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A fan love post, with buttons and discussion questions - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
A fan love post, with buttons and discussion questions
Alas, I did end up missing the last day of Arisia. It stopped snowing, but the sidewalks were buried and no one had a chance to get to them. I have a feeling that I'll be walking to the bus stop on the side of the street tomorrow. Here's hoping the cars are watching.

Anyway, I always enjoy being around fen, and will report bit by bit on some panel stuff. For now, I want to talk about a panel I attended but didn't sit on, called "Fannish Eye For the Mundane Guy." Now, I wanted to do something with the same title, but actually make over a Mundane, but this isn't it; this was people talking about what it is that makes fen recognize one another, even outside of the cons. Most people talked a bit frankly about the general fannish lack of concern for excessive grooming rituals. ("Why bother with all that make-up and hair-styling?" someone in the audience said. "I'd rather sleep for forty-five minutes more. Or read.") But it's really other things, of course, and even well-groomed fen are fen. We thought of books in people's pockets. I brought up the fannish tendency to know exactly what we like in something (at work, I can usually tell if someone's a good candidate for a culty SF/F book when they ask me for a recommendation if I say, "What did you like about the last book you read?" and they answer in detail, with scenes; the vast majority of people, believe it or not, answer with, "I dunno. My friend was reading it"). There were cultural cues (more later), quirky buttons (again), and a certain level of comfort in one's own skin. So, discussion question the first: What are the tell-tale signs of a fannish person?

I knew I was "among my people," as a colleague put it, on Friday night up on Dealer's Row, not because I was shopping among many, many options of medieval clothing (didn't buy anything except a new circlet), but because on my way out of a room, a customer was talking to a dealer and said that she couldn't remember whether or not she'd re-loaded her pockets with money. She started rifling through her pockets, and the dealer said, "What has it got in its pocketses?" and everyone in the general vicinity laughed. (Tolkien ref, if you're from a different fandom.)

I then went to a panel discussing the PoA movie, with people who were able to reference every problem, were frustrated with the moving tree, and were all talking over one another about the issue of why in the world the one thing PoA must do to hold its weight in the series (the Marauder back story) was the thing most blatantly omitted. And then, bliss, after one of the panelists expressed relief that Cuaron kept Gary Oldman the brilliant actor from lapsing into Gary Oldman the scenery-vore (of Dracula: "Man, he'd already made it through the wallpaper and was working on the drywall!"), someone cried out, "Look at me! I'm crazy Gary Oldman!" Everyone kind of turned and looked like, "Is she reffing...?". The same person a few minutes later, when I brought up the totally culturally inappropriate hug, burst out with, "I think I directed a porno like this once."

"That's from Cleolinda!" I shouted.

And everyone laughed. We referenced "PoA in 15 minutes" several times after that.

And there are dozens of things like that. I was on a panel on flame wars, and I admitted that in the effort to avoid a flame war, I brought the rules from admin into the forum at TFN and suggested that we discuss how to deal with them, and before I even finished saying it, half of the people in the room were shaking their heads in sympathy. (For those who haven't yet experienced this, please allow me to strongly advise against making it seem like the Terms of Service are suddenly up for discussion. It never ends well, especially if you're not even someone who would make that decision.)

Anyway. Loads of things like that.

Fen are quirky. Not just in terms of fandom, but just... quirky. One of the panelists was wearing a t-shirt, which I later bought a copy of, which said, "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar." This made me laugh. It still makes me laugh. I know that if I wore this in a non-fannish environment, almost anyone who found it funny would also be likely to be a fan.

I bought six buttons. It's been awhile since I've had any buttons that were neither promotional nor political. They are:

(One removed, just 'cause I'm a paranoid little freakazoid.)

"Remember when liberals opposed totalitarians and supported free speech on campuses?" (I looked for a similar conservative one, but most of the anti-conservative ones--which were the vast majority--were pretty shrill.)

"S.P.E.W." (Of course.)

"got books?"

"I'm blogging this."

"Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it."

The button stand was totaly eclectic. There were night-person quotes, space exploration quotes, lots of cat-related quotes, language quotes, political quotes... all over the map. All they had in common was a kind of quirky, fannish sense of humor (at least the funny ones). They were doing good business. (Site here.)

