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Episode 35: Insider Interview

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Oct. 2nd, 2012 | 02:49 pm

Host: djin7
Guest: cesperanza

DJ: This is the author interview for Slashcast episode number 35. I’m DJ and I’m very pleased to introduce my guest today, Speranza, who is a popular and well-respected multi-fandom writer and vidder and is here to discuss her fandoms, fanworks and her fannish activities of late. Thank you, Speranza and welcome for coming.

Speranza: Thank you, I’m happy to be here.

DJ: Let’s get started right off the bat. How did you come into the world of fandom?

Speranza: I came in on the first Star Wars boom, is how I sort of date myself. In the sort of 1980ish, around the time of Empire Strikes Back ‘cause I’m that old. But I was young then. And in fact I sort of back formed into organised fandom I kind of back formed to Trek. But it was really what got me out of the house, as it were, was Star Wars, was my first connection to other fans. Though it wasn’t the first thing I was fannish about. I was, in the late 70s – I’m really dating myself, but whatever – in the late 70s was our last big superhero boom. And in fact you had Wonder Woman, you had Linda Carter as Wonder Woman on the air, and you had sort of The Hulk on the air, and there was a Spiderman series on the air and there was Mighty Isis, which nobody remembers-

DJ: I remember.

Speranza: You remember Mighty Isis? O, Mighty Isis, when she was on the air?

DJ:[speaking in background] I absolutely do.

Speranza: And then the Adam West Batman, and Adam West on some level will always be my Batman. And it was kind of the Superhero thing, and that’s what I was quietly, privately fannish about, but I didn’t connect with other fans over that. The thing that brought me out of the house, as much as a 10 – 12 year old gets out of the house, was Star Wars, which I became kind of fannish about at a moment when everybody was fannish about Star Wars in a way that felt like living it all over again with Harry Potter. I mean, it was the kind of thing that mundanes became fannish. In the way that Harry Potter really just made people who would not have thought about fandom as a way of life, you know they weren’t kind of firewall, but they became crazy fannish in this huge sweep in. And so I swept in on the kind of 1981 equivalent of that, which was the sort of Star Wars craze and it was a great time to be a fan. I mean you still had the Superhero hangover [DJ makes agreeing noise], and there was a science fiction explosion and you were going to have Raiders, and you were going to have Star Trek 2, which, you know, Wrath of Khan came out and then Search for Spock in ’83 and I remember all of this like it was yesterday. And I had a Star Log subscription and I was a member of the Star Wars fan club and I had blueprints of the Millennium Falcon on my wall. [DJ suddenly laughs with joy] and I was just – no I mean I had-

DJ: [talking over Speranza] That’s fabulous.

Speranza: - I had just kind of stills and I was just crazy for it. And I started writing Star Wars fanfic then, with a group of real life mundane meat-space friends, but who all did not live near to me, so we would write fanfic and mail it to each other through the mail. Big packets of fanfic in a kind of ongoing round-robin story. And I was sort of desperately fannish all through the mid, early to mid-eighties.

DJ: So what launched you online then?

Speranza: This eighties period I was in my teen years really, early teens, 12, 13, 14, and then in the later 80s I went to college. And I sort of, and I think that a lot of people have this experience, having written fanfiction I sort of thought ‘well I could be a writer’, and I thought ‘well, I’ll be a grown up writer, DJ, I won’t write fanfiction, I’ll write short stories and stuff. I’ll do Creative Writing and I’ll be a serious writer.’ And off I trundled in my pretentious little undergraduate way to become a serious writer in college. And in some ways I became less fannish, I was still a sort of science fiction person, but I kind of drifted out of fandom while I was in college and in graduate school. And then, you know, you can run but you can’t hide, and in graduate school I did a paper on the queer subtext between Batman and Robin, which was a throwback to my first fannishness with Adam West and cute little Burt Ward in his little shorts, and I did a paper: Queer Aspects of Batman and Robin as a feminist paper and someone came up to me and said, ‘you know, you would really like fandom’. You know it was very funny, and the internet was just sort of starting, now we’re in the early 90s, and I didn’t have internet in – I mean there was no internet really when I was in college – but there was starting to be internet while I was in graduate school. The text based internet, as I’m sure you remember it.

