Okay, well. So a bunch of stuff about fannish commenting culture is going around again, including this very excellent ask reply by @greenbergsays, which I originally wrote this post in reply to and then decided I’d be better off not jumping all over their thread. And besides, that’s very much not the only post on the subject I’ve seen recently, so. Here we go.
There’s this thing that gets lost, I think, in a lot of Discourse™
about commenting, which is that—especially for older fans, who have been
in fandom for years/decades before Ko-Fi or Patreon was even a gleam in
some programmer’s eye, and also before (a little more squashily) self-publishing via Amazon et cetera became half as easy as it is now, is that fandom has, historically, been a culture that ran on a gift economy. In other words: not only was fannish work not monetized, but the fact
that it was not monetized was an important part of how fans related to
each other on a social and cultural level. This was mentioned in “The Money Question” ep of @fansplaining which I previously reblogged without comment, so—I guess this is my previously-redacted comment. O well.
idea that fandom runs on a gift economy, and that that is part of the
cultural and social mores of fandom, is probably—well. What’s a way of
saying “dated” that doesn’t sound like I’m making a negative judgement?
That’s certainly not my intent—I am part of this group of fans for whom monetizing fanfic violates a core cultural principle of what I like about fandom, but—it is dated!! And it’s dated in part because the economy—like, the real-life meatspace economy—has become so difficult and so unfriendly
to creatives that a lot of people in fandom, as elsewhere, don’t have the option of
not hustling for cash every place that they can—which includes, in the
end, their fannish output.
problem is that the more people there are in fandom who are asking for
money for their work: their labor and time and energy—which, just to be
clear, I absolutely support people doing if they need and/or want to do that—the more this idea that the culture of fandom is a gift-based culture becomes diluted, because people instead start treating it as an exchange-based culture. Because some people
are asking for money for their work! Which they have every right to do!
Making shit is hard! Again, it takes vast amounts of labor and time and
energy! But clearly, if they are doing it, not asking for or expecting compensation is maybe no longer a core cultural value of fannish creation.
And this is where stuff gets dicey, because some people asking for money means you have also
have more people in fandom who think of fandom as a place in which
there are products (e.g. fic), and those products can be
exchanged for currency (e.g. money). And that mindset continues out of
the arena where there are people asking, explicitly, for money for their
fic; and into this sort of mushy semi-monetized area—not just Ko-Fi and
Patreon, et cetera, where the goal is to support a creator and not purchase a creation, but also into the area where people
cross-advertise on their fannish blogs their original fic, either stuff that’s original from the ground up or fannish fic they’re scraping the
serial numbers off and self- or professionally publishing; and also into the arena where people are
writing fic as part of fundraisers—and into the area where where people
are not asking for money at all, but they think, or the people
interacting with their fic think, that the equivalent currency to be
offered/requested in exchange for all that labor and time and energy is comments.