Note: I've been thinking for some time that I should do a series of 'fandom reflections.' When you've been wrapped up and involved in fandom as long as I have, you find you want to share those experiences with your friends. But mostly it would be nice to have some kind of written record about all the smiles and tears that fandom has given me -- that I can look back on and read from time to time. (smile)
(Originally started on August 14. Finished today, August 22.)
Yes -- all this recent business brought on in "Harry Potter" fandom by the release of the latest book is without question mind-boggling. I won't even try to describe the vast amount of fen insanity, as so many others have already done this in amazing detail. (But there's a lot of hate being generated, that's for sure! Very unfortunate.)
Personally, I love HP -- both the books and the movies. But HP fandom isn't one of the main places I 'play' -- so it would be wrong to me to pretend to have special insight to the fen or the fandom. I don't.
But what I do have is more than four decades of experience in a myriad of fandoms -- and literally countless encounters with fans, many of whom have behaved in really crazy ways. (Yes, my sister Marilyn mistressmarilyn and I have been involved in various fandoms since the 1960's. We've just recently started to compile a list of our main life fandoms. But it's a ton of work, that due to the many years --and many, many interests -- that need to be covered!)
I used to be the president of an international fan club at one point. (My sister was the vice president and editor of our club newsletter.)
I had some wonderful experiences that included interacting with movie and television studios, interviewing celebrities and interacting with fans from around the world.
Craziness? You'd better believe it!
For example, I received a letter from a prison inmate who threatened me with physical injury (and potential death). And that threat was sent over something really petty, mind you! (For those wondering, another club member got upset with something our club administration had done, so she wrote this person and asked him to 'get' me. Nice behavior, huh? Well, said club member was involved in numerous 'feuds' with countless clubs and club members over the years, so I suppose it came as little surprise when I became yet another target!)
I have to admit that some people I met via fandom -- people I thought I both knew and liked -- did do some frightening things.
Or maddening things.
Or simply illogical things.
Where, oh where, was Mr. Spock when I needed him? (smile)
So why do we see so much craziness in fandom? Good question!
But before I get into this, I first want to state that overall I've had predominantly good experiences in fandom and with fen. I've made lifelong friends and we've even included some fen into our extended family.
I truly love fandom and fanfic, on the whole.
Having said that, there have been numerous occasions that were of the 'less pleasant' variety!
Marilyn and I have discussed the 'whys' more times than I care to admit. (You might think we're a bit fanatic about fandom! LOL.) But frankly, any group -- large or small -- will always contain people that we don't personally like.
By the way, how many times have I told someone I know that they should expect to find at least one person in the workplace that they simply can't get along with? I mean, the odds alone tell us it's bound to happen!
And the larger any group gets, the more potential for crazy behavior. It's simply a given. Believe me, it's not only fandom that has crazy behavior! Take a look at politics... Or pick some 'social issue' (like gay marriage) -- and then try to figure out the crazy behaviors on both sides of said issue. Scary stuff!
I've heard this question again and again: Does age play a factor in crazy behavior?
Certainly it does! And if we're being honest, we (who are older) all went through a period of time in our lives when we were more 'passionate' and 'emotional' about things -- and that often tends to take place during our teens (and even twenties).
So does that mean all 'crazy' fen are under 30?
Certainly not! I know lots of crazy people in fandom who are older. And I mean lots! (It's almost scary to contemplate.)
No, I don't think we can say that craziness is limited to any one age (or gender) in fandom. Nor is the ability to feel passionately about a fandom. Or the ability to get really emotional regarding one!
And feeling passionate about a fandom isn't a bad thing! Far from it! I personally believe those of us who are involved in fandoms often use our fan-interests to help us deal with the turbulences of life.
And a passionate fan can also be a very creative fan, who produces a lot of fanfic and fan art -- both of which I love!
Being emotionally involved in a fandom can even lead to actions that are for the greater good of the world. Many fen take part in charity events, for example. (I've certainly done this several times over the years.) We can't blast that type of behavior -- can we?
Well, getting back to 'crazy' fans, how do we define crazy, anyway?
For me, when someone behaves in a threatening fashion, that's crazy. Period. I don't care if the threats are written or verbal (rather than physical), they're still threats. (I have some letters on file where a woman went off in a very foul fashion, with amazing expletives, etc. I find it no coincidence that she has only one friend in her life -- and that friend is someone known in several fandoms for being a problem and a menace...)
