Philosophy

The Beating Heart of Fandom

Today is T-14 days until my 40th birthday, and the Reconnection Project has empowered me more than I ever thought it would. Today, I start the process of moving beyond me... Let the games begin.

Fandom is an action and a community.

The Last Air Bender from Shore Leave 32

When I say fandom is an action, it is a bunch of actions.

  • Reading and writing Fan fiction

  • Creating, sharing, and discussing Fan theories

  • Listening to, writing, and singing Filk

  • Sharing, making, and viewing Fan Art

  • Fan Vids

  • Fan films

  • Cosplay

  • Costuming

  • Roleplaying

  • Fan games

  • etc...

Every fan has their own way of participating in fandom. I used to participate a lot more than I do now. And that changes today.

When I stopped everything in the depths of my depression, I stopped playing in the fandoms I love.  I cut myself off from the fan communities I used to not only participate in, but I cut myself off from the people I used to interact with.

Community and fanac (fan activities) go hand in hand, especially now in this age of the internet.

We are defined by our actions

I cannot say that enough to myself or to you.

Ideas in your head stay in your head and if you aren't careful, they will cage you in there.

Life is action. If you want to live a life of compassion, you have to engage in acts of compassion or you are not compassionate. The same is true with everything.

If you want to define yourself by what you love, you have to engage in loving actions.

In fandom, that means, we have to share what we love and promote it. Don't let yourself be passive. Passivity is silence, and silence is nonexistence.

Take your voice back! Take your life back! Share your love with the world. 

Some people might think this is a silly or trivial thing, but it isn't.

My love for Yoda says something about me. He represents wisdom, inner strength, and the ability to find humor in any situation. These are all qualities I admire and desire in myself. When I see my Yodas around the house, it works as a symbol which draws up all these connections in my unconscious mind and strengthens those qualities within me.

Some people might think that is taking all this too seriously, but that is how mythology works.  It is a subtile effect on us, but it effects us all the same. By choosing to surround myself with these images, seeking them out, and sharing them, I am participating in the mythos. Ever time I quote Yoda, I am participate in the mythos and strengthen those qualities in me. 

Don't think that these are some kind of solemn acts. Solemnity isn't required for actions to have effects on our selves. Sometimes they are moments of catharsis, and sometimes they are pure frivolity.  

Today's Task: 

Find at least one thing you love and participate in it.  Share a picture, a video, read some fanfic, watch a fanfilm, or at the very least watch or listen to something you love.

Let me know how you are participating in the things you love.

Let your light Shine

Today is T-15 to my 40th Birthday and I feel like wrapping up in a blanket and ignoring everything because my allergies struck back. A trivial problem, but when you are trying to build up momentum any stumbling block can knock you back down.

One of the biggest problems we face is when we are judged for what we feel is a problem in our lives that when compared to other problems in the world seem trivial. Our problems are ours, and we have to deal with them as they face us.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying it is ok to whine about our state in life or wallow in your own misery.  In fact, we have to do the exact opposite.

Obstacles

Whether big or small, obstacles will always crop up. Their severity is all too often dictated by our mood when we stumble upon them.  If we are at a particularly low point even the smallest thing can throw us completely off our game.

What is your light?

Our light is a combination of things.

Light Empowers

Whatever empowers you is part of your light.  Whether it is music, dancing, drawing, writing, cooking, baking, knitting, it is important for you to know it and have it at hand when the time comes.

One of my biggest recharging stations is music.  I love to listen to it, and even more to sing along. I don't have a good singing voice, but I don't care.  I love it. As I write this, I feel lucky by Mary Chapin Carpenter came on.  I am not a big Country music fan, but I love that song.  I had to stop typing and just sing along. Here's the video if you want to join in.

Now that feels a lot better.  I don't exclusively listen to happy go lucky music.  Right now, Reptile by Creaming Jesus is on and I am singing along to it too.

Both songs work for me, but I have always been a Goth at heart.  Neither of these may work for you, and that's fine.  Find what works for you, and embrace it.  We have to take moments to refuel or we can't complain when we inevitably run out of gas.

Light from Within

Light also comes from within us. This isn't where I tell you that you have an ineffable light deep down inside you and you have to let it shine.  You do, we all do, but that isn't what I am talking about right now.

