Funny, the term “fandom” never entered my thoughts much until Kate came up with it for a blogging subject. While, fandom may simply be described as the state of being a fan, in one very apt definition I found it is described as a “semiotic productivity is when fans use their object of fandom to create social meaning in their own lives”. How true.
The chances are, we have all unwittingly been involved in a fandom or dozen at some point or other. For me, since being a nerdy kid who read three books in two days, fandoms have, ironically, helped in hanging on to a semblance of sanity at times. Maybe a healthy dose of un-reality is the best medicine when one needs to get away in one’s mind. In fact, I would go so far as to say that being involved in a range of fandoms was critical in my choice of career. Whether what was right or wrong is another issue!
All things Enid Blyton
Frighteningly enough, it was the wholly inappropriate Enid Blyton books that saw me through childhood and early adolescence, and first made me question if I could be a writer. By the age of 6 or 7, I was totally into the Five Find-Outers and Famous Five; I wanted to be one of them. Soon I was going on make-believe adventures with Roger, Diana, Barney and Snubby; hanging out with Jack, Nora, Peggy and Mike in their secret island; or off with Phillip, Dinah, Jack and Lucy-Ann on an exotic vacation… Yes, well, I hear people coughing “obsession” about now! Hey, we moved a lot and I didn’t have many friends…
I must add that even as a child I found Enid Blyton disturbing and now that I think of it, given the sexism, xenophobia and (I can’t think of a better phrase) the bourgeois elitism, it isn’t something I would like to see children reading. People think that kids don’t see a lot of things, but some kids do. At least I did, and a lot of my contemporaries did too.
Sets made of plastic toys, William Shatner’s overacting, Captain Kirk getting it on with a different woman each week… honestly, it isn’t hard to see the detractors’ point of view. Sometimes, I get a nagging doubt about whether I really love Star Trek, or just fell in love with a pointy-eared half-alien.
ST: TOS has its share of critics, but it must be admitted that it was revolutionary in its own way. For the 1960s it was quite bold — featuring one of the first inter-racial kisses on TV — and touched upon a number of ethical issues that will hopefully remain timeless. That said, despite the imagination and vision employed by creator Gene Roddenberry, it is also an excellent example of how present-day values constrict our ability to imagine the future. The final episode, called “Turnabout Intruder”, showed a female Star Fleet officer taking over Kirk’s body because she had a compelling wish to command a starship, and in the 23rd century women are not allowed to hold command! Roddenberry expressed regret for inclusion of that idea later on, but generations of fantasy writers should thank him, because it gives us an excellent lesson in going where no-one has gone before.
Most of the significant relationships in my life have revolved around sport. The two games that I especially love are cricket and football, and was lucky enough to have gained a nuanced understanding of both rather than being limited to one of winning or losing. Lately, mainly due to a discontent with the way cricket is portrayed in the media and managed by the powers-that-be, I seem to be getting increasingly out of touch. However, I know it will take very little to get me back into it. I can still pick up, say, Stephen Waugh’s autobiography and smile when I read about something that I remember seeing or listening to (radio) or reading about.
I got into cricket at the age of 10 or so, and had a short and undistinguished stint as a medium pacer for my college in my late teens; football was a later development. I had always liked it, but it was the late 1990s/early 2000s that English and European football started getting beamed live into our living rooms. Doing the Goalpost was also a lot of fun. I miss it.
Remington Steele, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files
Only laziness and the fact that this post is getting longer than I anticipated that made me club these three together. I was into each of these series at different times, and they were all very different. While Buffy and X-Files fall into the SFF genre, Remington Steele was a detective series. It was aired in the 1980s, though we got to see it in the mid-1990s, when I was in my late teens. It all began when a private investigator called Laura Holt set up her own agency, but let’s hear it in her own words:
Try this for a deep dark secret: The great detective Remington Steele… He doesn’t exist. I invented him. Follow: I’d always loved excitement, So I studied and apprenticed, and put my name on an office. But absolutely no one knocked on my door. A female private investigator seemed so… feminine. So I invented a superior. A decidedly masculine superior. Suddenly there were cases around the block. It was working like a charm. Until the day he walked in, with his blue eyes and mysterious past. And before I knew it, he assumed Remington Steele’s identity. Now I do the work, and he takes the bows. It’s a dangerous way to live, But as long as people buy it, I can get the job done. We never mix business with pleasure. Well…almost never. I don’t even know his real name!
Pierce Brosnan, with his blue eyes and rougish smile, really wormed his way into our impressionable teenage hearts as Mr Steele. And Laura was pretty great too. The mystery about who Steele really was, and the tension between him and Laura kept us entertained for years, and we pretended all the unpleasantness that existed behind the scenes never existed. I’m sure I’ve seen all 94 episodes, and all of them more than once.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the next serial I really got into. To be honest, I’ve not seen much of Joss Whedon’s work apart from this, though have heard a lot of good things. I have to admit part of why I like him is that he identifies himself as a feminist, which is clearly visible from his work. His whole idea for a feisty young woman kicking ass (why is it “kicking arse” doesn’t have the same ring?) came out of the fact that he hated how the blonde is always doomed in horror movies. Well, not only did Buffy provide a great role model for young people, there were a number of interesting characters in the series, not to mention a pace and excitement that kept the plot going for a long time till — like all good things — it started to unravel.
