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15 October 2008 @ 10:28 pm
In which I argue both the government and the opposition  
I was raised to be quite broadminded. So much so that I often find myself arguing against myself until I am nearly convinced of something I don't actually believe.  Or, as in this case, I actually DO believe both sides of the argument. Which brings us to today's topic:

ELITE ARCHIVES: GOOD FANDOM SERVICE OR SATAN'S BASTARD SPAWN?

By 'Elite Archives', I mean fic archives or communities that list fics that have been selected by a group of moderators, and which selections are made using particular criteria.

Some have invited authors, who are able to post any of their stories, others choose specific stories.

In the brief Pro Elite Archives case, they're a brilliant one-stop shop for good-quality fics in particular fandoms or pairings. You can be certain that anything posted there will be of a certain standard and that it will be, at a base level, *good*, regardless of whether or not it is to your specific taste.

These archives expose the work of excellent writers to a far broader audience than most could find on their own, and they also encourage writers whose work is given the stamp of approval. For people who are new to the fandom, they are a wonderful place to start, and for people within it they are a place to 'show our best'.

For the brief Anti case,  Elite  Archives focus on the best of fandom, according to *particular criteria*. Often this comes down to the personal tastes of a small group of people. While those tastes are almost certainly educated, and the mods that I know try to work against personal prejudices, it's impossible to not draw lines.

Drawing lines inevitably leads to hurt feelings, and accusations of bias against the mods, and of Princess Tantypantsdom against people who complain about being 'left out'. Then people who feel they have been hard done by strike back, and their friends take sides, and before you know it things look like one of those unfortunate Christmas dinners where you end up hiding in the stables.

To rebut the Pro case: how do you decide on that standard? There are only a small number of writers in fandom that I would describe as very good. There are more, but also a fairly small number, that I would describe as very bad. There are a lot who are average, and that's not an insult. Most of us are average writers at some point in our lives, just as we're average at sports we're learning. Then there is the group that makes the whole process incredibly difficult, the group of writers who are good, entertaining and competent, but not very good.

It's the difference between Trilby, which is a rollicking good novel, and Emma, which is brilliant. The difference between Disney's The Little Mermaid and Hans Christian Andersen's. In both cases the former is still enjoyable, but it's just not as good as the latter. However, people often enjoy the former more. Yet a truly Elite Archive would probably miss out on these. And so would its audience.

To rebut the Anti case: Elite is not a dirty word. Yes it's sad that some people might have their feelings hurt by not being included in a particular archive, but at the same time it acts as an incentive to learn about and improve their craft, while inclusion for inclusion's sake leads to a fandom that promotes mediocrity, and we have enough of that in politics these days.

In conclusion: 
Buggered if I know, you tell me what YOU think.

 
 
 
Libbylibby_drew on October 15th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Right. What you said.

Why are making me think this early? In retaliation, I'm going to agree with both your points.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 15th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
It's ever so late where I am ;-)

Leochileochi on October 15th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)
It's the difference between Trilby, which is a rollicking good novel, and Emma, which is brilliant. The difference between Disney's The Little Mermaid and Hans Christian Andersen's. In both cases the former is still enjoyable, but it's just not as good as the latter. However, people often enjoy the former more.

How very, very true! It's the same for art, btw. :-)))
Manga's definitely much more popular than, let's say, Lyonel Feininger.

blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 20th, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
YES! Exactly! And yet at the same time, there's a place for Hello Kitty in the world and more people will like that silly little cartoon than will ever like someone like Egon Schiele, yet there is *more* in the works of those Modernists than there could ever be in Manga.

I am now thinking that it's worth distinguishing between 'popular' and 'best'.
(no subject) - leochi on October 20th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on October 20th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - leochi on October 20th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
rickey_arickey_a on October 15th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
I think you make valid points. My measuring stick has always been in the realm of risk-benefit ratio. What is the value added vs. the deterioration that it causes. A comm that just has members who post links the exact same work that they post every where else doesn't add much other than a limited showcase of authors names. I don't get it, but I can see why other's might. I'm far more interested in individual story recs or reviews to give me more information about a particular story or a writer's style. A blank check list doesn't help me much, but then again, I'm I writing snob.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 20th, 2008 01:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's a good rule. Will people get enough value from such a comm or archive that it's worth the cranky pantsness? I think that your criterion of a well crafted reason as to why a story is thought 'elite' is an excellent piece of value-adding.
romaine24: girlharumphromaine24 on October 15th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, er, yeah.

