2013 Moments in Fandom

When I was a young adult, I told people I was a feminist. Which I believed to be true. And then I strove to match what I thought a feminist would be according to other people. I looked around for some sort of community standard, and aimed for it. And when I failed I said “I’m a bad feminist” or “that wasn’t very feminist of me.”

These days, if I do it or say it or think it or feel it, it’s feminist, because I am one, and I am doing it.

This is how I feel about 2013 and fandom.

Your main fandom of the year?

I don’t think I had one. I re-read the Phryne Fisher series two more times. I watched Doctor Who, and Once Upon a Time, and other shows from last year. There are a lot of things I enjoyed this year, but none to the point of obsession.

Your favorite film you watched this year?

That’s probably Pacific Rim. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I loved the acting, the costumes and set decoration, the soundtrack, the visual effects. I yelped in glee during some of the fight scenes. I love the character interactions and dynamics. And I love the messages of the movie.

What I probably love the most about Pacific Rim, though, is the pure love my son has for it. He loves the kaiju. Loves them. When I see adorable fanart of baby kaiju on Tumblr, I save the posts to show him. I am planning on taking both the kids to see Godzilla because “Godzilla was the first kaiju.”

Your favorite book read this year?

Parasite, by Mira Grant.

I don’t know how to talk about what makes this book so good without giving away the cliffhanger punchline of an ending. (And this is the first book in a series, so the ending is more of a pause in events.) But I love the narrative voice. I love the premise of the world. I love the way Mira weaves queers and people of color and people of different ages and abilities into her books. The building of fictional worlds the resemble our own reality should not be so noteworthy, but it still is, and Mira does a fantastic job.

The story rockets along, and I deeply want to know what happens next.

Your favorite tv show of the year?

Oh, easy.

Sleepy Hollow.

This show is RIDIC. It is … it is crazypants whackadoo ambitiously off the rails. And it knows this and it owns it and it is keeping faith with the viewer. This is a show in which a time-travelling Ichabod Crane is just a blip in the premise that revolves around the Book of Revelations and the End of Days.

Oh, and Hessians. Can’t forget the Hessians. (Stuff You Missed in History did a special podcast on the Hessians just because so many people were emailing in to ask about them, as a direct result of this show.)

Here’s the thing. The opening credits cast has four names in it. Two are women. Two are people of color. The show runners and writers have specifically and publicly committed to casting diversity, to casting for women and people of color. And they are doing a damn fine job. If Sleepy Hollow, a show set in New England and also set in the 1770s early America, can easily feature women and people of color as their main characters, then all the rest of you tv shows don’t have any sort of bullshit excuse. No more of this “well, it’s not historically accurate,” or, “that doesn’t make sense for where the story takes place.”

Nope. Nuh-uh. Suck it up, writers. Your excuses are invalid.

Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Sleepy Hollow, as I mention above.

The television reviews of Genevieve Valentine, particularly her reviews of Reign.

The truly wonderful Geek Girl Con, which I hope to get back to in a year or two.

Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

Scandal. This show was my HUGE favorite last year, and this year’s season just … I don’t even know. So many things are not right about it, I have stopped watching.

Second runner-up? Agents of SHIELD. This Marvel cinematic universe tie-in had absolutely every advantage, and it’s just not very good. I am watching it with my son, and I will keep watching it. But I really hope it finds some sort of footing after the mid-season break. I tend to do a lot of texting while we watch it together.

Your fiction boyfriend of the year?

Movie-verse Thor.
Movie-verse Captain America.
Stacker Pentacost

Your fiction girlfriend of the year?

It’s still Regina Mills from Once Upon a Time. I mean the show is really not very good, and the parts I care about are only 20% of what happens on the screen. But I still care what happens to her.

Your biggest squee moment of the year?

I quite liked The Day of the Doctor, the big Doctor Who episode for the 50th anniversary.

I squealed out loud in the movie theater during Pacific Rim when Gypsy Danger picked up a ship like a baseball bat.

