Posts Tagged ‘manga’

Animethon: An ANIME convention that’s only for the non-yaoi/non-yuri people

June 27th, 2009

Whether you like it or not, yaoi and yuri are fundamentally part of the Anime community.  You can’t remove it.  (Though white washing it out of American translations of manga and when dubbing anime into English has been tried.)  It is not going to go away.  So if you’re going to run an anime convention, you have to deal with this reality.  Unless the event is explicitly billed as a child friendly event with no adult content allowed, members of the anime community are going to expect that yaoi and yuri are going to be tolerated.

Sadly, Animethon‘s organizers failed to get this message.   Rather than claim to be a convention that is child friendly, the organizer decided that the convention would be anti-yaoi by prohibiting same sex kissing for cosplay events on stage.  Heterosexual kissing was still allowed.  She wasn’t discriminating against gays and lesbians because she has gay and lesbians friends and she likes them.  (Thanks but no.  That’s a cop out.  I have Gay friends =/=  I am tolerant.  It is insulting to our intelligence.)  When called out on it, she finally decided to allow same sex pecks on the cheek because heterosexual friends of the same gender give pecks on the cheek.  That’s her ode to tolerance.  Makes her a special kind of fandom snowflake where heterosexual same sex kissing is okay but homosexual same sex kissing is not.

She then spelled it out quite clearly: Animethon is not the place for large population in the anime community who like, read and watch anime and manga.  If you want that, go to Yaoicon.  (Because anime isn’t about the gays and lesbians and yaoi and yuri.)  Frankly, I think that’s a good idea.  If there is anyone in Alberta, Canada thinking of going to Animethon, don’t and tell the organizer why.

The problems of writing personal histories in a wiki…

April 21st, 2009

On Thursday morning, a friend of Fan History’s and one of our admins pointed me at another post about the issues with FanLore.  We were really interested in this post because it dealt with similar yet different issues than the ones brought up by nextian.  Like that post, we’ve gone through and commented in terms of how we’ve handled similar criticism, how we handle situations like the one mentioned in terms of FanLore, what advice we have, etc.  We haven’t addressed the whole post and the comments because of length.  (And because we got a bit distracted by other things going on.)  We hope to get back to it.

A lot of non-fic fandom is languishing at Fanlore. Gamer fandom, in particular, I notice, ‘cos I’ve been part of that for (eeep!) more than thirty years.

This is a similar problem that Fan History has faced.  And it isn’t just non-fic fandoms.  It is fandoms where there is a community outside of and removed from the fan fiction community.  This was an area we were criticized for about two years.  We were too fan fiction-centric.  We weren’t multifannish enough.  We didn’t encourage the telling of fandom history outside of the fan fiction community.  And those criticisms were entirely valid back then. But now?  We’ve got a whole lot of fan fiction content but we’re a lot less fan fiction-centric in terms of our article scope.  Removing that has been a goal of ours and on our to-do list for a long time. It’s there as a reminder that when we see a timeline for a fandom that says “this fan fiction community,” we change it to “this fan community” or “this fandom.”  We’ve made this a priority.

That doesn’t even begin to get into the issue of media fandom vs. anime and manga fandom vs. actor fandom vs. music fandoms vs. video game fandoms.  In this respect, I think Fan History was fortunate because we had anime and video game fandoms represented early thanks to Jae, one of our earliest contributors.  She had a lot of experience in the Digimon and Final Fantasy communities, and created a number of articles about them.  We are also fortunate to a degree as my own interests were pretty pan-fannish.  I had connections to the anime and  music fandoms because of my relationships with the folks at RockFic, the guy who runs FanWorks.Org, and the people who run MediaMiner.Org.

FanLore isn’t as fortunate in that regards.  Their traditions, their interests have always been focused on media fandom and science fiction.  They don’t really have one or two core people who come from fannish experiences outside their own who, organizationally, are equal to other members of that community.  It is easy to have that problem because you tend to go with what you know, hang out with like-minded people, and stay in your comfort zone.

If you want those other fan communities represented, you have give those fans an investment in it.  You bypass the traditional rules.  You find a BNF in one of those fandoms, offer them admin status, and encourage them to promote the project in their own community.  We did this with the Kim Possible fandom.  We made one their own a fandom administrator, talked to the guy on a regular basis and encouraged him to reach out to his community.  And, to a certain degree, it worked.  If we hadn’t done that outeach, we would not have seen the edits to the Kim Possible section that we have had.  None of our core contributors have ever really been in the Harry Potter or Rescue Rangers fandoms to any large degree.  We reached out on mailing lists, LiveJournal groups, fansites, and fan fiction archives.  We asked for their help.  These folks responded.  Why?  We built a framework which made it easy to contribute.  In most cases, we left them alone to make edits as they needed to so long as they didn’t violate the rules.  They responded more when those articles became useful for them in terms of regularly visiting and linking because people couldn’t get that content elsewhere.

