OTW 10th Anniversary Chat

Transcript for OTW 10th Anniversary Chat with Seanan McGuire & Martha Wells

If you missed any of our posts or events celebrating our 10th anniversary, or want to attend future events, check out our announcement post. Below is the transcript for the chat held on September 17th.

The transcript has been edited for arrivals and departures in the room and greetings from the audience.


Sarah L.
Hello and welcome! As advertised, the Organization for Transformative Works is running a series of chats during the month of September in celebration of our 10th anniversary. Today’s chat focuses on Fantasy & Fandom! A transcript will be made public later today.

I’m your moderator, Sarah Loch, and I’m a staffer with the OTW’s Communications committee. We have some prepared questions for guests and then we’ll be opening the floor to audience questions.

Ok, so let’s get started!

Mary A.
Definitely!

Rosemary B.
Yes!

Sarah L.
Today our guests are authors Seanan McGuire and Martha Wells. You can check out their bios by following the links on our announcement post.

As this event is part of the OTW’s 10th anniversary celebration, we thought we’d get things started by asking you some questions about your last 10 years! First off, what do you like to look back on as your major achievement(s) since 2007?

*MarthaWells
I’ve been pretty busy since 2007. I’ve had five novels and two novella collections published in the Books of the Raksura series. I did two YA fantasy novels for a different publisher, and also did a Star Wars novel, Razor’s Edge. And I finished the four novellas in The Murderbot Diaries novella series for Tor.com, though only the first one is out yet. So I think my major achievement was continuing to have a writing career as an older woman despite all the odds against it. 🙂

Rosemary B.
I once won a..prize at my school

Sarah L.
Wow, that’s an incredible amount of productivity, Martha!

As someone who didn’t start writing in any amount until my mid30s, that’s incredibly inspiring

displayheartcode
Being able to write for a franchise you love has to have a special place in your heart

*SeananMcGuire
Literally my entire professional career. I signed with my agent in early 2008, sold my first series at the beginning of April that year, and have since published more than thirty novels through traditional publishing channels under my own name and my pseudo (Mira Grant). I’ve won the Hugo, Campbell, Nebula, Locus, and Alex Awards, had multiple works optioned for film/TV, released four albums, moved to a different state, and fallen into swamps on three continents.

*MarthaWells
Thanks – I’m not a really fast writer, so I feel lucky I’ve been able to get so much done.

*SeananMcGuire
So many frogs.

Claudia R.
Haha!

displayheartcode
Any bog bodies in those swamps?

Sarah L.
Hehe!

Rosemary B.
Yeah it’s great to write something for your favorite franchise

*SeananMcGuire
I tried to be, but my handlers fished me out. 🙁

Sarah L.
Always crushing your dreams :S

*SeananMcGuire
They also got upset when I picked up the magpie.

Rosemary B.
Life can be tough sometimes

Sarah L.
Secondly, what do you remember about fandom from back in 2007 — either the fans for your own work or regarding fandom in general?

*MarthaWells
In 2007, I think I was on Live Journal, meeting a lot of new people and reading a lot of fanfic. Being able to socialize with a lot of different people online and easily read their fanfic and posts was still a bit new. Before LJ, I was reading web site archives and mailing lists, and before that, print fanzines. Having such a huge platform as Live Journal, with so many different fandoms represented on it, and so accessible, was very different.

displayheartcode
Someone could probably write an entire anthropology paper on it

*MarthaWells
They really could.

Jacqueline
someone probably will one day

Rosemary B.
2007? I was just a child back then,and I never knew anything about OTW or AO3.

*SeananMcGuire
2007 was way more tide pool-y. If you liked something, there was an archive just for it, and it was probably controlled by a clique of people who viewed their power as ultimate and their motivations as just, even if those motivations were, like, “in this archive SEASON 5 never HAPPENED and BOB is still ALIVE and if you imply OTHERWISE we will BAN you FOREVER.” And like, the fear of being banned from an archive was huge, because how else would you find readers? The last few paper ‘zines I followed/was involved with were dying, and everything was moving online, and I was terrified all the old fic would be lost forever in the tide. Also, tagging was a lot looser because “dramatic tension,” which no.

Jacqueline
I think i was just discovering fanfiction then

Rosemary B.
But trust me if I knew them earlier I would have come sooner

Jacqueline
I was skipping lunch and recess so i could have more time to read fanfiction
wasn’t really writing then

Sarah L.
That’s definitely an interesting point, the isolation of small groups starting to fade with the advent of platforms like LJ

*MarthaWells
It’s weird to think about how much has changed since then.

Rosemary B.
Well.. I guess in 2007 I was too young for fanfictions

*SeananMcGuire
I miss LJ. The way it was, before Russia. The services we have now just aren’t the same.

*MarthaWells
I miss it too.

Jacqueline
I started on fanfiction.net, didn’t hear about LJ until about a year later

Sarah L.
What specifically do you miss about the old LJ?

Mary A.
Now we’re back in fragmentation mode — “guess what platform people are posting on today”…

*MarthaWells
All the people I met. We used to talk all the time, and now their scattered, or out of fandom.
It was the same way when the big email lists went away.

*SeananMcGuire
Being able to control and curate the visibility of posts while also having a public “face.” I love my Tumblr, but it’s all or nothing, and the whole “going viral” performative aspect of modern social media means things get taken out of context and suddenly you have the world landing on your head because of perceived “problematic things.” It feels like we’ve started, as a community, to be more pro-censoring ourselves.

