Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Thursday Morning Superhero

 Welcome to another monthly installment of Thursday Morning Superhero.   This is normally the time of year that I am working on my San Diego Comic Con trip, but thankfully the convention has once again been postponed.  SDCC is, however, hosting a smaller in-person event in November in an attempt to generate some revenue.  That is not a trip that I will be making, but hope that those who elect to go are safe and have a good time. It will be interesting to see how and if studios scale back their convention presence in a post-COVID world. 

What I'm Reading:

Despite slowly making my way through the Fairy Tail manga, I managed to finally start reading Lumberjanes years after picking up the first graphic novel.  Lumberjanes is an absolute delight and I cannot wait to continue reading more in this series and see how the characters grow. After finishing the first book, I picked up volumes two and three and hope to read them this weekend. My 11-year old is also enjoying this one and will likely get volume four in her Easter basket. 

What I'm Watching:

While I haven't taken the four hours to sit down and watch the Snyder Cut, it is still on my list of movies to check out.  I think I have about a 10% chance of following through with this threat, but I won't officially back down yet. Now that Wandavision has wrapped up, my family has moved to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and have enjoyed the first three episodes. There may be too many concurrent storylines at the time being, but I am hopeful they will get the attention they deserve by the end of the series. I am very intrigued by how the show will continue to handle John Walker and am flabbergasted that the series features five different characters who have wielded the shield at different points in the comics. It feels like a small screen version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it wouldn't rank as one of my favorite entries in the MCU, and I think it's great.  There are some nice Easter eggs sprinkled throughout, the action is fun, and it is the perfect show to watch on a Friday evening. 

Another show that I just checked out is Invincible.  Based on the comic book series from Robert Kirkman, Invincible appears to be a contrived trope with nothing unique to offer.  After watching the first episode it is clear that this is not the case.  This is not a show I have watched with the entire family and is definitely not one I would recommend watching with children.  There are so many positives going for this series that you might want to start streaming it immediately. I thoroughly enjoyed the source material for this one, the voice cast that has been assembled is one of the best casts ever for a show, and I love that they adapted this as a cartoon and did not go the live action route. Amazon dropped the first three episodes last week, and as my friend who introduced me to this series said, I am giddy. 

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

CoNZealand Fringe Transcript: Your Fave is Problematic: A Perennial Fandom Dilemma

During CoNZealand, a group of fans put together a set of panels, which took place outside convention hours, which would be available for free via Youtube and offer a taster of the Worldcon experience to those unable to participate in CoNZealand's programming hours, or hadn't bought a membership but were interested in the kind of content provided. The result was a set of 15 panels over 6 days, archived and available for all at

As a fringe event in the tradition of Edinburgh Fringe and other international collateral events, CoNZealand Fringe was conducted entirely outside core programming hours and spaces, and panels were not official CoNZealand programming. CoNZealand Fringe is not endorsed by CoNZealand.

Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together is pleased to host the transcripts of CoNZealand Fringe panels for fans who are unable to watch the videos or prefer a written format. This is the transcript for Your Fave is Problematic, which ran on Wednesday 29 July 2020 at 6pm BST/1pm EDT/10am PDT/5am NZST (next day) and is available here. Other panel transcripts are available via our transcript hub.

Your Fave is Problematic: A Perennial Fandom Dilemma

Panel Description: So you’ve found a new piece of media you really enjoy, and it’s going great! Except, all of the characters just happen to be white, cis and straight, with not a disabled body in sight. Somehow, all the mothers are dead, all the girlfriends have been fridged; that’s a lot to write off as an accident. Maybe new information has come to light about the media creator, and you can’t watch without thinking about it. What can you do? Our panelists explore the many ways fans choose to engage with problematic work without excusing the inexcusable: from critical analysis and transformative works, to walking away if they need to.

Host/Moderator: Noria (she/her)

Panelists: Shaun Duke (he/him), Foz Meadows (any), Russell A Smith (he/him), Jeannette Ng (she/they)

Noria: … I know like, I'm just like it's so cute the screening...

Shaun: [two thumbs up]

Noria: Ah!

Russell: And we're live!

Jeannette: [waves]

Noria: We're live! [laughs]

Jeannette: Hello.

Russell: Hello!

Noria: Yes we are! Yay! [laughs] Hi everybody, welcome, welcome!

Shaun and Foz: [wave]

Noria: I wish I could say welcome in various language. But I know welcome in Yoruba. [laughs] And that's it, so we are going to just stop at welcome. Hello everybody. [audio issues] It's nice to see everybody here.

[Pop-up from Sky5angel: hi guys!]

[Pop-up from Miklis Writes: hello!!]

Noria: OK so everyone can see. Good, we're good. We are good. So I would say once again hello everybody I am certain you already saw the title so you know why we're here, we are here to talk about y'know: our problematic faves. Your problematic faves. Our problematic faves. Some people's problematic faves where we are like, nope, this is some trash fire garbage and we're walking away from it. You know. You know it. So. I'm Noria. [laugh] You're on my channel, it's Noria Reads, I tend to talk a lot but I'm moderating today so we're going to keep the talking to a minimum. I have amazing guests as you can see, we're all here to talk about it, and I'm just going to leave them have them introduce themselves to you. To the world. Because, you know, it works best that way. So you have the floor. Who wants to go first? [laughs]

Shaun: [raises hand]

Noria: Okay. Okay.

Shaun: So hi, I'm Shaun Duke, I'm one of the hosts and producers of the Skiffy and Fanty Show which is up for a Hugo this year.

Noria: [silent clap]

Foz: Woo!

Shaun: Thank you, very cool. It's pretty neat. And I guess other than that, I'm also a teacher, I work as a professor in digital rhetoric and writing. And I have studied many things by very racist people, so I think I will have much to say today.

Foz: Hi, I'm Foz Meadows, I'm an Australian living in California, I'm an author, blogger, fanwriter, fanfiction writer, and I have a Hugo that I won last year for best fan writer -

Noria, Shaun, Jeannette
: [silent claps]

Foz: so I don't entirely suck at ranting on the internet apparently! [laughs]

[Pop-up from Ellana Rose Thornton-Wheybrew: "I have studied things by many racist people" – I think that sums up academia so well.]

Russell: Hi, my name's Russell, I write books I have jumped into weird history investigations. I have been working on various head heritage bits and pieces as well, and I'm one of the co-presenters on the Brave New Words podcast, and sometimes we also do books. Other than that, yeah, I'm a fan, I sometimes read things, I watch lots, and play stuff too.

Jeannette: Hello, my name is Jeannette Ng, I wrote a book called Under the Pendulum Sun, it's about missionaries in fairyland, and it's all right. I got up on stage and called Campbell a racist - a fascist last year and apparently that was a big deal

Shaun: [silent cheering]

Noria: [laughs]

Foz: [silent claps]

Jeannette: I most recently wrote an article about Korra, which I'll probably reference here.

Noria: That is awesome, okay. Like. Wow. I feel like such a fan, just because it's just I'm surrounded by people who very vocal especially with the problematic aspects of fandom and being able to call them out and that just brings me so much joy

[Pop-up from socrates: Call them out!!!]

Noria: And yes we have people in the chat who are very, very down for that, so I think we're gonna have a lot of fun. I think to start off the conversation, because - especially because, Shaun, you started by talking about the fact that you have had experience in calling out racist shit in academia, and I remember when I was first looking at this panel the first thing that came to mind was: it's so funny, when was the first time right that you recognised a problematic aspect in a fandom? And say recognise, you know while we're kids and we're enjoying stuff, we don't see because it's always so layered and we never get that chance to have that experience. So when was the first time that it actually hit you that "Yo, this is some racist bullshit." [laughs] I'll just ask that! So yes.

Shaun: Okay. So I think for me -

Noria: Maybe I should go first -

Shaun: Oh okay, whichever direction.

Noria: No no no, please, Shaun please. You have the floor.

Shaun: The first time I think I realised that there was a racism problem in science fiction fandom more broadly was probably when I took an American Studies course in college about African science fiction, African-American science fiction, and realising that was a thing that existed. Which is a bizarre thing to realise, but y'know when you're reading and you don't really pay attention to what you read and you're just picking up books that's got spaceships on it, when you're a kid you don't really think about who's writing this, you don't go "Oh who's this Asimov guy or who is so-and-so" and then taking that class taught me that these problems exist in this community and there's a whole other world of stuff to explore, and then that just takes you down a rabbit hole. Especially if you're in academia, where you're just suddenly going down all of these bizarre holes into some of the most racist problems that exist within fandom more broadly. Jeannette has obviously raised some of those problems as well - and actually, all of us, I think, probably have. So, that was the moment that I realised that there was an issue, and it took me a few years to realise what to call that issue, beyond saying that this stuff isn't being given attention. So. I'll kind of stop there.

Noria: Thank you.

Foz: If I can jump in, I don't know if anyone's listening to this instead of watching it, but I am a white people. And I grew up with the obliviousness of a white people -

[Pop-up from Scott Edelman: I was glad I was able to thank you for that, Jeanette, at the Hugo afterparty!]

Foz: - about being a white people. And you just have that thing of, what you are is the default that you have in your head, and when you're broadly represented like whiteness is in everything, it doesn't occur to you that something's missing, because it's not something that's personal to you. So I'm genderqueer, but I will also talk about being a woman or growing up as a girl, and that was the thing that I noticed, was that "Oh here's a story that is all guys and no girls," or girls are there but they're doing a very specific restricted thing, or "Oh hey, let me internalise that sort of misogyny of not all girls, but just me: I'm special and exceptional because I have a sword." Which is annoyingly prevalent in certain parts of even modern fantasy sometimes, which is very weird. So I was, like, embarrassingly adult before I realised the - before I really even became conscious about social justice issues frankly. Even having come out as bi at high school... Australia, or the part of Australia that I grew up in, it's a very different racial mix, to for instance, where I live at the moment or where I lived in the UK. It's very white, the predominant non-white population is Chinese-Australian of varying generations. Essentially from my personal experience black people were mythical, basically, because I had never encountered anybody in real life. That was, just from where I lived, and so it was I was an embarrassingly adult age before I was at the point to look at science fiction and fantasy or fandom or anything that I loved and be like "Oh hey, this is super white and maybe that should be examined and poked at and called out." And then since then I've been trying to educate myself about it, but I think I have to acknowledge that where I come from is a position of privilege in that regard and failing to notice it is common for a lot of people who grow up similarly. And it's the blind spots don't transfer, so I could be recognising "oh hey this is really straight, that I'm reading" or "really male", but that doesn't make the leap to oh that's really white because that's the part of you that you're seeing represented. So

Russell: Yeah. Just jumping in a bit on that, just to add really, I think even if you are one of the minorities affected, depending on the system and institutions you grow up in and around, it can be difficult even to notice when things are coming at you as well. I mean just a bit of background on me, I went to a fairly posh secondary school, which was I got in by passing a couple of lucky exams and possibly charming a couple of the teachers, I don't know. I had a rough time in that school from day one, and I never - and it was years -

[Pop-up from The Book Finch: Foz, I definitely relate to that experience, having grown up in an extremely homogenous country.]

Russell: It was years after I left that I even half began to look at why I thought the entire time it was me. But yeah, growing up in that, and there's kind of some pathway onto a factory of a - going into further school system from that I was never really comfortable being a part of and I didn't know this at the time. It's amazing what you are trained to not notice. So.

Foz: Yeah, particularly in posh school environments, so for my last three years of high school I was able to go to private school because a rich relative died and left us money, literally that was the reason why. And it was a very white school, I did have some friends who were people of colour there, and there were like Chinese-Australians or Vietnamese Australians and Australians of various other... people of colour in the school. But, my god, the racism was just constant for them. When I look... And of course most of them weren't in a position to call it out, or if they did call it out it couldn't - it wouldn't change because the institution was so white. And I look back now and I'm horrified by how much I even participated at times just by not knowing that that's what it was or not thinking it mattered and you look at it now like "Oooh, burn that to the ground." It's not a good environment when that happens.

Jeannette: I think there's a certain itch, because I grew up in Hong Kong which was a British colony, so I'm both incredibly British but also have - but also grew up in a society that was not majority white, and produced a lot of media starring characters and people and written by people who weren't white. But also I had a very different - Hong Kong media and English media are very different to me because I'm not fluent in Chinese. I can speak and understand Cantonese but I can't read it, so I can't, didn't grow up reading novels for example. But, not the point. The point I'm trying to make is, [sigh], I've always been very interested in that little itch, of that feeling of like "this thing is set in Hong Kong, but it doesn't read like the Hong Kong I recognise, why is that? This reads wrong to me." And I think I've always been kind of interested in the tropes, the kind of fallacies that stories get into. We used to [laughs] play a drinking game whilst reading, like, trashy romance novels. It's kind of like a Mystery Science Theatre but we would drink alcohol - it was a thing we did at uni, OK - and one of the categories was that "Did not wiki it" kind of feeling of "You're an American, you've clearly not been to London, this is not what people in London sound like, this is not what people in Ireland sound like, this is not what Irish people sound like, this is not what Hong Kong people sound like," and so forth. And very much we grouped all of them into the same box at the time, and this kinda feeling, and I think that we didn't have a term for why it feels bad to be represented in a way that you felt was untrue, and not all of the things in that box were racism or sexism and so forth, but they all felt a certain way, and now I'm kind of untangling them again. But that itch was there for a long time. And I like prodding it, I like trying to pull that apart and undersatnd it, and yeah. Drinking games.

Russell: I mean even, yeah -

Jeannette: We were called Lord Sin's Loinfire Club. We had a blog.

