mina_de_malfois: (Dash it all)
mina_de_malfois ([personal profile] mina_de_malfois) wrote2009-11-30 09:15 am
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3.12 Mina de Malfois and the End of Summer (part two)

This, sadly, will be the last update, or at least the last-for-a-longish-time time. Well: that's not quite accurate. I have a lot of edge-filling to do for season three--one-shot stuff to be added. And since I'm aching to give away prizes, there will be a post soliciting Mina fanworks (and prompts for Mina fanworks), so that in February you can all vote on who I'll be spending money on.
But it will be the last Mina-as-usual update for quite a while.

...I miss you all already. ;_;

Warning: [personal profile] mina_de_malfois is an affectionate satirical examination of online fandom. Some readers may not share this sense of humour; reader discretion is advised. [personal profile] mina_de_malfois is for entertainment purposes only; [personal profile] mina_de_malfois neither attempts nor achieves any notable degree of accuracy, and should therefore not be used as a source of information, let alone a reason to reinforce, say, glaring homophobia and gender biases.

It was a dark and stormy night,1 and by the time we'd got our luggage stowed in the back of Warr1or's truck and ourselves jammed in the cab, I was soaked to the skin and feeling slightly murderous.

'We're risking pneumonia in these wet clothes,' PrinceC pointed out. I for one felt we'd be risking a damned sight more out of them, and evidently Warr1or agreed with me, because neither one of us responded. Honestly, the lad has sex on the brain. He's hardly fit for human society, outside of Torchwood fandom anyway.

Besides, I didn't want to sully the purity of my quest. I was setting out to collect the requisite information and connections necessary to full immersion in my latest fandom.

Our nights in tent or barn I'll skip over, if it's all the same to you. To be perfectly honest, I'd feel a little peculiar recording all the particulars, and to this day am haunted by a vague dread that PrinceC will get bored some winter's evening and self-publish a tell-all memoir.

I suspect Warr1or must feel the same way I do, only more so. Although at the time he tried to convince me he was taking it all in stride and it was all perfectly natural anyway, really.

Well. As someone wiser than I once noted, nature is what we are put on this earth to rise above.2 I personally intend to rise above that bit with a vengeance, and so no details are pending from this particular quarter. The truly curious are advised to go bribe PrinceC.

I'd chosen as my first encounter a prime example of what you might call an emotive fan: all keysmashing and enthusiasm, she didn't so much create fanworks or produce meta as just consume the source material, loudly and happily. A perfect introduction, I reasoned, to my new fandom.3

I had not chosen wrongly. She met me at the door with a tray of what she called 'sammiches,'4 and cheerfully assured me the kettle was on and soon she'd be pouring me 'a cuppa.'

Within moments of my arrival she'd plied me with dvds of all the key episodes, plus copies of magazines she'd had multiples of, and had breathlessly announced her favourite characters, pairing, and set, as well as the wardrobe choices she'd most admired and that week's episodes' best quotations and reveals.

She showed me her decoupage craftwork, all featuring her favourite 'hunks' from the show. She plied me with printouts of the online quizzes she felt best helped one determine which of the characters one most resembled, ought to date, aspired to look like, and should model one's house after (and which room one ought to concentrate on--mine came up 'Carla' and 'kitchen,' which can't have been right.5)

My head spun just a little, but I was keeping up. At least, I was keeping up until she suddenly said something barkingly transphobic6 about a particular message board. I blinked. That had come out of nowhere. 'Over-run with what?' I thought maybe I'd misheard. I hadn't.

'Is that really important?' I spoke gently, in case she began foaming at the mouth or something. 'I mean, it's not as if anyone's genitals are pertinent to sharing episode spoilers, are they?'

'But don't you ever feel,' she persisted, 'like all the trans-whatever people and whatever are ruining fandom? You just can't have any fun anymore.'
For one hot, brief instant I had a vivid flashback to Joshen, my nemesis-and-whatever. 'I can't say in my experience they're particularly non-fun,' I said.

