Written after watching "play nice"lists and people turn the concept of"LoC" from "tell the author what you think" into "pat the widdle author on her poor teeny fragile widdle head, yes".
written May 25, 1999
I almost put this in with the "I thought this could use some work" rant, but decided it was just different enough to merit its own page.
I saw someone on a mailing list post an explanation of the term LOC to a newbie. And cringed. She posted two definitions; the first one, "letters of comment", was correct. The other one is what caused the cringe, and the gritted teeth, and this page: "loads of caring".
Slash fandom is NOT a group therapy session, okay? We don't all love each other; hell, many of us don't even like each other.
I'm not going to pat you on your little head and stick a gold star on your forehead for being such a brave girl and posting a story. I expect adults -- as all slash fen reading this have declared themselves to be by entering this site -- to be aware that it takes more than just showing up to get applauded.
A letter of comment is just that -- a letter (or email message) that comments on a story. That's it; no other restrictions. "I really hated that" is a perfectly valid LOC (and is not a flame, btw -- it's simply a statement of opinion. "I really hated that, you stupid fucking cow, and I hope you die!" is a flame, OTOH.). I don't have to care about you to write an LOC; I don't have to love you, I don't have to like you, I don't have to know you. All I need to write you an LOC is to have been moved in some way by your story, and to have wanted to comment on it.
But I seem to be in a rapidly dwindling minority. More and more, people seem to be adopting the "loads of caring" definition. I dunno, maybe it's an internal flaw on my part, but I just don't care about people I don't know, except in a fairly abstract way. I don't cry myself to sleep at night over the plights of strangers; I don't tear up in happiness as I go past a wedding party whose members I don't know; I don't mourn when a funeral procession passes me by. I don't call random numbers on the phone and ask if the person who answers is wearing a sweater, because it's a bit nippy today and I was worried about them. I can't send loads of caring to a total stranger, because I don't feel loads of caring. I feel amused or intrigued or stunned or exultant or annoyed or angry or satisfied or frustrated by people's fiction, but I just generally don't find myself feeling deep wells of caring for the authors. So I send letters of comment about stories that move me.
As I said, though, I seem to be in the minority. And the trend of "loads of caring" LOCs has led to another thing -- obligatory LOCs. Obligatory in the sense that authors are demanding them, and demanding that they be the 'caring' kind. Many (not all -- yes, I'm aware of that) of these authors don't care about being good writers, they don't care about the quality of their work, all they want to do is pound out as much stuff as they can so that lots of people send them these 'caring' LOCs. Praise and nothing but praise is the order of the day, and woe betide any letter writer who stints. She's liable to find her words, if not herself, held up to public disapprobation for 'flames' like "I didn't agree with that take on the character".
I can understand why people want praise -- it's a very glowy-making thing, praise is, and I like it just as much as anyone else, and I've saved every compliment anyone's ever sent me on my writing -- but why on earth do people think they deserve it just for finding their keyboards? And why do other people agree with that, and send off the praise? And honestly, does it mean as much if you know that people are sending praise because they feel obligated to do so, and not necessarily because they really thought your work merited it?
"We esteem most highly that which is most dear."