Shaun, Foz: [Laugh, silent clap]

Russell: I mean even with London, or name just about any city, there's many Londons depending on who's looking and where. Some of the stuff you see on TV or books.

Jeannette: Even looking at the BBC. I mean, Ben Aaronovitch, wrote Rivers of London, he loves saying that you know, it's all written from white people from the provinces imagining this all-white London and it drives him nuts. I remember him saying I think he quit writing for them or got stuck out because he called some producer very racist and also a swear word.

Russell: Yeah, I think that's -

Foz: Oh no, a swear word! The worst word!

Jeannette: Sorry?

Foz: I said "Oh no, a swear word."

Jeannette: The other thing I think which is quite interesting to me is that I encountered a discourse early on written by Asian-Americans and obviously their experience of racism and anti-Asian racism is very different from that which I am familiar with. Or and - perhaps to my shame, for a long time, I didn't really understand their experiences, because they would be sensitive to topics and issues that I did not respond to. And, some of those things I still kinda think they're wrong, but also appreciate that they have a very different lived experience to me, because they didn't grow up in Hong Kong, they don't have this background, and their culture and things that are racist and stereotypical in an America centred way are very different from what they would be in the UK or Hong Kong.

Russell: Yeah.

[Pop-up from Ellana Rose Thornton-Wheybrew: I read the first Rivers of London novel, and it's so local to me I was like "Oh I've been to that exact shop!" but it still didn't match my experience – too straight, abled, white, etc.]

Foz: One of the biggest problems fandom can have sometimes - I think I saw a post about it recently on tumblr - but the idea of competing needs basically, within fandom. Whereas - it just confuses me that a whole concept, particularly around something like shipping but more generally, where the whole point of fandom in a plurality of opinions and a plurality of interpretations, but people will get bogged down in the idea of the one true interpretation or the one correct way to argue a thing or what is right and what is problematic. And it'll be like, OK, yeah, sometimes there's a more clear-cut argument about, for instance, who is the bad guy in a piece of media, but that's a really simplistic example. You look at something like "Is this good representation of a particular group?" and say "Well, yeah for a diaspora community this particular representation is really really powerful and really really important, but from someone from, say, the mainland group they're looking at it like "This is really American." I mean =

Jeannette: I mean, Crazy Rich Asians is probably one of the archetypal examples.

Foz: Yeah

: Of something that a lot of the - especially the American diaspora community really connected with, and is problematic for a whole host of reasons

Foz: Yeah

Jeannette: Because of how it depicts Singapore and how South Asian people are in it basically as a punchline, and [sigh] but and I think kinda spooling back to my thing about the itch you feel, sometimes we feel that itch and sometimes we try to apply language to explain that feeling. Something is wrong and I need to explain it, the problem is that sometimes the label we apply to the thing that is wrong is not the correct label. Like, this ship really squicks me out. Is it squicking me out in a way that means no one should ever ship it ever again and no one should ever mention it in the universe, or is it an "OK, people, tag your thing", or even a level of "it squicks me but that doesn't mean -"

Foz: It squicks everyone out.

Jeannette: "-producing content about it is always bad?"

Russell: If you're watching or reading -

Foz: Yeah

Russell: Something is bugging you, but you're not necessarily -

Jeannette: What is bugging you, what is it, why, and what should you do about it. An obviously the power as well, because people who write fanfic is very different from people who are making the show itself or writing the book itself or financially benefiting from these things, and the problem is within fandom, I think when we're calling out problematic things, there is a slight tendency to prioritise targets that you can actually affect.

Foz: Yeah.

Jeannette: So getting another fan to take down their fanart or fanfic, that is a thing that you genuinely meaningfully do, you can indeed harass them off the internet, but you probably can't get the writers of Supernatural to make your ship canon.

Foz: It's exactly that, and it has that has the paradoxical effect if once again if you're trying to support marginalised representation and marginalised creators, you end up punching down more often than you punch up, because the people who are actually trying even if they get it wrong are more likely to listen to the criticism, or those who are new to the industry, or those who are, as you say, fan artists or fan writers or individuals, they're more accessible because they're not behind several levels of corporate bullshit in order for you to talk to them on the internet. And if they actually care, they're more likely to say "Oh maybe I should take the thing down, maybe I should stop." Whereas somebody like the absolutely vile human that is, like, Perlmutter, head of Marvel, nobody's going to stop watching Marvel or reading Marvel because of him even though he's literally the worst and he's the one ultimately deriving heaps of financial benefit from it, but he's inaccessible. You might as well try to punch god because it doesn't do anything.

Jeannette: I'm not trying to make it out that you know, small creators or fandoms or fantartists are beyond critique, but I think it becomes it becomes very frustrating that you feel like you're not actually wanting to punch this specific artist, you're actually - they are standing in for the larger system that you are feeling powerless to affect.

Foz: Yeah.

Jeannette: And sometimes we're talking about trends and spaces, which kind of goes into fandom and how - like, Tumblr's tagging system was very bad for developing tag communities.

Foz: It's still bad.

Jeannette: It's still bad, but if you click on the tag you will see everything.

Foz: No you won't see everything, that's half the problem, you'll click in the tag and it's like, I know this is mentioned but it's -

Jeannette: In all the wrong ways! In precisely the wrong ways! But in the sense that I'm given to understand the anti communities because people felt they couldn't escape from certain types of content or couldn't hide themselves away to a place where - to not see it.

Foz: There is that, but I also think there's an element to it of people taking discourse - the dread Disc Horse like we're having now - that people taking the view that if something is criticised and the criticism is reasonable, therefore it should be a hard rule, and it completely erodes nuance and it completely erodes the the idea that actually people have competing needs and competing investments in fandom. So what is good for one person might be bad for another and you can actually examine things on a case-by-case basis, and instead you've got this thing saying, you've now got these groups arguing "Oh, absolutely anything that does X and if one bad person is involved in a thing, then the whole thing's bad," and just attempting this very evangelical idea of moral purity, where you can't be touched by anything bad, or you are bad. And it just doesn't work functionally and becomes very frustrating to deal with that.

Russell: As a result of that, it can get absolutely crushing to have any kind of discussion on fandom in a large audience because somebody will jump on your for nothing. Which probably isn't nothing, you know. So yeah. I mean, on that note, and seeing if they're talking about, y'know, a very very obvious example a very obvious example would be Star Wars, especially the shall we say divisive nature of the recent trilogy.

Noria: [laughs]

Jeannette: Fuck Star Wars.

Russell: Where do we stand on Star Wars? I realise that each of those movies is its own panel and I realise -

Jeannette: Russell I'm not going to talk about Star Wars.

Russell: - I can't, I can't, I'm sorry I've been sitting on this because I've gotta go. I mean yeah we could have, there's panels on any of the last three, but yeah, but sorry, Jeannette I know what it is as well it's... yeah. What did they do with that last episode? I mean, it's relevant to this, because - it's entirely relevant to this panel, because problematic plus toxic fandom can lead to some quite extreme back dialling of characters we need to see more of.

Shaun: This gets to the bigger problem of that dreaded word discourse, where the idea is that in a fandom you're not all necessarily agreed but you're having conversations and disagreements and you're supposed to be working through things, and maybe you hit a point where you're like "we don't agree on this but that's fine", but in some fandom communities the arguments over the things different groups think are controversial get to that point where it's like Russell was saying, you either mention something and it's suddenly like a sea of people coming to destroy you with their tridents, and it gets to the point where the fandom seems so toxic that it's exactly what Russell was saying, there can then be suddenly very potentially problematic things being suggested in a certain fandom suddenly appearing in the actual materials. From the official canon. And Star Wars is one possible -

Jeannette: Yes, but —

Shaun: Sorry, go ahead Jeannette

Jeannette: So I was on a "Women of Star Wars" panel... before the third film came out, it was after Last Jedi, I was in Rey cosplay, it was great. It was a great panel but right at the end, during questions, a white women in the audience basically got up and said "please condemn Reylo shipping. This is a bad ship and I want you to condemn it, it's very bad." And I was startled, because, dark secret, I do ship that ship, I'm not [air quotes] "active in the community" or anything but that is a ship I like, I like dark princes, I like bullshit. No secret I am trash for this kind of thing but the thing is - and I was really taken aback, it was very intimidating to be just put in the spot, and go "Oh, okay, is that where we're at now?" It felt very confrontational. And I don't want to make it out that Reylo shippers are the most beleaguered people on the internet, because they're they're not, and they kind of, [air quotes] "kind of" got what they wanted in the last film so whatever, but the point is it's still kind of weird to have had that - I'm not over that moment, it was not pleasant.

Russell: It's almost like you were put in a position whereby you were given authority as a gatekeeper.

Jeannette: I'm not a -

Russell: But in a really sort of loaded way, it's just -

Jeannette: Yeah, and you know one of the other panelists was like "Why would you ship this, it's stupid, there's these other attractive men on the cast," and it's like "Well, I appreciate that, but I thought we having a nice positive like - don't kinkshame me for having very basic tastes!"

All: [laughs]

Foz: It's like the pumpkin-spice latte of ships, let me have it.

Russell: We are here to -

Jeannette: I have I have other ships that are perhaps that are less mainstream, but not the point.

Russell: Yeah -

Jeannette: My point it was just a really... and I think that was the kind of interaction I would like fandom to not have?

Russell: We are here to discuss why our fave is problematic, but at the same time we must allow people to enjoy things. Especially with ALL OF THIS. [gestures]

Foz: Before this there was a period where the word problematic first started being used in fan discourse and everyone kinda ran away with it for a while to mean-

Jeannette: [indistinct]

Foz: It's a good word! It's a good word! But it's like, everybody was using it to mean "Oh this is problematic therefore you shouldn't like it," or whatever and I feel like we've graduated to the point now of saying "well everything is kind of a little bit, or potentially problematic", there's a question of degree. But you can't get away from the problematic. At a certain point your only alternative, because the ultimate problematic thing being society, the only alternative is to go and live in a cabin in the woods, but not in the Thoreau way where your mum still does your laundry for you. You can't perfectly extract yourself from everything you don't agree with from media and society, so while there's examples where you can say this thing really upset me for these reasons and I'm just going to stop, you can't expect everybody to share that.

Jeannette: I mean, so, when I saw this panel title, the two fandoms I really wanted to talk about was old Norse, because I am an old Norse scholar back in the day, I have a stupid degree in this, and for the last decade, every time it's come up, I have to say "I'm into old Norse but not like that." I remember googling for essays, I was like "Oh no, like I don't have a copy of the Poetic Edda, better check on the internet," and it's like, three sites down or three pages into google you're like "Wait, isn't this a neo-Nazi website? Hosting the Poetic Edda for some reason?" And yeah, in case you're not aware, that's a thing that certain types of neo-Nazis are really into. And in fact so were actual Nazis quite into it. And they are responsible for quite a bit of early research and it's very bound into the field, and it's like well I am into this but also these other things, and that's - you know, the Vikings themselves and old Norse people were not an idealised society either, they were also very sexist, queer but also kinda homophobic at the same time, they had a different set of -

Foz: Like hockey.

Jeannette: It was it was not the same as -

Foz: Sorry!

Jeannette: - As we would have here now in this moment which kind of makes them interesting. Not the point. One of my gay professors would not shut up about the way that they were pro gay sex but only very specific sorts of gay sex.

[Pop-up from alliecat1019: Can you like without condoning? I don't know the answer to this but I am searching for the answer.]

Noria: Allie is wondering, and I think this is a very interesting question to consider because can you like without condoning? Because I think that's a question that a lot of people have in hand. And just like you Jeannette I do have a couple of ships that people have been proud to tell me "Yo, your ship is abusive!" and I'm like "I know that. Your point being?"

Jeannette: But that's why it's hot! I'm sorry!

Noria: But you know [laughs]

Jeannette: I think I'm okay!

Noria: Yeah. But like, how do you cross that divide? How do you say that yes, because my personal answer is just because I like something doesn't mean that I condone that behaviour. But a lot of people in fandom just can't wrap their head around that. They can't see liking something without wanting it and I'm what I'm wondering is, "Yo, all the movies you watch? You know, the revenge fantasy movies? Some of you might not want to admit, but a lot of us really do love because there's just something very satisfying about watching a character being like "I am going to get my revenge in the most bloody way possible". Equaliser, we bow at the magnificence that is Denzel Washington, and what I'm wondering is I can enjoy a good revenge fantasy, but it doesn't mean I'm going to go buy a gun and say "yo I'm going to start shooting everybody". It doesn't work like that. So how do you navigate these conversations, explaining to people that you can like something without necessarily wanting to condone or promote that behaviour.

Russell: Yeah, it doesn't work like that for most of us. Obviously we've had some really tragic high-profile examples of when that has not been the case, but well, The Equalisers a great one, because would that have been as awesome without Denzel? But yeah, sorry, going back a little to the previous point whilst answering this, skating a little further in history, hang on I was leading onto two points here. Let me cancel that one and start again. I don't remember but someone made a brilliant - there was a brilliant discussion I was on with some friends of mine, not a month or two ago about – about that old Michael Douglas film, Falling Down. Now I remember being introduced to this by my dad, because he was laughing so hard at some of the, certainly the scene where he goes into McDonalds and y'know Michael Douglas plays this angry white guy who just completely loses his shit one day, and goes into McDonalds and threatens to shoot it up because it's like a minute or two past them serving breakfast. Sorry. Where it comes obviously not condoning it, the more you watch, I think it's one of those films that weirdly holds up but has a different - but gets a different feeling for it next time. He is presented clearly as an anti-hero, but the more it goes on, the more it tips into "this is harder and harder to excuse". It's a really cleverly done film, because it's also the bit that we don't see so much, is the completely understated performance Robert Duvall puts in as the cop trying to deal with him. He's just the opposite. In the same way the guy's been through some stuff and seen some stuff, but he's also kinda "I see how you get there, I'm one or two bad days from this happening to me, but we can't be you mate", and yeah, it's that came across a lot, I dunno, I could hear Duvall's part a lot louder.

