Tag Archives: fanfiction

Link Dump: #92

Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,” wrote Data of his cat Spot. “An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.” That’s right: this week’s kitty is the adorable tabby from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show I recently wrote about. The show’s cast members had wildly differing opinions about Spot, but I just love that spacefaring kitty. And now, links!

A few recent search terms: “mmm cunt,” “sensual asholes.dvd” (which I’m sorry to say cannot be purchased from this website), and “pelicula ratas gigantes asesinas,” which is Spanish for “giant killer rat movies.” Like The Food of the Gods, maybe?

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My gripe with Avatar fandom

Fandom, at times, can be a little frightening. I like to think about the psychological effects of mass media and the Internet; I spent part of last night reading about “online disinhibition effect” – a consequence of virtual anonymity that we’ve all observed, whether we’ve seen flamewars or trolls or insulting posts in online forums. Today I’ve been reading into the sometimes terrifying world of the newly-born Avatar fandom.

Now, fandom isn’t always negative; as I wrote about Trekkies, sometimes fans can band together to create bold, new works out of the preexisting substance of the franchise. Ashley and I both wrote mediocre fanfiction when we were younger (her about Harry Potter, myself about Digimon), and it helped us start writing. However, I have some issues with the massive Avatar following that’s sprung up online.

Now, I grant that this is an enormously popular, successful, profitable movie. Not an especially good one, as I noted in my review, but somewhat imaginative and extremely well-loved. But I feel like the explosive interest in Avatar, which includes multiple wikis, forums, blogs, etc., reveals additional problems with the movie: namely, it’s contrived in order to create a huge base of fans, so that maybe Avatars 2 and 3 can join the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time, too.

I mean, the movie’s purpose is to launch a franchise, to sell peripheral merchandise, to spread Avatar brand awareness through lunch boxes and stickers and whatever else you can cram into middle school lockers. It’s a fucking blockbuster – that was its mission, which is now very well accomplished. Yet intriguingly, and disturbingly, some people see it as a worthy cultural object to base their life around.

Through two lovely blogs, Geekologie and Ramblings of a Film Snob, I’ve recently learned about the worst of the worst amongst Avatar fans: those who get depressed because “the dream of Pandora [is] intangible,” as a CNN article informs me. Against my better judgment, I visited a forum called Naviblue.com, and glanced over some of the more egregious topics:

Coping with Avatar/Pandora Withdrawals
Why are people claiming that Avatar has a racist message
If your Avatar were to die…
What do you think avatar hidden message is
Real Life Na’vi Tribe (NOT on the Internet!)

Now, I know this is just par for the course in the age of the Internet. If there is some phenomenon – especially within the realm of fiction-world-based sci-fi – somebody’s going to obsess over it. There have always been nerds. What were alchemists but a kind of proto-nerd? But I think that the CNN story linked to above isn’t just pointless hysteria along the lines of “Video games and Marilyn Manson make our kids violent” stories of the past; I think it’s symptomatic of something greater, which possibly connects to online disinhibition effect.

I’ve expressed before an interest in child psychology – how children are sometimes incapable of distinguishing between fiction and reality, and how they process media differently. I wonder if these reactions to Avatar have to do with this kind of childlike perception. Hell, when I was 11-12, I desperately wanted the Harry Potter world to be real. I actually mused about how I’d be able to cast spells in heaven. You know why? I was a stupid 12-year-old, that’s why.

However, Live Journal user tireanavi, who writes “We Are Na’vi [Na’vi Reborn],” doesn’t look 12. Glancing hesitantly through their entries, it betrays a slightly frightening level of devotion to Avatar, as well as a connection to “Otherkin” culture, which I was heretofore unfamiliar with. I have to wonder, are they being serious when they ask, “do you have any memories of your life on Pandora? How clear are they, how detailed?” It reminds me in a way of Jack Chick’s “Dark Dungeons,” and the total disconnect from reality that Chick perceives in D&D users.

