The Price of Fan Fiction

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S1: My tastes are very.

S2: Singular. Wouldn’t understand.

S3: Hi, I’m Rachel

S1: Hampton, and I’m Madison Malone Kirchherr, you’re listening to I see, why am I?

S3: In case you missed it,

S1: Slate’s podcast about Internet culture.

S3: How are you doing today?

S1: Madison Honestly, I’m doing better than t pain.

S3: Oh, God, I think we all are.

S1: That’s true. But specifically, I’m doing better than pain because I have not been ignoring DMS direct messages from other celebrities for like years,

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S3: just the tragedy of the weekend

S1: and posted this video last week that he discovered that he just had been ignoring messages from like very famous people.

S4: Yeah, I was today years old when I found out about the request folder on Instagram that’s full of celebs trying to reach me. Dude, is that Fergie SNH

S1: in the video? It’s it’s Tippins Daems, just scrolling name after name after name, Diplo Fergie, Viola Davis. Yeah, I

S3: would simply launch myself off of a cliff had I missed a dime from Viola Davis

S1: and Tippins Face is green screened over this and he’s just like shaking his head and sighing so deeply.

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S4: I apologize to everybody on this list and the hundreds of others. I couldn’t fit in this video.

S3: We are all singing along with you t pain,

S1: but I’m like t pain. We hear it. I see. Why am I check our DMS and our emails and our mentions. So today we’re launching a new segment called Red Receipt’s. I want to see the receipts.

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S3: Wait, Matt. Matt Madison, no, it’s it’s receipts. It’s pronounced for your receipts.

S1: No, the thing that shows the time stamp when somebody it’s read your text message or DNA that says that reading

S3: because they’re reading it read

S1: or they have read it. We’ll debate this later. But anyway, the segment, it’s new. It’s called Read Receipts, maybe read receipts, depending on which house you ask. I’ve been getting some really, truly great and thoughtful messages from all of you who are listening to our show. And we wanted to take an episode to address some of them. So today we’ll be talking about the drama currently embroiling the fan fiction website archive of our own submitted by Listener Live, who you’ll hear from later on in the episode.

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S3: But before we get to this question, another member of the IOC, why my community had a question about imeem, and I’m just going to read this email in its entirety. Hello, period. Can you address this shit? Busson, dot, dot, dot, Chiche meme. Then there’s a YouTube link to a compilation of this thanks period, Kolon. We can address this coalition

S1: that we would love to address this meme. OK, so I think where we begin and Rachel, I’m sorry, because I know you hate when I show you Keusch things on this show, but I, I think we start with this tick tock I watched the other night and was just horrified by today for lunch. I’m packing my boyfriend another bell pepper sandwich. You’re welcome to Busan or not where I try this recipe so you don’t have to.

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S4: Let’s do some cooking.

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S3: Her voice sounds like a cartoon character.

S1: It’s this this little old lady who’s just out here trying cooking recipes and declaring them

S4: a crunch of the pepper is really buttered. Certified Bussin.

S3: You can’t see the horror in my face, but just absolutely not.

S1: But I can give you like a like a cartoon character. Rachel’s eyeballs just left their sockets and we’re like, oh gosh. And then came back and turned red.

S3: Except it was not enjoy or horniness or arter. No it was my eyes was to leave my skull because I’m upset that I have been shown this meme.

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S1: So the busson on Tic-Tac is a is a layered meme at this point. Just you laugh, you get one laugh. I’m going to have to say it, Rachel. It’s it’s the topic. I know what I sound like. You know what I sound like.

S3: OK, OK. That’s the last one. It’s not. But that’s the last one.

S1: So this little lady is making a sandwich where the bun is a pepper. That’s not a sandwich. I agree. That’s a hand salad. And the hand salad in question was made by a woman named Janelle. Who is this white woman on Tic-Tac who is always posting Kitto recipes and declaring them Bossard or not?

