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I'm going to bed. But first I want to express that I am a silly girl because I have been up reading amateur fiction and trying to make a database thing. I have had no education whatever in making database things.

I'm not even sure it is the tool I want. I want to follow up on some impressions I have about what sorts of amateur fiction writers write what sorts of elements into their stories. So I want to do what amounts to simple regressions, which I learned how to do and forgot how to do before there was such a thing as a computer on every desk. My statistics textbook is at least eight feet above my head and I do not care enough to climb up there.

On another front, I did write a little. And it's going better, maybe.

And on still another front, Frank tells me they have balls, in which the professors march in while a band plays music, and then professional dancers demonstrate waltzes and foxtrots and tangos, and then they have three dance floors with different live and recorded music and people do the macarena and stuff. He wore his brown suit and was underdressed, but so were some of the others.

He had a ball. I couldn't resist saying that.
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In my unfinished series of essays on the "young man stories" genre one of my favorite examples is Dominic Luka. This is partly because his work is good, his characters likable, etc., but also because he's sort of an exmplar of the genre and the writers of it (one of the characteristics of the genre is that, unlike things that you would point to and say "this is yaoi," the authors are fairly likely to be young men and very young men --teenaged boys themselves -- not always, but very likely). Now the peculiar epidemic of cyberfan plagiarism has touched him.

I have nothing to say about it, just that it's interesting that the plagiarism of an entirely original story about American high school students with no manga/movie/anime/comic/series characters or characteristics (no uke/seme, for example) is plagiarized on a site called fanfiction.net. (I can't find it there, but that's where it is apparently).

The story that was plagiarized is "Desert Dropping." It's as much about family and friendship as it is about coming out and first love, and that's a characteristic too.

On another front, the nice fellow found my real glasses in a stupid place I had checked three times at least before. I wore my emergency backup glasses for two days.
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So "Holland's Finest" in San Jose informs me that they're not allowed to import chicken. It seems to me that by the time it's been ground to the consistency of toothpaste and baked with various vegetables embedded in it the chance of spreading bird flu is rather less than the chance of me sprouting long silky pearlescent blue-green wings and growing a third pair of limbs. But there it is.

My next step is to find a deli that makes it on this side, if there is such a thing. The nice fellow wants to start at the Italian deli in North Beach, but we all know it's really because he wants to get a sandwich there. I could get a case of Bitter. But I doubt that they will know anything about a Dutch breakfast sandwich meat.

I have lost three pounds since returning from Europe (a little less than a week). That actually puts me a pound lower than I was at my lowest-for-the year. What am I doing differently? Eating breakfasts like the hostel ones, basically. Sort of maybe a lowish-carbohydrate thing, over all. But not really very low. Until yesterday and today I was also walking at least a mile a day, too.

I'm a bit less than two thirds of the way through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. I don't know what I think about it. I'm still reading it, so I guess I like it well enough. But there are long stretches that I actively dislike, and other stretches where I wonder why she bothers with them. I suppose it all comes together in the end.

Also, the period spelling is kind of annoying, especially since I've never read a book of the era the book is pretending to be that actually seemed to use the spellings ("chuse" for "choose" mainly). And the books I've been reading can't all be infested with updated spelling because a lot of times I've read them in early editions. Or is the spelling supposedto be part of the alternate-history flavor? I don't know. I've told the nice fellow that the book is probably more for him than it is for me, but he doesn't read much fiction any more.

On another front -- I'm still struggling to enliven Afterwar. I didn't do anythig today but read amateur online fiction, most of which has the opposite problem. Actually my current favorite, which has the tremendously icky title of Once a Slave . . ., breaks every rule I've ever embraced:

¤apostrophe words
¤pseudomedieval setting
¤social systems that don't make sense
¤severely mismatched tech levels
¤ridiculously powerful magic
¤historically mismatched language
¤mage lords
¤I could go on

and there are problems with the character development and plot and stuff. But. It's really wonderful anyway. It has drive and heart and color and sensation, and I could keep reading it forever and apparently I will have to because it's 133K and no end in sight.
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yeah, I'm posting a lot. It'll stop probably after a while.

So this is the part that's actually history. There are parts of this I am not sure of. But the general trend of things is about right.

So young man stories don't come out of any print genre. They come out of online textfiles stories. You can still find these archives that I believe popped up soon after the internet happened. These textfiles came in a lot of varieties, but the short erotic story was a pretty common type. I think these first appeared in bulletin boards and early newsgroups (there are a lot of dead story-oriented newsgroups out there). These stories were generally fairly short and simple. Most of them were simply stroke stories. When I say this I am not derogating them for being what they were. Some of them were very good at what they were.

There were multipart stories either at or near the beginning of this. But the multipart stories couldn't really be called serials or novels, I think, because of the trajectory of the stories. These stories -- which still are being written, and are often called "series" -- remind me of myths and folktales of the Bobo or the Hercules sort. I mean that the stories are connected by a general sensibility, not by a story arc. The changes from part to part are not character development or plot: they're additions of new sexy bits. Often the stories start with two guys meeting and having sex. In the next part they meet again and have more sex. In the third part they have some kind of breakthrough sex -- though it's hard, since these stories tend to claim that the sex is the best in the world to begin with. Sometimes what is added is more sexual partners, so that at some point what you get is an orgy. It would be stupid to complain that these stories are not literarily rich or complex enough: that would be like complaining that a haiku has no chorus.

