Clive Barker

Project: Shadow Manifesto

Project: Shadow Logo To mark the 10 year anniversary of the Project: Shadow Manifesto, we thought it was time to overhaul it again, but this time to open up the project to all of the like-minded fans out there who are tired of the status quo, and who are hungry for something new. Brian and I drafted the original Project: Shadow Manifesto in 1999 as an outline we saw in professional publishing.  The original draft was heavy on problems, light on vision, and even lighter on solutions.  We took years investigating the limited options available at the time, built the original Project: Shadow, and I started writing.

In 2004, we revised the manifesto, and re-launched Project: Shadow.  The new draft focused on the solutions possible through new technologies.  The world/culture presented us with newer challenges.

We are fans.

We love our music, stories, characters, and settings. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.

At heart, a fan is not someone who enjoys a movie, a song, a band, a book, or a show.  A fan feels an intense connection with the object of their love.  Fans decorate their homes, offices, and desktops with items that announce their allegiance with their favorite bands, movies, shows, and books.

The problem with our popular culture is that it doesn’t blink at a sports fan wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with their favorite team, or even a replica jersey, but wear a Star Wars shirt or dress like a goth and they think they have the right to mock you.

What is the difference between a fan wearing a jersey to a game or fan bringing a light saber to a movie?  Or for that matter, what is the difference between a sports fan painting themselves up to go tailgating or a fan dressing as their favorite character at a convention?

Perception.  Pop Culture has classified sports fans as acceptable and speculative fiction fans as geeky.  I have to say, it is just as geeky to now all of the stats for everyone who has ever played for a particular sports franchise as it is to know the stats for every creature in the Monster Manual.  The only real difference is one fan accepts they are a geek, and the other pretends their geekiness is proof they are a jock.

The disapproval is the least of the problems facing today’s fan.

From Storytellers to Copyright

Problem: People are natural storytellers.  We hear a story, embellish it, and pass it on.

Solution: We tell each other stories, sing songs, write books, make videos, and create art to share these stories with each other.

Every story we tell is not original.  We like to tell the same stories over and over.  We borrow stories from any where and retell them in our own vernacular.  It is intrinsic to who and what we are to share stories with each other.

Problem: The only constant in the world is change.

Solution: We ask ourselves the question, "What if," and share the answer with each other.

Problem: Artists and Writers need to make a living singing their songs, writing their books, making their videos, and creating their art.

Solution: We establish systems of Copyright.

The Cultural Cycle

Before the era of Copyright, stories, heroes, melodies, and lyrics belonged to the people.  Stories were told, and retold.  Numerous visions of each story competed against each other.  The best were remembered, collected, retold, embellished, and built upon.  The rest were forgotten.

Who told the first story about Hercules? Or Jason? or Troy?  Who started the legends of King Arthur? or Beowulf?  The first tales and their countless reiterations have been lost, but the best, most iconic stories survived.

Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, only a few comedies have no obvious sources, and even they rely upon well established patterns and archetypes.

This is the Cultural Cycle that keeps important stories alive.  Each generation must retell the tales of the preceding generations in their own context to keep them relevant.  This cycle has been broken.

  • Problem: Companies lobby to prevent Intellectual Property from reentering the commons of the culture.
  • Problem: Companies control the instruments of culture, making it harder to engage culture creatively.
  • Solution: Fans retell these stories as not for profit tales, films, and  songs.
  • Solution: Fans organize themselves into clubs and conventions.

These solutions are are not enough.  Fanfiction and film relies on the good will of the copyright holders and the fact that the fans do not make money from their works to slip through the thinnest of loop hole in copyright.  As a result, pop culture is unaware of the cultural developments and retelling of these new stories.  The subculture may be enriched by them, but the culture as a whole is not.

The Creative Commons and the Cult of the Dollar

Problem: Publishers and producers focus more on the commercial and popular value of a work, and the creative energy of the work suffers.  Readers/viewers will not become fans, and fans will not continue to accept passionless works of Speculative Fiction.