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S3: Well, wasn’t it started with like Janelle didn’t know what Busson was, but. Right. But people kept posting, like do or stiches with Janelle because she would make these meals that did not look good. And that became if you search is a button. Janelle Ontake thought there so many videos that are involved in this. So this is one layer of the Busson onion sandwich and salad thing. What’s the second layer?

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S1: So the the other element here we have to explain is the the Chiche, which I’m not going to give Rachel the joy of hearing me explain because I found a tick tock from user Eivor underscore Zenzi, which sums it up perfectly,

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S5: explain things so you don’t have to Google about it. She So what does this mean? This means I innovate. And it all started by the NBA star D’Angelo Russell is often used by the NBA star during the final minutes of the basketball match when the game is on the line. And once the ball went in after the clutch moment under pressure, he got to keep it cool. Cool. VALETTA Therefore, ice invades and this process evolved on tiptoe, adding a face and a shape. It works best if you do it in harmony. What if she’s mean is actually the seems, they say, wow, when you get excited or surprise over something like

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S1: she’s you’re welcome. So when she’s talking about ice in your veins, you take let’s stretch out your left arm, take your right hand, your pointer and your index finger and tap it to like the inside of your elbow, like someone is injecting you with ice.

S3: And this is part of the bus. And she’s mean. We have not quite explained all of it, but as most memes on the Internet, this started with black people. D’Angelo Russell, a black basketball player, Busson is in fact a B, it basically means very good. This person could translate in the Queen’s English to this item is impeccable.

S1: Pip, Cheerio. So the meme that our listener asked about is a specific mash up of these two slang terms. And it goes a little something like this. You need a captive set of boomers. Ideally, your parents

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S3: go out on the wild captured to boomers.

S1: First step one, no to you. Then hand a boomer or an older person some food and ask them how it tastes. And then they reply, describing it as Busson.

S3: Oh, but since I was realise OK. Yes.

S1: And then followed by a loud Chiche, it sounds a little something like this. And Mom has a lasagna. This shit busson. Respectfully no. Oh.

S3: So the kind of like joy of this meme is that most of these boomers are not black, and then just hearing this suburban archetypical mom say this shit bussin, combined with hearing their offspring in the background, either cracking up or angry because they’re saying, like busting instead of busing is the kind of like tension that makes this meme soar

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S1: to our listener who who asked us this wonderful question. I really hope that answered it for you.

S3: If not, we’re so sorry. We tried our best. Coming up, we’ve got another read receipt. This one’s about one of my favorite topics, fan fiction, specifically the beloved fan fiction website A3, which stands for Archive of our own. It’s maybe one of the most influential fandom spaces on the Internet. And right now it’s facing a major reckoning around the way it’s run and funded.

S1: We’ll have more on that after the break. And we’re back with our second red receipt. I actually think we have a voice mail from listener Liv who has a question about a O3.

S4: Hi. So I logged into Tumblr for the first time in about eight years. The other day. I thought it would be a fun trip down memory lane. But it turns out that people are really mad and they’re specifically mad at this website, our Cup of Our Own, which I remember as hosting a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction that I would read when I was 12. But people are really mad at it now. And it seems like, I don’t know, they’re mad because it’s like raising money as a scam, maybe to host questionable content. I couldn’t really figure out what the what was actually going on. So if you could tell me what is going on with our cup of our own and why are people so angry at it? Thank you.

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S3: OK. A, I would just like to say live you have an amazing voice be. I’m fully convinced you sent this question and specifically for me, thank you so much.

S1: Live like if I researched her would turn out to be like your college roommate or like this. This story was planted by Rachel to be a perfect like if you were to draw a Venn diagram of Rachel’s interests, the middle section is, is this this ask?

S3: But it’s not just a big deal to me. I would just like to say that

S1: that is true. Fan fiction has long been a space for women and queer people and people of color, you know, all groups of people who don’t really get their fair share of representation in source material franchises that started out as fanfic like 50 Shades of Grey and after, which is Harry Styles fan fiction. Yes, these are incredibly influential and lucrative enterprises. It is certainly not just 12 year olds reading Harry Potter, though. It was that 12 year old.

