Interview of GillyWulf by Cara Marta Messina
Conducted on 2020-01-18
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 GillyWulf said as well as how I coded their interview.
The bold font in GillyWulf'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: Today, on January 18, I am interviewing GillyWulf. Is that how you pronounce it, GillyWulf?
cara: Okay. Awesome.
cara: Great. Do you mind just saying your alias and just that you consent to being audio recorded?
gillywulf: Yeah. My name is GillyWulf, and I consent to being audio recorded.
cara: Awesome. All right. Okay. We're going to start with just basic questions about you as a fanfiction writer. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself as a fanfiction writer, when and how did you start writing fanfiction, which fandoms do you start with, how did your participation in fan communities change over the years, and what fandoms do you currently participate in and why? You don't have to answer all of those, but just to get sort of a nice perspective and picture of you as a fan.
gillywulf: Right. Okay. Well, I discovered fanfiction, it must have been middle school. It started with Naruto. I remember being mind-blown by the fact that, "Oh my god, they're continuing stories that I'm not going to see in canon. That's so cool." And I remember showing my friends and just losing myself in that. It was middle school, so everything you read then is shocking. That was in the stages of when, I think before fanfiction.net was purged and all that weird stuff. I never really got into LiveJournal, but that's a strange thing in and of itself. Yeah. So, I started writing a couple of things for that. And then, let's see, after that, I kind of put it down for a little while. And then, I want to say I picked it back up in high school. I hate that I did it, but I did real-person fanfiction for Paramore. Thinking of it now, it's always like, "God, that's not good. I shouldn't have done it, but here we are."Code: reflection And then, I moved from BuzzFeed, where I had done that, to Tumblr. And then, from there, I think that's when I started my Sherlock fandom. I think I did one or two things for that, and then found The Legend of Korra and just dove head-first. That's kind of where I was like, "Okay, this is something I can do a lot of the time, just be I enjoy it," and all that. And now, I kind of do, I want to say mostly now is focused on Clexa, Clarke and Lexa from The 100, with a little bit of Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Yeah. And from those three, you can see that they have very female-centered stories.Systems of Power: feminism And then, at least all three are those are canonically queer characters, which are things that now get me really excited and make me want to go,Systems of Power: LGBTQplus "Okay, well, I want to dive into that. I want to see how their stories could be different," or, "I just really want to see them in this situation," so I try and write it when I can.Code: important-quote, canon-relation, canon-compliant, motivation
cara: Sorry, I have to unmute myself, so it's going to be a little awkward pause.
gillywulf: No, I [inaudible 00:04:02].
cara: Awesome. Can you tell me about texts you might have produced recently? I know, I think you finished the one that I'm asking you to talk about, No Matter the Universe, in 2018, which is-
gillywulf: Yeah. Yeah, I think the last thing I did was Roman Holiday for Clexa, Clarke and Lexa. It's always weird to say Clexa, because it doesn't sound like a real word. But I think before that, I also did kind of a longer thing for Assassin's Creed Odyssey. But right now, I'm trying to write something that's original, and that's always a bit more of an endeavor than you expect it to be.Code: reflection
cara: With the story that you're trying to write that's original, can you tell me a little bit about that story, and maybe how sort of your work in fanfiction connected with that trying to write sort of your own original?
gillywulf: Sure. Well, again, it has a lot of fleshing out to do, but it's basically this woman finds a kid on her property, who realizes he has this power and he wants to fix the things that are wrong in his society. She doesn't want to do it, but her wife convinces her to do it, and it's sort of the development of that relationship, and over time, the things they are able to fix or not.
cara: That sounds awesome. I would definitely read that.
gillywulf: I hope so.
cara: Okay. I want to talk a little bit about your actual texts now, No Matter the Universe, which is long and amazing.
gillywulf: It is super long.
cara: It's 400 chapters. I was like, "Wow. Wow. That's amazing."
cara: Can you describe a little bit of your motivation behind writing this?
gillywulf: Yeah, absolutely. Well, it was definitely, when I first started it, it was, "Okay, well, I kind of just want to write, and I want to get better at writing, practicing it." I started it in college, and the professor I had at that time kept saying how, "If you want to get better at writing, you have to write 50,000 words, and then, you have to write another 50,000." "Really? All right. I'll just write, then. People will give me prompts and I'll just write those as they come in." And then, there were a lot of prompts that came in, surprisingly. I was able to stay consistent with it for, I want to say, two, three years.Code: motivation And it's funny, going back to the original ones, the older ones at least, and reading those, because you sent me one. I think it was chapter 37 you mentioned in your email, and I went back and read it and I was like, "Oof, I could do this a lot better now, I hope."Code: reflection Yeah. Just, I wanted to get better at it, and people were really good at giving me things that I could easily do at work,Code: audience and I didn't necessarily want to do full-length fics. I sort of wanted to just spit them out, and then, it came to a point where I was like, "Okay, well, I don't want to have individual listings for each of these," so I just put it all into one thing on AO3 and decided that, "Well, all right, I'll just do the prompts as the chapter titles and just go until I can't."Code: vignette, motivation
cara: Awesome. I'm really interested, for the genre that you chose with just 400 drabbles, which is amazing. So, can you talk a little bit about why, you said that you sort of didn't want to do full-length, but why was it sort of writing these shorter vignettes really appealing to you?