Jeannette: I feel like complexity and nuance aren't necessarily the answers to having problematic themes in your content, in some ways because... So Hunters, Amazon, it's the one on Amazon, it's the one about Nazi hunters set in the seventies, it's really good, but it kind of starts off being basically "Let's kill Nazis as revenge for the holocaust" and its kind of tagline is "revenge is the best revenge" and it promises you a revenge fantasy, and the revenge fantasy bits are great! And then later on it kinda tries to introduce more more complexity into the story, it's basically about is revenge really the thing you want? Is revenge too much? And in some ways it got in the way? I kinda just wanted it to be a simple exuberant violence, that it becomes this thesis on the morality of vengeance and the complexity of that makes it a less good revenge fantasy. And it's like, well, if you're trying to say revenge is bad, you've still spent so much time enjoying revenge that now you're trying to guilt me for it? I'm a bit like

Foz: Yes, because I'm not here for the philosophy of revenge, I'm here for the revenge.

Noria: [laughs]

Russell: Are you saying go watch John Wick instead?

Jeannette: I know when to [indistinct] out.

Foz: I think that's, just going to the question of one of the things - because we were saying earlier that people having different needs and getting different things from fandom or whatever, I feel when it comes to this, the question of how do you enjoy something problematic without endorsing it or how do you like something by a problematic person without endorsing them, I think the uncomfortable answer a lot of the time is that everybody has to draw their own lines and we're not always going to draw them in the same place, and a lot of the anxiety in fandom around this is that - and I understand this fear in the age of internet dogpiling, that a lot of people don't want to be seen to have the wrong opinion and to potentially get dogpiled for it. Or people are just terrified of being disagreed with to a certain extent, or being told that they're morally in the wrong. And the difficulty, I think the fear of that a lot of what the anti rhetoric, that "We're promising you that as long as you agree with us about everything you'll always be right and anybody who disagrees with you will be the bad guy" and there's a simplistic moral safety to that. But it's -

Jeannette: The problem with the anti-ship is like you can always say I am better than those guys

Foz: Yeah

Jeannette: I ship this thing which is bad, but as long as I dogpile onto this ship, I'm still pure.

Foz: Yes, yeah, it's exactly like that, and I think people, we don't like to admit that there's always going to be a potential disagreement over something that we care about, that there might be someone who for perfectly legitimate reasons says "Hey, I really dislike this, or hey, I like this thing that you hate," or, there's no one perfect position to take, that you have to potentially - you don't have to be willing to argue every single point, because you don't owe people that engagement even if they want it from you, I think as long as you can just sort of back up your own position, but also not even necessarily back it up, but just to be able to say "Yeah, you're right, I know this this I like is trash, I'm not morally defending it," because that's the thing, I think we often conflate watching a thing or liking a thing with morally endorsing it, and it's not always the case, and that's why in the fandom we talk a lot about "I am in the dumpster. This is my trash, I am a racoon person, shower me with garbage." We admit that. And at the same time of that, we still try to hold some kind of moral point around it.

Russell: Y'know - Sorry Jeannette, go on.

Jeannette: I was going to bring up The Untamed as quite an interesting example, especially of people wanting different things from their media. One of the things I find quite interesting in art more in general is that people who want to do - art from different cultures reflects unsurprisingly their own prejudices and there is no, to my knowledge, completely unprejudiced creator or culture, but however because people do have subtly different prejudices, that thing from another culture can scratch your itch in a way that nothing from your own culture can.

Foz: The thing with - something with The Untamed, the two things that I hold in my head constantly and for anyone who hasn't just seen it, it's on Netflix, it's a live drama adaptation of what started out as a queer web novel -

Jeannette: [indistinct] is better by the way

Foz: Oh yeah, I've heard that, I need to watch the Viki translation. But basically it's everybody involved in creating this tv show, the producers - I've got very far down the rabbit hole of looking at the behind the scenes stuff for this by the way, it's a little tragic

Jeannette: For the record it's about a gay necromancer who's in love with this ritualist -

Foz: Handsome sword boy.

Jeannette: - handsome sword boy and they're -

Noria: They're trying to make their love work.

Jeannette: - a lot in the TV show.

Foz: Yes. But the thing is that everybody involved in creating in the tv show, has gone "Okay, because of chinese censorship, we can't openly depict this as a queer relationship, but my god we're going to put as much sub in that text as possible, and we're basically going to play chicken with the censors and get as close to doing this as we can."

Jeannette: Unlike some, what was it, Goblin? There was another tv series -

Foz: Guardian, Guardian.

Jeannette: Because webnovels are very popular in China, slash webnovels -

Foz: Yes.

Jeannette; - "boys love", the genre.

Foz: Guardian.

Jeannette: But much like slash in fanfic it's primarily written and consumed by cis straight women. About queer love. Or some of them may well be less straight than they think.

Foz: Yeah. There was guardian that was the one that came first, and that was based on a queer webnovel, and that success of Guardian and The Untamed so now there's like a subgenre of cdramas based on queer content, but what I'm sort of getting at is, you're watching this as Western person, well I'm watching it as a western person, going the fact that I know it's subtextually supposed to be a queer romance and knowing that everyone involved in making it were making as a queer romance -

Jeannette: But -

Foz: - Is really meaningful to me. The fact that on-screen the straight relationships that are there aren't like kissing and swooning and everything, there's exactly the same amount of romantic tension between the straight characters as the queer characters, but I can also understand how someone would look at that and go "That's actually worse in a way that the queerness has been erased, that they're not able to show that" and getting really frustrated by it, but I'm looking at going OK, but the thing that I crave, my personal catnip is something like a fantasy story that just happens to have a queer romance in it where that's the main emotional throughline, and the west isn't producing that in tv long-game form. If they do, it's like a side couple or something, it's not the main emotional throughline and so I'm looking at The Untamed going "Okay I know that this is meant to be gay, I know that everybody making it wanted it to be gay and I know why it's not so even though I can politically object to the censorship -

Jeannette: and I think they're [indistinct]

Foz: Sorry?

Jeannette: Unlike in Guardian where they wrote in extra love interests. I believe it's Guardian they wrote in female love interests so it's more obviously censored.

Noria: And in fact there was a whole - because I was also following the untamed when they were shooting in regards to them actually making it, and there was a lot of uproar that started because initially it seemed like Wei Wuxian was going to end up with MianMian

Jeannette: MianMian? Really?

Noria: And everyone was all like "Yo, these characters are gay!" I'm saying it was a big deal, people singed petitions! Fandom was like "nope, this boy is gay" actually he's bi but he's not meant to be, he only has one person he's ending up with so yeah, so I can't get that.

Jeannette: But because The Untamed is also really interesting because one of its actors was personally involved in getting Archive Of Our Own banned in China.

Foz: Okay, yes and no though, because it was like... Basically there was an RPF fic with the two main actors from The Untamed, which is Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, and this particular fic was written in Chinese, it got circulated on Weibo, and it was this huge backlash of Xiao Zhan fans who objected to his depiction in this fic.

Jeannette: Sure.

Foz: Because it was sort of like sex work but -

Noria: no he was depicted as being a trans woman, so they - it was messy, yes.


Foz: It's alright, sorry, the thing that I've heard subsequently is that the Archive was probably going to be banned anyway at some point, this became the pretext -

Jeannette: Sure -

Foz: But the actor copped a lot of backlash for something that was not his fault.

Jeannette: Sure, but -

Foz: But apparently there was a whole expectation that he managed the fans who objected to it who started harassing other people, and it was this whole thing -

Jeannette: I think that The Untamed isn't - it's that problem with The Untamed though I'm trying to get is the wider context of China and, y'know, China: not the good guys right now. I watched Eternal Love and it's like oh, oh it's cool, it's that Uyghur actress that I like and oh yeah Uyghurs, they're still being imprisoned and culturally genocided.

Russell: To be fair we have a worryingly short list of good guys right now.

Jeannette: That is also true, and The Untamed hits that weird spot where has this - its also mentioned in quite a few fascinating conversations, such as people trying to argue that chaste queer romance is superior to not-chaste romance, because it's kinda fed into that argument of [air quotes] "clean" and the kink at pride conversations, where a certain subsection of people, queer people who are not comfortable with overt, depictions of kink, sexuality, kind of look at the Untamed and say "This is how it should be," and it's sort of like the "I'm glad you're getting the content you want, but also, where that comes from is is an uncomfortable place for a lot of other people, because it is born from censorship, not a desire to depict a squeamishness about sexuality in general.

Foz: Yes.

Jeannette: So yeah. It's -

Foz: Shaun, you had a -

Shaun: I wanted to jump in because I think it's really interesting, because we've been talking about works and problematic content that's in in works, and there's only been a couple of mentions of works created by problematic people. A little bit in this latest example

Jeannette: The entirety of china got brought up, Shaun!

Shaun: Yeah, but before, I got it, but what I'm saying that the question that led us to this point about "can you like something without condoning it", and it seems like that the answer we've come to with the works themselves: yes. You can enjoy something that is problematic without condoning what makes it problematic, but for me I wonder, the other side of this, which is about the people who may be behind it -and it was in the comments, the reference of JK Rowling, because she's one of the latest of the high profile examples of someone who's become extremely problematic, or as some people would say outright a bigot and a TERF.

Russell: And not even that recent, but yes.

Shaun: Fair point, I would say, for a lot of people it suddenly became very public, but it certainly wasn't recent, you're right Russell. And I think that the answer for the people who are problematic who create the things that we enjoy, the answer to this question is a lot harder -

Foz: I think -

Shaun: Can you enjoy Rowling without condoning Rowling?

Foz: I think this is a specific example where the medium matters a lot, because when you're looking at say an author, the author is the single person who creates the book, or sometimes it's two people writing together. But it's a much more one-to-one relationship between consuming the thing and supporting that person, depending on how you buy. If I go out today for whatever reason and decide to buy a second-hand copy of Rowling, she wouldn't get any money from it, because it's already been purchased

Shaun: Right.

Foz: So there are ways to engage where you can financially disengage from it, you can buy something secondhand. But when you're looking at something like a TV show, there are so many people involved so you say OK, do we go by the prominence of the person involved? Do we really care if an Assistant Director gets brought up on criminal charges because - or like are we concerned if it's the director, are we concerned if it's the producer, are we concerned if it's one of the actors, if it's a minor actor,

Jeannette: [indistinct]

Russell: I mean there's a big difference in positioning between Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, for example, so -

Foz: Yeah, and I mean, they're both atrocious, but the thing is, if you say "I'm going to stop watching", for instance, this tv show, because of one person involved in it, you're also disconnecting from everyone else involved in it who you might want to support whose fault this isn't. So I think it's kind of like a false - in a lot of contexts it can be like a false dichotomy to set up where you're saying watching the thing or not watching the thing is the way to express your disapproval of that person -

Russell: Sure -

Foz: - I feel like the more effective mechanism, because let's be honest, the big societal failing, the reason this is a conversation a lot of the time is that people with social power, people who are celebrities, people who are prominent within their industry, they don't suffer any consequences, so it feels like it's put on you as a fan and a consumer to try and demonstrate the consequences, but that's not how it should be. We're not the ones who should be holding for instance Warren Ellis accountable, or Harvey Weinstein accountable, that should be a legal thing, and there's a whole other conversation about the failings of the police and the law department everywhere. But what I'm getting at is that it's a fundamentally - I feel like fandom has taken this burden on itself, especially when it comes to stuff that's actually literally criminal, and not just "oh that person is a bit toxic or a bit dicey". Fandom has had this burden put on it to try and morally - to be responsible in some sense, emotionally for whether or not bad people make a living from the stuff that they do, particularly in context where they're not the only ones creating it, and where cancelling that entire show or thing would have an impact on the livelihood of other innocent people, and that shouldn't be on us

Russell: No -

Jeannette: Can I just -

Foz: - we should have a better -

Jeannette: - bring up an example, of something that came up very recently, because a new season is about to drop -

Foz: Of what sorry?

Jeannette: The Dragon Prince?

Russell: Oh yeah.

Jeannette: It's a TV show

Shaun: I was thinking Sleepy Hollow would be another good example.

Jeannette: Where the people who are saying the allegations are saying "we want change, we don't want fans to boycott the show, we want the company to be less sexist. We want to have our jobs -"

Russell: I need to mention Brooklyn 99 as well at this point because obviously it's a show babout cops, at the centre of it all, and for all of the goodwill it's had from - and quite a massive fanbase, one thing I would note recently that they've done, apparently they had the entire of the next season ready to go, more or less, or at least a large chunk of it, but because of recent events, they've basically canned the entire thing and said "Right, look, we're going to have to take a whole new approach on this." And that was not, I don't think that was anything the fans specifically asked for, I think that was possibly an expectation that the people on the show had on themselves, to give to the fans as to what they thought would be the right thing to do.

Jeannette: Yeah.