'But they're ruining everything,' she persisted. She was really stuck on the ruination. I enquired, cautiously, as to precisely how they were doing that.
'They're talking about things.'7 I awaited further clarification. 'All the time,' she went on, waving her hands around a bit, 'and all over the place, and they're always so serious. There's always someone dissecting every show and book, and talking about inclusivity and stuff like that. You can't just enjoy fandom anymore without a gazillion degrees or something.'

'Can't you just, you know, not join in those conversations then?' I wasn't being sarcastic; I was merely trying to spare her the necessity of earning those gazillion degrees, which I can imagine would take a lot of time and would, admittedly, not be a lot of fun.

But she glared at me, eyes narrowed, said something under her breath about my being part of the 'politically correct brigade,' and swept out of the room. Damned awkward, as the room in question was her kitchen. I let myself out meekly, still clutching the dvds she'd been kind enough to burn for me, back during that ten minutes before she'd decided I was the enemy. You'd think by now I'd be fully inured to the vagaries of fen, but it threw me a bit to have been cast as the enemy on the basis of my perceived association with a set of people who'd committed the heinous crime of having conversations.

I suppose we Acafen are just a bit too intimidating for such simpler souls, what with our educations and vocabularies and opinions. We probably seem fiercely elitist to those beneath us. After all, they can only appreciate entertainment for its ability to entertain them, poor dears. They miss the broader opportunities for political-social commentary, exploration of sex and gender roles, and the denunciation of stereotypes, not to mention the myriad opportunities it affords to discuss copyright law and trademarks. It's a wonder they bother to watch television at all, really.

All in all the sudden onset of plebian prejudice had been a bit stifling. I'd be happy to be back among my own kind, and it was with considerable relief that I reminded myself that the next two fans I'd be visiting were each, in their own way, respected academics.

So it was with a sense of coming home that I climbed out of the truck--PrinceC and Warr1or were off to an Occult seminar of some kind--and mounted the stairs in a grotty-ish apartment building to the lair of Trisha Hill,8 an Acafan of great renown. No one who'd read her many posts on the necessity of balancing creative freedom with correctly expressed views could doubt this woman's credentials, but even if they had, she very helpfully trotted out her credentials regularly, so as to let other online fans better appreciate the full value of her opinions. Her latest article, OmNomNom Skin Tone: Middle-Class White Girls' Use of Comfort Food Metaphors as an Attempt to De-Other Characters of Color,9 was renowned.

She greeted me at the door with a handful of small press comics and zines, explaining that they encapsulated the problematization-acceptance nexis of -isms in the fandom, so it was crucial that I have her extra copies. Without them, she assured me, I would entirely miss the Larger Issues which were the real point of the fandom, and might get waylaid into an unreflective enjoyment of the source texts.

I was, in a word, quite touched. I hadn't expected such a display of gracious condescension from someone whom all of fandom held in such high regard. Of course it seems silly in light of my own reputation, but I'd been just the teensiest bit intimidated at the thought of meeting her. Thank heavens my own sense of my fannish worth had reasserted itself enough to drop by.

PrinceC and Warr1or were looking a bit dazed when I caught up to them. 'The discussion centred around the portrayal of female fans in the Occultverse,' PrinceC said, 'so we felt a bit out of place.'

The last I'd checked in on it, the Occultverse had largely been portraying females of every stripe as corpses. I cautiously enquired as to whether this had undergone improvement.

'The general sense,' PrinceC said, equally cautious, 'is that the writers are portraying female Occult fans as over-emotive, sex-mad, and illogical. Preoccupied with male-male relationships.'10

'And are they preoccupied with male-male relationships?'

'Not any more,' Warr1or offered. 'Now they're preoccupied with being stereotyped in canon.' He looked slightly miffed at this shift away from a focus on Pierce and Jab. I suppose that's the peril of over-identification. I was tempted to point out to him that this shift showed his fandom was maturing, and eventually it would have complex discussions about nexises and -isms, but I couldn't come up with a good paraphrase of the issues.

That evening I could hardly wait to tell Arc about my finds.

So delighted was I that I chanced a phonecall to Arc, who listened patiently while I tried to convey the scholarly joy of fan-drawn soap opera comics. 'I'm thinking of stapling my map inside the front cover, so I'll always remember this road trip,' I concluded.

