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“What’s your favorite thing (or things) about webcomics as a medium?” December 7, 2018

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…is what umadoshi wanted to know about, so I’m gonna come at it from both sides.

As a reader: my favorite thing is that there’s such a low barrier to entry. I get to read comics by people who would never be accepted by publishers because the content is too niche (which used to include “too gay”, although fortunately that’s changing). Or because the creator doesn’t know the right people, and networking takes stamina/skills, which don’t automatically come with being a good artist.

Or even because the comic is genuinely Not That Great. Sometimes those are fun anyway! And having them online gives the artist the motivation to keep working, and then you can watch them get great in realtime.

The main tradeoff is that the flake-out rate is high, but you’re not immune from that in any medium. (“George R.R. Martin, please write and write faster…”)

And on balance it doesn’t get me down. Definitely not enough to stop me from checking out new strips. I’m just impressed at how many people are dedicated enough to keep them up at all for no money, or for “some money, but it sure doesn’t pay the rent.” (*cough*here is a Patreon*cough*)

As a creator: going back to this line I loved from the ComicLab podcast, “Cartooning has this wonderful ability to let you be a super-performative public isolationist.”

So, listen, sometimes I have your standard “being a famous public performer” daydreams. Like, a song will come up on shuffle and I’ll flash to the idea of me singing it on stage, got the perfect dance routine to go with, the crowd is Swept Up with Amazement and Awe and so on.

But the idea of doing anything like that in reality is horrifying. Crashes up against the problems that I’m not a good singer and don’t have any dance training and hate addressing crowds and get generally nervous about doing things live.

So I make comics — and people still follow along, get engaged, post theories and compliments and so on — but I get to sit behind it, so the art is what people are interacting with, and I never have to get directly involved unless I want to.

You don’t even need to talk to anyone to get started! Sure, there are collaborations and anthologies and application-based collectives, there are specific levels that you need to make connections to enter. But in general? Free webcomic-centric hosting platforms have existed for my entire Internet life. Fill out the automated signup form and you can just go.

(December talking meme.)

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The Good Place, the Boy George principle, and the fallacy of the Doctor Problem December 2, 2018

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So I’m rewatching The Good Place s2 with my aunt. Simultaneously enjoying The Good Place: The Podcast (which is great but spoileriffic, so don’t pair it with your first watch).

I’ve watched s1 about four times by now, because it’s the kind of show where it’s really good to vicariously enjoy someone else’s first watch. This is my first revisit of s2, though.

And I’ve gotta vent about the Trolley Problem.

Quick summary for anyone who’s missed it: the Trolley Problem is a classic thought experiment. You’re driving a trolley, and the brakes fail. As it’s speeding down the track, you see five people on the track ahead of you. (They’re stuck. Maybe they’re tied down, Snidely Whiplash style?) There’s a switch coming up, so if you act quick, you can steer the trolley onto an alternate track — but there’s one person stuck on that track.

Is it morally better to let five people die through inaction, or to save the five by actively killing one person?

There’s a great episode of Mind Field on YouTube that makes people think they’re really in this situation (using an “experimental remote train-driving system” and non-live footage of people on tracks) and tests their results. With bonus meta-layer of how the experimenters avoided inflicting unethical levels of trauma on their unwitting subjects.

Everything is fine / Everyone is safe

(Parallels!)

So in the show, moral philosophy professor Chidi explains all of this. His students and fellow-torturees conclude that you gotta hit the switch. Chidi says, good, but there are other versions of this — like “Let’s say you’re a doctor, and you can save five patients. But you have to kill one healthy person and use his organs to do it.”

It’s not the same thing, and the others say so, but when Chidi asks why, they can’t articulate a reason. Later, when Chidi himself gets confronted with the Doctor Problem, he says “I won’t do it, because of the Hippocratic Oath.” But he, too, can’t articulate the moral foundation for why that works out.

Which is very in-character for Chidi. Any time something is declared an unshakeable moral absolute, he gets stuck on it. And none of the others have thought about the topic enough to go there.

