skaredykat: (fikshun cat)
skaredykat ([personal profile] skaredykat) wrote2011-04-12 11:59 pm

When stories disappear - back again

I've posted about this before, but thanks to [livejournal.com profile] debris_k calling it out, the topic has been brought to the forefront of my mind again.

Someone wants to set up a community specifically for the sharing of deleted stories. Okay, it says "There would be rules. Rules against post[ing] a fic where you KNOW[*see footnote] the author doesn't want it posted" -- but there seems to be a view that if an author hasn't explicitly said somewhere (pretty public or easy to find?) they don't want their no-longer-online fic shared it's considered fair game.

To throw my two cents in with [personal profile] danceswithgary's statement, please, no.

When an author, for whatever reason -- and as I said in my earlier post on the topic, they are varied and all valid -- has taken the step of deliberately removing their fic from its previous online location (such as an archive, a journal, or a personal website), making it easy for the removed stories to get into the hands of people the writer would prefer not to have them (whether that's just newer fans or a specific person cyberbullying them or whoever) feels really wrong.

Normally, I'm all for easily findable centralized resources. In this case, no -- unless the proposed comm becomes a centralized resource only for fics where there is explicit permission for sharing it. And that permission is linked to in every instance.

Some people are saying (paraphrased) "Once a fic has been posted anywhere online it's public property and authors should expect it to be shared and archived forever -- if they didn't realize that they shouldn't have posted it anywhere in the first place."

Um, also please hell no?

Yes, it's easier to connect dots and find lost things online than it used to be. There's the Wayback Machine, there's Diigo, there are all kinds of ways -- and they're only increasing -- that make it harder to remove online traces of oneself.

Overall, I think a certain amount of caution about what you post where is a really good idea. However, fandom seems to operate on a culture of respected pseudonymity. Common etiquette is not to out people as fans unless they explicitly say that it is okay.

Why then propose something that might in certain cases make it easier to out people? Is it an assumption that respected pseudonymity only counts while a fan is still actively involved in fandom? But as soon as they leave (part of) fandom, things (like fic) that might later be tied to their other identities no longer fall under the common etiquette?

Given that there is a culture/etiquette of respected pseudonymity in fandom, shouldn't it be extended to publicly viewable activity around a fan's works or presence once that fan is no longer online? That is, let's not make it publicly obvious that we're connecting dots or actively digging up and sharing past traces of their presence? (Doing so very discreetly, that seems unavoidable, but doing so with a palpable lack of discretion seems... not wholly sensible or mature?)

Another important aspect: for more than a few fic writers, writing and posting their fic serves as an outlet -- creative, from real life, to work through things, whatever. And boy do I appreciate that they may be using their ficwriting as any kind of outlet when I get to read great, inspiring, fun, heart-wrenching, or thought-provoking stories!

If fic writers start thinking (more than they perhaps already do) that their fic is going to be actively archived and pointed out by people other than themselves and shared no matter if the writer, for whatever reason, made the decision to take the fic down, that might make writers more reluctant to post fic.

Would I rather that fic remain accessible online forever? Emphatically, yes.

I really hope that any writer thinking of taking down their fic will have heard of and strongly considered trying out the "orphaning your works at the AO3" option.

Either way, whether they choose to archive&orphan or not, I'd much prefer to have fic writers feel comfortable posting stories that they may later take down, knowing that the vast majority of fans will respect their wishes to not publicly share those stories, especially when the writer has said "please don't" after they do take stories down.

The, it seems to me, far worse alternative would be that certain fic writers wouldn't want to post their fic publicly even for a while. Because they're informed that people will be publicly reposting and sharing it willy-nilly, even if they as the writer choose to take it offline at some point. And that it'll be happening in places more obvious to the eye than the rather less centralized, more dispersed-breadcrumbs-type ways of the threads in ficfinding posts and one-to-one private messages or emails that seem the currently common methods.

Having interesting fic publicly available for a while and then go away -- even if that means only a subset of the people who might have loved it get to to see it -- seems better to me than fic not being posted publicly at all, and far fewer people ever getting to see it.


ETA: Let me be clear: I am pro-preservation. The idea of an old archive of fic going offline because someone forgot they were hosting it makes me sad.

I heartily endorse the idea of the OTW's Open Doors project, which aims to help rescue certain specialized at-risk fannish projects. Moreover, I believe that in the not-far future:
- the technology for importing lost or about-to-be-lost fic archives into the AO3 will become easy enough to handle
- standardized mapping or seeking of permissions will become simple enough to checklist and decide on, and
- pseudonyms of concern will become navigable enough to circumvent
that such importing on a larger scale into the regular -- orphan or not, as appropriate -- collections of the AO3 will become feasible.