There was a faint noise, as of a sharpishly-indrawn breath. In a lesser person it might have been a gasp, but I hardly think Arc is the type to gasp. 'Staples?' she repeated weakly.

'Or I could use scotch tape,' I offered helpfully, and she moaned quietly. You might imagine, as I once imagined, that these professional archivists are a calm, placid lot, but in actuality they're damned high-strung. I decided it was best to shift the focus of our conversation away from the treacherous shoals of zine storage and attachment technology. 'Oh, who cares; I'll probably just toss them in my mother's attic with my old stacks of comics,' I said breezily, hoping to shake her out of this morbid preoccupation with preservation. I moved on briskly. 'Tomorrow should be interesting, Arc. I've got a meeting with a fandom researcher.'

'What sort of research?' I was relieved to hear the familiar note of crisp sarcasm had replaced that slight hint of over-excitement.

'She's a brain scientist.'11 I felt a frisson of doubt as I spoke the words. Surely they were more suitable as a description of Victor Frankenstein than of any present-day researcher? But perhaps it only sounded odd to me because I'm a layperson; possibly all the best neurologists prefer to speak in terms of Brain Science. I mean, she had a publishing contract, after all, so surely this researcher was the genuine article. I said as much to Arc, who sighed and then told me to enjoy myself and let her know how it turned out.

Ray met me at the door in a lab coat, which was massively reassuring, though I thought it a bit odd that she'd chosen to wear it over white thigh-high stockings and what looked to be a garter belt. Still, once one's risen to the top of one's academic field I suppose you're allowed these little foibles. And it was immediately clear she was destined for greatness.

She kindly explained her research to me in simple terms. She was, she said, looking at female fans' fan-activity: writing fic, creating archives, organizing fic exchanges and charity drives, and etc. She could then explain these varied activities by looking at scans of brain activity taken by some other scientists using other female volunteers under completely different circumstances.

I marvelled at the spirit of co-operation that existed among these Brain Scientists, what with their willingness to share results and kind of cross-pollinate each others' studies like that.

'I wonder what it will prove,' I said eagerly, and she gave me a pitying look.

'I already know what it will prove,' she said, laughing lightly. 'The organizational and management skills evinced by female fans are just further confirmation that these skills were hardwired into the female brain through a process of evolutionary selection that began in matriarchal society.12 The drives and impulses that equipped our female ancestors to head up societies, found religions, and domesticate plants and animals still exist today, Mina, inside each and every one of us. We can witness them in the behavior of present-day fen!'

I was dazzled. I had never realized science extended to cover stuff like this. It was fascinating. I only hoped my own, non-scientific research would be half as meaningful and inspirational.

When next I boarded the truck, PrinceC and Warr1or were looking greenish. 'Anything wrong?' I asked, worried about them. After all, as male fans they relied upon me to manage and organize them. Science said so.

'Fanfiction,' PrinceC said. He spoke out of the corner of his mouth, barely parting his lips, as if afraid he might hurl.

'It can't have been that bad,' I said.

He shuddered. 'The RPF with the dog,' he said, turning greener.

'Don't,' Warr1or pleaded.

'The babyfic,' PrinceC went on, lost in some hellish vision. Warr1or twitched, and nearly put us into the oncoming lane of traffic.13

'As soon as we get back,' he said firmly, 'I'm shutting down the Occult section of my archive, and deleting all the fic.'

'Good man,' PrinceC said weakly, and I gaped, shocked to the core at this proposed destruction. Apparently they'd both lost their minds while I was otherwise occupied. No true fan would contemplate such a thing.

'And I'm leaving the fandom. Forever,' Warr1or concluded. It was the grimmest and least flounciest flounce I'd ever encountered.

'Warr1or, old man,' PrinceC said fervently, 'I have never loved you more than I do at this moment.'

I sat in silence for large swaths of the return trip, mulling things over. I was still keen to get well stuck in re: the new fandom, but it had receded to the back of my mind somewhat, now that I'd met my new contacts. I mean, having seen two aca-stars, and having had a demonstration of the depths of intolerance that lie elsewhere, I felt freshly inspired to devote myself to my career. I could, I saw, do something really meaningful and profound for fandom by continuing on with my education.