DJ: Yup.

Speranza: You know with archie, and you had to tell net in, and everything was textual. And they gave me one of these hook-ups at my graduate school and this friend of mine in graduate school said ‘oh you might want to log on ‘cause there’s all this kind of wonderful queer batman stuff’, and I did log on from school. And I swear to you it was like coming home, because I had been here. In other words for me it was like this weird recognition, like ‘oh my god’ this whole thing that I thought I had put behind me, right. Because I had zines and I had gone to some science fiction conventions and I was writing, but all of a sudden all those same people who I thought that I had left behind at 1987 or so were all still there and they had all gone online and now it was 1993, or 4 or something like that, 5, and I remember thinking, like ‘oh my god, I know just what this is’. And it was really quite exciting actually to rediscover it all and be like ‘oh my god and you guys hand this brilliant idea that instead of mailing the stories you’re going to post them online’, like it was the most exciting thing in the world, honestly. And if you remember then sort of ’96 ish, ’97 it was KSnix, KS Nicholas’ page and there was a, she had this page called something like Fanfiction on the Internet, you know with that big a title. All of it. She had a listing of fanfiction on the internet, there were sort of two pages with all sites in the world. You could list them, ‘cause there were like 50 of them.

DJ: Wow.

Speranza: In the day. And so you literally could go and it would be Bren Antrim – Highlander stuff, you know a lot of these people are still around, or Kim Gasp or whatever. I mean there was just a list of sites, people’s individual pages of people who were writing fanfiction. And you could put that on two webpages, just like a list of links, and I swear to you I just inhaled it, you know. I remember just sitting and at that point I had just gotten a doctorate and I was guesting and I was sitting in my office and I was just inhaling this stuff in just huge batches. Sometimes I would just stay in my office until eleven o’clock at night, and literally just not be able to tear myself away from the internet hookup at the office where there was all the stories in the world.

DJ: Yeah people still can’t tear themselves away from the internet when there’s all the stories in the world.

Speranza: Yeah. I have to say that, I’ve said this before but, I’m so kin-, I mean this is sad but I’m really happy that somehow I, I feel like I was quite lucky to have fallen out of fandom for college and graduate school ‘cause I’m not entirely sure that I would have finished. And I admire the kids- ‘these kids today’. I mean, god bless them, no, I think about it all the time with my students. I think god bless you that you are able to read a book, and do your papers, turn up in class and all of that and still have this fantastic world online. You know they may be better than me in all sorts of ways. I respect them.

DJ: Yeah they seem to have endless energy now.

Speranza: Yeah I guess they must, but they also must have self-control that at some point they must close the window for the tumblr and go and read their homework. And I’m not sure I could have done it in 1995, I tell ya.

DJ: Yeah, I still have problems closing that window too. So did you throw yourself into the internet at that time and start anything of you own, get your own… you have a website I know, and when did that start?

Speranza: Well, so I inhaled, I was just reading like you do, and inhaling all the stories and I did start with that, because this friend of mine had told me – James if you’re out there, James what’s with winds – Batman had written some Batman slash and then James had a Batman story that crossed over with Sentinal.

DJ: Nice.

Speranza: It was a Batman/Sentinel crossover which I’m sure is still archived out there somewhere. And I remember thinking ‘There’s a Sentinel from-, what is this?’ Yeah, famous last words. And, um, obviously I’d just finished graduate school and Sentinel which was a popular show in the – of the era – in the late 90s, but it featured a graduate student and you just see very few graduate students in mass culture and there was a sort of attraction there with the Blair Sandburg character – studying a hero, it seemed very fun – and I initially wrote my first, well I was going to say my first fanfic, my first fanfic then after the hiatus, my first online fanfiction literally as a way – I remember thinking to myself ‘Well, I know how to do this, I used to do this when I was a kid, I know what it’s like to write fanfiction, and I am a serious writer and I can certainly write a story to give back.’ And I remember sort of thinking to myself ‘I’ll just write a story’ because that was the way you-, there was really no other way to kind of pay back, you felt like you wanted to give something back to people who had written so much stuff that had given you so much pleasure.

DJ: Exactly.