Foz: I hadn't heard that, I'm impressed to hear that, but I feel like it's a thing where ideally in a perfect world we would have better mechanisms for when stuff is criminal conduct as opposed to just skeevy grossness as opposed to something you can argue about or disagree, we would have better mechanisms at least for fandom not having to be the arbiters and be the ones advocating and saying "Hey, maybe the serial rapist should not have a TV show anymore and should maybe go to jail a little?" We shouldn't have to be the ones doing that. And yet the world is imperfect and that often falls to -

Jeannette: But I do think on that level, for some of us at least, it becomes a matter of, you can't see that person's face without thinking about it. If that person's behind the camera or in the writer's room or a producer you're like "Okay, I don't have to look at their face."

[General Agreement]

Noria: Was that not the reason why they replaced Kevin Spacey and had the entire last season centre Claire?

Foz: Yeah, but that's a fairly clear-cut example, because it's like, hey, dude's a rapist.

Shaun: It's an individual. It's an individual too, yeah.

Russell: Yeah.

Foz: And it's not just, oh, dude had some shady comments on the internet where people can argue "free speech ra ra ra," whatever, it's like legitimately -

Russell: A whole thing, yeah

Foz: - a go directly to jail, do not stop, do not pass go moment. But it's more or less -

Jeannette: An interesting comment from the - like about separating the artist from the art I think is quite interesting -

[Pop-up from Nikolas Fox: I personally don't think you can separate the art from the artist when it comes to authors because they inherently write it into their books. They are writing from their experience.]

Jeannette: Because in some ways it's very hard to separate the two, there's also a level to me where you could be getting something from the art that they didn't put there intentionally.

Foz: Yeah, there is -

Jeannette: So there is something there that that is actually an accident, is a happy coincidence because you come from different, a slightly different cultural background cultures or you have different set of life experiences, and you see yourself echoed there in a way that you don't see yourself echoed elsewhere and that's that can be very frustrating and you can be like

Foz: And sometimes when we talk about writing from experience, I think at a certain point - and again this is a your mileage may vary thing - when people are, I think it makes a difference to me personally when people are writing from a blind spot they might not have considered as opposed to deliberately, purposefully putting forward a view I find objectionable. So if I'm looking at somebody who has a story and there's no queer characters in it for instance, and I'm like "Oh, this is super straight and heterosexual," that's disappointing to me, particularly if I'm looking at the narrative and going "Oh I can see so many opportunities for queerness in this world" if it's a fantasy setting and I want to know how that works. And it might just be that the author, being straight, hasn't considered that. But if then I'm looking at somebody and they are actively bigoted and it's not in their work, that makes a difference to me. But again, its like a your mileage may vary thing, because - talking about trash piles and rolling around therein: I've watched most of supernatural and often that's garbage. And often it's complete garbage in ways that personally irritate me, but the bits that I like are what keep me coming back and the reason that I yell about the bad bits at all is because I care about the good bits, and I feel like that's the quintessential fandom experience often gets lost in it. Yes I'm yelling about this thing and the ways that it sucks, because I love it, or I love parts of it. And I wouldn't care, I wouldn't be invested in fixing the shitty aspects of it if it didn't have something that I thought worth engaging with.

Shaun: Yeah I think that part of what you're saying is that there's sort of like a difference between something that's irredeemably harmful, and something that has harmful elements but at its core maybe has something that's worth redeeming. So I can't speak for all of Supernatural because I'm about twelve seasons behind but - but right

Foz: There are so many seasons!

Shaun: There are so many seasons but there are so many aspects -

Jeannette: You're at least half-way through then.

Shaun: I'm getting there, I'm closing in, but there's aspects of the show that are certainly problematic, but you also have these really fascinating brother to brother love, these two brothers, not that kind of brother love, just to be clear, I know I know about some of the community, so I mean in terms of this family dynamic and these things and there those things I think are largely very positive about the show, and then you have the other problems that sometimes crop up, sexism and other things that Dean is a bit of a playboy and other kinds of stuff, but there is something at the core that I would argue -

Foz: Compelling

Shaun: Compelling, yeah. Whereas if you look at some other works and you might end up with a work that, like for example the Gor novels, which is, there's really nothing redeemable about the Gor novels. They're explicitly sexist, they sort of imagine a horrifying future in which women are essentially subservient and slaves and all these kinds of things, and those are largely irredeemable and they're obviously directly tied to the author in a way that -

Jeannette: But if for some reason you really want to wank to them, I'm not going to stop you, is what I'm trying to say.

Shaun: Sure, yeah, absolutely, there's a difference between you personally saying these are my lines and I don't cross them, and so like my rule is basically if somebody is very bigoted in public, I just wait till they're dead and then I can read their work. But that's my personal rule.

All: [laugh]

Shaun: Now I made that rule -

Noria: I like that rule!

Foz: Sorry Shaun, I just have this image of you like looking at a watch waiting - with JK Rowling like tick-tock!

Russell: That's a very special watch you have there.

Shaun: There's nothing Rowling's released that I need to wait on, there are other authors that are still alive that I - that might die soon. But part of it is also like the scale of publishing, right? So, any given year there's thousands and thousands and thousands of just science fiction and fantasy books, and I don't have the time to read all of them, I'm gonna die before I read the ones that come out this year alone, that's just impossible, so I have to make decisions about what I cut out, and if you've made the conscious decision as an author or whatever to go around saying horrifying things and whatever, for me it's an easy decision. I can't read read all these things anyway, so [chopping gesture], gone. And maybe if the work's really important one day and I need to write like a fricking dissertation on it, maybe I'll wait till you're dead and I'm 95, and then I'll write about it. But otherwise there's tons of other stuff that's worth my time.

Foz: I think that's the thing. You have reasons for picking and choosing. You only have a finite amount of energy, you have a finite amount of time, and if you want to say say "Hey I don't want to read or watch or support this thing because of x character or x arc,"... sure! Nobody is standing over you saying "I'm sorry, you haven't fulfilled your quota of bullshit trash misogynist fantasy for the month."

Jeannette: Wait -

Foz: Nobody's doing that.

Shaun: Right.

Jeannette: - But that comes with the problem that in certain circumstances you're told where in order to participate in this community you have to read the greats of SFF -

Foz: Ugggggggggggggggh MEN

Jeannette: - You know, you show up and then they're like "oh yes, you should totally have to read Asimov", and I'm like "Well no you don't?"

Foz: Kiss my Asimov.

Jeannette: Read literally anything else? You could find some of your A level maths problems and read those, that would simulate reading Asimov! There I said it.

Noria: [laughs]

Russell: Yeah, I had some friends at school who absolutely loved - good friends as well – loved Asimov.


Jeannette: - maths problems! For longer!

Russell: I was listening to them trying to pitch it and not quite my tempo, but as long as you're enjoying it that's cool but not, yeah.

Jeannette: But I think there's this unfortunate gatekeeping element to, these are the works that you should read to engage with this community. And I think that that can get very uncomfortable picking on the example there with the Gor novel, apparently endorsed by someone in both the SF and BDSM community in the comments. I stress this is not an endorsement, it's just that if for some reason you find it sexy I'm not gonna stop you, but be aware of why it's problematic! But those people most people here are aware of it already so I'm not gonna lecture you. I want

Noria: I think -

Jeannette: I -

Noria: No sorry Jeannette, please go on.

Jeannette: One of the things I find really fascinating I suppose is the idea of cultures having this slightly different set of things that they are bigoted about, and how that can create things, accidentally create things you find enlightening or illuminating. To get really pretentious, Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, when he travelled to the UK to Ireland, he was like "Huh, I previously thought that segregation was very normal, that white people, even "anti-racist" white people don't want to be in the same space as black people that's just how people work", and he went to the UK, to Ireland and he was like "Oh, people people are still very racist here", but segregation wasn't normal. People would assume they're gonna share a cab, because rich people are cheap like that, and it was suddenly a moment of like "Oh. Maybe that's something to this, it's not a thing, the idea that white people just cannot exist in the same space as, and it would be better to be in a separate place, maybe that's not a natural one" and it's not like he saw a completely not-racist world, he saw a slightly different racist world.

Russell: This might -

Jeannette: And I think that's important, and that to me sometimes why experiencing anime even though it can be sexist punches different sexism buttons and it's like oh, how refreshing! A different set of ridiculous sexism.

Foz: And one I don't have to live with every day!

[laughter, crosstalk]

Noria: I honestly think that -

Jeannette: You need to be open to why those things are also bad.

Noria: Sorry Jeannette -

Jeannette: Whilst you're embracing like, like whilst I'm sitting here going "Oh anime has all these female characters" I kind of also have to say, yes, but they're also pandering to a certain demographic and that's why they exist."

Foz: Yeah.

Jeannette: But look! Different boob sizes!

Russell: You know how you say Frederick Douglass had that conversation when he went to Dublin, I had that conversation, I've had that people have had that conversation with me as recently as last year, so yes.

Foz: How are we for time?

Shaun: We're technically over.

[Pop-up from AllieCat1019: Being open to criticism is healthy. If something you love is problematic, take the criticism and think about your blindspots.]

Noria: I think we're over, I think we've actually technically we've overshot, but I don't think anybody was complaining especially in comments and I do think that having in-depth conversations about this is important.

Foz: Agreed

Noria: Because ultimately we're having this conversation on a booktube channel, and we're all involved in fandom, we've been involved in fandom for years, so I think that in itself, in its way this conversation has been essential and important in helping people understand just how to better navigate those spaces. I do know I have to do the update, but I'll definitely put the update links to all your twitter handles and ways people can still come reach you and continue that conversation, because I do think this was not a conversation that we can have in an hour. It's something that you know is continuous because fandom is ever changing, it's every growing! Authors keep doing stupid shit! Creators keep doing dumb-ass fuck shit! So this conversation -

Russell: And really smart stuff sometimes as well.

Noria: And sometimes really smart stuff, so smart that you're like "Yo, are you from another planet? Are you a different species? Have you not seen the stupidity that the rest of your kind have been doing?" Or, then we start giving them all the cards for doing the barest minimum, but I think it says a lot about us in fandom that we're so used to receiving garbage that you're like [gasp] "This person did something wonderful!" And I'm just shocked. So. [laughs]

Jeannette: I think -

Noria: I do love that.

Jeannette: I really want to talk about the different, the changing standard, the shifting standards of what is problematic and how that's both good and bad.

Noria: Yes, I think we can, you can have that conversation, I'll just wrap up this part of the liveshow with that

Jeannette: I'll take it to twitter.


Russell: Yeah.

Noria: Okay, okay, but I told everybody in the chat, I will have the updated links in the description box, so go check everyone out, follow them, @ them and tell them "Yo! I was part of the Your Fave is Problematic panel, in the comments and I had this thought" I'm sure they will be willing to respond. Please do it. Don't be like all those fans that are like "I'm bugging you I'm bugging you, answer me now!" Take time, be cool about it, some of us can be cool in fandom, so.

Russell: I mean you can if you like. But I'm not gonna promise I'm gonna answer you in a hurry if you do that.

All: [laughs]

Noria: Okay, Russell is already given you the heads up about it [laughs]

Russell: I'm just kidding, I probably will, I don't get like bombed with thousands and thousands of tweets a day so don't worry about it. Come at me.

Noria: Okay. I'm certain that we'll take you up, I know that I'll take you up on that. You've been warned but I don't think you mind, so that works, But I want to say a huge thank you, thank you so much for coming on this panel, thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions with us, I know I'm going to replay this panel over and over because there's so many nuggets that my mind is like "yo, everything, oversaturation" sometimes. It affects me like that. So thank you so much for coming, and thank you all for joining me in the audience and we're going to have still cool panels for the rest of today and tomorrow, so you can just please please follow and we'll see you soon, so bye everybody! Thank you!

Russell: Lovely to see you all, take care!

Jeannette: Oh god why are there so many people, are there even that -

Special thanks to Susan T for drafting the transcript of this panel! Responsibility for final text lies with Adri Joy - for any corrections or comments, please get in touch via Twitter.

Microreview [Book]: Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

A sci-fi adventure with keen emotional intelligence and propulsive momentum. 

I wouldn’t be the first to say that the universe we live in has morphed into a dystopia come to life. For ages, science fiction has been an impressive tool to show how the universe could be. Some of its direst predictions have come true. But Victories Greater Than Death is a panacea to the festering of 2020/2021 rot. It’s a science fiction tale that doesn’t just show how the universe could be, but in a refreshing, exciting, and uplifting move, it portrays how the universe should be.

Tina was born a clone of a famed, deceased alien commander, but in human form. She's put on Earth to be raised and hidden until she comes of age to return to her ship and go on grand intergalactic adventures. And early on in the story, she does just that, along with her best friend Rachel, and other humans and aliens. But space isn’t a world free of conflict. A humanoid alien named Marrant is out there, with a sinister plot that threatens Tina. Dazzling battles, grand worlbuilding, and varied character dynamics ensue.

Gender identity is varied amidst a wide range of humans and aliens in this story. Preferred pronouns are openly expressed without derision. The few who are unaccustomed to it, don’t fight back in malice, but come to accept it. Touching someone is something that’s asked for. Sexual identity is fluid without societal pushback. Victories Greater Than Death understands that spaces of civility shouldn’t be areas isolated from a precarious world but should be expanded to encompass the universe’s entirety. It’s a prospect that seems impossible in the incendiary landscape that we live in, but fiction like this is important because not only is it entertaining escapism, but along the way it offers a roadmap to empathy.

This novel packs a lot in it. Its pacing zooms through the story. Mostly it’s with entertaining verve, but sometimes it charges through so quickly that its intentions are blurred and truncated. There are a lot of characters in here, and not all of them are given adequate development. A foundation is set for them all, but every so often, their baggage and conflicts aren’t fully dealt with. Tina and her best friend Rachael are exceptions. Whether it’s Rachael and Tina finding a found family, Rachael dealing with her social limitations, or Tina coming to terms with her fate not jibing with her ideals, everything is excellently explored.

