How fandom loves: Let’s be weird together

The weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you - Supernatural fandom

{Author’s Note: This post expands on something I said at an Ad Astra panel that I felt needed to be shared. There’s so much grossness out there regarding mental health and fandom, separately and together; I figured we could use a little love. Enjoy, comment, share. Mwah.}

From the outside, fandom can look stupid and awful. It can look like a gaggle of overweight, undermatured collectors who read too many comics in their mom’s basements. It can look like codependent interneters with nothing better to do than whine about their depression. It can look like oversensitive idealists attacking the “real world”’s views of gender, sex, race, and ability. A misanthropic mess of squabbling, nitpicking, ignorant children. It can look like a lot of things. not many of them good.

But from the inside, the view is remarkably different.

First, we first fell in love with a story. Before we Tumbled, cosplayed, or fanficced—maybe even before we shipped—we saw something beautiful on the screen or on the page, and we absorbed it into the fabric of our being. Not long after, a little voice inside whispered, “You are not alone.” And because we were outsiders, treated as less-than, othered, marginalized, we didn’t believe it, but we kept watching and reading and crying and laughing and soon we wanted to believe it. We needed to share our love of the story. That’s when we took those first tentative baby steps into the world of fandom. We sought out places where others gathered, unsure if we belonged, clutching our dearest plush to our emblazoned T-shirts, eyes widening at the wonderous temples that have been built to the stories that showed us who we are.

And then we fell in love again.

As we started goobing out with other story lovers, we got to know each other. Over time, we discovered that the thing(s) that make(s) us weird, awkward, different, broken, flawed out there were not only common in here, but normal. They had them, too. We were shocked to be seen and welcomed, heard and validated. To realize these people cared about us because, between the stories and the struggles, we’re the same. People who love us.

Our people.

This is the special beauty of fandom. It’s an understanding that connects us in ways we may never experience outside the community. It creates an organic support structure—a way to help without pretense. If you struggle with hyperfocus that makes you forget to eat, and I struggle with anorexia, we can have lunch and swap theories about Neville being the Chosen One. If I’m lost in depression, you can come watch Guardians of the Galaxy with me so I feel loved without having to talk. We’re afforded endless opportunities to see and support because we have this framework of storylove around us.

No, the fandom community isn’t perfect, and yes, there are problems. But that’s true for any group. What makes fandom so precious is that, even when it’s tense and feelings are hurt, the core of our relationship is always the love of a story. We’re on the same team.

We’re fans. Fandom is about love—for our stories and for each other. As long as we remember that, no power in the ‘verse can stop us.

Limited back of the month - fandom crossover - slippedstitchstudios

My Diablo III character and I have something to say about #GamerGate

If you don’t know about GamerGate, I’m jealous. You should either stop reading this right now to preserve your innocence OR you should go here and here to read about the horrific, disgusting, and terrifying shit going down in the gamersphere because a woman dared to criticize video games while calling herself a feminist. If you’re a real sucker for punishment and love to watch the world burn, look up the Twitter hashtag.

Essentially, it’s about assholes who want women out of their sandbox because it’s my sandbox, no girls allowed and if you come in I will literally kill you. It’s about telling women they are worthless, that they are meaningless, that they are non-people, that they are disposable, ignorable, rapeable, killable. It’s about men telling women what they can and can’t say and do, who they can and can’t be.

And, in a 100% understandable response, some women are backing away from calling themselves gamers. They’re retreating from their beloved pastime because they’re afraid to be caught up in this hurricane of violence and evil.

But I will not relinquish the title I have earned through thousands of hours spent with a controller in my hand, wearing off the rubber on the 360 joystick, enduring Sega thumb, and listening to Vamo alla Flamenco until I developed a Pavlovian anger response to it.

So, GamerGate haters, this is what I have to say about that:

#StopGamerGate2014 - I Am a Gamer

Update: Immediately after I posted this, the first person to comment over on Facebook was a dude who told me how sad of a DPS that is. THIS IS WHAT I’M ON ABOUT, PEOPLE.


