tense

Help me procrastinate by opinionating at me.

I just did a pass through the stories on my archive, adding more content tags. If you want to read all stories in which somebody proposes to somebody else, for instance, you now can. How could you live before such marvels existed? I have no idea either. The task got me thinking about content tags and ratings, though.

I've been using the fan rating system on my archive site (FRC, FRT, FRM, FRAO) because that's what giles_watchers was using when I first began helping to compile that newsletter. It seems to be falling out of favor in fandom, however, and it's never really satisfied me. It requires explanation in a way that simple English words don't.

American movie ratings mostly satisfy that no-explanation requirement as well, because of familiarity. Four categories: general audiences, parental guidance suggested, restricted, adult. That feels like one too many categories to me. Fandom probably doesn't actually care about the teen or child audience distinction. Fandom ratings are like fandom warnings: labels that help us choose fic to read that suits our mood. Do we ever really worry about PG vs G?

What problem are we attempting to solve when we rate our fic? It's not the same problem movie ratings are intended to solve, of preventing young viewers from seeing content that society has decided they're not ready for. Fan readers are making choices for themselves. Fic ratings are trying to solve the problem of matching readers to content they want. Viewed this way, "R" is just another content label the way "fluff" or "hurt/comfort" would be, though a more vague one.

I'll bet that you as my readers usually don't care about anything other than prawny-intent vs no-prawny-intent, but let's find out. Do you ever pick something G-rated to read because of the rating? How do ratings affect your reading choices? Or are you more likely to look for other content, like "I want an angsty first-time story today"? (I realize that pairing is the single most important driver here, but let's assume that you're selecting among stories that have a pairing you like.)

I'm thinking of going with just general/mature/adult, in order of increasing difficulty of material. (Bah, my need for parallelism is not satisfied by that list.) Or I could be lazy and do nothing at all.

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The fan rating system tripped me up when I first noted its use. For that reason I'm not pro. I like things that don't require effort.

I tend to rate my own fics in the four-stage (ish -- sometimes PG gets its own caveat, like PG-12 or PG-15) movie style rating system. I must admit, however, that I rate the content less because I think my potential readers are overly bothered by the sexual content/language/violence factor. I do so because I want to cover my arse. If I flag something as adult and use the LJ flag for explicit content before I post, then no one can accuse me of supplying 'inappropriate' material to minors. (I used to work in IT at a high school and I learned a little bit about the UK law on such things.)

To answer your question as a reader and not a writer:-

I don't give a damn about rating. I don't even look at it. Two reasons.

1) The fandoms I'm interested in reading aren't awash with a huge amount of quality fanfic. If I discover a writer who is exploring a fandom I love, focusing on characters I'm particularly partial to, I'll read it. And thank god for them. G or NC-17. Don't care. Just gimme.

2) I tend not to cold-read stuff anyway. These days I usually only read something that's been recced, or that has been written by a writer I already know to be competent.

So for that reason I may not be the best person for your poll. Which may make this reply a colossal waste of time...

Still -- you wanted opinionatings, and I'm always happy to provide those.
The FR system has always bothered me a little, and it was a huge relief when I dumped it earlier today.

I think you're onto something about the ratings being partly for butt-covering. Though I do also think that fans sometimes seek out the adult rating (whatever it is), because they're in the mood for that kind of experience. Or in the mood for its opposite.

And instead of being a waste of time, responses like yours are very helpful to me. I'm interested in helping readers find fic they'll like, whether that's my fic on my personal archive, recent Giles fic in the newsletter, or back numbers in the fic recs comm. Understanding how people make choices is helpful! So far from this conversation, I've been emboldened to dump the FR system for a simpler one that uses English words. Next I'll reconsider my terse-ish summary habits.