Speranza: And I didn’t know how to do it other than I thought, ‘oh well, I’ll write one and that will be my way of putting into the pot as it came around.’ It was like a contribution, you know. So I thought I know how to do this, so I’ll write a story and that’ll be my way of saying ‘Boy I have had such a good time’ and I thought I would just write the one and that’s not how it worked out. [DJ chuckles in the background] Um, and really famous last words. ‘I’ll just write this one story’.

DJ: Just the one?

Speranza: Yeah, just to say thanks, DJ.

DJ: That was one epic story.

Speranza: Yeah, and it went on for kind of a while. Yeah.

DJ: How many parts?

Speranza: [laughs] I don’t – I honestly, I’d have to go back and check but I ended up writing this thing called The Nature Series which was at least 30 stories.

DJ: Yeah.

Speranza: I don’t know how that happened it was all kind of a blur. You know it was really it was like going back into a worn path it was like ‘this is so fun. This is about as much fun as you can legally have.’ And I really never stopped after that, from then to now. So really all in all I’ve been writing fanfiction pretty seriously since the early, now it looks like the other bit was the break, and luckily I had a nice little 1987 to – well I guess it was about ten years, I didn’t write again until ’97, so I had a little ten year hiatus and other than that I’ve been doing it.

DJ: Um, so you obviously prefer to write now, what or who inspires you?

Speranza: Fandom in the broadest sense I would say inspires me, in fact. You know I’m really different. I’m really friendly with astolat aka The Lady of Shalott and she really, you know, beats to her own drum. She sees the source and she has a story. And the story sort of comes off the source and I always used to call myself a kind of third wave writer. I’m somebody who really gets inspired by the fandom around a source rather than the source. So really, literally speaking I am inspired by fandom, I get my energy from fandom, from the creativity, from the other stories that are being written. And if you look at what I look at what I do I have tended to be not only in really big fandoms but in big fandoms kind of late, right. I’m typically not the first one in the door. Astolat is more likely to be first in the door, my friend Julad is more likely to be the first through the door, where they really kind of build a fandom. I used to joke there are people who sort of turn up and they found the town and they go there and they set up camp and build a campfire and they start kind of doing the fandom. I come in like, you know, like a year later and start building like the Post Office and the railway system [laughs] you know what I mean? And like put a supermarket in. I sit in for the long haul and I build, like, infrastructure, you know, but I don’t really discover fandoms so much. Like I go into fandoms where the explorers have been before me, and I start mapping, I start doing more, more er, civilization building work later in the day, I’m not the first person to turn up at your fandom. So like now I’m getting interested in Avengers, right? Where literally, like, literally people have been in there before me and now I kind of want to come and – you know – build a Town Hall or something.

DJ: I’m sure that they’ll be very happy to hear that.

Speranza: Yeah, but you know what I mean, like I’m not first in. I’m not clever that way, I don’t go in there and say – I don’t go to Avengers the movie and come out and be like ‘you know what, I’ve got six stories I want to tell’, like I want the fandom vibe first. I do admire the people though who really make, who innovate fandoms.

DJ: Absolutely.

Speranza: You know it’s a different personality, like, who literally they read a new book and think ‘oh, that’s great and I have a missing scene and I’m going to write it even though nobody cares. You know?’

DJ: Yet. </p>

Speranza: ‘I mean in this moment nobody cares but I’m going to write it and now everybody’s going to care.’ That’s fantastic. I mean, your original question what inspires me. The people who do that I think are amazing. Um. And then I think that, there used to be something called the wave theory of slash like people who get involved in fandoms at different stages of the fandom’s cycle or whatever it is. So I’m really grateful to the people who do the tropes, you know what I mean, I like to play with the tropes that other fans have invented. In many ways I’m more interested in writing fanfic of fandom’s work than I really am about fanfic of the canon. I really only want to process each new culture through what fandom’s already written about it, generally.

DJ: So, in er, canon fandoms, sources, those types of things, is there a particular one in the past – past fandom – that you hold most dear?

