My Life as a Fan

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Title: My Life as a Fan
Creator: wickedwords
Date(s): February 12, 2007
Medium: online journal post
External Links: My Life as a Fan - Wicked Words, Archived version
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My Life as a Fan is a 2007 essay by wickedwords.

Some Topics Discussed

  • falling into fandom
  • vidding
  • love of meta
  • personal history of fandom love


[fan all along]:

I am an old skool fan. As a kid and teen, I enjoyed a lot of different TV shows--Man from Uncle, Starsky and Hutch, Baretta, Space: 1999--but I never 'invented' my own version of fandom. The closest I came to it was role-playing myself as Wonder Woman, using my dance leotard for the costume, with a tiara and bracers of defense crafted out of tinfoil. Writing was rough for me, and while I had a great imagination and loved to tell stories--going so far as to re-tell the Narnia stories when I taught Vacation Bible School, rather than sticking with the standard materials the church gave out--spelling and the act of writing itself took too much focus for me to spend a lot of time on it when I could be reading instead.

[an introduction to "organized" fandom]:

So in 1986, when sherrold offered me some of her Star Trek zines to read (Night of the Twin Moons, One Way Mirror, and others), I was primed to fall for media fandom. Sandy had a very small collection of gen and het zines, and had been in a loop for lending others, so through her, I found my way into slash. I'd never been a proto slashfan, seeing slash in everything, but it wasn't long before I was hooked. I read a lot of K/S, and some S/H, plus whatever I found in multi-media zines--Airwolf, A-Team, Sime/Gen, I didn't care. It was slash, and that was all I wanted back then.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was the first fandom I wrote for. I had a computer by then, and it was the watershed for my being able to put the stories I told myself in my head down onto paper. I started writing in season one, as the Klingon culture was so homoerotic--I can remember discussing this with one of the guys I used to play Call of Cthulu with in Portland--and I just went for it. Yes, it was bad, and there was a cat in the story, and Klingon anatomy had barbs everywhere--which pretty much set the stage for most of my later writing.

Man from Uncle came after that single story. I'd fallen in love with the series not because it was showing on TNT, but because of a writer named Eros. I read everything that she produced, collected every short and snippet in every zine, and re-read her novel City of Byzantium five or six times. It was my threshold fandom, the one that made me want to get out and meet other fans and talk to them about all of this stuff, not just sit at home and either read or write about it. This led me to attend Koon-Ut-Kali-Con, where I was exposed to one of my most enduring fandoms, The Professionals.

And really, what is there to say about Pros? It was the big dog for many years, and I fell for it hard and fast. It had stories! Tons of stories! Stories that I could read just by signing up with a lending library! Not to mention zines that were advertised where people could see them, as well as photocopies of things that were hidden under the tablecloths in any media conventions dealers' room. Big stories, little stories, gritty stories, Doyle-as-elf stories, rent boys and fanon, it really had it all.

I met a lot of people through Pros fandom, and it's really where I started to hone my writing skill. I started off in the world of 'we'll take anyone' and eventually graduated to zines where some screening was done, and actual editing, too. I subscribed to zines just for writers, like 'Cold Fish and Stale Chips', which let us publish and get public commentary on work that we'd done. It was a huge influence on my life, and one of my best experiences.

I did dabble in Wiseguy on the side. I was a Roger fan, but I liked Sonny and Frank, so it was a pretty good fit. The big stuff was all Frank/Vinnie, so I wrote a little of it; but it was more of a vidding fandom for me. Lives in the Balance came out of my Roger obsession.

Virgule, the first on-line slash mailing list, grew out of my small group of Pros fandom friends, and while they were all baby-stepping onto the internet, I became pregnant, had a kid, made my Wiseguy vid, and nearly died. Motherhood and living became my hobby for awhile, and I turned to working on 'going pro' with my writing. I did more and more things for small presses, and I got my first payment, a whopping $2, for an article I wrote. I became a critic for Psst, Wanna Buy A Fanzine? and learned the art of the put-down and snappy zing--something which I have kinda forgot.

Through my writing interests, I was heavily exposed to gen fandom, which was around the time I fell for Quantum Leap. I was a complete gen fan in QL, loving the crossovers and all the things that could be done with the set up. I did buy some bad QL slash, though, and it was also the fandom where I read my first chan (young Sam Beckett was a magnet for...well, everything.). I didn't have a strong connection to the other fan writers, though, and still felt a little alien in the gen landscape.