So I’m gonna.

What makes the Trolley Problem work is, it’s so stripped-down. Short timeframe, very few variables, no room for complicating factors or alternate options.

There’s another alternate version which goes “you’re standing on the sidelines watching, and you can stop the train from running over 5 people down the line by pushing 1 person in front of it now.” Small change, but it still destroys the setup. Even if we accept the dicey premise (“this will definitely stop the train, it won’t just result in the train running over 6 people”), why can’t you push literally anything else in front of the train? “But the only thing in reach is this other person–” –yeah, and you.

There’s no third option in Trolley Problem Original Flavor. Much less a self-sacrifice option — which introduces a level of self-interest that unbalances the whole thing.

So when you get to the Doctor Problem, there’s not just a third option, there are billions of options. There’s none of the immediacy of “people who are stuck on the tracks in front of you right now.” Lots of people need organs. Even more people have organs. (Including you, the person considering the problem.) How do you fill the slots of the 5 and the 1?

There’s a few immutable conditions that narrow it down a little. Blood types have to be compatible, for instance. But that just means you’re down to 3 billion instead of 7 billion. Not real helpful.

About the 5 recipients: “Hit by a train in the next 30 seconds” versus “not hit by a train in the next 30 seconds” is extremely binary. Surgery…is not. Say you have a bad heart. Maybe you don’t get a new one, but you live another 30 years with medication and a strict diet and a careful lifestyle. Maybe you do get a new one, but the transplant itself is what kills you, through a bad rejection or an opportunistic infection or the basic risk of anesthesia.

…can you tell I’ve been watching a lot of medical dramas recently?

So you’d have to do a ton of evaluation, aimed at coming up with 5 people who have the best chance of getting the most substantial benefit out of this surgery.

About the 1 unwilling donor: you have to do a ton of evaluation there, too. Gotta be someone whose organs are all in good condition. Gotta be someone who’s healthy in other ways, so the recipients don’t just die of pneumonia the week after. And there are other practical concerns. What if the best candidate is someone who has to be flown in from another continent? Is it even worth testing people on other continents? If you test just your local city and find someone workable, is there a substantial benefit to testing for someone slightly-better in the next city over?

I could go on. There’s a lot.

But the real point here isn’t to actually consider these questions.

The real point is: if you give people the power to make this choice, they won’t bother answering all the questions.

What they will do is: designate people from “undesirable” groups as the donors, designate people from socially-powerful groups as the recipients, and, if asked to justify it, bring up only the details that happen to align with that particular choice.

History is littered with examples of — not organ-donation specifically, but this general flavor of human failing, being put into action. Infecting prisoners with malaria at Stateville Penitentiary, infecting disabled children of financially-stressed parents with hepatitis at Willowbrook State School, withholding treatment from poor black men with syphilis in the Tuskegee Institute study, verbally abusing orphan children in the Monster Study, exposing poor prisoners to massive radiation in the Washington and Oregon Reproductive Radiation Tests, deliberately infecting Guatemalan citizens including poor women and mental patients in the Guatemala syphilis experiment, giving poor pregnant women radioactive drinks at Vanderbilt University…to say nothing of the whole horror-shows of experiments done on prisoners — mostly political opponents and/or demonized minority ethnic groups — by the Nazis, Unit 731 in Japan, the Soviet Union, North Korea….

There would’ve been no shortage of “the people behind this are definitely in the Bad Place” references on this topic, is what I’m saying.

So this whole thing is a situation where “is this concept, considered on a pure objective level, ethical?” has a prerequisite, which is “can humans, in the real world, handle this objectively?”

And the answer is, good lord no.

Which is why nobody gets to designate who’ll be an organ donor except the donor. Full stop. (With recipients, there has to be some designating — so we have transplant lists and review boards and a whole bunch of safeguards, trying to keep things as objective as possible.)

The general principle of “seriously, on a practical level, can you trust real people to handle this?” has other applications, too.

