Okay, apparently I'm not done talking about names, because I neglected to mention down-from-NY hannahrorlove yesterday as well as some other locals I don't usually get to see, like sharkie/wolfshark, plus new and/or vaguely recalled faces or usernames who have now solidified into full-fledged people in my brain—tell me I'm not the only one this happens to—like hurry_sundown, ciaan, lizweisharr, stultiloquentia, v_angelique and cesy.
The meeting of people began at check-in Thursday night with a button-making crafts table and the popular find-a-fan Bingo icebreaker game, where you look for attendees who match your squares. Examples included "not a slasher," "has contributed to Fanlore," "proudly wearing purple" and, awkwardly, "bottle blond(e)." I was able to help people out with their "has written tentacle porn" or "multifandom vidder" or "is a published writer" squares. There were more tentacle people at this con than you might expect! Sometimes someone had filled out the square before me! Throughout the weekend there were also sucker-studded tee shirts, stuffed cephalopods, and springy, tubular table decorations that were appropriated (not even by me) to hang Iron Man dolls etc. in compromising positions.
Thursday evening was also the point at which it became clear that con_txt would reflect the general sentiment in online fandom right now re: OMG AVENGERS YAY, when half the group split off to go see it again at the movie theater a few blocks from the con hotel. There were three or four other group outings to see it, along with some room parties. Clearly I should have put up an invitation to go see Prometheus—still haven't gone—but when you want to go to the con programming and don't like staying up late, it's hard to find the time!
Anyhow, let us talk about some meta panels. Wow, we are not going in chronological order at all.
Old Fandoms Never Die with deelaundry, Mrs. Hamill and zara
A group of fans of all different ages variously celebrating their long-lived fandoms, waxing nostalgic for the golden days, discussing why some fandoms live on while others fade, and worrying about what might become of current favorites. First question was a call for names of favorite "old" fandoms, defined (I think) as those whose canons closed before ca. 2000. The Professionals, due South, TOS, a couple dozen others.
Main question: How and why do some fandoms persist? Also the related question: How can you get people interested in your old or fading fandom?
- Continued broadening of what you can do with the fanworks (i.e. branching out from 'zines to online fic to vids to tumblrs); also, willingness to adapt to new platforms
- Related parts of the franchise continue, like new Trek or Star Wars movies
- Wealth of past 'zines – there's more to absorb when you run out of stuff online
- Central archives
- Crossovers/crossover ability helps
- AU-ability, too; and AUs of AUs
- Other/new canons with the same actor(s) – people want to go back and see what else they've been in
- Syndication, reruns, DVD release – more people get pulled in
- Strong, passionate core fan(s)
- New people can also come in when they want to see the canons/read the fics where their favorite fandom tropes originated
- Authors you like who are writing or have written in that fandom
- Anniversaries and challenges renew/strengthen interest
- Some of the canons are so good you can't let them go
- Some of them… aren't. New waves of people still want to fix the big problems.
- Older canons might have more slashiness on screen than is common in more modern canons
- Vids can reel people (back) in
- Healthy sense of denial, especially if the canon didn't go anywhere good
- Opportunity for discussion – sense of community
- Not much else around that you're interested in at the time
- Use archive tagging, when you're searching for specific tropes or kinks or whatnot¬
- Fandom pimping parties; rewatches; posting about first watches
- Cross-fandom challenges/communities like fan_flashworks
- Can be a problem when new versions of canon are so good it takes attention away from the original. Like the new Sherlock movies or TV show. ST Reboot and TOS. Some participate in both fandoms, but some moved to or came in to only Reboot.
- Canon can really end at the end. Sometimes fan activity takes off, sometimes it's crippled.
- Wank wars and dedicated trolls
- Actors and producers being assholes
- Legal threats that suppress fic can hide or prevent small fandoms from flourishing
- Archives disappear
- Central fan shifts focus or gets flouncy or, um, dies
- Can't write around RL events that affect the canon/fandom, like Sep 11
Bring Back that Loving Feeling with ciaan
As someone who's felt out of step with the larger fannish community of late and who has lamented an ongoing downslide in enthusiasm about fannish works and other fandom-related things that used to make me happy, I really appreciated this panel.
