should I put fan fiction on my resume, I want my boss to deny my vacation request so I don’t have to visit my family, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. Can I ask my boss to deny my vacation request so I don’t have to go home for Christmas?

I recently graduated from college and moved out of a fairly precarious home situation into an awesome apartment in a neighboring state and a perfect first job.

The holidays are approaching and I have Monday and Tuesday of Christmas week off but not the rest of the week. I’ll go home for that long weekend, but my parents expect me to request the rest of the week off (I have a very good PTO package so I’ll have the days available). However, I want to be back in town right away due to the aforementioned rocky home situation. They’ll try to make the unilateral decision about my vacation time so I can’t really just flat-out refuse to stay home if it’s an option. I don’t want to lie to my parents (tell them my vacation request was denied if I haven’t asked/was given a go-ahead), but can I get my boss to refuse to give me that time off?

Note: I know this home situation may raise some red flags, but my question is more focused on the vacation requests with my boss, not those issues.

Well … in theory you can ask your boss to do that, but you shouldn’t.

If you do explain the situation to your boss and ask her to deny your vacation request, a lot of bosses would say something like, “Feel free to say we needed you here if you want to.”

But you’re going to make yourself look a lot more like a kid to your boss if you do this, and you don’t want that. You want your boss to think of you as an adult (which you are!).

Plus, if your goal is to not lie to your parents, this isn’t going to accomplish that. Even if your boss does what you’re asking, that’s not a real vacation denial. It’s a charade that you requested. So if you then tell your parents that you couldn’t get the time off, it’s still going to be a lie — even if your boss went through the motions of denying the time off at your request. (That’s actually part of the reason that this will make you look less mature to your boss — because it’s an odd sort of game-playing.)

But if you don’t want to spend that whole week at home and you don’t want to have to debate it with your parents, you’re allowed to just tell them that you can’t get the whole week off, without involving your boss at all. “I can’t get those days off” is a time-honored way of getting out of plans that people don’t want to make. And yes, it’s better if you can be honest and up-front with your parents, but it’s really common to have family dynamics that make that tough to do. And people who try to unilaterally control other adults’ vacation time forfeit their right to honest, forthright answers.

Hopefully at some point in the future you’ll feel comfortable asserting yourself with your family about this kind of thing — and hopefully you’ve resolved to get yourself to the point in the future — but if you’re not there right now, you’re allowed to use the “have to work” white lie.


2. Should I put fanfiction on my resume?

I’m a college student putting a resume together for the first time and your blog has been a huge help. There is, however, one thing I am unsure of. That’s if I should include my fanfiction on my resume.

I’ve published over 83,000 words of fanfiction in 2015 alone. One of my works is in the top 2% of all stories in its fandom, which I am of course very proud of.

However, I’m worried that listing this will weird out employers or come off as unprofessional or out of touch. I also know that if I list it more vaguely (not calling it fanfiction or mentioning where online I publish my work), it’s likely to come up in an interview. Would a hiring manager be alarmed by an applicant including this in a resume? Or is it not that big of a deal?

I wouldn’t include it. Fanfic has enough of a bad reputation with enough people — it’s marginalized, at best — that while some hiring managers might find it interesting or take it as evidence of writing skills, there’s too high a risk of many others seeing its appearance on a resume as a negative. There are also copyright issues with a lot of fanfiction, and if you get a hiring manager who’s attuned to that (for example, me), you risk raising their hackles on that front.

If you want to demonstrate writing skills, there are lots of other ways to do it — with your cover letter and writing samples, for instance.


Read an update to this letter here.

3. Owner wants staff to call him Mr. ____ “until they earn his respect”

I recently heard a weird request from one of the owners of the company for which I work. He had a discussion about respect with the sales people. One of the results of this discussion was that the sales people could no longer refer this owner as Bruce, which they had been calling him that for years now. He wants them to refer to him as Mr. Springsteen, until he tells them otherwise. Apparently once they earn his respect they can go back to calling him Bruce. In the mean time failure to call him Mr. Springsteen means a person could be sent home early.

I personally think this is beyond bizarre and has actually led me to respecting him less. Because if you are playing respect games…well I’m not going to really respect you anymore. Is there a good reason behind something like this that I’m missing? Or do I work with a loon?

You work with a loon.


4. Employee reported her coworker for a Facebook photo that showed some skin

My coworker, “Kara,” reported our coworker “Sally” to the manager of our organization for having a Facebook profile photo that Kara felt was inappropriate and reflected poorly on the organization. The photo showed a strip of Sally’s bare skin, but there was no reference to our organization visible in the photo or in the caption. (Her back faced the camera, and she had a fur over her shoulders. You could see a portion of her back and part of an armpit, but not as far down as her waist. According to Sally, she was wearing a halter top that wasn’t visible in the photo. According to the Kara who reported it, it was a topless photo. She claimed to know this because she overheard the other employee discussing the photo shoot in their shared residence.)

Our manager directed Sally’s supervisor to speak to her about the photo. The supervisor did so, although she felt that the photo had no bearing on our organization and was not inappropriate.

I will soon become the supervisor of both Kara and Sally. Sally expressed concern about being able to work productively in close proximity to Kara and stated that the reporting of the Facebook photo to our manager had been very upsetting. Due to the nature of our work, these employees not only work together but also live in close proximity to each other, and it is difficult to establish solid boundaries between work and personal lives. I want to ensure that Kara does not continue to pass information about the personal lives of her coworkers on to the manager of our organization when that information has no impact on work performance. Unfortunately, this behavior seems to be condoned by the manager. What is the best way to manage this situation?

This is none of Kara’s business. Who cares if she had a halter top on or not? The photo was of a piece of her back. It’s hardly scandalous.

Your real issue here is your manager, who thought this was an appropriate thing for the organization to involve itself in. I want you to tell Kara that you want her to focus on doing her work and that it’s not appropriate to make this sort of complaint, but before you can do that, you need to get aligned with your own boss about that — because you don’t her to undermine that message, and it sounds like she might. I’d say this to your boss: “I feel strongly that Sally’s photo didn’t cross any lines, and that it was none of our business. I want to discourage Kara from interfering in her coworkers’ private lives in the future, and I want to make sure that we’re on the same page about that.”


5. How to deal with coworkers who are annoying about Christmas

Through no fault of my own, I am serving a term on our organization’s Social Committee. It’s time to organize the annual “holiday” party, and it’s not sitting right with me. I could use some perspective!

In the first planning meeting, while discussing dates, I suggested we hold it in January, as people tend to have more free time then, plus “it’s less alienating for people who don’t celebrate Christmas.” That suggestion was quickly shot down.

The rest of the meeting was full of phrases like “Let’s go traditional with the food, since I like a traditional Christmas, I mean holiday” and “Oh we can’t do that because Christmas offends some people.”

I celebrate Christmas! I like Christmas! But I feel weird about celebrating Christmas at work. Not everyone celebrates, some people prefer to celebrate somberly or privately, and for some people, the last few months of the year in general bring up painful memories.

It really rubs me the wrong way that an event ostensibly organized as something fun for all employees can actually be a source of unhappiness and exclusion for anyone who doesn’t adhere to a particular (religious) custom. Is there anything I can do to promote a spirit of inclusion or is this just something we’re stuck with in modern-day America?

Ick, yeah. If you’re up for it, I would say this: “If we truly value a diverse staff and an inclusive workplace, this is the kind of thing that matters. No one here has said that Christmas offends people. The issue is that acting as if everyone celebrates Christmas can alienate people and make them feel invisible, and that’s at odds with our commitment to diversity and inclusivity. That’s it. Let’s please not set up straw men that aren’t actually in play here.”


{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. Tinkerbell*

    The only time I’ve put fanfiction on my “resume” was when I was querying agents for my romance novel – “half a million hits on AO3” has a chance to translate to readers (aka “platform” for an author), and it was one of the things the agents I signed with said caught her attention. I’m sure it was a turn-off for others. If your resume isn’t for fiction writing, though, I’d definitely leave it off. Even among people who love fanfiction, simply writing a lot of it doesn’t necessarily mean quality :-\

    1. Tinkerbell*

      (Err, agent, singular. It never fails – when I mention being a writer, it’s always in a post with a typo…)

    2. MK*

      Yes. I think fanfiction is better viewed today than it was in 2016, but I don’t see how it belongs in a resume, anymore than painting watercolors in your spare time would. Being very successful at it does show the candidate is an at least competent* fiction writer, but …not much else.

      *For some definition of the word.

        1. Myrin*

          Citation needed for the “vast majority” estimate. I’ve actually looked this up recently out of interest regarding fandoms I’m part of and the “explicit” tag was used for about 10-20% of all works. Even allowing that fics could be mislabeled (which I’ve found they usually aren’t, and if they are, it’s in the opposite direction, i. e. they’re labeled “above” their maturity level because a writer wanted to be extra certain), they certainly aren’t to such a degree that suddenly the “vast majority” would be porn.

          1. Ferret*

            And even then I’ve seen fics tagged as “explicit” for things other than sexual content, e.g. particularly gory or detailed violence or traumatic content

          2. Bob*

            All the public hear about is the creepy porn freaks write because that’s all that gets publicity, often in humorous talk shows, so the publics opinion is that it’s all creepy garbage.

            It doesn’t matter if 99.99999% is well written creations of brilliance it’s all about perception.

          3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            How much of it would you say is romantic pairings not in the original work? I don’t read fanfic myself (the more I like something, the less I want to read a knockoff version), but I was under the impression that a major type of fanfic is the pairing of weird couples of varying inappropriateness.

            I’d also be curious whether the fandoms you like are representative. I can totally see Starwars having a different percentage of porn than Twilight.

            1. Grace*

              A lot of it is non-canon pairings, but a lot of them aren’t that weird. For example, I would argue that while (for example) Poe/Finn from Star Wars is not in the original work, it’s not weird or inappropriate by definition.

              Star Wars as a whole is about 5% “explicit” on AO3, which is notorious for being the most smut-filled of the fanfiction sites. (Out of about 200,000 works, about 40,000 are explicit-rated.) Other fandoms are indeed higher, though.

                1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  Oh sure. But I’m still weirded out by the idea of, IDK, Darth Vader x R2D2, if it was the most G rated fic ever written. Like, why even? And I’m under the impression that that type of thing exists in fairly high numbers.

                  I could be wrong-I’m not a fanfic reader, as I said. But I think my impression is fairly typical.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              “I can totally see Starwars having a different percentage of porn than Twilight.”

              Oh, my sweet summer child :)

              1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                I am not naive enough to assume there is NO Starwars porn, in fact I assume there is quite a lot of it. But surely a good few people write Starwars fic about shooting monsters with blasters and chopping bad guys up with lightsabers, which would bring the percentage of porn down?

                1. Lady Charlotte Prentiss*

                  I’m too lazy to look up the stats right now, but in my experience a good number of the explicit fics are actually about chopping bad guys with lightsabers. Or deep philosophical character exploration, or political intrigue, or murder mystery plotlines, etc. So really it’s a wash on bringing the porn percentage down.

