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Falling into Fandom

I have always been a science fiction fan.

Many, many moons ago this was something that was accompanied by a shuffling of feet and those understanding glances to my parents that it would just be a phase I was going through.

2000 AD coverI blame 2000AD. I am so old I actually read 2000AD from prog 1. At some point it must have occurred to me that these were things to look after so they were always kept neatly and never left my bedroom. The newsagent was under strict instructions to put each copy in a paper bag so that our address would be on the bag rather than the comic (I said this was a long time ago, back in the days of paper boys).

There were few outlets for my interests at the time so I ended up mostly with hard science fiction. Somehow fantasy just seemed to pass me by. I think I was 12 when I tried the Lord of the Rings. Can I share something? I never got beyond the first few chapters. I read the Hobbit some years ago under pressure from a work colleague who couldn’t believe that I wasn’t that keen on Tolkien (that’s ok, he later confessed he’d never seen Blade Runner – but that’s young people for you). As long as I imagined reading it to my niece I could cope with it; main problems were with the singing, and the excessive number of interchangeable dwarves, oh and the bucolic jollity of the shire. I get the war references. I could read it as if it was a set book for English Lit but I didn’t really enjoy it.

As an early teen there was Dr Who on BBC  and Tomorrow People on Granada (Google it). I remember Blake’s 7 and all but refusing to go on a school trip to France when I realised that I would miss the very last episode. Mollified only by the thought that my parents would record it for me (audio tape, this was long before VHS in the home) I finally went off on holiday in what might have been my very first ‘mood’.

At fifteen I discovered a shop. I can’t even remember how I found it … maybe at an event at UMIST (so shabby now in recollection but the world hadn’t invented hi definition back then), maybe from an advert in Starburst. Anyway, two busses and nearly an hour and a half from home and there was finally a shop. Odyssey 7 … Oddities Heaven as I sometimes heard it referred to.

Sixteen and I worked Saturdays in Oddities Heaven. I absolutely loved it. After a first stab at Uni I dropped out and completed the year in the store before restarting my degree course. Genuinely there are times when just do not realise how happy you can be.

I studied, graduated and got a job and kept at it even through all the times I hated it. Being a fan didn’t seem to be an option any more, it just wasn’t ‘grown up’. Dr Who had been canned however many years before (and long after I’d found it embarrassing and wouldn’t admit to still watching it). I completely lost track of comics and trends. Pre Internet we got by on Red Dwarf and Star Trek TNG and the X Files, and I began painting Warhammer figures to while away the long hours of nothing between work and bed.

Please insert whatever mental montage works for you to imply passage of time and second husband later …

I started my current job in the summer of 2008. It had never actually occurred to me that the Internet could be a fun place to hang out. I thought it was a work thing, useful for research but not somewhere where you would really want to be. I was introduced to YouTube (Darth Vader working on insurance company claim line I believe) and, I guess, things just went downhill from there. I became a fangirl. Not a fun fangirl. I didn’t hang out and chat – I searched and copied and compiled in a rather organised and efficient manner, I didn’t play I obsessed. At the time I began to live on IMDB, Photobucket, some American gossip sites (ahem, Just Jarred – sorry all) and then actual fan sites. Always too scared to expose myself on line I lurked in the shadows and felt vaguely guilty about the essential emptiness of what I was doing.

Four years ago I got my first Blackberry. I got Twitter, I got Facebook in my pocket. Things got more connected, more distracting and – dare I say it? – more fun. WordPress arrived Jan 2012 (but I haven’t been here that often). I have recently fallen heavily into the recursive hole that is Pinterest. I know these are all just distractions. I know that I ‘should’ be writing instead of falling prey to the time vampire of fandoms. But fandom is nice. It is warm and welcoming and includes all kinds of people who I will never meet, never have to impress and never let down. It’s almost like being back in Oddities Heaven but without the drawbacks of meeting the public and with all the added benefits of Photoshop.

WholockModern life makes things permanently present, always there to watch, listen to, reread … to obsess about. Technology has replaced the stress of trying to work out what was going on in the background of a hissy C90 tape with the ability to replay – again and again – whatever that scene was that made you feel that strange tingle.