Oh my gods I miss Buffy-L.

Lesbiance
Buffy was neat.

Citro
I was just starting fandom in 2007, weird to realize it’s been that long

Claudia R.
So say we all

Rosemary B.
Hey wait. I’m a newbie here so what is LJ?

Lynn M.
I remember moving to LJ from archives, I was even on a Yahoo!mail list (possibly still am, idek)

Sarah L.
Livejournal

*SeananMcGuire
LiveJournal.

Lesbiance
Live journal, I’m assuming.

displayheartcode
LiveJournal used to be the platform of choice for fandom

*SeananMcGuire
It was a pre-AO3 blogging program that technically still exists but is…not great, for reasons that are an entire panel all their own.

*MarthaWells
Yeah, with the email lists, arguments tended to stay local, so less misunderstanding.

Rosemary B.
LiveJournal..wait I think I heard that somewhere I gotta look it up later

Sarah L.
So now we have a more global community, but also more global minsunderstandings?

*SeananMcGuire
Which is not to say “don’t check yourself, don’t improve,” but like, I’ve seen HP authors dragged for “encouraging child porn” when they wrote a Hermione/Harry kissing scene while being known to be over eighteen.

*MarthaWells
Yeah, I think so.

*SeananMcGuire
Agree.

Lesbiance
Fandoms can be problematic and the people in it forget that it’s mostly fantasy. They take it too personally.

displayheartcode
It comes down to a form of parasocial relationships, right?

Sarah L.
Moving on to some more positive aspects of fandom, what things have you been excited to see in recent years, either regarding fandom or work in your genre(s)?

*MarthaWells
One thing is the popularity of audiobooks. MP3 players and iTunes and have made audiobooks so much easier to find and listen to, and I know it’s made reading possible again for a lot of people whose only free time is when they’re traveling or commuting to work. It’s been a huge benefit to writers and readers. And it’s been cool to see the number of people who are creating podfics and making those fanfic more accessible too.

Lesbiance
I love the inclusion of interest in fandoms and hope that more people can be open to what they like.

Claudia R.
Yes, audiobooks and podfic, it’s been so great to see those grow

Rosemary B.
This is getting serious

*SeananMcGuire
I love that we’re getting a lot more people participating, in all levels. We’re seeing levels of diversity and discussion and inclusiveness in fandom and fanworks that are just dazzling. And we’re finally seeing full interrogation of the misogyny behind the idea of “Mary Sue” that I think are going to be so good and so healthy for authors of all backgrounds.

*MarthaWells
Yes, definitely.

Lesbiance
Misogyny in mary sue? Care to elaborate?

Sarah L.
Yes! As a reader I’m so excited for the increasing diversity of authors we see

Jacqueline
I’m excited for the difference in subjects and how people are more open about other roles for characters who otherwise would’ve been a stereotype, in every single ‘different’ book

Rosemary B.
There’s like 100 different kinds of authors out there..or more

Lesbiance
I think authors were always diverse. Didn’t J.K Rowling use J.K instead of her first name because she was female?

Jacqueline
yep, I think her agent told her to do that
not sure

*SeananMcGuire
The whole concept of “Mary Sue” as it is currently expressed is enormously misogynistic. The initial “this is a problem” was referring to a character who came in like a cuckoo in a cowbird’s nest and bent a pre-existing story to be the best possible setting for her. Ignoring the part where people did that with male characters as much as female, without the same critique, the “OH NO DON’T BE MARY SUE” shouting reached such volume that people stopped writing female OCs…and then often carried that over into original work.

Lesbiance
I think it was more of a matter of social acceptance than “diversity”. We see the most prominent writings in history.

Rosemary B.
I think Rowling chose that herself
And yeah I know..Mary Sue is a big problem

Lesbiance
I don’t believe it is just females that are Mary Sue though. Although I agree people are harsher on female characters I disagree it is misogynistic.

Claudia R.
Yes, and the Mary Sue critique tended to hit young writers particularly hard since that’s a way a lot of authors begin

*SeananMcGuire
An original female character, in an original setting, CANNOT be a Mary Sue, but that accusation is leveled against literally every competent female character in literature or media. So why is Rey a problem if Luke isn’t? Why is Katniss a problem if Harry Potter isn’t? When male characters are “chosen ones” and female characters are “Mary Sue”s, that is a serious problem.

Jacqueline
no, I think her publisher(or agent) thought because the book was about a young boy, people wouldn’t buy it if they thought a woman had written it so they wanted it to be J.K Rowlang cause it would sound like a man wrote it

Sarah L.
Just a reminder to everyone that we’re currently in the “prepared questions” portion of our chat but you will have the opportunity to ask your own questions at the end, so be thinking about those!

Lesbiance
Oh, I see what you mean Sean.

*SeananMcGuire
And even saying “all characters can be Mary Sue” is a bit of a problem, because “Gary Stu” never achieved that penetration in our communal vocabulary–saying “Luke’s a Mary Sue” creates this through line of “Luke is like an overpowered female character and that makes him bad,” whether or not it’s intentional.