There are things you do that are uniquely you that can fight back the darkness when it comes for you.

It might be your sense of humor, or wit, or a quirk in your perspective that comes from a very honest and vulnerable place.  This light can be the hardest to find and harness, but it is key to fighting off the darkness.

For me, this is my imagination. Whether I let myself day dream for a minute, rework a old myth into a new story, or just wander through some old memories, I find strength in the words and images arising from my unconscious mind.  That is why the first thing that I struggle with in dark times is my ability to imagine.

When you find that unique thing inside you, learn how to harness it to make yourself stronger.

Today's Task

Find one thing that refuels you and makes you feel alive and do it for no less than 15 minutes.

I am going to give a private concert to my dog and cat, and to his chagrin my husband who is working out of the house today.  What are you going to do?

There's not enough Love and Understanding

It is now T-16 to my 40th Birthday, and it happens to be Brian's Birthday today.  As I write this, he is playing Civ VI, his present with the biggest smile on his face.  It is hard to express how much I love him.

Love is such a strange thing.  I never thought this would be a part of my life, yet still here it is.  Our story is as strange and bizarre as it would have to be to get people like us together.  My life has taught me the most important thing anyone could ever know about love:

Love sneaks up on you

By that, I mean every kind of love. Romantic, friendly, familial, or just simple compassion, it just sneaks up on you. It doesn't come when you seek it out.  It seems to hide when you look for it, but when you least suspect it, there it is.  I was in a relationship when I met Brian.  I wasn't looking for anything else, but it happen anyway.

Friends from Shore Leave.

Romantic love isn't the only kind of love that sneaks up on you. Friends do as well. I never expected to make so many friends from New York, especially since I haven't been to the state since 1996, but now I have a circle of friends there that are as supportive, if not more, than any of the friends I have in the town where I live. How did that happen? 

Honestly Honesty

After an event I am not going to go into a lot of detail about took place in 1998-99, many people I thought were friends stole every THING that I had including my sense of self and how the world works. After that, I decided just be bluntly and blatantly who and what I am.

While I wouldn't recommend for everyone to be as open about their lives as I am, I will say that you have to be yourself.  

Stop caring about what others think about you

I am just me, and you should be you. If you spend any amount of time worrying about what other people think about you, that is just a waste of time.

The one thing most lacking in this world is honesty or integrity or however you want to name it.  Society will always pressure individuals to play a role, because it is a machine like everything else.  It packages, names, and grinds people down until they fit into the role it needs them to fill.

What is important to remember is that Society is made up of many subcultures, and those subcultures empower Society to behave the way it does.  If you are in a subculture that doesn't want you, find another that does.

I left the mainstream or popular subculture years ago because I am not the Cisgendered, Heteronormalized, Centrist demanded my the currant cadre of subcultures that make up the present coalition we call Pop Culture.  

I am not Cisgendered, so I identify as genderqueer, or more specifically as androgynous.  I planted a flag there, and made a home in a community that accepted me as I am.

I could never live a Heteronormalized life, so I found myself in the feminist and LGBT communities.

I am not a centrist, so I called myself out as a liberal.

So what subculture do I live in? Fandom. I love a subculture that defines itself by what it loves rather than what it hates (which is how fandom should be defined, even though sometimes people push the edges of that definition).

To me, that is the secret of life and how everyone should act.  When you focus on the things you love, you attract a loving community around you.  This is a how you attract love in every form.

Brian and I connected through fan activities, and we have now been together for almost 20 years.  All of the friends I have, I met through our mutual fandoms.  Love gives meaning to life.  Love gives us strength.  Love is all that matters.

Task for Today

Share something you love with a partner, friend, or a stranger.  Connect with those closest to you over your mutual love for something: music, shows, movies, games, etc.

Let me know what your results are.

Haloes and the Seven Demons

The air of mystery and the art of the dark romance have left the world. The grotesque has replaced horror, and the beauty of supernatural horror is rarely seen any more. Gone are the old masters, and few if any have risen up to walk in the footsteps of giants. Watching the haunting beauty of Cecil B. DeMille's Seven Deadly Sins set to the music of Christian Death reminds me of what could be. The simplicity of these images, made in the days before computer generated effects makes me wonder what could be made now with the ubiquitous camcorders and digital video.