The most missed of your old fandoms?

Comics. For various reasons, I haven’t kept up with reading comics this year, and I miss them. I hope to get back into the habit in 2014.

Your biggest fan anticipations for the coming year?

New Sherlock season!
The continuation of the Marvel cinematic universe!
New Phryne Fisher novel!

I am certain there is more. There’s ALWAYS more amazing, unexpected, fantastic stuff coming. Because the world is full of talented and ambitious people driven to produce story.

My thanks to them all.

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Ongoing canon is what it is

Being a fan of the X-Men has prepared me for so many fannish experiences.

I was pondering this while watching the most recent episode of Once Upon a Time. Someone on Tumblr noted that, based only on this episode, you would never know that Ruby and Belle were really close friends. Yet we had two episodes devoted to that subject.

The thing is, with a complicated and ongoing canon, you can’t make everything fit all of the time. Some episodes focus more on one character rather than another. Or on one plot instead of another. That’s just the way it is, and you can go crazy trying to fit everything together in a reasonable and consistent manner.

I know this lesson from reading the X-Men and related comics for over twenty years. Most recently the comics had a complicated plot about who was hosting the Phoenix. And, repeatedly, characters said that only Jean Grey was ever able to host the Phoenix for any length of time — and even that killed her. I read all of these declarations while mentally shouting, “WHAT ABOUT RACHEL.”

But, this wasn’t Rachel’s story. And in what was a pretty rip-roaring, damn good story, there wasn’t room for every character and every loose end and plot thread from twenty years of canon. I know this, I understand this, and it doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story. I can let it go.

Similarly, I can let the loose ends and character inconsistencies on Once Upon a Time go. The show is what it is, and it’s trying to incorporate not only two seasons of show-specific canon, but fifty years of Disney films and eight hundred years of Western literary tradition. Some episodes are going to further one plot or character at the expense of another. That’s okay with me. I can watch for the characters and moments I favor.

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2012 Moments in Fandom

2012 Moments in Fandom

Your main fandom of the year?

My fannish participation this year has been consuming the works of others. And by that measure my principle fandoms were Marvel’s Avengers movie, Pitch Perfect, and Once Upon a Time. But that’s misleading. What I actually have been a fan of this year are

1) the updates to AO3 that makes finding the fanfic I want easier for me, and
2) Tumblr.

Tumblr is a TERRIBLE medium for having a conversation. About anything. It’s a TERRIBLE venue for deep conversation. What it is really awesome at is flickering shiny curated visual fanworks — fanart, gifs, cosplay, animated gifs, vids, and show clips — in front of my easily entertained eyeballs.

I appreciate this greatly. I do not want to take the time to learn to make these things. But I love them — I love the cosplay, love the fanvids, love the gifs, love the transformative nature of creative fanworks. Yet, I don’t want to struggle to find things I like. Tumblr makes it easy for me to passively consume the fanworks I enjoy, and it makes it easy for me to pass those on to other people.

“Look at this shiny thing! It’s funny/poignant/sarcastic/queer/assertive/whimsical/whatever! I really like it!”

I appreciate this quality about Tumblr.

Your favorite film you watched this year?

The film I liked the most, from start to finish, as written and performed, was The Avengers. I loved many, many things about that movie. The performances. The characters. The costumes. The sets. The dialog. The messages. The plot. The action. I loved it all. I’ve been reading rather a great deal of Avengers fic on AO3. I like this universe and I like what people are doing with it.

I also like the authorized movie fanfic — namely, Avengers Assembled. This comic is set inside the Marvel comic-verse, but it’s specifically for new readers who loved the movie and want to get inside this world. I recommend it highly.

My other favorite film is a movie I love more in my head than in reality. I watched Pitch Perfect and loved it with a crazy love. But I edit out about … 25% of the film. All the gross-out humor. The humiliation stuff. And about half of the heterosexuality. So. I’ve read ALL the Pitch Perfect fanfic on AO3. But I can’t say the movie was actually my favorite this year. That would be Avengers

Your favorite book read this year?