            3. Al*

              I’m fairly sure the majority is romantic pairings not in the original work (depends on the fandom – can’t think of any that don’t have more fanfic centred on pairings than not, but some romantic pairings that *are* in the original work are very popular to write too), but I don’t know that most of them are particularly weird or in some way inappropriate? I’m not sure how you’d measure or cathegorize that. (That alone is another reason not to put it on a resume I guess.)

            4. wordswords*

              It’s a major type of fanfic, to be sure, but not the only type.

              Some fanfic is “I love this story, I want more just like it! I’m going to imitate its style and content as best I can!” Some fanfic is “I love this story but I wish it had X, I’m gonna write X!” (X can be a happy ending, a sadder ending, more friendship, more murder, more slapstick, more porn, more logic…) Some fanfic is “This story left me with a burning question, and I’m going to answer it in story form.” Some fanfic is “This story made no damn sense. Compels me, though. I’m gonna write a logical explanation for it all if it kills me!” Some fanfic is “What if my faves banged???” Some fanfic is “What if these two characters who never met were both baristas and had a soft loving relationship full of cuddles??” And on, and on.

              The overarching patterns do vary somewhat by fandom, you’re right. (Though you’d often be surprised at what they are! Partly because of random unpredictability — someone writes something and it sparks a trend, for example — but also partly because people are often looking for what their favorite books/shows/etc don’t give them enough of, as much as what they center on. And thus I would not posit Star Wars as one of the least porn-laden fandoms…) But despite the way fanfic is often depicted, it’s really not all porn, nor all random rarepairs. There’s a lot of variety, both between and within fandoms, and especially within the larger ones.

          4. Magda*

            I think Bob is expressing a pretty common sentiment though, which is the main reason I wouldn’t even bring up my fanfic in a work context. It’s not all pr0n, but that’s where people’s mind will go.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I continue to be amused that my childhood version of this was “10% of any group is an ass.”

            No idea if I came up with that as a 1970s school kid or if I got it from a family adult. (Wouldn’t put it past my father or grandfather– both made jokes that included words you couldn’t say on TV and I couldn’t say in front of mom.)

          2. Czhorat*

            Glad to see another fan of the late Ted Sturgeon here.

            One my my ideas for a tattoo (I currently have none) was the Q–> symbol he used to sign his correspondence with for “ask the next question”. Then the letter Q became identified with a crazy set of conspiracy theories, so I probably dodged a bullet by being lazy, cheap, and afraid of needles.

          3. Worldwalker*

            Personally, as a writer and reader of fanfic, I suspect Sturgeon’s Law might be squared. Possibly cubed.

            1. Beth*

              Beth’s First Law of Fanfic: Sturgeon was an optimist.

              Beth’s Second Law of Fanfic: There is always a robust readership for free crap.

              Beth’s Third Law of Fanfic: If you only read crap, you will always write crap. If you want to write better, find better models for your writing.

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I assume some people have a better view of it now that that some of that badly written porn made a gazillion dollars in book and movie sales.

          1. Beth*

            If anything, the way Twilight spawned Fifty Shades has made the reputation worse for those who know about how it happened: terrible writing that paid well led to worse and worse writing that paid well.

            When it’s traced back to “Oh, fanfic, right, terrible porn, no wonder,” the look isn’t good.

            1. Lydia*

              Fifty Shades is one of those outliers in that it made a ton of money, and yet did not spark a rush on fanfic to flood the market with in book or movie form.

              1. Clisby*

                So nobody wants to write fanfic consisting mainly of eyerolling emails and narcolepsy-inducing discussions of the elusive contract? Who’d a thought?

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  Besides, Galbraith/Rowling already wrote The Ink Black Heart, which alas appears to contain all of the above buried in confusing text messages.

              2. Grace*

                Avatar didn’t either. Goncharov has more fic and that doesn’t actually exist. Money just isn’t a terribly good predictor of what drives fandom a lot of the time.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      Ironically, I think the fact it was a romance novel is a part of why it flew. For many people, does they not correlate fanfic populatity with writing skill/quality, they think of it purely as romance with lots of very explicit scenes.

      I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is what it is.

      1. Jackalope*

        While people have a lot of prejudices towards romance novels and tend to sneer at them, an agent who works in the romance novel field should be able to recognize the difference between fan fiction romance and a publishable romance novel. Not saying that fan fiction is always bad or low quality, because I’ve read some pretty good stuff. But the whole hand waving, “Oh, it’s all romance, it’s basically all the same,” is not something an agent in that field should be doing.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Tinkerbell’s assessment of why it flew jives a lot better with everything I’ve heard from authors lately. Publishers really want the author to do their own advertising, and an existing platform is gold.

        2. Magda*

          There was super interesting Twitter thread about the author’s sense that recent romance novels are missing the “how they got to know each other” aspect because people coming from fanfiction have the background of the canon relationship to provide the relationship depth and history for them; it’s tricky to fill in that level of connection within one novel when you’re used to, say, ten seasons of relationship building in the background!

          1. Lydia*

            I haven’t read a lot of fanfic, but I’ve always felt it was a good way for budding writers to learn about voice and consistency of the character. But you’re right, there are other things writers need to know that aren’t provided by writing fanfic.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Weird! I honestly do agree that the general opinion of fan fiction has improved although that never occurred to until reading this letter. But I can’t see any relevance. Creative writing doesn’t really reflect on a tech writing job, and I can’t think of any job that’s that kind of creative writing. Although popularity does reflect some level of quality, it’s not a straight line proof of writing skills.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Quantity indeed doesn’t equal quality. I don’t put my AO3 writing on my CV because while I have a lot of it, and a very nice number of readers, it’s not even close to the quality of others. For one thing other people know how to write dialogue. I don’t.

      Also, it’s generally not safe for work stuff. There are writers within my fandoms who have done multi part series that I’ll go back and reread every few months because they are that good and I really want to believe they can use their work to get a book published one day.

    6. Lilo*

      The thing that’s also clear from the update is the LW seemed to be young (applying to camp counselor jobs) but also that writing wasn’t really relevant to the jobs for which they were applying (camp counselor and fundraising).

      I would suggest LW work on their non fanfiction portfolio if their goal is to write Ling term.

      There is a book I like in which the main character is a fanfiction author but her college writing professor fails her when she submits fanfiction for an assignment: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        There are a number of published authors of original SF&F that got their start writing fanfic, then went on to create their own universe(s). While a lot of fanfic is painfully written crap, it provides a venue for aspiring authors to practice and develop their voice with the aid of an actually critical audience.

        While fiction writing and technical writing are somewhat different, practice writing either is practice writing, which is the only way you get good at it.

        For an example of an academic writing style applied to SF&F, look up “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline” by Isaac Asimov.

        1. Giant Kitty*

          “While a lot of fanfic is painfully written crap, it provides a venue for aspiring authors to practice and develop their voice with the aid of an actually critical audience.”

          This is why it doesn’t bother me that a lot of fanfic is of questionable quality/plotting etc. It’s part & parcel of the territory, and people have to start somewhere.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        The really fun part is when Rowell published the Simon Snow stuff. Is it fan fiction when you made up the universe?

    7. Irish Teacher*

      I’m an English teacher and the closest I did was include a competition by Agatha Christie’s estate to write a collaborative novel loosely based on one of hers, where two of my chapters were among the winners. For anything else I’ve written, original or fanfiction, there isn’t any accountability. And for fanfiction, I doubt most principals would know what it was.

      Your situation is different, I think, as you were querying about writing and you had a really impressive hit rate.

      1. Myrin*

        Ooooh, as a long-time reader of Agatha Christie’s, I’d be really interested in hearing more about that – would you be willing to talk about this in greater detail in the open thread?

        1. Trina*

          I would also like more details! I’d also be interested in a more general fanfic-related discussion on the weekend thread, because while I want to discuss points above with specific examples, it would definitely verge into off-topic territory.

    8. LawBee*

      “ Even among people who love fanfiction, simply writing a lot of it doesn’t necessarily mean quality :-\”

      This thirty-year fic reader heartily agrees with this statement.

    9. anoncat*

      Right, having popular fanfic was useful for me to get a job editing manga/light novels but it’s not going to be useful for most people.

    10. Magda*

      For the record, I’m a published writer, and I write fanfiction, but I would never mention it to my agent or publisher – a) for those in the know, there are a lot of factors about which fics get a lot of hits that have to do with the franchise you’re writing in, not the writer’s skill and b) you’re sort of building off someone else’s success, so it doesn’t really speak to your own abilities IMO – and the publishing industry will be fussy about IP, for those not in the know. I feel like it has to at least apply to IP work (when you are hired as a writer to produce work in, say, the Star Wars universe, or you’re ghostwriting a popular series) but even then I’d produce a “spec” version and probably not mention fanfiction success. I’m sure it worked for you but I don’t think the odds are for it generally.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        Definitely true – it helped primarily because I was querying a male/male romance novel and that’s the reader demographic that has the highest overlap with fanfiction. Interestingly enough, my agent did manage to sell my romance trilogy to a traditional publisher, it did merely okay, and in the publishing world that’s the kiss of death – they’d rather have a new author they can hype up and hopefully get that one in a million breakaway hit than an established author who did just “okay.” All but one of my books since then have been done via Kindle, partly because I make a lot more money that way and partly because I realized I much prefer writing novella-length and that doesn’t translate well to print books :-)

      2. Anon for this*

        Bingo! I actually once won a fanfiction contest hosted by the IP holder that lead to me being hired by the IP holder for a few years to write for their company. I put that job on my resume because it was an actual job writing licensed fiction, but I only ever talk about how I got the job once I’m at the interview stage, and only if directly asked by my interviewer (they do often ask, because the IP I wrote for is something fairly well-known and people tend to be curious). So, even having written fanfiction that directly led to work experience, I would still never put fanfiction on my resume.

    11. Darsynia*

      Yeah I sympathize! I’m about to hit 20 years of solid fanfic writing, 2 million words under my belt, and a bunch of stories that hit the top of the bookmarks in the tags I write under… Unfortunately that won’t really mean enough to a high enough percentage of people for it to matter.

      I do think that writing a lot helps you write better, but it’s so situational, and like you said, you can’t really guarantee that the volume of writing means you’re getting better at it. I will say that I didn’t believe Brandon Sanderson when he said that you won’t really know yourself as a novelist until you have written at least three or four books, but he’s SPOT ON. You don’t recognize your patterns, what you fall back on, your habits and pitfalls, until you’ve written enough full beginning to end story arcs. And hey, anyone who likes the MCU, HP, West Wing, or Stargate Atlantis is free to look me up (for fun only, of course, ’cause I sure don’t make any money at it!). I was in fanlore as part of the ‘SGA writers anthropomorphize ANYTHING’ page for a while till they nuked it.

      1. Cassandra Mortmain*

        Yeah, I think fanfiction likely helps most writers improve at the skills they’re using — micro-level plot, prose styling, dialogue, description some aspects of character development — and also doesn’t use other skills as much. I’ve written fics in the past and am noodling around with a couple of novels now, which definitely made me realize how much of a shortcut it is to jump in with established characters, locales, worldbuilding, etc. and to have the option of writing vignettes and other things without a coherent plot.

