This past week reminded me of my first days in my most encompassing fandom– the Herc/Xena days. I suppose one could call me a Xenite but really, I was all about the male guest stars. They were my focus. I loved the shows, wrote role playing stories that took place in that universe, and attended the conventions. Meeting the different actors made me appreciate them on a personal level and my adoration expanded to not just their characters but to their work before and beyond the shows. It was the early days of fandom on the internet, before social media, before smartphones.
It was a heady time. It was a time full of lessons that resonate even to this day.
I was part of my first (and I think only) fan club. I wasn’t part of any inner circles those days though I do remember sitting down for drinks with my friends and some of the behind the scenes folks (a producer and show writer, I believe), so I did have my moments. I was in it to connect with other fans and maybe, just maybe make friends. And on that score, I made some great friends who are still my friends now.
Did I crave some attention from the actual actors? OF COURSE. Whether it was getting that autograph at a convention or a photo with a favorite, I absolutely wanted those moments. I had my favorites and for them I created fansites. Some of the sites were one of many for a particular actor but a couple became the only ones for the particular actor and eventually they trusted me enough to personally reach out. I even call one a friend.
I did those sites on my own— the webspace was on my dime, the screencaps and sound bites were on my time. I found articles and interviews and posted them, always careful to give proper credit. I even posted a few fan contributions. I wanted to share my favorites with other people and I loved when fellow fans allowed me to share their experiences on my sites. My sites were my pieces of appreciation for my favorites and in a couple of cases, I earned their attention as well.
I never “worked” for any of my favorites but one allowed me to use his name as the URL for my fansite and I felt an obligation to keep that site as up-to-date as possible. We chatted a lot and he sent me photos and news whenever appropriate and I dutifully posted. I enjoyed our interactions and keeping up the website but eventually his work had many lulls and I moved on to other things.
One of my favorite parts of being part of the Xenaverse was the role playing stories. I played in the Temple of Ares and we all “shared” Ares in our stories, most of us not claiming him as our own but understanding he was a god who shared himself with his priestesses. (Just go with me on this.) Our loose rules including not marrying any canon characters to our characters (as our characters were not canon being more “Mary Sue” and the like), claiming canon characters as our own (no, they weren’t devoted exclusively to our characters), using the canon characters contrary to their storylines in the shows. Most of us adhered to these loose rules and a lot of us, when using the other priestesses, were respectful to the relationships established by those priestesses.
Of course, we had some folks who didn’t want to play within the confines of the rules. Not all of us had the same vision of the temple and those people wrote stories that were contrary. Sometimes it didn’t matter. Sometimes the stories were one-offs. It was only a problem when someone used our role-playing characters in their own stories without allowing for what those characters had already established. We didn’t always handle it in adult ways and sometimes people would leave, to be never heard from again.
In recent days, I have been loosely attached to some fan groups. Nothing totally official but I have been blessed (and I do not use that word often) by associating with like minded fans where mutual respect is paramount in our dealings with each other and our chosen artist. I have also been part of groups where someone has let ego get in the way. I learned to look beyond the pettiness and to the artist. He (because let’s be honest, I back the fellas more ardently than the ladies) is always my guiding force. He doesn’t need to know the behind the scenes conflicts. He doesn’t need to know when one of us isn’t acting in the best interest of the whole group. He doesn’t need to know that no matter how ONE might purport to be the main driving force, there’s a group operating under the banner. No, he only needs to know that we ALL adore him and support him in his endeavors. He only needs to know that we are there for him.
I have been guilty of wanting all the love for myself. Why else create those long ago websites for my fellas? I wanted to feel the shine of their attention. And I was lucky enough to have that. Along the way I learned that just because that shine went to someone else didn’t mean that it was being taken away from me. I learned to be grateful to be able to share in any of it. I learned that the friendships borne out of the mutual adoration was just as important if not more so than getting the attention of that favorite. Now when I “work” by linking to an article, tweeting about the latest role or song, I do so because I want others to feel what I feel. I want them to feel the magic of that favorite, the joy of their work, the beauty of their creations.
When I work with fellow fans, I do so with the hope that we’re all on the same page. Sometimes it works out and sometimes there are conflicts. Much of the time, it’s about ego getting in the way instead of the primary directive– shining light on the favorite. When conflicts arise due to ego, it needs to be called out, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. How we all react to being called out or to the calling out is the test. Do we lash out in pettiness or do we step back and take stock?