But I’m not sure what to do with the wiki. It’s… big. And mostly empty, in the areas of fandom that are most dear to me. And I’m not a historian; I don’t remember the details, the names & dates, of the fannish events & memes that I grew to love; I remember vague overview of concepts, and a few bright points of detail, which make for lousy wiki entries. I would like to start entries and allow others to fix them, but the few I tried that with, haven’t worked. I don’t think there’s anyone active at Fanlore who comes from “my branch(es)” of fandom.

The thing is, you don’t NEED to be a historian to be able to write the history of a fan community.  You don’t need all the dates.   You can write a good history based on general feel.  People can come in later and improve it with citations.  Just describe what you see going on with your gut feeling and explain that as well as you can.  Describe the community and how it operates.  Heck, a lot of this is not citable; how can you cite things like trends in, say, the LiveJournal community?  There is no way to cite, without doing a lot of research and without having access to primary source documents.

What we hope will happen is that by someone putting what they feel in there, what they intrinsically understand as a community history or how the community functions, someone else will be inspired by seeing that to do the additional research.  Or that someone else will disagree with that and edit it to include their own perspective, and the two different perspectives that can’t really be sourced can be merged.  Or that someone will know some good citations to support what is written.

The models for doing this have to be different because you aren’t writing a traditional history.  This is not the same as writing a history of the US Civil War.  Much of this involves writing ethnographic-style history.  The methodologies are different than other forms of documenting history.  The practices are different.  Both types of history are different from writing meta.

This all has an impact on how people contribute.  Administrators need to keep that in mind. The admin team needs to understand the fundamental methodologies involved in writing history.  At Fan History, our admins have spent a lot of time getting a crash course on exactly this.   There have been discussions on our mailing list about the methodologies of writing women’s histories, and how historians use oral histories in their research.  We’ve talked about multiple perspectives and issues of bias in the telling of fandom history.  We’ve discussed research done in fandom by academics like Henry Jenkins and Camille Bacon-Smith, identified areas of bias and how we can learn from that.  We’ve discussed primary sources, secondary sources, historian bias, reporter bias, the role of collaboration in history writing, quantitative versus qualitative approaches and merging the two approaches to get a cohesive history.  The more familiar the admin staff is with these issues, the better they are at analyzing, guiding and teaching others in terms of writing those histories in fandoms where those admins are not involved.

Knowing all this methodology also helps admins because they can learn when to leave alone historical information where someone doesn’t know the exact dates and might be a little off but are well-intentioned, and when they should step in to correct things that are obviously wrong or intentionally inflammatory.  For example, they can learn to correct when some one thinks they recall something about LiveJournal before LiveJournal actually existed or says something like: “There was never a good mpreg story published in the CSI fandom”.  The grounding in methodology helps to identify when you don’t need sources and when you do.

We’ve done an excellent job in  a few sections without many sources.  http://www.fanhistory.com/wiki/CSI does that; no citations but tells history with charity work, with fan fiction archives like FanLib, and with how the LiveJournal community works.  We’ve also done a fairly good job with that on the mpreg article.  http://www.fanhistory.com/wiki/Mpreg talks about how mpreg is received in particular fan communities.  No citations.  Are we going to remove them?  No.  If there are issues, we can use the talk page to discuss that.  If people have problems with that, they can toss in {{fact}} or {{POV}}.

And if you still have issues where you can’t integrate that information, you do outreach.

I’m a sci-fi fan; I love reading, not watching, my sci-fi input. I love conventions, even though I’ve gone to very very few in the last decade. (So all of my con-based fanlore is decades old. Sigh.) And I want to fill in the blanks for the fandoms I love, but I can’t even get a grip on where and how to start.

I can totally understand that.   When I started writing the history of fandom, I had similar problems…  though more so the case of I had a lot of historical information that I could cite but all that information was really absent context. I didn’t know how to integrate it in to a historical context where these bits and pieces made sense.  I had lists of Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Star Trek, and Starsky and Hutch fanzines from the 1980s, but no information about how of those zines were received by the readers, what were common tropes, who was writing them, or who the audience was.  How the heck do you put that information into an article about the fandom those zines come from and have it fit in any sort of meaningful way?  A lot of the culture probably changed when things went online.  There might not have been a continuity in that culture when it went online, so totally different cultural practices were created.   And sometimes, you really are left wondering who will care about that Blake’s 7 femslash zine that was written in 1992 other than someone into trivia.  Also, a lot of this might be duplicate historical research that someone already put out in a fanzine list done in 1995 and if only you had access… It is just a mess.