About this time, the Media Cannibals decided we needed to buy a vidding deck that we could share amongst the group. At the time, sherrold had the only vidding vcr in the group, and so to vid, we would all trek up to gattagrigia's house, where Sandy was living, and sit on her couch, eat snacks, and vid. It was a great group experience, and I think it produced some of our best work, but it was also a little limiting.

So we brainstormed about how to raise money, and someone came up with the idea of us all writing stories for our own zine, and using the proceeds from it to buy a vidding deck. The result was Guilty Pleasures, a Pros zine, which included my story "Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash". (It is, naturally, a pirate AU with h/c and a weak ending.) It was the first time I wrote as "Rachael Sabatini", a take-off of "Raphael Sabatini", and it was also the last time I ever spelled the last name right.

Even so, I was a little 'eh' about Pros by then, and fannishly rudderless, and that was the point at which I fell for Highlander. It was a complete religious conversion, being dragged to a room at Escapade to watch "Comes a Horseman" in the company of other fans, and it hit me like a bolt from above: this was the fandom I had been looking for. This fandom had Methos.

It also had an on-line presence at the con, in the form of Brenda Antrim and Jenny Shipp. And Jenny was promoting the mailing list she ran, the ROG (Really Old Guy) list, and so...I took my 'Rachael Sabotini' pseudonym on-line and joined the list.

And another list.

And another.

And then I wrote something, and posted it to the list. And then I needed a website to host that fiction, and so I had to figure out that.

[More about specific fandoms: writing in]:

Highlander fandom changed me. So many of my close friendships started there, and these are women that I am friends with still.

The Sentinel popped up in 1998 and grabbed a lot of people. I toyed with it, but it was mostly a visual fandom for me, rather than one that called me to write. It was bright and shiny, with all of this darkness underneath, and I loved that. I mean that literally, too, as the show filmed in saturated colors, and so it will always be near and dear to my heart. I also met a few new people here, but it was a lot harder for me to find my feet; the fandom just moved too quickly for me to connect.

The Phantom Menace followed quickly on Sentinel's heels for me, and it was even harder for me to break into, in terms of size and getting to know people, than Sentinel had been. Then a writing list sprang up, and at last I found a location where I felt more at home.

Writing in this fandom consumed me. I wrote in chat with people, and I wrote the longest story that I have ever written for myself in this fandom. I read tons, and tons, and tons, bought the action-figures, juvenile fiction, and comic books. My enthusiasm and involvement were so intense that I quickly burnt out--just like a lot of the fandom.

I dabbled in Invisible Man then, long after other people had been consumed by it. Like Due South, I was never hugely active in it, but I did have a couple of things I wanted to say. sherrold and I made Voodoo as a result.

My next fandom was Harry Potter. I wrote a gen Neville story as a one-off a year or two before The Tea Series drew me into Snarry fandom, just before the movie-fueled deluge. For me, it was sort of a repeat of TPM, with quickly blossoming lists to which I didn't really feel connected. Plus I squicked myself in the fandom, so we'll just move on quickly.

When I left, I left the huge fandoms behind and became a rare fandoms fan, and I went through an extended period where I wrote a lot of not-exactly-gen and PG-13 fiction. I was into Owen Wilson movies and read Owen RPS, and also spent some time indulging my love of Antonio Banderas. Rare book fandoms, rare movie fandoms, rare actor fandoms--I was done with any fandom that had more than twelve people in it.

In Pirates of the Caribbean, I transitioned from a rare fandoms fan to a rare pairings fan, as I was in the minority as a Jack/Will slasher. Almost everyone in the world was burnt out on Orlando, but as a Legolas/Gimli fan (to whom the movies were not kind), I had not fallen for LOTR, and Legolas, the way others had, leaving room for my fondness for Will. My other love in the fandom was Jack/Will/Elizabeth, and there was a lot of participation in that. I also had an inordinate fondness for Elizabeth/Anamaria, which led to my first femslash. Even so, I never really found my feet in this fandom, either.

At that point, I was ready to go fandom shopping again. I was pimped into House and loved that first season; it really made me want to write, as the banter just snapped. I am a little sad at how quickly my medical squicks became too much to deal with while watching a TV show, which is why I'm no longer actively involved with it.

And so we end at Stargate Atlantis--a big fandom that I fell for when it was still rather small, where I felt I got to meet people and make connections. If I were stepping in now, cold, I would probably feel disconnected, but coming in when I did and meeting the people I did, I feel the exact opposite. It is another home.
[meta, celebration, and history]:

There's another home fandom for me, a fandom that I have never left: Meta. I am a fan of fans. It's harder to pin down, as it encompasses so much: who we are, the shows we watch, what we think of them and of ourselves. It is like breathing to me, and it's just something I do. I love to put things together in different ways, disassemble them, and then do it all again, so around and beyond every other fandom, I will always have Meta.

