Alec Peters, you asked for it and you got it.  A set of fan work guidelines for the Star Trek universe that pretty much kills everything except maybe Lego animations. (Which are fine for what they are, but…)

I don’t personally do fanfic, fan films, fan art, etc., I’m sufficiently happy to stick with the originals, lament the lack of “more of the same”, and to spend some time dithering over whether or not I want to invest in the latest whatever released by the franchise holders.

But maybe that’s because I’m an old school fan with old school ideas about how one goes about engaging with someone else’s property.

Back in my day, you expressed your love of a franchise by attending conventions, getting autographs, buying approved merchandise (when you could afford it, lusting after it if not), writing about the subject (reviews, critical commentary, odes to, why X is the best character of all); maybe wearing a costume, maybe drawing some scenes you’d like to see and maybe – way off in that dark corner over there – writing some slash/fic because you just couldn’t help yourself (and knowing that a lot of the rest of us were laughing even as we were titillated).

But making your own episode?  Writing your own adventure novel?  If nothing else, it was time totally wasted, time that could be devoted to creating your own characters, your own future worlds, alien races, starships.  Borrowing?  Absolutely.  What space opera author doesn’t have an empire or a federation or aliens that represent the best and worst of humanity?

There were, back in those dark days before the internet (when we actually thought the internet would be something cool to have) back then there were only two ways to engage with a franchised property:  1. get work with the actual owners of the franchise, or, 2. consume the offerings provided by the owners of the franchise (perhaps including bootlegs and counterfeits, if you were morally ambiguous).

If you really wanted to get involved on a non-professional, non-commercial basis, maybe you wrote letters to show producers, or started or joined a club, engaged in obsessive collecting, or compiled information in a supportive way.  A small handful might take things so far as to write and perform a radio play, or a “skit” at a convention, maybe an 8mm home movie.  Your “reach” was limited by both the technologies of the time AND (emphasize AND) social convention.

That social convention can be summed up as follows:  don’t do something that will piss off the owners/creators, because we want them to keep on creating for ALL of us.

The addendum to that convention was:  don’t do something that will piss off your fellow fans, because we’re all family and family feuds suck.

On some happy occasions, that addendum is followed by a realization that fans are creative types and by putting their heads together (as Fans are wont to do because it’s fun) they just might find a unique, creative, interesting and non-problematic way to express themselves in a satisfying manner that doesn’t involve pissing people off.

In many ways, the problems with Axanar are cut from the same cloth that the problems with puppies are cut from:  an erosion of the social conventions within fandom (or perhaps, “fans” never becoming familiar with them in the first place).

That erosion expresses itself largely as an inversion of the relationship between the individual and fandom.  TruFans (and I use that word deliberately) recognize that they are a part of Fandom, with Fandom placed in the superior position.

TruFans place the health and well-being of Fandom before their own personal desires.  They are willing to modify their dreams and goals in the face of logic, out of a desire to support the community and out of a desire to ensure that Fandom’s perception of them is a positive one.

They do not place themselves ahead of Fandom.

These other “fans” seem to take the approach that Fandom is a tool, a market they can use to advance their own personal desires, rather than treating it as a culture of which they are a part.  They take from Fandom rather than contributing to it.

This is not a case of “hey kid! Get off of my lawn”; it’s a case of Vogon’s  building a Galactic off-ramp over my lawn, my house, my street, my neighborhood, my county, state, country, continent, planet.  No matter that there are people living here.  I want, I shall have.

We can save the arguments about fan works supporting and enhancing franchises for another day; right now, we need to address the fact that “fans” who have no connection to the cultural imperatives of fandom can and are doing things that are screwing all the rest of us over, because they simply don’t know how to be a Fan.  It’s taken the adults in the room to put their feet down (as CBS/Paramount just did and as Fandom did at last year’s Hugo Awards) and no one is ever happy with the results when that happens.  Take too many unauthorized cookies from the cookie jar – and yes, we know about every single one you took when you weren’t supposed to even if we didn’t say anything at the time – and the cookie jar gets taken away.

No more cookies for anyone.

I, for one, do not want to live in a cookieless future.

CBS/Paramount’s guidelines for fans can be found here.

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  1. Daniel, no. You’ve made at least three false assumptions:

    1. apparently that the piece is directed at you or a group of fans with whom you identify
    2. that it is directed at creating a divide
    3. that any one fan can tell/influence the way fandom does things
    4. that I am somehow in a position to influence fandom in a manner not similarly accessible to every fan

    Your response strongly suggests to me that while you may be a fan, you do not know “how” to be a fan, because you have never had the benefit of properly interacting with fandom.

    Fandom is a culture; it has been identified as such by philosophers, sociologists and ethnographers.

    As a culture, it has both spoken and unspoken rules, mores, ethics and socially acceptable practices. When entering a new culture, one can be a boor, fail to give any respect to the fact that other peoples may do things differently, or they can be respectful and interested in learning how to best represent themselves in that culture – maybe even going so far as to learn why a thing is done the way it is, hopefully avoiding stepping on toes along the way.

