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From: apuleius@poboxes.com (Apuleius of Madaura)
Subject: {ASS} New: Alt.Sex.Stories.* FAQ, v.1.2
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             The Alt.Sex.Stories.* Hierachy and Related Groups FAQ
                     by Apuleius (apuleius@poboxes.com)

                       Version 1.2 - December 21, 1998

New in this edition:
--------------------
New "Closing Words" section
Celestial Reviews recommenced
Revised Appendix C (thanks Tiramisu)
New address for ASSTR
Minor corrections elsewhere

Please note new website address: http://www.asstr.org/~apuleius


This document is a guide to the various erotic text newsgroups available
on Usenet. Comments and suggestions regarding this FAQ are welcome; send
to apuleius@poboxes.com. The latest version of this FAQ may always be
found at

ftp://ftp.asstr.org/pub/Interesting_Reading/ass_faq.txt

Note that this FAQ is quite long; if you just want an introduction to the
basics of reading and posting, please consult "Sex Stories - Things You
Should Know", originally by Kim, now maintained by Seurat
(seurat7@enter.net). This is posted periodically to the relevant newsgroups,
and is also available at

ftp://ftp.asstr.org/pub/Interesting_Reading/Things_You_Should_Know_v3.txt

This FAQ is copyright 1998 by Apuleius (apuleius@poboxes.com). It may be
copied and distributed freely, provided that the entire text is transmitted
unaltered (including this message). Use of this document in any commercial
endeavour (for example, members-only websites, CD-ROMs) is prohibited.


Contents:
---------

1) Introduction
2) A Short History of the A.S.S. Hierachy
3) Group Structure
4) Story Codes
5) Posting Stories
6) Old Stories and Reposting
7) Copyright and Legal Issues
8) Alt.Sex.Stories.d
9) Reviews and Reviewers
10) Thanking Authors
11) Anonymous Posting
12) Spam and how to deal with it
13) How to find good stories
14) Further Reading
15) Closing Words
Appendix A: How to find a particular story
Appendix B: Filtering in Forte Agent
Appendix C: Formatting Details for Word


Section 1: Introduction
-----------------------

Welcome to the Alt.Sex.Stories.* hierachy FAQ. The purpose of this
document is to answer commonly asked questions regarding the groups, as
well as providing background material and pointers to further resources.
I should point out right away that I have *no* special status within the
hierachy - I'm just a normal user who has taken the time to write this
guide. Please do *not* email me about anything not directly related to
this FAQ - if you have any general questions, please ask in
alt.sex.stories.d instead.

The information contained herein is not the "law": no-one has the power
to enforce the suggestions I make within this FAQ. However, most of what
follows are the generally accepted conventions and protocols of the
newsgroups. Following them will make the a.s.s. hierachy a better place
for everyone.


Apuleius
September 1998


Section 2: A Short History of the A.S.S Hierachy
------------------------------------------------

Erotic stories on Usenet were originally posted to the venerable
alt.sex. Then, rec.arts.erotica was created in May 1991. This was a
moderated group in which the moderator, initially Tim Pierce, added an
extra header marking each story out of 10 and giving a short comment.
R.a.e. tended to focus on the more "literary" material, and the
moderator would delete stories considered to be poorly spelt or
formatted.

In response to the rather restrictive policies of this group (in
particular, the disallowing of reposts), alt.sex.stories and
alt.sex.stories.d were created in May-June 1992, as a non-moderated
alternative. As with most of Usenet, complete archives of the groups are
nonexistant until the establishment of Dejanews in early 1995, but many
stories from this time are still extant. Increased traffic on the group
led to the creation of the first subgroups, a.s.s.h in December 1994,
and a.s.s.g in May 1995.

In July 1995, Celeste posted her first Celestial Reviews, beginning a
tradition that continues to this day. A readership report from
around the same time listed alt.sex.stories as the fourth-most read group
on Usenet, with over 8000 messages posted per month, totalling 58MB, and
an estimated readership of 220,000 people.

In August 1995, Paul Robinson created alt.sex.stories.moderated, but due
to his avoidance of moderatorial responsibilty and the fact that
rec.arts.erotica served much the same purpose, the group was virtually
unused until its revival in 1997.

The anonymous posting service anon.penet.fi, which many people used to
post their stories, ceased operation in September 1996. Many authors,
who had relied on this service, stopped posting altogether and are no
longer contactable.

In 1996-7, the hierachy began to be seriously affected by spam, in
common with much of Usenet. The number of posts to rec.arts.erotica was
also declining due to moderatorial problems, and many users felt that a
moderated group was needed with a more liberal editorial policy. This
problem was solved in January 1997, when Eli-the-Bearded took over the
moderation of alt.sex.stories.moderated, and established a WWW archive
of all the postings. Eli also created alt.binaries.stories.sex in April
of that year. Meanwhile, a.s.s.d began using the {ASSD} convention to
indicate genuine posts (as opposed to spam). Rec.arts.erotica has since
declined into almost total obscurity.

The current number of daily readers of a.s.s and related groups is
unknown, but the previous FAQ put it at over 50,000, and it is
undoubtedly much higher. Since its establishment, writers have
constructed a corpus of stories numbering in the tens of thousands.
There does seem to have been a genuine increase in the average quality
of writing, as well as a growing number of novel-length efforts. Several
"stories" are as good as anything you can buy in book form. Although the
web has proved a competitor, the a.s.s. hierachy remains the primary
place for distribution of quality erotic literature on the Internet.