gillywulf: Well, I think for shorter things, there's a challenge in that you have, I think most of them ended up being 200-400 words, so you have to do an entire story in that time. You have to make somebody care about things that are happening in much fewer words, and make it more impactful in less amount of time. If you have 10,000 words to set up a situation and resolve it, and all that, it's definitely different from, "Here's just basically a gut punch of a story, and you maybe don't get the whole thing."Code: vignette There's a couple that, I don't remember which ones, but there were a couple that I sort of left on a weird note [inaudible 00:09:21] on purpose, so that it had to be like, "Okay, well, maybe you want more, or maybe it's good as it is," and I liked that.Code: vignette, reflection And also, I was in college when I started it, so a lot of that was time, too. I had a limited amount of time to spend on writing, that wasn't devoted to extracurriculars or classes, or just hanging out with my friends. So, that's sort of why the drabble compilation was what it was.
cara: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I think what's really interesting about this collection, too, is it's all about audience engagement, which I'll probably ask you more questions about. But would you potentially want to talk through how you were thinking about your audience as you were writing?
gillywulf: Well, my audience is pretty much just other fans like me, so it was sort of just, "Well, what would I want to read? And what would people my age think is fun?" Things like that. There were a couple people who regularly sent me prompts, so it was sort of, I knew these were the sort of things they were into, or I know what they're angling for in this question, in this idea. So, I'm like, "Okay, I can sort of tailor it to that,"Code: genre-other, audience and you end up with ... There's been a couple of fan artists over the years, like plastic-pipes, who is spectacular, always great. And I think the name was [inaudible 00:11:19] at the time, but I think they've changed it. There were a couple times when they did art according to what I'd written, or things like that. And I was like, "Okay, well it'd be cool if I wrote something that was specifically to get an image out of this person's mind."Code: fan-practices-uptake, genre-other, reception
cara: Great. Can you talk through what you believe are some of the strengths of this entire collection? I know that can also vary, because it was sort of across two and a half years or so. But what do you believe some of the strengths of it are?
gillywulf: Let's see, what strengths? I like that a lot of people, I still get comments occasionally that are, "I've just gone through this whole thing," and you can do that.Code: reception Even though it's 400 chapters, it's book-length. It's like a normal book length. It's easily digestible, and each thing's its own thing, so if you want to stop it and come back to it later, you can. People do usually, if you're feeling a specific mood, and go find that specific one and just go through a couple of those. I like that it's sort of, you don't have to have a super amount of emotional investment in it, like super long, 10-chapter fics that are 100,000 words.Code: vignette Like yes, it's very good. I enjoy it. But sometimes, I'm just in the mood for something light and I like that I can provide that for people who want that.Code: fluff I also like that you can sort of see a progression of how I wrote them and how my own skills have maybe, hopefully developed. And even just, it did end up being four years' worth of timeCode: reflection, so it was, when I think I started it, Korrasami hadn't been canon yet. So, it's definitely interesting, the before and after. And maybe, I think, during that time, also, gay marriage was legalized, so it was just definitely different attitudes in that.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus homophobia-transphobia I think those are some of the strengths in seeing that as well.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, canon-resistant, reflection
cara: Great. Thank you. What were some of the challenges you faced while writing this text?
gillywulf: Well, the fact that it was short meant that I did only have a certain amount of words to deal with it.Code: vignette So, if there were some things where I'd write the original drabble, and then I might get three more immediate requests in my inbox for a sequel, or for, "Can I get a full length thing of this?" And I didn't necessarily have the time or energy, or just the inclination in some cases.Code: reception There's one that I tried to start doing, and obviously that didn't end up going very far. There were definitely some like that. And sometimes, there were just prompts that were not necessarily things that I wanted to do or actively didn't want to doCode: fan-politics, or maybe got repeats. And there was definitely, towards the later year or two of doing it, there were more prompts in my inbox than I had the time or energy for. So, I would start to feel guilty, and sometimes would just push one out whether or not I felt it was up to par, even though I hoped it was.Code: motivation
cara: You mentioned that there were prompts that you didn't really necessarily want to do. Can you talk about writing those and why you chose to write those, or if you decided to not write them?
gillywulf: Absolutely. I know it's, I don't want to say a popular trope, but it's a common trope in a lot of fanfiction communities, is the student-teacher ... What is that? Student-teacher pairing, whatever. My dad is a teacher, so the idea of that has always just absolutely not been something that I want to encourage, and it just isn't good, so I don't like writing that, I don't like reading it.Systems of Power: other That's definitely one of the things. I'm sure there's been others, but that's always been a big one for me.Code: fan-politics
cara: Yeah. I'll probably ask more questions about that, because as I was reading that, I was noticing also your comments on those stories. But I'll ask you questions about that in a few minutes. I do have a question about feedback, which I'm sure, because you were working with prompts, you received so much feedback. Is there anything that stands out in particular to you about feedback you received?