And that impeccable exploration extends to its worldbuilding. I lost count of how many creatively drawn aliens were described, with Charlie Jane Anders writing out enough for you to be fascinated by their unique biology and/or upbringing, without devolving into infodumps. Sometimes the story’s fascination with creative worldbuilding overshadows its characterization, but other times the creativity ties in with the characters, developing a sort of springboard for them to grow.

Like everything else Charlie Jane Anders has written, Victories Greater Than Death is well-written. What could be a convoluted story is charged with clear writing, that never loses focus. But this is the first time some of her lines came off as cheesy and cliched for me. I don’t want to say, “because it’s YA”—since some of the most mature, rewarding novels have been categorized as young adult literature. But I can’t escape the feeling that in targeting a younger audience, the novel overcalculated in simplifying itself.

Nevertheless, this is mostly the story I was hoping for. It was empathetically gentle, while having exciting battles. If you’re looking for a 2021 novel that epitomizes fun, I can’t think of a better choice. Escapism is crucial in times like these—a bit of joy amidst madness. But not only will Victories Greater Than Death heal your soul, it might just grow your heart a few sizes, too

The Math

Baseline Score: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 For never being boring.

+1 For some excellent instances of characterization

Negatives: -1 For other underwhelming instances of characterization.

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10

Reference: Anders, Charlie Jane. Victories Greater Than Death [Tor Teen, 2021].

POSTED BY: Sean Dowie - Screenwriter, stand-up comedian, lover of all books that make him nod his head and say, "Neat!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

CoNZealand Fringe Transcript: Fanzines Online: Fan Publications in the Age of Social Media

During CoNZealand, a group of fans put together a set of panels, which took place outside convention hours, which would be available for free via Youtube and offer a taster of the Worldcon experience to those unable to participate in CoNZealand's programming hours, or hadn't bought a membership but were interested in the kind of content provided. The result was a set of 15 panels over 6 days, archived and available for all at

As a fringe event in the tradition of Edinburgh Fringe and other international collateral events, CoNZealand Fringe was conducted entirely outside core programming hours and spaces, and panels were not official CoNZealand programming. CoNZealand Fringe is not endorsed by CoNZealand.

Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together is pleased to host the transcripts of CoNZealand Fringe panels for fans who are unable to watch the videos or prefer a written format. Transcripts are being uploaded daily from 29 March, and this is the transcript for Fanzines Online: Fan Publications in the Age of Social Media, which ran on 28 July 2020 at 8pm BST/3pm EDT/12pm PDT/7am NZST (next day) and is available here. Other panel transcripts are available via our transcript hub.

Fanzines Online: Fan Publications in the Age of Social Media

Panel Description: Over the past decades SFF fan culture has moved online in a big way, with a constellation of book blogs, websites and newsletters dedicated to all areas of the fandom. What are the main features of online fanzine culture in 2020? What benefits do these spaces bring, especially in an online culture dominated by Twitter and other short-form social media formats? How do online fanzines contribute to the continuous conversation that is SFF fandom? And where do we see online fanzines going in future?

Host: Claire Rousseau (she/her)

Moderator: Alasdair Stuart (he/him)

Panellists: Adri Joy (she/her), Travis Tippens (he/him), Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (she/her), Nisha Vyas-Myall (she/they)

Claire: Okay, we should be live now. The Internet: please let us know if you can hear us. And otherwise, welcome. Welcome to my channel and welcome to CoNZealand Fringe, I'm Claire, and let's see. We've already got some folks in the chat so it's looking good! I am going to —

Alasdair: Excellent.

[Gavia disappears]

Claire: Oh no, we've lost a Gav! Let's see, we – I'm going to hand over to Alasdair because he has the fanzine knowledge and I do not, and I hope you all enjoy an amazing panel!

Alasdair: Hello everybody, how are you doing?

[Gavia appears]

Alasdair: It always feels remarkably strange going "Good evening, The Internet, how have you been?" and here we are. My name is Alasdair Stuart, I'm gonna be your moderator for today and in a few minutes after these amazing folks have explained their background and their experience in the field, I'll explain mine, and then we'll jump into it. A couple of quick structural notes before we do, though. First off, this is CoNZealand Fringe.

[Pop-up: Welcome to CoNZealand Fringe!]

Alasdair: We are unaffiliated with ConZealand, they are aware of our existence, we are not competing, this is not counterprogramming. Rather, this is intended to provide US and UK time zone friendly programming at a time of the year when fandom conventioneering – which is such a lovely word – is at a premium and everyone's attention is focused in this one particular spot. So with that in mind, welcome to "Fanzines Online: Fan publication in the age of social media." I have an incredible panel with me today, and like I say, I'll introduce myself last. I will now throw the floor to them. Would anyone in particular like to go first?

Nisha: Oh I'll start! Just get it out there.

Alasdair: Go on then!

Nisha: I am Nisha Vyas-Myall and I am a co-creator and contributor to Cloaked Creators, which is a blog for scifi and fantasy, particularly focusing on marginalised genders.

Alasdair: Brilliant. Adri?

Adri: Hi, I'm Adri, yep, I am a co-editor and reviewer and general thing-creator at nerds of feather, flock together. We are a Hugo finalist this year, so it's our fourth time as a Hugo finalist.

Alasdair: Woo! Well done.

Nisha: [claps]

Adri: But it's my first time on the ballot, exciting. And, yeah. We're a site dedicated to reviews and interviews and all sorts of fun features on books, games, comics, all things nerd. So, yeah.

Alasdair: Fantastic. Gavia!

Gavia: Hi there! I am Gavia Baker-Whitelaw. Personally, I'm a kind of fandom journalist and tv/movie critic, but for the purposes of this panel I am another Hugo short-listed person. I co-edit The Rec Center newsletter with Elizabeth Minkel, which is – it's basically a newsletter of fanfic recs and collecting fandom related news, and fanart, and cool stuff that fans have made, following a long tradition of collaborative fanwork publishing.

Alasdair: Brilliant. And Travis?

Travis: Hey, I'm Travis Tippens, I'm one of the bloggers at The Fantasy Inn, we've been reviewing and interviewing authors for around three years or so now and we just last year started up a podcast, so I'm the host of The Fantasy Inn podcast as well.

Alasdair: Fantastic. And I'm Alasdair Stuart, I wear a couple of different hats. I've been a journalist for various people, and at the moment my kind of zine-y credentials come from my weekly pop culture newsletter called The Full Lid, which is basically me enthusiastically yelling at you about things I've seen, played, read, listened to and on occasions cooked across the last seven days. And that's our panel! Before we get into it, one real quick format note. We are going to be talking; we have the incredible Claire moderating the chat. As questions come up I think she's gonna be throwing them up to the panelists so we'll answer them as we go. We should be here for about an hour, so let's get right to it. The first thing which I really wanted to talk about – just checking my notes. What do you think – this is a massive point so I'm going to try to get it out of the way really quickly. How do you think the advent of digital media and the kind of democratisation that comes with digital media has changed fan publications? I'm gonna throw this open to anybody.

Adri: So I'm happy to start that one by saying that if it weren't for the internet, I would not be here. So I think – and, yeah, I feel that a lot of people possibly have the same experience, where if you have a culture that is about being at certain events or certain things, then you obviously have to be at that event, you have to be in a certain geographic location. At the point that I came into, I guess, SFF literature fandom, I was living round the other side of the world from the nearest english language book event, so yeah, it would not have happened. And also to me it felt like the logical progression from what I spent my teenhood wasting time on, which was various livejournals and then tumblrs and all of that fine stuff. So, yeah, access to me is a huge huge point.

Alasdair: Brilliant. And just to build on that real quick, I'm right there with you, you know, I had a livejournal. It's gone now, everybody should be very happy about that. Nisha?

Nisha: Um, oh, okay. [laughs] Just as a, well, I also once had a livejournal.

Alasdair: [laughs]

Nisha: Hard memories. I think for me, and my partner who runs Cloaked Creators with me, it was about access and being able to give more of a spotlight onto people who wouldn't normally get it, so we specifically opened Cloaked Creators so we could focus on marginalised genders, when SFF can be quite male-heavy,

Alasdair: Mmhm, absolutely. Absolutely. And it's the thing I find really interesting about that is that when it's done in the way that you folks do it, it almost becomes a virtuous circle where you focus on marginalised creators and people who haven't get the attention that they've got, which gives them a boost in profile so maybe other people pick them up – and suddenly the conversation becomes more diverse and more interesting.

Nisha: Exactly, yes.

Alasdair: Gavia?

Gavia: Well, I'm kind of from the fanfic side of fandom, so we definitely kind of have a long history of coming over from sort of fanfiction printed in what would at that point probably have been viewed as illegal, or at least actionable, fanfic fanzines, y'know. You sort of get someone from Lucasfilm coming to tell you to like burn your Han Solo/Luke Skywalker slash fic long before I was ever born. But definitely the internet has massively changed that side of fan culture to the point where, y'know, me as someone who's thirty years old – in the time I've been involved in fandom, it's gone from something very secretive where you could be fired from your job for publishing fanfic, to something that's very much part of commercialized pop culture? And obviously, the advent of the website Archive of Our Own, which —

Alasdair: Mmhm

Gavia: — just in case anyone doesn't know that, it's the biggest English language, or at least – perhaps not the biggest in terms of size, but the most influential fanfic publishing website, and it kind of became the hub for people to publish fanfic on, rather than having individual sites, so that’s made a really big difference to the way that people interact with that side of fan culture which is very different from, sort of, publishing a zine that would be mailed around to your pals.


Alasdair: And of course, AO3 is a Hugo winner now. Which is fantastic.

Adri: No comment. No further comment. None needed.

Alasdair: Um. Travis?

Travis: Yeah and I'll say as someone who's only really been in fandom for maybe the last five years or so, pretty much my entire experience has been online, has been digital. I know my cobloggers and I, The Fantasy Inn was formed all online, all of us live in different countries, we never really met each other in the first place. I started up a discord server to organise everything behind the scenes, and then our blog is obviously digital, so that's been my only experience with fandom really.

Alasdair: So you folks are geographically disparate.

Travis: Yes. I think only – well, now three of us are in the same country, so I think we have like five countries between the seven of us.

Alasdair: I know that feeling very well, my podcast company has – I don't think we’re in every timezone —

Travis: Yeah.

Alasdair: — but we have one I think we have every second timezone now. I think if we get all of them we get a free mug or something. This is a really thorny question and it's one that – again we're eating the vegetables of difficult topics first and then the fun stuff will come. What do you – how do you view the work that you do? Because all of you do very interesting things, which kinda straddle a couple of different borders, there are – you could be read as blogs, you could be read as newsletters, where do you draw the line between those and what someone would view as a traditional fanzine? And, do you think there are any hard and fast rules?

Gavia: So in terms of the way fanfic fanzines would've worked back in the olden times, the reason why they've mostly kind of petered out is the obvious fact we now have fanfic archives and it's much easier to access fanart and fanfic online. Obviously there's still various publishing projects that happen, I've backed a few kickstarters for fanart magazines and that sort of thing. The Rec Centre, which is the newsletter I'm editor of, we started that basically to fill a hole that was caused by the dissolution of livejournal fandom, which is collating recommendations, because there is obviously such a vast amount of fanworks published all the time, it’s helpful to know which ones people are liking and for which reasons. So we, basically I like to think we are performing a service, we are helping people out to find fanfic that they're interested in, and we also bring in guest editors who have certain expertise and backgrounds to share things we don't know so much about.

Alasdair: That's that's really cool, and of course there's the beautifully built in pun in the Rec Centre name as well.

Gavia: [Laughs] Yes.

Alasdair: Which, I'm always a marker for that kind of thing. Um. Interesting. Okay. Who's who's next? Adri?

Adri: Yes? Um. Yeah. I think that's that's probably how I'd describe our work as well. I I don't want to get too down into the weeds of comparing us as a fanzine to what came before, because I think my perception of what a fanzine is has been so shaped by coming into Nerds of a Feather at the point I did, so I joined the team two years ago, it was already so already had one Hugo finalist accolade, was going towards that second, strong third place finish, so for me actually I think what we do and the combination of, I think, just good critical analysis and then really cool things talking to the authors and the people that we love and then occasionally when we can actually find time to sit and get our heads together, talking to each other about things we love as well. That, to me, that's what I just want all fanzines to be, so I almost kind of don't want to go back and look at the definition of "Oh, is that what I was supposed to be doing this whole time? Because I’m just kind of doing this now."

Alasdair: It's almost the old thing, of, science fiction is the thing you’re pointing at when you say “that’s science fiction”. It’s like "No this is a fanzine because this is what I'm writing” and I like it. I think that that's really cool. Nisha?

Nisha: Well we classify Cloaked Creators as a blog, we've never really thought of it as anything else -

Alasdair: Mmhm

Nisha: It's kind of from my partner and I just wanting to talk about the books that we like and the short stories that we enjoy and that's basically it. We're not really thought of ourselves as a fanzine as such? We always - but my definition even though yeah, you know, who knows, I'm not an expert by any way, shape or form, but it feels like it would have more regular editions and we're kind of just like "I read this, I like it, I'll write it, I’ll write something about it in between jobs." So it's not as regular as we would like it to be.

Alasdair: Okay, I get that. Travis?