Section 3: Group Structure
--------------------------

As groups within the alt hierachy, a.s.s.* have no official charter
which sets down what is and what isn't "acceptable use". Anyone can post
whatever they like. However, the following list contains suggestions as
to what *should* be posted in each of the groups. I also document any
other related groups on Usenet. Briefly, alt.sex.stories and
alt.sex.stories.moderated are the main places to post stories, and
alt.sex.stories.d is the place to discuss them. For more information
about where to post, please consult "Posting Stories", later in this
document.


    alt.sex.stories

This group is for erotic texts of *any* subject matter. The amount of
erotic material may be very small, or it may be the primary focus of the
story. From time to time, one will also see posts which more properly
belong in a.s.s.d, e.g. "Please post more <insert genre> stories".
Announcements of new, *non-commercial* websites are probably OK, too. It
is fair to say that this newsgroup has the largest readership of them
all, and is the group most frequently scanned by "casual" readers.


    alt.sex.stories.moderated

Once again, erotic texts of any subject matter. The "moderated"
indicates that all posts to this newsgroup have to be approved by
someone before they appear. The present moderator is Eli-the-Bearded
(eli@netusa.net). This means, effectively, that a.s.s.m. is spam-free,
as Eli (or rather his software) rejects all attempted posts by spammers,
and only allows stories and reviews through. For more information, see
Eli's FAQ on the subject at

http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/faq.html

He also maintains a web archive of all a.s.s.m. posts at

http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/windex.html

It's important to realise that a.s.s.m. is not a.s.s. with the spam
filtered out - it is a group in its own right.


 alt.sex.stories.bondage
 alt.sex.stories.cuckold       (marital infidelity)
 alt.sex.stories.gay
 alt.sex.stories.hetero        (heterosexual)
 alt.sex.stories.incest
 alt.sex.stories.so            (same as cuckold, so = significant other)
 alt.sex.stories.tg            (transgender)

Not all these "special interest" groups are carried by all servers. Note
that story posters won't neccessarily crosspost appropriate stories to
these groups, so if you're looking for a particular genre it's a good
idea to check a.s.s. and a.s.s.m. as well. Some of these groups are
rarely used.


    alt.sex.stories.gay.moderated

This has the same procedure as a.s.s.m. It is moderated by Mykkhal
(mykkhal@bigfoot.com). An archive of its stories is available at
http://www.assgm.com.


    alt.sex.stories.d

Anything about erotic stories which isn't actually a story itself. As
such, it will commonly include reviews of stories, discussions about
writing in general, and requests for reposts. All posters should follow
the {ASSD} convention to indicate non-spam messages. For more
information about this and a.s.s.d in general, see Section 8 of this
document.


Outside the hierachy:


    alt.erotic.stories

Erotic texts of any nature. This group was established in an attempt to
avoid spam by staying out of the alt.sex hierachy. Although receiving
less spam than other groups, it is not immune to such posts,
unfortunately.


    alt.binaries.stories.sex

This group is for erotic stories of any nature, which are not posted in
normal ASCII format. As such, it can include zip files, HTML documents,
and native word processor files.


   alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated

>From the cursory glance I had, this appears to be a combination
story/discussion group, even including specialised story codes to
indicate characters in the eponymous TV series. For more information,
see

http://home.earthlink.net/~ereshkigal/


   rec.arts.erotica

This group is very rarely used. Although it still shows up on all news
servers, it is unlikely that you will find anything there. For more
information, see Section 2 "A Short History of the A.S.S. Hierachy",
earlier in this document. The current moderator is Michael Handler
(handler@sub-rosa.com).


   net.sexuality.stories
   net.sexuality.stories.discuss

These are not on Usenet, but rather Usenet II (for more information, see
http://www.usenet2.org). The "czar" is, you guessed it, Eli-the-Bearded
(net-sexuality-stories@qz.little-neck.ny.us). At the moment, these
groups generate very little traffic, but this may change. For more
information about the groups, see Eli's guidelines at

http://www.dejanews.com/getdoc.xp?AN=386987273



Section 4: Story Codes
----------------------

In any general group such as alt.sex.stories, it is helpful for readers
to know what they are getting themselves into before they start reading
a story. The groups contain stories with descriptions of every sexual
activity you could think of (and some you couldn't), and people
naturally want to avoid stories that they would be "squicked" by (more
on that term later). Conversely, they would like to know when a story
has a theme which specially interests them (e.g. romance). To solve this
problem, a rather elaborate "coding" system has been developed. Written
properly, the codes indicate the participants, the level of consent and
any other special modifiers.

The only time a story *should* be completely uncoded is when it is
"vanilla" - that is, non-kinky male-female sexual activity between
consenting adults. Unfortunately, readers cannot assume as much from
uncoded stories. Some authors object to this system, feeling that their
stories should be read for their literary value, regardless of what kind
of sex occurs. It also causes problems where pre-disclosure of a
particular sexual activity would "give away" the story. In these
situations, an author or reposter should still put "content warning" or
something similar in the subject header if the story is not completely
"vanilla".

Some codes are self-explanatory; the following list describes only those
which are commonly used and require explanation. The explanations are
partly taken from the most complete references on the subject, currently
maintained by Uther Pendragon (anon584c@nyx.net). Anyone looking for a
complete listing should consult these documents. There are two, one for
authors and one for readers, available at:

http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/austen/104/faq_read.htm
(for readers)
http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/austen/104/faq_writ.htm
(for authors)


Participants:

M    An adult male (over 18)
m    Boy - Teenager (not yet 18)
b    Boy - Pre-teen (age 12 or less)
F    An adult female (over 18)
f    Girl - Teenager (not yet 18)
g    Girl - Pre-teen (age 12 or less)

These occur in any permutation (so "MF" indicates heterosexual adult
sex, "mf" indicates heterosexual teenage sex, etc). A "+" indicates two
or more of the same sex (e.g. "MF+" means several women with the same
man). Additionally, "-solo" appended to any of the above indicates
masturbation by that participant (e.g. "F-solo").