I read all eighteen of the Kerry Greenwood Phyrne Fisher novels this year. Twice. I’m holding off on starting a third re-read because I have a lot of books on my tablet that I have purchased and not yet read. Plus, as I write this, a three-week backlog on comics. I wrote about the books here. I don’t have much to add to that; I love them to pieces.

Your favorite tv show of the year?

This was tough this year. Game of Thrones? Downton Abbey? Doctor Who? I love those shows, and more besides. But the show that I clearly have the greatest fannish obsession with is Once Upon a Time.

OUaT went from being a show that lost me in the last four episodes of the first season to being a show that I pine for each week. I went back and watch the end of season one, and I am still not impressed with it. But season two keeps me coming back.

Here’s the thing. This is NOT an unproblematic show. The treatment of characters of color is shabby-to-poor. The handling of adoption as a major show theme is wildly variable. I have an auto-dislike of stories that are solved by The Power of True Love — I prefer plots to be resolved by grit, repentance, and true change. Almost all of the male characters are either not written well, not acted well, or both.

But.

This is an ensemble show in which the women — all of the women — are well-written, well-realized, and mostly well-acted.

I harp on how the thing I want in minority representation is VARIETY. I do not want ONE lesbian to represent all lesbians, I want a variety of portrayals. I do not want ONE geeky girl, I want a host of geeky girls and women of all sorts. I do not want ONE character of color whose primary characteristic is that they are not-white, I want diversity. Variety. I want the pantheon of human existence and experience to be represented broadly across the vast bulk of fiction.

OUaT does many things half-assedly. But it represents white women pretty well. And as one portion of the entertainment I consume, I love it.

Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Scandal.

All my thanks to Anika for pointing this one out to me. Scandal is fantastic.

I realized, halfway through the season two opener, that Scandal is a Vorkosigan story. We have this manically driven leader of a team of misfit crusaders, who work around the edges of a political-military system which is problematic but also the only game in town, fighting to maintain their secrecy, integrity, and position, while also fighting to protect each other.

I could talk more about the specifics but I truly do not want to spoil the show in case any of you intend to watch it.

Snappy dialog? Check.
Attractive actors? Check.
Characters of color in a variety of types of roles? Check.
Men and women in a variety of types of roles? Check.
Poor decision-making based on an over-developed sense of justice? Check.
Poor decision-making based on guilt? Check.
Attempts at redemption? Check.

I do love this show. So very much.

Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

DC Comics has consistently shown that, not only do they not want to support comics I want to read, they aren’t even concerned that I don’t want to read their stuff. This stings, it truly does. But I am comforted by the fact that the wheel turns, and eventually these people will not be in control of characters I like.

Your fiction boyfriend of the year?

Jaqen H’ghar, from season two of Game of Thrones.
Thor.

Your fiction girlfriend of the year?

Regina Mills from Once Upon a Time.
Natasha Romonov from the Avengers movie.
Dex Parios from the Greg Rucka and Matt Southworth comic, Stumptown. Which is a terrible idea. I should never date any Greg Rucka characters.
Beca from Pitch Perfect.
Quinn Perkins from Scandal
Kate Bishop from Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comic.

And in the want-to-be-them, not want-to-date-them camp:

Carol Danvers from Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel comic.
Phyrne Fisher.
Ruby from Once Upon a Time.

Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Probably when I saw that Rucka had included Mim in Stumptown. I mean, I squealed audibly, and then all over the internet.

My other squee moments, well, I was trying very hard to be calm and professional, and so the squee manifested as a complete lack of affect. These mostly involve meeting people whose work I have a huge amount of respect for, and getting to tell them how much their work means to me. But this also includes the publication of Chicks Dig Comics, the book I co-edited with Lynne Thomas.

There’s a book out there that I helped put into the world. This made me really damn happy.

The most missed of your old fandoms?