    12. Meep*

      I don’t write fanfiction (anymore), but I do write my own original stories on occasion. It doesn’t mean I won’t read it of course. But there is definitely an ick factor when it comes to fanfic writers due to E. L. James, Blanka Lipińska, and others being downright creeps and giving the community a bad name.

  2. Roland*

    For letter 2 – the professional advice of “don’t do it” I definitely agree with, but wanted to chime in on this: ” There are also copyright issues with a lot of fanfiction, and if you get a hiring manager who’s attuned to that (for example, me), you risk raising their hackles on that front.”

    I am not sure if you mean “I don’t want an employee who could get into legal trouble while working for me” or “I do not want an employee who does not respect copyright”, and I know that this was written in 2016, but I think that neither of those is a fair reaction.
    Some authors might still send Threatening Letters to fanfic writers, but that is very uncommon, and is based on intimidation rather than on solid legal ground. Yes, I would side eye someone who put fanfic on their resume because of the Professionalism and Optics, but if I just happened to know they were into fanfic (maybe bc of mutual friends) then the fanfic hobby itself should be a non-issue, same as any other hobby.

    Will add a link to OTW’s FAQ page in a reply – there’s good stuff under the “Legal” section.

      1. Jen*

        None of this is legal advice.

        So the important thing to understand there is that they are an advocacy group and while they believe in the legality of fanfiction, the legal status is less black and white and realistically would be applied on a case by case basis.

        Many authors tolerate or encourage fan fiction because it’s part of their fan communities and personas. Those that don’t the website owners very often either take it down at requests or comply with DMCA copyright notices. There simply isn’t a financial incentive for the cases to go anywhere both because the fan fiction authors have no money and the small economic impact of fanfic. No one’s going to bother actually suing the average fanfic author because it makes no financial sense to do so, but also most authors also don’t have the resources or financial incentive to defend against such suits and usually comply when asked.

        The notable exceptions (Axanar, the Bridgerton Musical) involved a lot more money and significant activity (both I believe also raised trademark issues as well which is a whole other calculation). That both weighs into the infringement calculation and explains why the copyright holders decided it was worth the expense of actually suing. But ultimately both of those settled (Axanar after an unfavorable summary judgment decision stating it wasn’t fair use).

        I still don’t think it goes on a resume, FWIW and I can’t say if an employer might not overreact.

        1. Tinkerbell*

          FWIW, there’s also strong pressure in fandom communities to not try to monetize your work. Part of that is ethics – you’re building on someone else’s world, so it’s not fair to make a buck at their expense – but part of it is also practical because it makes it very difficult for the copyright holder to pursue damages so nobody bothers.

          1. Jen*

            I believe CBS released a set of guidelines for Star Trek fan videos after Axanar. But some people were upset over the potential that these large projects could cause IP holders to crack down.

          2. Darsynia*

            This. Those of us who have been around a long time really get scared by the people trying to innovate because that can bring the hammer down on a lot of folks. Don’t ruin other people’s hard work because you’re greedy, people!

        2. MassMatt*

          Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but for those that are interested in why some authors dislike/discourage fan fiction, George RR Martin has written a lot on this issue on his blog. TL;DR—there was a prominent case years ago where a fantasy author tolerated fanfic, and noticed that a proposed fanfic work had a plot point very similar to one she was working on. The author offered to share credit and the fanfic author refused, and there was a resulting legal and PR mess.

          There is a reason many authors discourage fanfic and shut it down, and it’s not because they are being big publisher meanies trying to quash harmless fans.

          1. Grace*

            If you’re referring to the case I think you are, the author offered a retroactive work-for-hire contract that would have allowed her to literally republish the fan’s work with her name on the cover, at a tiny fraction of the actual going rate for a ghostwritten novel of that size. The fan said she wanted assurance that wasn’t going to happen, her name on the cover if it did, or a lot more money, and the next thing she heard from the author was “you ever mention this again and I’ll sue”. When offered $500 for a complete novel including right to credit, it’s reasonable to give a counteroffer.

            (The author is now dead, and her name is dirt due to some unrelated and much worse crimes. But she also did that.)

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Hold on, folks! That was me. I wrote a Darkover novel. Ms. Bradley offered to buy it for $500, and I had to sign a contract that meant she could use all of it and just paste her name on it.

            I made a counteroffer of partial credit for that amount OR she could pay be $1000 and do whatever she liked with it.

            She wasn’t worried about copyright. She was just cheap.

            Sicced a lawyer on me too, so I couldn’t talk about it till after she passed on.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          The authors that I know got their start in fanfic and then went on to create their own universes tend to have a personal policy of not reading fanfic of their own works/universe due to copyright and credit issues. But they still read (and sometimes write) fanfic of other universes.

    1. MK*

      That’s not exactly accurate. While it is generally accepted that fanfiction doesn’t violate copyright, the law (in most countries) is not clear on this point, and there hasn’t been an actual court judgment on the matter, as far as I know. The change is more in attitude, and if an author actually decided to sue AO3, there is no telling what the outcome would be.

      1. Roland*

        Well yes, I agree some authors/publishers might try something, but it’s highly unlikely to go beyond threatening letters – if this was a real concern we’d have tons of cases already, fanfic is not a well-kept secret. If EL James wasn’t sued by Stephanie Meyer, OP is not gonna get sued either. And in the 1 in a million chance that a fanfic writer would face legal action, that still wouldn’t affect their employer in any way and should have no bearing on how hireable they are. I don’t think it’s savvy to equate writing fanfiction with breaking copyright laws and to factor that into one’s hiring decisions.

        1. Karl Havoc*

          +100 to your last sentence. That part of the response was really weird and disappointing to me. Like, even if you’re going to treat “respects copyright” as a hiring factor, there’s a big difference between someone listing “torrenting terabytes of bootleg movies” as a hobby and someone saying they write fanfic and post it online. Bristling at the latter for legal(? ethical?) reasons just seems bizarre.

          1. MissElizaTudor*

            Agreed. I understand why people like intellectual property in some instances, even if I don’t agree, but fanfiction seems so obviously ethical, even for people who like IP. It’s wildly different from, say, copying a piece of a art from someone and selling t-shirts with it. And the legal element doesn’t seem relevant for the vast majority of jobs?

          2. Smithy*

            I really like this comparison.

            Ultimately the professionalism piece is where fanfic as a hobby is likely to only have niche professional relevance in a way that throwing/hosting nightlife parties would. And therefore, for many resumes would not be relevant. But the to say that professional concerns about copyright with fanfic strike me as similar to say that someone hosting EDM events might find themselves in drug related legal trouble.

            It’s not a true one to one, and seems like a rather unfair leap to immediately assume that should those legal troubles occur there’d be an unavoidable burden on the employer.

        2. Magda*

          Right, but you’re making Alison’s point: “authors/publishers might try something, but it’s highly unlikely to go beyond threatening letters” – but you’re using this activity as a point of pride on your resume and a reason someone, including potentially people within the publishing industry in some of these examples, should hire you?

          1. MassMatt*

            This. “It’s not so blatantly illegal that anyone is likely to actually sue” is not an endorsement.

            1. dreaming*

              The not so blatantly illegal also bothers me – there are hundreds if not thousands of backyard ‘photographers’ that have stolen photos to use to advertise themselves. Mine have been stolen and just because I can’t afford to go beyond threatening letters doesn’t make what they did ok. I’m not in to fan fiction so I’m probably pretty out of the loop on that, but I have designed patterns that have been taken, along with photos because ‘they were on the internet’ and wrong is wrong.

              1. MassMatt*

                It’s easy for people that don’t depend at all on the value of their intellectual property to pooh-pooh the value of someone else’s.

      2. Jen*

        That actually isn’t true. There are people arguing that fanfiction is fair use but fair use is pretty much always decided on a case by case basis meaning determining a piece of fanfiction is fair use requires an examination of the elements of the work.

        The reason there’s no real case law on that is because there’s no financial reason for anyone to do that for the average piece of fan fiction, from either side. The cost of the ligation would simply be too high.

        1. Sylvan*

          Anne Rice got people to stop publishing fanfiction more or less successfully with legal threats.

          People just wrote it privately and then shared it after she died, though.

          1. Jen*

            Yes, and today it mostly takes the form of DMCA takedown notices.

            There are some really notable exceptions (Bridgerton Musical and Axanar) both of which settled (Axanar had a preliminary opinion that it was not fair use). There was also a retelling of Gone With the Wind found to be fair use but there was some very significant transformation/critique there.

            Point is anyone who says fan fiction blanket is or isn’t fair use is massively over sinplifying. But unless they’re doing some significant commercial activity with it (like, say, staging performances at the Kennedy Center), the chances of actually getting sued are pretty lowm

    2. Magda*

      I think Alison’s point is that most hiring managers don’t know anything about it, but they will worry you’re unclear on the lines around borrowing work if you’re using your success in fanfiction as a metric for why they should hire you. I’ve had people get it confused with pirating content, even. Within the community this is a well established thing, but it’s not safe to assume a hiring manager knows anything about it.

      1. Grace*

        Yeah. Barring some very specific jobs, I would actually bring up my watercolor paintings before I brought up the fanfic writing – people may think the painting is boring or pointless, but it’s indisputably legal, and the stereotype of the “bad” stuff is generic landscapes, not anything adult.

      1. Mississippi*

        And speaking of copyright, distributing the movie Blood and Honey is only possible bc Winnie the Pooh recently entered the public domain.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That’s something that may confuse people as well. Once something enters the public domain, it’s no longer in copyright and you can do as you will with it. It’s one reason we see multiple versions of things like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, or Sherlock Holmes movies; the studios don’t need permission, or to pay the author’s estates. There are additional subtleties because copyright duration can vary in different countries. Also, Disney has a strong interest, and puts lots of lobbying into, continuing to extend copyrights, because they don’t want Mickey Mouse to go out of copyright.

          1. Giant Kitty*

            I am unsure why in cases like Disney, where the copyrights involve original characters/works that are an essential part of a still existing brand that was directly founded by and still bears the name of the original creator of those characters/works, that the copyrights don’t just belong to the Corp got as long as that brand exists rather than being tied to the death of the original creator of those characters? It seems like a great way to undermine a thriving business if someone can just come in an steal all your original content X years after the founder dies.

  3. The Prettiest Curse*

    It occurs to me that Mr Springsteen would be Jedi Mike’s ideal colleague. But seriously, that is some very weird game-playing. I would lose all my respect for anyone who did something so pointless.

    1. Tad Cooper*

      It reminds me of a boss I had at a large nonprofit—just after she was installed as president of the organization, in an all-staff she announced that she only wanted people to refer to her in or out of her hearing as Mrs. McGillicuddy, and maybe eventually they would earn the privilege of the first name—“Unless you’re a millennial. Then it’s *always* Mrs. McGillicuddy.”

      Things under her tenure went about as well as you’d expect.

        1. Worldwalker*

          If you’re on commission, not being there = not being able to earn commissions = a potentially major hit in pay.

      1. Lady Blerd*

        I had the same situation at a previous job. The person was a junior supervisor in my section but in our org that meant they were a senior member among the staff. After it was announced that they were promoted to a manager position, a colleague and I went to talk to them about work related stuff, I called them by their first name as we were talking and I was immediately told to address them formally. And like you, things went downhill after that.

