Interview of Aria by Cara Marta Messina
Conducted on 2020-02-16
How to Read
This interview transcript has been qualitatlve coded (learn more about qualitative coding and my process here). Qualitative coding, in a general sense, is marking up particular data with particular themes. For this transcript, you can both read what Aria said as well as how I coded their interview.
The bold font in Aria's answer are the points in the text that have been coded. The underlined font is also coded; the underlined font is specifically marked with the "power and identity" code.
cara: So today on February 16, 2020, I am interviewing Aria.
aria: I'll be going by Aria today, and I am agreeing to be interviewed.
cara: Excellent, all right. So I'm going to start with asking you a few questions about yourself as a fanfiction writer, and a writer in general. So can you tell me a little bit about yourself as a fanfiction writer, when and how you started writing, which fandoms you started with, how do you participate in fandoms, how did your participation change over the years, and what fandoms do you currently participate in and why?
aria: There are like, two beginnings of me writing fanfic, back when I was like 10 or so I put something [inaudible 00:00:47] fandom that was really bad, it had some comedy that just wasn't funny, although you can't touch it [inaudible 00:00:54]. But when I was like 12, 13, 14, I started writing for real in the Digimon fandom, and that's where I learned how to write, and I really... In some sense I learned a lot about just writing in general, not just as a creative writer, as the basics of how do you do put together long compositions? Because at that point I was [inaudible 00:01:31]. So I obviously wrote The Legend of Korra later in life, for a while. I wrote in the RWBY fandom for a while. I wrote in the Homestuck fandom for quite a long time, although pretty much after Homestuck was dead. Nowadays I'm not writing as much in any fandom, just because I don't have as much time as I used to and also, I don't know, the Homestuck fandom's kind of... It was a kind of a set of epilogues, that I liked and disliked the [inaudible 00:02:02] but also they... Some of the pieces I wrote just no longer work as Homestuck pieces because the characters have been changed, and I was like, "I can't really write this story about two women in love because one of them isn't a woman anymore, that story doesn't work as a piece."Systems of Power: LGBTQplus heteronormativityCode: canon-critique, motivation I don't want to be like, "Ah, but I'm writing the version of this character that's a woman." I hate that. I know that that's permissible with the meta text but I don't want to be part of that.Code: fan-politics, identity-bending I guess I want to leave that [inaudible 00:02:36] and I'll write some of my own original stuff with some of the consitency of that. And with engagement, I don't know, I used to be more generally engaged with the fandom, but mostly I felt like I wound up just getting in like an extension of me arguing on the internet, which is not a super-healthy way of engaging with communities.Code: fan-politics So I write still sometimes, but I try to engage less with fandoms because otherwise it's just going to be me arguing on the internet.
cara: Can you talk a little bit more about that engagement that leads to arguments, and those tensions?
aria: They still have a lot of... People write political theory when they write fanfic, like a lot of fanfic is political theory, a lot of fanfiction is political.Code: important-quote, fan-politics People are like, "Oh..." When people talk about RWBY, the way they talk about the White Fang is the way they talk about radical politics. And I don't know if they realize it, but I always get really annoyed, because this is like bad political theory. It's very normal American political theory, but it's also bad. It's very much like, "Oh, there's no justification for violence," it's like, "I don't agree."Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake And so, I don't know, that's not a healthy way of getting involved in it. From my view, is when I do it, almost like... When I'm writing this fic it means something, because I'm like... There's a study I think that says that when you get into rational arguments about things you don't convince them, but if you tell stories you can. And I think that I'm in that place, arguing about politics in the fiction space of the internet.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, critical-uptake, motivation It's like, I could do that, or I could just write, or I could argue about those things that are political and real, and double down on [inaudible 00:04:30], you know?
cara: Great, give me one sec, I'm just writing something down. Okay, great, thank you. All right, so you said you haven't really written as much fanfiction recently, but what texts have you produced recently?
aria: In the last couple years I wrote a couple pieces, oh, I just haven't wrote a lot in the last six months, I got a job. But I wrote a piece called Addict's Alchemy, which was a piece about...in terms of servicing some of the same things we're talking about today. It's a piece about about trauma... And it [inaudible 00:05:20], that this isn't obviously. It's a piece about trauma and it's a piece about, what does it mean... Really they're both pieces about what it means to be disabled.Systems of Power: disabilityCode: reflection Although this is obviously a bit more than that, but that was... And then I wrote a piece called [inaudible 00:05:42], which was sort of like a revisiting of what does... I guess it was actually about immigration, it's just I never really ever got around to doing a piece about immigration system, but somebody had a bad take about immigration in America in a piece of fanfic and I was like, "God, that's a really bad understanding of that friend. That is utopian and wrong."Systems of Power: otherCode: fan-politics, critical-uptake It mostly did, it didn't ever get finished though because it was like I'm the type of person that [inaudible 00:06:09] that I was writing about as to impact the story I was telling. It was like, "This story's dead, that's a real life [inaudible 00:06:18]."
cara: Awesome. Okay, awesome. So I'm going to ask you about your actual fic that we're talking about, Through Pain and Oppression. So can you talk a little bit about the motivation behind writing this fic?