I'll probably regret writing this but I can understand why they exist and your points explain the reasons why very well.

Another LJ post covered this recently and the crux of that was what was bothersome is when one of these elite groups lists these as the best of the best, but it is based on select authors and friends.

So, for me, it is all in the disclaimer that these elite groups use. How were the stories chosen or how were the authors chosen. Otherwise, it does look like a clique. In addition, I've found that some of the authors have one or two great stories and the rest are ho hum. And, seriously, an h/d elite community that doesn't have calanthe_fics in it seems ridiculous. I know she doesn't like these groups, and probably wouldn't join, but when a new person comes into fandom and asks for author recs she's usually on the respondents list. I can think of a few more that I can add that continually produce great fic after great fic. oldenuf2nb is one of them.

1. List the criteria it takes to be selected.

2. List the biases upfront. As a writer who writes creature fics, mpreg, bondage, etc... I often notice these are "no no's" for these groups even when they aren't listed. But the casual reader probably would not.

Do folks get their feelings hurt. Absolutely. And as the other poster who wrote about this mentioned, I'm not sure the good outweighs the bad. Especially, when those Little Mermaid writers are consistently writing very good stories that are wildly popular. If these groups are formed to direct new folks to the best, then somehow I think they are doing a disservice by not listing some of the most popular writers.

Hmmm, er, yeah, I'm done.
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on October 15th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
I don't see elite groups as necessarily needing to direct new people to the very good very popular fics, although doubtless there are very good reasons the fic is popular. A truly elite group might link to some good places that recommend crackin' good popular fic as partner sites, but would keep their focus on the best of the best, even if it were obscure.
(no subject) - romaine24 on October 15th, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - azurelunatic on October 15th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - calanthe_fics on October 15th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - romaine24 on October 15th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - norton_gale on October 15th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on October 15th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
There really need to be both elite archives and all-inclusive archives, because fandom would die without all-inclusive archives, but is the richer for very good elite archives.
maggie: HP VK as Harrymarguerite_26 on October 15th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
You want my opinion? Always happy to oblige!

As an avid fanfic reader, I like elite archives. There is so much HP fanfics out there that it really is overwhelming to newbies. When I first got into HP, I focused on a few rec lists to get caught up in the classics. But it's always hard to find recs lists that really match your tastes. Personally, I love to find an author whose style I really enjoy and devour everything fic they've ever written.

Elite archive make it easier to find excellent writers and their fics! (handy!)

Do I reference elite archive now? nope. I've got the writers are read most often and a few newsletters on my flist. But those archives were useful when I was staring at post after post in harrydraco and at loss of where to start.

As a writer, I don't feel any differently about 'elite' archives than I do about whether my fic lands on someone’s rec list. ::shrugs:: It really is no different. Both are a huge compliment but the fact that I've never been invited into an elite archive does not make me feel like an outsider. And if I do get asked to be on an archive I'm not going to feel like I've finally made it.

A glowing comment from a reader I respect is worth any Elite status.

In summary: Elite archives serve a purpose, the same as rec lists. Placing archives or the writers who get invited to them on some sort of pedestal is just asking for trouble. I'm sure all writers want to be recognized for their work, but they need to be careful how much stock they put into these things.

Besides, do the writers that are in these archives really get that many more ‘quality’ reviews? I would love to know.
romaine24: valentinechainromaine24 on October 15th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
hee hee. And it took me a year to find the person whose likes most resemble my own. *points above* I love her disclaimers and I love her explanations of the fics she reviews.
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on October 15th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
trichinopoly ash: girl: with pearlsaldehyde on October 15th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
you pretty much said everything i would want to, but in a much better way :P

i find elite archives to be a great way of finding excellent fics without having to worry about the quality. but at the same time, even when mods try their best to be objective, i tend to find their own circle of friends/colleagues to be featured more dominantly.

so yea, definitely pros and cons on both sides.
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on October 15th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
A lot of it has to be exposure, I think. You will automatically hear about stuff your immediate circle writes, but won't necessarily get the news about something equally good written by someone you've never met before.
(no subject) - aldehyde on October 15th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
not your typical annihilatrix: Bleach: Yoruichifuriosity on October 15th, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
Is there an option for "who cares; it's all relative"? *g*
This Girlthisgirl_is on October 15th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
Awww, dammit. Now I wish I had read the comments before replying. It just took me three paragraphs to say this.
Meredythmeredyth_13 on October 15th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
I'm sure I'll get hit by someone for having an opinion on this, but hey, I have one. Don't sue me, I don't have money, and I don't care if you don't agree. ;)

My position comes back to this - what happened to the days when kids competed at school, and the ones that were actually good at a sport were the ones that got picked for the team. The rest had to suck it up and either get better at their sport of choice, if it was important to them, or settle for playing in the backyard with their friends, or in the park, and just accept that someone else might actually be better than them.

