Issue 62

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Meditations on a Fandom Life

I've been mediating on my life in fannish delight in these last few days of May.

I started. I stopped. Typed. Hand written. I have very bad hand writing. There was eye strain. It wasn’t pretty.

The burning fire not pretty in my eyes got me to thinking about shows and fandoms. Supernatural as my new Buffy. Perhaps. Maybe. Not. Which has very little to do with Supernatural.

The ways and means of being in a fandom. I’ve been reading a lot of posts recently about fandom.

So, now… well it’s my journal, I’m going to saunter.

Summer afternoons on the edge of double digits when I’d go to work with my father. In the morning, I'd build a fort under his desk while the surface was covered in attempts at justice. Fragile balanced in a blind hand. Then he'd take me to where the used books lived. Deep in the corridors of dust and paper, I found a stack of Trek books. Compiled philosophical analyses of episodes. Plato in the “Empath.” Homosocial relationships in “The Enemy Within” and all that Vaseline glow. What it means when doors open when you walk up to them. The colors of hope. I knew Shakespeare first from “Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth,” long before I knew what a bard was.

Those brightly colored episodes, I watched largely alone. I didn't really know how to talk to children my own age about inner worlds.

I loved Trek because it was hopeful and happy and the characters went through weird wacky adventures and then they ended up laughing. I didn’t know then that the definition of comedy is a story that begins in sorrow and ends in joy, but I knew I liked it. The mythology. Kirk’s speeches. Okay, I cringe now, and yet… I love over the top speeches. The bickering. The camaraderie of the ensemble and the central triptych that was analyzed six ways from Sunday in these books. Because I was learning that I didn’t have to analyze just the stories I read in school. I could think about good stories too.

Good as in I liked it, not I’m supposed to like it. And I think about a comatose couch difference of opinions I had with Karen recently. There was something on t.v. about the gradual fade away of the Book review from newspapers. Not to get too into the substance (mainly I was stubbornly gleeful)(but damn our new couch is insanely comfortable. I want to fly it into outspace it’s so comfy). But there was a time I read book reviews in the newspaper every Sunday. And over years I realized, they never reviewed a book I loved. Only the books I was “supposed” to like, but when I read the descriptions didn’t sound half as innovative as what I was consuming. Learning to think about. The feelings toward things that we pick up in childhood at times do seem the most entrenched. Even with an adult perspective to go, ah ha, that’s why I feel that way. But I digress…

College was different. I watched Next Gen in a crowded room of like minds. Hushed when the episode was on and then erupting into cacophony. I didn't write much about it then. I had plenty of papers to write. Well, there was that one essay on “The Enemy Within.” and Mr Hyde and what it means when doors open when you approach. When streets lie empty and waiting for the footstep.

Then there was post college and the internet, this nascent thing. The wild and wooly days of Highlander on Usenet. Reading these WIP fic that went on forever and a day. And slash. I mean, I wrote about slash in that “Enemy Within” paper, but I hadn’t actually read any. Fic was mimeographed and my money went for books.

It was especially interesting watching Highlander and starting putting on slash glasses (you can put them on, you can take them off), because I’d spent college focusing on Medieval Romances (men, their homosocial bonds, and the women somewhere in the triangle. Ah, Marie de France. She wrote some amazingly short, layered, sarcastic fic in the 1200s.) and Victorian/Gothic Romance novels (women, the bloody nuns that follow them around, and the perfect men who finally show up again on page 300, freaking sublime happy fools).

Oh, and by the way this isn’t a comprehensive list. Do you know how long this post is? You should run away in terror now. As it was, I kept thinking of old fandoms, like old lovers photos in a cardboard box. There was mental sneezing. I may have developed metaphorical allergies. But I digress…

Ah, Highlander. All Historically with sword fighting and manly bonds. Put the slash glasses on. Pretty. Take them off and think about other eras that had concepts of intense relationships with people that weren’t sexual. Which at times I think it’s a little sad that we’ve lost that.

1st time I ever got together with other fans through the internet. There was a post horsemen party thing. All women. Most of which were ten/twenty years older than myself. All slash discussion. I wasn’t quite prepared for that type of squee.