aria: I think there were like a couple, I mean there was a couple of fics about being two things a lot, because that's sort of the thing that makes it both live and die. For me, this text begins both as like, I was reading a lot about Stonewall and the context around Stonewall,Systems of Power: LGBTQplus and also I was reading a piece about PTSD, and it was just very surface, very basic understanding of trauma and PTSD in particular, like something you recover from, in a way that I was not super comfortable with. And sort of the original text, not sure if you would agree. And so I wanted to talk about disability through the context of being something you come to live with, and come to integrate, and come to find becomes a part of you life, but also something you still struggle with, instead of just, I don't know, a lot of us have seen the story a lot like, you get better, and then you get better and you win. And then one day it doesn't bother you.Systems of Power: disability abelismCode: important-quote, canon-critique, critical-uptake canon-resistant, motivation And I found that... and it was also a piece like, I was coming into my own politically, I was becoming my own political individual in a way I hadn't been before. Like I had politics, but this is around the time that I'm really radicalized, and just me engaging with those contexts.Code: critical-uptake, motivation
cara: Great. Can you talk a bit about some of the strengths of this fic?
aria: I don't remember it as well as I might, so I probably don't have as strong a... I can't really read things that are this old, because they're a little bit hard to read as a writer. But I remember it being both a piece where I took a lot of interesting concepts, and also a piece that I remember getting to a point where I told a story about... It was a statement about really hard dramatic [inaudible 00:08:52]. This is I think the first piece where I write as a adult writer looking at the world and going, "Okay, what do I actually think? What can I say about this that is interesting," instead of just being like, "I don't know, let's take a thought and just run with it." I think that in a lot of ways it suffers of being really in that space, but it's also a good piece in that I'm genuinely, actually doing literature, in a way that I really was not before.Code: genre-other, reflection
cara: Great. And what about some challenges you might have faced?
aria: I have a couple of challenges. First of all I wrote about suicide at a time where I was not ready to talk about it, as a writer. I'm still not sure I can actually talk about suicide now, in a way that's beneficial or useful for me. I'm not sure now I can do that now, or could not do it now, but I could not do it at the time, or I couldn't do it in a way that was healthy. I know I wrote it that it would seem therapeutic, but I also was being retraumatized, and I didn't say that obviously in the tags.Systems of Power: other disabilityCode: reflection But I also struggled because I didn't know how to write about my own trauma, and so I tried to write about trauma in ways that other people were experiencing it. And already the text engaged with that, and those weren't really authentic to me. They weren't things I was writing about at the time.Systems of Power: disabilityCode: canon-critique canon-relation, motivation And the worst challenge that I had, it was just too epic. It had two epic story arcs that I didn't know how to integrate, both this love story about disability, and it was this story about queer politics, and I could not make those two pieces meld at the time.Systems of Power: disability LGBTQplus The story arcs just never came together, and I couldn't harmonize them, and it sort of died because I couldn't get to the thing I was trying to make, not ambition, but I couldn't make either one of them make sense.Code: genre-other, reflection [inaudible 00:10:46].
cara: Awesome. Great, so can you talk maybe about any feedback that you received on this text, and that could be if you had someone read it that you sent it to, or any comments you got?
aria: I didn't get that much in the way of feedback on the written text. I did consult with some folks when I was writing some texts about trauma, because I was like... I wasn't comfortable writing that.Systems of Power: disability otherCode: research revising And almost, as an older writer I wish I had gotten some feedback, but also as an old writer I [inaudible 00:11:32] have that sense of myself as an individual dealing with trauma. And so that story didn't... But that was the biggest bit of feedback I got was this conversation, and it helped a little bit.Code: reception
cara: Awesome, all right. I'm going to ask just about some additional tags that you used to tag. So you had angst, fluff, romance, PTSD, and homophobia. So can you talk about why you chose these additional tags in particular?
aria: So I guess the first three, they're basic tags. You want to read angst, here's angst. You want to read fluff, well, this is fluff and angst. Well I'm not sure how fluffy but...Do you want to read a romance? Here's a romance.Code: fluff angst And the other two, they're both thematic right. And then the last one's a content warning, like yeah, if you read this you'll see homophobia. I can't not publish a story about homophobia.Systems of Power: homophobia-transphobiaCode: authors-note, audience
cara: Great. All right. So I just have some general questions about content as well as just sort of different choices that you made. So my first is, why did you decide to focus on Korra and Asami, particularly after Season Three?
aria: I chose Korra and Asami because they're main characters, I like writing main characters. I liked the love story, it was kind of short in the text, but I liked it. Or not short, but it felt more like a nod than a fullCode: canon-compliment, motivation... There are things I don't like about it, but I like it as a little bit of text. It's there in the text, it was one of those things that was like, "Oh, I love this, I love feeling represented."Systems of Power: LGBTQplus So I wrote that.Code: canon-relation, canon-compliant, motivation I chose the end of Season Three because it's the place where I felt like I was reading a... I felt like engaging with the original text, I was feeling like I wanted something different, I wanted a more deep and meaningful engagement with disability and trauma in this context. Because reading the original text is like, it's there for a while and then they're better? So it was almost the opposite feeling, what do I think this looks like? And so that's why I chose that.Code: important-quote, canon-critique, critical-uptake, motivation
cara: Great. So how come you decided then also to do alternative points of view?