gillywulf: I mean, most of it was positive, which was really good. If somebody really didn't like something, they didn't usually tell me. Or if they did, sometimes it was like a spelling error or a formatting error, and it'd be, "Okay, I can just easily fix that." I don't think there were too many outright negative things. There was one. I don't think it was on a prompt, but this artist I really liked at the time commented and said something like, "This would've been better with this movie instead of the one you actually used," and didn't necessarily anything positive otherwise. I don't know if they actually liked it, or if it was just sort of a, "Well, I would've liked it better if you'd done this thing the way I wanted you to." Which, it is what it is, and you sort of have to just say, "Okay, well, this is the way I did it, and I'm not going to change it." But it was definitely a situation where I was like, "Okay. Don't know what to make of that."Code: reception Sometimes, people would ... I don't know. I'm a lot less articulate out loud than I am on words, on typing, so things like this are always like, "Ugh." I'm trying my best. I know what things I want to say. But yeah. Most of the time, people are very, very happy about it, because it was just another thing for them to read.Code: reception
cara: If there's anything that you want to sort of also work through with writing in any of these answers at one point, you can always email me any kind of follow-up answers. If you're like, "Oh, I had this idea or question." You can always email me anything, any follow-ups that you have. This is not the end all be all and that's it.
gillywulf: Good to know.
cara: So, if there's anything, if you have a moment where you're like, "Oh, I want to talk about this more," at some other point, you can write it down for yourself, or something like that. Or, if you want to go back through the questions at any point. I want to ask you about your tag. One of the things that I'm looking at in my dissertation is the way that additional tags are working. Archive of Our Own is amazing with the tagging system and discoverability. You chose sort of a bunch of different tags, Alternate Universe, Tumblr Prompts, Alternate Universe - Modern Setting, First Kiss, First Meeting, Friends to Lovers, Trans Character, Fake/Pretend Relationship, Public Displays of Affection, et cetera, et cetera. I think I have your list of tags there.
gillywulf: Yeah, I'm looking at it.
cara: Yeah. Great. How come you chose some of these tags? I know that, because there's so much content in your work, you probably had to think about multiple tags, but why these tags in particular? And how else might you tag the text?
gillywulf: Well, I'm very much a person who believes in, if you can't say it in like two words then you probably shouldn't. So, I like to have it, what is this thing? And that's it. I like to be able to say, "This is what it's going to be," and it doesn't necessarily need to be more complicated than that.Code: reflection I know a lot of people like to have full sentences, and get really detailed and say things like that, but I always find that to be sort of distracting, because I know, when I'm personally looking for something, I like to be able to just click through until I find exactly what I'm looking for. So, if somebody has what I'm looking for, but also in that same tag is a full sentence of something else, it doesn't necessarily help me stuff. If somebody's specifically looking for, I guess a long-distance relationship thing, they can just click on that and see, "Okay, well, it's in here somewhere. I'll just find whichever prompt it is." I'm a big fan of just keeping things neat and simple.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake, audience
cara: Great. Thank you. I'm going to actually skip the next question. Actually, no. You know what? I'm not going to skip the next question. Why did you decide to focus on Korra and Asami?
gillywulf: Okay, well, at the time, let's see, again, I started in college and I had watched most of Avatar, but I don't think I ever quite finished it. And I think this was just before season three came out, I want to say. I'm not totally 100% on that. But my roommate was very much into that, very much in love with Avatar, so she was appalled that I don't think I'd ever finished Avatar, and made me watch that.Code: canon-critique And then, we just said, "Okay, well, let's just do Korra next," because I was pretty sure that came out. So, we ended up watching that. And then, once we built a routine out of, "Okay, we're both back from class, we're watching this episode now," and it sort of became part of our schedule that, once we both got back from that class, we'd watch an episode. It was a good way to become emotionally invested in it.Code: canon-compliment And just for Korra and Asami, rather than necessarily Bolin, or whoever else. Let's see. I was very much endeared by the way Korra was super honest, and her character in general, and how she was just trying her best, and just the art style and everything about her character design I loved, and her personality.Code: canon-compliment And then, just seeing the way her relationship sort of evolved with Asami over time, especially once you get into the third season, was like, "Okay, I'm into this. Whether or not they're going for it, I see it." So, it was like, "All right. I and a lot of the people in the fandom seem to agree for some reason, so I'm just going to go there and enjoy that while I'm doing it.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus Code: important-quote, canon-relation, fan-politics, critical-uptake Yeah. And I always thought her relationship with Mako felt super forcedSystems of Power: heteronormativity, and then, I didn't like that he cheated on both of them with each other. It was like, "Jeez. No, no. He should not be in a relationship with either of them after this." Yeah. I always felt like maybe Mako should take five steps back, and let's just focus on these two.Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: canon-critique, critical-uptake
cara: Yeah. This is not a question on the interview, but I wanted to ask, what was your reaction in the season four finale?