Travis: Yeah, I suppose I've never really thought about The Fantasy Inn as anything other than a blog? But really my whole goal is kinda similar to several of y'all where I just wanted to talk about the books I liked? I wanted to maybe critically discuss them a little bit more than just having a conversation on the street, although if I could talk about SFF with someone on the street that would be wonderful because that doesn't happen nearly enough, and just talk with authors, writers and some other viewers as well.

Alasdair: Brilliant. And the thing which I, this is one of the many reasons why I'm so happy to have the panel that I have here is that the thing that I was hoping you'd all do is in fact the thing that you have all done. Which is that each one of you has talked about two things: how this is in a sense providing a service, and also that this is work that springs from a foundation of joy and enjoyment, that you find something that you love and you go "This is great, you should try this too," and I think that's one of the very few kind of indestructible pillars of fandom culture, the evangelism of enthusiasm. It's very much the thing which I try and do with The Full Lid where I'm always tweaking the material I'm doing, but everything that goes in there, goes in there because I don't think I could fit it anywhere else, and also because it's about stuff which I really enjoy. The thing which I - the two things which I'm proudest of so far this year are, there's a, I read the three graphic novel biography of Representative John Lewis a couple of weeks ago, which is an incredible piece of literature, and I talked about that. And at almost the same length I went into tremendous detail two months prior to that on how you can save the Expendables franchise culminating in the deployment of Sylvester Stallone's evil twin brother, played by Sylvester Stallone's not-quite-evil brother, and the boundaries of what you do are really only picked by how we do them and where we choose them to be. And I find that incredibly empowering, and the thing that I also find really interesting about that is that this is a field which is evolving constantly, and Gavia I'm very glad you brought up AO3 because that's a perfect example of it. 

I was wondering. Basically do you feel like fandom culture is a petri dish, is like an engine of innovation, this is something, this is where the future of genre culture begins, and if so, is there anything you can point at as an example of that? I mean I'm pretty certain it is, but I'm always looking for other people - 

Gavia: I mean absolutely.

Alasdair: Cool.

Gavia: I mean even from a basic kind of technical stand-point of like teenagers learning HTML on livejournal, the popularisation of reaction gifs, like reaction gifs started off as something that people were making themselves on livejournal, video roleplaying started off as homemade gifs, which is now like a massive industry on tiktok like fifteen years later, and now you see sort of media companies hire entire consultancy agencies just to sort of track what fans are doing and see if they can encourage and then use to monetise franchises, so for sure it's innovation and I think that's also kind of been the case for, I would say just in any sort of DIY elements of pop culture because if you're in some of big entertainment business, you're less likely to have the same level of creativity as a big level aggregate of people obsessed with stuff now on the internet.

Alasdair: Mmhm.

Adri: I think, if I can just build on that a bit, I think what's interesting about the sort of fanzines and blogs and the space that we're working in is that there is, on one level, there is that innovation and bringing something new and trying to figure out how we're engaging with all this new media and obviously you can't run a website now without being on twitter and being on social media sites as well, but then we're also, we're sort of past the heyday of the blog as a social media tool, so all the, you know, all our livejournals are gone, and I haven’t logged on Tumblr in years, so there's actually, there’s a way in which we're saying okay well, there's all this exciting new stuff and we're all on twitter and all of that, but also we think there's something important in this particular long form thing that that we want to use and actually we sort of want to push back against that flow of social media and say, “You know, we're sticking on Blogger, we still have that site, it's still good.” 

Alasdair: We have a question from WorldsInInk: how has the interaction with fanworks changed? It used to be comments on blogs, but that seems to have moved more to social media. Nisha and Travis, I was wondering if one of you could start in on that.

Nisha: I’d say that, yeah, we have a comment function on Cloaked Creators, but it rarely ever gets used, mostly it’s, we'll post about what our post is on twitter, and we'll get interactions that way, and that's generally how we tend to converse with people who interact with our blog.

Travis: Yeah.

Nisha: So, yeah I think that's a very astute observation there.

Alasdair: Definitely. Travis?

Travis: Yeah, I'll say the main forms of interactions we've had in the comments on The Fantasy Inn blog is with spam and with people telling me I got something wrong.

Alasdair: [laughs]

Travis: So, outside of that there's not a lot of interaction there, it's mostly Twitter, and also just sort of like outside groups as well. Like Discord servers or online forums like Reddit fantasy, those tend to be the places where the conversation takes place.

Adri: I think the best way to get comments on your blog is if you write a list that says "Oh, these are my ten favourite books," of this particular thing, 

Alasdair: [crosstalk, inaudible]

Adri: Then you'll get tons of comments saying "How have you not included MY favourite book?!" So that can get comments, but otherwise no.

Alasdair: [laughs] Gavia?

Gavia: I think I actually have probably what resembles a very old fashioned experience with comments because we're sending out a newsletter that just shows up in everyone's inbox every Friday. So we do occasionally get letters from readers telling us they liked the letter or having requests or stuff, but for the most part it's a fairly one-sided relationship we have with the readership. Occasionally, people will approach me or Elizabeth on social media because we're really easy to find, and our twitter accounts are right there on the newsletter, but I think we've got like an oddly old-school situation, which thankfully is also what I have at work, cause I work for a website that doesn't have a comments section on news stories, which is joyful. Love not having a comments section.

Alasdair: I was gonna say, that sounds lovely. That's really interesting because again, The Full Lid is run off Mailchimp, I've actually had the exact same experience. Stuff will go out on Twitter and I’ll get retweets from it and about once every six to eight weeks I'll get a letter which is basically the equivalent of that gif of Robert Redford looking back over his shoulder for a long, long moment and nodding appreciatively, and it's really lovely. Every six to eight weeks someone goes good job, man, thank you.

OK so, thank you very for that question, that was a really very good one. Now for another massive concept which we will attempt to bring down between us: how do you think things are changing? How do you think fandom culture and how we express it through the work we do has evolved since when you started to now. And even if it's that’s a short time period, I'm curious whether you've noticed differences, and this is open to anybody I'll just pick one of you at random in a bit, if no one answers it, it's all good, don’t worry.

Gavia: I mean the way that people interact with fandom is massively different depending on what social media platform you're using. And there's such a different culture that's encouraged just by the way the commenting systems talk. I mean you have Twitter stan culture which is really different from the way people are getting into really wordy conversations on reddit, really long kind of bantery posts, and tumblr has a lot in common with just like classic teen rumours and sort of collaging and that sort of thing, so you know, it really depends on which social media platform you're in and there's smaller subgroups. So partly it's far more accessible than when everyone had to go to conventions to meet up with their friends, but also there's still a lot of niche stuff going on.

Alasdair: That's really interesting and speaks to a lot of the stuff I've seen. One thing I'd add to this, I find it fascinating how collab - how co-operation on Tiktok and communication on Tiktok are one and the same. A lot of the time you'll see people dueting with a creator that they like, as means of direct interaction with them, so the art itself becomes the message, which is very Marshall McLuhan-ey. Travis, any thoughts on this?

Travis: Yeah, I think since I've only really been in fandom for the last four to five years or so, I haven't seen individual communities change all that much, so much as my moving between community to community. So I know that I kinda got started on reddit fantasy and I guess that has changed a little bit. When I started there was around 50,000 people, they’re now at around a million.

Alasdair: Wow.

Travis: So culture changes a lot when size expands that much. It’s less, like it used to be the old fashioned forum where you'd have long, in-depth conversations on certain topics, and now it’s kind of a lot of people just drive-by and leave a few thoughts, so you might get more thoughts but in-less depth in your interactions. And then I, on twitter I guess, the longer I've been on there the more I see that fandom kind of has all its little cliques, so Twitter feels like it's maybe 200 people large to me even though there's a lot more. So there's intersections between the subgroups of fandom are still something I’m still kind of navigating.

Alasdair: Excellent. Nisha?

Nisha: I think for me I've not seen that huge difference between when we started Cloaked Creators and now, I think the main thing is probably that we're finding a lot more marginalised gender authors in SFF purely through social media, so there's been a few authors that I've discovered purely because I've come across a tweet they've made and I’ve gone "Oh, I might read, I’ll read what they've got" and gone "Oh my god they're amazing," and that’s usually something that I don't think would have happened in the - maybe, ten years ago I would be going through Waterstones and praying I find something.

Alasdair: [laughs] So discoverability has become something which is a real aspect of, a real asset of social media.

Nisha: Yes.

Alasdair: Yeah. Adri?

Adri: Yeah, I think something similar for me and again I would say like Travis, my opinions on this question are all very much about how I have journeyed through fandom and through fanzines rather than having any profound insights on how things have changed, because I think they’re sort of the same? But yeah, I think that just the way the way that I've approached certainly my content and then the feelings I have about our fanzine as a whole have changed and sort of matured I guess, as I've got a bit more experience. And yeah, I think for me at the moment the thing that I'm most stuck on is getting that balance between sort of becoming known I guess to more publicists, so there's a lot of pressure you get as a blogger for particular books and because I'm in the UK and most of our team are in the US, it's a slightly different ecosystem for me to everyone else, and then also being more conscious in what I'm reading and how I'm promoting marginalised creators and particularly work that is being overlooked and doesn't have huge publicity budgets behind it. And those are things that I kind of was thinking about them two years ago but not to the extent that I am now.

Alasdair: Mmhm. All of that is really good, really interesting stuff. Thank you folks. All of these seems to be speaking as an overall conceptual level to a persistent increase in awareness both of what we're doing and the people that we're focusing on, and of an increase in ease of how those, how the people that we want to focus on are to find, which I find profoundly hopeful, which is a really nice thing to say in 2020. I want to build on one of the things a couple of you talked about,and ask you a question really about what where are your limits? What do you find that you could write about and choose not to, and why.

Nisha: For us, it's we wanna celebrate authors, so if we read a book that we don't like, we won't review it.

Alasdair: Mmhm

Nisha: Because we feel like for, like, if I don't like a book it doesn't mean someone else will as well, and as an author myself, I'd rather not have have a lot of negative press out there on books unless they’re massively problematic In that case I'll usually have a rant on my personal Twitter. But when it comes to Cloaked Creators if it, if we love it, it goes on there, and if we don't then it stays off.

Alasdair: Okay. Good one, I like that. Adri.

Adri: So I have a silly answer and a serious answer.

Alasdair: I would love them both.

Adri: OK, the silly answer is we all collectively went to see The Rise of Skywalker a few months ago and I think when I came out cinema I was like "Uhh, we should, we should do something about this, I’m not sure, I feel very… bad, I don’t know, what did I just see -”

Gavia: [Laughs] Someone needs to do something!

Adri:  And then you know, sort of put out the call and everyone else was like "OK, maybe we need something..." and then it just died. ‘Cause it was like no, I’m not touching that. And then the more serious answer I guess is that we also want to be a space that is about the work itself and about celebrating and sort of getting together with interesting authors and promoting the professional side, and we don't want it to be either either certainly not large-P political and not small p political because I think there's obviously a lot of things that happen in the community where you could have certain opinions or certain differences of opinion or, you know, things can happen and yeah that’s going to stay on Twitter -

Alasdair: I have no idea what you could possibly be talking about!

Adri: And we'll go have a nice time on our website.

Alasdair: Excellent. Travis?

Travis: Yeah, so, similar to Nisha, I think at the Fantasy Inn we typically try to avoid tearing books to shreds, I we sometimes can't avoid having negative opinions on books or leaving negative reviews, just because kinda the way we get our review copies from publishers requires some sort of response. And so, if we don't like a book we're not going to say we like it, but there's always room for framing it in a way where if I don't like a book that doesn't make it a bad book. There’s ways of saying this might be the target audience for it, you might like it for xyz reasons. Other than that, I think we're more recently trying to make a more conscious effort to not just cover like the big bestseller books that, y'know, when you go to a bookstore, you just kinda see them up front on the big shelves, we're trying to branch out a little bit more, cover some self-published authors in addition to traditionally published, try to not just cover, to not put it super delicately, old straight white dudes, and try to branch out from there.

Alasdair: Excellent. And Gavia.

Gavia: In a similar vein to kinda what Travis and Nisha said, something Elizabeth and I often have conversations about editorially is to what extent Rec Centre should engage with fandom drama and discourse, obviously the main point of our newsletter is we want to share stuff we find interesting and recommend fanfic recs but at the same time we don't want to be on sort of cloud nine ignoring difficult issues, so we kind of, if there's like a really big problem culturally in fandom that’s like a major talking point it's something we definitely address but for the most part - occasionally we'll get messages from people who are kind of, they want us to look into some kind of niche drama or some really toxic fandom conversation or argument that's happening, and it's like, well, we're not reporters in the context of the Rec Centre, we're kind of, y'know, we're trying to like, brighten people's lives with some lovely fanfic! So on the whole we kind of have that sort of 80/20 split between just sharing content that we think people will enjoy, but also shining a light on issues we can pay more attention to because we have more of a platform.

Alasdair: Mmhm. And that seems to be a very healthy balance. I find it interesting, it’s one that seems to be anecdotally echoed up and down the rest of the panel. It's something which I try to to do really hard with The Full Lid, if I - I’m always tremendously relieved when I leave a film  that I legitimately hate because it's a little bit like finding a corner in a room filled with fog. I suddenly go “oh, oh good, I actually have edges to what I'll be okay with”. But I always – I'm normally able to find something nice to say about a piece of media, whatever it is. And when I don't, or when it's something which, where I feel like the negative stuff over balances the positive stuff, I'll tend to not talk about it. I mean we finished watching, as an example, we finished watching Warrior Nun recently, which is definitely a tv show that happened for ten episodes, and that's pretty much all I have to say about it. I know there are a lot of people who really liked it, I really liked elements of it, but I couldn't string together five hundred words of "Here's some interesting words about it" so I'm like, OK, that was an experience, let’s move on. So we've covered what you do, we've covered your boundaries, we've covered the way that fandom has come to evolve over time and fan publications have begun to evolve over time. Let's talk about capitalism! Do you use any of the fundraising platforms, things like ko-fi, things like Patreon? If you do, how do you use them, how do you balance demands of creating content for them instead of using them to enable you to create content? And, yeah how are you finding it, if so? And again, open to anybody, first one to jump in.