Now, I’m not just a “hater.” I have a genuine interest in exploring what’s psychologically behind these actions and claims. At a certain point, fandom does start entering into cult territory; I’m reminded of the stories of violence against Twilight haters (granted, that’s from a virulently anti-Twilight website). You’re an unhappy or desperate person, you find something to latch onto, and you defend it against any who object to it. The quality of the cultural object doesn’t matter: it’s yours, and you need it. Scary? Yes, I’d say so. I think of Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle, searching for any purpose, or of this very dark Onion article about desperate fandom.

I’m not really able to draw any conclusive answers here about the hows and whys, but I do think that the mentality being fostered in Avatar fans who dream of living on Pandora or being a Na’vi – even to the extreme of, to quote a forum user named Mike, “contemplat[ing] suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora” – is on the verge of cultlike. And I don’t think that’s a total coincidence. First of all, as I mentioned earlier, Avatar is basically prefabricated fan material. It’s designed to acquire fans; its universe isn’t all that organic or lived-in, but it does have a sufficient number of tiny details for fans to obsess over.

I think a great example is the Na’vi language. I’m not saying a lot of work didn’t go into it. But I think back to before Avatar was released, when a news story about artificial languages discussed Na’vi, saying it’d be the new Klingon, which is notorious for being spoken fluently by diehard Trekkies. And sure enough, Avatar fans are talking and writing in Na’vi; I suspect that this is done so that 1) they can equate themselves with film’s blue, in-tune-with-nature noble savages and 2) they can have a way of speaking that normal, uninitiated folks don’t use. Having a special vernacular is common amongst most fandoms (“muggle”?); Cameron, whose already swollen ego must be close to imploding, just accelerated the process.

So my central complaint is that with Avatar, the following just feels so built-in. While talking to Ashley recently, I compared it to the political practice of “astroturfing” – i.e., artificial grassroots. It’s barely been in theaters a month and already people think they’re reincarnated Na’vi, really? Maybe Cameron tapped into a big 21st century zeitgeist. Maybe it has something to do with growing up with Internet access. Or maybe Avatar isn’t so much a movie as it is a giant, well-oiled fan-acquiring machine.

In any case, now I think I really want to stop talking about goddamn Avatar, but I just wanted to express why it really bugged me. Because this “I saw Avatar and now I’m depressed” story isn’t at all a completely isolated, wacky, extreme case. Our generation is all about losing ourselves in unreality. A few years ago it was Second Life. Or World of Warcraft. And by and large, I don’t believe these types of attractions are good. I believe that works of art can and should improve our real lives, not act as substitutes. That’s what aggravated me about Avatar. And now I want to get back to works of art and my real life.

I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora

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Star Trek fanzines and sexual freedom

A few months ago, I briefly mentioned “The Ring of Soshern,” an early example of Kirk/Spock slashfiction. Since then, searching for “Ring of Soshern”-related information has led a number of intrepid netizens to this blog. Thus, I’ve decided to devote some time to talking about this story as well as Star Trek fandom in general. You see, growing up, one of my best friends was a self-described “Trekkie” (he identified me, with my lesser devotion to the franchise, as a “Trekker”). I think his enthusiasm has waned some since 5th grade, but my point is that I was exposed to a wealth of Trek-related phenomena in my formative years. Hell, I used to play a game that involved listing off TNG episode titles for fun. (Did I mention I was a weird kid?)

The point of this autobiographical detour is to say that I have some small experience in the world of fandom, which is sometimes funny, sometimes depressing, and other times enjoyable. And Star Trek fandom is one of the oldest, best-established realms of nerdiness. The original series (aka ST:TOS), in its original run, lasted only from 1966-69, but had a profound impact – eventually leading to a Trek resurgence in the form of a film series, 5 (and counting) additional TV shows, and a wealth of peripheral media, including countless novels.

Then there’s everything made by fans, and that’s where we find “The Ring of Soshern.” Unfortunately, I can’t find the story online. I’m not sure why it hasn’t made the jump to the Internet; you’d think that as a nonprofessional, pseudonymous, but highly sought-after work, it’d be easily accessible. And yet. I’ve discerned that it was first distributed via photocopies around 1976, so about 7 years after TOS ended. In her essay “Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Study of Popular Culture” (published in, among other places, Cultural Studies), Prof. Constance Penley of UC Santa Barbara describes “Soshern” as a “highly revered and imitated story.” In 1987, it was anthologized in Alien Brothers, a high-quality fanzine that collected K/S stories.

