wJun 26, 2008

Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby?

So, I found Allyson Beatrice's Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? quite interesting. The book is about Internet cult fandom, exploring societal norms on the Internet, and how communities are created. Beatrice specifically focuses on the Buffy fandom, so references to people such as David Fury, Tim Minear, and Joss Whedon left me slightly awe-struck.

It was interesting to read about the Buffy community in its hey-day. For the most part, my intersections with fandom occur on LiveJournal. It's an interesting tool for social networking, because the entire premise is that everyone has their own journal - their own story, their own space, each with their own set of rules. Each person controls the conversations they initiate, the people on their honored "Friends List," etc. So for me, it was interesting to be reminded of what Internet forums are like, as I haven't spent time on one in years (unless one counts the UW Anime Club forum, but as we all know each other in real life, issues like trolls never occur).

I like how Beatrice desribes the Internet as a great way to find other people with similar interests.
Internet communities coalesce around a common interest, and sometimes a secret shame. From breast cancer survivors to people who have a diaper fetish, a community of people gather to discuss whatever it is that consumes or interests them. If your community revolves around a "dorky" topic, it's difficult to admit to others what you're typing out into the broadband in your spare time.

She also takes care to point out the strange stigma surrounding genre-fiction fandom.
And yet, there he was, waering Michael Jordan's game uniform. No one in The Coffee Bean blinked, or stared, or whispered. No giggles or pointing. No name-calling. Nothing unusual.
Now picture some guy dressed, as, oh, say, Gandalf the Gray from Lord of the Rings. Or Legolas, the girlie-looking elf with the heavy metal hair. ... It stops being cute at some point. However, it is acceptable for a fifty-two-year-old man to paint a bull's-eye on his giant gut and jiggle it while naked from the waist up in twenty-degree weather behind the goal post at a Packers game, while wearing a giant wedge of cheese on his head. ... Sci-fi/fantasy fans don't get Super Bowls and playoff games as an excuse to let their hair down and be obnoxious with fannish love; they have conventions and parties. It's much the same concept, but I think we drink better beer.

Beatrice points out a couple of commonly-known Internet "laws" about rules, such as Godwin's Law (as an online discussion grows larger, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches) and Snacky's Law (whenever two or more groups of people are arguing, inevitably, someone on one side willcompare the group on the other to "those bitchy girls who made everyone's life hell in high school.").

I just finished watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time, so I miss out on knowledge of community reactions when the show actually aired. I never knew that a certain character's death upset so many people. However much I liked the character, it was a damned good episode. Also...fictional characters can provide great inspiration to other people, but I can't imagine being so wrapped up in a fictional life that I would issue death threats and the like.

I also hadn't been aware that the movie Serenity was so unprofitable. I also found it interesting that the author found the original Firefly pilot script and premise awful, in that it was too depressing (if I read her correctly, I could be wrong). I love the premise of Firefly, but then, I like my shows dark.

Anyway, if you're interested in understanding Internet fandoms a little more, I recommend the book. I also recommend it if you're interested in Joss Whedon's work in any way. Beatrice spearheaded the fan movement to save the TV show Firefly, planned parties attended by Joss Whedon and various actors and writers, and has made some great connections throughout the years. Thus, she has some great stories.

As an added bonus, her writing is funny and smart, and the book was a quick read.

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scribbled mystickeeper at 8:42 AM

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