Some audience members missed being in love with their specific fandom(s), while others missed wanting to participate in fandom in general. The point was made that it matters whether you care that you no longer love something; when you don't care that you don't care, then you're fine and you can move on. When you want to want something, though, it's an ache and a problem in search of a solution. What do you do? If you can, go to the root of it: Examine what the need is that you're trying to feed. For instance, was it a genre, a trope, a character type in the source that you loved? Try another show/book/movie/whatever in that genre. cincodemaygirl got a big laugh with her suggestion of the "Amazon recommends" model of fandom: "Do you have feelings about Rodney McKay? Try Tony Stark!" Or if you're tired of your genre, try something totally different.
If we look at the issue like a twelve- (or three-) step program [which we didn't do in the panel—I'm just introducing it as a handy structure for the recap], step one is to accept the loss of the love and the need to recharge. Accept that it's okay to watch/read sources without engaging in fandom or without engaging right away. Accept that it's okay to watch vids/read fics without making your own. Accept that sometimes you just need to take a break. Accept that you can't force yourself to be interested in something. (Comment: " I can't try to be interested in something; it never works. I have to wait for something to hit me.") While you're on break, try refilling your well of non-fannish cultural experience (going to museums, watching unrelated movies). Go do something physical for a while instead of sitting at the computer/TV. Ask a friend to find or keep an eye out for things you might like while you're off recharging. Accept that oftentimes your fannish life comes and goes in cycles of burnout, break/recharge, immersion. Remember that it is especially hard for introverts to maintain or regain enough energy to participate in a community when they start to flag or when they've been away for a while.
Step two would be to examine why your love faded. Various comments included that a bad experience in one fandom made the person want to leave all of fandom; and that problems arise when you and the source and the fandom are not on the same timeline. Maybe you're too early and you have to wait for fandom to maybe love what you love. Maybe you're too late and the fandom is over. Maybe (*cough*) you don't care about whatever fandom cares about at a given time.
deelaundry won people over with her thorough analogy of fandom as a bar. You go for the cocktail, but then you find you like the people, and then they change the cocktail but you stay anyway, except then some people start going to this other bar, but you decide to stay, and then these new people come in and they don't know how to play darts, and then a fight breaks out in the corner, but goddammit you are going to stay in this bar, until finally you can't take it and go make the cocktail at home by yourself. ...Her description was longer and funnier.
Then we come to the final step: trying to rekindle feelings of love and a desire to participate. Many suggestions proposed on how to do this.
- Go to cons
- Find new fandoms, pairings, creative mediums, platforms, and/or people to talk to
- Explore new/different ways of participating – leaving comments, remastering someone's vid, experimenting with tumblr, contributing to Fanlore. Comment: "I was bored with panels at cons. So I started volunteering."
- Take a step back and revisit what you love in general, or what you love(d) about your fandom(s). Especially useful when you break up with a fandom but not a source.
- Go to, or host, watching parties where you find a new source or remember what excited you about yours
- Change the length or medium of your next project
- Lock yourself into a commitment, forcing a sustained energy/attention (write a long fic, run a con). Alternately, hand off your tired responsibility to regain your enthusiasm.
- Revisit kink memes/challenges to see if there are fills you're interested in now that you weren't before (or see if there are new fills you would have been interested in had they existed)
- Could start with a small fandom and/or a canon with only a little source material
- Try hanging out with people who hate what you (want to) love (again), or people who are new to the fandom. You'll want to defend it!
- Start a local fangirl support group, with or without primal scream therapy ("KHAAAAAAAAAAN!")
Seriously, though, it was nice to be in a room with people in a similar boat. A boat of undesired apathy. Patience, and love will return.
