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[personal profile] charamei
It was 1998
I was eleven years old
And Creatures was my first fandom.

I found out about it from the boy next door
He lent me his game
Showed me the Cyberlife website
And helped me download my first set of Norns.

We had the Internet at home, too
It was 56k
You couldn't use the phone while it was on
It made a funny noise when it connected
And I went looking for Norns.

I found people instead.
I found JRChat
And the Creatures Development Network
And Lis Morris
Who was a biochemist of some stripe
And a woman
And made the best Norns because of her background.

I learned
About Steve Grand
And his robot Lucy
And why he thinks modern AI won't ever work.

Years later,
I wait eagerly for Grandroids.

I learned
About genetics
And game modding
I made my own Norns
Coded their DNA by hand
Most of them were purple.

(I remember
Lis Morris's MerNorns
Wouldn't fit on one floppy disk.
I had to get my dad to help me
And we split them across five.)

I wanted to put my Norns in the Internet too
So I got a Geocities account
And I learned HTML.

(Years later
I work
For a web agency.)

I met Data
Who made dolls
And men who made dolls stopped being strange.

I remember
OHSS
And wallbonking
And being horrified about Norn torturers.

Time moved on.

It was 1999
I was twelve
My mum bought me a book.

"It's got very good write-ups,"
She said,
"I think you'll like it."

I was a contrary child
(I am a contrary adult)
And because she wanted me to read it
I very nearly did not read Harry Potter.

But I got bored one afternoon
So I did.
(Not fannish yet, but soon.)

It was 2000
The millennium
I backed up all my Norns the night before
In case the Y2K bug killed them.
I still have the floppies.

I read all of Animorphs
In two years.
But also
I discovered Fanfiction.net.

My first fanfiction
Was under my Creatures community handle
And was about Animorphs.
I brought Aldrea back to life
Got one review:
"Wow! I never thought of using technology."
To this day I don't know
If that person was being sarcastic
Or not.

Prisoner of Azkaban came out.
Suddenly the world
Knew about Harry Potter.
On FFN
There were thousands of fics
And I wrote some more.

I got reviews:
"LOL this is gr8 rite mor"
I was the best thirteen-year-old fanfic writer in the world
Or so I thought.

My friend
Who was on this journey with me
(We found FFN together)
Discovered slash.
I didn't really get it
But I learned
What homophobia was
And to undo the bigotry I had internalised.
(At primary school
Some of the girls used to tease me
By calling me a lesbian.)
They never taught me that in school.

FFN
Banned something
I think it was a popular type of parody.
Cassie Claire created FictionAlley
And I jumped ship.

I started getting proper reviews:
"This has promise but you need to work on X."
It hurt at first
My face would go red
I felt embarrassed
I wanted to never write again
But on the forums everyone said,
"Concrit helps you learn."
So I sucked it up
And I learned.

They never taught me that at school.

FictionAlley's forums
Had places where people discussed the books
I was fifteen
And knew everything
So I joined in.

FictionAlley taught me
To take and give criticism
To discuss literature and character motivations
And that porn
Was not bad.

None of these things I learned at school.

(My English teacher
Wanted us to learn lists of symbolism by rote:
I refused.
Fandom gave me
An independent mind
And the ability to use it.
I passed my exams
Regardless.)

Harry Potter carried on.
I didn't like Order of the Phoenix much
Discussed it with friends and fandom
Practised my skills.

I got better
At writing.
I learned that detail was important
And sweating the small stuff would pay off in the end.

(Years later
I am a proofreader.)

I bought a new BioWare game:
Knights of the Old Republic.
(I had played Neverwinter Nights
And modded it
Learned some C
But not been truly fannish about it.)
I had never seen
Star Wars
But I bought it anyway
Because it was BioWare.

I liked it so much
I went back to the BioWare forums
Made myself a home.

I watched the films
So I could talk about the game better.
It's the details that count.

I spent so long on the forums
They made me
A moderator.
I was so proud.

(I fucked it up
Within the first few months
Thanks to ego and a troll:
I was seventeen.)

I made a friend
GreenTwilek, his name was
He was German
And beta-read my fics.

He couldn't read them
For grammar or spelling
So he read them
For sense
And plot
And emotion.
He was the best beta-reader
I ever had
And a great, funny, wonderful friend.

