This morning I was doing my usual perusing of Reddit and came across a link on /r/DepthHub about how Fifty Shades of Grey went from the Twilight fan fiction community to a best-selling novel and movie deal.
While it’s widely known that FSOG started as fan fiction, what’s not particularly well understood is how it made the leap from online message board posts to a publishing best seller. User Hurricangst helps to connect the dots.
Of particular note is that the fan fiction community surrounding Twilight created an “Alternate Universe” (“AU” as referenced in the post) that was largely devoid of anything from Stephenie Meyer’s books besides passing references or character names.
"So Twilight All-Human AUs were ultimately invented. There were stories where vampires didn’t exist (like FSOG). They got CRAZY popular within the community because they were essentially just generic romance novels with characters we already knew (made it easy to write and consume, as we already liked and cared about the characters). Though there were always nods to the original Twilight series within them, you didn’t even have to know Twilight to enjoy an AH-AU. I’ve gotten tons of reviews on my fanfic where readers say they’ve never even picked up the book." — hurricangst
The lengthy (by Reddit standards) history does a good job of showing how EL James was able to take popular elements from other fan fiction works along with her own marketing prowess and generate a lot of support and interest in her work.
Even if the result was a rather dubious work of emotional manipulation and abuse masquerading as a novel about a BDSM relationship, the origin of this popular novel from the quiet online community of Twilight fan fiction is an odd and interesting history.
I was going to write a quick review of my experience at the first Dashcon… well apparently, things took kind of a weird turn when Welcome to Night Vale, the ‘keystone event’ of the convention had to cancel.
Let’s backup… what am I babbling about?
Dashcon is (and possibly “was”) “a convention for Tumblr users, by Tumblr users.” It was not affiliated with Tumblr. Basically a bunch of fans getting together to talk about the things they loved online, in the real world. A glorified meetup.
Dashcon gets its name from the Tumblr “Dashboard” which is the main screen most users of the website view the blogs they follow in an almost unending stream.
The event was going to feature “Tumblr celebrities” various “fandoms” (people fanatical about a certain cross section of media) and some educational/information panels. All well and good.
Was it a little amateurish? Of course.
This is a first time event for a few disparate groups.
Before we slog further into how the thing seems to have gone sideways since I left Friday night, I just want to describe my experience as an attendee. (To jump to the controversy, ctrl/cmd+F to “But then”)
The entertaining panels were fun
I attended a panel about “odd fanfiction.” It was light on information. It was primarily a panel where a couple hundred people sat and listened to some very bizarre, poorly written, hilarious stories. The entire room was -excuse the pun- on the same page and it was a lot of fun. I have not laughed that hard in a long time, especially in a room full of strangers.
Attendance picked up in the evening
Despite the photo I posted on Instagram of the registration area, attendance seemed to pick up around 5pm.
"Informational" panels were less interesting
I’m counting such panels as “How digital art changed the world” (about the influence of DeviantArt and other online art communities) and “Nanowrimo and original fiction” as purely informational. They were light on specific fandom references and geared toward deeper knowledge about certain media.
Unfortunately, these sorts of panels were light on the in depth knowledge the panelists might be expected to have. Since Tumblr in general skews younger, the people leading these panels were often students or recent graduates. This may be an area of interest for them, but their level of knowledge and their presentation skills were not up to the challenge.
On a technical note, none of the panels I attended, outside of the costume contest held in the largest hall, had microphones. While audiences were generally quiet and attentive, it could be hard to hear people speak sometimes and it made it easier to tune out if a panelist was soft spoken.
If there are future events(and I’ll get to that in a moment), I think the convention organizers should strive for higher quality and less quantity of panels. I would be more willing to check out a panel about a subject I’m not at all familiar with if I could expect an engaging presentation or speaker.
In general, it was nice but not something I really connected with
Dashcon clearly has an audience, but I’m not it. I knew that going in. I bought a weekend pass a few months before the event knowing full well that it could go many ways. While it has some passing similarities to a comic convention, the interests represented are both more disparate and more specific. If you’re not familiar with “Superwholock”, Homestuck, anime or Welcome to Night Vale, Dashcon appears to have very little to offer. On the other hand, within those
it’ll probably help to have a bit of mood music here:
As with most human endeavors the specter of money reared it’s ugly head. Apparently the venue was demanding that the Dashcon organizers pony up $17,000 or else the convention would get shut down. Apparently, the organizers didn’t understand the contract they had signed and didn’t have $17,000 on hand to pay.