But at least that information is easy to cite or know.  It might be hard to get a grip on when you’re trying to put it into a big picture and you don’t have a starting place.  The personal, well, I can totally understand that in a different context.   I don’t know when some things happened.  I know I was on staff at FanFiction.Net.  I know I wrote the site’s first Terms of Service.  I know I got into a big fight with Steven Savage over policies.  I don’t know the exact dates.  I don’t have copies of the original text.  I know I founded the b5teens.  I know I got into a giant kerfluffle with some people on another mailing list when I was 16.  Many of the others involved in the group with me back then have left fandom.  I don’t know the dates. I don’t have the texts.  I’m sure as heck hoping that the fan fiction I wrote has disappeared.  Even assuming I knew some of that information, it was still weird to find a starting point.  What seems really big and important to you when you’re in the thick of it is difficult to put into any sort of proper historical context.

How can you make your own history as unbiased as possible?  People do a lot of stupid things -myself included - and really, who wants to deliberately make themselves look bad?   After dealing with that, how do you cite information when the source is yourself?  Or when you’re documenting history that includes your own involvement?  What event do you start with?  Do you start on the stuff you’re most passionate about, or the place where you can most easily slot your history in? Do you write the history where you can most easily put information into context, or the history where you can best cite your sources?

And you know, there are no easy answers to where to start when you’re talking about random bits of fandom historical knowledge or your own history. The best suggestion, in personal terms, is to think of your own goals for involvement for writing a history.  Is there a particular fandom where you have a lot of experience and knowledge but no one has really written up a history yet?  Is there an event that you think matters where you feel like you have a unique perspective?  Has someone written information that can provide a framework for your own history?

Those might be a places to start if you’re stumped. Try to write biographies or histories of the key players that you know.  Timeline specific events in the context of the convention, mailing list, fanzine, IRC chat room, fanclub, social network or kerfluffle.  Create an outline. This information doesn’t need to be ready for “prime time.”  You’re not writing an academic text.  You’re providing information from within the fan community to help members of the fan community and those on the outside better understand it.  Tenure isn’t at risk.  (Though if you’re writing biased material with the intent of making yourself and your friends look better, your reputation in the fan community might be at risk.)   In the early stages, the information that you’re writing or collecting doesn’t even necessarily need to go on the main article about a fandom.  You can keep it on subpages until you understand all the moving pieces and how they fit into the larger fandom picture.  Then, later, you can integrate it into the main article or just create a “see also” in the main article.

If that doesn’t work for you, there are other places to start.  Find the talk page for an article relevant to the history you want to tell.  Introduce yourself on the talk page, talk about your experiences, cite sources where some of that information can be verified and ask the contributors to the article to integrate that information into the article.  Follow up when people ask questions or explanations.   Using talk pages this way can be helpful in terms of learning the feel of a wiki community and how people expect you to contribute.  They can also help you find someone who is more comfortable in terms of finding a starting place, who can help you focus what you want to do.  Starting on talking pages can also be similar to drafting on subpages like I mentioned above: there is less pressure because things aren’t on the main article and you don’t need to make a judgement call on the merits of what you’re contributing.  Others can do that by chosing to integrate your knowledge and experience into the article.

The market and the medium are NOT separate conversations

February 10th, 2009

I occasionally read Anime News Network’s Chicks on Anime because as some one who tries to keep up with fandom, it is helpful to know what is going on in the industry and they discuss topics which are relevant to fan community. Knowing this information, being exposed to the topics discussed there, it makes doing my job at Fan History that much easier and helps to insure that we’re covering things.

So I read the latest post with some interest. The first part was kind of really disappointing because they had a fansubber involved in their discussion and they totally under utilized that person. It was like one of the panelists, Bamboo, had a set agenda of things that they wanted to say and they weren’t going to let the fansubber get in their way. Fine yeah. Whatever. Disappointing.

Let’s move on and read the second part and hope it can improve. But nope! Fail. The Sara and Bamboo crap in the first part continued on in to the second part. Only this time? They managed to pull out the offensive with their disconnect. This time, they really managed to piss me off. I don’t know if Sara and Bamboo realize it, but they sound like privileged academic oriented elitists who don’t have to worry about the real world. And when they talk about the anime industry? When most of the consumers of that don’t necessarily fall into that cushy group? When they talk about people who would love to be involved with the industry but can’t because they lack the money? Just ARG! PLEASE SHUT UP AND GO AWAY!