gillywulf: God. Okay. That was Christmas break, but my grandma was staying over for the weekend, so I had to watch it silently at like midnight, and freak out quietly. As soon as Asami showed up on the screen, I must have lost it. But it was incredible. I couldn't believe it. I was like, "This is happening, right?" Yeah. I was like, "Jesus."Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: canon-compliment
cara: Yeah. It was definitely a night that I will never forget.
cara: Okay. Next, I'm going to ask you to sort of walk through some of your specific choices from your texts, as well as some general choices. The first is, what I really liked about your piece, and this probably has a lot to do with the sort of drabble genre, and sort of the inability to really dive into a longer story, but you really chose to mainly focus on sort of everyday things, and focus heavily on the joys of relationships and the excitement. There's a lot of fluff, little bit of angst. So, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about why focusing sort of on the everyday, and focusing on happiness and sort of the comfort of that intimacy was important for you.
gillywulf: Yeah. Well, absolutely part of it was wish fulfillment. I've never been in any sort of relationship, so it was like, "Okay, this is might what it be like." But also, I'm a big fan of the fact that, of using fanfiction, or TV shows, or movies, or any of that as escapism. You look out your window and things are just not good a lot of the time,Systems of Power: other so I really like reading things that are just soft and maybe things aren't so terrible for them where they are, and just sort of getting lost in the idea of, they can just relax. They've been through so much, they deserve a little bit of something that's not going to hurt them, with somebody who definitely wants the same for them, who wants the same for themselves.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus I tried to make that as a focus. Yeah, I just really wanted that.Code: fluff
cara: Great. I feel like that was definitely really coming through as I was reading, so just letting you know that that definitely worked. I was like, "Oh, this is nice."
cara: "This makes me feel nice and warm." Okay. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about moments when Asami and Korra notice each other, and sort of observe each other. I have a few different quotes in the document that I sent you. But there's so many more, so I wonder if you could talk a little bit through sort of those observations and descriptions?
gillywulf: Sure. Well, obviously a lot of it is trying to come up with different ways to not use the same descriptions, not use the same words, because you know that once you put it in the drabble, if you keep describing them the exact same way, people might skip over that or it starts to start reading a little bit dull. So, I tried to mix it up on occasion.Code: vignette, audience But the ones in the document are maybe just, a lot of them seem to be, well, not a lot of them, one or two seem to be meeting for the first time. And okay, well, when you meet somebody, what are the first things you notice? And for Korra, she's an imposing figure, whether or not she means to be. She's got the musclesSystems of Power: feminism, she's maybe not as white as everybody else in Republic City, and she's got these really bight eyes.Systems of Power: racism So, those things stand out immediately.Code: canon-compliant, reception Also her energy. And I always like to think of her as sort of, and especially you can sort of see it in, I want to say the finale of season three, where she's going, she's in the Avatar State, and she's just using all of her powers all at once, and being an absolute mass of power. And that's something she can turn on at will, pretty much. That's part of who she is as a character, and that's always just beneath the surface, easy for her to get to. Even in the modern drabbles, or the other AU, I tried to keep that as something that, that's what she is, whether or not she can access that.Code: canon-compliant, genre-other And for Asami, she's gorgeous. Let's be honest. She's gorgeous. So, you notice that, but also, with the death of her mother at a young age, she's sad and growing up with the rich father, she has certain expectations placed on her and where she's going to go in her life according to that company, so she has to be sort of poised and on her toes all the time.Systems of Power: classCode: canon-compliant It does also come down to that. And when they first meet in canon, even tough Korra's a little bit less than impressed, Asami is immediately like, "I want to know you. I want to be friends with you." She's eager to know her, and that's great. I loved that. Even if, and I think once Korra sort of got over herself, she started to feel that way about Asami, maybe. It's because of the whole rivalry thing. Initially, it was definitely harder to see thatSystems of Power: heteronormativity, but I liked that they weren't immediate, for the most part.Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: canon-compliment They wanted to be friends first, but they were so good together that I wanted to be able to sometimes just say they can be immediate,Systems of Power: LGBTQplus sometimes.Code: canon-resistant Let's see, [inaudible 00:31:14] used. Yeah. We notice immediately that Asami's gorgeous and then, I'm going backwards here, but you notice immediately that Korra's jacked and that it's there. Things like that, you notice immediately, but also that it's not necessarily always in a way that maybe the reader is expecting to see it. I don't know. It depends on each drabble, each specific one, and the mood that is also trying to get portrayed.Code: vignette, audience
cara: Great. Thank you. I'm going to actually jump down to my question about sort of the different relationships that Korra and Asami's parents have with them, and their own relationship, just because you mentioned Asami's dad, and that was a theme that I sort of kept seeing pop up across your different pieces. Can you describe a bit about the different relationships you imagined between Korra and Asami and their parents? Like Korra's parents, you often portray as loving and accepting, while Asami's dad is portrayed as homophobic and bitter, and that Asami's mom, in one chapter, is very accepting and loving. Why was it so important for you to spend time looking at their different parental relationships?