The same goes for archives, there are parks and backyards available for everyone, and if you play with your friends you know exactly how the game is going to go, and if you play in the park you accept that the world may be watching and judging, and might throw cans at you if you suck or they just don't like the socks you're wearing.

And if you get picked for a team you get to play at your best, and continue to be your best, and if you start to fuck up, or the coach doesn't like the style you're developing you either straighten yourself up, or you get to sit on the bench, or get kicked from the team. That's how it works.

And if you WANT to get picked for a team, you practice and practice and work hard to improve in the way the team wants, and then you go to tryouts, and maybe you'll get there. And maybe you're 5'0" and have no hand/eye coordination and you'll never really be good at basketball, and you have to just accept that nature didn't give you the right gifts and go find something you can shine at.

This is life, and we're losing track of it - both in school sports (where every kid has to have a place on the 'team' now, because god help the little buggers if they have to deal with rejection and that sitting in front of their computer all day doesn't make them good sprinters) and in fandom (where every kid seems to feel they have to have a place on the team, because god help the little buggers if they have to deal with rejection and that refusing to refer to a dictionary or actually learn about sentence structure and grammar and style doesn't make them good writers).

We're also, unfortunately, losing the character building that goes with this life lesson. Character is not about how loud you throw a tantrum when you don't get your own way - it's about learning that life can be tough, we aren't always good enough, and we have to get on and suck it up and do better, and be happy with ourselves when better still may not be good enough.

I play in my backyard, and occasionally in the park. I already know that my friends like me and that the people in the park don't really care that I'm throwing my ball around. I have no expectations of being picked for the team, but I'll keep bloody trying. And if they stop picking teams based on excellence, then what the hell is there to try for?

:D
Bryoneybryoneybrynn on October 15th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC)
Seconded!
(no subject) - meredyth_13 on October 15th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - romaine24 on October 15th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - meredyth_13 on October 15th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - romaine24 on October 15th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - meredyth_13 on October 15th, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - romaine24 on October 15th, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on October 15th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - meredyth_13 on October 15th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on October 15th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Bryoneybryoneybrynn on October 15th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
I actually quite like Elite Archives. I think they're an excellent resource for people new to the fandom and for anyone who wants quick access to high-quality work. And, as I've said to you on more than one occasion, this includes EA's that don't want me in them!

That said, I think EA's only work in the context of a supportive, encouraging, thriving comm/fandom. Presumably, we all started in an inclusive comm where we were encouraged to keep writing and keep developing. I think if the best writers leave such comms (for example, harrydraco), both as contributers and as participants (reading and commenting on other people's work) then problems arise. I sort of feel like the comm is the active place where we're all in it together. It's messy and in process. Here we experiment and share our writing with each other, the good and the bad. It's fun and very organic. The Elite Archives, to me, are about archiving for convenience (one-stop shopping for good fic) and really showcasing the best of the best. It's like a celebration of what our best writers can really do.

Ideally, to me anyway, you want the fandom to have a sense of ownership (or maybe there's a better word for it) over their best authors. Even if I personally am not in the EA, I want to feel like "my" authors are, like I have a personal stake in it. Because if the fandom at large doesn't embrace an EA, then it's just a few really talented authors sharing their stuff with each other and presumably, that's not the point.

As for hurt feelings, well, that's inevitable. I know people approach the fandom with different purposes. For me, it's about expressing myself creatively and sharing something I love with my friends. So for me, a rejection wouldn't be as upsetting maybe as it would be for someone who is writing to hone their craft and sees a rejection as an insult to their competence or skill. I think laying out clear criteria will help but at the end of the day, it is subjective and there will be disagreements.

I will say though, that when I think of the REALLY top-level writers in as/s (I'm assuming this came about because of the next next gen archive) there's less than 10 names that leap to mind immediately and that will make for a pretty sucky archive. Although I don't read other slash pairings, I imagine they are relatively small fandoms too, when compared to H/D or some such. Which isn't to say you should lower your standards just to bulk up your archive - I guess it's just a balance.