Adri and Gavia: [Crosstalk]

Adri: I can just say that we don't, so that's my answer to the question.

Alasdair: Okay, cool.

Gavia: Um, well, I have some thoughts on this, because I actually have kind of two independent budgets. There's the Rec Centre and I also have a podcast called Overinvested, which is just an amazing movie podcast, obviously you should all listen to it. But for my podcast we do use a crowdfunding platform, we use patreon to get money, but with the Rec Centre, explicitly because it is a fandom operation, we decided immediately that we could not use it in any way to make money. There might be at some point we’re at a point where we have to pay for hosting because the audience has become too large, but at the moment it's completely non-profit, we don't take any kind of money because there's this long history of, like, fanfic side of fandom being completely removed from like the capitalist system. I realise there's like a lot of different conversations about that generationally and also there's a lot of contrast between the fanart side of things where a lot of people do earn money from fanart, whereas fanfic where there's a lot of ideas about how maybe you don't want to make money from that, or you might get sued, but yeah. We definitely don't make any money from our newsletter.

Alasdair: Cool.

Travis: Yeah so The Fantasy Inn -

Alasdair: Nisha -

Travis: Sorry -

Alasdair: No, I'm sorry.

Nisha: No Travis can go first.

Alasdair: Nisha?

Travis: OK.

Alasdair: Did you hear - OK, Travis!

Travis: I was gonna say, so the fanzine does have a Patreon account and that's the main way we bring in money. I won't say really make money, we definitely don't make a profit. The end goal of that, the reason why we started it is because I would like to have the podcast be fully accessible and have transcripts for all of our episodes, but when I am putting out 240 or so minutes of content a month, that is extremely expensive to transcribe, either in time or in money, so the end goal is to pay someone a fair rate to transcribe all of our episodes. In the meantime, the cost is going towards just keeping it afloat, hosting, the audio equipment that we need, things like that.

Alasdair: Excellent. Nisha.

Nisha: Well my answer is kind of a yes and no. So Cloaked Creators doesn't have a patreon, but I personally do. And I can't really comment too much on the effectiveness of it because I only started it at the beginning of lockdown, because I, outside of Cloaked Creators, am a dance teacher and I run a private dance school, which has not been able to -

Alasdair: Oh awesome

Nisha: So that's been more of a, “Please support me on patreon so I can keep doing some dance stuff” and that's basically been it, and also as my work as a writer as well, so it's kind of a yes but no.

Alasdair: Understandable, and actually very similar to what I do: I have a Patreon, The Full Lid does not, and on a slightly larger scale, the podcast company which I co-own is entirely donation funded, we run through patreon and paypal on that so as you can see there is a very wide spectrum of ways in which crowdfunding and donation based funding once again interacts with fandom and fanzine culture. I'm gonna change gear a little bit, this is the last question before I see if we have any more, any questions from the audience. Whose work is an instant win for you. Which fan creators, zines, podcasts, whatever, as they come out do you go "Yes I need to listen to, read, or watch that now."

Nisha: I'll start then.

Alasdair: OK

Nisha: Just a very quick shout out. Quite a lot of our friends are also bloggers and literary bloggers and reviewers and I think I have to shout out to the Middle Shelf who does some absolutely amazing review work.

Alasdair: Mmhm very good. Anybody else?

Gavia: I mean I subscribe to probably hundreds of AO3 people, would be mine. I couldn’t rattle off their names but there're many wonderful writers who reside on AO3.

Alasdair: Excellent.

Travis: So I would probably say for me, the one whose content I always consume immediately is a podcast called Radio Drama Revival. So I don't know if any of you are familiar with it?

Alasdair: Ooh, yeah, they do good work.

Travis: They do. A combination of two things. Every other week they host a first episode of various radio dramas or audio dramas in podcast form so you can get a sampling of what's going on in the speculative fiction field in audio form, and then the other weeks they interview the creators and long-form interviews for around an hour or so, and I think just the variety of content that they expose their listeners to as well as just how insightful how thoughtful their interviews are make them an instant listen every time it comes out.

Alasdair: Fantastic thank you.

Adri: So, yeah. I have a couple of thoughts. So, first of all, I think as an editor who's working with a lot of different people, I just love all of our writers so much. And yeah it's constantly awesome to be able to see because y'know you don't really have a hand in it you see it come on their schedule and go "Ooh fantastic, someone's covering that," and you see it pop up on blogger and go "Oh my God it’s amazing." So we have some amazing writers, including Hugo Fan Writer finalist Paul Weimer.

Alasdair: Hooray!

Adri: Yeah.. And then in terms of other sites that I really like, Charles Payseur’s Quick Sip Reviews -

Alasdair: Mmhm

Adri: I can't say that I read everything as soon as it comes out because Charles does so so much [strained noises], I have no words for much effort and how much love and care he puts into - so he reviews short fiction from various different publications. He's just got this perfect style of being so complimentary and so kind about stories while also engaging critically with every single one. Um so yeah, and I always like, I have a short fiction column as well and it probably - slightly, I dunno what the word is, like undermines my own work to say I always read Charles' reviews when I do mine [unintelligible].

Alasdair: I don't think it will undermine it at all.

Adri: Uh yeah. And then the other thing I want to quickly shout out is The Quiet Pond which is a book blog run by, CW I think is the main editor, and they just have the most gorgeous cute art style and lots of little pond animals that review YA speculative books. And I love them!

Alasdair: Aww, that sounds amazing! I have a couple as well. Mike Headley, who is a fantastic YouTube creator, he also has a fantastic twitter handle @bowtiewriter who does just really good process discussions and maths. Mike is one of the few people who can talk to me about maths and not make me immediately run screaming from the room. There is an excellent podcast audio drama called Valence which has been created by a team including the podcast journalist Wil Williams which is an incredibly good piece of urban fantasy, that deals with magic use in the context of alternate contemporary America, and mental health, and people kind of realising where they sit on the gender spectrum and it's also incredibly funny, which is really really well put together. There's also the Magnus Archives, which is a very very good horror audio drama, where I briefly played the unsung hero of the show and also tremendously enjoyed the seasons that I was not in being evil. It’s very good, I would go check it out. And finally, a deeply weird one, The Well which is Captain Christopher Pike’s podcast. Anson Mount from Discovery and at some point the near future Strange New Worlds and one of his oldest friends, a guy called Branan Edgens sit down and talk about pop culture with a wide variety of very interesting people, including molecular biologists and chefs and all sorts of other stuff. It's like a really really relaxed amiable captain's log, it's really really good. I would recommend all of those. Um.

Adri: I will just note as well that the comments are coming up with some absolutely amazing suggestions, I'm just reading them going "Yep, that one and that one, yeah."

Alasdair: Really?

Adri: Good job commenters.

Alasdair: And that is a perfect excuse in which case for me to throw it to our invisible but ever present fearless leader Claire, and thank you Claire.

[Pop-up on screen from Joe Sherry: I LOVE the Hugo Girl podcast and listening to Sword and Laser is pure comfort]

Alasdair: Joe Sherry, "I love the Hugo Girl podcast and listening to Sword and Laser is pure comfort." Hi Joe, how's it going? And those are excellent -

[Pop-up from Trish Matson: yes, that's a great podcast! Radio Drama Revival]

Alasdair: Trish Matson, yes that's a great podcast, Radio Drama Revival.

[Pop-up on screen from Shaun Duke: Fansplaining is quite good.]

Alasdair: Fansplaining is quite good courtesy of Shaun Duke. Who else have we got Claire? Any more?

Nisha: Ah yep, Runalong!

[Pop-up from Claire Rousseau: Their blog is Runalong the Shelves]

Alasdair: Runalong! Runalong does the best work, he's so good. His blog is called Runalong the Shelves, which is both punny and accurate. And um, who else have we got Claire? Any questions? I'm waiting for her I'm waiting for her to drop one of those

[Pop-up from Claire Rousseau: Ohhh lots! Obvs. The Rec Center, fandom podcast Fansplaining, also the Reading the End bookcast and MANY booktubers.]

Alasdair: Yes. Obviously The Rec Center, fandom podcast Fansplaining, the Reading the End bookcast, and many booktubers. The other one I'd heartily recommend is Reading Glasses by Mallory O’Meara - who's another Hugo finalist this year for her incredible book about the creator of the creature from the Black Lagoon and how she was erased from Hollywood history - and Brie Grant, which is this beautiful combination of massive enthusiasm about weird reading and book technology and discussion of books. It's really, really good fun. So well Claire is collating another couple of questions for us, I will throw another question at you. What is your absolute dream project, what is the one thing which given half a chance and unlimited funds you would do? And funds in this case can mean time, resources, the whole thing, in fandom spaces. There's a lot of -

Nisha: So I’m gonna go -

Alasdair: Go, cool -

Nisha: - Go completely left field and a complete jump out of SFF which is where Cloaked Creators kind of resides, I'd really just love to blend together my two passions, which are reading and dance, and do some sort of project involving comparing dance pieces with their original source materials.

Alasdair: Oh that sounds awesome!

Nisha: Thank you.

Alasdair: That sounds really cool! So what kind of stuff? Like I mean the example which comes to mind is Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and the original ballet for it.

Nisha: Well I was thinking more along the lines of book sources. A lot of classical ballets are obviously based off literature, so Swan Lake, the Nutcracker -

Alasdair: Mmhm.

Nisha: And there was also a Matthew Bourne did a production of Dorian Gray a few years ago which I was fortunate enough to see, so I would like to just delve into that and just see how they've taken the source material from the books and then developed it into a dance piece, and a lot of the times, it changes quite a bit, so for example in The Nutcracker the entire first half is one chapter? Two chapters, maybe? And then -

Alasdair: Wow.

Nisha: - the last bit just kinda speeds right through. Yeah. So it would be quite interesting to see how, just basically analysing all of that. And then on the other side of it, I'd like to take books and turn them into dance pieces.

Alasdair: I would absolutely attend those shows, that sounds fantastic.

Nisha: Awesome.

Alasdair: Travis.

Travis: I'd say my dream project would probably be creating some kind online website or software for tailored book recommendations that's not something as commercially driven as Amazon, or maybe not quite as helpful as GoodReads. Something where you kind of interact with other people and see who you have a lot in common with for past book tastes and what they're reading and have that recommended towards you as well as answering lots of questions based on how long a book is, how fast paced it is, where it's set, what time period, all kinds of different things. With the goal of not just bringing book recommendations to like the same top fifty to a hundred titles that you see talked about normally, so that would kind be my dream project, as soon as I’m able to actually learn how to do that.

Alasdair: That sounds great, and I'm always always always here for an algorithm that isn't evil.

Travis: Yes.

Alasdair: Yes. Gavia.

Gavia: Just like a Hollywood consultancy agency where you just explain to movie and tv producers which stuff is gonna go down well with fandom and which tropes they ought to be using because they never know and they never do it right and I know there are some agencies that do similar jobs, but in this imaginary land I've got a lot of money to market said agency and persuade people, y'know a bunch of movies with the “there’s only one bed trope” would do very well for a lot of people I think

Alasdair: All I'm getting is a powerpoint presentation with "Kill your gays" and a big red line through it: NO. Just no.

Gavia: I mean literally, literally, and I'm sure if every tv show where somebody did that, there's somebody in the writing room who’s trying to explain it and they’re having their PowerPoint ignored.

Alasdair: Fantastic

Gavia: But here's hoping.

Alasdair: And Adri.

Adri: Um, so, I'm just trying to think of a good answer to this while everyone was giving their very serious passion projects, I was joking that in a email to our team the other day, so we do a sort of end of year annual project, and last year we did the Hugo Initiative, the year before that was Feminist Futures, I'm not authorised to say what one this year is, but it involved me "Wouldn't it be great if I could just hire a private jet with all of our fanzine funds and we could just go around the world and experience some speculative fiction while hanging out with each other”. So y'know, just just fanzine world tour, or fanzine retreat somewhere quite nice with the y'know 25 degrees and a nice pool where we can all think about finishing those half-finished draft pieces that are sitting there. My sort of five thousand words on post-conflict reconstruction in SFF which I said I will write for years and never have. So yeah, small dreams.

Alasdair: You really should, that sounds great, I would love to read it, and also please think of us when the kickstarter for Nerds of a Feather Presents Jetcon launches in about a year and a half. My own is a little more - and this is where I reveal I’ve asked all of you this so I can frantically assemble mine in my head, my cunning plan revealed! Mine is a little bit more esoteric. On the one hand I would love to produce audio dramas, because audio dramas might be my favourite type of fiction, and where I’m slowly moving towards doing that kind of thing. And on the other it's I don't know, I think the ability to – to – to for want of a better word, be a safety net for other people is something is very appealing because I know so many creatives who have these incredible ideas which would be fantastic if they had the resources to execute them, and they don't. And I think the idea of being able to go "Here, go do this, make this incredible thing," I find tremendously appealing, so obviously I'm in the process of having myself written into the wills of every current movie studio head and it's only a matter of time.