Then there was Lois McMaster Bujold. When I was on the LMB mailing list, I was working my first technical writing job. Climbing ladders into interstitials spaces, so I could look through glass doors into clean rooms. Doors that must never be opened lest the filth get in.

Ah, Lois. Dry humor and grand adventures. Sharply drawn characters with layers and life, and I’d fall in love. Cordelia with her plan 9 sir and tests are a gift. Aral, ye gods Aral of the military poetry. And Miles - on whom I will always have a mad crush - broken, spinning free fall forward momentum run. Miles a minute conversations, unpack and sweep his imaginary hat. And the payoff, those wonderful moments where a character approached some magical truth about life, prayer, the universe. And nod and go, yes, exactly. More please.

I expressed my fanish enjoyment through drawing a map of all the worlds that the characters visited. Memorized the difference between a flange valve and a ball valve and the best way to Tau Ceti from Beta Colony. Tried to keep up on a flooding email list piling in my inbox where everything was analyzed and yet I never knew quite what to say. The sort of list that didn't suffer fools gladly.

Fools. Aren't we all.

And Buffy. Well, there's only one Buffy. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it was through group watching Buffy that I met Karen. Although we might have met otherwise, without the sort of discussion that went on, would I be sitting in our wonderful house, engulfed in our wonderful couch? Would my other social relationships spiral out the way they do? How can one know what if? It's the Butterfly effect. Who knows what rain it brings? What buffalos and cowgirls then on the prairie play?

And Buffy. As I’d excitedly discuss with Karen, that it was really a fandom made for us. Pop culture references and fast dialog and a tumbling ensemble cast and characterization and metaphors and girl power and literary parallels and, and, and… well, eventually there were essays.

We got to Fool for Love. And I wanted… more. What I found was the philosophy board. What I found was some of the most intense fanish experience I've ever felt. I'm not sure it's a moment that could ever be replicated again.

I’d watch the strings of posts and choose my fruit. Sometimes gorged. And sometimes, I'd see an episode that would turn my heart over, all the better to cook on the grill. I'd write these posts, like this only less coherent, and it was like… I don’t even know how I had the time now, but every day I’d long to words butterfly spiral because something about what I had seen touched some integral part of me, and I needed to transmute into prose that longing for words as transparent as the rain and in/effable as the sea.

Firefly took all of 40 minutes to do it to me. Mind that was an online and personal experience. Post cards, and going to shows, posts on every episode and too short died.
Watching/writing about Justice League was a bit different. I mean I know that comics fandom is a boys club, but I came in through Sandman & Dini & Tim. I talked about Batman with friends in college. Ten years later, I searched LJ for crumbs of passionate regard. Writing about Jl is/was like loving Beowulf or Gilgamesh. Something so large and epic and human and inhuman and you wonder not that there are no new stories, but that this epic is ours. Honest immigrants and blond bombshells, pow. Kicking evil's posterior in high heels that fit. Truth. Justice. All that stuff that’s both blind and seeing through walls. Past the fortresses of solitude to a new krypton rose given as a gift between friends.

Which I think should finally bring us to now. This crush. This intellectual canoodle.

S1 Supernatural, I didn't think I wanted to analyze SPN. LJ interplay interspersed with lives and other shows and other things. I keep dipping into TWOP, but so often it just hashes my mellow into tiny tables when I only want concatenations of literary exegesis.

Because by the time I got to S2, I wanted essays. And in a brief digression, Karen and I were reading romance novels on Sunday. She was reading the previously mentioned, “She poisons him, he kidnaps her, everyone is depressed about how horrible they are, romance ensues.” And I was reading a book I’d just purchased. A fluffy thing where a hair dresser becomes the Bionic woman after a night on the town. Everyone pairs off romantically and wears great clothes. And Karen said, “This book is so depressing.” And I laughed because I was thinking how boring all these happy people were.

That was S2. Well, not necessarily the poisoning, but the angst.