Take the death penalty. Are there people that I think the world would be objectively better without — so much that it would be ethical to kill them? Honestly, yes. Do I think human society can be trusted to accurately identify those people? Good lord no.

(The Innocence Project has exonerated at least 20 people who were on death row, dozens more have been found innocent for other reasons, sometimes it’s only come to light after the person was killed — and, listen, I don’t have to tell you that in the US the death penalty is disproportionately applied to people who are black, poor, and/or mentally disabled, right? Right.)

…if I was the first person to articulate all this, I’d call it the Boy George principle, in honor of his immortal lyric “people are stupid.”

But it’s gotta have a proper term in Moral Philosophy Academia already, right? Comment and tell me if you know one.

Anyway, [the Boy George principle] is why the Doctor Problem has a different answer than the Trolley Problem.

Vent over. As they say on TGPTP: go do something good.

(December talking meme.)

It’s that time of year again… December 1, 2018

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…time to go through my Active Webcomic Reading List and clear out (mostly) everything that hasn’t updated since 2017.

If it petered out mid-storyline and there’s a fair chance it might update again someday, it gets punted to a different tracking service, so if any of them revive I’ll find out through checking one page every few months. If it actually came to a planned end (!!), it goes on my Completed Webcomics Reclist.

The depressing takeaway for this year is how many promising sapphic comics (for lack of a better term) have fallen by the wayside. Weird Sisters, Acethexis, Sundaze, Velox, Phoenix Flair…Sylvania isn’t even loading, although I’m hoping that’s a temporary server problem.

On the bright side, congratulations to Zebra Girl for coming to an actual proper finish after 18 years! (There’s an omnibus I’m gonna have to pick up.) And it’s so nice to see 95 Gallons reuploaded in readable form.

Aaaand with that, the list is down from 126 to 106! Not counting the handful I follow on other sites because the ComicRocket listings haven’t worked in ages.

…which sounds like a lot to manage, but most of the archives are either very slow, or very readable. Last week I tore through a year’s worth of Schlock Mercenary in an afternoon. (Role model, tbh.)

(December talking meme)

December Talking Meme November 30, 2018

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Pick a day! Give me a topic! I will write at least 100 words about it.

Nabbed from muccamukk.

* * Full list of dates & prompts here! * *

Who would you say is the most well-known lesbian/gay/bi character in modern pop culture? March 5, 2018

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…and you can assume that includes all possible synonyms for “bi” that I didn’t try to cram in the title.

As a separate question, who would you say is the most well-known trans character in modern pop culture? Is that even a meaningful category at this point?

(ETA: “character” means “character”, not “real person.”)

I’m not going to do anything in particular with the answers, I’m just curious.

Review – Every Heart A Doorway September 6, 2017

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There was a ton of buzz going around about this book not long ago, and understandably, given the amazing premise. A boarding school to accommodate all those kids who have wandered off into magical fairylands for a while, and help re-acclimatize them to reality? So much possibility.

Guys, it…it really squandered the premise.

After a promising setup, Every Heart A Doorway turns into “a fairly gruesome murder mystery at a school for kids with weird/magic abilities.”

They don’t actually have any scenes of the kids in classes, much less any “here’s how to deal with reality” sequences. It’s insular, almost claustrophobic — the characters never leave the school. There’s no mention of phones, Internet, pop culture, anything connected to the Real World they’re supposed to be reintegrating with. Early on one of the characters mentions looking something up on Google Images before she arrived, but if it wasn’t for that reference, this could’ve taken place any time in the past hundred years.

When the gruesome murders start, there’s no police investigation, no real-world forensics, no “here’s how crimes are solved in a world without magic.” Even the adult authorities at the school, who are In On The Secret, don’t manage the situation at all. It’s just…left to the teenagers to solve on their own, with the residual supernatural talents they have from their fantasylands.

(How great would it have been to have the cops show up with all their mundane nonmagical expectations, and the teachers run interference, and it takes their combined efforts to make progress? Better yet, what if the investigative team included a former student, who could handle both aspects of the case at once?)