These two chicks on anime don’t seem to get it: Money and financial compensation do matter to the health of any industry, especially the creative industry. Because, you know, lack of financial compensation means only the elite, those who are financially privileged, can be involved. If you have to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from, if you can’t spend the necessary time to get the training you need, then you don’t have the incentive to produce.

Trust me. I know this. I’ve seen it happen in fandom often. I’ve also heard about it from my friends who are artists. In the fan fiction community, some of the best authors can’t write as often as their fans would like them to because the authors aren’t getting compensated for their work in any tangible sense other than getting praise and adulation from the fan community. Those that are really, really good at writing, those that want to make a go at it as a career, they have to write original fiction. For most of them, that means loads and loads of marketing of themselves, something that takes time away from writing. And it also means continuing to work because even when they do sell, they don’t make enough to quit their day jobs. It can be stressful to watch, especially when your friends trying to make the leap to professional writing from the working class. That stuff is hard to balance.

And that’s writing. All you really need there is a basic computer. Forget animation and art. Those require a lot more of a financial commitment. You’ve got to buy a lot of art supplies. You’ve got to buy special computers. You’ve got to buy expensive software. (Or you have to use pirated stuff and hope you don’t get caught.) Money. Money. Money. I know of a few professional artists who are pretty damned good at what they do. It would be fantastic if they could continue to produce more… but you know what? They can’t. Why? They need real jobs in order to pay for their continued involvement in the art community as artists. The lucky ones can stay in industry by working as art teachers. And by art teachers, I mean on the collegiate level. That requires more money as you need a lot of training, including a Masters degree, in order to get to that point.

Did I mention that it pisses me off, the suggestion that you can remove money and marketing and a discussion about adequate compensation from any discussion about fostering quality in the world of anime? It does. Sara and Bamboo obviously don’t live in a world where the above matters.

Let’s not forget another piece of underlying subtext to the message that Sara and Bamboo, our lovely chicks on anime, are conveying: Talent is hereditary and doesn’t need to be cultivated. The best artists will naturally emerge and be compensated for it as people recognize their inherent talents.

WHUT? Also, WHUT? Seriously? Talent is not hereditary. You aren’t born a great artist. There is no genetic gift where you just born a great manga artist or a stupendous animator straight out of the womb. Artists need to practice, to have their inherent talents cultivated. It takes time. Sometimes, that time stretches into years. The time required developing any inherent talent means that they cannot be concerned about making a living because if they have to worry, they can’t produce. They’ll lack the time. Or they’ll be so distracted that when they have the time, they can’t produce their best work as a lot of people just do not work well under pressure. Because who pays the rent for a Room of One’s Own?

Sara and Bamboo seem like a lot of non-professionals who wrongly make that assumption that talent is inherited and doesn’t require a lot of nurturing and training. Thus, they undermine fair market value because they place art and animation on pedestal. It is something that they hold sacred, where they refuse to place any concrete monetary value on art because how can they fairly value that wonderful work? Of course, this is again based on the assumption that the talented will automatically rise despite their lower class status because our culture inherently recognizes talent and quality.

What does this mean? Those lovely assumptions that Sara and Bamboo have? It means that we, the consumer, get an inferior product, where the overall quality of what is brought to the market is inferior. Why? Because the only people who can produce are the non-paid hobbyist who labor out of love.

This attitude in turn has the trickle down effect of hurting the industry as a whole. Why? Because if you refuse to pay for quality work, then the product being brought to market will be inferior which means that consumers are much less likely to purchase it. If that happens, then everyone on down gets hurts. This includes your publishers, your book and DVD sellers, your anime specialty shops, anime conventions, professional bloggers, retail employees, magazine publishers, etc.

So Chicks on Anime, Bamboo and Sara? Please shut up about that which you don’t know. Money and compensation of artists matters. You can’t separate this from the issue of quality and health in the anime industry. All you’re doing is hurting the rest of us.

Posessing pornographic Japanese manga? Go to jail!

October 14th, 2008

The full story is told by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in a press release published by Comic Book Resources. The long and short of it:

Mr. Handley’s case began in May 2006 when he received an express mail package from Japan that contained seven Japanese comic books. That package was intercepted by the Postal Inspector, who applied for a search warrant after determining that the package contained cartoon images of objectionable content.

And for that, he might go to jail for 20 years. I applaud Random House and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for taking an important and necessary stand on this because the potential consequences for it are scary for fandom, large parts of which exist in a text and art based medium.

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