Two additional panels encouraged us to dig deeper into what's going on in our fannish minds. One was:
Age Disparities in Slash Relationships with bethbethbeth and dorinda
Hooray, age disparities! /personal kink, although usually for m/f
First, a discussion of what constitutes an age disparity. Interesting answers, including:
- Are the people at significantly different stages of life – i.e. the difference between 18 and 30 is much larger than the difference between 38 and 50, even though it's the same number of years
- Did they grow up during different eras
- Can be influenced or exaggerated by power disparity, gender, class
- Emotional age, physical maturity
- Cultural context
- Level of sexual and romantic experience
- Are both people adults
- When does the story take place and in what universe
- (How) does the story treat the age difference
- How old does the character look (Angel, Thor, Claudia)
- Aging through lived experience
Next, a free-for-all session of listing people's favorite fictional m/m and f/f relationships involving a significant age difference. Answers included Harry/Snape (vs. Hermione/Snape – Harry more powerful, male, famous, more stories tend to age Hermione up to reduce some of the many other disparities), Jim/Blair, Spock!Prime/Reboot!Kirk, Brian/Justin from Queer as Folk, Captain America/anybody, Doctor Who/anybody, Lewis/Hathaway, Gibbs/Tony, and Marius/Armand. If you want a longer list, I can share what I wrote down.
And then the big question: What's appealing about it? Answers focused on the mentorship aspect, the appeal of sexual indoctrination and enthusiastic consent (when the younger partner works hard to convince the older one that (s)he really wants to have sex, and the cathartic power of dealing with one's own past experience. Perhaps an indication of a desire to recapture one's youth. Often we substitute ourselves in one of the roles. Funny comment from dee: "I like the pretty teenage boy trying to live up to the older man. They act more adult. Two teens together would probably be out farting in the pool."
Other questions: When does it not work for you? ("I'm a teacher. I can't handle teacher/student relationships in RL because of the abuse of power. In fanfic, I can accept it under certain circumstances. Often I really like the courtships, the explorations of why this works. It wasn't the age disparity that turned me off, it was the formality of the relationship.") How much do you address the different life experiences of people born in different times? If you're writing a long-term relationship, (how) do you deal with the fact that over time, the relationship is going to change as the younger person grows up and/or as the older person becomes infirm?
Intersection with daddy (and mommy) issues. Interesting and highly problematic. Often, the older character knew the other's father. Steve Rogers knew Howard Stark. Snape knew James and Lily Potter. Father issues are a ubiquitous theme in popular culture anyway, orphans, etc.; they're just highlighted in fanfic age disparity relationships. Many times the character's father figure isn't their biological father. Alaric/Jeremy in The Vampire Diaries. Hornblower/Pellew. Jack/Daniel in the beginning of SG-1 when Daniel was so innocent. Teacher/mentor/father blending. A question to ask in addressing the issues is, how healthy does the relationship end up being? The ideal is to "find someone who'll play in the sandbox with you and parent you and treat you as an equal." Yet we're drawn to characters who've had dysfunctional/tragic pasts and are not perhaps healthy and well-adjusted. We put them with someone who makes it worse or who fixes it.
Gender differences, still. Older male/younger female is still more societally acceptable or at least expected. Harlequin shift in the '80s – the heroines a little older and more professional than the men they're after. M/m age disparity relationships, or older woman/younger man in RL, may seem threatening because they are seen as somehow preventing the younger men from growing into their natural predatory selves.
In short: 1) Thinky. 2) More, please.
Actually, that applies to a lot of these panels. :)
The third panel that tried to dig deeper into why we love what we love was:
The Phylogeny of Speculative Erotica with stultiloquentia and melannen
Thesis: Speculative fiction provides many possibilities for imagining and depicting sex in ways our bodies can't do. A brief history of unusual sex in pro SF, courtesy of melannen. Amusing note that you can trace the date of any TOS fic by the description of Spock's genitalia. Penis-dating rather than carbon-dating?