Level of Consent:

rom       Romantic: sex between characters in love
con(s)    Consensual, non-romantic sexual activity
reluc     Reluctant: coercion of some kind involved
nc        Non-consensual sexual activity

Other Features:

-dom      Domination by any participant (e.g. Mdom, Fdom)
1st       First time
bd        Bondage, discipline
exhib     Exhibitionism: sex in public places
hist      Historical: stories set before c. 1950
hum       Humiliation
(im)preg  Impregnation, sex with pregnant woman
inter(r)  Interracial
inc       Incest
lac       Lactation: (human) milk
mc        Mind control: hypnotism etc.
sm        Sadomasochism
tg        Transgender
voy       Voyeurism
ws        Water sports (golden showers)


Although this list may seem intimidating for the "vanilla" reader, a great
many stories, and possibly the majority, would just be coded MF cons
and/or rom.


Section 5: Posting Stories
--------------------------

If you want a post or repost a story, there are a few conventions which
have been established to make reading easier for everyone. Following
them will ensure that the story is appreciated by the widest possible
readership. As a quick guide, stories should:

* be in plain ASCII text only
* use around 72 characters per line
* be posted to alt.sex.stories.moderated as a first choice
* be no more than 200K per section
* have a Subject line which describes the author, title and content

More detailed explanations of these guidelines follow.


Conversion and Formatting Considerations

Word Processors are most useful for spell checking and formatting, but
their native file formats are not a good idea for posting to a.s.s and
its related groups. Stories should be posted in plain ASCII text *only*
(that is, no zip or HTML files), and should include no extended
characters (e.g. "smart quotes" or accent marks), because, after passing
through many different servers, it's most unlikely that they will emerge
intact on the reader's news server. If you must post in a non-ASCII
format, use alt.binaries.stories.erotic. Most word processors provide an
option to save as "Plain Text" or similar. For specific instructions for
one of the most popular, please see Appendix C "Formatting Details for
Word".

The line length should be set to no more than 80 characters; 72 is the
most common standard. The following should be avoided: double spaced
lines, justified alignment (where the text fills the line completely
from left to right), and tabs. The interpretation of tabs varies between
different systems, so please use the equivalent number of normal spaces
instead.


Where and How to Post

Alt.Sex.Stories.Moderated is probably the first group to consider;
people are much more likely to see your story here since there's no
spam. Eli will automatically cross-post your story to alt.sex.stories,
so there's no need to manually add this yourself. In addition to normal
posting methods, a.s.s.m. submissions can be emailed to
story-submit@qz.little-neck.ny.us. Even though the group is moderated,
there is no need to have a Subject line such as "Please add
this to a.s.s.m", as is seen occasionally. Just post as you normally
would. Stories posted to a.s.s.m. *must* have a valid return address, or
else they will be rejected.

There's really only two reasons you would not post to a.s.s.m.: you
don't like your story being archived, or you've stated in the story that
you want to retain complete distribution control. If either (or both) of
these is the case, you should consider a.s.s.

Alt.Sex.Stories has the advantage of being more widely read, but it is
full of spam. You should also set the "Followup-To:" header to
"alt.sex.stories.d"; that way, people commenting on your story can just
hit reply and automatically post to the right group (in a.s.s.m., this
is done automatically). If you don't want your post archived, make sure
your post has an "X-NoArchive:yes" header, so Dejanews and other
services won't copy your post.

In addition to the above, you should consider cross-posting to one of
the "special interest" groups if your story is appropriate, and also to
alt.erotic.stories. Alt.Binaries.Stories.Erotic should only be used if
you have a really good reason, e.g. your story takes advantage of HTML
formatting. Posts to a.s.s.m.g can be emailed to
moderated.stories@bigfoot.com.

To make sure people notice your story, especially if you're a new
author, you might want to post a "Spotlight" in a.s.s.d. For more
information, see Section 8: ASSD.


Part Division

If your story is over 60K in size, consider dividing it up into
sections, preferably at chapter or part divisions. Many stories will be
divided at more frequent intervals, due to the rules imposed by
individual ISPs or the limitations of newsreading software. In general,
however, it's a good idea to keep divisions to a minimum. No-one likes
searching for missing story sections in a spam-filled group like a.s.s.


Post Structure

The first thing to consider is the format of your Subject line. Readers
browsing the groups will use this to decide whether or not to read a
story, so it's a good idea to make it as informative as possible. It
should contain the following information: the title of the story, the
author, the appropriate codes (unless you object to the idea), and the
chapter or part number (if applicable). There are many ways of
presenting all this, but a common way is:

{Author}"Title"(codes)[x/y]
e.g. {John}"Fun with Mary"(MF con)[1/2]

This is the method proposed in the Codes FAQ (see that document for more
information), and it has begun to be adopted by many authors and
reposters.

Regardless of how the information is presented, the most common feature
omitted from the subject line is the author's name; posters are strongly
advised to include this detail for the benefit of readers browsing the
group.

Further information can be provided at the start of the line: "RP" (for
repost) means this is a story which has already been posted to the group
at some stage; "New" means this a story which has never been posted
anywhere before. If you have changed your story since its last post,
it's a good idea to indicate this with "Rev" (for revised). Finally,
if you're posting to a.s.s., you can prefix the whole thing with {ASS}
to indicate this is an actual story and not just spam. This is not
neccessary for a.s.s.m. as it filters out spam anyway.

Make sure the author's name, email address and story title are stated at
the start of the story. If this is a section of a multi-part story, you
should indicate as much at the end of the message body (e.g. "End of
Part 1. Continued in Part 2..."). Some authors will restate the story
title and authorship again at the end of the post, as an extra defence
against unscrupulous reposters (see the next section).


Section 6: Old Stories, Reposting and Distribution
--------------------------------------------------

The increased availibility of large archives has decreased the need for
stories to be reposted. Archives have distinct advantages over reposts:
they provide a relatively easy way to obtain a story, and help reduce
traffic on the groups. However, they have one major disadvantage:
excellent stories from the past are "hidden away", and newcomers to the
groups are limited to whatever is being cuurently written. Reposters,
therefore, have the primary function of keeping stories "alive" after
their authors have ceased posting them. Readers should not just let
reposters do all the work for them: exploration of archives such
as http://www.qz.to/erotica and http://www.dejanews.com (especially
using the "Power Search" facility) is strongly encouraged. Sometimes,
you will turn up "hidden gems" that thoroughly deserve to be reposted.

