First, go off and read this piece in today’s Mary Sue. The comments are actually good too, as of about noon anyway. The TL;DR, some fen are threatening suicide because their favorite southern vampire series is ending and they’re concerned the imaginary heroine might not end up with the right imaginary vampire. (I assume vampire anyways—Anne Rice ruined me for all later vampire fiction, including most of her Post-Queen of the Damned work.*)
Now I know I’ve ranted on this point time and time again here and on Tumblr, because it’s a pet peeve, and it’s come up a LOT over the past year in my Once and Future Fandom. In fact, instead of my usual opening “celebrities don’t owe us diddly squat” rant, I’ll just paste in this 1,100-ish word picture from the Monkees Confessions tumblr that puts it all rather more clearly than I’ve managed to in the last 8-ish months of grumbling about this topic.
OK, is everyone clear on my opinion at this point? Good. Let’s move on to some new ground.
The symbiosis of art, or why we think we own celebrities
I hate to break this to you, and maybe I learned it young because of the kinds of fandoms I tend to go for, but your favorite author, musician, movie star, or TV personality is HUMAN. He or she is fully kitted out with a complete array of wonderful merits, cringe-worthy flaws, and a history of brilliant and idiotic choices in his or her personal and professional life. He or she gets up in the morning, brushes their teeth, grumbles about stupid politicians in the news, burps/farts when nobody is looking, and probably cracks a smile at the latest facebook meme. The only, and I do mean ONLY difference is what said creative artist does next. Instead of (or sometimes in addition to) heading off to a “typical job”, he or she creates art and releases at least some of it out into the world (IMHO both parts are important if you’re going to call yourself an artist).
While skill and subtlety are important, in my experience there is no way to write, act, or perform at the utmost of your abilities without letting your inmost soul and beliefs inform the work you create. In any case, I tried for most of the last decade before giving up the fight, deciding I “couldn’t write fiction”, and sublimating my creativity into my academic work. However, I’ve realized that there are literary things I want to say and can say that don’t exactly lend themselves to my dissertation. Right now, I’ve got the bud of a Novel idea I’m currently coaxing into bloom. It’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever had—possibly a true artistic child in the way my PhD research is an intellectual child.** But it is so true because it touches obliquely on some raw and vulnerable areas within me, a mélange of tender concerns and concepts that I’ve danced toward and shied away from my entire creative life. I’ve finally hit on a way to tell this story in a non-Mary Sue manner (I think), and in a form that will (I hope) impart universal truths about love and friendship in a new way, not to mention shedding light on a cause very close to me, and that could make Damn Gripping fiction if anyone could ever approach it without dissolving into melodrama and pathos. I am not sure, but I think that the events of the last year gave me the insight to look at this idea from a new angle, and the nerve to begin experimenting with it.
Here’s what I hope will happen, and what every artist probably hopes will happen when they share their art (probably even George Takei when he tosses out a pun-filled status update about married gay cats on Star Trek or whatever). In a year or two, assuming both of these ideas grow safely to maturity, I will hopefully release one or both of these children into the world, and hold my breath as I wait to see what reaction they spawn. If all goes well and the things that resonate with me resonate with others, then my reward will come in the form of connection, intellectual engagement, appreciation, and a knowledge that my ideas/art may have even influenced the world in some positive manner. All of those forces build your confidence, validate your skills, and give you what you need to move onward and upward to bigger ideas and art. If you hit a moment of true symbiosis, The little piece of you that you sent into the world is copied into others’ lives and thoughts, and returned with interest. There’s a reason that the drive toward (creating or consuming) art and the drive toward sex are conflated so often as to be trite.
Alas, like sex, the giving of each other in a fan relationship can parasitic at least as often as symbiotic. Think the faded celeb increasingly desperate for attention, or the fan who thinks it appropriate to knock on Charlaine Harris’s door and ask for an autograph on her latest novel–or worse. Now I’ve heard it argued (in a variety of sources but probably most memorably in the song “Roxie” from Chicago) that this kind of behavior stems from a lack of received or perceived love. My brain keeps looking for a more complicated and esoteric rationale for entitled fans (and artists)—something that I could transform into bigger words and justify turning into a Profound Insight. But wherever I look in this weird little social construction we call fandom, that’s what it seems to boil down to. Of course there are lots of different kinds of love—the kind that helps both sides grow, the kind that limits one side or the other, and the kind that traps both sides in a destructive cycle that ultimately more closely resembles hate. I don’t always achieve this, but I try to make sure my fannish love fits in that first category. It’s the least I owe the artists who created the art that nourishes my soul.
If you love your idol, set them free
So Fandom, at the end of the day, is about love. As I look back on a not-quite-a-year of blog posts I see that theme in a screamingly clear way. As a child, I needed a father who wasn’t strung out on anti-seizure meds, and I was entranced by Willy Wonka. I craved the chance to be more than I was physically, and to live in a world who admired a bookish girl. So came The Neverending Story. I know my first best friend Melanie connected with that tale for her own reasons, but that’s her own story, and if I haven’t run out of coincidences it will be told another time in these comments***. Finally, I was desperate and alone after the aforementioned friend moved, and dying for any friend to accept me as I was, to embrace my quirky sense of humor and help me escape from the pain at home and the guilt in my soul. Enter the Monkees. And in that way, for some of the hardest times of my life, fandoms and my love of them helped me stay sane.
However, there comes a time to take the training wheels off. I knew there was more to life than living in those fantasies. I had to take a giant step into the world. I had to bring the water of life home from Fantasia. Fantasy can heal, and it is a wonderful and necessary gift. It helped me make peace with my flaws, embrace my strengths, and even learn how to make friends. Living overmuch in reality is a dead end, the same as wallowing in fantasy. Connect with art, and artists, and friends, but give them all the freedom to play and grow and live and work. Then come together again.
Write your song and then sing it.
Seek out the water of life and then share it.
Connect, play, laugh, cry, learn, and then go away and create more good work, better for what you learned.
I feel the time for me is nearing to share the fruits of my unexpected quest of the last year, when I fled to fandom desperate to make sense of my grief and guilt. The old music did heal me, but in a surprising new way. Three men who have long been role models to me took it to another level as we walked our 2012s in a bittersweet tandem. Against all odds, I feel myself moved to create as well as teach. Somehow I of all people may have two kinds of gifts to give to the world. I’m not sure yet, and I reserve the prerogative to change my mind, but I think I may have said what I set out to say in this blog. Except for at least one post, though. It comes out on Sunday. You can probably guess the topic from the video below.
*please Anne Rice fans, I love you, most of you are probably very nice people, but please refrain from making fools of yourself in the comments even if your author invites you to. I block morons with Extreme Prejudice.)
**Hey, there are worse ways to sublimate your procreative urges…
***Attention! If you are named Melanie Long, grew up in Moore, Oklahoma, graduated Moore High School class of 1991, know my maiden name is NOT Clark and remember our secret knock, EMAIL ME from the address in the About page. In fact, if you think you might KNOW that person, email me. After Moore she moved to Texas, then Arizona, and then…I have no clue. As of November the longest-standing item on my bucket list is finding her again.