Fanfic: The Trials of the False Oracle

I think y’all can do fan fiction you just need to approach it in a new way other then just posting a commission with no context. Those that were hurt feel free to correct me but the lack of context seems like what hurt most people.

If this would have opened with an interview with the author talking about the themes in the story, what forcedfemme means to them and what it is, how they came to do fan fiction, etc and then lead into the actual fan fiction I don’t think this would have hurt as many people because there would be an understanding of where the author was coming from.

Again I could be missing the mark entirely but after reading this thread and the ones on Twitter that seems like the common thought.

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I think I could’ve been clearer above, but part of what you’re asking for is tied to the resourcing we don’t have currently. An interview between Jen and I would not have served this story any better because I’m not an expert in the space and would not be able to adequately interrogate her work. It also doens’t solve the problems with surfacing appropriate content.

Those issues require additional resources that we do not have right now. While I want to work towards those over the next year, I needed to write them down here so that we could hold ourselves accountable come next holiday season.

It’s probably also worths saying that for some readers, further interrogation would not have prevented the hurt, and part of the role of a commissioning editor is to know what sort of effect the story will have on the reader. Will they be informed? Will they take action? Will they be well served? After talking with Danielle, this is clearly something that we just don’t have enough shared expertise in to be able to adequately answer during the commissioning process. That needs to be remedied before we walk this route again.

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I understand. Thanks for the clarification, and I hope you do get those resources.

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Here’s hoping that one day Waypoint (or any/multiple sites!) have the resources and flexibility to provide all the necessary stuff mentioned here - editors, tagging and search systems, etc - so people can be paid for their fic writing like this. I think it’s a really awesome idea on paper and, despite everything that’s happened over the past couple of days, I do still think it’s super awesome that a few fanfic writers walked away with a paycheck. I think that might be a first?

But yeah, as is the system just seems ill-prepared and some folks (myself included) got caught off-guard. Until the right tools are in place this is probably the safest course of action. If one day the tools were feasible, I’d love to see another try. I think this thread has shown full well that opinions and tastes and sources of hurt and entertainment vary wildly and I don’t begrudge anyone for feeling differently about that! We just gotta build a video store that doesn’t have the movies all playing on blast as soon as you walk in.

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My favorite video game quote I like to use is, “there is a time and place for everything, but not now.” While I support the writer of that fanfic as well as the existence of the fanfic itself, I do not think that Waypoint was the right place for it. I’m sad that this means the yearly fanfiction will be halted for the time being, but I understand the reasoning- better to wait for the ability properly check and regulate what goes through than let something similar happen again. I thank you for the earnest paragraphs, Austin, and I hope Waypoint gets more resources for things like this. (Also, had no idea you were queer as well, and that’s really rad to know)

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Thank you for the apology and explanation. Waypoint has gained a lot of my trust by elevating works of marginalized writers and journalists. Despite being confident that the matter would be resolved, I’ve been in pain all day and talking here has helped me understand that pain, and allowed me to be part of a conversation to continue to elevate our voices. I want to continue to help building our community and am glad that you are listening and willing to build with us instead of against us.

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Thank you for not only taking your community’s response seriously & genuinely apologizing, but being completing transparent about where Waypoint misstepped and the actions you’re going to take to be better in the future. This willingness to own up and respond constructively to criticism is one of the big things that keeps me coming back to Waypoint, and your response has me feeling confident about how the team will handle similar situations in the future.

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A few fanfic authors in Japan have gotten their works published as semi-official doujins, or gotten attention from actual staff. Of course, fanfic is a lot different there, and more closely tied to the doujin scene to begin with, which already kind of has a pipeline to legitimacy, with several doujin authors being hired to draw spinoff manga, or guest art for games, and such.

I also agree with the candid assessment that Waypoint just lacks both the structural and human resources to really safely handle this sort of thing without heavy restrictions on subject matter that would feel dishonest to the mission and spirit of the site

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Just weighing in here because my brain won’t quit bugging me until I do. Backstory: I’m trans, I didn’t see this piece when it went up, I saw tweets this morning about “discourse” or something like that, and then I read the piece later, after content warnings were put up.

I fully agree with one of Austin’s sentences above, and find that this is basically the entire essence of the situation: “Waypoint as a platform just doesn’t offer the tools that real fanfic sites do.” If this was posted on a fanfiction site, or for that matter on the Kindle store, with appropriate tags and warnings and just general expectations of the sort of content involved, then I don’t think anyone would bat an eye at it. I even read it and thought “what’s the big deal?” but then again, that was after the content warning was posted.

Edit: once I read the discussion here, I absolutely understood what “the big deal” was. I’m reminded of things that make me uncomfortable; though the topic may be different, the end result is the same. Horror movies with lots of gore and blood? Absolutely okay for people to enjoy those sorts of things. But a gory blood-filled video on my Twitter timeline with no warning would make me feel like crap.

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I… hate these excuses. Not a complaint about your question/query, particularly as it relates to this conversation, but rather, the common excuse for shit like Elin in Tera. "Oh, sure, they look like 12 year old hyper-sexualized furry girls, but they’re actually hundreds of years old, so it’s okay!

