I've been reading through the Ganondorf/Zelda tag on AO3 again, and what's struck me this time around is just how many kudos and encouraging comments I left on other people's stories. After three weeks of not checking the tag on Tumblr, I can barely remember the intense bitterness I once expressed
; but, now that I've put some distance between myself and the fandom, I find the overt lack of reciprocity truly shocking. In fact, I'm surprised that it took me so long to get upset.
This has made me start to consider the limitations of fandom and fannish spaces.In an earlier post
I wrote that I was considering deleting my Livejournal. The site itself died at some point during 2014, and I can't imagine any reason why I would return, especially since I considered the eleven years of my writing (across more than a thousand posts) hosted there to have no value. I've deleted a number of other fandom-related accounts, so why keep this one?
When I read through my journal, however, I realized that my writing was fairly decent – or better than "decent," actually. I was charming and witty and insightful (who was that person? where did she go??), and people responded to me, leaving thousands and thousands of comments. Why in the world did I think I needed to delete all of this? Why did I think my work was trash that needed to be disposed of?
I really enjoyed writing long and self-effacing and semi-humorous personal essays about my job, my family, my shitty relationships, my interests, and – this is what drew people in, I think – my experiences with fandom. Because all of this writing occurred within a fannish space, however, it was all "fandom" and therefore worthless from the perspective of "real publishing." Although I was getting incredible pageview counts between 2009 and 2012, no one tried to scout me, and no one within my (very carefully) curated circle of connections ever suggested to me that I should try to publish my essays. No one told me that I should get on Twitter to promote myself, and no one ever offered to introduce me to anyone who could help me become a professional writer. English-language Livejoural was a fandom-focused platform, and fandom is something you do "for fun" and "for yourself," as if professional writing generates enough money for people to do it not for fun and their own personal validation (PROTIP: it usually does not).
Basically, when I was in my twenties, I had the time and energy and talent and motivation to become the professional writer I always wanted to be, but I wasted it on the fannish identity "pocketseizure," a shitty not-joke about how stories of the dangers of the Pokémon anime made me realize that I had undiagnosed epilepsy. Because "pocketseizure" was getting so much attention, often from unexpected quarters, I started writing fic under the name "rynling" so that people wouldn't be able to make the connection between me, my essays, and my stories. And then, after I went through so much trouble to fracture my identity, I was for some reason disappointed that I didn't receive the recognition that I probably would have were my writing consolidated into one body of work.
My reasoning was justified by several real-life factors, including direct censure from my graduate advisors for having started a professional blog under my own name, but I nevertheless ended up internalizing the stigma of the anonymity communally enforced within fannish spaces. I wrote anonymously and "only in fandom" because I wasn't ready for the big leagues; I was anonymous because I lacked talent, and because my writing lacked any real value.
I'm not saying that fandom is bad, obviously, but its social mores effectively served to silence my voice as a writer and forced me to relegate my creative writing to the margins of my life, where it still remains. Even now that I receive actual money for my writing (and quite a bit of it, if I do say so myself), I still feel pressure from the sort of "you're not good enough" attitude implicitly enforced by fandom.
To return to the beginning of this post, the lack of reciprocity I've experienced concerning kudos and comments on AO3 is not how professionals behave. Professionals – people who are directly invested in their own success and the success of the people around them – do not ignore or fail to support and encourage their colleagues. When there is no direct payoff and no end goal, however, no one is motivated to engage in behavior that strengthens the larger community. When we're all anonymous, we can't promote or network with each other. When we actively distance ourselves from professional success, our work and voices and ideas remain in the shadows.
As things stand, I'm not sure what the solution is for me personally, or for fandom communities more broadly speaking. Perhaps because "Cease and Desist" letters have for the most part become a thing of the past, visual artists in fandom seem to have reached a good balance of respecting anonymity when desired, allowing fandom names to become professional names, and welcoming people who participate under their real-life names. Writers are still strongly expected to remain anonymous, however, and I can't help but feel that this is gendered – and it's probably gendered
, let's be real.