gillywulf: Okay, there's a couple reasons. The first being that we only get a certain amount of them in canon.Code: implicit-explicit, motivation For Korra's parents, we do see that they are immediately, "Okay, this is what our daughter is. We better figure out how to work around it, rather than try and change it or fix it," because when your kid is throwing rocks and water, and all of that, immediately, you're like, "Okay, well, this is the situation." So, it's kind of just how I always imagined her parents were just going to always be there for her. And we do see that in season three, where she's immediately going to bat for them and each other.Code: canon-compliant For Asami, we know immediately that her relationship with her dad is complicated, and that, since her mom isn't in the picture, he's a little bit more distant, and that a lot of distant parents don't necessarily know how to interact with their kids and don't necessarily ... Some of them make a version of their kid in their head that doesn't necessarily line up. So, at the same time, it was also sort of an exploration for me in that I've known I was gay, probably since kindergarten, but I sort of just put it off, put it off, and it wasn't until I started getting into Korrasami that I was like, "Okay, well, I'm meeting a community where this is accepted and this is encouraged even." So, I had decided to come out, and these became sort of two parallels of, "It could be this, or it could be that." Of like, "What is the best case? What is the worst case for maybe how my parents will react?" Thankfully, it leaned more towards Korra's parents than Asami, but it did sort of dip into that a little bit.Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: important-quote, canon-relation, fan-politics, fan-practices-uptake, motivation And especially for Asami, since her mom wasn't in the picture, she really only had the one parent to go off of, and she was often described as the, well, not often, since they really only mentioned her a couple times, but she was sort of thought of, I believe, as the softer of the two parents. So, I just tried to stay true to that, I guess, in some regard, as far as her relationship went.Code: canon-compliant
cara: Great. Thank you. And thank you for sharing that.
gillywulf: No problem.
cara: Chapter 37, which I know you mentioned you went back and read, and you're like, "Oh, I could do this much differently now."
gillywulf: I hope.
cara: I was really interested in this chapter, and it's sort of a reoccurring theme that I've seen across Korrasami fanfics of sort of touch being a big trigger, for Korra especially. Can you talk a little bit more about the chapter and Korra's panic attack for being handcuffed, the representations of trauma, and sort of the ideas of consent around bondage as well?
gillywulf: Yeah. Well, for that chapter, I want to say, like everything else in the collection, it was a prompt, but it was something that I didn't want to ham-fist it, because Korra's definitely, she's traumatized.Systems of Power: disability We see that more than once,Code: canon-compliant, motivation immediately from season one she has multiple nightmares, she forces herself to stay awake more than once. She's scared and she feels like she can't show it. So, even though she does talk about her emotions, I want to say fairly regularly, it's not always as easy for her as maybe Bolin, or as succinct as anybody else could be, so I have to imagine that, sometimes, it's not easy for her and it doesn't always come out. So, in this one in particular, she's trying to have a good experience and maybe power through it, but then, in that brief lapse where she forgets that she's tied down and then she tries to sit up, it's sort of like a muscle memory thing, where she's back there the last time she was chained up and couldn't move.Systems of Power: disability But also, at the same time, I wanted Asami to immediately be there and to be immediately helpful and not push her. She was just trying to be comforting. You hear stories about how people try and be helpful and just make situations worseSystems of Power: abelism, but at this point in their relationship, Korra and Asami knew each other super well, and even though this is an unusual situation for them, Asami knows how Korra reacts and knows who she is and what she's thinking. She's able to help her come back slowly, rather than try and make it a quick thing.Code: reflection
cara: Thanks. And I know you sort of mentioned that, if you were going to redo it and redo this chapter, you would want to do it differently. Do you want to explain a little bit about how you might want to, ooh, explain a little about how you might want to redo it differently?
gillywulf: Sure. Again, this chapter 37 out of 400, so it's just, I wrote it really early. It must have been 2014. If you go back and read the later ones, if you go and read more recent things that I've published, it's sort of a different style, it's sort of a different tone, because after that, I wrote 100,000 more words, and put the effort in to learn from other writers. So, I think I'd notice, not spacing errors, pacing errors in that, I could've slowed that down a bit, I could've drawn the reader in a little bit more, just things like that, where it's just like, "I maybe know how to write now," so it hopefully could've made it a little bit more engaging.Code: reflection
cara: I think that, even though it was years ago, and I definitely understand reading your own writing from years ago and being like, "Oh no," I think it was still really well written. I think that it was still very thoughtfully done, and your descriptions are really engaging. But I definitely understand being like, "Oh no." Okay. The next question I want to ask is about your choices around trans Korra, both male-to-female, and female-to-male transgender representation. You have one chapter on male-to-female, and then three chapters on female-to-male, and I guess maybe that's because, I'm assuming someone prompted it. Can you talk a little about your inspiration behind ... Oh, and you also have a chapter on gender-fluid Korra. Can you talk a little bit about your inspiration behind this? Yeah. Yeah, I was reading more and I was like, "Oh."
gillywulf: [crosstalk 00:41:32], "Oh yeah, I did do that [crosstalk 00:41:36]."