Sarah L.
That’s an interesting point, Seanan, that it’s turned into an insult, not just to female characters, but to male characters as well

Rosemary B.
Hey Speaking of Mary Sue, I think I saw a character that’s close to it. Biancasta Rodyt. She’s a peasant girl who happened to fall in love with the prince, but their relationship sort of..ruined the story..because of the author’s mistake

For Biancasta, search her up with google

Lesbiance
Didn’t you just say it’s misogynistic? Anyway, what mistake?

Sarah L.
Another question for our authors: what were some of your early experiences like when your work gained its own fans?

Lesbiance
That seems less like a Mary sue to the character and more like a cliche plot.

*MarthaWells
I think my favorite experience is seeing the fan art, and seeing fanfic from my books show up in Yuletide. That’s hugely exciting to see fanfic and fan art of your work, especially to someone who was a fan from way back in the print zine era.

Rosemary B.
Well..the mistake was completely ignoring the circumstances..I guess

*SeananMcGuire
The first time something I’d created showed up as a fandom option for Yuletide, I literally cried. Happy tears! But it was like, HOLY WHAT NO HOW OMG VIXY LOOK AT THIS DO YOU SEE THIS. It’s amazing. It’s still amazing. I can’t read any of the fanfic of my own work, but knowing it exists makes me so happy.

*MarthaWells
It’s the best thing.

Sarah L.
Was it kind of a feeling of having “arrived” as an author?

Claudia R.
How funny that you both separately mentioned Yuletide!

*MarthaWells
Yes, at least for me! Fandom has been a really important part of my life, so it’s so awesome to see people doing fanfic of my books.

Lesbiance
Question for the authors: Is there a book of yours you recommend me to read?

Rosemary B.
Recommends? I’d say Jane Eyre

*SeananMcGuire
It was, and it was also this feeling of giving back. Like, I made so much fanfic, and consumed so much fanfic, based on other people’s worlds, now I get to give people worlds to play in.

Sarah L.
Awww, what a great sentiment.

*MarthaWells
Yes, Seanan, exactly!

*SeananMcGuire
With a small side order of “all you people who said fanfic authors didn’t need to have real skill can stuff it.”

displayheartcode
Doorways to worlds full of people blogging about zombies, talking mice, a Shakespearean nerd for a king of cats… 😀

Sarah L.
😀

displayheartcode
<3

Sarah L.
As a fanfic author myself I fully support this

Lesbiance
Same.

Jacqueline
Yes! Seanan yes!

Sarah L.
So the theme for today’s chat is the Fantasy & Fandom given the work you’ve both done in that area. I’d like to ask each of you in what ways you think that Fantasy is unique as a genre and what it is that appeals to you about it?

*MarthaWells
I’ve always liked fantasy because you can do anything with it, any setting, any time period, and it can include mystery, romance, adventure, anything. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy and SF, since I was a kid and watching things like Lost in Space and Land of the Giants in reruns, and making up stories about them long before I knew fanfic existed. I think as a genre it allows you to escape from reality when you really need to, and also to take the real problems and deal with them in fantastic settings, to try to get a better understanding of them.

Lesbiance
Fantasy is unique because you can shape it however you wish.

Rosemary B.
Fantasy is very helpful for amatures and it’s a big treat for the professionals

*SeananMcGuire
Fantasy is where story matters more than physics. Science fiction needs to explain itself. Horror needs to ruin the curtains. Fantasy goes where the story needs it to go, and while good fantasy is always internally consistent–it’s not Calvinball, unless that’s the specific story you’re trying to write–it’s still a degree of freedom you don’t find anywhere else.

Jacqueline
it makes me feel like anything is possible, when reading or writing

displayheartcode
Breaking the laws of physics is always something to enjoy

Sarah L.
So, Seanan, Martha, What fandoms, if any, are you or have you been personally involved with? What appeals to you about those fandoms?

*MarthaWells
I’m not participating in any fandom right now except passively reading fanfic. I have been involved in original trilogy Star Wars (that was the first fandom I was actively involved with, back in the early 80s), Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Stargate Atlantis, and probably some I’ve forgotten. I think what tends to draw me is the idea of “found families,” and groups of characters who are isolated or draw together under adverse circumstances for survival.

Sarah L.
Ohhh, Hercules. Also, yes, found families forever

Jacqueline
found families all the way

displayheartcode
That trope never fails to warm my cold heart

*SeananMcGuire
My big fandoms, when I had time for buckets of fanfic, were B:tVS, Veronica Mars, Fringe, Leverage, Halloweentown, and Barry Ween. Right now I’m on a weird “reading lots of Harry Potter” kick, and mostly writing weird Sailor Moon AUs to torment my friend JetWolf, who should never have given me the guide to where she keeps the knives.

Lynn M.
💜💜💜💜

Sarah L.
Leverage!!!! <3 <3 <3

*MarthaWells
I loved Leverage.

Jacqueline
I loved Halloweentown

Lynn M.
Oooh Leverage was the best! Show of my heart forever!!!

Sarah L.
I just finished a rewatch recently. It stands up so well!

Rosemary B.
Sailor Moon AUs?

*SeananMcGuire
Oh, and ElfQuest. I wrote for a print ElfQuest fanzine for like, eight years.

*MarthaWells
It really does.

Sarah L.
Yes, I think we’re all interested in those weird Sailor Moon AUs 😀

Lynn M.
Also I spent most of high school reading Harry Potter fic

Citro
The Sailormoon AUs are really intriguing me hehe

Rosemary B.
What do you mean by “weird”?

*MarthaWells
There’s some really great Harry Potter fic.