Be wary, however, when reposting. A few authors wish to retain
*complete* distribution control over their story (that is, only they
themselves can repost it). An author will usually make this quite clear
in his/her introductory remarks, and these wishes should be respected.
This admonition applies equally to anyone planning to make a story
accessible via a WWW archive. It is vital for authors to make clear
exactly what their distribution policy is.

The most common distribution policy in the groups states that copyright
is retained by the author, but the story may be distributed by anyone as
long as no text is changed, the details of authorship are retained, and
the process of distribution makes no money for the distributor. Not
surprisingly, very few people take kindly to the idea of someone making
money from a story which its author made available for free. Note that
this effectively rules out use of a story on commercial sites or
CD-ROMs.

If a story makes no mention of a distribution policy, you should contact
the author and ask him/her whether you can repost or archive it. If the
author's email address is missing or invalid, make every attempt to
discover their current contact details. If contacting the author is
still not possible, it is *probably* acceptable to distribute the story,
following the guidelines given above. Note that this technically
constitutes copyright infringment, and several people would strongly
disagree with me on this policy (see Section 7). It is impossible to
reach a consensus on this point; it is up to individual reposters
to decide for themselves.

There are quite a few stories circulating with unknown or attributed
authorship, including some of exceptional quality. This situation is
partly due to unscrupulous reposters who deliberately remove indications
of authorship and copyright from authors' texts. It is also due to
authors who fail to state their authorship in the body of the message
(as opposed to the Subject line). Authors should *always* restate their
name and email address before the start of the story (and possibly at
its end) to help guard against their authorship being "detached" when
someone else reposts it.

So, if you want to repost a story not written by yourself, please follow
these guidelines:

* Make sure the author has given permission to repost it, if at all
possible.
* Indicate that this is a repost, and the story is not by yourself.
* If you are taking the story from an original post by the author,
preserve all the original headers and authorial comments.


Section 7: Copyright and Legal Issues
-------------------------------------

"R.a.e, [and by extension, a.s.s.] by its very nature of being part of
Usenet, is a cesspool with respect to copyright law. Since the mere act
of posting to Usenet causes thousands of copies of the article to be
made, there must be an implicit granting of duplication rights with each
post if Usenet is at all legal under the Berne Convention. How far those
implicit rights extend is the deep murky filth of the cesspool."

- Eli the Bearded


Firstly, anyone interested in the issue of copyright on Usenet should
read Brad Templeton's "10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained" at
http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html.

This establishes the important point that an author has a copyright on
anything they post to Usenet, regardless of whether he/she actually
states this. It follows that an author could have legal remedies if
someone makes an unauthorized repost, or includes their story on a
website or CD-ROM (such distrubution is not "fair use"). Many authors
don't mind people reposting their stories, and will state as much at the
start of the story. Some authors don't want their stories reposted at
all, and there is indeed the possibility of legal action if someone does
so.

So, caveat missor: it is the reposter's responsibility to ensure that
the original author granted general distribution rights. If no statement
was made on this matter, the reposter can assume the _de facto_
"duplication allowed for non-commercial use" principle, but does so at
his/her own risk.

In October 1998, the U.S. Congress passed a bill providing new
safeguards on electronic copyright. Any person found to have removed
or altered an author's legitimate "copyright management information"
(i.e. indications of authorship, title and copying restrictions)
will be liable in civil action. In addition, if the perpetrator is
found to have done this for commercial gain (e.g. a pay site operator)
the act becomes a criminal offense, punishable by up to a $500,000 fine
and/or five years jail. For the text of the bill, see
ftp://ftp.loc.gov/pub/thomas/c105/h2281.ih.txt. This obviously has
great implications for reposters and commercial story sites.

A quite separate but equally problematic issue is the very legality of
the stories themselves. In Singapore, for example, ISPs are forbidden
from distributing contents which "are pornographic or otherwise
obscene", "promote permissiveness or promiscuity", "depict or promote
gross exploitation of...nudity [or] sex," and many more. Even in
countries with relatively liberal censorship laws, stories which depict
illegal activities could be subject to the same restrictions. All
readers and contributors should be aware of the legal ramifications in
their jurisdictions of possessing and distributing such material. A
useful resource in this respect is the Electronic Frontier Foundation at
http://www.eff.org.


Section 8: Alt.Sex.Stories.d
----------------------------

One of the surest signs that the a.s.s. hierachy supports a "community"
is to be found in a.s.s.d. The "d" stands for discussion - that is,
anything related to erotic stories which isn't actually a story itself.
This is the place to announce new stories, ask for reposts, discuss the
process of writing, and post reviews (and reviews of reviews :-).
Surprisingly, very few of the threads focus on specific stories, and
frequently discussion will move off on a tangent to issues of a more
general nature. The number of active participants is quite small, but
there are many occasional contributors, and almost certainly a high
proportion of lurkers. The readers of a.s.s.d, however, are a small
subset of the total a.s.s. readership.

A few commonly used terms may require explanation. A "stroke" story is
one which does not aspire to be a work of "literature" - its purpose is
sexual arousal only. A "genre" writer is someone who concentrates on
writing about an unusual sexual behaviour, as opposed to "vanilla"
writers who concentrate on stories of the standard adult male-female
consensual variety. There is much discussion about whether these
distinctions should exist. To be "squicked" by a story or genre means
one is repulsed by those activities, and doesn't find them sexually
arousing at all.