aria: I think I thought it was romantic. I don't remember why I did that, that's one of the ones where just... I think it's part of I had that as sort of my first... It was more like one of the most basic tools that I learned, so I learned, "All right, I'll do alternate points of view."Code: genre-other, reflection
cara: Great. And then, so you talked about this a little bit, but I was wondering if you'd talk a little bit more about, why was it important for you to focus on politics in their romance?
aria: Yeah, I mean, I have [inaudible 00:15:06] politics is also kind of arguing on the internet, but this is what I was doing with my life. I was on my way to running a queer resource center at a college, so I was doing the work of feeling the political implications of things in the world. And so I was, for me the most natural thing to write about is to write about... Not just homophobia, although this was a story about homophobia, not just homophobia, but this was a story about queerness and politics. And because this was the thing that was radicalizing meSystems of Power: homophobia-transphobia LGBTQplus, [inaudible] is vile, because... And it was about violence, so I don't just mean violence as a method of resistance, I mean violence as a thing that people survive.Systems of Power: other Because that's what's radicalizing me at the time. And so I felt the need to wake up that in a sense.Code: important-quote, motivation
cara: Great. And then, oh, there's a second part of my question. It's fine, you answered it already. So you also, in the text, navigate between real-time and flashbacks quite often. So can you talk a little bit about why including flashbacks was such an important thing to do?
aria: I think I was just engaging with the text's portrayal of trauma.Systems of Power: disabilityCode: canon-compliant, motivation [inaudible 00:16:46]. At the time, I think I was talking to someone who experienced flashbacks, one of the people that's involved [inaudible 00:16:46] as a way they experience flashback. And so I was writing in that space. I don't know if I thought about this as a storytelling tool at times, or I thought about it as a storytelling tool obviously that helps power [inaudible 00:17:00], not necessarily about the story if it makes sense. I wasn't telling you things that had happened in the past, to teach you what happened in the past. I was saying, "This is what's haunting the characters, this is what the characters can't escape from in a very physical, visceral fashion." Well maybe physical might be the wrong word, you know what, I'm okay with it, body and mind, if it makes sense.Systems of Power: disabilityCode: genre-other, reflection
cara: Great. Okay, awesome. So I'm going to ask about some specific moments in the text, so I have quotes there from the original text. As I ask questions, if you don't mind just reading them, just to remind yourself. So I was really interested in your author's note at the beginning, and so can you talk a little bit about why you found writing therapeutic, and then also what was triggering about it?
aria: If I remember correctly, this was about writing about suicide. I had been in a fight for a very long time. And I was nearly constantly suicidal. And so writing this piece was an engaging... It was obviously triggering.Code: authors-note And I think I took something I had experienced, like one of the [inaudible 00:18:37] to do that is almost always triggering, right? But it's also somewhat therapeutic, because this is an engagement, and here I am playing with [inaudible 00:18:49]. So I don't know, it was a complicated experience. I think it was mostly a good one, but I am relieved... This is not the piece... I remember trying to do this again later, more detailed and coming away really badly traumatized writing a piece that was more directly about political ideology, and that was [inaudible 00:19:10]. And honestly I'm glad I did it. It was a piece that was sufficiently about me that it would have been fun and helpful for a lot of people. But this, I think it was a good piece, it was a piece that was a whole other world to readCode: audience, even if it was a piece about what I [inaudible 00:19:36].
cara: Great. So can you talk a little bit about some of the cultural and regional expectations you decided to incorporate, for example around food, around gender roles, around queerness and sexualities?
aria: Yeah. So I was under the impression, reading or engaging with this text, I came away with this feeling like the Northern Water Tribe is somewhat... very different from the rest of the world, and there are ways that it plays as... I don't know if it was textual or sort of fan-driven more, but I remember coming away with this feeling that there is a marginalized subjectivity in the Northern Water Tribe. And so telling this story about difference in cultureSystems of Power: cultural-difference, and we'll get to... I'll get to Korra's upbringing a little bit later, because you're going to ask about 10 minutes later about Korra's upbringing. But I want to... Basically that I think Korra's upbringing is particularly reflective of that culture, yeah.Systems of Power: cultural-differenceCode: implicit-explicit critical uptake Because it's like, I would imagine telling a story where it's like... That's complicated in a kind of metropolitan, cosmopolitan city, like Republic City. Because there's, I don't know. I come away from Korra feeling like, "This is a gender thing going on." I don't buy that there's not homophobia in a world with gender in the like weird way that... In ways that still reflect our I think gender and homophobia [inaudible 00:21:13], the way that we have a sense of gender. Big, capital G Gender. And so I thought like, "What does it mean to have culture in the context of... What does it mean to be a cosmopolitan city where... There's both a degree of marginalization for like the Northern Water Tribe closing... Not so much that rules that are really intended to enforce gender norms are going to be there. And also to be like, "Yeah, there's probably a different understanding of gender in context," yeah.Systems of Power: heteronormativity cultural-differenceCode: important-quote, critical-uptake implicit-explicit
aria: You also asked about cooking under this?
cara: I did, yeah.