It only takes a bit of imagination to use the simple tools that surround us to make great art... but who is striving to make a film that that captures the power of the image to transport us away into world that are beyond belief? Who is making movies that do more than just entertain or self-aggrandize?

Anyone can make a movie these days, and a lot of people are. YouTube is flooded with them, but like everything in our world these days, they are made for the moment and not to outlast their initial viewing.

I don't believe that just anyone can create a classic. It takes talent and genius. I do believe that another classic will never be made unless the creators take upon themselves the task of making something that will outlive them. Unless we strive for excellence, we will never achieve it.

Our culture celebrated mediocrity. It is important to make sure that everyone feels important and significant, because every life is precious, but it is vital that recognize and promote genius and talent when we see it. We each need to strive for excellence in everything that we do. Then and only then will we each come truly alive, and share that life with the world.

Book Bits and the Missing Dollars

I have been following the trend toward free books for a while, and I have gotten used to seeing the regular suspects talking about the loss of book sales and the rise of new ways to earn a living on your words. Imagine my surprise when I saw Paul Krugman add his voice to the chorus:

According to a report in The Times, the buzz at this year’s BookExpo America was all about electronic books. ... we may finally have reached the point at which e-books are about to become a widely used alternative to paper and ink.

That’s certainly my impression after a couple of months’ experience with the device feeding the buzz, the Amazon Kindle. ...

It’s a good enough package that my guess is that digital readers will soon become common, perhaps even the usual way we read books (NYTimes)

Wow, that's going mainstream. Krugman points out that as content goes digital, the easier it is to pirate and the harder it is to monetize. Unfortunately, his op-ed ends with a bleak outlook for the future of the written word.

I don't think it has to be that way. If creative souls (like myself) are going to try to make a living with out art (literary, audio, visual, or video), we are going to have to find a way be proactive, reaching out to find new fans, and doing our best to retain the ones we already have.

While we may be on the cusp of the end of the publishing house, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As the old industry dies, it is up to artist to create their own co-ops for sharing their wisdom with new artists, and helping their fans find those artists as well.

It is easy to get myopic and think only about our own careers, but we have to remember: A high tide raises all ships. Artists need to link to each other, and carry each others merchandise around with them on consignment. This will help each artist expose their works to more people, and help cultivate a vibrant community of fans that will support the artists.

This might be utopian of me, but if it is, that would be the first time I have ever been accused of that. So here's to a future where the artist controls their own fate!

Romancing the Word: The Spirituality of Nonfiction

Mythos-1 There is something missing in the copious tomes of nonfiction that are coming out these days: the courting of the mind through conversation and dialogue.

Most nonfiction writers today either tell a creative nonfiction story giving the reader the experience of the events of history through story or they simply talk to their readers instead of inviting them into conversation.

Classical and even Medieval philosophy are written in a the form of dialogues and rarely in diatribes. When I read these texts, I am drawn into conversation with the author and their ideas. I join the conversation, adding my opinions to theirs. I have no doubt that they expected me to more often than not except what they wrote, but in the common dialectics and arguments they wrote, they challenge their own ideas and answer the objections in a way that eased their own doubts.

I am a voracious reader of nonfiction. I love to flirt with new ideas and challenge my own cherished beliefs. Many times I have changed my mind on some issues that I never thought were open for debate.

Lately, though, many of the books I picked up felt they had more to tell me than to share. I do not know if it is the narcissism of our age or of the writers, but they no longer present their ideas to me as a something I might want to take in and get to know, maybe even fall in love with. Their ideas are to be accepted and followed.

I have written about this many times and in many ways, but everything is a story. No idea, concept, or belief will ever reside comfortably in the hearts and minds of people unless they connect to the story of it, and long to add themselves to the line of those who have picked up the idea before them.

Nonfiction is the romancing of the mind through words, stories, metaphors, and connection.

Have you ever noticed the relationship people have with the theory of gravity? It is amazing how people connect to the apocryphal story of Newton and the apple. We feel like we understand the concept through these stories.

Or take the works of Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Greene. They connect some of the most abstract theories of physics to stories and metaphors that anyone can understand. They invite their readers into the conversation, and help them through the hard parts with grace and love filling their words.