Like - no. Just no. Fuck that justification. It’s stupid. If this was media, written for a several-hundred year old Elin audience, sure. But it isn’t. The author in those cases is playing dumb, and winking at the audience, in a very fucked up wink wink sort of way, and… No.

(Apologies for this being a direct response to you, it isn’t a complaint I mean to level to/about you or what you said, but rather your comment seemed like a good place to inject this reaction.)


This was also written like… 30 responses, as I’m slowly catching up with this thread.

I cannot begin to express how glad I am, how satisfied and happy I am, that Waypoint is a place where this sort of discussion can happen in ways that aren’t gross/shitty/awful.

The mods, and the staff, and the community have all crafted a shared space which feels absolutely unique in the world, at least of what I’ve seen of it, and I am, and hope will forever be amazed by it. Thank you to Austin for an extremely honest explanation. While some people seem to be over-eager to invite you to re-make mistakes you clearly have taken very seriously and to heart, I appreciate that you’re very respectfully gun-shy, and more interested in user safety than pushing boundaries. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you mods, for parsing, and keeping the discussion here civil, respectful, and open, as you do in all our shared spaces.

Thank you… everybody. A… huge number of people sharing their experiences and/or perspectives on the subject in ways that go beyond “you’re wrong!” and instead offer a valuable perspective, and insight into how/why the piece is troubling/problematic.

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It’s a bummer that there will be no more fanfic on the site, but I think this response is the only responsible one to take given the circumstances. Hopefully by GOTY 2018 Waypoint will have the resources to do it right, because as I said above I believe that there is a way for this to be done responsibly on this site. Thank you for the detailed response to the feedback, thank you for taking responsibility for this personally and not throwing the author under the bus, and thank you and the rest of the editorial team for listening and taking feedback to heart. In a time where the people running media outlets increasingly dig in their heels and refuse to admit they’ve fucked up, it’s refreshing to see this.

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I appreciate the response from Austin, and I hope that in future Waypoint will consider not just bringing in the resources to have appropriate oversight into fanfiction specifically but will bring in more voices to the site on transgender experiences and issues. I think a large part of the issue with this piece was in publishing it without the knowledge of how divisive and hurtful this issue is in the community of trans women. I say all this as a trans woman myself, though fairly late to experience the piece and to see the responses. Finding the resources to judge fanfiction more strongly would be good, but specifically, having more trans women to look at stuff that relates to them and their community, would be better.

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I appreciate this more detailed response. Waypoint is a site that wears sex-positivity on its sleeve, and reconciling that with any kind of non-consent kink is non-trivial, to say the least. I think if the team here at Waypoint don’t feel confident you can give fanfic the editorial oversight it needs (perspective-wise and/or staffing-wise), then pulling out of the fanfic business is probably for the best.

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Not all of the below is in response to this thread mind you, it’s also a response to the conversations I saw on twitter and discord.

I really have to give my thanks and kudos to ThisIsUntenable who really went as far as anyone could go in terms of explaining and responding to The Cis in this thread and for holding Waypoint accountable. Even as someone who wasn’t so immediately upset by this piece, the discourse around it nearly had me crying, and your explanation and advocacy in this thread made this thread bearable and worthwhile scrolling through until I got to Austin’s response.

C’mon, mods, it’s bad form to leave people on the line having to explain their lived experience in such detail and then experience THEIR post being flagged and then a tone-warning being publicly given after continued questioning left them raw. I realise your job is hard but also, this is a conversation where the FIRST thing in the thread should be a note from the moderators reminding people that this is not a space to put the pressure of explaining ourselves onto trans and other marginalized people, as per RULE 1 of our CoC (which we’re so fond of). I don’t mean to drag any of you but having read this thread I think this is somewhere where we could and should improve.

I also really thank Austin for his apology. Even from my position as just another reader it was pretty easy to figure out that you were not able to give this piece the care it needed as an editor.

That being said, I didn’t initially want to condemn this piece because of my feelings about Waypoint, about trans authors, about things falling through the cracks in an end-of-year rush, but that’s ultimately dishonest of me. Because there’s no point in criticising the actual piece (that’s been done plenty) I’m going to list a number of alternative takes on some of the ideas of this story that could have been so much better.

  1. 9S actually does experience gender dysphoria in their default masculine body, so 2B helps them find/build a new body that 9S can switch to as a gender-affirmative body.
  2. As (1), but 9S is put in a spare body of 2B, which 9S isn’t comfortable with either, and so instead 2B helps 9S meet the goals she has for her own gender presentation so that she can live as a woman in her own body.
  3. (More preserving the original intention of the piece) 9S volunteers to pilot a spare 2B model body for a day because he doesn’t believe in casual sexism. Turns out to be wrong.
  4. 9S without any body shenanigans is shown the experiences of women that he is seemingly blind to and starts being less shitty and more supportive.