He taught me
Everything
About keeping a level head
And literary criticism.
I would not have an MA if not for him.
Of this
I am certain.

He got busy with real life.
The day I realised he was never going to email me again
I cried.

I stopped going
To the forums
Silently quit as moderator
My apologies
To Stanley Woo.

By that time
I was in university
Studying Classics.
It was 2005
Doctor Who rebooted
And I got hooked.

I met a man
(In real life for once)
Who knew it inside and out.
He showed me a lot of old Who
He also molested me
I barely paid attention:
I disassociated, and played with Lego.

I realised later what he'd done
Cut him out of my life
Had nobody to talk to about my favourite show.

So I went to LiveJournal.
I discovered
Fandom
But also
Social justice.

I read sporkings
On Deleterius
Most of them were cruel
But some of them pointed out genuine problems
I learned from those.

In 2007
I was twenty
Strikethrough happened.
Fandom stood up and said:
"We are female,
We are educated,
We are adults,
And you will not take our porn."
I knew all of these things
But I had never seen them put together like that.
I realised
I was proud to be a fan
It meant I was a part of fandom
And these women were my role models.

Someone mentioned Fandom Wank during Strikethrough
I went there
Found out what Cassie Claire had done
Found out about racism
And sexism
And privilege
And intersectionality.
Got jumped on for my ignorance
A lot.

But as someone on FictionAlley once told me,
"Concrit helps you learn."
So I sucked it up
I checked my privilege
And I learned.
(They never taught me this at school.)

I never quite got porn.
It was okay to read
But I preferred things with plots.
When I was younger
I kind of assumed
That everyone else felt the same way
That my friend who found FFN with me
Was pretending to be so into it
To make her sound grown-up.

As I got older
I realised
Something was wrong.
I didn't know what I was
I wasn't straight
I didn't like boys
But I didn't like girls much either.
I assumed I was bi
Since I didn't like anyone.

Not knowing hurt
I expressed it through fanfic
But nobody understood what I was trying to say
Not even me.

I started writing Doctor Who fic
Before I did I watched heaps of Classic Who
So I would know what I was doing.
Someone on FictionAlley told me once,
"The details are important."

I wrote about aliens finding weird ways around not having sex
I hadn't seen much of the EU yet
I didn't know how close to EU canon I was
Or how close to an epiphany I was.

Through Deleterius
I heard about Anti Shurtugal
Where they picked apart Eragon.
I went there
Because I was bored.
There was a woman there
Swankivy
Who had written essays about Eragon
I went to her site.
She had also written essays
About asexuality.
And suddenly
Everything made sense.

I was so happy
I cried.
I was twenty-three
I was asexual
There was nothing wrong with me.

Last year
I finally got around
To playing Dragon Age.

I liked it.
This time I didn't hesitate
I knew where to go.
Where my home truly was.

Without fandom, I would have no role models.

Nobody would have taught me:
To check my privilege;
To take criticism well and learn from it;
To have a rational discussion and admit when I was wrong;
That women can be intelligent and educated, fierce and strong and proud
That men can make dolls;
That 'lesbian' is not an insult;
That 'lesbian' is also not what I am
Just because I don't like boys;
That sex is nothing to be ashamed of
But it's also not for me;
To make web pages
And make them conform to accessibility standards;
That modern AI thinking is all wrong;
That women can be geneticists;
That literary criticism is not just learning symbolism by rote;
That detail is important.

I don't always get it right:
I am learning all the time.

But

Without fandom, I would not be me.
I don't know who I would be instead
But I am certain
I would be less aware
Less respectful
Less confident
And less happy.

So thank you, fandom
You brought me up
And I promise you this in return:
As best I can
I will pay it forward
I will teach the children who once were me
I will check my privilege
And take criticism
And debate like an adult
So that they can see
And grow up like me

Aware,
Respectful,
Confident,
Happy,
And free.

Date: 2013-07-04 02:24 am (UTC)
st_aurafina: (I love the Internet)
From: [personal profile] st_aurafina
I love this so much. And I wish online fandom had been there for me as a teenager. *is old*

Date: 2013-07-04 02:16 pm (UTC)
lurkingcat: (Happiness)
From: [personal profile] lurkingcat
This is great! Fandom has taught me a lot too and I was much, much older than you when I first encountered it :)

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