Okay, that's a really long comment that's only slightly related to your actual post/question, but there you go.
Meredythmeredyth_13 on October 15th, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC)
You just keep doing what you're doing, honey. You're in MY list of authors that make me happy.

*hugs*
(no subject) - bryoneybrynn on October 15th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
parallel parking prodigyempress_jae on October 15th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
i know it probably puts me in the minority, but i hated emma.

but with what you're saying, we've talked about this to an extent and i think you know my feelings. bottom line is, everything you've said is spot on. and the question is really, what do you do about it? hell if i know. each person is going to feel their own way about elitism and there will never be a way to please everyone. and no, elite is not a dirty word, but it does leave a few smudges behind.

great topic btw...i'm glad you did end out chat to finish this! :D

Edited at 2008-10-15 04:45 pm (UTC)
down the hills and round the bends: write more slashnorton_gale on October 15th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
each person is going to feel their own way about elitism and there will never be a way to please everyone.

Well said!
(no subject) - thisgirl_is on October 15th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Rosefourth_rose on October 15th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
I'm seconding f's "who cares" approach. Since anyone is free to start their own 'elite' comm that they can fine-tune to their own tastes, I really don't see what the big deal is.
Shivshiv5468 on October 15th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
I post at an invitation only archive, and this apparently clambers right up the hooters of some. I can't see why. It's just about a group of friends posting at the same place.

I run a rec group and people sulk about not being on that. I can see why they would, but... write better. I've tried to deal with personal prejudice by having radically different people involved with their own tastes and preferences, and I see things turn up there that I wouldn;t piss on if they were on fire. Seems the best way of dealing with it though.

So it isn't a simple or easy answer. There are pluses and minuses. Recognising that is a good thing, especially if you're actually running an archive or a rec site.
rickey_arickey_a on October 15th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, I completely agree with what you say. It's not easy or simple. It is subjective. In an ideal world we can say "each reader or writer will find the groups and rec lists that best help them find what they enjoy" - the sad part (at least for me) is when I see posts that say "I only read authors in _____ archive or rec'd by ________" or even worse, "if they are not on_____ then they're not any good." This limited type of thinking makes me cringe. Of course, there's nothing I can do about it. So I'm not upset or insulted if reccers or comm mods don't like my writing. Hey, that's their choice and opinion. All valid. All good. I'm just saddened when mob mentality takes over and legends are born. But you're right - there's no perfect world and no easy answer.

BTW I still am hypnotized whenever I see your icon;)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on October 15th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - norton_gale on October 15th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on October 15th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
I don't care, I just want to slash Lindbergh. ;)

But seriously; that elite-writer stuff is largely subjective.

EDITED FOR TYPOS!

Edited at 2008-10-15 05:31 pm (UTC)
beatnikspinster on October 15th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
Both? I love EAs when I was first reading H/D. But I discovered the fandom initially on ff.net, because it's huge and varied. That's my biggest problem with EAs: the more closed a site; the fewer readers are captured. FF.net is a MarySue clusterfuck. FF.net funnels tons of readers. FF.net funnels tons of readers, many of whom are MarySue clusterfucks.

Why can't fandom be more like amazon.com or bn.com? Or even better: like my gov't exists in theory, or Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. A three channel solution that's fronted by an editorial staff. The foundation/first channel would be an archive where anyone can upload their stories or art and receive feedback. The second channel would be peer review and promotion by rec lists, which would also be reviewed and/or rated. These two would be laid underneath an editorial channel that would be the primary focus.

The author and peer channel would be accessible from the sidebar of the gateway page, but the primary above-the-fold real estate would be the editorial channel. Editors would be hired for their taste, but also to insure the overall editorial voice covers a broad spectrum. An editor would have an area to state their criteria, and and rss feed. Someone who has an excellent rec list could be promoted into editorial.

There would be easy access to the critically lauded and/or popular. No one would be excluded, and would have a transparent structure to advance within.

Or am I overthinking this?

*sigh* I really want to start the perfect fandom tool.
Voldemoo: bunny micefrantic_mice on October 15th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
YOU SHOULD TOTES START THAT SHIT UP!

Cept where would I be? I KNOE!! I could be on at 4 in the mo'!! Only drug addicts and insomniacs would watch me. :DDDDDDDD
(no subject) - beatnikspinster on October 15th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bryoneybrynn on October 15th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - beatnikspinster on October 15th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
followup w/ inquiry... - beatnikspinster on October 16th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC) (Expand)