Jacqueline
my auntie is obsessed with Elfquest, she had a sleeve tattoo of the characters, I just recently got into it

*SeananMcGuire
Yeah. Sailor Moon as fairy tales, Sailor Moon as part of the same universe as Overwatch, deep future “next phase of the moon” Sailor Moon…it’s all built around the phrase “for the love of Serenity, burn,” and JW’s screams are glorious.

Mary A.
😉

leupagus
There’s nothing more satisfying than writing a story for one specific person just to make them suffer, I’ve found

displayheartcode
Oohhhhh. You already have my attention and heart with the fairy tales one.

Sarah L.
Sometimes you show how much you love your friends by making them suffer 🙂

Rosemary B.
Guess I’ll look up these sailor moon AUs

Sarah L.
Seanan, you’ve been involved in the filk community for a long time. Would you say that people who create filk interact within a subgroup of fandom the way that, say, vidders often do?

Rosemary B.
AUs are amazing, it gives you the chance to get another look at the characters’ traits

*SeananMcGuire
Filk is its own big squishy glorious thing. Some filk is based off specific properties, like Vixy & Tony’s “Mal’s Song” or Batya Wittenberg’s “Clockmaker’s Lament,” but more is based off original concepts or even other filk songs. It’s not a subgroup so much as it’s a subspace.

Sarah L.
Would you be willing to explain filk a little more for those who might not be familiar?

Jacqueline
please

Rosemary B.
Yes please!

*SeananMcGuire
Filk is the folk music of science fiction and fantasy. It ranges from extremely polished to extremely rough, and has its own conventions and spaces around the world. If you go to ovff.org, which is the website of the Ohio Valley Filk Festival, and check out the Pegasus Awards page, you can hear samples of what’s currently considered “the best” of what filk has to offer.

Sarah L.
Nice!

Jacqueline
oh, thank you

*SeananMcGuire
If you’re curious, for specific artists I recommend Vixy & Tony, Dr. Mary Crowell, Talis Kimberley, and myself, to a certain degree. 😉

displayheartcode
Thank you!

Sarah L.
Martha, you have published books in the Star Wars and Stargate Atlantis universes. How did that come about and do you approach that writing differently than your original works?

Rosemary B.
Man, this chat teaches me about so much things I love it

*MarthaWells
For Stargate Atlantis, I pitched the two books to the publisher myself. For Star Wars, my agent was contacted by the publisher and I was asked to do a book. I approached them the same way I would do with fanfic. I think the big difference is you have to stick closely to canon, and you can’t bring in any fun AU ideas. In a media tie-in ou want to try to make the experience for the reader as close to the show as possible, but with unlimited special effects and no budget constraints. Getting the characters’ voices right, and trying to convey the feel of the actors’ performances, is really important.

Sarah L.
Honestly on a personal level, writing for properties that I’m a fan of seems like living the dream. Did it feel like that to you?

*MarthaWells
It really did. It was like getting paid to have fun.

Sarah L.
<3

Claudia R.
Are the deadlines different, Martha? I read that often these have very short turnarounds

*MarthaWells
Not especially. In SGA, I think I had four or five months, and Star Wars I think I had more than that but it’s been a while, so I can’t remember exactly. Every property is different about that.
The tie-ins didn’t take nearly as long to write as my original fiction, so I ididn’t need as long.

Metus
Four-five months from start to finish?

*MarthaWells
It usually takes me about a year to write an original book.

Sarah L.
Is that increased length because you’re creating the world, do you think, rather than writing in someone else’s universe?

displayheartcode
It still blows my mind that people can write an entire book in a year.

Razz
How have your writing of female characters evolved over time? Currently in fandom I write primarily male characters, but in my fiction I love strong female characters.

*MarthaWells
Yes, 4-5 months from start to finish, for the SGA books, but they were only around 70,000 to 80,000 words.

Sarah L.
Razz, we’ll take audience questions at the end
Which is rapidly approaching

Jacqueline
it blows my mind that some can do it in less

*MarthaWells
Yes, it’s the worldbuilding and character building that take up the time for me.

Sarah L.
Seanan, Martha, anything else you’d like to touch on before we open the floor for audience questions?

Razz
Okay thanks.

Claudia R.
Yeah, the 4-5 months seems short to me since that would include revisions too, right?

*MarthaWells
No, I don’t think so.

*SeananMcGuire
I like frogs.

*MarthaWells
No, it doesn’t include revisions, that’s just for the first draft.
And some properties are totally different.

displayheartcode
Oh thank god

*MarthaWells
You don’t know what it’s going to be like until you do it.
WHich is why I don’t do tie-ins unless it’s something I absolutely love.

Jacqueline
i was freaked for a second and ins o much awe because if it had been revisions too… superhuman that would be

Sarah L.
Definitely

We’re going to start accepting questions from everyone, now. Folks, please be respectful and try to take turns asking questions. This chat platform doesn’t allow you to see when other people are typing, so we know it can be tricky. We’ve got about 55 minutes, though, so there’s time to get them in.

*MarthaWells
Yeah, after the first draft is turned in, there’s usually at least 6 months to a year to go through all the editorial stages.

Mary A.
Are you seeing the Vast Quantities (TM) of indie fiction coming out these days affecting the market and the Big Publishers?

*MarthaWells
No, not really, not as far as I can tell.

