My name is Charlie, but if your looking for my work, I go by C. E. Dorsett. I write scifi, fantasy, and a touch of horror. I like to play with gothic, steampunk, decopunk, epic fantasy, and wuxia. I love to tell stories and talk about books, movies, series, and music.
Granny Square Mario
First off--probably the most awesome use of granny squares ever. I like that it isn't a traditional square shape, and is just the outline of Mario. Even so, this thing must be pretty huge. I think there are over 350 granny squares on this thing (Geek Central Station).
I love this Super Mario! I used to help my Grandma Smith make these squares for tissue covers and the like, and I am not sure why I never thought about making 8 bit art with them. I might have to get started.
BTW: are these really called granny squares?
Costumes, Role Playing, and Unity
One of my absolute favorite aspects of fandom is the costuming and roleplaying, and I would have to say they are the two most maligned and stigmatized things that we do. Let's start with the most accepted by the popular culture and proceed to the least understood.
Computer Roleplaying Games
Mass appeal of video games have normalized RPGs on the computer, and why not. Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, and Knights of the Old Republic were all such brilliant games, it is hard to see how they couldn't have had a mass market appeal, but in the one place where Roleplaying should flourish, it is all but extinct.
There was once a type of game known as the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG). The problem is that these too entered the popular culture, and they spawned a new bane: badge collectors. A sizable number of the MMORPG players became obsessed with their statistics, what badges they earned, and what loot they could get. The software companies saw these players as their core audience and in some cases, there only audience.
The games were increasingly designed for these players and not for the fans of story. Coinidentally, the acronym was shortened from MMORPG to simply MMO. Players have done what they can to keep roleplaying alive, but they are generally isolated to a specific server or guild, and they are not aided by the software designers who more and more are crafting games that challenge your prowess with a keyboard and mouse and don't require any thought whatsoever.
This is one of the reasons I am so excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic and Stargate Worlds. They are trying to bring story into the games and make it front and center. I wish them the best of luck.
Table Top Role Playing Games
Table top RPG fans are the geeks that geeks love to hate. Don't believe me? Listen carefully to a lot of the podcasts out there. It won't take you too long to find people having a geeky conversation about their favorite tech and occationally mocking TTRPG players.
Table Top games are not as easy to play as their computerized bretheren, but they are a lot more fun. There are more requirements to play:
- The Rule Books
- Friends who have free time to come over
I didn't stutter at the end, and no, I am not padding the list. Creativity is the ability to think originally, and imagination is the ability to see with the minds eye events as they are described to you.
I think those last two more than anything else makes people not like tabel top games. Personally, I love them. I run an Earthdawn game at the house every Sunday. Nothing brings friends together for a good time like a shared adventure built from the collective imaginations of everyone there.
Live Action Role Playing
Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) is penultimate expression of role playing. There are numerous systems for LARPing and they all generally involve renting a location, playing in a park, or the storyteller's home. Most LARPers dress up in elaborate costumes and carry props to aid in game play.
I used to play Vampire: The Masquerade both as a table top game and as a LARP, and I have to say, the LARPs were always more fun. We played at local conventions and I ran a chronicle that spanned various players homes, parks, and a few businesses who allowed us to use their establishment.
Who doesn't enjoy getting dressed up and spending a night as someone else?
One aspect of the LARPs I've played that made them so fun was that they were locked to the locations they took place. The story was handled through notes given to the players to explain what happened between sessions, and a couple players who agreed to play according to the scripted motives I provided for them. To this day, some of my favorite memories took place at LARPs.
We were a part of a LARP network where storytellers coordinated large scale events between cities, and at conventions our players would play through pivitol stories. The largest LARP event we threw had 500 players in attendence. 3,00o players made up the network. We coordinated through a email list.
LARPs are emense fun, and I miss them terribly. I had hoped that MMOs would provide a platform for virtual LARPs, but so far, they haven't.
Some people just love dressing up. They don't roleplay at all, they just wear the costume for enjoyment. For some, it is an uniform. For others, it is an expression of their identification with the character or race they are recreating. And others do it for the challenge of recreating the costume.
Steampunk is an entire movement built around costuming for the sheer fun of it.
Fans who Play together Stay together
Most of the deep, personal relationships I have developed with fans over the years has been between fans I have roleplayed with. We share an experience that is truly unique to the players who were there. Memories of events that are not replecatable in real life.
All these years later, I still run into people at the conventions who remeber the night my Taleison should have seen his reflection in the mirror and went mad. We talk about it like a moment from a movie or series that we loved, but our connection to the event is so much more personal because we were there when it happened.
So if you haven't before. I hightly recommend to gather up your friends and play a game with them. Feel free to choose the type, but make sure it is one that will build those memories that will last a lifetime.
What makes a fan a fan?
In August last year had a bit of back and forth over the definition of a Fan with Eoghann Irving from Solar Flare:
Eoghann Irving has posted an interesting rebuttal to my post, Fandom v The Scifi Channel, where he tackles the question What makes a fan? The critique of my position is an interesting one, and I have to say, I agree with his assertion that it sounds like I am trying to say that fans define themselves by their interest in SF.
While there are some who have adopted the fan culture for themselves, cultural adoption is not a requirement to be a fan.
What is a Fan?
We are fans.
We love music, stories, characters, settings, and images. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.
Fans are special. We are more than just enthusiasts who enjoy a piece of work, fans connect with the work. We feel it.
Fans share a bond with the works they love and with one another. Fans' passion is infectious, spreading the the works they love to others.
The love of a fan is a blessing to a responsible creator, but it is a curse to the reckless.