Tossing around unfounded and unfair accusations is certainly another sign of crazy behavior.
Have you noticed that crazy people have a hard time being logical and fair? They're obviously right, so they don't need to listen (read) and weigh the opposite side of a given argument or discussion! (smile)
I'd like to say that all of my recent experiences in fandom have had less 'drama' and craziness than I faced in the past, but in all honesty, I can't.
Years ago I found certain portions of the "Starsky and Hutch" fandom who were unfriendly and not at all welcoming to newbies or 'outsiders.' But that's nothing to what I've experienced in LOTR fandom -- specifically in the Aragorn/Legolas fen community!
A little over a year ago I had some very unfair (and, yes, unfounded) accusations thrown at me by several Aragorn/Legolas fans.
By the way, that's the very first time I ever heard several fandom terms! Interesing, when you consider I've spent most of my life involved in fandom. (grin) But I now know that a 'sock puppet' is someone you invent, so that you can apparently back yourself up when you feel the need. Or so you can be a 'troll' and cause problems. 'Troll' is another word I was then unfamiliar with.
I'm assuming those terms came into existence online -- and in fandoms I'm not connected with. I was treated as if I'm a complete idiot for not knowing those terms, however! Ah, how quickly certain people like to assert their superior knowledge by treating others as ignorant or stupid. (smile)
Which simply reminds me why it's such a joy to know fans who share my own belief in being kind to the newbies of this world -- and those who have questions -- no matter how silly their questions and comments might be. (By the way, some of you reading this should recognize that I'm talking about you -- and how much I admire you. I remain delighted to find many moderators share a desire to genuinely help their members...)
The fandom definition list that I assisted with actually evolved from the desire of several moderators to make it easier for people to understand the meaning of all the slang and acronyms constantly bandied about in fandom. I have to admit it's not fun to have a term thrown at you that you're unfamiliar with -- nor to be treated like a fool when you admit you don't know the meaning... (Apparently it's more appropriate to pretend you do know -- or to simply ignore those terms -- rather than say 'I don't know' or ask a question!)
It's interesting that I was also accused (by one A/L) fan of 'acting superior,' supposedly based on my (advanced?) age. First of all, I don't have a superiority complex -- and I never have! (I once, long ago, had an inferioriy complex, though. LOL.) Plus I'm always open to hearing the other side of any discussion or argument. I admit I expect the same consideration to be extended to me, which might be the point where I'm being 'unreasonable,' I suppose...
(Spock? Can you send some of that logic my direction, please? No, no -- not for me... Ah ha! Maybe that's my problem! Spock, send it to the person I'm communicating with, please... sigh...)
Do I perhaps have a certain age-related advantage in fandom? Certainly I do. What is it? I've been involved in fandom since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Well, almost! Yes, I was part of the original slash fandom -- there when the name 'slash' came into existence. Of course that's a nice thing -- and I'm proud of it. But it doesn't make me more devoted or dedicated to any fandom I belong to than someone who has only been in a fandom for a year or two -- and I damn well know that! (I may be many things, but I'm far from arrogant.)
Going back to LOTR, there are some devoted Aragorn/Legolas fans who frequently bemoan the fact that people are 'moving away' from the fandom -- and who wonder why it's happening.
I'd be glad to offer my personal insight on the subject!
If people are made to feel that they're 'outsiders' in a fandom -- any fandom -- then there's no way they're going to want to continue to play there.
Apparently things are 'done differently' in Aragorn/Legolas (LOTR?) fandom, than they're done in other fandoms. Or so I was told on more than one occasion!
Different than in the other dozens and dozens of fandoms I've belonged to since the 60's?
Really? (Imagine an arched eyebrow here. Okay, I'm not able to lift only one brow the way Marilyn can! But imagine it, anyway. LOL.)
Well, another aspect of fandom craziness is tied up in the 'ownership' of a given fandom. It seems that some individuals have it in their heads that they can 'own' a fandom -- and then 'rule' over it!
Yes, yes, I've heard this one before! It makes me smile to think back to one of the first really obsessed (self-professed, by the way) fans I met in "Star Trek" fandom.
He was a 'Commodore' -- of course! I recall he made quite a point of the fact that Marilyn and I couldn't possibly be as serious about "Star Trek" as he was -- because we had so many various interests and he was completely devoted to and focused on "Star Trek" alone. (He was also in his teenage years at that time.)
