTC)
But thanks for making a good point!
Yes, I realise this. I arguably write public domain fanfiction myself, as I'm currently working on a rewrite of the Wizard of Oz. But at no point in her essay does she mention public domain, and as the overwhelming majority of fanfiction IS of copyrighted material, I don't think it was an unreasonable assumption of mine. (especially since all the fic that cupid's bow writes is copyrighted material.)
(Deleted comment)
peterchayward
Apr. 29th, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
Re: But thanks for making a good point!
I really, really don't. :P

I'm at the stage where I've got a few pages of notes, but haven't even started writing yet. I'm thinking of doing it for Nano this year, actually.
(Deleted comment)
Re: But thanks for making a good point! - peterchayward - Apr. 29th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC) - Expand
klangley56
Apr. 29th, 2007 10:54 pm (UTC)
Little-known writer of romance
I don't have anything to contribute to the current discussion. I just wanted to say--Mary Burchell! There's a blast from the past. I still have half-a-dozen of her novels in my library. How weird to come across mention of her in a fannish LJ . . .
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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