Discussion question the second:

Okay, I was reading a book called Intellecutal Morons, which was slightly disappointing (too much ad hominem, not enough actual refutation of goofy theories), but amusing in light of the fact that it's the only time I've seen Margaret Sanger, Noam Chomsky, Leo Strauss, and Ayn Rand all skewered in the same volume. Which isn't really to say anything, just to set the scene. I'm reading in my dissatisfied but vaguely amused way when the author, in the conclusion, says, "Are the supporters of ______ who deny her early statements about ______ really any different from Star Trek fans who believe their favorite television program is real?"

How jarring was that? Gratuitous fan abuse at best, but mostly very puzzling. So I put the question to fellow fen:

Has anyone met a Trekkie was not considered delusional by other fen who believed that the show was real? Or an HP fan who thought Hogwarts was, or a Star Wars fan who thought the GFFA was? Or, really, any fandom at all. I've known people who've considered putting "Jedi" down as a religion, and a pair of gamers who got married with the bride having her hair done like her character. I've seen pics from SW-style weddings, and heard of one (in a Miss Manners book, no less, in a letter from a panicked mother-of-the-bride trying to word an invitation) in which the bride and groom were having a Betazed-style nude wedding.

But I've never met anyone who actually believes the Federation is real, or any fan who wouldn't think such a person slightly delusional if he did appear. (There are some who might not consider the delusion something in need of curing, but that's a different question.)

What are other people's experiences? It's a stereotype of fans that we've somehow lost touch with reality because we do imaginational play, but I've never met anyone who wasn't aware of, well... playing. Anyone else?
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epsilon_delta From: epsilon_delta Date: January 24th, 2005 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, at one point, I had a Legolas sub-section to a smallish LotR website and someone sent me fanmail because they thought I was Legolas. And when I e-mailed back saying I don't know how to contact Orlando Bloom and that Legolas was fictional, they e-mailed back essentially saying "Well, you never know! He could be real!"

I'm rather tempted think that it was either a joke, or... the girl had trouble differentiating Orlando and Legolas.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 24th, 2005 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Okay, point. There probably are such people in any hobby. (I can imagine a fantasy football player getting irked if the player in real life gets injured because the stats go down or something.) But I note that you thought it was... odd.
story645 From: story645 Date: January 24th, 2005 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I've read stuff written by fangirls that comes across as being delusional, but I don't know any real fans who actually think any of this stuff is real. I want that t-shirt and those buttons, and I think literature people would get a kick out of the shirt.
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: January 24th, 2005 04:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Love those buttons. Want me some. *g*

It's weird. I can also spot fen, and I'm not sure what it is. I went to orientation and the one other English major there was a short girl with looong hair. Without even talking, I knew she was in fandom. After talking to her for a minute, she showed me her elven brooch. And I'll see people on the street and kind of a flash of lightening, know that they're living in two worlds. Not sure what it is. *ponders*
From: leeflower Date: January 24th, 2005 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
It's sort of like Gaydar, in a way. Human beings have an uncanny ability to recognize other members of their own culture even outside of their cultural context.

But I know what you mean. Sometimes you just know.

That's actually what my icon's in reference to, beyond just the obvious Firefly joke. Fandom has a language and culture all its own, clear as day to anyone who's a part of it, and complete gibberish to anyone who'se not.
From: leeflower Date: January 24th, 2005 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)
The English Grammar quote is James D. Nichol. I have it as a sig in a few places.

Rules discussions. Yeah, those are brutal. Only thing worse is discussions of who should be a mod. Especially when I'm not looking for more mod staff at the time. (General note into the minds of site admins: Asking to be a mod is a damned good way to never become a mod. We want people who want to do the work, not people who are trying to earn the 'privilages.').

On fact and fiction: well there are nuts in every basket. Fandom generally tends to attract them because of our culture of acceptance. There are positively DROVES of them in World of Darkness fandom... I'm seriously going to have the next person who referrs to vampires in the first-person plural in my presence committed. But beyond their fellow nuts, it seems to me like most people just roll their eyes or snicker.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: January 24th, 2005 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about the "culture of acceptance" attracting the, shall we say, odd ducks. Back when I was a pagan, I found the same thing. Pagan circles, groups, covens, what have you often have this same culture of acceptance and attracted weirdos like bees to honey. (Different kinds of pagans and other non-mainstream religions have wank out the wazzoo, of course, but they're also like fandom in being simultaneously wanky and accepting.) Any "accepting" subculture - and I put Dumbledore's Order among them! - is going to attract some very strange people (Mundungus Fletcher, for instance) but that doesn't follow that all fen, or all pagans or whatever, are peculiar and misfit. Many are positively mainstream.
sreya From: sreya Date: January 24th, 2005 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Must admit that this certainly falls into a category of "hearsay", but my parents related a story about going to see the first Harry Potter movie. There was a woman there in full costume with the book on hand. Now, this didn't strike anyone in my family as odd -- most of us have dressed up for one movie or another, usually of the extreme sort. However, when the first glimpse of Hogwarts came up on screen, she sighed, clutching her book, and said "I'm going to go there someday." Full-grown woman. Needless to say, my parents were a bit weirded out by this.

