June 23rd, 2003

me 2011

Of course they mean things. You just have to learn how to read them.

1350 words. Also rethought the next couple of scenes and I think they flow much better now. Snippet is the entry heading.

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What I really want to talk about today, though, is fandom. (Will there ever be a better time for that than now, given the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?)

Fandom fascinates me. Maybe partly because I've never had a fannish personality. Never had posters of teen hunks or rock stars on my walls. Never waited hours in line for front row tickets/an author's signature/a movie's opening night. The only things I get into that deeply are the things that are most real to me--my own writing, my own relationships. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing; I've sometimes felt I was missing out by not getting caught up in things the way some do. And I find those who do very, well, interesting.

So I lurk. I've been lurking in Harry Potter fandom, in particular, since I read the first three books nearly two years ago. HP in particular because I write and it's by far the biggest literary fandom out there. I've read fanfics and followed discussions and am watching the reactions to the fifth book with great curiosity.

There is so much a writer--any writer, no matter what genre or pretensions--can learn from fandom. What makes people love a book, what makes them devote hours and hours to discussing it and creating art and fiction based on it? What do they disagree with, what do they wish there was more of and where do they wish it would go, what other directions do they think might be fun to explore? After a while you start to see patterns and consistencies, and what you're really learning about is not just fans, or readers. You're learning about people.

The fact that they're people who maybe someday will be in a position to buy one of your books just makes it all that much more worthwhile.

You learn, too, that no matter what you write, as soon as it hits the page, it's out of your hands. People have totally opposing views, interpretations, feelings about the exact same characters in the exact same text. No matter how well you write, not everyone, probably not even most people, will take things exactly the way you meant them. I guess you could get depressed by this, in a sort of wibbly I will always be tragically misunderstood sort of way. But the flipside is the possibility of it all. What you write is so much more than what was in your head. It's what's in the head of every single reader, too. It's huge. It's spectacular.

But what's most spectacular, about HP fandom specifically, is how a work of fiction can involve people together. Friendships are built, celebrations are had, late night t00bfests are conducted. It connects people. It doesn't matter that these are "kids books". It doesn't matter whether they're literature or pop culture. It doesn't matter if you think HP is an immature indulgence, or over-commercialized crap--you can think whatever you want, and there will still be tens of thousands of people gathered together around the world when book 6 comes out in however many years that takes. Cynicism and nasty critiques cannot stop that from meaning something. From meaning, really, a helluva lot.

If anyone wanted proof that words have power and that fiction is more than brain candy, they needed have looked no further than the nearest bookstore at five to midnight on June 20th, 2003. Or into the rooms where people sat together an hour after, reading and laughing and crying in each other's company.

I used to have a T-shirt from my dad's company. It was kind of drab, but I liked it because on the back, in white on black, it said what I do matters.

Fandom reminds me why I keep believing that.

mlc