My twitter twitter timeline was all, well, atwitter with righteous indignation this afternoon as word got out that WonderCon, to be held in Anaheim on April 1-3 (and put on by the same folks that bring us San Diego Comic Con) is planning an event entitled: "Fanfic Theater with Chris Gore." Here's the discription:
"It's comedians reading fan fiction! Join Chris Gore (PodCRASH, G4TV's Attack of the Show), along with other comedians and TV personalities, who will read aloud the weirdest and wildest fan fiction found on the Internet. You'll hear stories read by performers Giselle B. (Defective Geeks podcast), Adrianne Curry (Cosplay Queen,America's Next Top Model), Mary Forrest (The Biloon-Forrest Project podcast), IvyDoomkitty (SyFy's Heroes of Cosplay, intl. costumer), Tommy Bechtold (ABC's The Middle), Matt Keil (G4TV's X-Play), Yoshi Obayashi (comedian), and more. In addition, a celebrity guest will be invited to write a piece of fan fiction based on audience suggestions that will be read live for a spectacular finale." - Via WonderCon
Fanfic readers and writer alike were understandably appalled by this. Not only does it sound like it another way of mocking geek girls and fans who are too passionate for primetime, but it's being sponsored by a man who I doubt (though I may be wrong) gets why fanfic is so important to us fangirls. The rage is, shall we say, not subdued.
Unfortunately it's not the first, and probably won't be the last, event set up specifically to ridicule fanfic. Back in December of of 2013 Sherlock stars Martin Freemena and Benedict Cumberbtch were ambushed into reading some erotic slash at a preview event for the show, to mortification of many. At other cons I've seen, similar "the worst of fanfic" panels though at least one I know of only read stories written for that event and meant to be intentionally bad (one of them was Serenity/Hellmouth at a Whedon fic event. Think about it). But even in that circumstance, the overall ethos is troubling: fanfic is something to laugh at and make fun of, just like fangirls in general are to be mocked and made fun of.
It's a pernicious and toxic idea that needs to be driven away. The people that read and write fanfic are real, passionate women (and yes, some men too). We do it because we love these stories and characters, because we love to write, because we have something to say. Yes, fic and be kinky, or poorly written by certain standards, but shaming anyone for their kinks or shortcomings is bullying and repressive. To set up an entire panel mocking it is not only against everything fandom should be about (community, creativity, passion) but it perpetuates the dismissal and devaluing of feminine voices.
It may not be that WonderCon is entirely to blame for this event. Panels are prepared and submitted by various organizers and then approved by the con. Still, even if they just allowed Gary Cole to organize this, it wasn't a good decision and fans are rightfully angry. There seems to be a disconnect in many mind between the people who attend fan conventions and the people on the internet writing fic and reading it. This is unfortunate, becuase these are the same people and no con should get behind mocking an alienating a huge chunk of their clientele.
Already WonderCon is hearing about fan displeasure from the twitter-verse, but who knows what the response will be, or if the comedian organizing this event will reconsider their choices. I sincerely hope they ask for permission before using any fics they chose, otherwise they will come off as even bigger bullies, but I can't see many authors willing to allow their work to be used this way.
What can we do? Keep tweeting and sharing, and be proud of reading and writing fic. I know I am! It's a wonderful thing and no one should make you feel ashamed of putting your heart into something you love. That's just not what fangirls do.
UPDATE! The panel has now been canceled.