We proceeded into the brainstorm part of the panel, where people named a bunch of stuff that happens in speculative fanfic relating to sex, genitalia, and gender. Anything from "boypussies" to 'verses with alpha/omega or dom/sub dynamics to tentacles to variant erogenous zones to soulbonding to animalistic traits to sentient objects to clones/doppelgangers to magic to robots/androids/cyborgs. Worlds with different concepts and presentations of gender and/or sexual identity. It was a long list.
Then we started to work on categorizing the tropes (e.g. "things that change or shape a universe as opposed to those that can happen in a universe"; "things that are kinks"), but soon enough it evolved into discussing what very human needs are at the core of them. That there are kinks underlying the kinks; what looks like one thing may really be about something else. That got at some really interesting points. People argued that speculative erotica allows you to:
- Write the hotness of noncon without making characters "bad" people (guilt-free noncon)
- Physicalize intimate mental connections
- Remove the need for societal acceptance by introducing determinism (as in dom/sub etc. 'verses)
- Play with gender and sexuality
- Play with different body/sensory awareness, different cultural awareness; explore different sensations that it might not be possible to ever experience
- Depict sex without traditional/normative genital sex
- Provide commentary on our own societies (as does speculative fiction in general)
- Reclaim our bodies, explore ourselves or others, sometimes through a distancing effect/lens (ditto the above)
- Confront body dysmorphia or discomfort, including adolescence/nascent sexuality. What looks like a trans* or body modification story might really be about teen girls becoming comfortable with being sexual. Stulti won approval for her proposal that fandom identify a trope not of hurt/comfort but of shame/comfort – where your character, or you through your character, learns to accept their body/identity or teaches someone else to accept their body/identity. Example was Blaine from Glee.
- Depict a fight for agency (e.g. sub/beta trying to make it in a dom/alpha's world)
- Explore how to manage relationships while preserving one's own identity (i.e. in soulbonding or "in heat" stories); alternately, to highlight or solve the uncertainty of relationships (ditto)
- Possibly explore the more fetishistic sides of tropes related to trans*, disability and/or intersex issues in a more acceptable way than you could if you were writing reality-based fic (contentious point)
- Make sex scenes fresh to jaded readers
In conclusion: "Sometimes it's all about the worldbuilding and social commentary, and sometimes it's about the boypussy."
ETA: stulti explains her theory
More (and mostly shorter) meta panel recaps to come later. Now we will talk about the vid show!
Friday night was the Disco Duck dance party with background favorite actors/characters slide show, on two screens as in past years so you could have fun doing crossovers in your head. There was also a neighboring quiet room and a board game room; by the end of the night, a group of us retired there to play Uno and an unfamiliar game called Dixit, which we all agreed was created by someone on a bad drug trip. Witness some of the game cards. Your game piece is a bunny and there is complicated math (...by which I mean you have to learn the rules and add things up to six, but it was 11 p.m. and we'd visited the Disco Duck bar), but it boils down to you have to think of a not-too-specific-but-not-too-generic sentence relating to one of your whimsical wacko disturbing cards and then everyone puts one down face-down that could fit and then you try to guess which one was the original. It was... memorable. There was a crying teddy bear with a stethoscope and a lady with a puppet show in her abdomen and more than one tentacle-y scene and I don't even remember what else.
All of that by way of introducing Saturday night, which was the vid show, yay. Well, half yay; I thought the show was uneven, but of course taste varies and I don't know how many or what kind of submissions the con got this year. Even un-great vids are fun to watch with a group, though, and there were plenty of excellent entries on the docket. Personal favorites that I hadn't seen before were:
- I Just Had Sex (Thor) by mresundance was a great way to open the show. Silly, punny, bright. Big laughs and applause.
- Castor's Sparkling Diamonds (Tron) by xxYaminoHikarixx was also a delight – and a rare example of knowing when to stop.
- Sit Down By the Fire (Kings) by sweetestdrain – Prompting the question: How are all the Kings vids in fandom amazing?
- No, I Don't Remember (X-Men movies) by obsessive24 – Lord help me, this actually made me appreciate X-Men: First Class. The repeated chess imagery. That shot of young!Xavier on the beachfront, screaming. Mm and *shiver*. ETA: warning for movieverse Holocaust imagery.