If you begin a thread on a.s.s.d, *always* prefix your subject line with
"{ASSD}", e.g. "{ASSD} Literary vs. Stroke". This convention is used to
indicate a genuine post (as opposed to spam), and it has been very
effective. Spammers, being terminally stupid people, haven't worked it
out yet :-) Some readers will filter out posts that don't use this
convention, so make sure you use it. Note, however, that there's no need
to rearrange your newsreader's suggested header for replies; for example
"Re: {ASSD} Literary vs. Stroke" is correct, while "{ASSD} Re: Literary
vs. Stroke" is not. If you discover a genuine post that is not using
this convention, please email the post's author and let them know about
it.

Sometimes you may see a message with a Subject header including the word
"Spot" or "Spotlight". This convention, originally suggested by Malinov
indicates that the message is designed to bring attention to a
particular story which is currently available somewhere in the groups.
The Spotlight may be written by the story's author, or by a reader
wishing to give their quick opinion of the story, as opposed to a more
formal, in-depth "review".

Frequently discussed topics include: reviews and reviewers, the
distinction between erotica and pornography, Internet copyright,
the reponsibilities of authors to their readers, "stroke" vs.
"literary" stories, and the amount of thanks (or lack thereof)
that authors receive for their work.

The occasional references to "Kim" are to an author and amazingly
active a.s.s.d contributor. From her entry in November 1997 to her
departure in July 1998, she penned over 1300 messages to the group.


Section 9: Reviews and Reviewers
--------------------------------

Undoubtedly, no other subject has caused more disagreement, and indeed
anger within the erotic stories community than the subject of reviews
and reviewing techniques. New readers may wonder what the problem is, so
I will present an overview of the issues involved, followed by an
introduction to well-known reviewers.

Unlike movie and book reviews, where the creator of the work is in a
sense "shielded" from the review by his or her reputation and marketing,
public story reviews take place in a world where everyone is equal.
Equally unlike movie and book reviews, the creator of the work receives
absolutely no remuneration for their efforts, apart from praise (and
criticism) from the community. In such an atmosphere, there is the
danger of authors interpreting all negative comments as a personal
slight, and the impression that reviewers are passing judgement from "on
high".

Almost without exception, reviewers have tended to focus upon the
"literary" aspects of the story, such as the plot, character development
and grammatical details. This conflicts with the primary function of a
great many stories, generally termed "stroke", whose function is purely
to arouse. For these stories, it has been suggested that "literary"
quality is basically irrelevant, and the real measure of quality is how
"hot" the story is. There is disagreement as to how far the standards of
one can be applied to the other.

The most contentious issue of all is whether reviewers should review
stories which contain content that they are "squicked" by. Debate
generally focuses upon whether the reviewer has the "right" to review
the story in the first place, and whether the reviewer's rating of the
story should be affected by the "squick" content. Some would argue that
the only people "qualified" to write a review are those with a special
interest in whatever unusual behaviour is being described, as they are
the ones for whom the story is intended. Others would argue that
standards of writing are the same, regardless of genre, which
makes any story a legitimate subject, regardless of the reviewer's
"squicks".

The centre of the argument rests with the "personal appeal" of the story
to the reviewer. Particular praise and opprobium has been reserved for
the ratings system of Celeste, which used a three-part rating of
technical quality, plot and character, and "appeal to reviewer". This
method has been criticised as supposedly blurring the distinction
between the essentially "neutral" categories of technical and plot
quality, and the highly personal and subjective "personal appeal".

There is debate also as to what the function of a review should be - a
description of currently available stories, so readers can choose ones
which look interesting, or a literary critique with ratings. All reviews
fufill both these aspects to some degree (though with varying emphasis),
and it has been argued that these supposedly conflicting functions
should be kept entirely separate.

All these concerns are not so much a problem as they might seem. Most
authors are happy to receive praise and constructive criticisms about
their stories. Most authors also try to write stories that are both
well-written and "hot" at the same time. Most reviewers tend to focus on
stories which they are not "squicked" by. All the same, if an author
does not want a story publicly reviewed, this should be made clear in
the introductory remarks, and these wishes should be respected by a
prospective reviewer. If there are no remarks in the introduction
regarding reviews, this is considered to be permission to review the
story. For one experienced reviewer's guidelines on reviewing, see
http://members.aol.com/ladycyrrh/Other/rules.html.


Presently, there are two reviewers who have established a sizeable
repertory of "organised" reviews - that is, a group of reviews including
editorial commentary and some sort of ratings system, released together
as an "issue". There are many instances of people starting such
endeavours, and then going quiet after a few issues. The two following
reviewers have established reputations, mainly because they have been
able to release their reviews, on something like a regular basis, for a
long time. They hold no "official" status within the groups at all.

Celeste (celeste801@aol.com) reviewed stories from July 1995 to October
1998, when a major computer crash halted the Celestial Reviews
(see http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/Year98/17398.txt). In December 1998,
however, Bitbard and Miss Behavin' assumed joint editorship of Celeste's
publication (with her blessing), and they continue to release the series,
now consisting entirely of reviews by themselves and the other "guest"
reviewers. This arrangement will continue until such time as Celeste
resumes her work (if ever).

Celeste herself produced 309 issues of the "Celestial Reviews", with a
consistency rarely found in newsgroups of any type. They are still an
invaluable resource for ASS/M readers. She also compiled lists of the best
stories reviewed each month and year, administered a proofreading service,
and occasionally organised special competitions (such as the annual award
for the best Christmas story). All these arrangements are expected to
continue under the new editors. For more information about Celeste,
see her FAQ at http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/Year98/15209.txt.

>From Issue 65, she used a three-part ratings system, giving a mark
out of ten for technical quality, plot and character development, and
appeal to the reviewer. Guest reviewers (who sometimes used a different
ratings system) were a regular feature since Issue 193. It has become
quite common practice to cite a review as follows: "10-10-10 CR241",
meaning that the story was reviewed in Celestial Reviews 241, and
received top marks in all categories.