Joseph Campbell writes as if he is sitting next to you telling a story. The ideas come alive. We are able to commune with them, flirt with them, even take some home with us.

That is the task of nonfiction. Screeds, polemics, and proclamations of any idea will only be accepted by those who have already accepted the idea. If you want someone to love an idea as much as you do, you have to show them the beauty of it.

Life as a Story

I went out to write at the San Francisco Bread Company today. The longer I write, the more I realize how important it is to get out of the house, even if it is only to sequester myself at a small table in a cafe with my headphones on listening to music, surfing the web, struggling with new concepts and editing a book I wrote that I actual enjoy reading. It is odd how something as simple as a change of venue from my office to a cafe can change my mood and energy level, but I have read enough from other writers to know that I am not alone.

I have a theory about why something as simple as a change of venue can so profoundly effect a writer's mood.

I started writing as a defense mechanism. As a child, I grew up on a farm miles from the closet kid my age. I spent most of my time either on the phone, outside with my dog Red, or in my room inventing new stories with my Voltron and He-man action figures. When this wasn't enough, I started drawing crude comics and playing out a sort of paper theater with playing cards and my imagination. Through all this, my imagination was fueled by He-man, She-ra, Transformers, the books of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain, and the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. I didn't have anyone to play with, so I spent my time making up stories about these fantastical creatures, demigods, and demons. The music of Kiss and Dolly Pardon filled my nights in my room watching "Too Close for Comfort" dreaming of the day I would write my own "Cosmic Cow" strip.

When we moved to Maryland, things got worse. I had a strong accent, which got me beaten up in school a lot, and I had not people skills so the few friends I did make really had to work hard to get past my clumsy social interactions. I didn't know how to relate with these "people." They were so different from me, and they expected me to know how to act with them. I just didn't.

My salvation came through The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and my knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons. I played these games with them as a means of interacting. They gave a structure to our together time and gave me a common language to speak. In time, we added Marvel Superheroes, Robotech, Earthdawn, and the many classic White Wolf storyteller games- Vampire: The Masquerade, Were-wolf, Mage: The Ascension, Changeling: The Dreaming. In fact, I became friends with Brian through a Vampire Chronicle.

Through this role as the storyteller, Star Trek Fandom, and my near obsessive interest in music, I found my medium to talk to others.

Storytelling is who I am. It is how I comprehend the world and explains why I am so deeply involved with the works of Joseph Campbell. This is who I am for better or worse. From the many biographies about other writers I have read, I think we have all taken up the life of a storyteller as some sort of defense mechanism or way to make sense of the world. It is easier to lock yourself away from the world than to jump in and struggle within it.

When I force myself out of my cave, even if only to isolate myself from the settings I find myself in through headphones and work, it reminds me that the outside world is still there. It lets me see how people actually interact with each other, for better or worse, and on those rarest of occasions, allows me to have incredible conversations with people face to face.

It is hard to explain how isolating is can be at times to be a storyteller. The hours, days and weeks spent locked away from the world crafting a reality that I hope others will experience and enjoy with the same fervor that I do. The simple act of seeing other people and hearing other voices enlivens me.

Like other writers, I am an observer of life much more than I am a participant in it. These little glimpses of the world outside my friends and family and the characters I write about (feels more like with sometimes), grounds me and helps connect me with the bigger world that is so easy to let slip away.

I wish more people shared this experience. Looking out at this world of strangers that I may or may not ever see again, and watching the plots they have entwined themselves in. We all tell our own stories. That is the art of conversation, to weave an entertaining tale about ourselves and others. As these plot lines co-mingle and intertwine, the story of our family, friends, city, state and nation are told. These stories often matter more than the facts. (whether or not that should be true or not is a whole other discussion).

I recommend that you give this a try. Next time you are out with friends, watch the stories that you are telling each other closely and follow them out as if they are plot lines in a novel, movie, or television show. It is startling how often you can predict other peoples actions by listening to their backstory, current plot, and projecting that out as it would play out in the genre appropriate to the person. I am not saying that this is always the case, but more often than not you will be able to see what will happen before it does. This is also the best way to choose your course of action. How will your action effect the other all story. Try it out, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.