September 20th, 2009 -
I don't know where to begin. According to the previous iteration of this bio, I haven't touched FFnet since August 31, 2006 - perhaps not so long ago in the grand scheme of things, to those who have passed that cultural milestone we call "adulthood" - but quite a far distance for me. Young people, as they grow and move, go through a number of formative changes in relatively quick succession, and I am no exception to that rule.
Having said that, on occasion I miss what time has cut off and replaced. I and those who patrolled that paradise of literature, the Dragon Ball Z/Sailor Moon section, forged a unique bond - the likes of which I have seldom seen since then. We met in cyberspace in the lists of stories and pages of reviews, united by common interests and perceptions; we enabled and further strengthened our friendships through AIM; and we certainly set out on a mission with a vengeance. At what I then perceived (egotistically) was the core of our movement, Born4Glory and I had a grand vision to reshape the literary landscape of our domain. With relentless vigor, we combed the DBZ/SM front page list like a pair of Orwellian thought police, besieging through reviews the fanfics we deemed unworthy of the light of day. I remained a writer to a certain extent - my partner never was and never did have any special urge to move in that direction. Others helped us, some by raising the creative bar by publishing their work, and some by similarly taking up the task of criticism. At its apex, the phenomenon provided more than one full day of visceral thrills, along with the special knowledge that I was actually changing something by hammering at my keyboard. The section took on a special presence, like a town stocked with all sorts of characters - fighting, collaborating, theorizing, enjoying the exchange of ideas and the creation of new realms. All this preceded even the very first smidgens of the current community system (the features of which I have yet to sort out).
What I missed at the time was a simple fact: I was aware that we were in many ways a band of literary pirates, but piracy begats infamy, which I remained oblivious to until further down the road. Months after the elite community (elite was a nice word in those days - and strangely, nobody labeled us elitist) finished up what was to be its last major push, on the battleground of an atrocious crossover spawned by an author as stubborn and obstinate as we were, I joined the Godawful FanFiction forum and was promptly surprised that at least one of the members enjoyed reading my salvos up until the "battle" was concluded. Everything was said and done at that point, of course, so I could hardly do anything but look back. I found I didn't like what hindsight revealed as time went on.
We were often right in a purely factual sense (it doesn't take particularly much, as the quality of fanfiction shall ever obey Sturgeon's Law), but we were often uncaring, apathetic, cruelly oblivious to the literary age of those we criticized, and downright vicious. In this manner we embraced a universal ethos of the Internet: the tendency to become less understanding and less tolerant of the incoherent flailing that new people (in whatever organization) often produce. As time pushed my experience here farther and farther back, I almost recoiled at the heights of insensitivity when I revisited my old correspondence. Call it a variance of natural selection - those who last longer are the fitter. As it is understood in biology, fitness is defined as the relative ability of an organism to reproduce. On the internet, fitness is often measured as the relative ability to crush one's opposition. We certainly were good in that way - arguing - and by the time our group had largely disbanded, there were not many terrible fanfics left in our section. But we had inflamed more than a few along the way. It was easier to dismiss those who were furious. Yet, even a short time afterward I felt guilty for those who were hurt. I know what that's like, and it's not something that should happen to anyone in a just world. There is the inescapable conclusion that all of it was wrong.
In short, there were the pros and cons, the benefits and drawbacks, the highs and lows - but the experience was distinct from many others in that the lows wounded a number of people, at least for a short time.
I'm still sorting it out - what kind of demeanor is ethical and fair in internet conversation. Generally speaking, I'll give back what people dish out, but there are exceptions where the more honorable thing to do is to hold the fire in. What's clear is that it is often better to err on the side of caution. This leads me to revise my profile here. Partly because of what I have learned from looking back, and partly because I have evolved as a writer and do not feel that the incongruity of new endeavors and works spawned in storyteller's infancy is particularly beneficial, I will be deleting most, if not all, of my current works. Copies of the stories and the reviews they attracted will be saved personally, as I do not want to lose them forever, but it is time to clean up my formative mess, and the update left here will be a monument to what once was.
If anybody who I once worked with on FFnet is reading this, I hope you found my account at least somewhat interesting, and you should drop me a line. As you might be able to tell, I have more than a little bit of sentiment left. :)