But every so often, something comes along to make me believe once again that not all of fandom is nuts, and by extension that not all of humanity is nuts. Names and identifying details left out since this post is public and I'd like to protect the awesome. :)
Very briefly and simply, I got a message tonight from someone who had previously been following To Ignite the Stars explaining that they would probably not be following the fic anymore, and the reasons why (mainly having to do with where TIS may or may not be heading - cryptic, I know, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers, heh). The message reiterated that the person loved the fic and said all kinds of gushy things that made me blush, but it was plain: potential future plot points had put them off, and they felt that they owed it to me to explain why they would no longer be reading. (Paraphrasing here, but that was the gist.)
Why is this a good thing? you might rightly ask. After all, the upshot of it is that I'm going to lose a reader. Well, I consider it so due to two factors: 1) fic squicks and 2) constructive criticism. These are intimately linked, believe me.
First, fic squicks. Look, everyone has them. Things in a fic that they absolutely will not read, and that if they come upon accidentally will cause them to immediately hit the back button. They would never even contemplate writing them because they know they couldn't take it. I've definitely got my own squicks - rapefics being first and foremost among them for quite personal reasons that I'm not willing to go into here. In terms of specific ships, although I'm one of the most ardent Obidala shippers to ever inhabit this green earth, I won't read Obidala fics featuring infidelity (i.e. Padmé and Obi-Wan engaging in adultery behind Anakin's back). There are some very well-written fics proceeding from this premise, I'm sure, but I will not touch them with a fifty-foot pole. Partly because I believe infidelity is inherently out of character for both Obi-Wan and Padmé, and partly, again, for personal reasons. I won't write it and if I come upon a fic where that's a central plot point, I can't hit the back button fast enough. If you like these sorts of fics, hey, more power to you! Those who know me by now should also know that I'm not one to criticize or belittle others' choices. ;) But I personally don't like that sort of thing, and when I began To Ignite the Stars, I quickly realized that infidelity between characters was a road I as an author could not have the fic travel.
The problem is that so many people in so many fandoms aren't willing to take the conciliatory approach and realize that just because they don't enjoy something, doesn't mean others might not love it to bits. Susan may seek out every infidelity fic on the internet and write her own fics featuring nothing else, but a problem arises when Jane comes upon her journal and, instead of doing the mature thing and hitting the aforementioned back button, chooses to criticize and/or flame Susan based on her likes. Unfortunately, this problem is all too prevalent among members of fandom who were born without a "think before you type" impulse and who, when they find something they don't like, flame the living baloney out of their poor fellow fandomer. As an Obidala shipper, I'm well-acquainted with this.
And then, of course, there's constructive criticism. A full discussion of what exactly constitutes constructive criticism and what does not is beyond the scope of this post - hey, I've got a fandom newsletter and writing to do tonight - so if you're looking for more meta on that topic I'll refer you to gizzi1213's excellent post on the subject. But to me, constructive criticism points out parts of the fic that the reviewer liked and then suggests a few areas where s/he feels the fic might potentially be improved, or parts where the characters were not acting like themselves or plot holes. Flaming is meant to insult the author or artist on a personal level, often containing completely unfounded accusations. An example of constructive criticism might be "This is good, but I think Mrs. X was a bit out of character and I didn't really understand how Mr. Y could have climbed into bed with her while he was five thousand miles away." An example of a flame might be "OMG, you're so stupid, how could you possibly ship X and Y together, X belongs with Z forever!!!!" Now, obviously these are overly simplistic scenarios, but you get the drift.
(Yes, I actually do have a point here. I'm coming to it, hehe.) In the message I received today, the person managed to combine an awareness of their own personal fic squicks, and that those squicks was going to impede their ability to enjoy TIS, plus some constructive criticism. This, as an author, is what I dream about but seldom get to see. The person could have just gone on reading up to the chapter that squicked them and then dropped a horrible flame-bomb berating me for where I chose to take the fic, but they didn't. Instead, they recognized, "Hey, if this goes where I think it will, it's probably going to bother me and so I should stop reading." And as an extra step - although I definitely do not expect it on a regular basis - they contacted me to tell me why they had stopped reading, and the exact issue that they had.
I was quite touched by this, and as I stated at the beginning of this post, stuff like this really serves to restore my faith in fandom and its participants. True, this is but one person. But hey, that's one less nut case! That's one more person who believes in the idea that everyone has their likes and dislikes and that constructive criticism is the way to go. Those types of people are rare gems, believe me.
Lesson for the day: not all fandomers are batshit. I've had the experience before of eating a healthy dose of humble pie on this point, particularly where it comes to A/P shippers, and it's a point I would do well to remember on occasion.
Also, randomly, my tags on this journal are a flipping MESS. Holy crap. >.>