S3: Oh, same. I mean, I’m going to go ahead and call myself a someone who, like, still consumes fan fiction pretty regularly.

S1: I would be lying if I said that’s also me. But like, I was a closeted gay kid on the Internet in the early aughts, like I’ve read my fair

S3: share, as most people should, to be completely honest, not least because, again, as Madison said, it’s incredibly lucrative. It was only a few episodes ago they were talking about the ways that Fifty Shades of Grey changed the way we talk about kink. And it also changed the way we talk about fan fiction. In case you somehow missed it, 50 Shades of Grey started as a Twilight fan fiction. Originally, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele were Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. But the funny thing about 50 Shades of Grey is that it was actually originally hosted on fan fiction dot net, but she ended up having to move it to a separate website because of the extreme sexual content involved in that story.

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S1: And she basically just made a blog.

S3: Yeah, I believe it was called Fifty Shades. Dotcom before Archive of Our Own was founded in 2009, the most popular fanfics websites where fan fiction dot net or a live journal or Wattpad. But the difference between our cup of our own and all these other websites is that it was created because fan fiction writers were getting DMCA complaints or authored takedown requests or copyright issues or just plain sexual content issues. And so in 2009, a non-profit was created called the Organization for Transformative Works, and it was and remains like fan created and fan run. And it was like created largely in response to fan fiction websites that were run by these huge corporations who wanted to profit off the huge audience that fanfiction like creates. But they wanted absolutely none of the smoke that came along with hosting these works.

S1: So was it the kind of thing where, like you’d like develop an audience, people would be really like digging what you were writing, and then one morning you could wake up and it would just be taken down?

S3: Yeah, that happened to a lot of people because a lot of these websites that fanfics was previously hosted by were run by major corporations that have like a legal liability or just didn’t want to be hosting, like, sexually explicit content. And so it became this kind of game of trying to figure out whether or not your content was going to get taken down. And so our of our own was created specifically to basically be able to write whatever the fuck you want. The formal pledge is to preserving the history of fan works and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fan works are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate and that that word transformative is actually really important because it is kind of what copyright law turns on. And so theoretically, everything. Archive of our own is considered transformative work,

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S1: that all sounds really great, I feel like a O3 as a website, I’m always surprised it’s still up and running. How do they keep the lights on?

S3: That’s a good question. I mean, usually the point of websites like this is to eventually get bought by a huge corporation. But AC3 is still Reider funded, which is like really huge. So every year they kind of do this donation drive. And that means that authors don’t have to worry about, like Yahoo! Coming in and deciding to take down everything. And they kind of provide a level of legal protection that other hosting websites don’t even want to attempt. See, this

S1: is all really cool and positive and kind of where I’d like to end the movie because I feel like the. But you’re about to give me the.

S3: But I’m about to give you a but there’s always a but so, so much. What makes a O3. What it is, is that it’s this kind of grassroots community, but it’s the fact that it’s grassroots and it’s also the fact that it is an incredibly permissive website and it is largely volunteer run, which means what always happens on any volunteer run website that is incredibly permissive. There are things on a O3 that could be described as unsavory, which kind of brings us to the present up until very recently, aphthous content moderation policy has largely been do whatever the fuck you want, even though you have asked for stronger moderation tools, mostly involving the tagging system.

S1: OK, when you say tagging system,

S3: it’s kind of deceptively simple in how amazing it is. But AOB is tagging system has actually been widely lauded for how well they organize this information. You can create your experience on Eighty-three so strongly, like you can tag PWP, which means porn without plott their tags that are purely for organizing. So that means that you can just click on that tag and find whatever you’re looking for under there. And then there are tags that are kind of just like expressions of authors’ personality. There’s a really popular one that’s funny to me that’s called No, we die like men, which means that there’s no beta reader and beta readers are people who are kind of like editors and it’s usually your friend you have in the community and they read through your story and check for like typos or like plot. And it’s this all community run support network so that when you sometimes when you read a fan fiction, it’s not just someone just straight publishing it like it has been baited by a lot of different people.