    The key is respect for and appreciation of the fact that values may be and probably are different, and that the best course of action is to be open to learning about them BEFORE possibly rejecting them.

    At my first convention, at the ripe old age of 13 (well over 40 years ago at this point), I made the mistake of using the term “sci fi”, being completely ignorant of how it would be received and why: a whole pack of adult fans practically fell on me to correct my faux pas.

    Instead of responding defensively and yelling back that I can use whatever language I want to (free expression, hur hur hur), I asked them what was wrong with using “sci fi”, and thus obtained my first bit of understanding of fannish culture.

    They didn’t handle it in the best way themselves, but that’s not the point. The point is, I entered a new space I was not familiar with and understood that when cultures clash, there is bound to be misunderstanding, so one must leave space for that to happen until stuff gets ironed out.

    The puppies could have addressed their issues in one of several different fannish ways – any one of which would not have involved a negative, confrontational approach (fans, as a culture, do not like confrontation, they prefer to arrange things by consensus: doesn’t mean there are never disagreements, just that attacking and vilifying the people you’re trying to convince is rarely, if ever, the first step taken).

    The fact that they frequently stress book earnings and sales is another indication that they have no understanding of fannish culture – fans could care less about those “measures” of success. In fact, quite the opposite is often true – something that is a commercial success is immediately suspect. Why? Because fans have learned over decades of experience that commercial success is rarely an indicator of quality – and because, way back in the dim reaches of time, the one and only commercially based fan organization (the SFL) was gutted by other fans questioning whether fandom wanted to be beholden to commercial interests (the magazines) or operate independently.

    But the puppies don’t know or appreciate these things enough to ignore them effectively. Instead, they persist on measuring themselves against fandom in ways that fans have utter disdain for. (Had they bothered to learn this stuff – even if they rejected it – they’d not have leaned so heavily on those arguments.)

    Axanar, for all of its good intents, also demonstrates a failure to at least learn about these kinds of things. Any fan of my generation (those from preceding ones as well and probably most younger fans who understand fandom) would have (many did) told the Axanar crew that they were stepping over a line. Creators – even big entertainment companies like CBS/Paramount – are contributors to the community and, regardless of how much we may disagree with what they do, we respect their ownership of those properties. We do not engage in activities that will negatively affect whole swathes of fandom.

    Fandom is far more than some social network of loosely affiliated individuals you can convince to buy your latest book – it is a free standing culture that has successfully grown while surrounded by alien cultures. This suggests that its codes and mores and “ways of doing things” – even if they look strange, bizarre, ineffective to outsiders – are successful adaptations that one does not tread lightly on.

    Last year, I successfully predicted the Hugo Vote outcome with over 90% accuracy, based on one factor alone: my understanding of fandom and fans. If fandom was not a cohesive and vibrant culture, I’d not have been able to do that.

    One other aspect of fannish culture is its willingness to forgive and move forward and its tolerance for bad actors. You will note that fans are STILL trying to give the sad puppies opportunities to put the past behind and move forward (a mistake in my opinion but I am not “fandom”, only a part). Tolerance for bad actors is waning in the face of harassment and the recognition that the old ways of handling those kinds of things have been ineffective (the fannish culture does change, but usually in a slow, methodical and measured way: fandom is blessed with an unusually high percentage of brilliant people, from a wide variety of disciplines and experiences and, rather than adopting knee-jerk reactions, it has learned over the years to take advantage of its resources, to seek out numerous viewpoints and to take action slowly). You may think fandom has rejected the “unfan” when it is not the unfan, it’s some of the values expressed, some of the approaches taken and a negative reaction to how badly some unfans have stepped on the culture.

    When the “new wave” was introduced, it was met with much criticism and negativity from many in fandom (both pros and fans alike); there were arguments, there was fuss and muss, but that divide took place within a context in which just about everyone was respecting that there were right and wrong ways to go about arguing the subject. Neither “side” attacked the other with scorched earth methods, neither side attempted to control or destroy the cultural institutions of fandom in “order to get their way”; they argued the way fans usually do – by writing about it, by publishing good examples of what they were trying to get at, by discussing it at conventions, by devoting fanzines to it.

    Today, proponents of both “sides” are respected members of fandom, their works are respected canon and the genre gained new tools – while retaining space for older sub-genres.

    This puppy war could have been handled in the same manner; fandom tried to (is still trying to), the puppies, not so much, if at all.

    And, in the end, if those who present themselves as “outsiders” continue to attack fandom in ways that negatively affect fandom, it will continue to seek ways to protect itself – a job it has proven very good at doing for the past 70 some odd years.

  2. ” we need to address the fact that “fans” who have no connection to the cultural imperatives of fandom can and are doing things that are screwing all the rest of us over, because they simply don’t know how to be a Fan”

    In otherwords there are Ubermenschen Trufans and Untermenschen Sub Fans and Davidson is the Arbitrator of their Fates

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