gillywulf: Yeah. Well, again, it was the prompts, but it was also, I have personally been a little conflicted on gender for a while, and it's like my sexuality, it was something that I sort of just say, "Well, I'll get to that when I have the chance."Systems of Power: LGBTQplus So, it's always just sort of in the back of my headCode: motivation, and like with Korra's parents, it's situations where I want good outcomes for this, so I try and put good outcomes for Korra, in that she's living the life that she wanted to live with a person she loves, doing something she loves. And even though it maybe needs to be a little bit more complicated, because of hormones or things like that, but it's not a huge obstacle, it's just a little something to add to the day.Systems of Power: LGBTQplus But yeah, it's like the whole mood of most of the things I try and write. I want it to be happy.Code: fluff, reflection And even though the trans experience is not necessarily one that I know for certain, there's plenty of people in the Korra community, in most online Internet communities, where there's plenty of those people and you see what they're going through and you see how their lives areSystems of Power: LGBTQplus, and I try not to speak for situations that I've never lived through, but you can draw knowledge from that and say, "Okay, well, without going in depth into feelings or things like that, I can add this, this, and this, and make it maybe relatable in that regard."Code: fan-politics, research
cara: Great. Thank you. Can you talk a little about, this kind of goes back to what we were talking about before and how you got some prompts that you didn't want, especially the teacher-student prompts. Maybe not didn't want, but were unsure about.
gillywulf: Oh, I didn't want them.
cara: You're like, "No." So, I think what's really important is that you sort of set boundaries in your writing. In chapter 156, where Korra is Asami's student, Asami sets boundaries. And in your comment, someone asked in one of the comments if you could sort of potentially show their relationship, or something like that, and you were like, "I don't want to do that. That bothers me." Oh, and then, in another one, you had a prompt that was Korra as Asami's slave, and you chose to make it about liberation rather than potentially make it sexual or intimate. So, I wanted to ask if you could talk a little bit through how these sort of prompts that could get really uncomfortable, and I guess sort of similar to what you're saying about the trans prompts, too, where you don't necessarily know that experience, but prompts where you have to sort of navigate these really uncomfortable things, or these power dynamics that can sort of manifest through these prompts. I don't know if that made sense.
gillywulf: No, I can figure it out. Let's see. Well, I think it's a good idea not to write things that make you 100% uncomfortable. And especially for this, it's not a serious work, it's meant to be something fun, it's meant to be something that is just for other people to enjoy. And I wouldn't be enjoying it if I was writing those things that made me super uncomfortable.Code: fluff, motivation I think there was an early one that I made, maybe not sex, but it was maybe a little more intimate than I had ever written before, and I was writing it and I was like, "Hmm, this is maybe not something I should do." And it's also, given the audience, this is considered a family show. So, I realized over time that maybe I don't have to write that.Code: fan-politics, audience There's people who love writing smut, and that's totally fine for them. There's a million places you can find it. I read it occasionally, that's fine, but maybe it's not something I have to write. If you set those boundaries, people generally stick to it. If you tell people flat out, "I'm not going to write that," they generally won't press and press, and ask, "Why aren't you?" Because I just find keeping people as slaves is super ... I didn't want to contribute to itSystems of Power: antiracism, and it was just that sort of idea [inaudible 00:47:42] maybe are younger and a little bit more impressionable than I am, so maybe it's okay to put things that they haven't been exposed to before, but also, it doesn't need to be a weird thing.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, critical-uptake, audience
cara: Great. Thank you for talking through that. I know it can be sort of difficult to talk through navigating tensions and navigating power dynamics in writing. So, my final question out of my 400, about your text, because I do have two other questions-
gillywulf: That's just fine. I mean, I've got nothing else today.
cara: Just talk for hours.
cara: So, your final chapter, which is chapter 400, it's so interesting to see the first chapter to the last chapter. And I think you talked a lot about it's about practice and you sort of developed as a writer. Why did you decide to stop at chapter 400? Why did you decide to end with that story?
gillywulf: Well, it had a lot to do with, I think at the point of writing it, I got to 390 and I sort of had a little bit moved on to other fandoms where, even though I will always love Korra and Asami, it's not necessarily always easy to write for that, if you're not getting constant updates for it.Code: canon-compliant, motivation So, I was moving on and 390 was really bothering me. So, I was like, "Okay, I'll get to 400, and I can sort of ... Four is my favorite number, so we'll just leave it at that." And for that last one, I actually reread it today, because you mentioned it. It was partially based on a drawing by [inaudible 00:50:02] that had Korra and Asami sitting under a tree and just looking out over Republic City,Code: fan-practices-uptake, motivation and I wanted it to, like everything else, just be soft and be a way of saying, this is their city, their lives are going to go on, and they're going to be happy and enjoy it.Code: fluff, motivation Even just the writing of it, especially when looking back to the older stories ... There's a writer, whose name I always mess up. I want to say it's coeurdastronaute. They do a lot of Clarke and Lexa stuff, but she sets the scene super well with like, "Here's the sky. Here's the roads. Here's the this," and I tried to emulate that.Code: fan-practices-uptake And I really do think it turned out well, not to toot my own horn, but I did really like it. So, I tried to emulate that a little bit and just to say, they're going to be in love for a while. It is what it is, and this is how their lives are going to be. And I also wanted to give the collection itself a sendoff I was proud of. So, I spent a little bit more time on that than I did a lot of the other stuff, just let it marinate. "You know what? This is a good end, and hope you enjoyed," sort of thing.Code: motivation
cara: Yeah, I think ... Oh, I just realized that I did not mute myself that time. Okay. Okay. Hopefully it wasn't loud and clacky. Yeah. I really loved that ending. I thought that ending was just, I thought it was like, "Oh, this is just wonderful."