- Farscape fans kept the series alive despite the many attempts by the network to cancel it.
- Star Trek fans helped kept the series alive until the death of Gene Roddenberry when studio pushed the franchise away from its heart.
- Heroes and X-files fans fell in love with disparate aspects of their respective franchises, but when the series lost their way through a lack of focus on the part of the studios.
If a fan's love is scorned or goes unappreciated, the fan reacts in the same way a jilted lover would. If a fan's heart turns cold, it is almost impossible to rekindle it.
Fans know things about the things they love and enthusiasts don’t.
Anyone can quote Star Trek or Star Wars because many of the aphorisms have gone mainstream, but a Star Wars Fan knows who Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun are. They have become such an important part of the Saga. They know the Chewbacca died on Sernpidal during the Yuuzhan Vong war trying to save Han Solo's youngest son.
Fandom is not defined by obscure knowledge. On the contrary, a fans love for a franchise causes them to seek out everything they can from that franchise. We read the books and watch the OVAs. A fan remembers the details and more often than not knows the minutia.
Fans create and enjoy filk, fanfiction, fan films, fan art, costumes and conventions. We often play role playing games, video games and MMOs in the settings we love.
Fan participation is the most commonly mocked aspects of SF fandom. No one mocks a music fan's attendance of a concert or a sport fan attending a game. They don't even mock the wearing of band shirts or sports jerseys, or fantasy football or rock and roll camp. These are not different from conventions, or filk, or role playing, or cosplay.
Fans support what we love. We buy the books, DVDs, and games.
This is where modern fandom is in the most trouble. The studios and publishers have not offered fans the options they want for media they consume. DRM (digital rights management) and region codes restrict how and where media can me viewed.
International fans often have few options for obtaining media other than piracy.
Media companies have to listen to the fans and make media available in as many ways as possible to they do not drive money away. They also must learn that they are not owners of their franchises, they are caretakers and conservators. The tighter they hold on to outdated and outmoded concepts of ownership, the smaller market they will have and the most desperate they will become.
What we love supports us.
Fans often gather insight and inspiration from the franchises they love. In moments of fear, I have found myself reciting the Bene Geseret prayer from Dune. It is also not uncommon for fans to quote dialogue to make a point.
These franchises are not just shows or books we like. More than we realize they are the myths that help us:
- talk about the aspects of life that are impossible to discuss straight on.
- see the connections between our lives and the transcendent mysteries.
- develop a pattern of living with honor, integrity, and purpose.
- react the trial, tribulations, and joyful moments of life.
This is why fans embraced the movie Galaxy Quest. It is a love letter to fandom, showing at its most extreme, but also showing it for what it is. A culture that gives hope and inspiration to millions.
Are you a fan?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself. The more times you answer yes, the better the likelihood you are a fan.
- Have you ever connected with a work on a deep level?
- Have you ever enjoyed something so much you rushed to tell someone?
- Have you ever played a game, watched an OVA, or read a book that is part of the extended universe of a franchise you love?
- Have you ever debated or conversed with someone about an aspect of a franchise's setting or the minutia of a setting?
- Have you ever dressed up as one of your favorite characters?
- Have you ever attended an SF convention?
- Have you ever bought a boxset?
- Have you ever quoted SF to make a point?
The Call of Knitted Cthulu
The creativity of knitters never stops impressing me. I really hope I can find patterns so I can make a couple of these for myself. I can just imagine the looks on people’s faces if I went into town wearing a knitted Cthulu ski mask, or the creature from the black lagoon. O the looks, muhaha, I need to get some for me and all my friends.
Homophobia, Misogyny and Bias in Culture and Fandom
You know what? I love fandom a lot. It's given me so many things--friendships, delight, Story and story and stories until I'm positively surfeited, meta and analysis and exegesis, a wider sensitivity to issues that I never would have even thought of had I been left to my own self-centered devices, and probably a dozen more things that I can't even think of because I'm only on my second cup of coffee this morning. ...
But look. Can you lay off announcing your posts with things like "It's time for some [schoolname]faggotry"? And stop talking about one character going to sex another up as "rape" (or "raep" as some would have it)? And maybe lay off calling everything "gay" or "ghei" (written_in_blue)?
This has been a huge problem in culture and especially in the fandom/gaming community. Not too long ago, Brian and I had to kick a couple guys from a group in an online game for saying repeatedly that they wanted to go rape an instance. To make matter worse, we could not get them to understand why that phrase was totally unacceptable. After a long, fruitless debate, we just added the individuals to our ignore lists.
Once, when I was playing a female toon, a player mock raped me after defeating me in PVP. He sent me tells filled with graphic and violent imagery, and when I reported him to the GMs, his guild attacked me, each sending me similar lurid tells.
Fanfiction has become infected with these images to the point where I am not sure where to go to find my fanfic anymore.
The blame for this comes down to people like me tolerating this sort of hate speech in our causal acquaintances and friends for too long. Something we never would have done if people where saying, that is so "N-word," or "Let's linch X."
I hate to be PC, and I am not saying that we fight for an absolute ban on the use of "That's so gay," even though I think we have to crack down on it, and stop the use the word rape in any way that could ever be perceived as positive.
On P:SI #249 “OMG A White Namic,” I used the phrase, "That is so Gay," about a pink pedal powered tank that fires hot dogs (DV!CE), because it is. As a gay man, I have to say, that is the gayest thing I have ever seen, but I would never use the phrase to mean something was bad.
Other than turning it around on people, it is helpful to use the word or phrase in a correct way.
It is time for us to get past the hate and get back to what fans do best. Celebrate the things we love.