One of the largest and oldest archives is The Nifty Archive (which used to be called the Nifty Library of Erotic Stories, and which has or had some kind of relationship with a subscription site called Gay Cafe to which I can't provide a link because googling provides a whole raft of gay cafes none of which seem to be the site I'm thinking of). It has been around since 1992, but its stories go back further because many of the early stories were posted from earlier BBS and newsgroup sources. It has the stories categorized by orientation, gender, age group, situation, and some fetishes. In some ways this can be unfortunate because some fine stories have been written that belong to disturbing categories. I mean they are stories which if you read them without the category label you think, "That was disturbing. But what a nice story, and what interesting characters!" But with the category label you're kind of scared to even go there. I mean, they can photograph your computer screen through your window blinds from a mile away. They can capture the image of where you've been online after you've wiped your drive six ways from Sunday. And dang, just what are you going to find in those categories, anyway? Will you want to run your brain through the sani-wash cycle of the dishwasher to get rid of what you read?

There was a time when I read everything, everything at all. The whole situation of reading fiction online was so novel, and the naughtiness of reading batshit crazy weirdness was sort of exciting in a whee-I'm-on-the-Wild-Mouse-ride kind of way. So when I say things about the more problematic categories, well, I've seen some of it, and I'm not embarrassed by the fact of seeing it, but I am embarrassed by much of what I saw.

Anyway. If I knew more about picaresque literature and the early novel, I would be able to compare and contrast the way the young many story developed out of the stroke story with all that. The series stroke story spawned series romance, and that spawned the young man story, which is a fully developed serial literature of its own.

Clearly, there are other interesting genres developing out of the online fiction sharing tradition, but this is the one I know and love and have something to say about.

I know I said there'd be history here, and that implies much more information than I have to give. Next part will be better. Oh, and soon I will be giving links to the stories I'm talking about.
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I've made no secret of the fact that my current favorite popcorn reading is volunteer online serial coming of age gay romantic fiction. Because I'm an unreconstructed lumpen intellectual, I can't help thinking seriously about it, but because my academic career was truly spotty and interrupted by building factory nuclei and wrecking my hands and stuff, I don't have all the terms down and I think in a sort of undisciplined way. So you're going to have to make allowances for enthusiasm.

I suppose definitions come first. Or descriptions. I use the word "volunteer" instead of "amateur" because "amateur" has shifted in sense from the person who does something for the love of it and is usually a virtuoso to a person who's not good enough or dedicated enough or consistent enough to be a professional. Which is too bad. The volunteer writers of this sort of fiction take their craft as seriously as professional writers. The conventions of writing this kind of thing are somewhat different from the conventions of print fiction, and also, I think, different from the conventions of the fiction that finds its way into online journals that imitate print magazines, or that imitate the dignity of print magazines. Also, the conventions of this kind of writing are probably still in the rapid evolution stage of an art in its infancy.

I must think of a shorter name right away because "online serial coming of age gay romantic fiction" is too much to type every time and I hate acronyms -- okay, for the purposes of this discussion I think I'm going to call the genre "young man stories" until I think of something better. Not "boy stories" because that implies something else. Not "boy meets boy stories," though that's closer. And most definitely not "yaoi," which is something else entirely. Some of the authors get confused and call their stories "original slash fiction" thinking that the word "original" is enough to distinguish what they're writing from slash fiction per se but the outlook, conventions and sensibility of these stories are quite different from anything that could reasonably be called slash.

Young man stories occur in defined spaces. You can find them in story archives which are primarily intended to be erotic, which is their birthplace: in story archives dedicated to this one genre, hosting several authors: in authors' own websites: in e-groups such as yahoo groups: and as posts in forums and message boards. In story archives that are classified, they are usually found in "high school" and "college" categories.

Young man stories are almost always serial and frequently interactive. By "serial" I mean that they have multiple chapters which appear over a period of time, with the core group of readers reading each chapter as it comes out. By "interactive" I mean that there is a public dialog between the readers and the authors during the period of the writing, with readers potentially altering the trajectory of the story, or its language or other details. It's not unknown for authors to query their audiences about details of setting or technical information. An interesting instance of this is the author who is outside the US asking for details about USian high schools. Other queries are from authors whose first language is not English, asking for help with colloquialisms or other details of English (I believe that it is interesting that English is becoming an almost universal lingua franca at the time when I believe that future historians will point back and say that the English-speaking countries are entering a serious and permanent decline in political and economic influence). These illustrate a major difference between young man stories and yaoi: yaoi, whatever its setting, has at its core a sensibility that is Japanese or faux Japanese, and young man stories have at their core a sensibility that is American or faux American. Of course there are notable exceptions to both, but the exceptions do not alter the general strain of the genres.

Young man stories are usually about first relationships. They are occasionally about first successful relationships, with a back story of a first unsuccessful or traumatic relationship or two. Young man stories, therefore, often include "first time" episodes (more about this later when I get into history). Young man stories are also frequently about coming out or being forced out.

Later I'll get into how young man stories are also distinguished by their treatment of family, friends, and community. The fact that these elements are treated in distinctive ways is, I think, part of the definition and description of the stories.

Next: where these stories came from. I think. (with questions for further study). Discussion of the development of online fiction communities with great big honking holes for fan fiction, heterosexual erotica and romance, and the other stuff.

Third part: the structure of young man stories. Discussion of the difference between serials and novels.

Fourth part: erotica, family and community in young man stories. I think this is where I wind up.

On another front, it's not raining today, and I'm going to go see where my drinking water comes from, and I had asparagus and artichokes for breakfast!!

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