      2. Observer*

        “Unless you’re a millennial. Then it’s *always* Mrs. McGillicuddy.”

        How do people like that even get hired into such positions?!

    2. Antilles*

      It’s particularly weird given that they were *already* calling him Bruce.

      If they’d just gotten a new owner, that would make sense. Call the more senior person by their title or Mr. Springsteen until until you’ve built up a bit of a rapport, but the idea that everybody already had that and he’s like no, you have to earn the right to call me Bruce again is just laughable.

      1. metadata minion*

        Yeah, this is something that would be a totally reasonable request, if slightly old-fashioned in many fields, that he’s turned into a weird power play.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I can see it making sense if Bruce had just gotten promoted from the ranks to manager. In that case he’s looking to enforce a bit of formality to help everybody transition from their buddy Bruce to their new manager Mr Springsteen.

        But that would probably be broached differently – with nothing about earning trust or respect as part of the explanation about the change.

        1. Summer*

          I don’t think it even makes sense in that situation though. Yes there are hierarchies at work, however, usually everyone working there is an adult. And as an adult and colleague, I absolutely will not be referring to you as Mr. or Ms. Whatever. Respect goes both ways and if that manager expects me to refer to them as Mr. Smith while calling me by my first name like I’m a child that would absolutely get my back up.

          1. Giant Kitty*

            Seriously this. I have been promoted from “one of the ranks” to management and would have been appalled if anyone addressed me as “Ms. Giant Kitty”

    3. Cat Tree*

      I’m pretty sure Mr. Springsteen had very little respect to begin with. His employees probably had a hard time suppressing their sarcasm while saying “Mr. Springsteen”.

  4. Person from the Resume*

    For LW1, I just agree with Alison so hard. It comes across as immature to involve your boss in this silly manipulation of the truth.

    Honestly (LOL), just lie to your parents. Whatever word game you’re playing where you tell them the absolute factual truth while manipulating the situation (and involving your boss) is truly childish. Don’t involve your boss in that. Take off and tell them you couldn’t get off and enjoy the time off at your home alone. Tell them you couldn’t get off/boss denied it when you didn’t even ask for time off.

    I know you’re probably not there yet, but best is the tell the fam you only want to spend 2-3 days with them because that’s the truth.

    1. EchoGirl*

      OP commented on the original post; apparently the issue was that OP’s mother (who apparently had some issues with boundaries) had chatted socially with OP’s boss in the past, and OP was afraid that if they lied, the mother might say something to the boss about OP not being able to get off and the boss would indicate there was no denial and then the whole thing would come crashing down — probably on OP’s head. Commenters advised OP that while this particular plan was a bad idea, it would be totally okay to go to their boss and say something to the effect of “my mother is difficult, if you speak to her please don’t engage in any conversations she might start about my schedule”.

      1. EchoGirl*

        From the comments: “While I do live in a different state, my mom once ran into my boss while she was visiting me and talked to her socially about my job. I guess what I’m terrified of is my mom seeing my boss again and saying “wow, it’s too bad you couldn’t give OP those days off” and my boss not seeing it as a intrusive comment, instinctively answering “huh, she never asked me about that”. OP also expressed that they thought asking the boss not to discuss work with their parents would just make them seem immature anyway, which the commentariat quickly assured them was not the case.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          I still have lots of questions about the mechanism under which mother “ran into” the boss. Did she like…come on a tour of work? Or did they run into each other at the supermarket? This seems somewhat controllable by not bringing mom around where she can run into boss until she’s moved on to complaining about something else.

      2. birch*

        That makes a lot more sense and clairifies that OP is not simply being childish about this. Buuuuut there are really two types of “difficult mother” situations–one where mom is generally well-meaning and OP needs to buck up and be honest with family which is hard but ultimately doesn’t put them or their job in danger, and one where mom is Actually A Problem (TM) and being honest is not an option, in which case OP needs to ask boss to respect a boundary and not get involved in OP’s home life by chatting with their mother. If the mom has an actual reason to chat with boss, like they already knew each other or they have some professional connection, then it gets messier, but I still think there’s a threshold where the mom is enough of a problem that OP needs to let the boss know that there’s a boundary there.

        1. Other Alice*

          It’s still better to tell the boss “my mother has a problem with boundaries, please don’t talk to her about my work or my schedule” than to ask her to deny a vacation request.

          1. birch*

            Well yeah, that’s my point. OP needs to set a boundary with SOMEONE–whether that boundary is with mom or the boss depends on the situation. Asking boss to play this game is the opposite of setting a boundary.

        2. Myrin*

          Just for the record, it became very clear through OP’s comments in the original thread that her mother wasn’t only boundary-crossing but actually downright abusive. It was infuriating and saddening to read.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Until I got to this important part I was thinking that OP1 could do the reverse and **volunteer** to be coverage for the holiday. If her mother had been reasonable, explaining that the coworkers have children or travel time or elderly parents might have been enough.

            1. Anon for this*

              Yes. My mom is abusive as well but at least she got it when I told her “I probably won’t have a Christmas off in a long time because my coworkers have small children and I don’t want them to work the holidays just so I can have free time. Which means I offered to cover it and will do so again”. She doesn’t respect me but at least she respects the happiness of my coworkers’ children? It’s not even a lie.

              Generally, in situations like this, I’d go for a vague “I can’t take that much time off that early in the job” or “unfortunately I have some projects to finish” etc which can translate to reasonable adult who cares about their job but aren’t “provable” or even hard points (like, the OP can say they would be technically able to request time of but it might strategically be a better move to not do it or similarly if they are asked).
              Also I’d stear clear of telling them too much about the job at all – how many days off you have is not information for them etc.

              But in the end, if the parents are insisting on being difficult – the whole “sorry I can’t” is just a move to avoid hurting them a lot with “not sorry I don’t want to spend time with you” so if they insist they might hear the truth^^

          2. londonedit*

            I’ve just read through the original comments and yeah, it all sounded pretty awful. Not only had the OP’s mother previously ‘bumped into’ their boss outside their workplace and engaged them in conversation – so the OP was worried about that happening again and the boss letting slip ‘What do you mean, denied holiday? She didn’t ask me for those days off…’, which according to the OP would have caused dire consequences. But the OP’s parents had also made her sign a ‘contract’ at the age of 15 stating that the parents would pay for college tuition – to the tune of $200,000 in the end – providing she ‘met their expectations’. Surprise surprise, it turned out that even though the OP had got the required grades, they hadn’t ‘met expectations’ and the parents were making her pay them back. The OP was also still tied to their parents’ health insurance and unsure about the potential parental ramifications of untangling from that. Hugely abusive situation all round, and much more complicated than the top-level ‘I don’t want to visit my family at Christmas, can I ask my boss to help me lie to them’.

            1. RIP+Pillow+Fort*

              I really hope OP took some of the advice in that letter than the “contract” was likely not worth the paper it was printed on and they needed to talk to a lawyer about what they actually would owe.

              My heart really broke for them reading how bad the situation in that letter actually was and how they thought asking the boss to not talk to their mother would make them seem immature.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                Same. I reread their comments this morning and I reallllly hope they have some rock solid boundaries up and are NOT paying their parents :/

            2. EPLawyer*

              Side eyeing the boss who would start talking about an employee to some random person who just started chatting them up.

              But yes, OP can control the situation with the boss at least.

              I hope they got away from the parental situation and got the help they need to move on with their life.

              1. londonedit*

                Same…but people like this are often disarmingly charming and I can imagine the OP’s mum doing an ‘Oh! Excuse me, it’s Lucinda isn’t it? My daughter Sally works for you, she’s always talking about you!’ thing that’s hard to disengage from in the moment. And then later you think ‘WTF was that…how did she know who I was??’

            3. Smithy*

              Truly one of those cases where a question that seems a little silly at face value becomes far less silly when you know the backstory. And if nothing else, here’s hoping that assorted anonymous online avenues helped that OP get more holistic boundary setting advice for her parents.

              My mom had a fairly abusive childhood where in many ways she had to raise herself and “asking for help” was very often seen as weakness. So she’ll still make decisions that at face value seem like the OP’s initial thought process. Basically an immediate instinctual survival response to a situation, that seems strange or inappropriate. Over time, I’ve at learned that when she makes those moves – there is often a reason that explains what seems like an inappropriate response. It won’t make the response less inappropriate, but it will contextualize it.

        3. Ellis Bell*

          In the original comments, mum had no connection at all with the boss but had memorised their appearance off the website, ran into them “by chance” and asked some pretty pertinent questions about OP’s employ. This was the whole reason behind OP’s question – how to tell the boss not to drop her in it if mum had another run-in and mentioned the declined vacation time. The script acknowledging the weirdness of this, and forewarning the boss that this actually breaches OP’s boundaries was perfect.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – the mom sounds like A Major Problem here. I hope that OP eventually figured out a way to gain their privacy from the parents, even if it was just a matter of taking a promotion that requires they move multiple hours away. Distance can be a great boundary builder.

        4. Observer*

          and one where mom is Actually A Problem (TM) and being honest is not an option, in which case OP needs to ask boss to respect a boundary and not get involved in OP’s home life by chatting with their mother.

          Yeah, it was this. But what the OP needed to ask the boss was not to respect a boundary, since the boss never crossed any boundaries, but to ALERT the boss that *Mom* is a problem, and ask that Boss doesn’t feed the crazy by talking to her.

    2. Teal cook*

      As a boss I would not deny leave. I would inform employee they should cancel their request if they don’t want to take leave.

      In orgs I’ve worked for denying leave without cause is something I could get pinged for – I need a business reason to deny someone access to the leave they are entitled to BY LAW. Denying leave is covered in our employment contracts (not in US this is normal here).

      What’s more, it is often the case that my employers are encouraging staff to take leave (and at times forcing) because leave balances are too high and create a reportable financial liability for the company. In those circumstances I just could not deny leave for a frivolous reason without it causing me issues.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        This is true in my org as well.

        So based on additional info in the comments, I understand more of the LW’s concern, but the boss should not be engaged in this manipulation. The boss needs to be asked never to talk to LW’s mom and warned that she might well “bump” into him again. I feel like the fact that the fact this happened once already, the dawning realization of what happened, will horrify anyone enough for boss to understand mom is the problem and LW is handling it as well as possible and not childishly.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Or just say you need the time off for non-work personal stuff–laundry, minor home repairs, obligation to a friend, whatever.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, if the mom was somewhat reasonable I would suggest saying that OP was going to visit family for a few days and then go to another city to visit a college friend or something like that. Just because you have time off during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole time with your family. But I see that the mom is terrible so now I really want an update from this OP and I really hope it’s “I’ve set boundaries and gone LC with my family and life is way better than it used to be.” Wishing you all the best, OP.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Based on what I’m reading in this thread alone (haven’t gone back and looked at OP’s comments yet…) mom will overrule this, or worse, show up unannounced at OP’s place to “help” with the personal stuff!