aria: Asami probably can't like cook...because I think it's either canonical or in fanon, and I kind of like that, because I like the notion that... I like the notion that someone who's very good at some things, but just not good at other things.Code: implicit-explicit Like she'd chosen to be good at certain things, and it also reflects sort of the expectation Hiroshi had for her, which we're also going to get to later because you're going to ask me about it.
cara: Great. Awesome, all right. So next question, Korra's lack of education around non-hetero or queer sexualities is super interesting. So why did you imagine Korra having that lack of education, and how do you relate that to our reality and world?
aria: I think that this is a piece that comes from a weird part of what I understood about that world. To me, Korra grows up in a compound with people who are older than her, who aren't likely to tell her the truth about things. Because the White Lotus is an organization of people who are fundamentally keeping her apart. And I remember being like, "Oh, these folks are not going to tell a child about queer sexuality." Particularly sexuality is a hard topic, you grow up in that kind of compound in a world where queer identities are looked down on, you're going to come away with this very strange view about that. And you might just be told nothing.Systems of Power: homophobia-transphobiaCode: implicit-explicit And so the compound is the perfect institution [inaudible 00:23:43], it's a place where a child is genuinely given an upbringing where other children aren't involved the [inaudible 00:23:53]. I think of a place I was there, and this was particularly...I was engaging with political institutions at the time that were much, much bigger than me, particularly family institutions. My family was pretty chill, but running a queer resource center at community college is like, getting that [inaudible 00:24:12]. You would deal with a bunch of people that were writing about the problems for being gay, or feeling like they can't talk about it, or being the only source of information, of being part of an institution that was the only source of information.Systems of Power: homophobia-transphobiaCode: canon-relation, motivation And being in that place was being like, "Well yeah, a [inaudible] institution, an institution that actually genuinely has all the resources in the world, it's going to make weird kids, and not super healthy ones."
cara: Great. So can you talk a little bit about writing about Korra's healing process from her physical wounds, learning to live with her trauma, and then Asami's role in all of that?
aria: Yeah. I don't remember exactly what I was thinking, and I do know the answer that came to mind just now. So I'm probably going to say things that aren't necessarily exactly in the text, because I've had more meditations on this since. I was trying to write a story that engaged with trauma and felt authentic and didn't make trauma seem like the end of the world. Because the binary that's in a lot of literature is either like, "Oh, you either overcame trauma, or you are doomed to misery forever." And I was trying to find some middle ground, trying to tell a story that felt authentic.Systems of Power: disabilityCode: important-quote, motivation Because I neither feel like I recover, nor feel like I... Or ever feel like I totally recover, nor feel like I am somehow condemned to my trauma. And so to write a story about...even difficult to be in a place to be physically injured, and mentally unable to face the world, and in pain.Because I imagine Korra's pain is seeing the cost of her new trauma after time, because her being injured, being in a place where you are tortured to death as a vulnerability. Every time you experience that pain, I imagine that that's a place that engagement is a struggle after time when you're in that pain. So it's an ordeal for Korra to dress herself.Systems of Power: disabilityCode: implicit-explicit, reflection I wanted to tell a story about connection. And I wanted to make it clear that when I'm telling the story, I think that even [inaudible 00:26:39] understands that it's not really about romance as much as it is about feeling connected in a genuine way to people, that that central theme, building a life worth living after injury, or after trauma, is finding an authentic realtionship with people.Systems of Power: disabilityCode: motivation At least it was to me, I don't have a ton of experience with it. And so Asami plays that role, being a person to whom Korra wants to relate, is thrilled to relate, is not scared, or she is a little bit scared to relate, but is she scared to relate in the way that she's scared to relate to other people.Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: reflection I don't love the last quote here, as an older writer, because I don't... I want to make my characters more... I don't remember [inaudible 00:27:30], because it might have been the case that I really did want something that jarring, but that's a pretty extreme... I feel that...actually I might like that a lot actually in context I have to... But that's a very, very, very extreme bit of jarring, and I... Because I tend to want my characters to want to know what's real, and that it is the most important thing going on that they do know what's real. But that's also possibly that I have more experience with being unsure of what what's real. I kind of understand that feeling, one of the most jarring thing to write. Like, "I do not know if that was real."
cara: Great. So can you talk a little bit about how the difference in the perspectives between Asami's perspective and Korra's perspective, so why did you imagine them having such different experiences?
aria: Yeah. Whereas Korra grows up in this institution, Asami grows up with a relatively politically progressive father.Systems of Power: cultural-difference He's an abuser, but he's also a very, very politically progressive man. He's a radical, he tries to overthrow his government, make the world a more equitable and fair place. It's self-interested, he's a bourgeois radical, but I wouldn't have said that at the time.Systems of Power: class I imagine Asami as having a relatively normal, relatively healthy understanding of the world in a way, having felt like she, not just knowing that a woman can love another woman, because I guess almost every person in this world knows. This is nothing like, Korra is particularly going to have a hard time because of that institution itself.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus cultural-differenceCode: important-quote, critical-uptake, reflection Asami, by way of context, has an actually unusually... Not healthy, but a healthy enough... In this one way her childhood is uniquely healthy, or uncommonly healthy, not uniquely.
cara: Great. Maybe one question I'll ask is, can you talk a little bit about what you imagine Asami and Hiroshi's relationship like, and sort of how his bourgeois politics have shaped her?