I’m not sure I really missed any this year.

Your biggest fan anticipations for the coming year?

I don’t really know! I try to avoid the marketing associated with fiction properties I love, because the marketing for them makes me angry and avoidant. So I don’t know what’s coming, fannishly. There’s … another Marvel movie? I suppose? And Seanan has a book coming out? Maybe two? And the nineteenth Phryne Fisher book is coming out in January. And … there will be more comics? And tv shows?

Professionally, I have a couple of projects coming out in 2013 that I am really looking forward to. :)

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Past Moments in Fandom posts:

2008
2009
2010
2011

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I like you; that doesn’t make you perfect

I have been watching the tv show Once Upon a Time. It’s a re-visioning of classic fairy tales. The story goes between a modern setting and a fairy-tale one, parceling out the back-story of each character from the stories I know. There’s a lot I like about this show.

I like, for instance, what the show did with The Huntsman. I love what it’s done with Little Red Riding Hood. I am liking the Evil Queen in both her forms, I am liking the Snow White in the past story. The adoption story is not progressive, certainly, but I find all parties sympathetic. I like the coherent fairy-tale world being built. I am, in general, a big fan of fairy tales in all their forms.

That doesn’t mean I think fairy tales are perfect stories. Nor do I think OUaT is a perfect show.

A Twitter-friend of mine gripes, after almost every episode, that for a “modern” retelling of fairy tales the show is oddly devoid of queer characters. I can explain this away — it’s set in a very small town, if the characters are all fairy tale residents the original texts are pretty much straight, etc. But then I started wondering. Are the defenses and justifications I mentally offer even true?

Thinking about the communities in which I move, they all have queer people in them. By simple virtue of the fact that I am in them. But I don’t know — is it really that likely that an average small town would have not a single gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person in it? Granted, a lot of QUILTBAG folks move out of the small towns of their origin. But the people there would know them. They would come home to visit. Is it plausible for any town in the U.S. to have no queer presence?

And, my other justification — that there’s no queerness in fairy tales.

Well, that’s just not true. There’s little such representation in the Disney versions of such tales (though you can make it exist if you squint right) but the original stories are … not written to the currently fashionable definitions of human sexuality. The stories are malleable, and fluid, and they meet people’s needs in different ways at different times. An argument can be made for all sorts of sexual and gender representation in fairy tales. You just have to read a lot of them to find it.

And, as much as OUaT fails on queer issues, let’s not even mention the representation of people of color. Okay, no, let’s mention it. Yes, these stories are drawn largely from a Northern European – Germanic tradition. However, if you are changing the stories the way you already have, GO AHEAD and add more people of color. Besides, there’s considerable historical evidence that the cities of Northern Europe, even in the so-called Dark Ages, were cosmopolitan hubs where small communities of Jews and Moors lived. People of color; not as scarce as you might think.

Yet …

Yet I am used to living in a world where I don’t exist in fiction. I am accustomed to not seeing lesbians, or butches, or multi-ethnic familes on my television, in my comics, or in my movies. Sometimes this makes me very angry. Sometimes, I shrug and ignore it. Sometimes I walk away from a creative property over these issues. Sometimes I defend the story and can justify its flaws.

But sometimes, sometimes I can like a thing a lot for what it does, and be angry at it at the same time. Once Upon a Time is one of those latter cases. There’s a lot to like. There’s a lot that makes me grind my teeth in frustration. I don’t know, overall, how long I will keep watching.

It’s hard for me to sustain anger at every damn thing in the world that promotes messages of misogyny, queer invisibility, and white-washing. That’s most of my culture, there. I would be angry all of the time. I know of people who are like this, who sustain outrage and anger at manifest injustices, and I admire their stamina. Yet I don’t share it.

I can’t stay angry at Once Upon a Time for being what it is. I’m not even disappointed, really. And I like much of what it tries to do. But that doesn’t mean it gets a pass. It’s still screwing up some pretty important things, and I notice every time.

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