cara: So, you've talked a little bit about your development. I'm wondering if you could talk just generally about what you learned from writing across the four years, about your development as a writer, your understanding of audience and your ability to continue a creative momentum, because that is quite a feat.
gillywulf: Yeah. Well, I can start off with momentum very easily. For the first, oh god, I want to say year, year and a half, I wrote multiple prompts a day for that whole time, and it was a lot. I found that I got burned out, and it was really hard to continue a lot of those. So now, I sort of write when I want to, when I have the motivation. And if I'm feeling it, yeah, I'll do a little bit. Like somebody requested a prompt two weeks ago. I was like, "You know what? Why not. I'm feeling it. We're going to go for it."Code: motivation So, there's definitely that. I learned to just not push it, don't write what other people are demanding, necessarily.Code: audience Take a breather, let you get your pace. Let's see, what else? To vary sentence length. To maybe spend more time on descriptions than I would've otherwise. That it's okay to feel the mood. I write a lot with music, which I didn't when I started. I try and put a song that I really want the mood for, and just write through that until I find something that ... Until I either get through that scene, or I need to move to a different mood. And it's okay to learn from other writers. Like I said with coeurdastronaute, everything she writes is like, "I'm in love with this. It's great. How can I maybe write something similar to that? What parts can I take from this that I want to emulate?"Code: fan-practices-uptake Let's see. I'm sorry. I'm getting there. I'm getting there. I promise. Especially with the prompts and setting boundaries like you mentioned earlier. It's writing what you want.Code: fan-politics, critical-uptake My audience should be myself, at the end of the day. I want to write the things that I want to read. Even if I'd much rather prefer just reading it and not having to put the time and effort into clacking my way through it, if I want to read it, I have to write it sometimes, which is fine. But I should enjoy the things that I'm writing.Code: audience And there are a couple that I go back through and I go, "Man, I really loved writing this, and I still think it's very good." And it's okay that maybe only three other people also liked it, but I like it.Code: reception I would say those are the biggest things.
cara: I like it, too.
gillywulf: Thank you.
cara: Great. Thank you. That was really concise and well thought out. My last round of questions is, I'm doing a little bit of data analytics, and I think I actually sent you the article I published.
gillywulf: Something at the bottom of the email.
gillywulf: I'm very bad about answering emails.
cara: No, that's totally fine. I have to be good at answering emails. It's part of my job, and I hate it. Okay. I want to just give sort of a few general findings and trends from data analysis and sort of get your thoughts and perspectives on why those trends might be. Before Korra and Asami really became canon or subtextual in the show, like before the end of season three, most of the relationships, or a large majority of them were Korra and Mako, or Korra and Tahno, or Korra and Bolin, those sorts of relationships. Why do you think, at first, that was sort of more central in the fan community?
gillywulf: Oh, the easy answer is sexism, because everyone sees the main heroine next to a cute boy and decides, "That's good. I'm going to do that," without maybe necessarily putting much more thought into it.Systems of Power: sexism heteronormativityCode: fan-politics Like we saw, especially in season three, there's much more of a development of Korra and Asami's relationship. That whole, they get lost in the desert and they have to beat up the airship people, and then, the random thugs on motorcycles from Mad Max. There's that whole thing, and you see them working together super well. Obviously, there's always going to be people who say, "I want a female ship. Going for it. I don't care whether or not they necessarily gel."Systems of Power: LGBTQplus I'm sure there's people ... I feel like I went back a million years ago and looked at the first Korrasami fics, just out of curiosity, to see when they were published, and I'm sure that they were like episode one, because it's just what people do, and it's great. Ships are meant to be fun, they're not always meant to be canon.Code: important-quote, fan-politics, canon-resistant So, at that time, there was a lot of that. And then later, Bryan and Mike went back and said that, "We were trying to actively develop through season three, so thank you for noticing." So, it was there, but it's not surprising that a lot of people who aren't looking for it don't go and see it. A lot of straight people I know will look at a lot of these relationships and say, "Oh, that came from nowhere."Systems of Power: heteronormativity homophobia-transphobiaCode: important-quote, fan-politics Like, when Lexa and Clarke kissed in The 100, a lot of people said, "I have no idea where that came from." I'm like, "Okay, you're not looking at all." So, it's that sort of thing, and I'm not at all surprised by that.