aria: I'd always seen Hiroshi as a complicated man, or I did, which is that I saw him as sort of...I mean, all because he's... In the context of this piece, a lot of my understanding of Hiroshi as a bourgeois radical is that I'm not going to have a [inaudible 00:30:36], because I don't really have a sense of class politics at the time, or have the beginnings of that studySystems of Power: class. That's only beginning to be bornCode: implicit-explicit, motivation. So to me, Hiroshi's both a man that would destroy his children for the things he believes, and in some sense for his own power. But also a man who genuinely is providing aid and comfort and resources for fighting for what he views as liberation, and that liberation's probably genuine at some level. I think it's fair to say that there is a political bender-like supremacy at the beginning. I mean there is, we know there's a bender supremacy at the beginning of The Legend of Korra.Systems of Power: other And so that's how I understand Hiroshi.Code: important-quote, critical-uptake Well Asami, I don't know how much Asami, in my view at least, incorporated her father's politics into her ultimate judgment about Hiroshi. Because ultimately, her judgements about Hiroshi are, "You are a man who tried to kill me, and also a man who is my father." And so that relationship is very much going to be about that. Neither of those things are things you can accept. You can build a... They could be changed by other factor, like you can come to forgive someone trying to injure you, or trying to kill you, or you can say, "I can no longer view you as my father." But you can't un-make the case that you lived with [inaudible 00:32:24]. And those are going to be as big as anything else, at least in my view.
cara: Great, thank you. So I was really interested in the extremes between Korra's parents and her in chapter three, where Korra's father is talking about being the leader of the Northern Water Tribe and what that sort of... His sort of views on queerness and criminalization of queerness. So can you talk a little bit about this exchange and the complexity of this exchange, of each of them sort of taking on different roles, and how those roles are not separate from each other, and all that?
aria: Yeah. I wanted to give a sense of what is the politics of the Northern Water Tribe? And I kind of wanted to say that queerness isn't criminalized in the Northern Water Tribe, or is not criminalized anymore.Systems of Power: homophobia-transphobia Also I wanted to say this is a different relationship. But the other thing I wanted to talk about is, what are politicians willing to give up for their family, and what are they not?Systems of Power: otherCode: critical-uptake, motivation Because one of the things I'm saying here is, I'm not saying... It's not [inaudible 00:33:53] that I'm saying that I genuinely think that... What is Korra's father name?
cara: Oh, I can't remember.
cara: That sounds right? Yes, Tonraq, yes.
aria: Tonraq, I'm not saying that Tonraq believes the things he's saying, that he said he would say to begin with, that section about... Or he didn't believe it in a hurtful way, just that it wasn't worth it, and telling the story that... It seemed like well now you're involved, now my child is involved... In some sense I guess I'm telling a story about Hiroshi here as well, just Hiroshi here comes into play again. Sort of like the opposite of what Hiroshi does, in that he's a parent who is not perfect, there's no innate... He's not particularly flawed, because he's willing to play this opportunistic political game. Because he's also capable of looking at his child and going, "Maybe I shouldn't do that." Code: reflectionI mean, he's kind of opportunistic [inaudible 00:35:02]. I would also say a little bit about some of the research I'd read at the time, turns out the book I was reading at the time that claimed that knowing someone who was gay had a significant...Or not knowing someone who was gay, but engaging with someone who's gay on the topic of being gay helped significantly with changing someone's political views, or being willing to accept gay people. Turns out that one was actually wrong, like literally the person who put together that study cooked the book.Systems of Power: homophobia-transphobiaCode: research Although I think that newer studies have basically [inaudible 00:35:35] people have a better [inaudible 00:35:38]. So I [inaudible 00:35:40] anyway. I was sort of thinking about that, the way that knowing someone and engaging with someone you know, making a grounded [inaudible 00:35:50]. I also sort of wanted to talk... I sort of was thinking about the limits of the political and the [inaudible 00:35:57] of the political. You could do what, when and where, the idea that a politician can't really save the world. I don't know if I was all the way to, "We have to do it," yet, but I think I'm getting there.Systems of Power: otherCode: reflection There's a bit about, what does it take to change the world, who can do it, and who feels like they have a power to do it? And who feels free to do it? Because in some sense I think this is also about feeling free. It's not just about telling someone, "Oh, I don't want to do this, or I don't think I..." It's also like, "I don't think I can do this," versus like, "Well, if my daughter is involved I have to be able to." Yeah. I also had a bit of fun here with the, Korra knows nothing about the world, here when I... I don't know. Yeah.
cara: Awesome. Great, thank you. I can definitely sort of see those complexities coming through, I thought that was such a well-done scene.
aria: Thank you.
cara: So finally, can you talk a little about the introduction of... Is it Yukka, Yakka? I'm not sure how...
aria: I don't know how to pronounce that, I took a name of a names list and I was like, "This has the appropriate cultural background," and the name we're going with, and thank goodness I do not have to read this out loud.
cara: Until this moment, no.
aria: Until this moment I did not think, I am going to read this out loud.
cara: So can you talk a little bit about the introduction of her? Yeah, and sort of what you were exploring, and what you were sort of planning to explore with her.
