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When stories disappear...

In recent weeks and months, I've seen stories by several SGA writers get friendslocked or taken offline entirely. In a very few cases, I've had comment- or PM-conversations with those writers. Usually me telling them -- very belatedly -- about my enjoyment of the stories and asking if sharing the stories would still be okay.

Fic writers have many reasons for taking stories down -- from offline and online life inadvertently crossing streams to RL concerns to disagreements to no longer feeling comfortable with a topic they wrote about or with a fandom-related online presence, or anything under the sun.

Whatever the writer's reason, they wrote the words and have the right to do with them what they want or need to.

I realize I'm inconsistent here: with profic writers, I consider that once I've purchased their book, it's my right to do with it as I wish -- give the book to a friend after I'm done reading it if I liked it or burn it if I hated it -- but that's because I paid for it* and they make (part of) their living from getting people to buy their words, and buying something implies you can do with it what you want afterwards.

When it's fanfic, the writer usually wrote it for their own enjoyment and that of readers, and they don't get paid in anything but appreciation from readers. (I admit, I'm very bad about commenting on things I've read, so I'm not at all good at expressing my appreciation to fic writers (in any way but a few recs here and there) for writing and posting their work, but I do very much appreciate that they write and post their stories.) For some reason, a writer not getting paid any money but only in appreciation makes me feel the writer retains more rights over the distribution (not transformation, that's a whole different kettle of fish) of the copy I have access to of their words than when I purchase a book.

So. Of course I would prefer that writers don't ever take their work down or make it harder to access.** Sometimes I'll even not-so-subtly mention the "have you considered archiving and orphaning your work at the AO3?" option. (When I first read about that I was very pleased -- a way for fic to stay available even if authors wanted to disassociate themselves from it!)

Still, the orphaning option doesn't necessarily work for every fandom-departing author. What then?

Well, then I'm very appreciative when authors taking stories down state that it is okay for fans to share saved copies among themselves. I would not have been able to read and later send out the oft-recced SGA stories by Karen McFadyyon, which had been offline for years, without kind fans sharing them via requests at sgastoryfinders -- with her permission -- until they came back online (also with her permission) earlier this year.

However, sometimes an author can't leave their stories up even if orphaned or be okay with them being shared between fans, for whatever reason. And since fic writers are doing this for love, not continuing to get royalty checks from their publisher even for works they no longer want associated with their name, I think it's important to respect their wishes.

Over at stargate_search, perfica maintains a list of 'Gateverse writers who have left fandom and/or whose stories have been taken offline.

If I could order druthers over the interwebs, Gateverse writers taking down their stories or departing fandom would post a comment there or PM perfica saying whether their stories will remain up at an archive for the foreseeable future, or whether it's okay to still share their stories, and, if needed, with what level of discretion. That would make it really easy for fans to look up what is and isn't okay for a particular writer and avoid asking for copies of stories that aren't supposed to be shared, or conversely, avoid asking for stories that are now all available at an archive.

Beware, policy-moment here: Last, should I confess that I've started developing a personal peculiarity when it comes to mailing out stories (of which the authors have said it's okay to share them)?

That is, if I don't recognize the requester(s) LJ or email from previous posts or requests, I take a few seconds to check the LJ profile of the requester before I mail a copy to see if their profile/interests and/or entries include a reasonable amount ("reasonable" being arbitrarily defined by my erratic brain on a case-by-case basis) of fandom-positive information and/or to make sure that the LJ wasn't created right around the day of the request -- because I'd be unhappy to be the cause of some not-really-a-fan who's trying to obtain a copy of a writer's stories getting them if that's what the writer's trying to avoid. Updated: It may be overkill, and at the same time a quick look at a profile is in no way fool-proof, but it makes me feel like I'm doing at least a small thing on the "better safe than sorry" side.
Another update: I'd also prefer it if the requester's profile indicated they're over 18...

Practical note, requesting copies of more than one story by a writer who is known to permit sharing of offline stories is:
NOT allowed in the main request-post at sgastoryfinders per the comm rules, though asking for one such story is fine. (Update: Sometimes people offer/ask for more in the comment-thread not the main request-post, and that seems to be tacitly allowed/ignored by the mods. I'm just hoping I don't jinx it by noting this!)
allowed at stargate_search (use the tag "authors" as well as other applicable ones per the comm rules)
allowed at sgagenrefinders (use the tag "website/complete works of" as well as other applicable ones per the comm rules -- updated: the comm profile now makes this explicit).

* Or got a free copy of it because the author Creative Commonsed it or handed out free copies in another fashion because they want people to share their work.

ETA: ** This even goes for stories that are the subject of notable controversy because there are significant issues with them (sometimes known as "fail"). I've become more aware of such stories (most of which, since I jumped into SGA fic-reading last year, seem to be have shown up in fandoms other than SGA in that timeframe?) after I started skimming metafandom.

It looks like, after being called on the issues, in more than a few cases, an author will make an apology and delete the fic, likely with the thought that no one (else) should read such an issues-compromised story.

My personal bias as someone who believes that in general history might be slightly less stupidly easy to repeat if we can see it and get reminded of it, would be for even such stories to remain up, though with bold disclaimers of what the issues with it are and links to useful and recommended context-reading at the beginning and end of every post/version of them.

E(again)TA: Now with sequel: When stories disappear - back again Wheee...?