But I wanted to do it right. And that, I knew, meant resigning myself to dishsuds and hard grad-student labour, so I could be reasonably independent and start edging myself into real adulthood. It was about time I metamorphosed into more of a Real Adult. And then I'd be able to meet the other Real Adults on equal terms, and not have to feel as much in awe of their research, since I could reciprocally awe them with my own.

The worst part, I feared, would be notifying my dear old archivist that I'd decided to slip the surly bonds of scholarship and soar on into glorious impoverishment and financial independence. I feared it would hit her hard. But in time I hoped she'd cease worrying about me, and see that I'd given our relationship a firmer, more adult basis.

As soon as I was home I rang up Arc to tell her. There was a short, silent pause when I'd explained the sitch. I listened closely for the sound of sobs echoing down the phone line, but no one has a stiffer upper lip than Arc.

'I see,' she said, and I briefly wondered if she did. 'Well. A group of us are having a get-together to celebrate the start of another year, and raise a few glasses to the new recruits. Why don't you come out and spend the weekend with us?'

It wasn't quite 'why don't you come out and spend the weekend with me.'

But it was a start.

1. Thank you, Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

2. It was Katharine Hepburn, playing Rose Sayer.

3. Speaking of Mina's new fandom: go watch this. Thanks to [personal profile] prettyh for drawing my attention to that.

4. Apologies to [personal profile] ankaret. I COULDN'T RESIST.

5. What's known as an in-joke, this is.

6. Such as, say, tossing the word "shemale" around because "that's the term used in the porn industry." To take a completely random example.

7. Fandom's two solitudes: those who want to squee, and those who want to have Important Discussions. Only not so solitude-y as all that, I suppose, since we all do both depending on mood. Still: I saw some interesting discussion around the whole "serious conversations are harshing my squee" thing recent-ish-ly, only I CAN'T REMEMBER WHERE. If anyone has links that sound pertinent, let me know and I'll thank you profusely and stick them in this footnote.

8. Trisha Hill stole her names from Patricia Gillikin, Patricia Lamb, and Matt Hills. And then she lost the 's' off of Hills, apparently.

9. On a more cheering note, I've seen actual publishers' guidelines that Just Say No to people being "coffee-coloured" and etc. So perhaps the era of food descriptors is fading away.

10. In the real world, as opposed to the Minaverse, female fans get portrayed negatively in Supernatural (which is a kind of real-world version of Occult, I've heard). It's discussed here, among other places--there are several good essays dealing with it, I've just linked to one of the ones I liked.

11. Ah, yes: the brain scientists. I can't even *begin* to pick one post to link you to, so I'm going to cheat and link you to just one of the excellent linkspam posts that will in turn give you links to follow. The entire Ogi-saga, aka SurveyFail, is so bizarrely compelling you may well lose days reading posts via linkspam. I know I did.
And speaking of SurveyFail, Ray's stockings were inspired by this brilliant (and NOT AT ALL SAFE FOR WORK) piece of protest art.

12. I know this isn't what most evolutionary psychologists argue. At all. I LIKE MY VERSION BETTER.

13. You know what makes for terrifying reading? Supernatural kinkfic, that's what. And fandom secrets even gets into it...
spiralsheep: Martha laughing (Martha Laughing)

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2009-11-30 05:32 pm (UTC)(link)
She plied me with printouts of the online quizzes she felt best helped one determine which of the characters one most resembled, ought to date, aspired to look like, and should model one's house after (and which room one ought to concentrate on--mine came up 'Carla' and 'kitchen,' which can't have been right.5)


I hope life is being kind to you Mina. :-)
msilverstar: (martha smile)

[personal profile] msilverstar 2009-11-30 06:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Cheered my Monday morning right up! Mina may suffer from insecurity, but it's better than these alternatives. And her heart is in the right place.

I've always wanted to know, how do you pronounce 'Warr1or'? 'Warrior'? 'Warr-one-er'? I've been using 'Warrior one-er' in my head, but that can't possibly be right.