Without spoiling any specifics, by the end of the book, it doesn’t support the idea that “learning to be part of the world you’re in” is a worthwhile goal in the first place.

This in spite of the fact that some of the kids’ fairyland-developed coping mechanisms…do not seem healthy. I don’t mean “sensible by fairyland rules but maladapted to our-world rules,” I mean generally unhealthy.

You know what series handles this really well? Star Versus The Forces Of Evil. The heroine in this case is native to magicland, studying abroad on Earth, and the show does a lovely job of exploring the nuances from “Star learns that this behavior isn’t culturally appropriate for Earth” to “Star learns that this behavior is uncool anywhere.”

And I’ve loved fanfic that explores post-magic-journey culture shock. The Pevensies struggling to balance “solving problems by breaking out our mad skills as former-adult Kings and Queens of Narnia” with “not freaking out everyone around us.” Lyra and Pan having to remember to stay close together. Dorothy getting so much cross-cultural experience so young that, after a certain point, she can drop into pretty much any world and have no trouble going with the flow.

The students in Every Heart A Doorway don’t get any “here’s how to codeswitch to Earth-appropriate behaviors” or “wow, you’re interacting with regular Earth culture really well already” or “this isn’t good at all, let’s learn and grow and develop as characters.” They stay in their insulated setting with all the patterns they learned in other worlds going pretty much unexamined.

So much potential material here! So painfully unexplored!

~*~

People were also talking a lot, when the initial buzz was going around, about book’s the asexual protagonist.

Again: cool in theory! In practice, all it seems to mean is that her narration keeps doing unnecessary and shoehorned-in detours about how totally uninterested in sex she is.

The first time it came up was fine. Awkward, but forgivable. The rest, not so much. There’s a scene where she’s having a friendly conversation, and suddenly goes into an internal monologue about how she’s flirting, and this is fun, but she’s totally uninterested in having sex with the people she flirts with. It’s like she’s jumping in to correct an assumption that the reader isn’t making — I hadn’t even realized she was supposed to be flirting in the first place.

The scene that struck me the most is: she’s admiring the beauty of a male classmate, and thinks all the other girls around her must feel the same, “although she was sure she was the only one whose attraction was aesthetic, not romantic.”

First point: the character is not aromantic. (She says so. In those words.) It’s possible to feel romantic attraction in general, and not specifically feel it toward this guy. For her. But…not for literally anyone else?

Second point: why does she think there are no lesbians at this school? Why doesn’t it occur to her that some people are aromantic? Why does she show zero awareness that even straight girls (and bi/pan girls, although I’m not sure she realizes those exist either) don’t have to feel attracted to every boy in existence?

Is she just supposed to be really blinkered and self-centered, as a character flaw? Maybe, but I never felt like the narrative saw her that way.

Is it a “the lady doth protest too much” situation, where she is falling in love with the guy, and is aggressively denying/projecting to avoid facing the idea? Also possible, but has Unfortunate Implications for the way her asexuality is established by repeating “and she totally wasn’t sexually attracted to people, nope, not at all.”

~*~

The book is really weird about gender. Most of the students are girls (a couple hundred of them, to a grand total of 5 boys), and this is explained as a result of socialization and sexism and boys not wandering off as easily without getting noticed.

Which…doesn’t track with the genre it’s supposed to be commenting on. At all.

For every Lucy and Susan, there’s a Peter and Edmund. For every Alice through the looking-glass, there’s a Milo in a phantom tollbooth. Wendy Darling disappeared with both of her brothers in tow, and that’s not even counting Peter and the Lost Boys. Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, and Trot are balanced out by Button-Bright and Zeb. Lyra had her Will. I could go on.

On top of that, this main group of characters ends up including 2 of the boys (along with maybe 4 girls).

Why establish a mostly-female setting if you’re then going to overrepresent the male characters that dramatically? Why not just have a roughly-gender-balanced school in the first place?