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S1: Oh, my God, that’s so lovely. I thought I was going to be some sort of like toxic masculinity alpha male thing. No, I love that. Yeah. No editorial oversight.

S3: No, exactly. But when it says no beta, we die like men, it means they just didn’t get a beta. So it’s just like they’re like if there is basically if there’s typos, don’t be mad at me or I’ll be like I posted this at three a.m. after four monsters, like something like along those lines. And so the tagging system is both really useful and a really good reflection of personality, but there’s kind of no way to block seeing certain things in packs.

S1: Yeah, here’s the. But we’ve arrived.

S3: Here’s the but so this came up a lot last summer when the United States was going through a racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd. Black fans and creators who had long been pushing for content, moderation policies kind of up their calls. They weren’t even necessarily asking for a oh three to get rid of it. They were just like, can there be a way to tag things as containing racist content so that when I’m searching for, like Remus Lupins, Sirius Black Slash fiction, I’m not going to run into something racist because there are certain tags that will. Show content, so example, there’s one that’s like major character death, so you can exclude that from your search if you don’t want to read anything that involves somebody dying or a major character dying. But there was literally no way to do that with, like, racist content. I do want to make clear that there are ways you can filter what you’re looking for and you can filter out certain tags. But that system is only as good as whatever user makes it. So if your user does not say racism in here, there is no way to know that it’s in there until you click on it. But what people on three have long asked for is an ability to like, scroll through a tag and like block a certain user so you don’t see their content. You cannot do that. And for the longest time, it was framed as this free speech issue. I really want to importantly say here that like a lot of these, like a lot of these fans who were using H3 were not even necessarily asking for a 3D and not hostis content. They were just asking for a way to not see it.

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S1: They just wanted to do like personalized shadow banning. It sounds like you’re describing.

S3: Yes, but it was always kind of framed as this free speech issue because at its core, 003 is fundamentally like a free speech platform that thinks that the best kind of route forward is to be as permissive as you possibly can. And so the complaints about the racism, of course, didn’t change his mind. But what did is this absolutely fucking wild fanfiction that has over a million words and most importantly, 700 hundred tags, which is visually and organizationally a nightmare and has fucked up this amazing tagging system that nobody has. We unfortunately do not have the time to go into that entire thing. But if you want to find out about it, you should check out this piece from ADA Romano at Vox. We’ll link it in the show notes. It’s such a great piece and it’s just such a wild piece of Internet drama. But now that this thing has happened that is not necessarily related to like racism, but just an annoying user experience. And three is considering adding in a feature where you can block users from like from your experience.

S1: Wow. Raise your hand if you’re not surprised.

S3: I mean, this entire thing kind of brings us to the other issue, which is one of the was just the issue that Liv actually brought to us,

S1: which is all of that drama was not the issue. Oh, no,

S3: no, of course not. What are you talking about?

S1: I love the Internet.

S3: It’s just it never ends. The other issues, because Halo three is Reider funded every year, they do their donation drive. They just get shit on for asking for money. It’s honestly like a pretty common controversy, like it happens with Wikipedia.

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S1: I was going to say, when you say donation drive, you mean like I feel like the thing with Wikipedia is I feel like it’s 12 months of the year when I know it is a limited time of the year. When you log on to Wikipedia page and there’s that banner at the top that says, if everybody gave twenty dollars, yes, we could run Wikipedia until the earth melts down, probably younger.

S3: Yeah. And so AOB does that, but they don’t need to keep that going for too long. Like I think every year they raise all the money they need in like 24 hours. But then every year people get mad that they need money and they think that the fundraising is a scam, which is just wrong for a lot of reasons. There was just someone on Twitter said if you constantly need money to keep a website running, maybe you shouldn’t have that website. Just saying and I just. Do you understand how websites work? Like three is free and has no ads, they have to cover operational costs, just the sheer amount of money it takes that keep that website just up and running from like a server perspective. Right. Is going to be expensive.

