The bizarre nature of reviewing

I think I’m being review stalked. Not that it concerns me, but it sure is a weird feeling.

There’s a user who sometimes seems to read my reviews, and then writes her own version….of my review. It’s kinda weird, because she uses the same topics and same words as me. Not your conventional words either – which is how I know – words like “slimy” or “heartbreaking” – not your conventional words in reviews. Those are words I use all the time, but they’re not particularly common words for usage. People tend to use stronger words against each other. Not everyone reads something and thinks in the same terms as I do. Sometimes they disagree with my review and use their review to offer an alternative viewpoint, a la Youtube comments. πŸ˜€ But they use the same words, and they choose the same plot points, and after a couple of times, I don’t think it’s coincidink. I first noticed when I saw it and thought “Hey! That’s just like something I thought I wrote.” Found the review I’d written first and found out that it was something I wrote. πŸ˜€

I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but that Fanficnet has eaten some of my reviews, so I always stay on the page, and click the review link open in another tab to see if my latest review went through. I hate when my review is lost, as I actually take the time to make a nice review other than “That’s hot” or “Bring on the ESN”. I want my writers to get my reviews. So I leave the tab open until I’m sure it’s worked. Sometimes I buggerise around trying to hurry the showing up of a review (there’s a delay sometimes of 20 minutes) fiddling with things and refreshing if I have too many tabs open and I’ll see what everyone else has written because a word can’t be under my eyes without being read.

Weirdly, apparently my reviews get readers reading them as like Sparks notes – one of the stories I regularly review, when I checked to see if my review went through, another reader gave me a shout out for them. πŸ˜€ Thank goodness peppermint isn’t an oft written word – otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed. πŸ˜€ So I sent her a PM, which possibly gushed some more about how I loved the story so much, with a corollary thanking her for her kindness. πŸ˜€

I try not to think about it too much when I’m reviewing, because I’m trying to communicate with the author, not with other readers. Sure, it’s nice if they agree with them, but I don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to please others. It’s something I’m prone to in real life and try to avoid on the internet.

Reviewing in general has become an issue that I’ve put a lot of thought into as well. When I first started reviewing, I was extremely timid about it. I would put one or two lines about stuff, and that’d be it. Not to mention, I hadn’t read much fanfic at that stage. It has become harder to impress me, particularly since the first overly romantic story is a revelation, and maybe nice, but the fiftieth…not so much.

Over time, I read around about what other people thought about reviewing too. Writers write a lot about reviews. I forget where I read it, but someone suggested that reviews should encourage new talent, rather than established writers (as there’s some personal popularity clusterfuck going on with reviewing – more on that in a tick). So I started to review those fics of new writers.Β  But then over time, I noticed that new writers really didn’t need my reviews one way or another. They’d get actual die hard fans.

Then I read that I should review every story that I read. I did that a little, but really, if I did that, then my reviews were short and worth less. Plus, I’ve read a lot of shit – and shit I don’t really want to encourage. πŸ˜€ I’ve read fics that make my gorge rise, disgust me and fics I don’t care about. What am I supposed to say to something I violently disagree with? “I see you’ve got some nice hate going on for Sookie. Beat that bitch down!”Β  or “I didn’t realise fairies loved arse rape in the woods! The more you know!” is not going to go down well with other reviewers or with the author. Nothing I can say is going to make that writer see what they’re doing. So a frustrating waste of time is not on my agenda.

Then I fell into the trap of thinking that those people who’ve always written to me, telling me how much they love my reviews would be disappointed if I didn’t continue. That was the most recent thing I stopped doing. That was even though a couple of fics took a bad turn and stopped being things I would endorse. But many months ago, I decided that that wasn’t in fact helping me or them, and I didn’t have an obligation to anyone. They could be upset if I didn’t review any more, just like I’d stopped being impressed with their story.

If I could go back and delete some of my reviews, I definitely would. I would no longer want to support fics that are rape fics now, or ones with domestic violence (because it doesn’t matter that he’s a vampire – that just means he’s more likely to seriously hurt her). I just settle for taking them off my must read list, making sure they weren’t added to my favourites, and be done with it. It really chaps my arse that a few fics I’ve reviewed have turned into violent fics or fics aimed at degrading the living hell out of Sookie.