From there, however, I have no idea where “Soshern” is gone or how to find it. Tracking down a copy of Alien Brothers would probably be the next step. As Penley’s essay suggests, K/S slashfic, and slashfic in general, evokes some worthwhile questions about free speech, homoeroticism, and the subjectivity of female fans. E.g., issues of obscenity – since slashfic is usually just glorified porn – or, for Penley, whether Kirk and Spock, as portrayed, are intended to actually be homosexuals, or whether other psychosexual processes are at work here in the mind of the author.

Something else I find fascinating (as Mr. Spock would put it) is the aesthetic divergences that fanfics and fan artwork can take from the original material. For example, just glance over the covers depicted in this index of Trek fanzines dating from around 1970-2005. I’m a huge fan of zines in general, looking at the evolution of independently printed publications prior to the existence of the Internet, and so for me, these are just gold. Nowhere in the canon of Star Trek would you find a visual sensibility like those on the cover of Spockanalia 5, Precessional, Two-Dimensional Thinking, Nova Trek (by the editor of Alien Brothers), or Spock 61. It’s just beautiful.

I feel like these little discoveries should at least somewhat counteract the popular perception of diehard Star Trek fans as nerdy losers who resemble Comic Book Guy; instead, they’ve sometimes been revolutionaries in terms of creative independent press and sexual openness in amateur literature. Decades ago, they took material produced for commercial television and adapted it into something personal, prized, and different, a format through which they could explore freedom and desire. In short, they went where no one had gone before.

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More pretty soldiers than you can shake a wand at!

Are you ready for some straight up nostalgic awesomeness?

If watching that Toonami promo took you back and made you long for your youth, we’re in the same boat. I really shouldn’t be distracting myself from the AFP tarot design but well, I just watched all of Sailor Moon R (the second season) and it’s definitely on the brain. And seeing as I have a kind of recurring theme of exploring things from my childhood, it’s kind of fucked up that I haven’t even mentioned Sailor Moon yet. Because if there is one thing that affected my life more than any other book, show, or movie it is Sailor fucking Moon.

She will fuck your shit right up.

Now for all you folks who don’t really know much about Sailor Moon I’ll do a brief summary of the show and characters. Sailor Moon is a massive cash cow anime that, while definitely not the first of it’s kind, definitely popularized the Magical Girl type series. Like lots of animes it started out as a manga by Naoko Takeuchi in 1992. It was very quickly adapted into an anime, so quickly that the show and the manga ran concurrently (indeed, the entire Doom Tree  arc in the beginning of the second season is literally filler; Takeuchi had never planned to do more with Sailor Moon after the first season and the Ann and Alan [or An and Eiru] storyline was created so she would have time to catch up).   According to Wikipedia it made it’s debut here in the states on September 11th, 1995; fourteen years ago yesterday. Serena/Usagi Tsukino is a very annoying, whiny, irresponsible flake of a fourteen-year-old girl so of course she’s our main character. She and the other senshi (at first there’s just five, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus, later on there’s…many, many more) and two space cats and one rose-throwing pretty boy in a cape must fight evil forces (always in Japan of course) to save the world from being destroyed. It’s your very basic Magical Girl premise.

Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Venus, goddamn fucking Sailor Mini Moon, Sailor Pluto, Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, that angsty bitch Saturn and Artemis. I don't know why Luna isn't there, but whatever.

However. When I was a kid, this shit was hardcore and I felt deeply connected to these characters. That’s how it always is with the things we watched as children; we can watch it now as adults and see the shaky premise, not-so-great-messages, stupid characters, ridiculously convoluted plots, badly written dialogue, we see it all and laugh at it but when we were kids this was the shit. And to Sailor Moon’s credit much of it’s fucked upness was due to fucking DIC(k) butchering the shit out of it. I mean, I’ve watched the Japanese episodes and English episodes side by side and yeah, it still has a lot of problems but at least it made a little more sense. And at least the characters didn’t use trendy lingo like ‘da bomb’. Christ, that makes me cringe. But despite all of that I loved this show; every day at 4:00 pm I would watch it and to be honest even now as an adult while I’m laughing at how ridiculous most of it is there are still moments that I find very stirring or beautiful and they take me back to a very different place and time in my life.