But that's not what this post is about.

This post, and the one it's a reaction to, is about deleted fic.

Not long-neglected and "inadvertently forgot to re-up the hosting for it" fic. (The latter would, with enough sleuthing about anyone knowing a current way to contact the former archivist or fic author -- or investigation into the archive's latest Terms of Service before it went defunct -- be great to consider for more permanent archiving -- as long as that isn't in contravention of the writer's previously expressed or current wishes.)

However, the infrastructure that's been widely used in fandoms generating a lot of fic during the last handful of years seems a little less likely to lead to inadvertent, unplanned loss of fic.

As far as I know, Livejournal and similar journaling services' accounts do not yet delete themselves. Fanfiction.net accounts that do not (obviously) break the site's ToS do not yet delete themselves. Stories that don't break a site's ToS do not yet pull themselves from currently active fandom-specific or multifandom archives.

Those stories being removed means that the writer actively decided to take them down. Presumably from a desire to limit public access to them. Although it's to my disadvantage as a fic reader, I'd urge not going against an author's implicit wishes by making larger-scale public access to such deleted stories overly easy again.


Relevant background links


...Incidentally, [livejournal.com profile] amothea/[personal profile] amalthia maintains a very handy existing multifandom e-book archive where all authors have given permission for their fic to be uploaded there, and with the AO3 having made it really easy to download fics in a variety of e-book formats, perhaps if more authors became aware of the option to orphan their work at the AO3, the proclaimed desire to archive author-deleted fic at a comm such as [livejournal.com profile] riverside_ebook might be reduced? (There I go again, pimping centralized resources...)


*ETA/footnote: Um, how would they define "KNOW"? Would the comm rules have clear guidelines such as, for example:

"Before publicly posting deleted fic or a request for it, you should make a good-faith effort to find out whether the writer has previously stated somewhere they do not want their fic to be reposted or shared or currently has an opinion on it.

This effort should include working to track down contact information for the author via Wayback Machine, their old journal, google, livejournal search, old archive pages, etc., and via posting requests for their contact information and why you want it (or requests for any previous statements they've made about wanting/not wanting their fic to be shared) at at least 3 of the most active relevant storyfinding and fandom-noticeboard or other specific fandom-related comms.

Unless someone has pointed you to a previous statement about the author's intent, you should then courteously, assuring them you will not breach their pseudonymity or online privacy, contact the author and wait for their reply before you post fic or request it.

If the author does not answer, assume that means they do not want their fic to be reposted or shared. If you cannot find contact information or no one at the comms you posted your request at has information about whether/where the author made a previous statement, assume the author does not want their fic to be reposted or shared. Thanks for keeping fandom fun and safe for former writers as well as current fans!"

Okay, that's more than a little prescriptive, but proposing projects without thinking their effects through a little more than seems to have been done by the initiator makes me... not-so-warm-and-fuzzy.


ETAmore: [personal profile] vickyblueeyez has now edited their Deleted fic lost and found post, possibly in response to my footnote. It used to say:

"I have an idea and I want to see what people think. I'd like to create some kind of lost and found fic community. In the comm, the format would be like any fic comm where you'd post as if you're submitting fic, tagged by fandom, and people comment if they want it sent to them. There would be rules. Rules against post a fic where you KNOW the author doesn't want it posted, etc but that's not what I'm polling about. I'm polling to see if the interest is there."

It now says [addition underlined, emphasis mine]:
"I have an idea and I want to see what people think. I'd like to create some kind of lost and found fic community. In the comm, the format would be like any fic comm where you'd post as if you're submitting fic, tagged by fandom, and people comment if they want it sent to them. There would be rules. Rules against posting a fic where you KNOW the author doesn't want it posted, etc but that's not what I'm polling about. Nor am I getting into what 'know' means. I'm polling to see if the interest for the comm is there."

Hmmm, in what looks like it was the original post text (crossposted to Dreamwidth, that version not updated (yet) along with the LJ one?), there was initially no mention of rules.
It said:
"I have an idea and I want to see what people think. I'd like to create some kind of lost and found fic community. In the comm, the format would be like any fic comm where you'd post as if you're submitting fic, tagged by fandom, and people comment if they want it sent to them."


Also over on my LJ