Although, like I said, it's hearsay. I can't say it's impossible my parents exaggerated a bit, but on the other hand, it was weird enough that it really made an impression on them. And when my family has had Trekkies, SW nuts, LOTR obsession, you name it -- it takes quite a bit to weird us out!

Aside from that, sounds like the convention was a LOT of fun! The only convention I've been to was strictly science-fiction, and while there were some elements of fannish going-ons, it didn't seem to be quite so, well, internet-fandom influenced. Of course, this was several years ago now, and in Wisconsin, so maybe it's just that the internet took a little time to infiltrate the conventions.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: January 24th, 2005 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I've always loved the "men are from earth, women are from earth" quote, and the T-shirt quote made me giggle snarkily.

Interesting thoughts. I've never really considered myself "part of the fandom", I just kind of lurk on the edges, read a few exceptional fics, and get the more obvious jokes/references. But I kind of fit your description of "identifiable fan", so maybe I am part of the fandom...? Hmmm.
From: inyron Date: January 24th, 2005 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, a Betazed-style wedding, really?

I've never met anyone that out of touch with reality, no. Though I do know the stereotype is out there; Galaxy Quest comes to mind. I mean, besides the aliens who believe because they have no sense of deception or theatre, you had sad fanboy parodies at the convention.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 24th, 2005 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, a Betazed-style wedding, really?

The letter didn't say it, but the question from the mother was a desperate request for Miss Manners to tell her how to phrase the invitation--her daughter, inspired by her favorite television show, was planning to marry her fiance in a the manner of one of the cultures on the show, which married naked. I can't think of anything other than the Betazed nude wedding that would be referenced there. The mother was trying to figure out how to phrase it in the space normally reserved for "black tie" or "white tie." Miss Manners suggested informal invitations... instead of the engraved things normally sent, a hand-written letter explaining that it was a nudist wedding and clothing would be optional for guests.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: January 24th, 2005 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I discovered, to my chagrin, in a philosophy class in college that I really did believe that the Three Laws of Robotics would be applied to any robots ever created. The professor was talking about how robots could be used for evil and I asked "What about the Three Laws?" and he gave me the weirdest look. "What three laws?"

"Never mind." [climbed under my chair]

So, it gets inside me, but I don't think of it as real. Yet.
From: stellahobbit Date: January 25th, 2005 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
You're not so far off. I've heard of robotics engineers incorporating the Three Laws into their programming. Granted, the laws don't mean anything right now, but they might as robots become more sophisticated.
From: arclevel Date: January 24th, 2005 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)
The rare occasions that I've met and identified other fen, it's usually been the offshoot of something directly fannish. A librarian and I started chatting about Buffy when I was checking out a tie-in novel, for instance. The most notable, really, was when I watched the Buffy finale with a couple friends. Around the start of the ep, I mentioned being a Spuffy fan, and the girl I least knew chimed in her agreement. About twenty minutes later it occurred to me that most casual fans probably wouldn't understand me, at least at first. The next time we saw each other, we were happily exchanging fic recs. (The far more tentative part was determining that yes, we both read NC-17 fic and were happy to get those recs, too.) We ID-ed each other, basically, but only after the topic was directly brought up. So no, I don't seem to be able to recognize fen. :-(
mbmargarita From: mbmargarita Date: January 25th, 2005 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)
About twenty minutes later it occurred to me that most casual fans probably wouldn't understand me, at least at first.

My problem is assuming that all casual fans are full-on internet fandom fans. Not literally, of course, but when I find out someone else likes Harry Potter (like duh, 80% of the population reads them or something ridiculous like that) I assume I can talk to them on the same level of detail and interest and dorkiness that I share with the seriously fannish fans. And then I'm always like, whoops, no you wouldn't have ever had a discussion about the possible ambiguities of the wording of The Prophecy, and no you can't recall the wording off the top of your head.. I'll just go... now...
From: pyxidis Date: January 24th, 2005 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think that I've met anyone who actually believed that their favorite fictional universe was real. I have met others who lost touch with reality in an effort to make it real. They seemed to want it so badly that real life gets shunted aside. (I've noticed this in the Trekkie circle much more than in the HP ones.)