And it manages to wring a heck of a lot of heterosexuality out of this casting. Every major female character mentions having a male love interest in whatever fantasy world she wandered into. One of the boys basically wandered into Halloweentown and had a romance with a skeleton…very specifically a girl skeleton. I already mentioned the ace girl’s weird obliviousness to the possibility of gay people. And the only flirting we see between students is m/f.

The aforementioned super-beautiful boy is trans. Which is nice! And the subject is handled more naturally than the asexuality. Doubly nice.

But in some ways that only makes the broader context weirder. If there’s a setting where nobody is explicitly LGBT, it’s easy to read that as “underneath the veneer of everyone politely ignoring the topic, people are still LGBT at the average rate.”

Here, the author wants to have explicit representation! But it’s like…she made one of her boys trans, and one of her girls ace, and then just…stopped. Without considering the idea of LGBT people existing generally. In background characters. In sidelong references. In the concept of female characters other than the heroine who aren’t into a hot guy.

~*~

At least it was short? I blew through the whole audiobook in a single work day, so the disappointing aspects weren’t dragged out for long.

But seriously, there were a lot of disappointments. And now I’m worried there are people writing better versions of the premise but getting shot down as ripoffs, or getting publishing deals but no hype because all the “what a cool, unusual premise!” posts have been done.

…Does anyone have recs? I’ll also take recs for your favorite culture-shock fics of existing portal-fantasy series. Anything that takes this books’ premise and actually, wholeheartedly, runs with it.

Akemi Homura wields the Shield of Rassilon July 28, 2017

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Madoka Magica features a ton of references and/or obvious influences from other magical-girl series. This bit, I would lay good odds, is a Doctor Who reference.

Here’s some production art of the Seal of Rassilon:

Seal of Rassilon

Here’s Homura with her shield:

Homura and shield

And here they are side-by-side. Either someone on the Madoka design team was a Who fan, or that’s a heck of a coincidence. (The Coincidence of Rassilon, perhaps.)

Seal and shield

A fakenews fandom LJ history June 8, 2017

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I got asked a thing about Daily Show/Colbert Report fandom history, and ended up typing a couple hundred words. Figured I’d repost it here, for anyone else who came in late and wants backstory.

In the beginning, before the Daily Show had any spinoffs, there was just tds_rps. Then the Colbert Report came along in 2005, and people started using “fake news” to refer to both shows together, in contrast to “real news” for the fans who wrote RPF about news anchors.

At that time Livejournal didn’t let you have tags on posts at all. When the option was introduced, that was one of the motivations for creating the fakenews_fanfic community — to create a place that had comprehensive tags from the beginning.

Anyone can start a new LJ comm, so they weren’t centralized or organized in any logical way. If someone felt like there was a need that wasn’t being filled by the existing comms, they would make one. Like, for a while tds_rps was joined by tcr_fps, which was open to Report-specific fics. It had such a narrow focus, there was argument about whether Jon/”Stephen” fics should be allowed — because even though “Stephen” the character was in them, Jon wasn’t a fictional character, he was just himself.

You can see why a community like that would get a limited amount of traffic. People who liked writing “Stephen” fic usually also liked writing about Jon. And a lot of them liked writing about Stephen-the-actor too, and there was heavy crossover with fans of news RPF, and fans of Strangers With Candy (the comedy Stephen co-created, where he played a character who was a lot like “Stephen,” and the sense of humor was very similar), and so on and so forth….

So one of the reasons fakenews_fanfic rose to be the main fandom community was that it had a broad focus. People could post all their fake-news-related fic in the same place. Not every reader had exactly the same interests, but there was enough overlap that everyone would be interested in most of the fic posted. And the tags meant it was easy to go through and find exactly the things you liked.

For a long time there wasn’t a single kink meme, just people making “put your kink prompts here” posts in their personal journals. Eventually someone decided to be more organized, and created a dedicated community for it. I don’t actually know who! It was a personal project, not the official creation of any other community.

Fills from all the separate kink posts are bookmarked and tagged in one place. (I do know who handled that, because it was me.)