        I want an update too, and expect that things ended in a NC/LC situation, also. Honestly I’d have just volunteered to provide work coverage during holidays (hopefully in exchange for some sweet comp time in January?) and if mom finds out from the boss that I volunteered and gets mad, oh well, that sets the stage for the imminent NC/LC very nicely.

        (BG: my parents weren’t nearly as controlling, but it was bad enough for me to move away and put them on an information diet. When my oldest was a toddler and I mentioned it in passing that we were going to try for a second kid soon, my mom screamed at me for a half-hour straight; all but forbidding me to have more kids. So we decided not to tell them when we got pg with the youngest – just let them know later that they now had a second grandkid and let them deal with it. Would’ve kept it up all the way until he was born, but parents unexpectedly had their emigration paperwork come through, and invited me to visit them one last time before they left for the US, at the time when I would’ve been 7.5 months pg, so I had to come clean – I was 5 months along at that time.)

    4. Observer*

      It comes across as immature to involve your boss in this silly manipulation of the truth.

      Alison was right, but it’s worth going back to the original and see the OP’s comments. Their parents are MAJOR boundary crossers and also somewhat control freaks. And while a lot of people were all “just grow a spine”, it’s just not that easy when you’ve grown up with it, much less when you are still at a point where gaining total independence can only come at the cost of doing without some REALLY important items (such as access to healthcare.)

    5. Anon for this*

      Wow. I so feel for this LW, have no advice but lots of empathy.

      A lot of the feedback from original posting was as if OP’s mom is normal. Yes, then white lies or just “No, I cannot take all the days off” would suffice. It’s hard when you know your parent will ask all the details “well, did you ask? Why didn’t you ask? Christmas is so important to me that you didn’t even bother to try to ask for the days off? Wow, this is another example of your ungratefulness to not consider your mother’s happiness” then meld into “what kind of company makes you work over the holidays? You need to find a new job that treats you better”

      Honestly a no-win situation. So only commiseration. This post was many years ago so I hope things have improved.

      1. Kammy6707*

        Your second paragraph perfectly describes conversations with my MIL and then she wonders why “we never tell her anything.” You can’t win.

  5. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP 4. There are times when it’s appropriate to disclose details of what a coworker is doing on social media – and that’s when they’re promoting hate speech against a population you work with/serve or when they’re doing something REALLY illegal (I mean the kind of crime that is totally morally abhorrent and would mean an instant police call if you found evidence of it on company servers)

    Showing that a woman has skin between her head and feet isn’t even on the radar. There’s sadly quite a few people who think that if a woman isn’t dressed up to the neck then she’s somehow immoral. All crud of course.

    Busybodies who shriek over that kind of thing should be told that unless someone is literally walking around in the buff then it’s not their concern.

    1. WS*

      And plenty of larger-busted women such as myself who’ve been told they’re dressing inappropriately while covered up to the neck!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Also a possessor of sizeable system attributes and yeah, being told you’re inappropriate unless you’re wearing some kind of big tent is pretty annoying.

        I wear V necks a lot. People just have to deal with it.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      And also, if you’re going to get upset by whatever your colleagues are posting on social media (assuming that it’s not bigoted, illegal or against workplace policies) the solution is to not follow them on social media. I am only connected to current colleagues via LinkedIn and that’s the way it’s going to stay until they are former colleagues. It avoids so much drama!

      1. EPLawyer*

        But, but if they don’t follow them on social media how can they be outraged about what is posted?

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Someone also needs to tell the person reporting the picture that “slutshaming” isn’t a good look for them personally. Make it clear that the person thought less of is the person reporting a picture with visible skin, NOT the person with the visible skin.

    4. lilsheba*

      Photos posted on personal social media are not the co worker’s or the company’s business. Somebody must have spent their childhood being the teacher’s pet and snitch!!

    5. MassMatt*

      Reading that letter I could not help but think of Phoebe’s line from Friends in a similar situation: “Oh! We must alert the church elders!”

  6. Jerabilis*

    The Christmas party one made me laugh. For a couple of years at my workplace we started going down a less traditional Christmas party route. The next year the relevant committee had a majority Muslim make up and we went completely back to the most traditional Christmas party possible.

    Our head of EDI was very upset at this and thought the Muslim colleagues had been compelled against their will into this. Turned out a few of them had got together and put themselves on the committee in order to get the full Christmas party back precisely because they didn’t do any of that at home and liked trying something different!

    1. Reluctantly public*

      This is an opinion I know offends many people – so I usually keep it to myself in real life.

    2. spruce*

      I’ve just organised with a colleague a small team building afternoon and celebration of the year, full of small games and relaxation. We went out of our way to make sure it wasn’t Christmas-themed to be inclusive of everyone… and the colleague who requested Christmas music halfway through was Hindu. And now that I think about, we had asked her to share some traditions around Diwali, and she had loved that.

      So, as long as people of all cultural backgrounds enthusiastically request something, I think it’s fine to go off and celebrate :)

      1. Appletini*

        This logic reminds me of when a person from a diaspora says “please don’t do X, it’s appropriative” and the response they’re given is “I went to your home country and got permission so that overrides you.” An example of what I mean is that an Indian-American college friend of mine asked her American roommate to stop pestering her for “tips” on “Indian style” and to stop wearing a bindi, and the roommate said “when I went to India they put one on me.” Yes, they may have done that for tourists there but that doesn’t invalidate an Indian-American’s concerns here.

        Likewise, while people from one minority religion, such as Muslims, may find an explicitly Christmas party an interesting novelty, that doesn’t erase the long unpleasant history that another minority religion, such as Jews, have with having Christian celebrations forced upon them. One group shouldn’t be used to ‘cancel out’ another.

        1. Jackalope*

          Maybe I’m missing details here, but it seems to me that the reason that the OP of this thread’s employer went back to the full Christmas parties is that *their* employees were enthusiastic about it. I would agree that I couldn’t, for example, go to my boss at the next company over and say, “But their nonChristian employees are fine with it, so we can ignore the protests of OUR nonChristian employees!” But in this case, where the members of the minority group were explicitly, enthusiastically pushing for a Christmas party of their own initiative without being forced or coerced, it seems like it would be offensive the other direction to tell them, “We won’t have a Christmas party because you’re Muslim and that’s against your religion.”

          1. spruce*

            I think it’s important to be mindful of the ways some religious holidays have historically been forced upon people not of that religion… but also, remember that religious holidays, even of religions that are not your own, can be a lot of fun! So if employees enthusiastically request it, why not go for it?

            Like, don’t have a month-long Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, complete with giving everyone advent calendars and making everyone decorate their desks… but if enough people of all walks of life request an optional party with Mariah Carey and Jingle Bells in the background, it’s also ok to go for that.

            1. Grace*

              At a guess, the issue is that you can’t know whether someone has a problem with it and just has never spoken up or expressed that in any way.

              This is the sort of logic that will drive you mad if you let it (what if Jane actually hates sandwiches and just hasn’t said anything and so I keep ordering sandwiches for our meetings? what if Bill is actually terribly offended by me calling him Bill and just hasn’t said anything?) so I try to avoid it, but it is a thing a lot of people worry about.

              1. Jackalope*

                My thoughts here (but I deliberately stay out of office party planning so take them with a grain of salt) is that in a case like this, making sure that the party is 100% opt in, and that there aren’t any consequences for not attending is important. And if you’re giving extra time off, then give it to everyone. So if someone in the office does NOT want to attend the party they still get a 2 hour lunch, or Friday afternoon off, or whatever. (Or if they end up covering because the office can’t be without someone covering, give them the next afternoon off paid so it’s fair.)

              2. Here for the Insurance*

                Being conscious of offending others is certainly something we should think about and try to avoid. But there’s a point where if a person has a problem with something they have to speak up about it. We should all strive to be inclusive and respectful, absolutely, but we aren’t mind readers.

    3. lilsheba*

      My husband’s work was going to do a potluck, which I was against them participating in due to all of us still recovering from RSV for the last month and a half. The thought of all those people touching all that food just didn’t sit well with me. And now their work wised up and decided to cancel it due to….wait for it….everyone being sick all the time!

      I think the holiday office thing is pretty much a thing of the past, or it should be. It just isn’t safe anymore.

    4. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      How a traditional Christmas dinner reads is so context dependent – I think having one going on during lunch hour would be OK at my large employer that has Divali, lunar new year, and nowruz celebrations of that level (traditional food and entertainment there to interact with optionally) and has speakers come for orange shirt day and other more solemn days. Then there’s purely secular activities so it’s just one thing. The turkey roll made with halal meat and a kosher vegan festive option helps too.

      If it’s the only festive occasion, or one of few, or the biggest, it’s different.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      I work in a multi-cultural workplace located in a non-Christian country. The majority of the employees are not Christian and do not come from Christian-culture companies, Christmas is not an official holiday here. You get the odd situation where you’re having a Christmas event at work that was entirely organized by people from non-Christian cultures, and attending by people who don’t actually celebrate Christmas in any way.

  7. Poppy*

    I feel so bad for the update on the fanfiction person. I had a temporary, invisible disability while working at a specialized summer camp. The campers were a minimum of middle school age (mostly high school and adults) and I was threatened with being fired after asking for accommodations that were already in place, but being misused by my bully coworkers. It was just things like I needed to use our golf cart to get across campus and my delightful coworkers would steal it and laugh and make me walk in considerable pain. I also couldn’t lift heavy objects (not a part of the job generally). I also needed to sit more, but it wasn’t a typical summer camp with running around and playing games.

    Unfortunately it led to an inquisition when I mentioned I was going on a weekend trip because they didn’t think I possibly could camp. It was at a luxury campground with plenty of accommodations. My boss told me if I couldn’t do the job she would have to let me go until I cried and told her I just needed a little help. It still didn’t happen and it was a miserable summer. I declined the end of the summer party because I had surgery to cure my condition and they looked pretty shocked that I wasn’t faking it.

    The next summer it was tradition for the old staff to train the new and I politely declined to the new manager of the program because it had been such an awful summer. She asked me to come in and talk and I reluctantly told her everything that happened. Thankfully she was absolutely horrified and realized it was pretty damn illegal what was going on. She apologized and made things right and I attended the training, but didn’t speak to my former co-workers when they tried to tell me they didn’t know it was “that bad.”

  8. ArtK*

    LW 3: Sadly many people get hung up on the trappings of respect and completely ignore the reality. I’ve talked to folks who were stunned that at my sons’ school (K-12), everyone was addressed by their first name. Students, parents, staff, and faculty; from the youngest kindergartner to the head of school. There was no lack of respect, it just didn’t come with the formality that many expect.

    1. Rebecca*

      Exactly! Formality and respect are not the same. I’m a teacher; students respect teachers who care about them, not necessarily teachers who demand a certain title

  9. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

    LW1 – it is *your* life. Your parents can’t make “a unilateral decision about” your vacation time unless you give them that power.

    You don’t have to be honest with them if it’s too uncomfortable for you, but take control of your own life. And if that means lying to them, then so be it.