Solution: Placing honesty over consumerism, we fans must stake out our own home to create and share the works we love.  We must stand between the darkness and the light:  This is the purpose of Project: Shadow.

Problem: The Companies and Rights holders lashed out against the fair use of their properties.

Problem: Some Rights Holders have lulled fandom into a false sense of security by not suing and even encouraging those who produce fanworks

Creative Commons is one of many proposed solutions to this problem.  Others have lobbied for copyright reform.  Neither of these is a solution to the problems.

Copyright reform is a doomed enterprise while corporate lobbyists have the power they do over the congress.  While it is a goal to work for, it is just not realistic in the short term.

Creative Commons is closer to a solution, but the adoption rate has not been sufficient to even start chipping away at the problem.

The reason Creative Commons is an uphill battle is that it is a major evolution in the way rights holders handle permissions to use their work, and exists without an intermediary form.  Existing rights holders have not adopted it because they are unwilling to give up all the rights entailed under Creative Commons.

I approached the Creative Commons Foundation with a proposal for a Fan Works License:

Some of the rights holders I have talked to are reluctant to use the CC because they are concerned they are giving up too many rights to their works.  A Fan Works License would allow rights holders to clearly state what they will allow others to do with their characters, content, and settings.

It would be a bit more complicated than a standard CC, stating whether others may make original text, video, music, or art projects based on their works.  It would also allow them to set the content rating they would allow fan works to have.  This could be aligned with the MPAA ratings or the ESRB ratings system or an original system.  The reason for this is so a young adult novelist could set a max rating of PG-13, allowing others to know what standards they would apply to determine whether a fan work is legitimate or not.

The other terms would be the same as in the standard CC.

You may not think something like this is necessary, but the current state of fan works is hazy.  While few have been sued in the last couple years, at any time, rights holders could decide to start suing again.  By creating a license that covers works with the same characters and settings rather than a particular book or movie, I believe we could get more rights holders to use the license to allow for the creation of fan works, which is a step on the road to open up works to the commons.

They responded with a simple, “CC probably isn't going to be expanding the license offerings, and in fact, over the past few years CC has been reducing the number of licenses.”

I do not believe that a fanwork or Creative Commons license is the ultimate solution, but as a possible stepping stone toward an open culture.

Progressive Speculative Fiction

  • Problem: Modern and Post-modern fiction is antithetical to hope, imagination, and community
  • Problem: Success is easier through snark, hate, and discrimination.
  • Solution: We will promote, support and create Progressive Speculative Fiction.

What is Progressive Speculative Fiction?

Progressive Speculative Fiction is a story told in any medium which has a "What if" at its core and is filled with hope for the future and promotes a sense of community.

How can disaster fiction be progressive?

Watch a Godzilla movie or either The Day the Earth Stood Stills.  If there is nothing worth saving, then there is no tragedy.  The heroes must at least try to save someone or something worth saving.

How can horror be progressive?

Watch nearly any horror film made prior to 1990 or for the best example read The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker or anything by Anne Rice.  If life is not worth living or there is nothing worth defending, where is the horror.  If life is worthless, then death is merely a release from a nightmare.  There is nothing scary about it.  If there is no free will, nothing is lost by imprisonment or possession.  If sanity is not worth preserving, why bother.

What works are Progressive Speculative Fiction?

There are too many to mention all of them, but to offer a spectrum:

Just to name a few.


  • Problem: The word "Myth" has become a marketing term.

Homogenized works are released more often by the industry every year.  Focus groups and market analysis have replaced quality work, but since the cultural cycle is broken, industry has no alternative.  It is safer to release works like the ones that sold last year than it is to seek out new talent/ideas that would be more of a risk.