Claudia R.
Is that similar to original work, Martha, the revisions and editorial stages?

Jacqueline
Have either of you ever had interest in publishing in other genres?
or is fantasy your one true love?

*MarthaWells
Yes, pretty much.

*SeananMcGuire
Mary A.: No, not really at all.

Jacqueline: I also write biomedical science fiction and horror, and eventually really want to do a series of cozy mysteries.

*MarthaWells
SF and fantasy is all I’ve ever wanted to write.

Jacqueline
Cool, thank you for answering

Rosemary B.
If you’re writing something about merfolks,and the merfolks have gills on their bodies, would it be on their waists, or their necks?

leupagus
Put me down as very much looking forward to the tea cozies of yours, that’s one of my favorite genres

Jacqueline
what’s tea cozie?

Claudia R.
Ooh cozy mysteries, my favorite!

*MarthaWells
My merpeople had gills on their necks.

*SeananMcGuire
Rosemary: It depends entirely on the merfolk. Are they fantasy or science fiction? Did they evolve naturally in their setting, or were they created? Am I working off an existing folkloric base, or just going “they’re people who are also fish”? What do I need them to be able to do within the story?

Rosemary B.
Fantasy.

Claudia R.
Speaking of gills and necks, Seanan, why frogs? I’m curious as my mother had a phobia about them because they lacked necks.

leupagus
Jacqueline: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cozy_mystery

*SeananMcGuire
Claudia: IDK. I just really, really like frogs. They’re sweet and squishy and they sing so nice and they won’t hurt you. Mostly.

Jacqueline
thanks leupagus, I would read stories like that

*SeananMcGuire
Rosemary: All the other questions still apply. Mermaids are a very case-by-case basis for me.

Sarah L.
As far as created merfolk, Seanan, your story just wrecked me in the best way

Rosemary B.
And..the merfolks needs to at least use their voices. Would that help?

Jacqueline
the neck for the gills would make more sense to me, because when you look at other aquatic animals aren’t their gills around the neck area(mostly0?

Razz
8)~~* frogs are awesome

Claudia R.
On the fandom side, for both of you, did you find that writing types and styles varied in the different fandoms you were in? For example, did you tend to think, “Oh X fandom has particularly good Y writers” or perhaps “Lots of art styles in X fandom”?

Sarah L.
“Each to Each” was just so powerful

*SeananMcGuire
Rosemary: No, not really, because there are about eighty decisions that go into making a mermaid, from biology to magic to functionality. I literally just spent two years working with marine biologists to build a mermaid that could actually exist in this world, I can’t do much with off-the-cuff mermaid-ing.

*MarthaWells
I think they did vary, because people influenced each other a lot. It was more obvious online than in print zines.

leupagus
It seems like fantasy needs just as much explanation as sci-fi!

*SeananMcGuire
Claudia: Not really? I guess the smaller fandoms that I’ve chosen to stay within usually had mostly good writers, because the smaller ones were only “worth it” if you were really dedicated to the subject matter.

Rosemary B.
Exactly leupagus

*SeananMcGuire
Sarah L.: Thank you so much.

Citro
As published authors are there some terms you have to respect when it comes to your involvement with fanfic as authors? I know you can’t read fanfic of your own works, but is publishing your own still an option, time constraints notwithstanding?

Jacqueline
What’s the most time you guys ever spent researching for one book?

*MarthaWells
In print zines everybody was mostly on their own as far as fandom goes, so you weren’t influencing or influenced by other writers, until the zines came out, and that was usually once a year.

displayheartcode
For the both of you, what were some of the…weirdest avenues you’ve had to go through for research?

Citro
(Basically, should I keep my eye on the Sailor Moon tag for some fun AUs? ;))

leupagus
Oof, a once-a-year-zine. That’s hard to imagine these days.

*MarthaWells
Citro, right, it’s not a good idea to read fanfic of book series you are still writing on. But writing your own fanfic about TV, movies, or whatever is fine. I just don’t have time anymore.

Rosemary B.
Anyway, thanks for the answer, Martha and Seanan

Claudia R.
Probably cut down on the “please update!” messages though leupagus 😉

Sarah L.
Always a bright side!

*SeananMcGuire
Citro: Oh, you can absolutely continue to write your own fanfic. I do. I have never missed a Yuletide. It’s a bad idea to write fanfic about your own stuff, it makes your agent develop a twitch.

Razz
How has your writing of female characters evolved over time? Currently in fandom I write primarily male characters, but in my fiction I love strong female characters. Sorry if that’s too broad.

*SeananMcGuire
Jacqueline: I spent three years researching FEED.

Displayheartcode: I gave myself a tapeworm to research PARASITE.

*MarthaWells
Researching one book was probably a few months, but I had already started writing it, so it didn’t slow the process down much.

Sarah L.
Wow, that’s dedication

Citro
“Get a tapeworm for your art” is a new one

displayheartcode
I remember reading about that! My dad applauds you on behalf of science!

Rosemary B.
Researching parasites is a hard thing

displayheartcode
Go big or go home

Mary A.
Which of your books are you proudest of, and why?

*SeananMcGuire
Razz: I grew up in our modern Western society, and I had a lot of internalized misogyny to unlearn, as so many of us do. I’ve gotten better about having lots of different female characters, letting them be PEOPLE, and not writing as if having extra time on the page were some sort of reward for being the most “strong female character”.