    1. londonedit*

      A couple of us have mentioned it a bit further up, but if you read the comments on the original post it’s clear that this is an abusive relationship and the parents are beyond unreasonable. They’d made the OP sign a ‘contract’ at the age of 15 stating that they’d pay for OP’s college tuition providing they ‘met their expectations’, and then even though the OP got their parents’ required grades (a whole problem in itself, but there we are), surprise surprise the parents said nope, you haven’t ‘met our expectations’ so you’ll have to pay us back. $200,000. So the OP was stuck believing they still had to pay money to their parents, and they were tied to their health insurance. And previously, the mother had looked up the OP’s boss on the company website and ‘bumped into’ them outside the OP’s workplace and engaged them in conversation. OP was worried that this would happen again, and the boss would let slip that they hadn’t asked for any holiday around Christmas, and the OP said ‘I know that sounds paranoid, but given the consequences if that should happen, it’s hard not to be paranoid’.

      It’s all very well saying ‘You’re an adult, you can do what you want, just lie to your parents if you don’t want to visit them’ but it was a much more complicated situation than that. I really hope the OP has managed to break away in the last five years and realise just how awful and abusive their parents were being.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I will say I think they knew their parents were abusive, they seemed so timid and scared in their initial letter. I too hope that with time they have managed to break away from the parents who saw her as a life-sized doll and not a person.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Yeah. There’s a reason the “age of majority” is a thing, and one of those reasons is that before then, a person cannot sign a legally binding contract.

          1. Jen*

            Not to mention the coercion and vague terms. How would a judge ever evaluate if someone had “disappointed” their parents.

            Sadly this kind of quasi legal bullying is absolutely not rare and not limited to abusive families. (E.g., Jimmy Johns forcing low wage fast food workers to sign non compete agreements).

        2. Observer*

          A number of people told them that.

          The point here is not that the OP actually owed their parents this money, but that it tells you the kind of coercion these parents are trying to do.

          1. Jen*

            Yes but being able to tell them a major aspect of their control was complete nonsense hopefully helped her.

            1. Summer*

              Yikes – that is so much worse and I hope OP is doing much better these days and is completely no contact with their parents.

              I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it always pisses me off reading about parents like that because I would give anything to have kids but can’t and meanwhile people like that have kids and treat them like garbage. It’s just so unfair.

    2. Observer*

      Your parents can’t make “a unilateral decision about” your vacation time unless you give them that power.

      It’s not always so simple. Everything @LondonEdit says is correct.

      Fortunately, people gave the OP some good – and actually actionable – advice, and I hope that it helped them take some steps towards independence from frankly abusive parents. But best case, it was going to be a long road because of the level of access Parents had, the amount of effort Parents (at least Mom) were willing to take to control the OP, and the fact that they were still tied to Parents in significant ways (eg on their health insurance) which don’t go away with the snap of a hand.

  10. I should really pick a name*

    Wow, it’s not often that an employer flat out states “I don’t respect you”

  11. Someone Online*

    We’re not offended by Christmas. We’re just aware that billions of people on this planet don’t celebrate it.

    1. Strawberry Fields*

      People can get weird about Christmas. I work in education, and the administration sent out a polite email essentially saying, “Christmas is a religious holiday, and we’re government funded, so stick to generic winter themes for any upcoming festivities. You can wear Santa earrings or decorate your office, but don’t have an official Christmas party in class or decorate a Christmas tree during a staff event.”

      Most people took it as intended. However, some got very vocal about how they were being persecuted, the school was hostile to Christians, their religious expression was being stifled, etc.
      I like Alison’s response and will remember it in case someone else starts ranting about the War on Christmas in front of me.

      1. lilsheba*

        Don’t they know that a christmas tree isn’t religious? It’s actually a pagan tradition, has nothing to do with christianity.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Christmas isn’t a secular holiday so whether or not a Christmas tree has religious roots (lol pun), it doesn’t matter – it’s still heavily connected to Christmas. Most of my offices and schools have had different versions of Christmas trees, and I’m not going to get vocally upset about it, but it is frustrating that Christmas is pushed so heavily, and not just “Yay, winter!”

        2. Appletini*

          “It’s actually a pagan tradition” is not the gotcha that people think it is. Pertinently, the story of Hanukkah is about why being forced into pagan worship is just as objectionable as being forced into any other religion.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Yes this. And one of the foremost prohibitions in Judaism is against doing anything that might be even tangentially considered paganism, so its not really helping your cause to make that argument.

        3. Bread Crimes*

          “isn’t religious” and “a pagan tradition”, right next to each other! C’mon, think about it. If you want to use “well it’s a pagan tradition!” as some sort of gotcha against the strong association between Christmas trees and Christmas (and there are a lot of complexities being elided there already), you’re just claiming it’s associated with… a different religious tradition.

    2. Observer*

      We’re not offended by Christmas. We’re just aware that billions of people on this planet don’t celebrate it.

      And we are also aware that many people have been coerced into celebrating it, or the religion it celebrates. So, for a lot of people being put into a situation where it becomes an obligation related to their livelihood, that’s the problem.

  12. It's Not My Party*

    #5 Not a Christian, do not decorate my cubicle at work for Christmas. My coworkers know I do not celebrate Christmas and yet when I got into work one morning I found my cubicle was festooned with Christmas decorations. Corworkers told me it was because my cubicle “looked so sad”.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      “My cube was sad because it had a tummy ache and *blurp* it barfed all your decorations out into the aisle!”

      I love my Christmas decorations, but I keep it to my own office. I’d never invade someone else’s space with it unless they flat-out asked me to.

    2. Aikaterhn*

      I love Christmas, but I hate that everyone uses it as the time to have parties. It gets soooo busy. I think another great reason to have a party in January is so it is special and doesn’t compete with everything else! People have family, friend, school, community, and church events all December. Save your people some stress and have the party in January.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Agreed about the January party! There’s so much going on in December followed by the whiplash of the vast nothingness of January. I’d rather keep the extra time for myself/my family in December and then have something to look forward to the next month. Plus it’s probably a whole heck of a lot cheaper with a lot more availability!

      2. Phony Genius*

        My office tried the January party once for this very reason. During the party, the consensus was it didn’t feel right and we went back to December.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        I understand, but I sort of feel that in January while people are no longer inindated with holiday parties and obligations, people will have the excuse of regular obligations (back in school, partner isn’t off, etc) and burned out from December. I completely understand “it doesn’t feel right” (possibly not as festive) feeling. So I have mixed feelings about this idea.

        As a planner of a club anniversary party (NOT FOR WORK so different) I have time off in December (use or lose PTO) to plan, prep, and clean up after a party that I don’t have in Janaury. ** Although given my use or lose PTO situation, obviously I can afford to take time of in Janaury. This Janaury I’d feel bad about it because of how much time I took off since mid-November, but maybe January 2024 …? **

        1. Observer*

          but I sort of feel that in January while people are no longer inindated with holiday parties and obligations, people will have the excuse of regular obligations (back in school, partner isn’t off, etc) and burned out from December.

          Well, if people need EXCUSES to get out of going to a party, then maybe you should rethink the whole thing.

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. “Your cubicle looks so sad that we thought we should subject you to religious harassment!”

    4. nm*

      Ugh I would be so mad if people messed with my desk without asking me! Luckily my office-neighborhood is a Sad Cubicle Zone.

  13. Emmy Noether*

    So, #3 (Call me Mr.Springsteen) is interesting to me. In my culture (Germany, also true of other German-speaking parts of the world), it is still very much the norm to start off by adressing people by last names (and with formal “you”) in all professional contexts. I address my CEO by last name (and she addresses me by last name also). We respect each other very much. Some etiquette points:

    – generally “earning” first name priviledges isn’t about respect, it’s about closeness (friendship), or about being able to act informally and being comfortable. It’s “familiar”, as in like family.
    – calling someone by first name who hasn’t consented CAN be read as disrespectful in some circumstances. The reverse isn’t true: last names can be used perfectly well without any respect intended. It also says nothing at all about the respect in the other direction.
    – it always has to go both ways. A lack of symmetry in forms of address is only ok with children under 16.
    – rescinding established first-name basis is tantamount to a slap in the face. There’s no coming back from that.

    So even here, where calling one’s boss by their last name is still the norm, this wouldn’t fly.

    1. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      I’m also from Germany with its many many unspoken rules regarding Sie vs Du, first name vs last name.

      I got to the part where it said they had previously been allowed to call him by his first name and he revoked that and went WHOA. That would be such a nuclear option here! Just absolutely no coming back from it, as you said. I don’t know how you would salvage those relationships.

      So now I’m thinking even though it’s a weird power game no matter where, how it could read way more drastic to people coming from a culture which has stricter rules/distinctions regarding informal vs formal address.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I’m glad both of y’all have illuminated me on Sie vs Du. I’m American but my dad’s from Germany and when I was a teenager, having learned most of my German from classes in school where they never talked about when you’d use one or the other, I was absolutely paralyzed trying to figure out which to use when. Do I call my uncle, who I’ve known since I was little, Sie or Du? I don’t know him that well, so maybe Sie? What about distant cousins who I’ve only just met? So confusing!

        1. Emmy Noether*

          It can get very confusing and angst-inducing. Rule of thumb: family members are always “Du” (unless you’re nobility, or pretend you are). Also immediate “Du”, even if strangers: friends of friends, guests at an informal party you are attending, people in your hobby group, blind dates.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Ah, that thing about it having to go both ways when people are over 16 explains something. I did German at school and when we went into 5th year (about 15/16 years old), our teacher started addressing us as “Sie.” I actually misanswered a question once because at first I assumed she was asking “did they do (whatever it was)?” rather than me.

        We were taught that Sie was formal and Du informal, but…I was surprised to have a teacher address us formally. I assumed it was just a case of her trying to be balanced rather than a rule.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Yes, 15/16 is the age when teachers usually switch over or ask. It’s not an official rule, more of a custom. Small children get addressed informally, so there has to be some switchover point.

        2. Hatty the Batty*

          I grew up in Germany, but moved away as an adult. When I went back to visit, it was pretty easy up until I was about 30: anyone my age and younger was Du, anyone older was Sie. After 30 though, it became more complicated, as the perceived 30-year-old might be a youthful 40-year-old, and in general at 35,40 it started to seem that people my age should be Sie too. Obviously, growing up, we don’t really learn rules, just kind of get an intuitive sense.

    2. Observer*

      So even here, where calling one’s boss by their last name is still the norm, this wouldn’t fly.

      Yes. This is totally not an issue of someone learning about a different culture and thinking that it would be cool to implement that in his workplace. Which would be weird and inappropriate, but kind of understandable.

      This is someone just going on a stupid power trip.

  14. HB*

    #5 reminded me that last year at my company’s “holiday” party, someone gave a toast before the meal. At least I thought it was supposed to be a toast, but it very quickly turned into a prayer (ugh) and then was capped off with some line about how we’re here to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

    My husband still talks about it.

    1. NeutralJanet*

      Ugh, parties that claim to be “holiday” parties that are really very thinly disguised Christmas parties are my least favorite of all. This is a personal opinion and isn’t shared by all non-Christians, but I’d much rather have a Christmas party called a Christmas party than a “holiday” party on December 23 with wreath and reindeer decorations where people give toasts to peace on Earth and whatnot.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Non-religious celebrator of Christmas here, and I agree. Be upfront about what kind of party you’re having. I have a certain set of expectations for “generic winter holiday party” vs “secular Christmas party” vs “religious Christmas party” which determines whether I’d like to attend and having a switcheroo pulled on me aggravates the heck out of me.