Speranza: You know I don’t, I really, I deeply love, if I’ve written it I just deeply love it. And I don’t know that I could even rate it. I mean, especially the big fandoms for me, which were Sentinal, and Due South, and SJ, and The Dead Zone which was a wonderful little fandom which never got as big as it could of but was really quite wonderful and, um, my heart is in that too. And The West Wing. I just feel like, you know, if you, ‘cause to write something is to really devote brain and body time to it, blood time to it, though I suppose I definitely have fondness for Due South that I don’t think I’ll ever be apart from. But I don’t know that I could prioritise them in terms of any kind of favourites.

DJ: Obviously you put your heart and soul into something and you have to really love it with your heart and soul at that time.

Speranza: People always say, you know, that so much fanfiction is terrible, but I actually have the opposite. Now, admittedly I don’t read everything, I know people who are really voracious readers and read everything and then they say that 90% of everything is crap. But I read pretty widely and I would say that what I read is really very good.

DJ: Uh huh.

Speranza: And I think that people really do love it so much, even when it’s bad it’s really good.

DJ: It shows that they love it.

Speranza: I think so. I mean, and I think it literally makes the prose better. I mean, I’m really positive on it. I think that it is really good broadly because people love it so much. People have been so encouraging and so nice, I mean, I have gotten so much more than my share of love, I mean I’m really – fandom if you’re listening I’m really, really grateful for it. It just does mean the world to me. And people say such nice things about my stuff and I really do think it’s kind of encouraged me to be better and I try to do my share of encouraging other people. For me it’s always been a wonderful, warm place to write, and I’ve felt really supported and loved in fandom.

DJ: Do you have a particular piece of work that you found has been the best received in general, in fandom?

Speranza: Yeah, I mean at the minute it probably still is Written By The Victors, which was just unlike anything in my experience. I mean, it was this SGA story and what was so amazing, aside from the response – which continues to come in, I mean the story was done in 2007, which in internet time you know, there were dinosaurs, but it’s a long time, you know, it’s five years and people are still reading and reccing it – but the part that really got to me was the incredible creativity people had of their own off the story. And in fact I try to collect it and celebrate it as much as I can, um, but you know people made art for the story and wrote poetry, and recorded kind of song cycles and made vids and you know Lim made this podfic, you know, or edited this podfic that was, it may be the longest podfic out there, it’s something like six hours and 32 people on like six continents, I mean it’s like a joke. But to see people, I guess that- I would say it’s what the powers that be feel when we make – I hope it’s what they feel, it would be what they felt if they had any sense at all – to see somebody engage your work that way and make beautiful things about it and near it. And so that really in that way is really a cut above. Every couple of years I think to myself you know, I’ve written the story that’s going to be the first line of my obituary, fannishly. For a while it was ‘oh, you know Francesca who wrote the Nature Series’, and then it was ‘Speranza who wrote ‘Chicago’s Most Wanted’, and then, and now it’s kind of ‘the author of Written By The Victors’. Um but it’s been enough times that I’m confident that I’m not going anywhere and so that someday I’ll do something that-

DJ: You’ve still got another one in you.

Speranza: I think so. I mean I was sort of ready to say well that’s the last one, well not the last one but that’s going to be the one that I’m known for, but it’s happened enough times, ‘Chicago’s Most Wanted’ being notoriously, you know, for a long time I sort of thought ‘well that’s it then, I’ve done Chicago’s Most Wanted and that’s going to be the story that everybody remembers when my name comes up and now it’s Written By The Victors’, and so, you know, where there’s light there’s hope. Um, to make something else. And I do think that you can only write the work you can write, I mean I say this all the time, but I try to write what I can write today. You know?

DJ: Right.

Speranza: And I think that the way you keep making stuff is you keep the pipe clean. You know you just – today’s story, and if you don’t like today’s story you’ll like tomorrow’s story, and you’ll like the story I write next week and you’ll like the story I’ll write next year, and you kind of just kind of keep swinging at the balls as they get thrown to you.

DJ: You ever put anything out there that you hated, that you wanted to take back right away?

Speranza: No. Though I can think of two times when I did pull something back. I was made to pull back Some Strange Prophecy, which I had released and then my beta’s were like ‘no you’re really, really, really not done with it, and you have to take it back’ and I took it back it came out with another I don’t remember how many words. But the fandom was like, no you’re not finished with that yet. And so it was pulled back and expanded and then put out again.

DJ: Wow.

