September 2nd, 2009

wood cat

Reader/listener expectations, the power of

So I'm catching up on This American Life podcasts, still, and I get to a rebroadcast episode from way back in the day, #27, "The Cruelty of Children." Act One is David Sedaris telling a story from his youth and is fine. Act Two is Ira Sher telling a story about how when he was a child, he and some friends found a man trapped in a well and decided not to help him. It was absolutely chilling . . .

 . . . and at the end, the host says, oh, just to be clear, that was fiction.

Dear Reader, I was livid. I have only been listening to This American Life for a few months now, and all this time all their stories have been very much not fiction: straight-up investigative journalism, interviews, personal narratives, and so forth. And so I was very much not expecting fiction.

(It was introduced as "a story by writer Ira Sher," which is ambiguous; Sedaris was also introduced as a writer and his section was called "a story." It's clearly labeled fiction in the website summary, where you can listen to the episode, however.)

I point this out not to criticize This American Life, but to caution writers of all kinds: this is the power of reader expectations. Trifle with it at your peril.

wood cat

please don't link to fanhistory dot com

I've been seeing some links to fanhistory dot com for a quick summary of what's been dubbed SurveyFail. Please don't link to that site: it is run by a woman who outs fans for profit, literally. She has even less respect for fandom than the "researchers," I would argue, because she knows the fannish ethical norms she is violating.

Instead, here's a short survey by [info - personal] tablesaw, and a longer one over at FeministSF (among many others; see the SurveyFail tag over at [info - community] linkspam). I also highly recommend this eloquent response, before the fail began multiplying, by [info - personal] eruthros.

ETA: I am reliably advised, by someone who does not wish further public attention brought to the matter for obvious reasons, that fanhistory has very recently demonstrated that it has not changed its ways.