A complete archive of the reviews (except the Top Stories lists) is
available at

ftp://ftp.asstr.org/pub/Collections/Celestial_Reviews/

Issues 1-180, including the Top Stories List for each month, are
archived at

http://www.qz.to/erotica/review/

while Issues 155 to the present (some incorrectly indexed), also
including the Top Stories lists, and reviews by others, are at

http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/reviews.html

There was also an archive of most issues, with links to most of the
actual stories, at http://www.gilglin.com/celeste. This is presently
unavailable due to site overloading, and it is unclear whether it
will return.


Lady Cyrrh (ladycyrrh@aol.com) began writing the "Annex" Reviews in May
1997. Her professed intention was to review the kind of stories which
Celeste avoided, which means her reviews generally concentrate on the
less "vanilla" material. She uses a simple ratings scale of A+ to D-,
causing less controversy than Celeste's more elaborate system.
Unfortunately, due to injury she has had to reduce the frequency of
her reviews.

A complete archive of all her reviews, plus a FAQ and much other useful
material, is online at her website: http://members.aol.com/ladycyrrh.


Section 10: Thanking Authors
----------------------------

The development of the internet has allowed the fast and inexpensive
distribution of erotic literature. Yet this very accessibility obscures
one very important point: for every story ever created, there has been
an author. Someone has sat down at their computer and devoted some of
their time and effort to creating that story. Some authors will spend
months, or even years, working on a story, thinking about its
characters, developing its plot, revising and proofreading. They will
then post it, for free.

When you read a story you like, email the author and thank them. It is
no good thinking to yourself "wow, what a great story" if the person to
whom this matters most does not hear it. Emailing an author serves two
important purposes: it tells the author that their work is being read
and appreciated, and it encourages them to write more stories. It
would also be polite, of course, for the author to acknowledge the
letter.

Don't think that "someone else will thank them anyway": in many cases,
the sad fact is that an author will receive *no* feedback whatsoever
about their work. Many good authors have quit over the years, citing
lack of support from readers as their main reason for doing so. Thanking
the author can be rewarding for readers, too. You may just receive a
short response thanking you for your comments; some readers, however,
have engaged in extended correspondences with authors about their
stories and characters.

Writing is hard work. Although we are all guilty of freeloading
sometimes, the least an author can expect in payment for their hard work
is the knowledge that their stories are being read and enjoyed, all
around the world.


Section 11: Anonymous Posting
-----------------------------

Due to the nature of many stories posted to the hierachy (especially in
light of the issues outlined in Section 7), most people who participate
will conceal their identity in some way. There are many different ways
of doing this, with varying degrees of security. I have no intention of
covering this vast topic in any degree of detail; I am just going to
outline some methods of anonymous posting.

One way to post anonymously is to establish a "virtual" email account
which redirects all its mail to your real email address. That way, you
can post and send email using the virtual address, while concealing your
identity from the recipients. An example of this service is
http://www.netforward.com. Another way is to use one of the burgeoning
"free email" accounts, in conjunction with a mail2news address or a
public posting service (such as Dejanews). For a list of many providers,
see http://www.emailaddresses.com. Note that these services are not
designed to be safe anonymizers (see, for example,
http://www.hotmail.com/nospam.html) and only provide a very basic level
of security.

If you don't require replies to your post, consider using an anonymous
remailer such as Replay posting service
(http://www.replay.com/remailer). This will send your post to a
newsgroup, but remove all indications of where it was posted from,
and set the Reply-to header to "nobody@replay.com", an invalid address.
Note that this will not work with alt.sex.stories.moderated as it
requires a valid return address.

One service which seems to be quite popular is nym.alias.net, at
http://www.publius.net/n.a.n.html. This is an anonymous remailer service
(you get an address like yourname@nym.alias.net), used in conjunction
with mail2news, and it is very secure. It does, however, require a
knowledge of the encryption program PGP and/or client software such as
Private Idaho. For more information about this, see
http://www.dnai.com/~wussery/pgp.html.

Finally, a few services offer anonymous email and Usenet posting at a
cost. See http://www.nymserver.com and http://www.mailanon.com for
examples.


Section 12: Spam and how to deal with it
----------------------------------------

So far, this FAQ has overlooked the reality of browsing an unmoderated
and unfiltered newsgroup within the alt.sex.stories hierachy. Typically,
most messages will not be stories at all; they will be spam of the
"VIRGIN SLUT CHEERLEADER WANTS YOUR COCK!!!" variety :-) It is possible,
however, to eliminate most if not all of this spam.

The easiest way to avoid spam is to simply use the group which
eliminates it totally: alt.sex.stories.moderated. As stated before,
a.s.s.m. should be the group of choice for both writers and readers
unless they have a good reason not to utilise it.

When browsing unmoderated groups, there are two general methods to avoid
the spam. The first is to use a news server which has software (such as
Spam Hippo) to filter out the spam before the posts reach the reader.
Services such as Newsguy (http://www.newsguy.com) offer this service;
they are, however, not free. If you don't mind the advertising, Dejanews
(http://www.dejanews.com) is a free WWW-based alternative which
generally does a good job of removing spam.

The second method involves using a newsreader on the reader's local
computer to filter out the spam. Not all news programs provide this
feature; programs that do include the shareware Gravity
(http://www.microplanet.com), and the commercial Forte Agent
(http://www.forteinc.com/agent). Generally, you configure the program to
delete posts based on words that do (or don't) appear in the Subject
lines. For example, in alt.sex.stories.d, you can tell the program to
remove any messages that don't have "{ASSD}" in them, since they are
almost certainly spam. For the other groups (e.g. alt.sex.stories), the
program could remove posts which include common spam words, such as
"pics", "slut", etc. It is difficult to give specific details because of
the great variety in program design; see Appendix B "Filtering in Forte
Agent" for detailed instructions on how to achieve this with one of the
most popular newsreaders.

Spammers typically find valid email addresses by "harvesting" them from
newsgroups. For information about "spam-blocking" your email address,
see http://members.aol.com/emailfaq/mungfaq.txt.

For more information about spam and how to fight it, see

http://www.cauce.org
(The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email)
http://spam.abuse.net/spam  (Fight Spam on the Internet)
http://www.cybernothing.org/faqs/net-abuse-faq.html (The Net Abuse FAQ)


Section 13: How to find good stories
------------------------------------

In the face of so many thousands of stories, new readers are inevitably
faced with the question "where do I start?". There are several documents
available which provide lists of stories, categorised by author and
title. One is compiled by Ray N. Velez (ii361@cleveland.freenet.edu),
and provides the title, author, genre and a numerical rating for over
2000 stories. It is posted periodically to a.s.s. and is also available
at ftp://ftp.asstr.org/pub/Interesting_Reading/storylst.txt.

Annex B of Ole Joe's Guide lists hundreds of stories, by author:

http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/austen/104/hello.htm

Celeste compiled lists of the Top 100 stories reviewed each year:

* 1995 edition - http://www.qz.to/erotica/review/celes95t.txt
* 1996 edition - http://www.qz.to/erotica/review/celes96t.txt
* 1997 edition - http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/Year98/7120.txt

An excellent resource has been compiled by Bitbard, in the form of links
to almost all of the stories in Celeste's monthly Top 20 lists. These
are available at

http://bitbard.pair.com/dig.html

In addition, the present author has compiled links to all of the
stories in Celeste's Top 100 of 1995. This is available at

http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/Year98/15509.txt

Alt.sex.stories.d is also a good place to check for announcements and
discussion of good stories. If you have trouble locating a story, you
can request a repost in a.s.s.d; however, the vast majority of stories
are freely available from one of the major archives. For instructions on
finding a particular story, see Appendix A.


Section 14: Further Reading
---------------------------

There are a number of excellent documents which provide additional
information about various aspects of a.s.s. The latest text versions
(if there are ones) are always available from

ftp://ftp.asstr.org/pub/Interesting_Reading/

and additional links are listed below for HTML versions, or if the
document has a quasi-"official" location.


The a.s.s.* Free Story FAQ, by Anne747

This is an honourable attempt to drive out the spammers and pay-sites,
by providing a list of free, "author-friendly" websites which are
related in some way to the a.s.s. hierachy. The official location is:

http://annejet.pair.com/fs-faq.html


The Guide to a.s.s, by Ole Joe (ole.joe@poboxes.com)

An amazing achievement, this is an "encyclopedia" of story authors, plus
a very comprehensive list of stories. It is essential reading for anyone
new to the groups, and indispensable as a reference for those creating
story collections of their own. A new version is posted to
alt.sex.stories every few months, and an HTML version (not neccessarily
the latest edition) is online at

http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/austen/104/hello.htm


Codes in a.s.s. Stories, by Uther Pendragon (anon584c@nyx.net)

There are in fact two documents with this title, one designed for
authors and reposters, and one for readers. Both explain the meaning of
the story codes which commonly appear in the Subject header (see Section
4 of this FAQ). Both documents are posted periodically to the
newsgroups, and are also available (not neccessarily the latest version)
at:

http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/austen/104/faq_writ.htm
(for writers)
http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/austen/104/faq_read.htm
(for readers)


The Alt.Sex.Stories.Moderated FAQ, by Eli-the-Bearded (eli@netusa.net)

Explains how to post to this newsgroup, with important information about
acceptable content and common problems. First-time posters to a.s.s.m.
are encouraged to read this document first. It is posted monthly to the
group and is also available from:

http://www.qz.to/erotica/assm/faq.html


The Celestial FAQ, by Celeste (celeste801@aol.com)

Information about the hierachy's longest running series of reviews, and
their author. It explains her motivations, rating system, and provides a
list of authors and links. Other documents by Celeste include: Celestial
Grammar, Advanced Celestial Grammar, the story "Virtuous Reality" and
the List of Credulous Assumptions (see CR 175).


Sex Stories: What You Should Know, by Kim and Seurat

A short guide to the basics of reading and posting, this document filled
the need for a descriptive document about the alt.sex.stories hierachy
from the cessation of the previous FAQ to the establishment of the
present one. The document is currently maintained by Seurat
(seurat7@enter.net).


Stories List, by Ray N. Velez

A list of over 2460 stories, arranged by title and (in a separate
document) by author. Each entry lists the title, author and genre, and
gives a numerical rating out of 1000. A very wide range of stories is
listed, and later editions include a list of story websites.


The Alt.Sex.Stories FAQ, by Larry Summers (lsummers@onramp.net)

This document, no longer updated, was the "official" FAQ for quite a
long period of time. It is valuable historically, but contains much
information that is now outdated or irrelevent.


Torn Shapes of Desire, by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Not an electronic document, but rather a real book containing stories
previously published on the Internet by the author. Currently it is
the only example of its kind. Published by Intangible Asset
Manufacturing, 1997, ISBN 1885876033. For more information, see
http://www.iam.com/tsd.html. I have no commercial connection with
this book at all. A second volume, to be called "Maiden Voyage:
New Writers in Erotica", containing stories by many different
authors, is reportedly in the works.


Section 15: Closing Words
-------------------------

I felt it was appropriate to add some personal thoughts to this FAQ, as
they are relevant to the more philosophical issues surrounding these
newsgroups.

The sum total of ASS/M stories provides a reflection of virtually every
human behaviour, from the most depraved cruelty to the most loving
kindness. It is sexuality at its most diverse. There are stories that
have made me utterly disgusted that anyone would write such a thing,
and there are stories that have (once or twice) brought me to tears at
their perfection. All this lies within the imagination of authors.

One cannot assume that an author would personally endorse the
activities contained in his/her story. This is virtually a non-issue
for a "vanilla" story, but some stories, those including adult-minor sex
being obvious examples, are fraught with difficulty. Attitudes to these
stories range from total distaste to total permissiveness. For my part,
I tend towards the former opinion, but I am willing to acknowledge
the widely differing tastes of readers. "If you don't like a story,
don't read it".

The issue of those with vulnerable personalities being encouraged to do
in real life what they read in stories is one so emotive and complex
that I will not discuss it here. What I will mention is the fact that
people under the age of 18 may have access to these newsgroups. The
hierachy is intended for mature adults, obviously. Whether it would be
harmful for minors to access some or all of the stories in ASS/M, and
whether an author bears any kind of "responsibility" for their work, are
issues for individual contributors to decide.

The world in which ASS/M characters live, is, for the most part, one
without sexually transmitted diseases, accidental pregnancy, or the
social _mores_ and inhibitions which we take for granted in real life.
This of course forms a large part of its appeal. It behoves us to remember,
however, that these stories are only constructs of someone's imagination.

I truly believe that the hierachy contains some of the best writing
available on the internet today. I hope that this FAQ has assisted
in its promotion and appreciation.



Appendix A: How to find a particular story
------------------------------------------

There are several huge online archives available which provide access to
thousands of stories. It is likely that at least one of these archives
has the story you're looking for.

Dejanews (http://www.dejanews.com)

Dejanews has an archive of most newsgroups, dating back to March 1995.
It is best to use the "Power Search" facility, especially when looking
for older stories. Start by searching on the story's title, and then on
the author's name and words likely to appear in the story (e.g.
characters' names). If you get too many hits from non-story groups,
limit the search by putting "alt.sex.stories" in the Newsgroups: field
in addition to your original search argument (this will search the whole
hierachy, not just alt.sex.stories). A similar service is located at
http://www.reference.com, but the archive is much smaller.

Queasy (http://www.qz.to/cgi-bin/search)

This archive includes all posts to alt.sex.stories.moderated, in
addition to a substantial number from rec.arts.erotica and other
sources. It is the only archive to preserve posts dating from c.
1990-1994. The only proviso here is not to search on certain words that
are too common to be indexed (such as "sex") as this will result in a
failed search.

The Alt.Sex.Stories Text Repository
(http://www.asstr.org/search.html)

This FTP site (with a web interface) includes another archive of
a.s.s.m. postings, the large story collections of Ole Joe, Kristen and
others, and various other archives. The site is very popular, so at peak
times it might require several attempts to obtain the story.

Metacrawler (http://www.metacrawler.com)

As a last resort, you can try searching the web. It's possible that
someone has established an archive somewhere including the story you're
looking for.


Appendix B: Filtering in Forte Agent
------------------------------------

This section is offered as an example of how to implement
newsreader-based filtering. I am explaining Agent's system because it
seems to be one of the most widely used news programs (these
instructions are for Agent 1.5; earlier versions may differ slightly).

To establish a news filter in Agent, go to Window -> Open Usenet
Filters. Click the leftmost button on the toolbar (Add Kill Filter). Now
you have to tell Agent what articles to delete; a sample filter
expression for spam is:

(www|http|htm*|horny|jpg|slut|$|cum|escort*|hardcore|password|xxx|gay|
({free|live|adult|new}&{stuff|pics|sex|pussy|video|site|action|fuck*}))

This tells Agent to remove any article which has an Author or Subject
header containing any word in the first line ("www", "http" etc.) and/or
words found in both parts of the second line (for example, "free" and
"stuff"). To filter out spam in alt.sex.stories.d (using a separate kill
filter), a very effective expression is:

not subject: assd

This tells Agent to delete any article whose subject line doesn't
contain the text "assd" (the a.s.s.d community uses this convention to
indicate genuine posts; see Section 8 of this document). Once the filter
has been defined, click the "Delete" radio button in the "Kill action"
section of the dialog box. In the "Scope" section, choose either
"Global" or a specific group to which the filter will apply, and click
"OK" to close the dialog box. Agent will now filter posts each time it
retrieves new headers from the news server.

The above example is only a very limited demonstration of Agent's
filtering capability. For details about creating more complex
expressions, see Help -> How to use Agent -> How to create message
filters.


Appendix C: Formatting Details for Word
---------------------------------------

In this section I explain one possible (albeit complicated) way of
converting a Word document to a plain text file, suitable for posting
to Usenet. Word isn't really designed for converting documents to plain
text, but it is possible with a bit of manipulation to achieve this.

Firstly, you must change the default font to Courier: go to Format ->
Font, click Courier in the font list, click Default... and then click
Yes. More advanced users might wish to create a specific template for
writing stories with this option. Next, click Edit -> Select all (or press
Ctrl+A), and change the font to Courier, 10 point.

To save the document in the correct format, go to File -> Save As... and
pull down the "Save as type" menu. Choose "Text Only with Line Breaks"
(not "MS-DOS Text with Line Breaks", as this uses the extended ASCII
character set). If your document has unusual formatting (tables, text
columns etc.) use "Text with Layout" instead. Name the file and
click "Save". Next, open the text file you just created, using Word again.
Go to File -> Save As... and pull down the "Save as type" menu. This time
choose "Text only" (without Line Breaks), and give the file a different
filename to the one you created previously. You can now (finally) import
this file in your news reader and post it (in Agent, go to File ->
Insert Text File).

Note that Word will not preserve any paragraph indentations when it
converts the file, so it's best to use the ASS/M convention of a single
blank line to indicate paragraphs when writing.


Acknowledgements
----------------

I would like to thank all those who have offered comments and advice on
the content of this FAQ, especially See-El, Uther Pendragon and Mat Twassel.
I would especially like to thank the authors of alt.sex.stories, without whom,
after all, this FAQ would never have existed.


                                  The End


The Alt.Sex.Stories.* FAQ, v.1.2
by Apuleius (apuleius@poboxes.com)
21/12/98



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