Later on when he'd graduated from college and gone into the business world, he met up with us and confessed that he finally understood. He told us about numerous discussions he and another friend (his same age) had shared where they'd tried to figure out how our interests could be so diverse -- yet seeming still so passionate! By the way, even when he was younger and didn't quite 'get me,' he was still a very dear friend. And later, quite a fascinating one -- who became very diverse in his own interests! (grin)
Just off the top of my head I can think of several other people I've known who repeated that idea -- that only a fan who was devoted to one fandom (or maybe two) could really be 'true fans' of their given fandom.
Well, I've also been accused of being 'too wrapped up in' various fandoms. Those accusations generally came from people who aren't involved in fandoms and don't understand those of us who are. (Sure, they might love a certain sports team, or be 'batty' about quilting, but those are 'normal' interests, after all! LOL.)
I can't win this one, I guess!
So, have I ever been a crazy fan?
Sure! For one thing, I've costumed many, many times. (With groups of people who shared my interest in dressing up and then being 'in character.') I'd say the minute you're willing to actually dress up like someone and then appear in public dressed that way, you simply have to admit to a bit of craziness! (grin)
No, I didn't join my "Logan's Run" friends and chase through the halls of an expensive hotel, using flame-throwing guns to 'hunt' others down in appropriate "Logan's Run" fashion. (I was invited, though! I simply had to decline. LOL.)
But I understood the passion that made them do it! (Sure, it got our entire sci-fi convention kicked out of said hotel, but that's another story...)
Back in the days when a VCR was huge thing -- and weighed a ton -- we hauled one in a car, driving for hours so we could make a copy (from a pirated copy, mind you) of the movie "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan." (Yes, it would be released on video tape within a few months, but we simply couldn't wait that long to own it...)
Over the years I've mourned the loss of many a television series or fandom character, of course. In many cases with lots of tears! I can remember being really distraught over some of these losses. The people who witnessed my behavior must have found me pretty crazy, I'm sure!
Well, I guess there's both good and bad craziness associated with being a part of fandom.
I can't even try to argue the fact -- there are unpleasant people in every fandom. There are even people who seem to pride themselves on their obnoxious behavior. (And being 'snarky' seems to be fashionable in many online fandom circles.)
But let's face it -- there are unpleasant people in every area of life. So why should fandom be any different?
I remember a time when I foolishly believed that my fellow fen would be more tolerant of one another, simply because we shared common grounds.
I recall being shocked to see the so-called 'main stream' sci-fi community blasting fans of smaller -- and apparently less acceptable -- fandoms.
I used to rage -- and sometimes rant -- about how we needed to unite, and try to be understanding.
IDIC was our battle cry -- Mr. Spock's wonderful Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations!
Regardless, I've belonged to both popular and unpopular fandoms over several decades. Yes, people can spoil a fandom for you -- but there's always fandom on the horizon!
Which brings me to Marilyn's and my new favorite fandom, "S.W.A.T." -- specifically the slash pairing of Gamble/Street!
What wonderful fen that fandom has! So far I've yet to meet what I'd define as a bad-type-crazy fan in this interesting group of disparate people.
(For more on said fandom, be sure to read Marilyn's 'Gamble/Street' manifesto, (IR)RECONCILABLE PARTNERS.)
Craziness? As I've said, I was there for the beginning of slash fandom -- so I can tell you a thing or two about the crazies!
(Or we could talk paranoia -- which was rampant in the early slash days -- but that's probably a whole different topic...)
Maybe we need those crazy people, anyway. Who can say? Some days I find it helps me to better appreciate all the really warm, welcoming and supportive fen all around me!
I've personally been really very lucky to know many wonderful fen! Yes, it's true that I was a 'Fan Guest of Honor' (along with Marilyn) at a large convention held in Louisiana. And that I once helped run a con, aside from the many, many cons I've attended. Yes, I've also been published in zines and have received letters (we called them LoCs) from appreciative readers. All this aside from the online world, which has been equally warm to me as a member, moderator, writer and feedbacker.
Don't get me started this time around about feedbacking! I had a well-known online author once say I was her favorite all-time feedbacker -- and I she used to get more feedback than I could ever imagine a person receiving! It was too flattering for words, if I'm being honest! But I've also been told I was a 'bad' feedbacker -- but I'll try to keep in mind what fandom I was playing in at the time. (smile) (And, yes, we're back to the A/L fandom here, I'm afraid...)
Well, in spite of crazy fans, I continue to love fandom. And the fen I've met! So many wonderful (And that's a list I could never finish compiling...)