aria: Yeah. Well, no. I was thinking about New York City around the times of the Stonewall Riots. This is where those politics come in. I was playing with, what does it mean... I was playing with, what's particularly violent political oppression? What are the limits of political oppression in a relatively liberal cosmopolitan society?Systems of Power: homophobia-transphobia Because I was getting that sense of, there's actually a whole lot of ways that political oppression can happen that I'd never even thought about at this point, and I was learning about that. So I was writing about this character as someone who's experiencing the limits of that political oppression. And this is actually one of the key storylines in my opinion, and it's ultimately a story about resistance to a kind of political oppressionCode: reflection, and also a story about dealing...And the problem is that those stories [inaudible 00:39:30], and this is very hard to make. And so this story was the beginning of a story about people getting caught up in more and more... What does it mean to be in a situation with a political [inaudible 00:39:52]? This was written obviously before Donald Trump becomes President, and I could see all sorts of things about reaction again. But I was seeing the reaction, I was scared. I don't know where I got this, there was something bad was coming. I knew that I had that sense of fear, so I was writing about... I guess writing a little bit about, how do we fight back when things get worse?Systems of Power: otherCode: reflection Not that I really have an understanding of what things getting worse is actually going to be like, or what we were actually going to do, or what it was going to take to survive, or how it would change me, or how it would change people I cared about. Those were not things I understood, but I was trying.
cara: Great. So maybe one question I'll ask that I don't have on here, so if you are kind of like, "I have no idea how to answer this," don't feel sort of pressured to. But if you were to rewrite this now, what would you change?
aria: I think I have... I haven't really watched The Legend of Korra again, to really get a sense ofthat. But something I do think is I'd write the last chapter first, or not the last chapter, the second last chapter. Specifically I write [inaudible 00:41:17]. I'm tempted to joke that I have rewritten the story and it took people about context, but that's not really true, it's not about disability, it's just about trauma. But I would [inaudible 00:41:30] and I would probably start with questions about what I think are fresh about political oppression in public today. I think I would write it later, I think I would write it... Because I know what our reactionary politics is like, I think I'd start around the time that Kuvira is beginning to gain power. I'd write it as a story that talks about immigration, and talks about sweeping panic and fear that spill off of that. I'd probably talk about gender through those lenses, and I'd probably talk about humanity in a slightly more complex... I'd probably make it a story that... I'd probably both use modern messages to say that, I'd probably talk more about police state, and police state as endless spying networks where you don't know when you're being spied on and when you're not, and endless police statesSystems of Power: otherCode: critical-uptake where you don't know when you can literally get... You can literally push the cops back a block, and in situations where you [inaudible 00:42:42] grapple a cop and draw felony of both charges, that kind of uncertainty. I'd rate that that's the kind of thing I'd want to focus on more. But I'd also want to talk about trauma in the same way I did then. I think I'd want to draw trauma through as a thing that was happening. And I might not write it about [inaudible 00:43:09], I love these characters, but I think a much smaller, much more human story, a story about a couple small people who are just living in the world, watching everything happen and... I kind of think that prose, when I tell a story about Republic City and trauma and repression. I think that's what I would do.
cara: Great, thank you.
aria: No problem.
cara: So the last question I have about the fanfic, your fanfic specifically, is what did you learn from writing this?
aria: I mean, I worked on a lot of things, I was a writer who felt... I felt comfortable with my writing in a way that I hadn't before. I learned that having people who shared the piece with immediately helped, and that having people I talked through a piece with makes it more fun to write. I also learned that you have to be careful with how much to take on, and you have to be careful about what you're willing to prune, and you have to be ready to prune things. And you have to be ready to follow a story where it goes instead of trying to follow all the directions you ever imagined. Because if you try to follow a story in every direction you have, then it's going to die like this piece did. It's like, "I don't know how to integrate the story into itself anymore."Code: revising
cara: Great. Thank you. All right, so my last portion is about... I'm doing some sort of larger data analytics and such. So I included some visualizations that I've made using some of the metadata from fics, so like publish date, and the relationship tags, the additional tags, and then also results from a word embedding model. So I was wondering-
aria: Mm-hmm. You're going to have to explain the word embedding model to me when we get there.
cara: Oh, great, excellent. Yeah, I will absolutely explain that, so don't worry. My main questions are revolving around, how do these different results reflect your experience in The Legend of Korra fan community, and what might you think are missing from these results? So the first visualizations are obviously just publishing trends, when there were publishing spikes and when people were not publishing fics. So obviously there's a huge spike in late 2014, when Season 4 aired. So why do you think people began to publish so much after Season 4?