[Pop-up from Joe Sherry: Hell with it – hint at it]

Alasdair: I'm gonna – ohhh. Joe Sherry from Nerds of a Feather-

Adri: I did hint at it Joe! We're travelling around the world, Joe!

Alasdair: "The hell with it, hint at it," I think Joe is giving you clearance to hint at it -

Adri: I just told you what it is!

Alasdair: Are you doing a world tour Adri?

[Pop-up from Shaun Duke: I'm definitely curious what the panel thinks about the impact of social media on the blogosphere. Does it help? Does it make things harder? Has it impacted what gets shared/said?]

Adri: We’re travelling around the world in science fiction and fantasy, that’s not a hint, that’s just what it is, yeah.

Alasdair: Shaun Duke -

Adri: Secret out!

Alasdair: - "I'm definitely curious" -

Adri: Gotta make some good content now.

Alasdair: [Laughs] "I'm definitely curious about what the panel thinks about the impact of social media on the blogosphere. Does it help? Does it make things harder? Has it impacted what gets shared and said" Excellent set of questions. Who would like to go first?

[Pop-up on screen from The Book Finch: a question for the panel: Does social media and online presence with fan publications have any unseen complications that aren't there with physical publications]

Alasdair: And while we're considering this, a question for the panel from The Book Finch. "Does social media and online presence with fan publications have any unseen complications that aren't there with physical publications." And also the Book Finch has the single best avatar I've seen in months.

Gavia: That’s amazing!

Alasdair: Jazz finch, I love it. So we have basically two sides of the same question. What are the advantages of social media for fan publications and what are the downsides or unexpected roadblocks. Who would like to start?

Gavia: It's so complicated because there's the massive and varied range of harassment problems we experience across fandom, and also the fact that I'm sure that we've all made many friends and professional colleagues online, so I mean it's definitely one of those sort of six of one situations. I mean definitely throughout geek culture, like the internet and social media particularly, have made it easier to find people who are into your very small niche of whatever, which is excellent.

Alasdair: This is the point in the conversation where I point out that my partner and I met via the podcast we now co-own, so it works out sometimes. Who's next? Travis?

Travis: Sure I guess I'll say they're kinda two sides of the same coin like you were saying. It helps in the way that you can easily interact with other people all the time, you don't really have a choice not to interact with them.

Alasdair: Mmmm.

Travis: And for me, entering fandom online a few years ago, it’s, I can't really separate that from social media because so much of my experience with fandom is through social media? But at the same time, as someone who has - not really a product but a blog that I represent and a podcast that I represent - that's something that I'm always on in a certain sense, where if I go off on a rant or somewhere that also reflects on my co-bloggers or something like that. So I guess it's kinda pros and cons at the same time.

Alasdair: Nisha.

Nisha: It's a bit of a tough question for me I think. I'm trying to formulate an answer here. I've mentioned it previously before, I think social media has been helpful in discovering new authors, and as I'm part of the writing community as well on Twitter, that helps me find people who might not be represented in other blogs and other literature publications. And I would say that I also agree with what Travis was saying about having to represent your blog and with me, it's, I'm also representing my business because everyone who knows my business knows my name, because my business name IS my name. So it is, I'm constantly making sure I'm not overstepping or saying something that could be misconstrued on social media. That said, I still get in arguments a lot.

All: [laugh]

Alasdair: Adri. 

Adri: Yeah. I'm looking forward to having to apply for my next job with a significantly bigger internet fandom presence than I did for my current job, but that's fine. So yeah, I mean, I guess the thing that I personally struggle with is that social media is such a different skill-set actually to blogging and to writing reviews, and I think I'm much better at the blogging and writing reviews bit than the “and then I have to tell people how great they are”. So yeah, that's something that y’know, it is what it is, but in order to make sure that people are doing the things that I think we are best at and we're doing amazingly well in, it means even when you don't feel like it, trying to push yourself to write that tweet and then write another tweet two hours later and then another one two hours after that, which I never do but, yeah, I think it's it's an interesting ecosystem when that's not naturally what you want to be doing.

Alasdair: Yeah, I agree completely and it's especially, as you say when you're having to kinda raise awareness of stuff, it becomes... challenging depending where you are at that point in your day. I mean with the podcast what we do is we try and frontload a month's worth of promo tweets at any given time, and even doing that is three hours of your day. And it’s three hours of your day moving cursors along and putting things in place and it becomes a little bit soul destroying sometimes. So, I mean, yeah, I would agree with you, I think in – in that instance, that kind of thing can be challenging and can very much be a downside. The kind of larger macro one I've found myself encountering, the endless ragestorm that is 2020, is it becomes very difficult at times to not get sucked into the next "Oh what the hell is this?!" thing, because you get about twenty-five of them a day, and I have worked very hard on my twitter presence being me, and I don't do that and you know, after I found myself writing the third angry sarcastic comment about how the current health secretary is neither a secretary or responsible for health and I’m fairly certain is three twelve year old boys in a trench coat, I realised that it was perhaps time for me to step away for a little while. And, I mean, I'm aware that we have about five minutes of time left, but I think it's perhaps worth making a point or perhaps briefly discussing the point that on a larger scale that one of the most important things about the age of social media is that you have to know when to step away. And I'm curious as to how the panelists realise that moment, that kind of "Oh, it's time for a cup of tea and to go into the garden for a bit." Something like that.

Adri: I too would like to know when that moment is.

All: [laugh]

Adri: Don’t ask me! What am I doing here?

Alasdair: Where did we find this moment, please let us know. Please put a flag on it.

Nisha: Yeah I can't say I really have a moment of "OK, I’ve had too much, I better step away," where I haven't gone "Just one more comment."

Alasdair: [laughs]

Nisha: Usually it's when my cat has stepped on my bladder and I go "Oh okay I need to go do something about that first."

Adri: I think actually, in seriousness what helps for me is that, because we are allowed to talk about our weird fandom lives now if we have accepting people around us, so explaining things to someone who's not in the fandom and you get to the point where I’m listening to myself and going "This doesn't sound like the thought processes of someone who's worried about a normal thing, so maybe I'm just going to go now."

Alasdair: I should just leave. Gavia?

Gavia: I'm very bad at logging off, but I really highly recommend muting people. I feel like a lot of problems could be solved in terms of personal stress if we mute. Mute anyone.

Alasdair: I would enthusiastically second that. The mute button is the greatest invention in social media because it doesn't require confrontation and it just turns the volume down. Travis.

Travis: Well, really I'm not on social media enough to get into too many fights, I think I get more, like that moment when it's OK to actually jump into a conversation and now be like "Hey, it's me, bursting into what seems like a private conversation even though it's on social media.”

Alasdair: That is very that's very much one of those unexpected downsides, isn’t it, when you see something when you know you could contribute to and you know you'd be a positive factor, and as you say, it's almost impossible to know when that’s good and when it's you going "So hi, anyway, about this thing!"

Travis: Yeah.

[Pop-up from WorldsInInk: How do you find time to fit in the labour of love of creating content into exceedingly busy life/work schedules? I barely manage to put out anything very sporadically.]

Alasdair: Excellent. We have another question from WorldsInInk, how do you find time to fit in the labour of love of creating content into exceedingly busy life/work schedules. I barely manage to put out anything sporadically. Who would like to go first?

Nisha: I'll throw in a sort of partly tongue in cheek answer where it's easy for me because I cannot work at the moment because of the pandemic, so that makes it rather easy for me to hole up in my office and just crank out things that I want to.

Alasdair: Cool. Who's next?

Travis: Obsessively working late at night and not sleeping as much as I should. That always helps. I think that's the healthy answer to this question.

Alasdair: Travis, how did you see my answer?

Travis: [laughs]

Alasdair: Gavia?

Gavia: Well both of my kind of side projects are collaborative, so if I am left to do something by myself I probably won't do it, but if there’s another person involved there's that sort of pressure to stay on schedule. So every week we will put one out.

Alasdair: Excellent. Adri?

Adri: Yeah well for me it's a combination of if you think of that TV show that everyone’s seen - and you’re all thinking of a different TV show - then I've not seen it because I've been working on blogging, but also I think working as part of a team, so I have my co-editors to fall back on if something's not working out, we just have this amazing group of content creators where I know even if something falls apart for me personally, there's something else that I can move into the slot and I can use times when I do have lots of time to make sure that things are scheduled quite far in advance, because there are other people who are just constantly stepping up. So yeah, that really helps.

Nisha: I also just want to quickly add on that, just that I agree with everyone else that having someone to help is immeasurably valuable, like my partner definitely contributes a lot more towards Cloaked Creatives at the moment, because they are -

Alasdair: Mmhm.

Nisha: - just cranking out content, which is helpful for me, it takes the pressure off a bit.

[Pop-up from Ed Fortune: What one tool or trick do the panel find invaluable?]

Alasdair: We're starting to get a little bit of break-up on Adri and Nisha's audio, and real quick I just wanted to add onto the fact that my answer is basically a hybrid of very nearly all of you, in that my partner and I are both very good at keeping each other honest and also we basically take turns being the one where the other one has to go "It's very late, go to bed," so it's kind of swings and roundabouts. Ed Fortune, who is someone who knows a little bit about what we're talking about asks "What tool or trick do the panel find invaluable?" Adri, I'm going to throw this one at you first.

Adri: Uh. Work with amazing people. Like. Find find people where you know that whatever goes up in the schedule, whatever they want to do, you know, it's gonna be extraordinary. So one of the things Nerds of a Feather did over the past few weeks was run a series of interviews on all of the semiprozine Hugo finalists and all of the best fan artist finalists. That series came of me having a very brief conversation with Andrea, Red Headed Reviewer, who’s writing interviews for us, and going "Mmm, y'know, I really want to do something that's interviews, but not just with the usual suspects, because a lot of fiction writers get publicity, but I want to hear from the people in semiprozine who are doing the section editing or I want to hear from the fan artists because we don't hear from them. And the next thing I know, "Oh Adri I've got all of them and they're all lined up," and it’s like, that’s great. I did nothing. I just had an idea and it’s happened. Amazing.

Alasdair: Okay. Excellent. Excellent. Nisha?

Nisha: Mine's not nearly as exciting, it's basically notebooks in every room of the house. So whenever I have an idea -

Alasdair: Mmhm

Nisha: - Then I've got somewhere to write it down. And also having note apps on my phone is very handy because I tend to have my best ideas when I'm driving and can't write it down, so I go "Remember it, remember it," pull over, write it down quick.

Alasdair: Excellent. Gavia?

Gavia: It's literally just a combination of the last two. Work with people you like, and I also use post-it notes all the time like it's 1960. So, you know.

Alasdair: Excellent. I'm a huge fan of the post-it. Travis?

Travis: I'm gonna cheat and have two, so for organising

Alasdair: Please do

Travis: I organising anything I like Airtable, it's like a spreadsheet but so much more powerful and you can do anything you want with it. And for scheduling anything, especially if – if you're just like working with just one other person, I will say Calendly, it's how I schedule anyone I interview with and it is amazing. I can't say enough about it. And it's free, which is always a positive.

Alasdair: Excellent. Could you please send me the links to those two apps?

Travis: Yes I can.

[Pop up from The Book Finch: Trello!]

Alasdair: Thank you very much. Much like Gavia, my and the Book Finch is back with Trello, which is another fantastic organisational tool. Much like Gavia, my answer is a hybrid of the rest of you. I have about a hundred of these [holds up notebook] they’re Field Notes that they put out a different pattern every three months. I am horribly addicted to them. I go through about three a month, and they are the reason why things come out of my brain. Writing things down is great because you can then put a tick next to them when you're done, and it genuinely feels like putting down luggage. It is brilliant, I cannot recommend it enough. We are pretty much at time, so I'm going to thank my amazing panel and ask them, starting with Travis, where they can be found.

Travis: Okay. You can find us online at, and we're just The Fantasy Inn Podcast, so very creatively named.

Alasdair: Fantastic. Nisha?

Nisha: You can find us on and yeah. That's basically it really.

Alasdair: Brilliant, are you on twitter as well?

Nisha: I am, @NishaVM88, it’s mostly ranting at the moment, so float on to the blog, it's much more interesting.

Alasdair: No problem. Adri.

Adri: We are for Nerds of Feather fanzine. We have a sort-of semi-institutional twitter, it’s actually run by my co-editor The G, which is @nerds_feather. You can find me on twitter at @AdriJjy, so it’s just my name but two js instead of the o.

Alasdair: Okay. Brilliant. Gavia?

Gavia: You can find The Rec Center on Tiny Letter by googling The Rec Centre and Tiny Letter.

Alasdair: Fantastic. Adri and Gavia, could you also remind our audience which Hugos you are finalists for.

Gavia: Ooh, fanzine.

Alasdair: Brilliant, and Adri?

Adri: Fanzine.

All: [laugh]

Gavia: [gasp] The enemy!

Adri: Also fanzine. 

Alasdair: And you can find me online on twitter at @alasdairstuart. My podcasts are at, which I work on with my partner Marguerite Kenner. I'm a finalist this year for Best Fan Writer and part of the presenting team for Escape Pod for best semiprozine. Thank you so much to my extraordinary panel, you are incredible creators and you have taught me a lot today, and that was exactly what I was desperately hoping. Thank you to the audience, I really hope you had a good time, and to Claire our fantastic host, and we will see you on the internet, I have no doubt. Thanks very much folks!

Adri: Thank you!

Gavia: Bye!

Travis: Bye!

All: [wave]

Thank you to Susan for drafting this panel transcript! Responsibility for final text lies with Adri Joy - for any corrections or comments, please get in touch via Twitter.