And if you've read this far, then I have to believe that at some level, you're a Meta fan too. Celebrate us, who we are and where we have come from, and how we shape the future.

Some Comments at the Post

kassrachel: Sing it, sister. :-)

This was really fun to read; maybe at some point I'll write my own, though at this point it's pretty brief (the story really begins in 1999, when I found organized media fandom thanks to sanj -- it's a scant eight years, really!) Still, I like thinking about the various paths we've all taken to get to where we are.

cathexys: That was wonderful! I've always wondered about the spelling of your name, so thanks for clearing that up :)

I hear you on SGA, and I wonder if that's the case with a lot of, I enjoy SPN right now, but it already seems huge and daunting in a way SGA didn't when I started reading there...and when I'm intimidated I fall back into my default lurking habit...

Re meta: I think that's where I first encountered your name, long before vids or fic, your name was instantly recognizable to me b/c of your amazing fact, I've been toying with the idea of a meta flashback community or meme or just doing it by myself...and I know there are several essays of yours already on my must-rec-again list!

[wickedwords]: Yes, it's true. My spelling is so bad--well, my attention to detail is so bad--that I misspelled my own pseudonym. And once it was done and on lists and webpages and such, it just became my new name. *g*

I agree with you about SPN, btw. I missed the perfect sized boat for me, and now it's much bigger than I am comfortable with. I read around the edges sometimes, but it's a little intimidating. Of course, the other half of it is that I'm still heavily involved with SGA, so is it really intimidating, or do I just mentally tell myself that as I don't think I have the time?

The meta flashback sounds cool, however you wanted to do it. *g*

[cathexys]: *g* oh, do I hear you on the too much love for SGA and the fear that I don't have enough time. I read and I wouldn't miss an ep for the world, but I just don't want to spend all my free thought with them they way I do with John and Rodney...I sincerely love those two for so many reasons, not least of all b/c it's nice for a change to have guys my age!!!

I really hate to start another community that yet again goes belly up like communities are wont to do [1] and I don't think I have the energy or influence to start a meme...but I so want people to go back and look at the great stuff that's out there!!! I started metabib because of that, but it's unwieldy, and few seem to use it...I was just writing a piece where I was hunting down several amazing discussions from 2003...and it's like smarter than anything I've seen since...and there was no response,. and it just is sitting there unread in an old post, y'know...

[tigs]: This was a very interesting read; I always like hearing about other people's fandom experiences.

I have to agree with you about SGA--I feel like I entered at exactly the right time, too, just before it exploded, and I'm really grateful for the opportunity it gave me to meet and connect with people in a way I hadn't since pop/rpf several years ago (which again was a fandom I entered early on). I had sort of the same experiences as you in HP and PotC as well (except my pairing was Jack/Elizabeth and I really had no interest in Norrington at all.)

Anyways, yes. Interesting read. :)

[cimmerians]: Whoa--I didn't know there was a word for being a fan of fen! Jeez... you kids today, with your Dan Fogelberg and your hula-hoops... :-)

This was awesome, Rachel, and made that part of me that tends to get all sniffly for The Good Old Days a bit less sniffly. I like enduring. I've liked enduring alongside you.



It's a little wild how long we have been doing this, isn't it? This weekend I realized that the media cannibals had their 15th anniversary, as Sandy and I met Tina at Escapade oh so many years ago. My life would be very different without everyone that I have met and fallen for since then. *hugs* It's been great getting to know you.

[mmmchelle]: This was so cool to read. I knew some of your fandoms, but it's always fascinating to hear, or read, people's fandom stories, how they came into fandom, what drew them in, what kept them there, how they feel now about their early loves.

Thank you for writing this.

[the pouncer]:

I was thinking about writing something like this up myself, in recognition of five years reading fanfiction (Smallville was my gateway drug. Or possibly the novelizations of the Star Wars movies, depending on how you look at it). It's always interesting to see how people discovered fandom, and moved around, and I've always been a fan of meta too.


Thanks for posting this... it's so cool to hear stories from other people who were in fandom pre-Internet, and reminds me how glad I am that I get to be in it with people like you! Sometimes I look back and it's like, I can't believe I was doing this in *high school*, and if you'd told me then about anything that was coming (like the Internet, vids, going pro)--or even that I would still be doing this now--I would have had a hard time picturing it, but it's consistently been one of the best parts of my life and that's why I'm a meta fan too.


  1. Likely a reference to The Cutting Board.