But so that’s the show, I’ll probably get more into other characters and situations as I go on but that’s the gist of it. One of the first things I want to discuss is something that I thought about a great deal yesterday and that was the very disturbing parallel I saw between a major plot in the Black Moon arc and another, more current phenomena, Twilight.

Now I’ve never written about Twilight before even though I have some very strong feelings about it: I hate, it sucks, it sends fucked up messages to young girls, Edward is an abusive prick, Bella is a vapid, empty, dependent little crybaby and it upsets me greatly that someone’s poorly written sex fantasy  is a best-seller and that people think that just because it is a best-seller that that means it’s a good book. But I don’t want to get too deep into that right now. Now, during the Black Moon arc there is a very memorable storyline wherein Darien/Mamoru (the rose-throwing pretty boy, Tuxedo Mask and Serena’s college-aged boyfriend/future husband/past lover from when they were living on the moon. Yeah, it makes sense in context, sort of) has a recurring nightmare and in it a foreboding voice tells him that if he continues to see Serena she’ll die and it will jeopardize the future of their entire world. Yadda, yadda, yadda. And so…rather than, you know, talking to her about it he tells her that he doesn’t love her anymore and that he wants nothing to do with her. Man, he sure knows how to look out for a girl. And throughout like 10 fucking episodes we have to watch her be upset over all of it and him treat her like garbage in an attempt to make her stopping loving him. Trust me, it’s frustrating. I get really tired of the ‘guy must protect girl by creating distance so he just treats her like shit and/or leaves her without explanation’ story; it’s really old and stale and honestly, what person would actually act like this? It’s always seemed completely unrealistic and frustrating to me. And so, I was reading some of the comments on on of the episodes (that were just rife with misspellings and random capitalization; this is youtube we’re talking about) and I was surprised at the people who were defending Darien’s actions. And then I saw that one of these users was named TwilightGirl something or another and, okay, far be it from me to make assumptions about another person that I don’t know but come on.

True love...I guess...so says the plot.

And so I spent a little while thinking about it and, yeah. Yeah, there are a lot of similarities between Serena and Darien’s relationship and those two fuckers in that series. There’s very little build-up that gives credence to their supposed very deep and eternal love (I mean, Serena and Darien have a past life on their side but still: we only see them dance a few times and kiss while in the present the only relationship they had before discovering their past was an antagonistic one at best); they’re all pretty annoying characters; both females have a horrible, stereotypical tendency to fall apart when their boyfriends dump them; and both males think that it’s okay to treat your partner badly or do fucked up shit to them ‘because they love them’ and ‘they’re doing what’s best for them’.

Needless to say I was more than a little upset by these parallels. So I thought about it for a little as I continued watching more episodes and came to some conclusions. The first was that, hey, maybe there’s some hope for these Twilight lovers! I mean, Sailor Moon would sometimes send out some very weird, not-so-great messages and this entire storyline was one of them (and what bothers me is that seeing as it was the 90s they thought, HEY, gotta have an aesop and so every episode ended with a Sailor Says. And they would always pull like, the weirdest fucking one they could; it was always something that had very little to do with the plot itself or something that was trivial next to the issue they should have talked about. And it bothers me that in not one of these episodes did we have a Sailor Says about how it’s not okay for people to treat you this way) but I didn’t take away any harmful ideas or values from it. But then again, back then when we watched the show I don’t remember any of my friends swooning over Darien. We couldn’t believe what a jerk he was and didn’t understand why he didn’t just tell Serena about the dream. But these Twilighters act like Edward is the be all end all of maleness and it’s disturbing. At least Sailor Moon acknowledges in it’s own way that what Darien is doing is fucked up.

