April 2017

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I am going to try to do the Fandom Snowflake challenge this year. Like all of it. I usually do a day here or there, but I've liked journaling daily as part of the photo-of-the-day (although if my performance on that is any indication, then I'll miss a few days of Snowflake as well).

Day One's challenge is:

In your own space, post a rec for at least three fanworks that you have created. It can be your favorite fanworks that you've created, or fanworks you feel no one ever saw, or fanworks you say would define you as a creator. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


So *rubs hands together* ... let's dive in!

I've self-recced stories for Fandom Snowflake and other challenges before, and my stories are the first place my brain tends to go when asked for self-recs. But I'm going to mix things up a little bit and also, in the spirit of the Snowflake Challenge, break the rules a little by only reccing two things. But they are two big things! So maybe that counts for something.

I am reccing the two sites that I built and that I currently help moderate: the Silmarillion Writers' Guild (which I also founded and own) and Many Paths to Tread.

Really, as far as fanworks that define me as a creator, here you have it. Yes yes, I've spent many hundreds of hours writing stories, and I'm not going to play coy and pretend that some of those stories haven't been important to the Silmarillion fandom, but deciding to turn my energies to learning web design now more than ten years ago was life-changing and--I like to hope--something that shaped the Tolkien fandom in positive directions.

For anyone who doesn't know the story, I decided to found the SWG after a night of insomnia in which I decided that the Internet needed a Silmarillion-only group and I should be the one to build it. I chickened out immediately upon setting up the SWG on Yahoo! Groups (remember that?!) and LiveJournal, but thankfully I was found by Uli/ford_of_bruinen, who would become my first comod, and pushed me to follow through on my dream. When SWG members wanted an archive, I set about learning to do what I'd need to do to build one. I taught myself HTML and CSS from books and started working with eFiction. This led the LotRGen moderators to approach me about building a site for them. I was impressed with the fact that, as a genfic group in an anti-slash point in fandom history, they were open to allowing any stories at an R-rating on below on the site, regardless of the orientation of the couple(s) in the story. So I agreed to help them build their site, and that brought me to MPTT.

I say all this because I've been in the Tolkien fandom for a long time now, and I'm seeing things start to change in ways that I don't like, namely that Tolkien fandom is becoming increasingly comfortable with centralization, and many fans are losing their self-sufficiency in the process. Back in the day, there were dozens of homegrown groups owned by people in the Tolkien fandom, and it wasn't particularly extraordinary to do what I did and learn specialized skills in order to run fandom projects. Plenty of people who couldn't do much more than switch on the computer when they started in fandom learned to write HTML, design graphics, and manage online communities.

There are disadvantages to local control, whether in government or fandom and I won't pretend this was always utopian, but one thing was certain: We did not depend on the blessing or existence of anyone but ourselves and our own minds and hands to have our communities. I will be blunt: I dislike how centralized Tolkien fandom has become. I dislike the snide way people look down their noses at websites like mine because we're not as advanced as AO3. I dislike how everything is on AO3 or Tumblr now. And let me be perfectly clear: I am on AO3 and Tumblr both myself. I have no problem with either site. I like both sites. I was an extremely early adopter and supporter of AO3 and continue to think that they are very much a needed part of the fan community. Notice I said "part." Because AO3 and Tumblr are not the Tolkien fandom, y'all. WE are the Tolkien fandom. These sites will not represent and defend our interests when they are different from Fandom as a whole. If you need proof, just look at the AO3 piped tag debacle, in which AO3 told Tolkien fandom to go fuck itself rather than listen to feedback about a usable system for tagging characters and pairings. And our fandom is weird. Tolkien-based fanfic is more than fifty years old; we have a history and a complex canon that is unlike any other fan community. Our needs are and will continue to differ from Fandom as a whole, and we deserve sites run by people from our own communities that listen to our needs and interests.

For my part, I plan to continue to fight to keep my sites alive and relevant. They are my proudest achievement in this fandom, and I continue to believe strongly that they are needed and important. I hope Tolkien fans reading here will make more of an effort in 2017 to support a Tolkien fandom site or project. Post your stories to a Tolkien archive; comment on something that isn't on AO3 or Tumblr; volunteer to help with an event or challenge. It doesn't have to be the SWG or MPTT, but do something to keep our Tolkien fandom institutions alive.

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