cara: Great. Thank you for that thorough answer. So, around October 2014, which is actually when you published your piece, there was a huge spike, both in fan engagement and fan publishing in The Legend of Korra fandom in Archive of Our Own, but also, of course, in Korrasami fics. Why do you think that is?
gillywulf: Well, October was the end of season three, I believe. At the end of season three, we saw that development and we saw, especially during Korra's fight with Zaheer, Asami looked the most scared out of everybody, and her reaction to her offer to stay with Korra through her recovery, and help any way she can was sort of, "That's a little gayer than it maybe should be," that sort of look. So, a lot of people took that and decided to go with itSystems of Power: LGBTQplus, especially since the relationship was [inaudible 01:00:21], whether or not ... Again, and at that time, we didn't know the writer's intention, so it was just everybody, or at least Korrasami fans, picking up on it and saying, "Okay, well, we don't know when season four is happening, so we're just going to kick off from there and this is what could happen."Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: important-quote, fan-politics, implicit-explicit
cara: Great. And then, finally, the next sort of big spike is, of course, the series finale, which was December 2014, because apparently season three and four came out very close to each other. I didn't remember that.
gillywulf: It was only like a couple of weeks or something.
cara: Yeah. It was nuts. It was like, "Oh, okay. We're just going right into it."
cara: So, in December 2014 and January 2014, there was another huge spike. I can't remember the exact number. I should actually probably write that down. But it was a lot of fanfictions were published, and I think a large majority of them were Korrasami. Why do you think it is that people were so drawn to their relationship and so drawn to the series finale and that sort of canonical moment that confirmed that they were bi?
gillywulf: Well, obviously, personal preference aside, I think it was the most fleshed out of Korra's personal relationships with any of the other possible love interests.Code: canon-relation, canon-compliant Tahno was just a bully that people decide ... I don't understand why people like that, but people do.Code: fan-politics And her whole thing with Mako was just her expectation of what romance should be, and Mako was hot, "Mako is cool, Mako's interesting, so I have to be in love with him." And Bolin ended up more as like a brother, because he was also pretty young at that time, I think. I want to say he was like 15 when the series started, or something close to that, so he also didn't know what he was looking for either. So, we spend four seasons developing Korra and Asami's relationship from maybe rivals, to best friends, to they're lovers, the relationship that they end on. And it's super great to see that fleshed outCode: canon-compliment, and especially since, immediately after the season finale aired, everyone was sort of unsure like, "This is canon, right? This is canon. That's what this looks likeSystems of Power: LGBTQplus,"Code: fan-politics and then, Mike and Bryan immediately posted that long Tumblr post, both of them, saying, "Korrasami's canon. That's what it is." So, a lot of people were super excited about that, especially since, up to that point, there really hadn't been a whole lot of huge representation for female ships.Systems of Power: LGBTQplusCode: important-quote, fan-politics, canon-compliant I think Bubbline was still very much subtext at that point, and Steven Universe hadn't quite premiered yet. What are the other big ones? She-Ra didn't come out until last year. So, these big cartoons that are for kids are doing more for those relationships than a lot of live-action things, because live action, you kill people often, and brutally, so it's a lot easier to go, "Okay, cartoons are much more gentle. Cartoons are easier to adjust."Code: genre-other So, to see this cartoon suddenly become canon, against a network that had super tried to, god, just tear it apart, it was invigorating, to say the least. Yeah. That's why I have to imagine people took off with it.Code: canon-compliment, fan-politics, canon-compliant
cara: Great. Thank you for that thorough response. That's sort of my theory behind it, too.
cara: I guess it's pretty obvious you know the community well. You're like, "That's it."
cara: Yeah. I'm doing Game of Thrones as the other fandom I'm looking at, so it's very different.
cara: It's very, very different.
gillywulf: It's the total opposite.
cara: Yeah. I'm interviewing my first writer, who did a Game of Thrones fic tomorrow, and I'm really excited to sort of see her difference of perspective. I'm like, "Ooh, this is going to be fun." But yeah. No, I think that The Legend of Korra was revolutionary, and it was amazing.
gillywulf: Yeah, yeah. It was so important. And it was also good that nobody in that show was white, by definition. When you look at where those communities are meant to be, have drawn inspiration from, nobody in that is white, so it's even more exciting, and it's great, and we need more of that, frankly.Systems of Power: antiracismCode: canon-compliment
cara: Yeah. 100%. Especially Game of Thrones. Yeah. I mean, a lot of what I'm focusing on in The Legend of Korra is around sexuality and gender roles. A lot of what I'm looking at at Game of Thrones is about race, because that show has got its issues, like most things. Great. I think that's sort of it with the interview portion, unless there's anything else you want to add.
gillywulf: No. I think I did my best to put everything out there as well as I could.
cara: Yeah. No, thank you so much for that. You did a wonderful job. I know that it can be very hard to talk through and also talk for like an hour about it.
gillywulf: I mean, hey, [inaudible 01:06:46].
cara: Go on forever. All right.
gillywulf: Yeah. I love Korra and Asami. I will talk about it whenever I can.
cara: Yeah. No, they're amazing. Okay, I'm going to stop the audio recording.