I think outsiders have difficultly understanding it though. For example, one of my first roommates in college loved Harry Potter almost as much as me. (I certainly made her moderate obsession much worse!) People who knew us were amazed that we could argue over these books for hours. (One of us was decidedly a Gryffindor fan, the other a Slytherin one). I remember well the strange looks we would get, as well as reminders that it was 'just a book' and therefore not real. What they failed to understand is that we both knew that Hogwarts was not a real place, and that Professor Snape was not a real person, but still enjoyed arguing the finer points of the series. Outsiders cannot see the difference, any serious discussion of a fandom much be the result of deluded person.

Hmm...this discussion makes me want to wear my Star Fleet Academy shirt tomorrow. (I can't begin to count the number of people who asked me about how I enjoyed going there from wearing that!)

hobbit_feet From: hobbit_feet Date: January 25th, 2005 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I totally relate to you. I've been converting a friend of mine to Harry Potter and during the one class we have together (which is a blow off class) we generally read and discuss Harry Potter together. We can talk about Harry Potter for the entire class period arguing about different characters and the dynamics between them.

Occasionally, since we're the only HP fans in the room, we'll have other people give us curious looks and ask us why we like the books so much, and what's so great about them. They honestly don't get why we're so enamored with J.K's world, which is why I love being with other people in fandom who get it.
From: hobviously Date: January 24th, 2005 08:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I have a coworker who I'm pretty sure is in HP fandom. Sign one was her Slytherin allegiance. Sign two was an H/D sentiment. Sign three: she just seemed to know way too much about obscure canon.

Not exactly subtle, but I can't quite think of how to out myself, so to speak, or get her to come out of the fannish closet.
From: stellahobbit Date: January 25th, 2005 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Wasn't there a post that was pretty wide spread about six months ago that suggested a secret password for HP slashers?

You just have to try and drop 'Fiddlesticks!' into the conversation.

No, I'm not joking :-) I haven't been able to test it because I'm sure I haven't met any slashers in RL.
leapin_jot From: leapin_jot Date: January 24th, 2005 10:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I've never met anyone who believed their fandom was real.

What I get is when I'm discussing my favorite characters with another fan, someone overhearing our conversation will interupt and tell us, "They're not real, you know!" I get annoyed with them because saying things like, "The character, Harry, has never shown any interest in the character, Ginny," gets ridiculous very quickly.

It does make me somewhat suspicious of reports about fans who believe in their fandoms. Is it just their way of speaking? Of course there are a few people like that out there, but maybe not as many as people relate?
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: January 24th, 2005 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
At my old job, two Star Trek fans got married in...Klingon gear, I guess (Star Trek and Star Wars are like Greek to me). Funnily enough, they employed a Christian minister. So on one hand you have this overwhelming Star Trek-iness in the couple and a lot of the attendies, and on the other you have something very normal and recognizable in the minister. Go figure. ;)

As for spotting fen, for me, it's always been in the voice. Fen tend to have a very specific vocal tone--kind of on-call snark, I guess, like they're always ready to make a joke. For example, I had a teacher last year who I knew was fen just by the way she talked and acted. It didn't help that she started talking about Lord of the Rings and Troy soon after.

And in my case, for my fandom, I'm really starting to doubt that it's All Not Real when we're getting our very own Counterterrorism Center and might even have a black president real soon! ;)
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: January 24th, 2005 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Two years ago my coworkers and I watched episodes of Buffy during our lunch hour. In one ep Anya gets worried because Xander is about to leave to do something dangerous, and he says, "I'll be careful." My friend immediately said, in a scratchy voice, "You'll be dead!" And I was the only one who laughed.

The thing is, I recognized the line immediately, but it took me a second after I laughed to remember it was from the cantina scene in Star Wars. And just after I did, he turned to me and said, "You know you've just labeled yourself as a total geek." And then I couldn't stop laughing, because it was true. I know the movie so well, I can react to the references subconsciously.
naomichana From: naomichana Date: January 24th, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
As someone in the midst of planning a wedding, I am inclined to suspect that the Betazed wedding concept was a ruse on the part of one or more very intelligent fans who wanted to get their mothers off their backs about white-tie versus tux and floor-length versus train. :)
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