Another thing I’ve debated is whether or not I should review fics when the author personally doesn’t like me. After I seen as being okay with reporting fics, I was the devil incarnate and lots of bad stuff was said about me (ah, the grapevine in this community) by people I’d reviewed. I debated whether or not I should review those people. It wasn’t that I worried what they thought of me, but I certainly did wonder if my reviews would then be seen as some sort of target for reporting and thus upset someone I was trying to be positive about by reviewing in the first place. I debated the whole issue with another writer, and decided to just review, and leave it at that. I can’t do anything about who reports what. My reviews mean I liked something, not that I wanted to pal up to the author.

So I reviewed them as if they were no different. One took it as a declaration of support for her fic, which I thought was a little weird, but fine. Weird mainly cause of the assassination of my character she engaged in elsewhere, but fair enough. Another author who had quite a bit to say on me though, stopped replying to my reviews. Apparently, she holds grudges. I debated it for a long time, and finally came to the conclusion that she hated me so damn much for my opinions that she didn’t want my reviews. That by reviewing her, I was upsetting her. It’s not as if she ever actually told me not to review, but I’m not going to pursue her and ask why she’d stopped replying. For a while, I thought well, maybe she’s particularly busy, and breaking the habit of the last year of replying to all her reviews. But then she mentioned replying in her A/N and I figured I got what she was laying down, and stopped reviewing her.

But it got me to noticing how politicised reviewing is. If you want to be friends with the right people in this community, you better review what they want you to review, and who they like. That goes to who to reply to as well. Some reviewers are sledged by authors – most terribly and publicly. Now, I can understand an upsetting reviewer getting the hammer by PM, but not in public. That seems particularly bad to me, ungrateful and definitely out of limits. Either ban them from your account, delete the review or shut the hell up.

Sometimes it makes me wonder how much reviews are worth – at least reviews that aren’t by me. Are authors getting a portion of reviews because their friends are reviewing, or because it’s generally a good fic? I’ve even seen authors throwing hissy fits over the “right” kind of reviews – is it better to have 20 “That’s hot” compared to 5 long diatribes. Personally, I think it’s kinda tiresome to debate such shit.

On top of that, I’ve had people review me by personal message – particularly at the height of that unpopular period – devil incarnate and all. You don’t want to be seen being nice to me, or people might think that you’re a reporter. It made me feel bad for people who felt such pressure from the communityΒ  (and also made me respect those who talked openly about associating with me) that even your small time reviewer felt like the eyes that watch them would be judging them harshly.

Of course, the problem with viewing all reviews like that is that I’ve actually struck up all of my Fanficnet friendships with reviewing – and it’s ipso facto. I mean, I like an author’s mindset that goes into writing a fic – that fic speaks to me, and I review. We find we have stuff in common – but that’s already integral to their writing. A weak woman doesn’t write a weak Sookie. I prefer friends I can’t put my fist through, and I like reading about a Sookie I can’t put my fist through. It becomes par for the course that a friendship would develop.

Laughably, my experience has been that the less reviews there are, the quicker I should be to read a fic. It will either be a complete train wreck of awful-bad fic (which I will enjoy in its own sense of badness – like rolling in shit), or it will be something really great that will deserve a review from me. I know that I’ve been the first to review a couple of controversial fics – or one of the few to review a really great fic. I remember one of the fics I read, came out, for a long time, hadn’t had any reviews. I thought – oooh must be mega-bad – and it’s one of my favourite best ever authors. I was their first ever reviewer, which makes me as pleased as punch. The less conventional the fic, the less it fits in with the romantic bullshit stereotype, the less likely people are to leap in and review. They’re too busy wondering what everyone else is going to think of them, which just reinforces the idea that reviewing is politicised.

So that leads me back to wondering about this review stalking. I figured I was one of the people on the fringes – no one knew who the hell I was, and was one of the mass, except to those I review, and really, I’m just a reviewer to them – but a bit of a passing blip. If they knew anything about me, it was bad stuff. That’s where the weird feeling comes in. It’s intensely weird that someone thinks using me as an example will get them any tread in this community. πŸ˜€

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