*MarthaWells
Razz, I don’t know if it’s evolved. I’ve always written female characters, from my first book, which had a female and a male lead.

Jacqueline
Did you both have trouble meeting deadlines when you first started?

leupagus
Question for either or both of you: You’re both very successful authors who are also upfront about writing/reading fanfic and enjoying fandom. Has that ever caused problems for you in either sphere?

whoops sorry jackqueline

*MarthaWells
MaryA, I’m always proudest of the one I just finished. 🙂 The Death of the Necromancer was probably the hardest to write, and The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red was the most fun to write.

Jacqueline
no it’s okay leupagus
I like your question better

Razz
Thanks!

Jacqueline
ignore mine
🙂

*SeananMcGuire
Jacqueline: Nope! Fanfic taught me to go fast.

Mary A.: Same answer as Martha, really. Whatever I’ve just finished is the thing I’m happy enough to have off my plate.

*MarthaWells
Leupagus, it hasn’t caused me any problems in the pro world, but when some people in fanfic found out I was a pro author it did cause a lot of problems, and I ended up leaving fandom for a long time.

Jacqueline, I don’t usually have problems, though sometimes it’s been really tight.

Sarah L.
🙁 That had to be frustrating, Martha

Claudia R.
So a group of readers on a WIP are more insistent than editors in publishing houses, Seanan? 😉

*SeananMcGuire
leupagus: I’ve been pretty lucky, in that I was a fanfic author first, and people followed me through the transition.

displayheartcode
That’s awesome

*MarthaWells
It is frustrating, since I’d been in fandom since 1980 or so, and it was really upsetting to feel I couldn’t do that anymore.

Sarah L.
🙁 But you found your way back?

displayheartcode
Please let there be a happy ending….

*SeananMcGuire
Claudia: Less insistent, more frustrating. The publishing houses pay my mortgage. My cat had to have a $6,000 surgery, unplanned, on Friday, and they paid for that, too. Whereas readers going “finish why won’t you finish” and then sometimes getting mean about it…they’re not paying me. Fanfic is for love and I wouldn’t want to change that, but I really dislike the way people act like I owe them something for giving them something for free.

Claudia R.
Very true!

*MarthaWells
I read fanfic now, and I’ve done an occasional story in the past few years, but I don’t really feel like a part of it anymore.

Lynn M.
Oh no! I kinda want to like apologize on behalf of fandom that we ever cause problems???

Sarah L.
🙁 I’m sorry

*MarthaWells
In the 90s and early 2000s, I edited zines, did web site archives, went to MediaWestCon and had a blast with friends. I miss all that.

Rosemary B.
For either of you:If a person has bird wings attached to them (either science or fantasy), would they have feathers on their arms? Or their backs?

*MarthaWells
Most people don’t cause problems, but it’s really an illustration of the idea that one or two people can ruin something for 100s or 1000s.

Claudia R.
Speaking of zines, Martha, at the start of the chat we were talking about the era of LJ passing. What do you think we’ve lost from the era of print? I know that fanzines are still being made but clearly the momentum is in online platforms.

leupagus
That’s definitely true, Martha

*SeananMcGuire
Rosemary B.: Same answer as I gave for mermaids. 😛

*MarthaWells
The zines were great, with the ones that had beautiful color art, cartoons, and editing help with the stories, and lots of poetry, which you don’t see a lot of online, but they were expensive to produce and ship.

Online sites like AO3 make it a lot easier to find and post fanfic, and it’s so much more accessible.

displayheartcode
I can’t begin to imagine what kind of technical problems would happen during those deadlines

Claudia R.
So it’s kind of what we’ve lost with album art and liner notes on the music side with individual digital songs?

*SeananMcGuire
I really appreciated being EDITED when I did ‘zines. That’s actually how I learned to take editorial, was getting it from my fanzine editors. And they took their jobs seriously, because they had to pay for the paper!

*MarthaWells
Claudia, yes, it’s very similar.

Rosemary B.
To Martha: do you remember how the word “Mary Sue” was made?

displayheartcode
Star Trek origins, right?

Janita Burgess
Mary Sue

*MarthaWells
Yes, it was back in Star Trek, but that was a bit before my time.

Sarah L.
For both of you: are there any favorite fanfic tropes that you sometimes like to pull into your original fic?

Claudia R.
Continuing with that theme, there have also been a lot of online platforms which have waxed and waned. Are there things you think we may have lost from earlier times online?

*SeananMcGuire
Sarah L.: Found families, comic misunderstandings, really fast dialog riffs, “I didn’t know what to do here, so screw it, we’re cutting to the next scene,” random Easter Egg references to other things.

*MarthaWells
The found family thing, mostly. I like to write about loners who find their people, and I’ve always been drawn to that kind of character. I’m sure there are others. People generally write what they’re most drawn to write, either in fanfic or pro work.

Jacqueline
have either of you ever had writer’s block and if you had, how did you deal with it?

Sarah L.
Write the story you want to see in the world?

*SeananMcGuire
Claudia R.: I think we lost a sense of healthy editorial. It’s increasingly hard to find a good beta group, and I keep seeing drive-by “let me rip your fic apart even though you never asked me to, IT’S CONSTRUCTIVE.” I also sometimes worry that we’re losing a sense of kindness. Maybe that SPN Sam/Dean H/C fic isn’t your bag–it surely isn’t mine–but that’s not a reason to read it just to pan it. Once you see it’s not for you, walk on.

