The answer is yes.
Yes, they are worth saving.
Yes, all of them.
YES, INCLUDING YOUR RANDOM ANIME PWP.
Look, let me explain to you in real actual historical terms exactly why that stuff is important. I learned this when I was doing a rewrite of Lysistrata for my Directing class in college.
There’s a bit in the first act, first scene, where Lysistrata is convincing the women of Greece to pledge they won’t have sex until the war is over, where she says “we won’t act like the lioness on the cheese grater.” I looked through six different translations, aka “all the translations I could find,” and every single one used that phrase: “the lioness on the cheese grater.” Now some of these were very old, stuffy, let’s-pretend-this-isn’t-an-absurdist-comedy-about-anything-as-dirty-as-sex-after-all-it’s-Greek-and-thus-must-be-dignified kind of translations, but one of them had specifically been written to be as over-the-top shockingly vulgar as possible, and it still included that phrase. I was expecting it to be modified to whatever the modern name of that position was, but nope–still “we won’t fuck like whores and assume the position of the lioness on the cheese grater.”
And thus began an undignified six hours of me reading very dry academic papers and clicking all kinds of shady links trying to answer the question: what the fuck was the lioness on a cheese grater?
At the end of six hours I said “fuck it” and changed it to doggy style.
Because the answer is: we only know the phrase from the play and from a “menu of services” in a brothel. Ancient cheese graters looked more or less like modern ones, so there wasn’t really room for decorations of lions. We have no idea what it was. It was apparently in-demand enough to be worth a very pretty penny (or, er. A very pretty drachma, as it were), but no records outside the play and that single menu exist. There’s even the possibility it was put on the menu as a joke in reference to the play, and that it means nothing at all.
So: am I saying your random anime PWP could theoretically someday be the only remaining record of the word “bishounen” being used in Latinized form?
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Far enough into the future that most of our records have been lost, when the world looks unimaginably different, your random-ass porn could be something historians use to say “hm. The fact that these letters made these sounds, and these kanji made these sounds, and the word here is being used in a similar way to how it’s used when written in kanji…we’re pretty sure this is evidence there was literary communication between English-speaking countries and Japan.”
Or, put another way: nobody’s ever gonna forget covid. But will they remember that slender young men with shaggy hair were considered desirable in the 2010s? That is something that will be of interest to some future historian. I assure you, people have been handwringing over the goddamn lioness on the cheese grater for over two thousand fucking years. Yes, there is a place in history for your smut.
And I will leave you with this: stripped of all pretension and the mystique granted to it by virtue of being old as balls, Lysistrata is a play whose plot is thus: “fuck this war! We, the women of Greece, are going to make ourselves as hot as fucking possible while also closing our thighs for business until the men agree to put down their weapons and stop fighting! Jesus, they won’t even send us dildos because they ‘need wood and leather for armor’–fuck that shit, seize the treasury and whip out the chastity belts, girls!” And then the entire second act is men running around wearing giant-ass fake penises, we’re talking Ron Jeremy would blush in shame here fake penises, going “let us fuck you! Please, please, pleaaaaaaase let us fuck you!” and finally agreeing to end the war so they can fuck. That’s it, that’s the play. I mean, it is wildly funny. But it’s very thin on the ground in terms of plot (and frankly has a gigantic plot hole in the form of “you’re really going to say none of these guys just said ‘fuck you’ and started boffing each other?”), and it was not written to be intellectual. It was for the Bacchanalia. It was written for a bunch of super-drunk, super-rowdy, probably-illiterate partiers who would have been walking in and out of the arena. Hardly highbrow entertainment, in other words.
…but what a loss to the world, wouldn’t it be, if all copies of it had been forever lost?
i wanna remind everyone that at the time a lot of kirk/spock fic was written, in the sixties and early eventies, sodomy was illegal in most american states. kirk/spock fiction was depicting something that was obscene, immoral, and illegal. even accusing men of being homosexuals was slander, because again, sodomy was illegal, homosexuals were committing crimes, and therefore a great many industries couldn’t knowingly employ men who admitted to homosexuality or were proven to be so.
our archives of these works are incomplete, but what works that we have preserved from that time–against all contemporary consensus of its moral value!–are invaluable to the history of fandom as a whole. the fanzines and booklets preserved in odd corners and university libraries and grandma’s attic are treasures. you can analyze the way people thought at the time about love and forbidden love, the way they thought it might change in the future, the way certain fanfiction tropes and literary conventions started out way back when, the way women found each other and organized before the digital age. love, technology, cultural taboos, the past regarding the future, communication, creativity, it’s all there.
and this is a comparatively large body of work from only fifty or sixty years ago. imagine how much more precious, say, Diane Marchant’s “A Fragment Out of Time” from 1974 might be in another hundred years? how much will it tell future historians of the very real women who lived and watched TV and wrote about love to each other?
and this is fiction that depicts not just worthless smut, but reprehensible smut.
yes, fanfiction is historically significant.
yes, all of it.
My goblin self wants to save all the little paper fragments and scraps of weird smut on curling pages and stacks of folders with half-completed sketches of characters in compromising positions.
Wait. They’re… not so much paper anymore, are they.
Fine. Save the pixels. Save HTML files with names I won’t recognize next year. Save txt files with fanfic by authors whose contact info I lost in the early LJ days. Wayback the AO3 fic. Bookmark everything I ever liked even a little bit, with notes like “this is the one where blorbo has zero refractory period” or “the one where they met on a train” and like that.
Never know what I’m gonna want to reread in another five years.
…Never know what someone is going to ask about in fifteen years, “I heard there used to be a thing with soulmate words on the wrists? Has anyone seen that in Fandom X?”
I have no idea what the literary analysts of 2050 are going to think about AO3. I know that the literary analysts of 2000 were very interested in K/S zines, which were handed around under tables and you had to know someone who knew someone to even find out they existed, because, as mentioned, they were describing immoral crimes and pretending those were healthy relationships.
AO3 is not so obscure as all that. But. We don’t know what search engines will do in the future.
And a lot of people only put “the good stuff” on AO3 and we are going to LOSE all the 300-word comment fics written in the middle of a tumblr chain. We’re going to lose the “Incorrect Quotes” things. (They are fanworks! Every single one of them can be a fic at AO3! There is no “must have at least 100 words and be a proper drabble” requirement. You can have three-sentence fanworks!)
Please yes EVERYTHING IS WORTH ARCHIVING.
Culture is not limited to the stuff written in the style of professionally published novels.
@pharaonicwolf, your tags have passed peer review. Thank you for this notable contribution!
#be the Marion Stokes you wish to see in the world #101 Uses for Infrastructureless Computers #history #fandom #(also‚ Recoll synergises very well here) #(how are you going to hunt down that one soulmate words-on-wrists fic in Fandom X within your collection‚ you ask?) #(with a personal search engine‚ that’s how) #((for the *most* part if I‚ personally‚ store a fic it’s because I enjoyed it or expect to enjoy it)) #((but occasionally I’ll pull something just because it strikes me as)) #((something where later I’m going to be thinking ”what was that one thing with the thing”)) #–(((or occasionally something where I *did* later think ”what was that one thing with the thing”))) #(((and *eventually* managed to track it down on the Internet‚ but not without difficulty)))– #((so I index it in Recoll for the benefit of future-me)) #(((and I’m certainly a prolific Save Page Now user))) #amnesia cw #homophobia cw #nsfw text?