It’s always there. As we learned in Silence of the Lambs we covet that which we see every day. Fandom is a cup cake of tingles. It draws you in, it can feed the addictions you thought you had hidden deep down. It can give you validation when you need it, it can give you new things to covet. So much, so immediate.

Yes, that’s me in the queue for the Desolation of Smaug. I still might not be keen on hobbits or dwarves but a dragon with a voice like that …

Got to go, must be time for me to ship some Johnlock.

 

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Hell is other people

Ok, so Jean-Paul Sartre beat me to the comment but, apparently, it might be appropriate for me.

I’ve been having trouble for a while with my hearing (have I mentioned this?). Not that I’m going deaf or anything, just that when there is a lot of noise I have difficulty in filtering out the background static from the things I should be concentrating on. As I spend a lot of time concentrating on the little voice in my ear (telephone headset, not the ‘voices’ you understand) the background chatter in the office has become something of a problem.

I’ve always been a bit picky about sounds. Not as bad as my brother (he’s moved house a few times just to have that gap between him and anything that might generate noise), but enough for it it cause noticable problems for me as I’ve got older. No idea what I would do without an iPod to cut me off from the outside world some days. It’s a bit of a shame, though, that an iPod while eating meals is not considered appropriate as hearing someone else eat is pretty much guaranteed to make me stress out. (I guess I should say I also can’t stand hearing myself eat or even be aware of the sound of my own breathing.)

Certain smells/combination of smells also seem to have an effect. Whatever you do, don’t come close to me or touch me unexpectedly unless I have already touched you first. Once the reaction has been triggered it’s like I’m sensitive to anything – if you are close to me I feel the warmth from your skin, speaking to me makes me cringe inside when I feel your breath if you look at my face while you do it. If I ever look so down and forlorn that all you want to do is give me a hug then don’t. Just don’t do it. One person can give me hugs (briefly and infrequently), anyone else does the same and it makes me want to run away screaming. The fact that in many cases this might not be an ‘appropriate’ response means I might stay put and let you trap me.

I was brought up to be good and polite. It made me docile. It took away my voice so much that I never even felt that I had the right to say “no” and to protect myself from the things that make me feel antsy. A year into the talking and my therapist has now suggested that I might be somewhere on the spectrum of having Sensory Integration Disorder. I need to do more reading on this. Potentially it could explain a lot for me. Equally it could just be some fancy excuse for me being a moody sod annoyed by just about everyone and everything. Is this just a title for something everyone has on a bad day? It’s not like anyone is going to suggest I’m autistic (middle-aged, female, communicative, terrible at maths, unable to draw from memory or do any other mythical autistic cool stuff).

I’m wondering that maybe, just maybe, there is a connection between this nebulous idea of Sensory Integration Disorder and my ME. Basically – am I exhausting myself mentally coping with the externals and therefore exacerbating the annoying drag of the fatigue and other associated symptoms that I have? It could even be the other way around. I have ME and that strips out my ability to cope with the day to day shit of having to be with other people.

What do I know? I’m just the weirdo in the corner.

 

 


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Current reading

I love reading. Reading is about one of the best pleasures in life.

As a tiddler I was a bit slow on the uptake, regularly thought of as ‘nice but dim’. Then, after being kept in what was euphamistically called a vertical class for a year (quick ones from lower down, slower ones from older year – you can guess where I was from) the penny seemed to drop. Either that or they bowed to the bleeding obvious and let me put a pen in my left hand instead of making a complete hash of things with my right.

After that I lived in my head. In the long pause between the invention of the wheel and the internet there were things called books and, if you you were a bit odd like me, comics.

I love comics – literature and art combined – what’s not to like?

Anyway, along with other distractions I am having great fun catching up on Sandman. If you’ve never read Neil Gaiman I just can’t recommend him enough – books, comics and now even scripts for Dr Who. Uncanny vituosity can be found in bookshops, comic stores, Twitter (@neilhimself) and at http://www.neilgaiman.com

Sandman cover

Sandman - The Sound of Her Wings