They know what the fans want.  We want myths, stories that speak to us on a deep level while entertaining us.  Myths are hard to make.  It is easy to add in a wizard or a starship and call it mythology.  Fans see through it, but the masses are looking for little more than sex, violence, and humor.  Speculative Fiction has been watered down to little more than:

  • imitation space opera
  • knock-off cyberpunk
  • repackaging of the rings
  • martial arts boom-boom
  • torture porn

They, then, wrap it in a shiny box, slap the word myth, saga, legend, or reboot on it, and wait for the masses to spend their money on it... and they usually do.

We do not need another company driven by profit margins, or another author whose self-important propaganda obscures the art.

We need writers and artists that love what they are doing.

We need fans who are not afraid to speak their minds.

We need places in our towns/cities and online where we can meet and share the few gems that we find from the industry and from the independent artist, writers, and filmmakers who are still following their bliss rather than the dollar.

That is why we are here.  Project:  Shadow and dashPunk will provide a platform for writers, artists, filmmakers and fans to “follow their bliss.”  We are dedicated to finding and promoting the best Speculative Fiction out there: the little/well known writers, filmmakers, artists and works, fostering their talents, and helping them to not only follow their hearts, but to share that vision with others.

But we cannot do it alone!

Fandom Strikes Back

  • Solution:  We must seek out and support the writers, artists, and producers that encourage and support fan works.
  • Solution:  We must get writers, artists, and producers on the record about their position regarding fan works.
  • Solution: We must live according to our values of hope, imagination, and community.
  • Solution: We must build a community around hope, imagination, and community, and reject the rote cynicism that defines the faux-fandom that loves to tear things down rather than build things up.
  • Solution: We must spread the stories, videos, songs, and art that speak to us.

Together, We can make dashPunk and Project: Shadow more than an idea or a website, but a vibrant community of fans who share the things we love with each other.

Together, we can make it easier to find and share the things we love and find new things to love.

Together, we can build a community of fans who support and engage one another for our mutual benefit.

Alone, none of us can stand up to the corporate powers who control the music, video, text, and art that we love, but together, our voice will be heard.

Fandom is a vibrant culture with its own music (filk), events (conventions), games, and myths.  Until now, we have gathered periodically, or in disparate groups. 

Now is the time to bring the great multitude of fan bases together.

Now is your time!  Copy this Manifesto.  Print it, post it, email it, share it!  Tell a friend, and most importantly Make your voice heard.


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Creative Commons License Project: Shadow Manifesto by Project: Shadow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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Fandom, Porn, and a Culture of Dreamers.

Anki-In-The-ShadesWhen I stumbled across trobadora's The Internet is for Porn? I was initially uncomfortable with the discussion. The frank discussion of fannish sexuality is not something I am used to seeing in writing... but it is all too familiar a topic around the table over the weekends and at the cons. I am not sure why I was so uncomfortable with the subject. It is not like I have not mentioned in on the show or in conversations with others, but this direct approach, insightful comments, and probing questions made me squirm a little in my seat.

In our fannish circles, porn is very much ... normalised, for lack of a better word. It's part of the everyday landscape, and writing it or posting it is not in any way, shape or form remarkable. (Except for the "oooh, shiny!" factor, of course.) It's even an ordinary social gesture – the "bake you cookies and write you porn" aspect (The Internet is for Porn?).

That is the moment that I started squirming. Why is it normal to talk about slash without a thought about what it is we are really talking about? It is not uncommon for the conversation to get started and in the right fan circles, the participants are open about their favorites. Is this because our fan culture is more coarse, crass, or jaded than the mainstream culture?

I don't think so. While I have been accused of having an overly bright view of the fan culture, I think it is a result of the very nature of Speculative Fiction Fandom.

  1. Fans are generally liberal. It is easier to look forward when you are not tied to the past
  2. Fans truly love. They do not simply like the characters, settings, and series, they have a deep love for them.
  3. Fans are dreamers. We are not satisfied with merely watching or reading, we dream up other stories. We are constantly asking, "What if?"
  4. Fans share. We are not content with these ideas living in our head, we share them with each other

As a result of these things, it is not surprising that we ask ourselves what it would be like if two of our favorite characters hooked up, we write the story and share it with the community.