Obviously, ALL of the above ideas are as deserving of the care and thorough editing (that isn’t available,) as the piece that was actually published was deserving of it. Jennifer Unkle chose to write about something more fraught with problematic ideas and simply replicated the issues for everyone rather than writing something that even attempted altering the framing or the interpretation of the genre in an empowering way. In terms of the situation, I can accept placing the entirety of the blame on Waypoint, but it isn’t a false characterization to say she did something wrong on her end.

It’s really not okay to read criticism of a piece she wrote as a criticism of her as a person, which is something people have been doing in response to that much needed criticism. Maybe people are criticising her herself and that isn’t okay, I’m not looking at her mentions, but don’t say that people who were hurt by this piece are ‘the problem’ or that they’re ‘over-policing’ our community.

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Finally caught up on this thread and all I can say is Big Thanks. This could have gotten a lot worse and it didn’t. 'preciate it.

I’m about as satisfied with the final form of this apology as I can be given the circumstances, but there are still a couple of things about this situation that I feel like it’s at least worth registering my discontent with publicly, even if I have little reason to expect improvement on these fronts.

A lot of this isn’t stuff that I can necessarily hold Waypoint or Austin entirely accountable for, but I couldn’t help but note that an unsettling number of the initial responses believed that there was nothing to apologize for, particularly the idea that some topics are inherently “messy”. It’s absolutely inescapable fact that discussions of gender, especially trans-ness, are going to veer into potentially triggering areas, but that doesn’t justify carelessness in its presentation. The subtext there, whether intentional or not, is that the “mess” alluded to is actually just the people harmed by exposure to triggering content, that creators and publishers should be unconcerned with that damage, and that people who speak out from that place can take their hurt feelings and go kick rocks. The idea that “mess” is an acceptable loss, and that people who are hurt by the things that empower or give comfort to others should find other places to feel safe, is super abusive behavior, full stop. I get that that shit comes from a place of untranslatable personal experience, but the assertion that what empowers you should be empowering to everyone else and can just be pushed forward until it doesn’t cause flashbacks and dread tremors for someone else is exactly what causes that kind of hurt.

As what I felt was a contrast to that point, though, was the focus on the anger of critics in the initial apology. I don’t even believe this is the kind of framing you intended, but I couldn’t find Austin offering himself up as a target for personal attacks as anything but condescending. It undermines your apology somewhat for so much of it to focus on the hard work you put into refining that huge chorus of voices that demands your silence into something actually constructive. While all of the criticism I read was some shade of angry, the amount that was targeted personal attacks paled in comparison to the sorts of legitimate criticisms that showed up earlier in this thread. Given this, the fact that the initial notice was majorly a statement on who deserved to get knocked on their ass was a misrepresentation of the problems people had with the piece- or rather, a failure to engage with those problems in favor of tone policing.

And so following from that, one of the things that bothered me the most by far was everyone’s immediate urge to congratulate Austin for issuing any type of statement. Putting aside the fact that there were, and in my opinion still are, missteps in their handling of this situation and the public statements that have been made about it, screwing up and then apologizing is meant to make amends for a wrong, not garner praise for demonstrating what should be basic human decency. An apology is little more than acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and it still remains to be seen if Waypojnt takes anything away from this situation and addresses any of the structural issues that resulted in a doc with the descriptor “non-consensual gender modification” landing on a desk at VICE’s offices and not immediately being sent back for extensive review. I feel like this kind of response from Austin’s followers and Waypoint readers, focused entirely on “addressing” the issue with a statement in text but unconcerned with actually finding solutions to these problems, rectifying the harm done or holding Waypoint accountable for the things they grant a platform, says a lot of unflattering things both about many of the people who read that apology and who it was ultimately written for.

These are all, like, issues with a community that is probably too large for a staff of five to reasonably engage with, much less moderate, so I’m honestly not optimistic that any of this will change anytime soon. I guess the most I can hope for is for the Waypoint team to understand why someone might be pushed out of their community before even entering it. Please try to do better, both for the sake of your audience and your lancers, because you’re right- in a lot of ways, you’re not equipped to deal with issues like this.

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:heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart:

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TBH, we could really do with less mod threads of crude jokes around what “CoC” sounds like and more responding to repeated comments (and private messages) along this line, that moderation seems to offer a rather flat response to “heated” discussion that sees all parties as equally to blame (and sometimes just quietly lock and hide threads, vanishing any good discussion that happened in that thread). In the more extreme, “lived experience” (eg of hearing a travel agent be xenophobic) can be given as why you can’t respond to regional far-Right xenophobia (because it’s impolite to shut that down apparently) and if you refuse to make value judgements about these things (or have no experience to know what that is and so are totally blindsided by it - what is and is not a lived experience and how to value that when a conflict occurs) then moderation breaks down into tone policing. Yes, it’s hard to be on top of everything but so far there seems to be little public response to indicate growth and understanding that this is even a problem with moderation (vs staff reflections on this article) - maybe there’ll be a public mod response/discussion thread about it once everyone is back in early 2018.

Which also speaks to the wider issue here (which is the creation and publication of this article and the reaction to it), as acknowledged in the staff apology, that a lack of expertise plus authority equals problems and requires change to stop it happening again and again.

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