And also, I started growing out of Sailor Moon when I was like 13; there’s a website called twilightmoms.com. I shit you not. And another thing is that, this is an isolated incident as far as I know for Sailor Moon. Because despite being a kid’s show and having some pretty vapid characters most of them did show some kind of development and Serena was a prime example of this (in the manga more than the anime and in the Japanese version WAY more than the dub but still, it’s there); over time she grew into herself and her own responsibilities. Whereas Bella is…well….we’ll just call her Mary Sue. And then of course I thought about the sheer context in which these characters exist; despite being a whiny little brat Serena is still an ass-kicking heroine who takes down monsters in a weekly formula and has saved the fucking planet like 12 times. What have you done lately, Bella?  Her whole life is Edward and nothing else matters to her and uh, sorry but that’s fucking boring. Like seriously, think about your real life. Think about your female friends who the only subject they ever talk about is their boyfriend/husband/children and nothing else because they have no life outside of that. Now think about how much you can’t stand to spend time with that person. And if you are that person think about how none of your friends like to be at your house for very long. You know who you are. So seriously. Sailor Moon>Twilight.

And so beyond all that I want to talk more about how important this show was in shaping me into the person I now am. Because seriously, this was the gateway. Sailor Moon lead me in one way or another to almost all the things that were really important to me. First of all, anyone who knows this show knows how much it would appeal to a budding queer woman. Some of my first fantasies involved the characters from Sailor Moon. And it definitely helped that the show had it’s fair share of lesbian and gay characters (that they awkwardly tried to edit out by switching genders).

Or by making them "cousins". Yeah, okay, SURE, Dic, whatever.

All these strong, ass-kicking females, all those transformation scenes (which seriously, oh my God, one of Sailor Moon’s greatest failings is that it reuses the same chunks of animation over and over and over and the transformations were like this. When I was younger I loved all of them, every thing swirling around them and turning them into their alter egos; now as an adult I usually skip right through that shit. Seriously, it takes forever) it all invariably impacted my sexuality. My earliest experiences with the internet were on Sailor Moon websites and then ultimately reading Sailor Moon fan fiction. Yes, Sailor Moon lead me to fan fiction. And then to my first hentai fiction. I remember it so well even though I was like 11 at the time (why my parents let me on the internet unsupervised is beyond me):I was on some random Sailor Moon fan fiction site and I went to click on a story. In parenthesis next to the title it said ‘lemon’. Being at the time unfamiliar with fanfic lingo I had no idea what that meant and just read on. And was met with the delights of the first sex story I ever read. Clearly, thought 11 year old me, I must find more of these stories! And I did.

Now, while these kinds of stories eventually became my first masturbation material outside of my own thoughts (which is pretty fucking important in and of itself) for a long time I would just read these stories and get really turned on by them but I wouldn’t actually get off to them. But then that changed. And I had a revelation: why, I could write my own smutty Sailor Moon stories! And my God, were they fucking dirty. Part of me wishes I could find and read some of those stories; that was before I gave a shit about plot or character or any of that. Straight up Porn Without Plot. So Sailor Moon lead me to writing my first fanfic. Which anyone who knows me will tell you that writing fanfiction (first Sailor Moon, then DragonBall Z, then and perhaps most importantly Harry Potter: I am a geek of epic proportions and you should be jealous) was a humongous part of my life. And honestly my love for writing fanfic only died out a few years ago when I finally got tired of leeching off other people’s characters and settings (and then went into a year and a half long slump). But still; I did develop a lot as a writer during my fanfic years and it’s all very important to me. And Sailor Moon started it all.

It would take a very, very long time for me to go into the intricacies of how Sailor Moon has affected my life; this is just a small taste of it. Despite it’s many downfalls, I love this show, I always will and when I make fun of it I do it with a very strong sense of affection. And if you feel the same way about Sailor Moon you should watch the Sailor Moon Abridged series.

It parodies the series and all of it’s hilarious fucked upness with great fun and affection and I’m sure most fans will appreciate it. They just recently finished up the first series (that’s 40 episodes!) and you can find them all here. So, I’m probably going to watch the next season of Sailor Moon and who knows; I barely remember the SuperS season (for good reason some would say) and never actually watched Stars (since it never aired in this country) so I might just do that.

Because the manga is prettier than the anime.

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