In which I have a lot of thoughts about Michiru March 7, 2017

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All caught up with the Sailor Business podcast. They get better about doing research as it goes on! Plus, by now they have a large-enough listener base that a lot of solid, deep information is being called/sent in. Good stuff. Very listenable.

Followed a rec from one of their episodes to the Love and Justice podcast, where the shtick is that they compare plots across all the different versions. Starting with the Crystal episodes.

I did wince when they got to Ami’s introduction, and were confused that the manga was “more modern” than the ’92 anime, because she uses a CD instead of a floppy. Guys, your whole thing is comparing different versions, and you don’t realize the manga had two different releases? (Well, three at this point, but the uber-high-quality edition hasn’t been released stateside.) The version used for the Kodansha translations has a whole lot of updated art, most of which involves fixing wonky figures and adding more details, some of which involves the Dark Kingdom tech getting an upgrade.

Again, it’s still early episodes, and fun enough that I’m sticking with it. Hopefully someone eventually clues them in.

***

I ended up writing a long thing to Sailor Business, because they’ve been really doing a disservice to Michiru’s character. And apparently I have a lot more Feelings about her than I realized.

Context: They just passed the two-parter where Usagi is a daimon target. Before Uranus and Neptune arrive on-scene, Michiru asks Haruka if she’s really okay with the possibility of that cute girl being sacrificed. Haruka, stoically, insists that she’s fine. They gotta do what they gotta do.

…So our hosts keep saying Michiru is “passive” or “go along to get along.” Because Haruka is the more overtly loud and confrontational one…and that means Michiru is just following her lead, taking cues from her.

But now they’ve seen Michiru’s episode with Ami — she didn’t waver or wait for direction, she went straight for the jugular. And that’s a microcosm of how she’s approaching the whole quest: do something ruthless and cruel in the short term (pulling no punches with Ami/killing the Talisman holders) for the sake of a greater good in the long term (making Ami stronger/saving the world).

There’s an old butch-femme trope/cliche, that femmes are “steel wrapped in velvet,” and that’s Michiru. On the surface she’s all soft graceful feminine hobbies, but underneath she’s perfectly capable of knifing you in your sleep.

The flip side of the trope is that butches are “velvet wrapped in steel,” i.e. Haruka has a tough exterior but is a marshmallow underneath. Which lines right up with the podcast’s favorite relationship trope — “which of these people is the dog, and which is the cat?” Haruka is the dog! She barks really loud, but she’s a sucker for belly rubs. She yells a lot about how they have to kill the Talisman holders, to cover the fact that she’s the one who wrestles with it most in private.

Michiru handles the idea much better. Michiru is the cat who will knock all your stuff onto the floor, and look you in the eye while she’s doing it, with zero remorse. Michiru is the senshi who would win Most Likely To Become A Supervillain — not from brainwashing/hypnosis, we already know who’s most likely to go through that, but based on her own personality and for her own reasons.

So when Michiru asks Haruka if she’s okay with killing that cute innocent Usagi to save the world, there are two things going on here.

First is basically a supervillainy spot-check. Michiru knows it makes sense to her to kill a few people for the Greater Good, but is that really the moral strategy, or just the most coldly efficient one? Well, Haruka wouldn’t be capable of doing this for the sake of cold efficiency alone. So Michiru can reliably calibrate her moral compass by Haruka.

The second angle is Michiru being a concerned girlfriend. What if they get the Talismans and save the world, but afterward Haruka can’t handle the guilt? What if she has lifelong nightmares about Usagi’s death?

We don’t see what would have happened if Haruka had broken down and said “no, I’m sorry, this is too much, I can’t go through with it.” So different viewers can have different interpretations. My guess is that Michiru would say “it’s okay, sweetie, you don’t have to, we’ll find another way”…and then send Haruka home and go to Tokyo Tower on her own, making herself solely responsible for whatever happens to any Talisman-holders who show up.

Because sacrificing three lives for the sake of the world is one thing, but making Haruka feel bad about herself? That’s a bridge too far.

