Merlin Missy has been active in online fandom since 1994. She likes fanfics with plots and happy endings.View all articles by Merlin Missy
Come close. Doctor Merlin wants to tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a remarkable woman named Abby. The "woman" is important, because when she was very small, her parents were told she probably wouldn't live to see her third birthday. She died last Sunday, at the age of thirty-three. The only time we ever had with her was borrowed, so if you believe in miracles, gentle reader, knowing her was one.
I never met Abby. I knew her as a friend of a friend, and later, a friend on Livejournal. Blogs give you the illusion of closeness with someone, dangerously so in some cases. (Reminder to self: Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman are not your friends, no matter how well you think you know them.) But LJ gives an extra boost to online interaction, allowing people to talk back and forth like a sea of conversation, and I got to know Abby's sense of humor, her passions, the things that made her wistful, the things that made her laugh. The first time we ever talked to each other, it was to tell bad Stargate jokes. You would've liked her, reader. You may even have come across her handiwork. Abby was a vidder. Her most famous work vidded "March of the Penguins" to Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," though it's her SG1 vid to the Jim Henson cover of "Time in a Bottle" that's getting me this week.
My friends, online and irl, knew her much better than I did. They'd met at cons, gone to school together, traveled together, raced down empty corridors on her chair together, even showered together. Of such things are fannish, and real, friendships made. Right now, most of them are caught between mourning their dear friend, and celebrating the fact that they had the chance to know her. The best I can do is offer hugs and let them know I miss her, too.
This is fandom. Aside from the squeeing, aside from the flamewars, 'shipwars, and FK wars (don't ask), it's about forming a community. It's about making friends with people you'd otherwise never even meet, and becoming as close to them as your family. Closer, in some cases. Over the weekend, while we were waiting for word on her condition, I got to tell my mother-in-law the story of how Jerry Lewis helped Abby get her ears pierced. I could just as easily told her the story of The Tragic Deaths of Seanan's and Sharon's Crockpot Lids, or The Crazy/Stupid Things My (Easily-Embarrassed) Friend B's Adult Son Has Done, or The Difficult Pregnancy Tango as performed by another friend I've never met (and yet who offered to pick me up from the airport last year when my father was in the hospital and I was looking at an emergency visit back home). Being fannish is one thing. We're good at that. We've been obsessing about our shows and movies and books for years, most of us long before we ever met a kindred soul who said those magic words, "OMG, you like that too?" But it's that second moment which lasts. It's the relationships we build from the most tenuous stuff, and how we keep building them, and shore up the old ones with jokes and stories and shared experiences and comfort even from far away. These are the things that matter, whether they're held in common with your best friend from high school, or with this wonderful fan who lives two thousand miles away but shares in every way your deep and abiding belief that Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher should be shagging like weasels. (Please choose your own favorite couple to be shagging like weasels.)
I have a friend in Texas who has bumped into my fandoms for over ten years, whom I've never met in the real world, but I can tell you all about her dog's health issues and her son's problems in school.
People I've never met have followed tales of my kids, from when I found out the first was on the way, through her first day of first grade, and every scary visit to the ER in-between. One of the places Abby and I overlapped was in our annoyance at people who opposed disability funding and research, more a theoretical for me than for her until Sprog #2 started showing delays. There too came support: from the friend in Texas and her own background with her son's issues; from another never-met friend, found in Justice League fandom and an absolute sweetheart, who's an adult with the same diagnosis; from yet another wonderful never-met friend in Boston (who sends good fruitcake to people she's met online, and who sent a card when I had the flu, and who writes gorgeous DC and LotR 'fics about things she wants to read and to hell with what's popular this week) and her lovely constructed family who are dealing with the same things.
And yes, we geek about our shows. Of course we do. That's why we came. In-between exchanging recipes and photos and memes, we're debating the finer points of race issues and feminism in shows created and written in other countries and trying to interlace the social histories of multiple continents in order to ask ourselves the age-old question: can I love this series and still respect myself in the morning? In the many cases where the answer is "No," we call it a guilty pleasure and watch anyway. And we tell each other jokes about it, and we write silly fanfics, and we create funky fanvids, and when the next show comes along that's a little better, we drag our friends in with us so we're not alone.
Fandom's about not being alone anymore. Maybe you started as a fan-inna-box, two hundred miles from the nearest con and farther still to the nearest fan, but you came here to find friends, and to share your squee, and to create things together, and to say, "I was here, and I loved this thing, and these are the people who will remember me." Maybe they'll remember you for that fanfic where you had all the characters doing a kickline, and maybe they'll remember that filk you did to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and maybe they'll recall with a smile the weird in-depth meta you did on the time-travel episode, and maybe they'll remember the vid you did of the dancing penguins, but mostly, the good friends will remember the other things you did and talked about, your pets and your family and that trip you dreamed of and that crazy prank you pulled on your boss and that time you dyed your hair blue. Even if you never met in the real world, the way the mundanes would say you define a friend, they'll remember.
I'm going to remember the earrings, and "Time in a Bottle," and Stargate pickup lines, and the stories Amy told about the logistics of getting everyone from the airport to the con hotel, and how many times the airline broke Abby's chair, and her favorite picture of herself, and the icon she used most, and those are the things I have, and I can share stories about her, and the friends who knew her best can share the stories they know and the things they recall, and the memory goes on like a fannish chain letter:
"I have to show you this vid! It's about March of the Penguins, but it's to this country song!"
"I saw it! Isn't it great? By the way, did you hear about the vidder? No? Okay, so once upon a time, there was this remarkable woman named Abby ... "
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