As for The X-Files, well, what can I say, I absolutely and totally devoured it. It was the first time I seriously wondered about what went on in the making of a story like this, and did a lot of reading up on Chris Carter. I was intrigued by his work, and also watched Millennium while it aired here. (I wrote a loooooong essay on Carter, The X-Files and the then-upcoming Millennium in my entrance examination for MCRC, Jamia! I don’t know what they made of it, but I did get an interview call, which I bunked.) I always had a softer spot for Scully than for Spooky Mulder, and was often annoyed that her perspective got repeatedly steamrolled. To be honest, the later seasons ended up “jumping too many sharks” and got a little bit pointless and boring, but I’m hoping for good things from the upcoming movie, I Want to Believe.
The Wheel of Time
When it comes to books, I know that I belong to innumerable fandoms, but the Wheel of Time has a special place. People might complain about the one-dimensional main characters, too many side characters, the needlessly meandering plot, Robert Jordan’s style of writing, the similarities to LOTR, and, heck, even blame Jordan for dying before finishing the series… but such criticisms are commonplace for any work of fiction of this massive a scale. Jordan never denied being influenced by Tolkien, and frankly, I like his style of writing. I found the humour in the early books almost “British”, and that’s the highest praise I can give!
Apart from the fact that it is an amazing work of literature, and opened the doors to the wonderful world of fantasy for me, there are two other reasons why WoT is special. The first of course is that it is what made me decide exactly what I wanted to write about. I’d been meandering about writing fiction seriously for a few years, and had a lot of aborted attempts. After reading The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, and The Shadow Rising in quick succession, I KNEW I was going to write fantasy. I know my first book has a similarity to EoTW in its basic plot, and I’m not ashamed. There was an acknowledgement to RJ in that book.
The other reason is that I met a lot of people because of WoT, through the forum Moiraine’s World. (Oh, I can imagine Marie preening here…!) It was the first time I ventured into the world of online socializing, and I certainly don’t regret it. It’s been fun and annoying and amazing and a lot of other things all at the same time, and “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”!
Doctor Who, Torchwood and Russell T. Davies
I still remember that evening when Swapna was being a total pain with those Doctor Who DVDs. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic, but she left them on my table and said, “Try and watch them.” I did, and I can’t believe I was such a fool as to ever wonder if I’d be interested! Fine, so the Doctor I liked better left the show; fine, that most of the plots are thin to the point of emaciation. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t — it’s unadulterated fun, some typical British humour, lots of aliens, lots of running, some cool gadgets… oh, I love it!
The Ninth Doctor of the 2005 series was my favourite, but the stories in that season were mostly… um… bad, apart from the whole “Bad Wolf” story arc. Series two and the coming of David Tennant seemed to take things up a notch. Given my fascination with other kinds of fantasy, it touched a peak with the two episodes “The Impossible Planet” and “Satan’s Pit”, though “The Girl in the Fireplace” was a super episode too. Series three was very up and down, but the ups were very high indeed, with episodes like “Shakespeare Code”, “Blink”, “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood”, and the first two of a three-part finale.
Torchwood is a Doctor Who spin-off, very dark and aimed at an adult audience, especially with its in-your-face violence. It features one of the Doctor’s companions, the immortal Captain Jack Harkness. While Torchwood is undoubtedly a little thin in the class department at times, it has its moments. It also has an excellent cast, playing the roles of sweet, nerdy Tosh, sarcastic Owen, let-me-fall-all-over-you-Captain-Jack Gwen (okay, that’s mean, but I don’t care!), and the efficient Ianto for whom the term “still waters run deep” seem to have been invented.
Can’t talk about DW and TW without mentioning creator Russell T. Davies, best known for Queer as Folk before DW came back on air. I intend to write about him in detail later, so just saying here that I love how versatile he is. If only he hadn’t written that wholly regrettable episode called “Partners in Crime” for DW: Series Four (2008)…
Oh dear… this is getting out of hand now…
Very briefly, more or less in descending order of how much I like them: Deus Ex, The Sims 2, Hitman, Diablo (all), Jedi Outcast, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, various football management games, Prince of Persia (the original; the first game I got hooked on, in the mid-1990s)… and more.
Reginald Hill and Ian Rankin
Arguably, among the the best writers of crime fiction plying their trade at the moment. With Hill it is his Dalziel (pronounced Dee-ell) and Pascoe series, based in Yorkshire; and with Rankin the Inspector Rebus books, based in Edinburgh. Both have been made into TV series. Will not get into too much detail, but suffice it to say that while Hill is a master at wordplay, Rankin’s characterization is superlative. Both are excellent narrators, though neither have been able to reproduce the same sort of form with their other works. (For reviews of most of Hill’s books.)
Right, so before I can think of anything else that will make this post even longer, it’s time to wind up!