- It's Better to Have Loved (Sherlock BBC) by Diana Williams – Not all of the speed work worked in this, IMO, but it was a solid portrait of John lost in grief and second-guessing and nostalgia after "The Reichenbach Fall." I took note of how well it used the technique of returning to the same scenes throughout the vid without feeling repetitive.
- Tonight (I'm Fucking You) (White Collar) by talitha78. I love this song, and I think Tim DeKay is gorgeous. Matt Bomer is also gorgeous in an Anne Hathaway "how does this person really exist on Earth" sort of disconcerting way. I understand there is substantial m/m/f threesome potential between them and Tim's character's wife on the show. Yet I have actively resisted watching White Collar; too much smirk, not interested in more bromancey crime dramas. Until. Until this vid. It actually gave me a visceral reaction, a little happy sexy thrill. Sigh. Another fannish promise broken. *adds to Netflix queue*
- Somewhere Out There (Community) by thingswithwings, which, *hangs head*, I hadn't watched when she posted it because my fondness for Community is a non-'shippy fondness, was really adorable. Because it's thingswithwings, it was also layered, so at the same time it critiqued the series for not letting Troy and Abed actually be in a romantic or sexual relationship with each other. If you need more incentive to watch it, how about the fact that the two actors whose characters are shipped in the vid are the ones who sing the song?
- The Only Exception (Big Eden) by Diana Williams, which I think I'd seen before, or maybe there was a different Big Eden vid that conveyed the same point. Whatever; it's never a hardship watching the big, quiet, shy, pining guy eventually get his man.
- Deep (Farscape) by rhoboat was one of two kink-soaked vids in the show, and boy, was it a trip. John/Scorpius, torture, blood, pain, leather, finger-sucking, begging, submission, heaps of identity confusion and questioning of reality.
- (The other kink vid having been deelaundry's Boom! [Tango & Cash], from Kink Bingo's "all you can kink" challenge, which we agreed would have gone over better at the vid show if the contextual vidder's note had been at the beginning instead of at the end. Alas.)
The show-stealer belonged without question to heresluck's ST Reboot/TOS vid The Test, which… I must have watched it three times in a row when I first encountered it just to try to wrap my head around what had just happened, and watched it at least once again in the intervening year(s), so the audience's demand to play it a second time immediately after the vid show ended was understandable! There were audible gasps and murmurs and "wow"s as it played. Watching it twice on Saturday didn't reduce the vid's impact for me at all. If you haven't seen it, even if you only have a passing interest in Trek, I really recommend that you try it. Her use of special effects and her choice of music allowed her to realize a clever, heartstring-tugging concept flawlessly. Mmph, those shots of Kirk soaring-falling to "I'm shinin'"… those static flickers in Kirk's head and in our own memories of the original series… the way the action takes off with the music when Spock Prime initiates the mind meld... the way she holds your attention rapt through the very last second.
Other familiar vids did well, too, like purplefringe's cute John/Rodney vid I do the dumbest things for you (even though by virtue of having heard it first at Vividcon 2011, the song belongs to Doctor Who's Amy & Rory in my head) and Jescaflowne's cute/action-packed Kiss With a Fist (Life on Mars).
Others made me think as I tried to decide how I felt about them, like Superman (Queer as Folk U.S.) by lierdumoa—recontextualizing a misogynistic song to critique the way Brian was treating Justin and to illustrate a problematic relationship? ETA: comment with some useful explication /ETA I think I also articulated in my head for the first time, obvious as it seems in retrospect, that the chorus of mresundance's Whole New Way (Sherlock Holmes multi)—"I've found a whole new way to love you"—referred both to how Holmes and Watson can love each other anew in every iteration of the canon and to how fans' love for their beloved characters likewise grows and morphs as each adaptation hits our movie and TV screens.
And that, as Forrest Gump would say, is all I have to say about that. Until comments happen.
(See the full playlist here if you like.)
Break time. Last post forthcoming within the next couple of days.
ETA: Part three now posted.