(Un)fortunately, the crowd of Dashcon fans was able to satisfy the hotel’s demands and the convention went on.
Welcome to Night Vale, the surprise hit podcast with a massive cult following, had to cancel at the last minute ALSO because the organizers failed to pay them properly. The organizers claim that they had the funds, but that Paypal was “malfunctioning”. At any rate, the Night Vale folks were not satisfied and canceled.
As a consolation, Dashcon attendees with tickets to the event were compensated with extra time in the ball pit.
To be fair, people were also entered into a raffle for a bunch of autographed photos and anyone with Night Vale tickets was comped a Sunday ticket to Dashcon but what will live forever is that they started the second sentence of their apology message with “hey sad-face, have an extra hour in the ball pit!”
I’m not putting much stock in the posts people are making about obnoxious attendees. There aren’t many pictures or other evidence to back up some of those claims and I think a lot of people are finding fault in this particular con even though poorly behaved attendees is not unique even to comic/anime conventions.
It’s also apparent, after having attended the convention -even for the day- that the event is not a scam.
It’s real. It’s just poorly managed.
It’s clear they overestimated on attendance. Even at it’s busiest periods it was not exactly a crush of people. Which is good, but when you consider that the organizers don’t have money on hand, it’s clear they wasted whatever funds they generated somewhere (or they just weren’t smart about having funds available). Again, it seems like if they had focused on a smaller venue with higher quality panels, they would have had a more satisfying event.
This isn’t about the fans
It makes sense to have a “Tumblr convention”. The communities that have met and formed there are pretty unique. It’s not uncommon to see posts that say “I wish I could meet you all in real life.” And Dashcon was a response to that sentiment.
Comedian Jen Kirkman is fond of saying, “Everybody’s fun is different.”
That’s something worth remembering with something like Dashcon. While their fun may be different, they deserve to have a good convention and it seems that, in some big ways, the current Daschon organizers are letting down the attendees.
If it survives this controversy, hopefully they will put some serious focus on putting on the absolute best convention they can next time.
Liam Tung on the square — yes, square — BlackBerry Passport:
According to BlackBerry, the smartphone world has been enslaved by the rectangle for too long, which may be “limiting innovations”.
BlackBerry argues that the Passport’s girth will deliver a better viewing experience, in part because it can display 60 characters per line — much closer to the 66 characters typically seen in a book, compared to the 40 or so on rectangular devices.
One advantage of its width is that users won’t need to turn the phone to landscape mode to view e-books, view documents, or browse the web.
Let’s be clear: if this thing works at all, it will be because of the physical keyboard that many old school users still clamor for, and not because of a square screen. Though I do love the assertion that it’s too hard for regular smartphone users to turn their phones to the side — where they’d get a much wider display area than this square screen will offer.
As children we are hyper-sensitive to media. Children have difficulty determining what is real and not real in TV shows. They don’t discern the difference between the content of a show and the commercials in between. And sometimes they can also be scared by things that adults find completely frivolous, like logos.
Back in the late 60s Screen Gems ended their shows with an animated logo. A rather abstract red “S” coalesces on screen around a red dot. The music that accompanies it is a simple melody on a synthesizer. Seems plain enough.
But for many, it became known as the “S from Hell”
This logo is notorious for unsettling young viewers.
It is so famous that there was a short documentary made about it:
While the production heightens the drama of the impact this logo had on many young viewers, it is interesting that something so incidental could effect people viewing it and instill this fear. Fear so strong that people talk about having nightmares that prominently feature the “S from Hell”.
The Screen Gems logo, while perhaps the most famous is not the only one. A collection of various famous “scary logos” can be seen here:
Besides the ones that are intentionally meant to unsettle (horror labels like Ghost House, Dark Sky) it is interesting to note the similarities in what constitutes a “scary logo”:
- Loud sounds
- "unnatural sounds" (lots of whooshing/’laser sounds’/synthesizers)
- Whooshing graphics, particularly zooming into frame
- abstract figures
- The night sky or outer space
What people find so disturbing is that they are unfamiliar and are unpredictable. The less that is discernible the scarier it is, especially to younger viewers who, upon being told they are going to watch a fun cartoon are presented with a bizarre figure swooping towards their face accompanied by strange sounds.
Here is another short amateur documentary discussing “Logophobia” in general. The people interviewed point out the elements mentioned above that they found unsettling.
Wearables are a big thing in 1988