So, yeah, ruthless…but also, to be fair, a teenage girl in a traumatic situation. Part of the way she’s handling it is by telling herself, “look, I know I’m not a Good Person. A good person wouldn’t be this resigned to murdering three innocent people. But at least I can protect Haruka’s soul from being crushed along the way. I still get to draw the line somewhere, and I choose here.”

It takes another level in heart-rending when (and wow, I am looking forward to these episodes) you find out that Haruka got into the senshi game for Michiru. She told Haruka not to do it — trying to protect her, although at that point it was in an impersonal, “nobody should have to deal with this stress” way — and maybe Haruka would’ve listened, except then Sailor Neptune got in a monster fight she was going to lose without Sailor Uranus as backup.

So on some level Michiru is trying to atone for not being strong enough to keep this cute girl out of the fight.

 

…and you know, this makes it all the more satisfying when we get to that one SuperS special. A minor antagonist claims he has world-destroying powers, but Uranus and Neptune aren’t intimidated by that threat anymore. And Neptune cheerfully leans into her ruthlessness — she’s 100% bluffing, but she’s very good. Terrifies the pants off the guy. She has the power to simultaneously be a Big Damn Hero and out-villain the villains.

(Would you believe it, when I was a teenager, Michiru was the senshi I was least interested in? No, really. Even accounting for the context of her relationship with Haruka, who is probably my team-wide fave, I was not expecting to have this many Michiru feelings. But someone was Wrong On The Internet, and bam, here we are.)

“On The Subject of Noncon Fanworks” September 25, 2016

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An excellent essay about darkfic and sexuality (cw: author discusses her own trauma/abuse history). Centered on Sherlock fandom, though the general ideas apply no matter what characters you’re writing about.

I wanted to highlight this part:

If, instead of normalizing the existence of fics that portray noncon and underage, we make these themes taboo, if we pathologize them, if we require noncon works to be kept in a separate archive, if we insist that it be labeled with derogatory terms like “rapefic,” then what will happen is that writers who think that their work has “a bit of dubcon” in it will not tag it as such, in the hopes that it will fly under the radar and they won’t be banished to the leper colony with the filthy rapefic fans. This will have results that neither the responsible creators and consumers of noncon, nor the people who dislike it and categorically oppose it, want: that someone who doesn’t want to see noncon will see it.

I wrote the above paragraph close to a year ago, and my predictions are already coming true. I have seen noncon and underage fanworks being posted without appropriate tags and warnings. Some of these inadequately tagged fics are being posted by the same people who accused me and my fellow gender politics panelists of being rape apologists and pedophiles. The creators of these works defend them as being somehow different than the works the so-called rape apologists create, because they themselves were underage when they drew the fanart or wrote the fic, or because the work features the right” pairing, or the “right” kind of non-consensual situation, or because they don’t “eroticize” the noncon aspect, or because there’s a sufficient amount of comfort to offset the hurt, or for any number of other reasons.

It’s framed as a prediction, and maybe with respect to Sherlock fandom it is, but for fandom in general it’s nothing new. I remember wrestling with the same kind of cognitive dissonance more than a decade ago:

“Okay, I like stories where characters get hurt, but that’s a Bad Thing to enjoy. But I also like the emotional payoff when characters are rescued at the end! So when describing this, I should emphasize the rescue part. Imply that any scenes with pain and suffering are just a necessary evil on the way to the morally-acceptable payoff. Or, hey, maybe don’t mention the suffering at all.”

That mindset not only discourages people from warning for dark story elements, it stifles the general discussion about them, so that even if you want to warn, you can’t pick up the vocabulary to do it well.

I remember one fic of mine — it had a brief sex scene, and it was consensual, just incredibly unhealthy. Potentially very upsetting! And the only warning I put on it was a general sexual-content label. Partly because I was erring on the side of what looked more Morally Pure, but also because it was neither “non-con” nor “sex that is positive and affirming and healthy in every way” — and I didn’t have a handle on how to articulate the situations in between.

Fandom in general should be a place that helps people figure this stuff out, not a place where people get shamed and shouted down for trying.