[I’m telling this story because it represents my background in fandom spanning a period of almost 20 years. All observations and opinions stated are mine alone. This post has been months in the making because it’s been so difficult to articulate and pen. It’s important to know this background so Dear Reader can understand upon what basis I attempt to answer the question of various bloggers in Armitage World: Why Richard Armitage? This series will be posted sporadically as my thoughts gel. Part 1 is here.]
Flash forward a few years. I’d been out of fandom awhile and wasn’t looking for a new one. Then while cruising the internet in 1996, I came across some stunning information about a defunct television show of which I’d been a fan much earlier. There was a following for this show but the idea of get-togethers to watch episodes didn’t appeal. So I had nobody with whom to share my enjoyment of this show except my parents who thought I was nuts. When I came upon the tidbit that the show was rebooting, I knew there had to be others on the internet talking about this. So I went back to AOHell, and found a forum pointing to an IRC chat room. I’d never been in real geek chat room and the relative ease of use make chatting much more enjoyable. (This is on which the ArmitageWorld chat room is based.) I found a small international group of men and women ranging from high school to Older Than Me. Joy!
When the show finally televised its first episode in 15 years, we held a group viewing which to my surprise was a lot of fun. The reboot flopped but the chat room continued. This group had been attending the national convention for this show in my city every Thanksgiving weekend for the past several years. I’d heard of this con, but the idea of grown people dressing up as characters made me wary. Two people I’d met in chat convinced me to room with them and attend the con, reassuring me I’d have a blast. Considering my past experience, I wasn’t keen on meeting virtual friends. What would these people be like? I’d taken care this time to gauge their personalities and propensities but had I assessed correctly?
I was thisclose to not going but reasoned that since I lived in the same city, I could always go home. So I packed and journeyed out to the boonies. As soon as the two entered the room and gave me such radiant smiles, I instantly knew these women were as intelligent, sane, and friendly as they seemed online. Everything would be alright. We’ve been best friends for 15 years. I met many more friends at the con which was a blast as promised. There wasn’t an ax murderer in the bunch. The fans ran the gamut from grounded to suspect but I learned with cautious inquiries and observation, I could find a group that was a good fit for me. One of the biggest things I enjoyed was the camaraderie and fun, things I had been looking for all along.
As luck would have it, I was in the inner circle of a fan club which sprang up around the star of the reboot. He was a British actor moderately popular in the UK but unknown elsewhere. From what we heard, the new Mr. Crush was a hard working, pleasant but very private married family man. He was shy, charming, quietly intelligent with a sense of humor that wasn’t caustic. He was also a good actor and quite good looking to boot. He seemed like a safe bet. I shared this assessment with a circle older, more mature fans who were grounded in their own lives, many of whom has been involved in other fandoms.
On the fandom scale, I was less than “hard core” but more than average. I’m not sure why I’ve never progressed to hard core in any fandom; maybe it’s my personality or Winston’s constant interference but I seem immune. In any event, Mr. Crush appeared a good focus of my admiration. Due to my past experience, I entertained no ideas about meeting him or going any further than socializing with my group. I was happy for this fandom to inject some needed relief in my life. I could squee and be silly with a like-minded circle. In a way, I was happy to feel light-hearted. This group was similar in many ways to ArmitageWorld.
The chief instigator created a moderated mailing list, a place we could feel safe to chat about anything unmolested by internet trolls and unbalanced types. List mom, as she came to be called, welcomed all forms of creative expression and it turned out we had quite a few talented writers and artists churning out fan fiction (both PG and erotic) amazing enough to be published. We had paper newsletters and a digital magazine for which I wrote a short story for the first time in years. (That story is lost.) This was fandom I’d never experienced; a safe group with whom I could feel connected and have fun. The mailing list grew and flourished. Meanwhile the IRC chat room also expanded exponentially after the convention. We started role playing games on Saturdays. For those who don’t know, we chose roles and then wildly ad libbed in real time mock episodes based on the old show. Yes, hilarity did ensue as the cliche goes. (Remember this was social media before the advent of Twitter and Facebook.) Some logs of these RPGs survive today. Many of us have stayed connected. That was how things progressed for almost two years.
COMING SOON: The Fan Club Goes To The Next Level