Why are we not ashamed of the sometime sexually explicit stories we tell? I am not sure. For me, it is probably because I am gay. I am used to people looking down on me for who I love. Why would I care if they found about anything else? They already think I am a pervert. I have no where else to go from there.

Now, many of you are probably going to say, "I don't even know what your talking about."

Say you're participating in one of those other fannish spaces as well, and you're (for whatever reason) writing porn in that fandom. What do you do with it? What would you feel comfortable with?

Would you feel comfortable posting it in its own fandom, even though it would not be a normal fannish activity there?

First of all I would say there is a difference between porn and erotica. I am not parsing words, there is a very real difference. I apologize for the crass language here, but it is better to be blunt than verbose:

  • Porn is fiction that contains a lot of sex for the sake of getting you off.
  • Erotica is fiction that contains a lot of sex but the story and characterizations "cannot be summed up in diagrams" to quote Stephen Moffat.

Most of the fanfiction I am talking about is erotic because it does the latter and not the former. On that note, to answer the question, I am not sure what fan communities are being discussed where the conversation of slash does not pop up from time to time.

The only time I would not feel comfortable is if there were minors in the conversation. It is not my place to introduce these kids to a discussion of sexuality they may or may not be ready for. Other than that, I am not sure what would prevent me.

What if that fandom were mostly populated by fanboys?

Well, I find popular heterosexual male sexuality to be abrasive and overly crude. It is something that should be discussed. The flirtation present in the stories is something I think most heterosexual males would be bored by. I hope I am wrong.

The types of fanfic we are talking about are:

  • slash: male/male erotic fanfic
  • femslash: female/female erotic fanfic
  • hetslash: male/female erotic fanfic
  • PWP: porn without plot

Does it really matter who you're writing for? How much, how does it matter?

I think it does. I know I am not the only one who has wondered about the relationship between Ivanova and Talia or Sirius and Lupin. These questions are unanswered in the canon, so we are left to fill in the blanks with fanfiction.

The audience matters because well written fanfic is about the characters. Whether it is slash or not, if the story is bad, then why would I take time to read it? There are some audiences that just want PWP, and I am not in that crowd.

How much of a difference would it make whether it was an explicit sex scene in a longer fic or an all-out PWP?

Just as the audience matters, so does the content. If the story is good, and the sex is integral to the plot, the better the story will be.

Would it bother you more if the porn in question were slash or het?

A lot of the slash and het I have seen is more of an odd fantasy of the writer than a story worth spending any time with.

What if it were, say, het with a dominant male character?

This is where the problem comes in. A lot of the male dominant fiction, fanfic or not, is little more than a dose of male bravado with a side order of nudity. I prefer stories about equals.

What makes Smut

I read a lot of Speculative fiction, and sex is not absent from the "mainstream" fiction. It is hard to miss it in Anne Rice, Christopher Golden, Clive Barker, Anne McCaffrey... most SF not written or inspired by Tolkien.

I think we work ourselves into fits because, as with everything, there are some people who take it too far. Nothing can be down about these people except to ignore them.

There is nothing to be embarrassed about when we are talking about sexuality or erotica. Honestly, I think this has more to do with our popular culture and its perception of us.

In Pop Culture, sex is inherently smutty. It is a tool used to sell a product. Many movie trailers have become little more than "Watch this film and see these people naked." Under those conditions, we tend to allow ourselves to see all sex as smutty. What we have to do is establish certain personal rules:

  1. Sex is natural.
  2. Sex is not a game or a contest. It is not about collecting trophies.
  3. Respect is a prerequisite. If we do not respect ourselves or our characters, it shows and it degrades everyone.
  4. Sexually explicit stories or scenes without a grounding in character and plot are porn.

Did I make you uncomfortable? I hope not. I think it is time for some frank conversation. Now let's all sing Slash Wallow.