Hello! I’m Cerusee, and I’m your temp guest blogger, here to sub for Bill Randall while he goes on vacation. I’ve been invited to drop in a little early for the Fandom Confeessions roundtable.
By way of introduction: I’ve been hanging in or around a succession of internet-based fandoms since I was 15 years old, and I’m 27 now, and do most of my internet hanging out on LiveJournal. As an undergrad, I majored in communications and cultural studies, which I loved, and I briefly but seriously considered pursuing a doctorate in it. I didn’t, and now I’m in library school. I read Henry Jenkins, and wrote my senior thesis on fandom, after which I was so sick to death it that I have never since been more than a fandom dilettante. I used to sell books, which was mostly awful. I’ve been reading comics since early childhood, and have been reading manga in ever greater quantities since my dire teen years. Last summer, I decided to give myself a crash course in non-superhero, non-manga comics and graphic novels, by way of reading through the graphic novel shelves of my local libraries. It’s been a learning experience: mainly, I have learned how little I know about comics.
Regarding this Fandom Confessions roundtable, I had the damndest time finding something to write about, which surprised me. I have a long and checkered fandom history, so I thought I’d easily be able to find some former obsession that would serve; I’ve spent so much time reading questionable books. And yet for every questionable book, over-eager fandom plunge, or weird aesthetic preference that I dredged up, I found myself contemplating its merits, awash in nostalgia for it. So I excuse my (sometimes still enduring) youthful love for various of the science fiction and fantasy staple authors popular in my teen years: David Eddings? Hellishly clever, in a commercially appealing way. Mercedes Lackey? …she’s utterly shameless (if I praise Anne Rice for that, and I have, I have to praise Lackey for it). Piers Anthony? Well, if nothing else, I’ll always remember even Anthony’s lamer books as being surprisingly fertile grounds for ideas–many’s the thought experiment I read encountered in a Xanth book, and only later, in more sophisticated form, in a better book. I can’t be sorry about that.
I thought I’d come up with a winner when I remembered my long-time enthusiasm for Dragonlance–it kicked off for me when I was in high school, for God’s sake; I read it at the same time I read The Oedipus Cycle and Huckleberry Finn, and I loved it just as much. It seemed like a perfect candidate! Dragonlance is a hack fantasy franchise of the RPG flavor; it’s not the worst of the lot, and Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman–the original creators–are not the worst writers in the world. But was hardly good, and for the depth and length of my fixation on it (I devoured the original series in a week, and scoured the shelves of the local used bookstore for the sequels and the sequels of the sequels. I’ve read all of the core stuff, most of it more than once), I figured I could drum up some shame on its behalf. Still, when I hit the three hundred-word mark just explaining my enduring crush on Raistlin Majere, I realized I might not have enough distance from that particular love to rake myself over the coals for it.
I feel a little hampered, here. As a matter of principle, I don’t feel shame, at least not with regards to my reading (and viewing) matter, even when my tastes change. I emerged from all of my reading on high culture/low culture studiously neutral and with my ass planted squarely on the fence; I read what I like, and what interests me, and those are grounds enough to read anything. I know I’ve read (and watched) some shit even I couldn’t be bothered to justify, but that’s the kind of thing I tend to forget; everything I still remember is something that, in some manner, still interests me, even if all that interests me is the flaws.
If I move away from the thing I read to things I’ve written, I get closer. I was never very prolific, or very talented, but I used to write fanfiction. I’ve written my Mary Sues, and I’m happy they aren’t still around to haunt me. But I’m not ashamed of having written them (to paraphrase Abby Bartlett on The West Wing, it’s my history. My history is my history). The best fanfiction I ever wrote was probably during college, when I was very, very, very into the mecha anime Gundam Wing; that period happens to overlap with the period when I first began to really read poetry, and to write it. My best fandom shame? I wrote a fair bit of Gundam Wing-themed poetry. In the same era, I also went through a long stretch during which every story I tried to write had to incorporate some Yeats. Every damned story. I leave it up to you to decide whether there’s enough of a natural overlap in subjects there not to be totally embarrassing.
Still, thinking back on that weird little mesh reminds me that it was hanging around the Gundam Wing fandom that spurred me into reading poetry to begin with. One of the more talented writers who frequented my favorite Gundam Wing forum was an academic, and her signature quote was the last line of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music: “I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
That line haunted me for years (lacking context, I mistook Millay’s disapproval of death for a comment on the disappointing nature of life. I was in college and in the social sciences. These things happen), and when I eventually tracked it down, I fell in love with Millay in a big way. I’ve gradually pushed out to other poets as well, and learned from them, but there has never been anybody quite like Millay for me–no other poet, no other writer, no other marriage of language and meaning that resonates with me quite like hers. I’ve ruthlessly recited Millay at family, at friends, at crowds; gone to her in tears, or intoxicated, woken up at night to read her. Some of this story is silly. But how can I mock myself? I found an aesthetic soulmate. That’s a confession, but there’s no shame in it.
I leave you with a little bit of dirt, though: also during college, and probably as a direct result of really digging Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I watched an inexcusable number of lousy WB shows, including Popular and Grosse Pointe. Never missed an episode or either. I have no idea why.