*MarthaWells
Claudia, I really miss web sites, and all the graphics, and the fun things people would think to do with them. I do think we’ve lost that area of creativity.

displayheartcode
Spite, that’s how I solve a number of my writing issues. Also works great as motivation!

*SeananMcGuire
Jacqueline: I had writer’s block when I had to work with an editor I really hated, and who really hated me. So that was fun. I dealt with it by eating a lot of ice cream and finishing the book out of, yes, spite.

*MarthaWells
Yes, I had writer’s block one year when a lot of stuff happened at once, including my mother getting Alzheimer’s. I basically had to just keep trying to force myself to write.

Jacqueline
Spite gets a lot of things done lol

Razz
Is the ‘screw it, we’re cutting to the next scene.’ okay with editors Seanan?

Jacqueline
thank you for answering

*SeananMcGuire
Razz: It can be! It depends on what you’re writing, the genre, the complexity, etc. When I was writing Star Wars, no. When I’m doing Velveteen, yes.

Rosemary B.
Yeah and..Thank you for answering all my weird questions

Claudia R.
Yes, the common platforms today don’t allow for much individuality

james_
Just a quick word to say you have both written books that I have enjoyed greatly. While I have been reading Seanan for many years I have recently finished Condition Red and would recommend both of you whole heartedly. ( The brightest fell is sat about one foot away from me.)

*MarthaWells
Thanks, James_!

*SeananMcGuire
Aw, thanks James_!

james_
🙂

Sarah L.
Do either/both of you have advice for fanfiction writers who are struggling to transition to original worlds?

Claudia R.
james_ has a lot of thanks on our side, too. He’s one of our valiant Systems folks who keeps the AO3 running at 4 AM

displayheartcode
You’re the real MVP, James

*MarthaWells
My writing advice is always to learn as much about publishing as you can. Pro writing is a job, and you do need to do research and know how it works.

Lynn M.
I love Raksura to a v. high degree and will definitely have to check out mermaids after this! (I may be sort of writing about both those things actually shhh)

Citro
Thank you for your hard work James ^^

Rosemary B.
For either of you:do you think it’s okay to ship real people?
If it’s just a joke?

*MarthaWells
For the actual writing part, your writing will grow and change as you keep doing it, and keeping doing it is really the best way to learn.

james_
Do you think published authors publicising their fanfic will become more common in the future. Do you think fic has become less despise ?

*SeananMcGuire
Sarah L.: Write your first draft as if you were writing fanfic for a show that only exists inside your head. You can add the exposition once your beta readers tell you what they’re not understanding. Remember that professional publishing is slooooooooow. Like, “sell a book in January Year 1, see it published in January Year 3 if you’re lucky.” Learn what you’re signing up for, and be sure it’s what you want. It’s lovely, but it’s all-consuming.

*MarthaWells
Thank you, Lynn M.!

*SeananMcGuire
Rosemary B.: It makes me really uncomfortable? I had a dude draw porn of me and my best friend, and it freaked us both out for weeks. So even as a joke, it squicks me a little. But as long as you’re not showing it to the people you’re writing about, it feels like it’s something that I don’t get to say “no do not do.”

*MarthaWells
I don’t publicize my fanfic, because I’ve had enough problems with people in fandom not liking the fact that a pro author wrote fanfic.

Jacqueline
Jake, you’re still alive!

leupagus
Oh lordy that’s… just so far over the line

displayheartcode
y i k e s about the fanart

leupagus
And Martha I am so sorry people are like that

Razz
When you mentioned beta groups, was that pretty common? I’ve only ever heard of writers groups or single beta readers?

Jake
I am! I apologise for being such a lurker, but I’m enjoying the Q&A!

leupagus
I know a number of people who knew you back when you were active in fandom and loved your contributions

*MarthaWells
So many people my age and Seanan’s age have grown up in fandom now, I think a lot more people in the pro world “get” fanfic, and so it’s just not that big a deal anymore.

*SeananMcGuire
James_: I think it depends on where you are. I have some friends who write YA who regularly get dragged because they were fanfic writers first. But John Scalzi, who was a bestselling SF author BEFORE he did fanfic, wrote Little Fuzzy fic as a joke and got it published. I think it’s sadly a very gendered thing right now: authors who present as female are more likely to take heat for it, while male authors are just “enjoying the challenge.”

*MarthaWells
Thank you so much, leupagus! I really appreciate that.

Jacqueline
no need to apologize no need
I just added some of your books to my to read list, so I’m glad I came today and got involved in this chat

*MarthaWells
I’ve had a couple of editors who wrote fanfic back in the day.

leupagus
Yeah it seems like the publishing world is far more “infested” with fanfic and fandom people than anyone will admit

Sarah L.
Just a quick mod reminder: at this point we have about fifteen minutes left, so if you have additional questions, be sure to get them in so our authors have time to respond

Rosemary B.
Do you have any ships that you miss it?

*SeananMcGuire
It is interesting, though. I was at the absolute tail end of the fanzine generation–I was sixteen when I started writing for Dreamberry Jam, twenty-two when it folded, and by that point I was almost entirely in online fandom. Whereas Arlene, who edited the ‘zine, was fifteen years older than me, and is still in serious deep mourning for the fanzine era.

Leupagus: It doesn’t help that everyone’s afraid of being the test case for legality. I know one author who is among the most screamingly anti-fanfic, and her main series is file off the serial numbers Real Ghostbusters fanfic.