      2. Czhorat*

        I’m with you on that; a Christmas tree a slight intrusion of the Christmas religion to the workplace. A “non-sectarian winter holiday tree” is an insult to all of our intelligence.

      3. Critical Rolls*

        Is there any room for reclamation here? There are so many things associated with Christmas that were deliberately appropriated from other traditions and have no connection at all to actual religious practice and belief. Wreaths and reindeer are actually good examples of this — every midwinter celebration that originated where evergreens exist uses those in the observances! Reindeer are animals most of us associate with winter/cold. Even Santa/St. Nicholas likely has his roots in Odin hunting at midwinter. Heck, midwinter was *selected* as Jesus’ birthday to incorporate/springboard off of existing holidays. If you scrape the “Christmas” label off, there’s just no Jesus in any of it.

        I guess I’m not resigned to considering all these things irreversibly stamped. I consider the increasing use of Yule a good sign that they aren’t.

        1. Czhorat*

          I think that territory has been pretty thoroughly claimed by Christmas.

          90% of people who see the decorated fir tree, burning yule log, holly branches, etc are going to think “Christmas”, not “Saturnalia” or any other pre-Christian celebration.

          It might not be the messag eyou WANT to send, but it’llbe the one you ARE sending.

          1. Critical Rolls*

            I would love for people to push back until it’s not automatic anymore. Especially people with the capital and comfort to respond to “I like your Christmas decorations” with “Oh, we actually celebrate Saturnalia, it’s a much older tradition.” It would take a lot of people and a lot of time and consistency. But less likely cultural shifts have happened.

        2. JHC*

          I see this argument all the time, and I fail to follow its logic. “A long time ago, Christians appropriated cultural symbols and practices from European pagans. Therefore, these cultural symbols and practices are applicable to people who are neither Christians nor European pagans, and cultural Christians can declare them to be universal and foist them on people who want nothing to do with them.” It’s using one flavor of colonialism to justify a different flavor of colonialism.

          1. Critical Rolls*

            I guess it depends on how you define European pagans, a lot of “cultural Christians” might qualify. Do you think people back then got the side eye if they only showed up to the big Solstice party and not to regular worship events? Anyway, I’m not asking about foisting of any kind. I just think there’s room to take back some of the very generic winter stuff from the grasping tentacles of appropriative association. And it would benefit not only people who would like to have genuinely nonreligious winter holidays, but people for whom some of these things are historically meaningful in non-Christian contexts.

          2. Agatha*

            This argument always gives me “cultural purity” vibes, which I’m very sure the commenter did not intend, but the “let’s go back to our origins” school of thought is…problematic for a lot of reasons.

        3. Observer*

          guess I’m not resigned to considering all these things irreversibly stamped. I consider the increasing use of Yule a good sign that they aren’t.

          How is that really helpful, though, to non-christian? Yule may not be Christian, but it IS religious.

          1. Critical Rolls*

            I think nearly any diversification of the landscape that shifts defaults away from Christianity is helpful to non-Christians. Getting to a place where anyone can enjoy generic seasonal things like evergreen florals without feeling like they’re automatically perpetuating in a religion they don’t practice (and may strongly object to) would be a good thing.

        4. Your Friendly Neighborhood Medieval Historian*

          I see this narrative about wreaths, reindeer, etc. not *really* being religious, and that’s not accurate. We as a culture have this narrative of early Christianity coming in and imposing and/or taking things from other cultures with the result that non-Christian cultural practices are forcibly appropriated to Christian purposes. The reality, though, is that cultural exchange and the blending of tradition was often a lot more nuanced. People practiced both Christian and Pagan traditions for a long time and blended the two, not just out of force, but of out of their own cultural interests. The result is that it can often be hard to parse what is “Pagan” and what is “Christian.”

          Santa is a great example. The legend of Santa Claus might have been influenced by Yule and Odin, but Saint Nicholas was also an early Christian Bishop who supposedly had a penchant for giving out secret gifts. That Saint Nicholas and Odin-Yule stories blended is the natural effect of cultural exchanges. But to say that you just have to scrape the Jesus off is at best unrealistic and at worst disingenuous. These legends are so intertwined that saying what was definitely Christian and what was definitely not Christian is virtually impossible.

        5. RagingADHD*

          Are you reeeeely sure you want to go all in with the “but actually this stuff is preChristian Norse paganism that was adulterated by Those People” crowd?

          Because that crowd is full of white supremacist skinheads. Probably not a crowd you want to be in if you’re aiming for diversity and inclusion.

      4. EmmaPoet*

        Agreed. I’d rather them be honest about what I’m coming to instead of making a pretense at diversity.

      5. SpaceySteph*

        My org this year sent out a calendar invite for Christmas party and then changed it 3 minutes later to “holiday party.” Too late, you already said the quiet part out loud.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Curtain*

      Not even all who celebrate Christmas do so in the exact same way. A surprise prayer is bad.

  15. A Simple Narwhal*

    I hope #2 is doing better and got their service dog. Shay if you happen to see this, I’d love an update on how things went/are going (if you want to, of course). No matter what I hope you’re doing well!

  16. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t know much about fan fiction, but if the LW is applying for writing related jobs why wouldn’t you include some mention of it?

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      The copyright issues Alison mentions are the biggest problem: you’re generating material based on someone else’s original ideas. Some creators are fine with it or at least tolerate it, and others will go to great lengths to get it removed.

      LW2 might well be a really great writer but it would be better to showcase that with their own original content if they were applying to jobs where creative writing was a part of it.

      A lot of fanfiction is just plain bad, with terrible grammar and spelling, unbelievable characters, deus ex machina plots, etc. Much of it is overly sexualized (pairing up your favorite characters and having them wind up in the sack, for example, regardless of their sexual orientation and relationship in the original work) and/or extremely violent (there exists torture porn about My Little Ponies).

      I’ve read good fanfiction, but I’ve read a lot more dreck. People tend to associate it with the bad writing, sex, and violence and putting it on a resume just isn’t going to sit well.

    2. Sylvan*

      Copywriter here. If I were doing that, I might say that I enjoy writing fiction as a hobby. But fanfiction doesn’t have to meet style requirements, there aren’t deadlines unless you participate in an event like a swap, and there isn’t editing unless you get someone to beta read or Brit-pick or whatever for you. Also, a lot of it is NSFW.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      Creative writing is very, very different from business writing.

      Fan Fiction could be high quality, but it can be extremely low quality full of typos and gramatical errors and incorrect word usage. There’s no gatekeeping (like in published fiction or non-fiction) that ensures only good quality work gets a chance. It’s less impressive even than someone publishing a self-published novel because the barrier to entry to lower to post something on the internet than getting a book a print. Sadly I don’t find self-publishing a novel (as a stand alone statement) that impressive either, but at least that person managed a longer page count and did the work to get it self-published.

      Fan Fiction is looked down upon by many. (A good bit is romance (often looked down upon) or erotica or porn or even queer porn.) You don’t know who will be looking at your resume and there’s a reasonable chance it may be someone who looks down upon fanfic and people who write it.

      I’m a huge fanfiction fan and read a lot of it. But because of that I also know some of it is actually terribly written. Some of it is much better than published works and some of my favorite writing. But it’s sort of like saying: “My dad says I’m a hard worker.” Could be true. Could not be. The potential employer has no way of validating which it is so businesses do not rely on family as work references.

    4. Writer By Trade*

      I’m a writer/editor by profession; I also write poetry, some of which has been published in paying publications. I would never include clips of my poetry in my portfolio, because it’s completely irrelevant to the kinds of writing my jobs have paid me to do. Same goes for fanfic.

    5. Cassandra Mortmain*

      Writer and editor here: Don’t do it. Writing jobs aren’t about hiring the absolute best writer (whatever that even means), but the best writer in the format you write in, for the audience you write for. Also, like all jobs, there are lots of conseiderations involved other than writing.

      I’m a journalist and I’ve had multiple colleagues who were reasonably successful published novelists or memoirists — they sold their books to real publishing houses who published them nationally in hardback, they were reviewed by major publications, and in some cases they sold film/TV rights. All of them were good prose stylists on a sentence level. Some of them were great at their day jobs in journalism, some were just OK, some were a really bad fit for our organization. And I’m sure the same would be true as a copywriter, or a writer/researcher for an advocacy group, or an internal or external communications job. Being able to write a good sentence doesn’t mean you can think of a good idea for an article or write an effective paragraph conveying your employer’s message — and that’s without getting into all the boring non-writing aspects of the job, like meeting deadlines and working well with others and following a bigger institution’s style and voice.

    6. EmmaPoet*

      1. You never know how people will react to it or what their experiences with it are- maybe they think it’s all porn, maybe they have to google it because they have no idea and hit something about legality, maybe they love The Wind in the Willows and discovering that Badger/Toad slash exists in the world puts them entirely off your application (caveat, I did not find this pairing on AO3 but it’s probably out there somewhere!)

      2. Even if they read it and like it, FF isn’t relevant for probably 99% of writing jobs (someone above mentioned it did work when they were querying agents for romance novels) because they hire for specific things. Tech writers who write fanfic aren’t going to need the skillset developed even if they’re really good fic writers. Journalists ditto.

      3. It’s likely to come off as pretty unprofessional and possibly weird to employers. Posting your hit count on AO3 doesn’t mean anything to people not in the know, and even those in the know aren’t going to be impressed.

  17. Single Parent Barbie*

    Letter 1. To avoid lying, I would have just said “I have things I need to get done back in your new town” Keep it vague. It could be work, it could be social events, it could be laying on your couch all day in your pjs watching Hallmark movies.” As someone who also grew up in a challenging home, one thing I found is its hard to create new boundaries once you are out.

    Letter 3. Maybe its partly because of the alias used but it reminded me of a story Bruce Springsteen told on Steven Colbert about when he first met President Obama. Basically Springsteen asked the president what he wanted him to call him. Obama responded “Barack”.

    So Obama asked Springsteen what he wanted to be called, Springsteen responded “The Boss.”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      (off-topic alert) Wait wait. I was at Obama’s rally in 08, a month or so before he was elected, and he had Springsteen there? So they might’ve met when he was senator, but already knew each other when he was president? Either way, good answer and a totally reasonable ask for Bruce!

      (back on topic) I’d love to see “Bruce”‘s social media posts today. Bet at least half of them are him complaining how no one wants to work anymore – he keeps posting job ads, but no one is applying!

  18. Cyndi*

    LW5: A few years back, my then-manager who didn’t know I was Jewish said to me, all confidential and smug, “Well, we weren’t supposed to decorate for Christmas because it might OFFEND some people, but we did anyway, ha ha!” It wasn’t a huge or horrible interaction on its own, but something about it stuck with me enough to leave a sour taste in my mouth around the whole holiday. I thought of him again recently when I was hitting “random” on AAM and found an old letter from a Jewish LW whose boss was losing her mind with excitement about “LW’s first Christmas” even though LW had no interest in celebrating.