Paranormal romance vs urban fantasy: Why are we afraid of kissing?

When I sent Eddy Webb a review copy of The Transmigration of Cora Riley, his initial pull quote labelled the book as “paranormal romance.”

I immediately bristled. I don’t see the story that way. In my mind, it’s firmly in the urban fantasy genre. Yes, there is a romantic storyline, but that’s not the whole point of the book. Not even half of the point.

So I (with great nervousness) emailed Eddy back to ask if he’d mind changing the quote to say “urban fantasy” instead. He did, without hesitation, then the following conversation ensued:

EDDY: I debated whether to even call it a paranormal romance, because while it checks the formula boxes, it did them in a way that seemed to further the story. The inevitable sex scene made sense within the plot, and reflected a genuine conflict for the characters. Cora repeatedly came across as a strong character in her own right, and I felt there is respect between the two characters. If you had dropped the romance angle, I think the story would be slightly diminished, but it would still be a strong story, which is a testament to your writing.

ELLIE: Okay, so this made me SUPER FUCKING HAPPY. I’ve been really angsting about being lumped into paranormal romance instead of urban fantasy (which is what I’m shooting for) because the relationships are not the point of the story. They’re supplemental and provide texture to characters and plot, but they’re not the guiding aspect. There’s a huge difference between a story with relationships/sex and a story ABOUT relationships/sex. Nothing wrong with the latter; it’s just not the book/series I’m writing. I am SO not a romance writer.

EDDY: That’s a weird thing, because the lines are REALLY arbitrary. For example, one could argue that certain novels of the Dresden Files are paranormal romance. When I’m bitter, the line seems to be “the gender of the writer.” But, in all honesty, I think you can make a strong case for urban fantasy. In my case, I just came off of a steampunk romance book that was explicitly romance, so that’s probably why my head was there. But like I said, the lines are really fuzzy and seem to ultimately boil down to “marketing.”

Eddy and I obviously see eye-to-eye on this topic: the division between paranormal romance and urban fantasy is incredibly blurry for what amounts to stupid reasons.

You can see where I’m about to go with this, right?

There’s a tendency – among all sorts of people – to chuck books with any sort of love story into the romance genre. A purposeful crowbar separation between “serious fantasy” and “romantic fluff.”

Setting aside how the whole male vs female author conflict plays into this, there’s a clear difference between a romance novel and a novel that has romance in it. It lies in intention, which, for a good author, is obvious in their writing – you don’t have to guess.

A romance novel’s intention is to get you hot and bothered, again and again, using the framework of setting and cast; the intention of a novel with romance in it is to tell a larger story, using love/sex as plot devices and character development. Where romance is a tool in the latter, it is the entire purpose of the former.

Now, it’s important you don’t misunderstand me here. There’s nothing wrong with reading romance novels. I know it’s somewhat popular to say there is, but I don’t believe it. You read what you dig. Those authors need your love and support the same way that any other writer does, and there are some truly spectacular things being done in the genre.

The rage-point for me is this idea that having any sort of romantic plotline in a book automatically makes it a romance novel. Disqualifying a book from a non-romance genre for including romantic and/or sexual situations is fucking ridiculous.

It tells people that those basic, common, fascinating, and important interactions between humans are dirty, bad, unacceptable, or “for women” (implying weakness and lack of worth).

It invalidates love and lust as legitimate story.

It implies that people who enjoy even the most tame romantic ties in their stories are not “serious fans.”

It’s erroneous and detrimental to writers, readers, and all genres because it says that love and sex belong in one very specific box and nowhere else.

It robs us of the richness of life.

We shouldn’t be afraid to see romance in our fantasy, our sci-fi, our mysteries, our cookbooks (okay, maybe that’s too far). Romance is part of being human, and we should be embracing it, not shunting it into a corner at the merest hint of a kiss.

Molly Weasley - What is this shit