S1: This this thing draws lots of clicks and lots of eyeballs like it is expensive to build something that works at scale. My question about the money is, then why isn’t it paying for moderation?

S3: That’s a good question, Madison. And only three can answer that because, I mean, they have largely been run now only by volunteer moderators with volunteer coders. Like this website is like entirely just. Funded by the sheer passion of fans, which God love them, but also if you are donating to three, are you donating to a website that hosts child porn? And the answer is yeah.

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S1: And I mean, that’s murky, right, when you talk about textual fiction. Yeah.

S3: Technically, in the United States of America, Texas child porn is not illegal because you have underage users on a O3 and so it gets into a dicey territory or if you’re writing about two underage characters. So there’s never going to be a way, I think, to completely get rid of what is like explicit Lebed child porn. And to be clear, I’ve been using a 034 like I think upwards of like 10 years at this point and have, like, never run into like you have to go searching for like actively bad, like abuse level stuff.

S1: So it’s the like moral hand-wringing that I think Liv was describing on Tumblr is like a little overhyped compared to the

S3: actual valid concerns of like you should be able to cure a, like, not seeing, like, racist stuff on a O3.

S1: Rachel, first of all, I feel like you could teach a college class about fanfiction and I would be the first person to sign up. But speaking more broadly, like these questions matter because the stuff that gets really big on these platforms is informing like big time franchises. I’m thinking about so Anna Todd, the woman who wrote after I interviewed her years ago, and she told me she mostly wrote it on her phone standing in line at like Target.

S3: I heard them say, OK, I heard

S1: after she got my new thumbs, she can buy all your new thighs like this thing, you know, sold a gazillion copies, became it’s a trilogy. The films.

S3: Yes. Not only is Hollywood taking its cues from fanfiction, but publishing is I personally know of, I think, at least three fan fiction that I’ve read that have gotten picked up by publishers just from being on a O3. And so the question of what’s happening on three and what kind of content is being hosted on Aoba and what users are being prioritized on Oprah is not just important because fan fiction itself is important, which to be clear, it is, but also because of their million dollar industry is are taking their cues from what’s being hosted on this website.

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S1: I think that ties back really nicely to Liv’s original question, that it is still absolutely OK to be in an 83 frequenter. I know it’s stylized letter, a letter o numeral three, but in my head it’s a triple. Oh. And you go, Oh.

S3: OK, Madison,

S1: OK, it’s been a long day, but it’s totally you know, you’re not you’re not engaging with some nefarious platform. You can disregard the tweets that were panicking about what exactly your money is going to be. But also it’s always a good idea to interrogate where your money’s going and what it’s what it’s paying for. All right, that’s the show. We’ll be back on your feet on Saturday, so please subscribe. The show is free and it’s the best way to make sure you never miss an episode. If you can leave us a rating and review in Apple podcasts, tell your friends about us if you wanted to, like buy a skywriter commission, a skywriter. Either way, that would be fun. And if you do it, send us pictures. We’d love to see.

S3: In the meantime, though, please continue to email us and tweet at us and send us DBMS on Instagram or Twitter. We do check our DM request and as you can see, we do read your receipts, we read them. We are going to continue to read them.

S1: If you’re going to tweet at us, the hashtag is hashtag A.I.M. iPod and by email we are Icee. Why am I at Slate Dotcom? You can help us settle the debate once and for all. Is it read or is it read?

S3: I see why mass, produced by Daniel Shrader as supervising producer is Derek John works with many Slate’s culture editor and Gabe Brothas, editorial director of Audio Free Online

S1: or not shoosh hippie

S4: sinkage, baby, you light up my world like nobody else the way that you.

S3: I feel like you could have picked the better One Direction song, but OK,

S1: look, I panicked.