      1. Cyndi*

        Yes, that one! It sounded like the OP had kept a sense of humor about it, which is good, because if it had happened to me it would probably have ended in property damage. I’m not proud of that! But every time I remember the Hannukah Balls my next thought is “sledgehammer.”

    1. Appletini*

      Ugh, that is a horribly excellent example of a microaggression. They’re only micro in that they don’t involve physical violence. I’m so sorry you had to experience that.

  19. Essess*

    At an OldJob’s “Holiday party”, every one of the songs were religious Christmas songs instead of generic winter songs. They demanded everyone participate in singing “We Three Kings”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and “What Child is This”. I was cringing and really angry at the lack of respect since about 1/4 of the team were other religions. I lost a lot of respect for the people that had organized that.

  20. Sara without an H*

    I really, really wish that OPs 1, 2, and 3 would check in and update us about their situations.

  21. ffanon*

    I would never talk about fanfiction in a professional context, but I read and write a fair amount of it, and I’m always surprised by how disgusted people are by it. Of course a lot of it is badly written, but some of it is shockingly well-written—and like any media, most people who consume it aren’t indiscriminately reading all of it, but follow specific creators whose work they enjoy.

    And yes, a lot of it is romance, has sexual elements, and is relatively predictable in plot arcs. The same can be said for a lot of “trashy” content (mainstream TV, reality shows, genre books, etc.) that people enjoy freely. It’s fun and easy to enjoy! It’s usually made 100% for free! Mocking people for enjoying it just seems silly to me.

    1. Appletini*

      I was trying to think of how to write this comment but your version is better than mine would have been, so I shall just heartily agree.

    2. But what to call me?*

      Very refreshing to see a comment like this after some of the stuff above. Of course fanfiction doesn’t belong on a resume, because ‘I participate in a hobby and some other people who also like the hobby like the stuff I make’ doesn’t demonstrate accomplishments that help an employer see how you’ll be good at the job, and also because it’s safest to avoid potentially controversial things on a resume unless it’s something you specifically want to screen out in your employers, but some of the comments above seemed rather… puritanical about it, maybe? Like “guys, there’s *sex* in there. And characters being gay who aren’t gay in canon. And people who write things even though they aren’t very good at writing!”

      Some of those are reasons it doesn’t belong on a resume, because sex and bad writing don’t belong on a resume, and the only way an employer would know if your particular fanfiction did involve sex or bad writing would be to go read your fanfiction. It does come off as poor judgement not to realize that, but there’s a definite tone in some of those comments that that presents it as a bad thing that shouldn’t exist at all.

      It’s a hobby, folks. It’s a thing that most people who do it do for fun. Some people do it well and some people do it badly. Some people learn useful skills from it, while some people just mess around with it in between whatever they do with the rest of their lives. It definitely has different norms than published media, which is, again, why it doesn’t belong on a resume, but those don’t make it this terrible, immature, gross thing people should be ashamed of participating in. (I don’t think anyone has said that directly, but I can’t ignore the tone.)

    3. Giant Kitty*

      I enjoy reading fanfics, and still think most of it is poorly written/has questionable plots/has questionable pairings/is often an excuse to write porn. I just don’t hold that against it, it’s part & parcel of the territory, and even the bad ones can be enjoyable reads.

  22. Risha*

    I worked at a place like LW3 describes a long time ago. The director of nursing and assistant director of nursing (DON and ADON) wanted everyone to call them Mrs Smith and Mrs Jones all the time. There was no earning the “privilege” of calling them by their first names. God help you if you called them by their first name, even if talking about them to someone else. If they heard you, they would either scream at you (non nurses) or loudly correct you (nurses). You would be written up if you did it more than once.

    And the place was really bad in many ways. The DON wanted the nurses to only sit with other nurses at lunch (it was our personal time). Nurse’s aides had to sit with nurse’s aides. Housekeepers had to sit with housekeepers. Even though I’m a nurse, I was disgusted by this segregation. About 95% of the nurse’s aides and 100% of the housekeepers were non-white, and all the nurses were white. As I worked there, I came to realize the DON and ADON refused to hire any RNs or LPNs that were not white. I got a verbal warning for eating lunch with a nurse’s aide that I was already friends with outside of work. I quit without giving notice (yes, unprofessional but I didn’t care).

    I’m always cautious around people who insist on being called Mr/Mrs/whatever formal title at work. In my personal experience, these types of people have some issues and are not easy to get along with at work.

  23. Ray Gillette*

    When I was working a crappy foodservice job in college, I used LW1’s strategy to reverse-psychology my jerk boss into giving me the day off when his usual way of operating was to deny anyone’s time off request, and he specifically had a thing for picking on me. I’d never recommend using it in a healthy workplace with a good boss.

  24. Risha*

    For LW1, I hope they were able to set some strong boundaries with the mother, maybe even go low/no contact. The mom sounds like she was really abusive and intrusive. I had a mom like that and it’s difficult when you’re actually in the situation to set boundaries. Often times, it feels safer to have a 3rd party do it, such as a boss. That way, you won’t be blamed, you can say your boss won’t allow you to take the time off. I wish there was an update for the LW1, I hope they were able to find some peace and get out of that environment. I hope they have friends around them that can support them in going no/low contact.

    I truly wish more people will feel comfortable cutting off parents like that. People in general will try to guilt you for for setting boundaries or going no contact with your parents. They will say some nonsense like “how can you do that, that’s your mom”. No one ever says to the abusive parent “how can you do that, that’s your child”. If anyone out there has parents like that and feel nervous or hesitant to cut them off, just do it. You will feel better. Don’t worry about what others think, they don’t have to live your life. You don’t have to tolerate this type of stuff just because it’s your parent.

  25. Marna Nightingale*

    I actually, as an editor, disagree with the majority on LW2. There are a lot of thinly-masked fannish things on a lot of resumes, certainly on mine: fiction writing, fiction editing, video editing, graphic design, marketing … I did the work, the work is good. I’m going to use it. It’s gotten me jobs.

    And to be honest, I don’t know how else I am meant to account for some of those skills. “I’m experienced with Photoshop and InDesign, but if I tell you why I have to kill you”?

    You don’t have to say you write fanfic.

    It’s on my editorial resume as “short genre fiction”, which is accurate enough.

    If somebody asks to see a sample, I’m generally ok telling them I write fic and sending them my best gen sample.

    (The “sending” part is key, I’m not going open the can of worms that linking to the A03 would be. If they actively go looking, well, you knew where to look, you probably know what’s up.)

    If I’m not, for whatever reason, happy to share that I write fic, I have some original fiction I’m good to send, and would recommend that any fanfic writers who want to list fiction writing on their resume but would rather not get into those weeds take a shot at producing something similar, even if it’s a file-the-serial-numbers-off deal.

    If the job you’re applying for involves writing or editing, I think mentioning that you write fiction is fine. Demonstrating the ability to produce a variety of written work is good.

    If you’ve done a lot of beta-ing, you are definitely entitled to put “fiction editing” on your resume. Get someone you beta’d for to write you a discreet reference, if you want.

    If it doesn’t, but you’re including an “away from work” section, I also think it’s fine.

    I just edited a bio for someone with an EXTREMELY straight-edged corporate position that included “creative writing” in the “away from work” section and to be honest … I just assumed that they write fic.

    1. But what to call me?*

      There are a lot of skills involved in making various types of fanworks that transfer over to other things. I’m hopeful that at some point it will just another hobby a person can casually include if it happens to be relevant. Even then, it would matter how it was presented: ‘I write a lot of fanfic’ is not useful information, but ‘consistently lauded for my skill in maintaining consistent characterization across a vast array of situations’ might be, even if you demonstrated that skill by writing a very believable version of a character created by someone else into a situation that that original creator never put them in.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think with the fanfic on your resume it’s about knowing the industry. I wouldn’t expect to see it on a resume for my job (medical records) but applying to fiction writing jobs, trying to get an agent or publisher, there I would absolutely expect to see your fanfic work listed.
      And I’m sure there are other creative or content driven professions where it would be appropriate as well. Like I started with – it’s in marketing yourself and knowing the industry you are trying to break into.

  26. also alex*

    Unreasonably amused by “Through no fault of my own, I am serving a term on our organization’s Social Committee.”

  27. Delta Delta*

    #5 – The comment about “traditional holiday foods” is kind of interesting to me, because everyone has different traditions. I was in New Orleans a few years ago on Christmas (which, yes, that’s fun, and 10/10 recommended!), and went out to the bayou for the Christmas Eve bonfires, and ended up in a stranger’s garage eating red beans and rice. It was the absolute tops. But let’s suppose that person works with OP5 and said, gee, I’d like to bring my special alligator gumbo the only have at Christmas – that would get shot down because it isn’t someone else’s tradition.

    I’m more interested in how people who aren’t me celebrate. If they’re willing to share tasty foods with me, sign me right up.

    I might be hungry for lunch right now.

    1. Blomma*

      Same! I’m Swedish-American (one parent from each country) so “traditional holiday foods” means Swedish Christmas food to me. But the typical American is not going to think meatballs = Christmas.

  28. unpopular opinion*

    Some hobbies/interests aren’t compatible with work. Fanfic is one of them. It’s not the end of the world and it’s not undue censorship ¯⁠\⁠_⁠(⁠ツ⁠)⁠_⁠/⁠¯

  29. Calliope*

    My opinion here is that I don’t think having your holiday party in January makes it more inclusive. Maybe if you moved it to July and totally divorced it from winter but otherwise it is just more window dressing.

  30. Ambrianne*

    Re #5, my current workplace has a Winter Doldrums party in January or February. I love it – we have a good time and everyone is relaxed. It’s so much better than yet another pre-Christmas obligation.

  31. Former Employee*

    I hope that OP#1 found out sooner rather than later that someone cannot be legally obligated to fulfill the terms of a contract they signed when they were 15 years old!

    I have to think that the parents were counting on her continuing to believe the nonsense they told her from the time she was very young so that she wouldn’t question anything.

    If I knew someone who was in this type of situation, I would definitely tell them to contact an attorney because they probably would believe their parents unless and until they heard otherwise from a professional.

  32. Here for the Insurance*

    For #4, I agree that it would be good to have the manager & supervisor on the same page about this. But even if they aren’t, I’d say OP should stand their ground with Kara anyway.

    I always start with the premise that the majority of people want to avoid conflict. So, Kara complains = manager tells former supervisor to say something, in order to avoid conflict. In this situation, you have to make dealing with you something they want to avoid. For people who want to avoid conflict at all costs, that’s not that hard. Just be more of a pain in the ass than the other person. I’m not saying go to war over every little thing, just hold firm when you feel it’s warranted. It’s amazing how often just saying no stops people in their tracks.

    I know that’s hard for people to do because they’re afraid something bad will happen to them, but we see all the time that isn’t true. If it were, the Karas of the world wouldn’t have jobs. Conflict-avoidant people’s #1 (& 2 & 3) priority is to avoid conflict. Firing or disciplining you is conflict; ergo, the chances of them doing it is slim. Use that math to your advantage.

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