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2010 06:05 am (UTC)
I totally agree with you that writers (esp. fanfic writers) should have a right to decide what happens with their work. I didn't know about that list so I'll be rushing over there to see what I've missed. It sounds like a great idea/project. :-)
Oct. 2nd, 2010 12:33 pm (UTC)
Hee, re that list, moment of entertaining irony (and proof that sensible ideas may cross-pollinate between fandoms?) here: it was directly inspired by your post at merlin_finders. :)
Oct. 2nd, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
*g* That's pretty awesome! (Though it's also pointing out my own laziness with not having all those categories on my post; I rely on a tag do the sharing info collecting for me, which isn't as good but seems to have been working lately, what with new requests not popping up as much.)
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
Well you already know how much I ♥ tags at storyfinding comms (and you also know how fond I am of (pimping) handy SGA resources!) -- but this list with the multiple categories does seem like a handy resource to have in one place/not depend on the tags in just one comm, what with there being several active storyfinding-comms focused on SGA/SG.

If merlin_finders is the main/most active storyfinding comm for that fandom, and it has extensive tags, which it looks like it does, then primarily using the tagging system to collect/propagate the info seems like it'd work just fine!
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
Well, I made sure a big bunch of posts -- not all, as I can't go through a whole comm on my own -- looking for moved, deleted or removed fanworks were tagged as such, and made the post to cover folks who didn't want their works shared so the sharing could go on uninterrupted at those posts. It's not perfect, but it would take a load of effort to go through those posts and then check up on all the facts, so. It's the best I'm able to offer at this moment, and I don't know of other Merlin finding comms (reccing, maybe) so it'll have to do. :-0
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
That seems like a totally useful system for a fandom that isn't (like SGA/Gateverse) actively depending on multiple complementary (but not all using tags) storyfinding comms -- smart thoughts/good work!
Oct. 2nd, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)
I think I agree with you on all points. And I don't have any stories to mail out, but I think your caution is reasonable.
Oct. 2nd, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks -- when possible, I do try to be about reasonable caution rather than complete paranoid fancy or utter carelessness. ;) And it turns out to be handy sometimes that when I started reading SGA fic I mostly read offline and still have a number of stories saved!
Oct. 2nd, 2010 09:32 am (UTC)

I'm in agreement with you here.

While I could wish that all the authors could give a week or two's notice about removing their work, I definitely appreciate those authors that actually leave a statement in regards to what is acceptable to them as far as sharing their work.

I did notice in my travels to various author's LiveJournals in the Harry Potter fandom that there are some communities devoted to giving notice of journal removal (or at least the stories themselves). So while I'm not very familiar, still being somewhat new to SGA & a few other fandoms, with the authors listed there, most of them seem to come from the Harry Potter fandom. That said, the profile for the journals is not fandom-specific, so I'm just going to pass the addresses onwards in the hopes that maybe other fandoms might use them for notification, as well.

LiveJournal: http://community.livejournal.com/deleting_my_lj
InsaneJournal: http://asylums.insanejournal.com/deleting_my_ij
Dreamwidth: http://deleting_my_dw.dreamwidth.org

Oct. 2nd, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
Oooh yes, I really appreciate it (especially when I find out in time) when an author whose stories I liked but did not have saved makes an advance-notice post that they'll be taking down their stories or journal! Definitely another druther.

And thanks for those links! The concept sounds useful (...even if those comms don't seem to be superfrequently used) :|
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I don't know whether to regard the lack of activity in those communities as a good thing or not, but either way, I definitely like the idea of it. Although, in the case of some, maybe the community should just be called 'removing my fic' since the authors kept their journal, but deleted / locked-up their stories.

Of course, I really like perfica's & debris_k's idea, too, in the case of late entry to a fandom & seeing recs with dead-links to deleted journals or dropped sites - it's always nice to see what's allowed to be requested & not.

Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, the idea for the "deleting my journal, and/or removing my fic" comms is great, but might be harder for people to keep up on than a subtle (watch me and my mallet, probably doomed to fail) attempt to encourage writers (or their in-the-know friends) to comment at the central post at stargate_search and encourage requesters to go there first?

The main thing: I'm very much in favor of a relatively easy way/place to find out whose stories are a-okay to request and whose one ought not, both for looking things up myself and to send others to -- whatever form that way/place takes! :)
Nov. 22nd, 2010 09:39 am (UTC)
Though sometimes people offer/ask for more in the comment-thread not the main request-post, and that seems to be tacitly allowed/ignored by the mods. I'm just hoping I don't jinx it by noting this!

Hee! I thought I might clarify this, so you don't have to worry - people can request whatever they like in the comments, we only concern ourselves with the post itself. I do track the comments of posts requesting stories that have been taken offline (hence my probably-super-creepy appearance here), but only to keep an eye out for anything untoward, like somebody putting the stories up online without the author's permission or the author popping in with a complaint. (Neither of those things has ever actually happened, mind you, but just in case.)
Nov. 22nd, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Dude -- not creepy at all! Seriously, I like to help useful information/resources about SGA stories get out, but it's so much better if what I tell people is, like, y'know, accurate. ;)
Having the mods of the comms I love check in and correct, clarify, or confirm any practical info I'm trying to point people to or compile seems highly valuable to me, thank you! :)

(*goes to update relevant bit with cunning use of strikethrough*)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )