Morgan Leigh — m_leigh on AO3 and morgan_leigh on Tumblr — is a fanfic writer who is editor-in-chief of Big Bang Press. But she first achieved notoriety on meme in mid-July 2014 for her Steve/Bucky high school AU "Middletown: A Study of Suburban Life." Nonnies in this thread and in a Fic Recs thread boggled at the sheer pretentiousness of it, from the epilogue…
And that is where we should leave them, is it not? That one moment, preserved in these final pages like amber, shot through with light—albeit the dull fluorescent light of the Middletown Police Station—that moment, when the realization of everything had come upon them, and in spite of all their bruises and discomforts the full flower of love was only just beginning to bloom, and the undiscovered country was nothing but rolling hill upon rolling hill seeded with the endless optimism of youth.
…to the author's note…
I knew from the first days of talking about this the tone and structure it was going to take, but I did not realize the extent to which it was literally going to be a Victorian novel in miniature (specifically, a riff on Middlemarch) until I was partway through writing it. I thought about Middlemarch and George Eliot constantly while writing, and also occasionally of To the Lighthouse, for the omniscient third person.
…to the author's reply to a comment:
And I'm very glad you stumbled upon it in the tag. :) I ALSO hate high school AUs which was, paradoxically, the impetus for this one, so I am pleased to be slowly winning people over, haha. AT LEAST TO THIS ONE. NOT TO ANY OTHERS. Though I, uh, feel like there probably... won't be... many others... in Captain America fandom anyway. Like, I'm not trying to be too conceited here, but. Well. REALISTICALLY SPEAKING, I think I have cornered the market.
About a week later, in the July 21 "Unpopular Fandom Opinions" thread, the very first nonny opined,
It's cruel to mock morgan_leigh and I was glad when she stopped trolling on Middletown.
Also: Middletown was good.
When asked how meme's treatment of Leigh was "cruel," they replied, "She's very young and wants to be published. Mocking her for that is ridiculous. Plenty of people do silly things in their mid-20s, that's not ground for calling her poisonous and telling her she'll never be published." In response to another person scoffing that mid-20s is "very young" in this context, the nonnyinsisted, "I think she is very clearly younger than her years." And, downthread, they continued to dig:
I suppose if you're also in your mid-20s, it doesn't seem very young. But she's clearly immature, naive, and so on. I don't see the point of mocking someone like that. She's not actually hurting anyone, she just has a bit of a big head.
Nonnies responded as follows:
- "Well, I agree with you that she sounds very immature and lives in a fandom bubble where non-conformist opinions are not tolerated. But it looks like it works for her."
- "She got $50,000 to start a small press. It's a little late to play the 'young and naive' card."
- "Nonnie in her 30s who works with teens: Nope, I've seen more emotional maturity, humility, humor, and grace in teens. She seems arrogant at best."
"[So-and-so] is just young for her age" immediately became something of a meme, starting within that wank thread itself. (Here are a few other examples.)
In the same wank, (possibly) another nonny argued that because "Middletown" is "obviously a thinly-veiled autobio fic drawing heavily on her own high school/town," mocking it is "like making fun of her life/friends/life experiences. It's like making fun of a teenager's diary entries. It's already dumb and makes you also look dumb by proxy." Responses to this argument were even less charitable (and should be read in full).
Leigh was next wanked on meme in early August, after she wrote an article for The Toast that was basically all about her many feels for Chris Evans at San Diego Comic-Con and how sad he looked the whole time. (It prompted a very discomfited reply from another Tumblr user.) Apparently Leigh did something similar with Sebastian Stan. Nonny: "She implied that Seb 'didn't deserve to be famous' since he's awkward in interviews and he needed to go back to Broadway. She disguises her 'headcanon' about real people with fancy wording, pseudo psychoanalysis and her 'own experiences of being an insider in Hollywood'."
On Aug. 10, a nonny reported that Leigh "deleted her most outrageous comments at AO3" (from "Middletown"). She came up again three days later; nonnies continued to mock that fic, and also noted a comment she left on someone else's fic that was all about her and how awesome she is.
Since then, Leigh has come up a few more times: in this late-October discussion criticizing her "pretty typical slasher view of Natasha [Romanov],", expressed with "so many words to say so little"; and in this mid-December thread basically started to vent about people whom nonnies wish would get out of their fandoms.
On Dec. 23, a nonnie dropped the following unattributed quote in Fandom Venting: "Someone asked me recently how I structure my sentences, praising my good flow. I was flattered, but wasn't sure what to say: the simple fact of the matter is that good writers possess an innate ability to write good sentences. No one, of course, emerges from the womb capable of crafting sentences like George Eliot or Henry James, just as no musician is born with the innate knowledge of how to play a Bach sonata: truly fine sentence-craft is the result of countless hours of reading, writing and editing; that is, countless hours of hard work. But underneath all of that work lies what we can call simply natural talent." It didn't take nonnies long to figure out Leigh was the origin of the quote, and they were not impressed.
- "Oh, that poor commenter! M_leigh would *love* to give you advice, really she would, but the problem is you're just not as ~special as she is and so there's really nothing you can do."
- "Does she...not realize how conceited this sounds? I was willing to give her a free pass on the whole Middletown thing -- it could be a one-off, who knows -- but this type of behavior seems to be a pattern for her."
- "Man, every time I think I might be a little too harsh on m_leigh and she can't really be as arrogant as she comes off as, I'm proven wrong. I really can't understand how someone in their early twenties can refer to themselves so straightforwardly as "a good writer" (and I say this as someone who is in her early twenties)."
In December 2014, one nonnie ranted that, "Your Howard Stark/"Shield Founders Fandom" fic is not literature, morgan_leigh/septembriseur/everyone in that little clique. I want to read it, but I absolutely will not read braindead wannabe-Franzen blitherings by a bunch of 20-something children who aren't capable of even a fraction of the complexity they think they're writing into their fic."
Leigh's dubious natural talent was brought up once again in late March 2015, when a nonny left a one word reponse in a thread called "Worst fic you ever read": Middletown.
In April 2015, one nonny discovered that Leigh had written a 19K fic for The Goldfinch for Yuletide, entitled A Grand Inquisition: Being an Investigation and Evaluation of Certain Things Done and Undone, Said and Unsaid, Over the Course of Many Years (or Perhaps Merely in Dreams). No one had read it, and no one wanted to make the attempt.
Along with the usual complaints, it was mentioned that Leigh was/is still trying to sell the fic to traditional publishers (not her own Big Bang Press) and that she had "asked her followers what YA books Middletown reminded them of (because YA wasn't really her ~thing~) so she could include mentions of them in her query letters. lol." One anon offered a sarcastically succinct suggestion ("Ah yes, the effervescent Completely Soulless Middlemarch Pastiche teen market.") and another bitterly complained, "If I never read another query letter by someone who has no idea how the fuck they should be pitching because they've clearly never read a book in the genre in their life ..."
Unexpectedly, Leigh's next major wank appearance had nothing to do with her fanfiction. Literature nonnies were enraged by her cavalier dismissal of Anne Brontë's writing
"lol I mean when I was being snide about her I was sort of being facetious, mainly my feelings toward her consist of a great deal of pity, because she was obviously the least talented of her sisters by a considerable margin and yet still stubbornly tried to do the same thing, which is admirable in a way, though also quite sad. Also she was OBVIOUSLY A HUGE BUZZKILL because of course the theory goes that she was essentially writing against her sisters – her work is quite moralizing whereas Charlotte’s and Emily’s was… not. I mean Charlotte was extremely religious and she clearly had strong religious and ethical beliefs, but Mr. Rochester is not exactly what contemporary society would have thought of as great husband material, which of course is precisely what makes him a great character (and so romantically appealing). I haven’t read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall so I can’t comment on that – obviously I will at some point – but in Agnes Grey the love interest is just awful, and the protagonist is even worse. It’s a totally unbearable book, the only good thing that can be said for it is that it’s short. But again, you kind of just want to pat her on the shoulder and be like, well, you tried. A for effort, D for execution."
and outraged at her declaration that Thomas Hardy was "the worst" after (by her own admission) having read one of his novels and seen one film adaptation.
Much discussion followed about the merits of all three Brontë sisters as well as Thomas Hardy. The sentence structure quote from Dec. 23 also resurfaced, although this time one anon claimed to be agree with Leigh's comments (Even so, how was that a response to the question "how do you structure your sentences?") and there was a small kerfluffle about punctuation.
In a thread entitled "Who is X and why does meme hate them?" someone asked about m_leigh. Answers were varied.