The season opener blew me away and the episodes that followed built on the emotional weight like a cliff gorge puffing freight train. Repetitive in the way that that a mountain switch back is. Like the rising chords of Metallica’s “Unforgiven” until you reach that one note (you know the one) and the little heart knot lets go. Until I reached the end of the season and spun at the inevitable. What does it mean when doors don’t open when you approach. What is the significance of a dirt cross roads. Of a dark road split down the middle with yellow reflective paint.

Now I’m mostly reading essays. I sometimes want to wax and wane. I don't as much. Not like with Buffy. A few short years and I feel myself at a completely different point in my life. Engaging in fandom in a different way.

But since this started out to be out why I gosh darn like Supernatural, what are the ways and in no particular order.

It's beautiful. And I don't mean the actors, who are of course as handsome and attractive as leads on a t.v. show are. I mean that that the show has a very particular visual style, which both tends to focus on browns and greys, and in daylight shots is full of very soft luminescent light. Every few episodes finds the characters walking down a halcyon country lane, pausing on a horribly beautiful mountain side with mountains purple majestic in the background, or pausing by some lake sans lady.

The older women. Here I’ll admit, most of the twentish young pretty things they’ve had on the show (that weren’t evil) haven’t been all that interesting. But, I’m in love with the straight shooting, whiskey drinking, shot gun toting women that keep popping up to problemetize the background. Perhaps Officer Kathleen & Det. Ballard shoot to keep lily souls pure, or perhaps… whatever, I like the older women.

Only two characters in the claustrophobic confines of a car. No where to go and at the same time infinite go because they're constantly moving. For me, horror is elbows cramped. It's emotionally appealing to have a horror story where the bedrock relationship is two car seats wide with a silent passenger in the backseat.

Brothers seem to be all the rage these days. This is the one that pings me. The rapport between the actors, the smooth flow from argument to concern to "Bitch," "Jerk." That the characters are reassessing each other over the seasons. The relationship morphing as they come to new perspectives. When I was a child, I saw as a child. I'm an adult now. Same eyes. Different angle.

The American family as dystopia. The nuclear family melted down leaving shattered scattered in its wake. Indian curses under the suburb, the new apartment complex is haunted by a ghostly serial killer, and the Winchesters get by through the corporate credit card grift. Criminals wanted dead or alive and that is an American sort of story. With the core the urban legends the bubble like Texas tea in the national consciousness.

A show that isn’t particularly metaphorical, nor subtle. Because the overarching metaphor of Bloody Mary or the demon of the crossroads or Killer Clowns are too broad and delta wide for straight forward metaphor. The demons they face may be reflective of their mental state, and yet they are the things themselves. With all the baggage of millennium of detritus, like the heroic tradition itself.

When for all its epic hero trappings, this is a story with a narrow focus. In neither finale, do the Winchesters stave off the apocalypse. Arguably other minor characters do. Theirs is a family business. Helping people. Hunting things. Saving each other. Failing to save themselves.

The 3rd character, the car. Enormous steel frame and gas guzzling as a tank. Roar of engine and capacious trunk. They couldn’t have picked a more American car. Chevy Impala full of repeating Winchester and Colt.

And subtle when they bother because, damn. Weapons that are keys and people that are doors and crossroads, and choices and… When you have an episode where a character thinks they’ve made a wish for X, but every bit of evidence says Y, and the character never figures it out… that’s just lovely.

The music they play. Mullet Rock. Metal. Blues. The music of smoky bars and pool and not really getting by. (Well and me on the elliptical. Love me some mullet rock). Really placing the story within a specific context of middle of the country, out of time joint and raise that lighter at the concert high. Even when everyone else is holding up cell phones.

The hotels. Which aside from being funny are a pure slice of Americana. Some superficial flavor of the place that they've alighted. The way that place wants/chooses to be perceived. The surface being wallpaper deep and accessory deep. And I’ll get back to that in a moment.

The recurring theme of perspective. Episode after episode deals with what seems to be real. Point of view. Tight POV tall tales. Long shots that pull back for the screaming woman on a movie set. Cut. The two girls that aren’t. The first episode with its three women in white. My perspective of which shifting as I learn more.

And seriously, enough is enough. Drawn line in the Rubicon flow away. I just can’t believe you read all that.

How about you?

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