*MarthaWells
Yeah, I know some fanzine people who never made the transition to online.

*SeananMcGuire
Rosemary B.: I miss writing Veronica and Logan. I was really hoping to get in on the VMars mysteries while they were being published, but sadly, they didn’t do well enough to continue.

leupagus
Yeah I can believe it, when that case does happen it’s going to be really ugly it seems

*MarthaWells
Oh yeah, definitely.

james_
I think if we carry on like we have for another 10 or 20 years we will not find things too hard.

Claudia R.
Huh, wasn’t Veronica Mars one of the properties that was available on Amazon Kindle?
(That doesn’t seem to have done well either)

leupagus
James, I’d argue that the way we carry on right now isn’t sustainable

Rosemary B.
Oh…I feel so sorry for that..about not being able to continue the VMars mysteries..

Citro
It seems like there’s a certain pressure that fanfic should stay underground

Razz
VM is awesome! I wish it would come back as a TV crime drama, I think that’s it’s best medium.

Rosemary B.
Is there a certain Gay/Lesbian ship what you like the most?

*SeananMcGuire
Citro: Part of the problem is that people are challenging that. I’ve had people start to tell me about their fanfics, and then get mad when I asked them to stop. Well, if I listened, that could mess with my future publishing plans. I believe I would win the court case if a fan tried to sue me, but I don’t have the time or the money; it’s safer to avoid being the trial case. It’s not fair to creators to involve them.

Razz
2nded Rosemary’s question

*SeananMcGuire
Rosemary B. and Razz: I wrote a lot of Buffy/Faith back when I did B:tVS as a primary fandom.

Razz
<3

Rosemary B.

Claudia R.
(I meant Kindle Worlds, their attempt at co-opted fanfic)

*MarthaWells
Claudia, I remember that, that was very, very weird.

Citro
Sorry, I expressed myself wrong, that is an issue. I meant it more in the sense of “pro authors shouldn’t be involved in fanfic”

*SeananMcGuire
Claudia: I cautioned people against that SO VERY HARD.

Citro: Oh, yeah. That comes up all the time, because “why are you here stealing comments and praise from good, honest fanfic authors.”

leupagus
Yeah it seems like as much as there are real issues with corporate suppression of fanfic/trying to coopt it etc, there’s at least as big a problem with fandom people demanding things from creators that they are simply not entitled to

displayheartcode
I remember hearing about Kindle Worlds for the first time and was like ‘whaaaaaat?’

leupagus
it’s a mess right now

*MarthaWells
Citro, Well, I’d been writing fanfic longer than some of the people who wanted me to go away had been alive, so.

leupagus
lol

Citro
haha

leupagus
get these whippersnappers off my lawn

Sarah L.
😀

displayheartcode
😀

Sarah L.
Okay, we’re getting really close to the end of our time here. Thank you so much to Seanan and Martha for taking the time to be with us and answer our questions. Do either of you have anything else you’d like to add before we sign off?

leupagus
Thanks so much for doing this btw!
And Sarah thanks a ton for being the moderator/voice of reason throughout

Lynn M.
This was super fun!

james_
Yup, Thank you and keep writing.

*SeananMcGuire
Thanks for having us!

displayheartcode
Thanks to Sarah, Martha and Seanan for allowing this to happen!!!

*MarthaWells
I had a great time, thank you for having me! And thanks to Sarah and Claudia!

Citro
This was really cool ^^ Thank you for your time!

Razz
Thanks so much for answering so many questions! I appreciate you both!

*MarthaWells
If you want to know more about my work, I’m at marthawells.com

*SeananMcGuire
If any of you want to see what a Maine Coon looks like after being fully shaved for surgery, hit my Twitter — it’s @seananmcguire. Thomas looks AWFUL, it’s great.

Rosemary B.
What do you think it’s the best thing about the Fantasy genre?

Jacqueline
Thanks for coming and talking to us, can’t wait to read your stuff

Citro
Poor Thomas, hope he gets better soon!

leupagus
Yes excellent will follow right now

Jacqueline
definitely will look you both up more

Janita Burgess
For everyone who missed it last night: they shaved my poor boy. https://t.co/wjyZryuNe1 — @seananmcguire via Twitter

Sarah L.
Our chat is with Seanan McGuire and Martha Wells is now ending. On behalf of the OTW I’d like to thank them very much for coming and helping us celebrate our 10th anniversary! I’m going to be turning off the guest link access in a few minutes, which will automatically clear the room.

Rosemary B.
This was a good chance to know more about you

*SeananMcGuire
Goodnight!

Citro
(Thomas stil looks adorable)

Rosemary B.
Goodbye everyone!

*MarthaWells
Thanks, everybody! Bye!

Razz
Aw poor Thomas

Citro
Goodbye! ^^

Jacqueline
thanks for mediating Sarah

Sarah L.
Thanks for the kind words

*MarthaWells
has left the room

Jacqueline
See ya

Jake
Thank you!

Rosemary B.
This was another wonderful chat

Jacqueline
I’m glad I came and was part of this

Razz
I wish we had these every weekend. The chats are so much fun! Thanks ao3 team!

Sarah L.
Thanks to everyone for your respectful participation

Rosemary B.
Thanks to everyone

Jacqueline
Thank you for hosting events like this, they’re great