aria: I would say that it's just one of those... This is the moment when this becomes one of the early queer relationships in cartoons, a relatively good one. There's nothing particularly problematic about it, it's limited, but it's good.Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: important-quote, canon-compliment, canon-compliant And so it's like, I think that's why. I think it's one of the cases where that's happened. Also I think it's when fiction ends, it does draw people who are like, "Oh, I want to write more on this subject, I want to play with these concepts again." There's also a distinct un-ended-nessCode: fan-practices-uptake, a distinct lack of ending between Korra and Asami at the end of the... And I think it's actually both good and bad, I think it's the limit of the... I think the redo of the relationship, the exploration is limited, is kind of bad. But I also think that the way that we end somewhere where it's like, they just want to be married, or at the end of their first date, we did see them agree, yeah I want to do this. Yeah, I want to have this, or I like this, it's healthy. I love that! I just see that as a lot of things for writers to engage with.[inaudible 00:47:08] what are other ways we can imagine it?Code: canon-compliment, fan-practices-uptake What if their [inaudible 00:47:13]. And that creates fanon, which means you get this whole long space of people being like, "Oh yeah, I am writing about this content of fanon in this alternate universe, I'm going to write a piece about a radio showCode: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake [inaudible 00:47:28], I'm going to..." It sort of leaves a lot of space for the development of [inaudible 00:47:39], some of the Equalist Asami stuff, and some of the discussion that comes out of that. So I think that's very, very fertile ground for fanfic, and I think that it's liberating for a lot of folks. So it drives a lot of views.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake
cara: Yeah, great. So the second visualization is relationship tags across time. So Korra and Mako are one of the most popular relationships in earlier fics, and Asami and Korra became one of the most popular ships in later fics. So why do you think that difference happened?
aria: I'm actually really interested in...Just real quick, I'm really interested in the fact that Korra and Mako becomes more common after Korrasami happened.Systems of Power: heteronormativity That, to me, is just fascinating.Code: fan-politics But I would say my biggest... It's just total number? So I would think I have about this whole... If they're coming to a piece and they're like, "Well this is canonical," it's a good introduction. Also, if you're looking at a subtext, my people they were like, "Oh yeah, I want to tell this story, I want to finish this story." And there's a degree to which it a queer reading, there's this political tendency to look at fiction and say, "I am going to tell the story you didn't."Systems of Power: LGBTQplus And so during the subtext period, you've already got these people who are basically being like, "Yo, I'm going to tell this story.Code: fan-politics, implicit-explicit I'm going to [inaudible 00:49:26] the story gets old while I wait. What? Oh my God, that's so cool. I didn't know it did that."
cara: Great. Excellent, thank you. And so the next visualization are just some popular additional tags. Okay, so these are just additional tags, they're not the most popular tags, I sort of curated these, especially down at the bottom. I'm interested in why particular additional tags are picked up more in particular moments. So fluff at Season One and Two was not used nearly as much as it was in Season Three and beyond. So why do you think that might be?
aria: Mm-hmm. I think there's a degree to which people want to write. I've got to look [inaudible 00:50:59] saying. Okay, my first guess would be that women who love women will write about women who love women, want to tell stories that have happy endings. I think in a lot of the stories we see in literature are of our destruction as a moral point, or the echoes of authority. That doesn't mean that all of the stories that we see that are echoes of stories are intended as seeing those moral and political tellings, they're just, "That's what our culture tells us." A lesbian love story, so retelling... If women who love women retell stories of women who love women, they're going to tell a lot of stories that are about being happy, at least in my opinion.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus feminismCode: important-quote, fan-politics, critical-uptake, fluff
cara: Great. And then for angst, it became more popular, again, in Season Four and beyond, so... Not beyond, just Season Four. So why might you think that might be?
aria: Possibly people want to tell stories about being in pain. I don't know how many of these are fluff and angst telling, because I know I have a fluff and angst story. And I don't know, I don't know if I'd use the fluff and angst tags anymore, just because I don't talk about my literature in those terms as much anymore, as I used to, but... Largely because nobody...You don't use those tags as much anymore in my view, like we don't talk about... Those are very much Fanfiction.net-y terms that pulled over, I don't see them as I used to.Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake But I think that a story that is... I think that people writing about suffering and happiness, a lot of things happen in love stories in general, particularly in WlW and MlM stuff.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus Well, I don't know if MlM, I don't read it very much just because one, I am not a man, and two, so much MlM stuff is kind of uncomfortable? A lot it's very clearly written by women.Systems of Power: otherCode: fan-politics, angst
cara: Great, thank you. So canon compliance-
aria: In the modern days.
cara: Yeah, the modern setting is very popular. So canon compliant became much more popular, Season Three and beyond. Why do you think that might be?
aria: I've got a few guesses, my first guess is actually that it's not just that it became more popular, but looking at the modern setting stuff, First guess is actually that there's a) an explosion of stories that aren't canon compliant, so people are staying people are saying, "This story is canon compliant," as a way of engaging. In terms of, it makes sense to say something's canon-compliant sort of at the end of the piece, because once the story is over then it makes sense to go back and say, "actually this is canon compliant." A lot of stories before a story ends it's already like, "How could this go from here?" And so I would imagine that the canon compliance people were like, "Well, I'm telling this story based on what literally happened," instead of all of these other tellings that I'm seeing now. That would be my first guess. My second guess is that people are excited to tell stories that were literally just after the end of The Legend of KorraCode: canon-compliant, genre-other.
cara: Great, excellent. And then the tag friendship became less popular after seasons one and two, and so I was wondering if you had any thoughts about why that might have happened.
aria: Kind of sad. I don't know why. I imagine that both there were things that were being told with friendship stories stopped being friendship stories, but that's not enough to explain that much difference. I imagine the change is in writing, I imagine it's that the characters... I imagine that it's because... It makes sense to tell a friendship story with characters who are already very close friends, and characters who are becoming close friends.Code: canon-compliant I don't know. I don't know how to guess [inaudible 00:55:41] because I'm like, "I don't know why you wouldn't be excited to tell friendship stories." I'm not telling them in this piece, and I don't basically tag friendship stories. But I don't know why... Yeah..
