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23.11.2014
Not until Christmas, but nominations are open now for the 10th running of Yuletide, an annual event so popular within fandom that it’s practically become a fandom of its own. Yuletide is a twist on the classic Secret Santa gift exchange: Instead of traditional presents, participants anonymously give each other original works of fanfiction.
Yuletide may well be the Internet’s largest pan-fandom fic exchange—only you’ve likely never heard of most of the fandoms involved. For a challenge whose goal is to pluck obscure fandoms out of the ether and give them some attention, Yuletide is extremely popular. Yuletide has created an awareness of “popular” small fandoms, as year after year has seen Fairy Tale fandoms, retellings of various fairy and folk tales, surge to the top of the most-offered and most-requested lists. 14th Century RPF (fiction about real people), featuring historical figures Jadwiga of Poland, a queen who took the title “king” to emphasize her sovereignty, and her pagan king husband, Jogaila of Lithuania. The British Railway Network, featuring the Amberly, the Teddington, and the Macclesfield railway lines as characters.
Of course, not all of these fandoms will be nominated in the end, and even fewer will have fics written about them. It takes a lot of people to steer a project of this size, but Yuletide has only ever had two concurrent organizers: Astolat, the well-known slash fan who created the challenge, has stayed involved for all ten years, with Tzikeh joining her, then ceding the organizational side of things to elynross in 2007. After signups, when a sorting algorithm pairs up writers and fics, fans create “Dear Santa” letters to help writers who may be unfamiliar with their assigned fandoms.
During the zany 24 hours or so between the final submission deadline and the revealing of the presents on Christmas Day, fans can contribute to Yuletide Madness, where they write last-minute “treats” for giftees. Yuletide has experienced some bumps along the way, largely due to the difficulty of hosting such a massive repository of fiction.
The challenge also hasn’t been without criticism or controversy, as debate over what constitutes a “rare” fandom can get quite heated. Disclosure: The author of this article is  a longtime Yuletide participant and a staff member of the Organization for Transformative Works, which operates the Archive of Our Own where Yuletide is currently housed.


The bad news is companies like Facebook, in search of a cheap energy source are turning to coal to run their increasingly large data centers. Please note that gratuitous links to your site are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments.
Yuletide focuses on rare fandoms, which means that Harry Potter is out (although it gets nominated every year as an ongoing joke). It’s also played with interesting ideas of what exactly constitutes a “fandom.” With each passing year, fans push the boundaries further, nominating everything from commercials to paintings to Twitter accounts to viral YouTube videos to Google themes as fandoms.
Under their auspices, Yuletide has become a system of its own, with fans working together to turn the entire process into a well-organized machine. These usually include helpful links and further info about the kind of fic they, as fans, might want to see. Hundreds of no-shows happen yearly, so there’s also a pinch-hit list, with 2,200 potential writers, many of whom try to step in for missing writers rather than participate in the actual challenge.
The “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” policy has also created some resentment, leading to the creation of yuletide_coal, a LiveJournal community where disgruntled recipients can complain about gift-givers who seemed to ignore the spirit of the challenge.
The frenzy over wondering when fics will be revealed led to the cheeky website Is it Yuletide Yet?
Fans know that if it doesn’t get written this year, they can always nominate their obscure fandom again for next year’s Yuletide.
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Fans use the Yuletide LiveJournal community to brainstorm fandoms and work out who will nominate what in advance, in order to avoid wasting a nomination slot with something another fan has already nominated. And finally, after all the fics are in, there’s New Year’s Resolutions, in which all of that year’s requests are released into the wild, for people who want to continue filling requests all year round. The old archive houses most of the fic collection, but navigation is messy and some pages are missing, while the new archive at the Archive of Our Own is testing AO3’s already-strained servers. And there are recurring concerns that Yuletide uses too many of the Archive of Our Own’s resources, despite being, unofficially at least, unaffiliated with the AO3 or its parent organization, the Organization for Transformative Works. Today Greenpeace released a study detailing the amount of energy consumed by data centers and revealing that most data centers are run by coal fired power plants — one of the most destructive kinds of energy there is. With the capital behind large data companies, green innovation can be championed in the name of better profits. It’s not only the servers that use up energy but also huge temperature control systems that keep the complexes climate controlled for the highest performance. There’s also an annual spreadsheet, updated by fans during nominations to give people a quick look at what’s already been nommed. Due to the popularity of this year’s event, Yuletide mods are offering new participants a chance to bypass the Archive’s current waiting list. Yahoo, for instance, is building a data center specifically near a hydropower plant in New York State in order to lower their energy costs and carbon emissions.




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