cara: Mm-hmm. Okay. So one other question I had, and this is the last one, so canon queer relationship became popular after Season Four. But Canon Character of Color became less used.
aria: That's a problem.
cara: Yes, and I thought that was very interesting.
aria: That is strange. I don't know if a lot of the folks who...is this a ratio or total amounts?
cara: Of all of the-
aria: These numbers, these tags across time, are you looking at the total--
cara: It's the ratio, yeah. So it's not the total amounts, it's the ratio.
aria: So there's a few guesses I have. I mean, canon queer relationship is more common because there is canon queer relationship.Code: canon-compliant a [inaudible 00:57:08] of the audience that come later are less interested in acknowledging or talking about race. Given this is a proportion, I don't know if [inaudible 00:57:24] but more people as a fandom and those few people aren't interested in talking about race in ways that people who had been there before were, and those people who were there before continued to talk about race, or if there is an effectively gentrifying mmoment that a white fandom comes in, pushes out a fandom of color.Systems of Power: racism I don't know how this tag is used, so I would feel hesitant to say something definite. But I find that a little bit troublesome.Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake
cara: Yeah. That we're talking about, I'm thinking the two... I know that at one point, I've seen some canon queer character of color, so that could have been a potential replacement too, now that we're talking about... Yeah. So that's something I'm going to actually look into more. Okay, all right. So we'll talk about the word embedding models. So word embedding models are pretty much, every word in a text is given a bunch of different vectors, and these vectors are determined by other words in the text that appear in similar contexts. So the word wolf and dog might have a really close relationship, because they are going to appear in similar contexts, around howling and treats and fur and four legs, so depending on the text obviously. So that's sort of what a word embedding model is, it measures how similar words are in regards to the context that they show up in a particular text. So the pre-Korrasami corpus are all the texts published before Season Three, subtextual is all the texts that were published Season Three and four, and then post-Korrasami is after Season Four finale. So I'm interested to see if you have any thoughts about this, like for example the word girlfriend, at first, it's sort of seen as a similar relationship with boyfriend, and jealous, and date, and cute. And then meanwhile as it moves forward we see girlfriend as Korra and Asami, as a dork, as a door. So I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of those results.
aria: Actually that's a very interesting bit, because it looks to me here that what you're seeing is a movement from seeing the word girlfriend in a context of a text that's about a set of texts about relationships in a more heterosexual perspective, in a story about women. Because it looks to me that this is a story that, if you see jealous there, that looks like I'm looking at a piece that's from Korra's point of view. But then if I'm looking at boyfriend, I'm also thinking about Korra and Mako.Systems of Power: heteronormativityCode: fan-politics, canon-compliant They also use the word date, there was some interesting... You'd see date here, and you'd see date in the next panel and not on the last. In the middle one you see... I don't know, it's almost completely... Definitely gendered, you don't get just... When you're using the word cute, and you see the word chuckle and wink, which is like...I don't know, I guess it's basically a few words like... The context is basically just, yeah, things you would expect people would say on a date, things you'd expect people to do on a date, things that writers do when they run out of words, like chuckle.Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake You can talk so fast. I don't know half the time though. And then on the last bit, Korra and Asami, the internet [inaudible 01:02:04] girlfriend in the next chapter that they're talking about this relationship, they're talking about the way they imagined these two people to relate. Also this more mature understanding of a relationship, seeing their partner as a dork versus like, seeing them as cute. And obviously you see your partner is cute for a long time after you start dating, that... Viewing someone as a dork is a more developed sense of what a relationship is.Code: fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake
cara: Great. So there's a few other results, if you want to sort of look them over and see if there's anything that pops out to you. And if not, you don't need to go through them, but I'll give you a second to look over.
aria: I am baffled by what is going on with masculine.
cara: How come?
aria: The last panel made sense, the first panel? I don't really follow, but I kind of follow. It's just an attraction to masculinity. And then the second panel, I get... That's an interesting set of outcomes, just looking at masculinity as almost sexual in the middle there, an almost dangerous. Because a person's understanding of masculinity are sexual, like the second one is a kind of dangerous, like a kind of dangerSystems of Power: heteronormativity. Versus like the sexuality in the second one, for feminine as well as that same panel, but it's not like dangerousSystems of Power: heteronormativity... That's very interesting, it's very interesting that the middle section feels just more sexual in general. I was laughing at the bottom set for heiress in the middle column, "a-asami" there.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus It's like, I guess? Code: fan-politicsLiterally [inaudible 01:04:53].
cara: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
aria: And to be fair, omega and alpha as being there in the far right column. I don't really understand ABO [alpha, beta, omega] as in general, so I can't talk. They're not as inherently sexual. They definitely struck me as relatively sexualSystems of Power: other, and that's notCode: fan-politics, genre-other... I guess Korra [inaudible 01:05:06]. But it's interesting there, that you see more discussion of sexuality in that column [inaudible 01:05:17].
cara: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Excellent, that's a really, really good observation. Thank you. All right, so those are all the questions I have. So I'm going to turn off the recording.