Speranza: Yeah. And it was a really long monstrous, endless story I couldn’t get out of and at some point I was like ‘well I’m done’, and they were like ‘no you’re not’, and I was like ‘alright. I guess not’.[DJ laughs] But it wasn’t like I hated it, I just really was trying to find my way out of it and I may have pulled the trigger a little soon. And sadly actually I have a West Wing vid which I think is not up at the minute which I’ve put out and pulled back, and pulled out and it may be one of those things where at some point you ‘wow that was a really’- you probably don’t even know I did a West Wing vid, I did a West Wing vid! I tried to do one, but sometimes you know you just have to, I think actually sometimes you have to let the thing be what it is and say ‘okay that’s not perfect, and now I’m going to make the next one’, but I think if you get caught up endlessly tweaking…

DJ: Yes.

Speranza: You know, I know this in all kinds of writing actually. I mean you see professional novelists do this, they end up kind of tweaking a book, and tweaking a book and at some point you need someone to just kind of take it away from you and start another one. So generally in fact no, I’ve never put out anything I hated and I think that it’s important, I think it’s really important to finish. So for instance I have no WIPs, I have no Works in Progress.

DJ: And thank god for that.

Speranza: Yeah, I finish, I dammit, I finish everything. I do. If I discarded it gets finished, and even if it gets finished imperfectly it gets finished and it’s the best I could do at the time that I could do it and that’s it because I think that this thing of having endless WIPs is a mistake. I think you have to finish it and learn from it and then go and make something else.

DJ: That is excellent advice for any new writer out there, and for some of the old writers-

Speranza: I do. I think so ‘cause otherwise it haunts you. I mean writers literally get haunted and they sort of feel ‘well I can’t do anything else until I finish this thing’ and I think, you know what, finish it. Drive it to the nearest conclusion and get it done and put it out there and learn what you needed to learn and conceive the next one differently, but it’s almost like you can’t turn one thing into another thing. Sometimes it’s just what it is and you should finish it and make something else.

DJ: That’s excellent advice.

Speranza: Try again, fail again. Fail better. I think fail better is actually a really good motto too. Meaning okay, you just do it and make it, cut it off, make another thing. And I think it’s only by making lots of things. What is it? Gladwell, Michael Gladwell says that you have to do 10,000 hours of something before you get good at it. I think just get on with it. [chuckles]

DJ: What is new and exciting for you, these days? Fandomwise.

Speranza: Um. Well you know we made, I don’t know if you saw, but astolat and I, made this video called Anything For Love, starring Me. I’m actually in it banging my head against the desk as I am wont to do.

DJ: Nice.

Speranza: But really it was about – it was a true story, it all happened, of astolat saying ‘no, really, you have to watch Thor’ and I said sort of said ‘I’m not going to watch Thor. I’m not doing it.’ She said, ‘yes you are!’ [DJ speaking in background slightly muffles this part] I mean I have a limit and it’s Thor and that’s it I’m not watching Thor, I’m not, alright, okay I’m watching, and now I’m writing Thor. And so really it was like this fandom’s, it just seemed like the fannish story of no, no, no, I absolutely okay… [both laugh] Er and that’s the vid. The vid is a bit about I am absolutely positively no way going to watch this show about Teen… oh alright I’ll watch the werewolves. Right, I mean isn’t that our story?

DJ: Absolutely. I mean that’s how I found SGA was that way too.

Speranza: Yeah. No I’m not-

DJ: I’m not doing it.

Speranza: No it looks stupid. I’m not. No I- alright. Yeah, okay, the little one’s kind of cute. Alright. I er. So er, anyway, so anyway I seem to be writing Thor because that happened to me. I’m watching Sherlock and I’m also watching Person of Interest. It’s slash candy, but it’s old school, you know it’s fandom like it’s, I don’t know, 1994, because it’s so, the relationship is so suppressed that you really kind of have to work to excavate it. So I’m in this ridiculous case where on the one hand I’m shipping Thor/Loki who are wearing gigantic green satin capes and horns and-

DJ: Like they’re constantly touching each other in all the movies and-

Speranza: Yeah and flinging each other into deep space. And then there’s Rhys and Finch who, you know, sometimes make eye contact [DJ laughs], and occasionally speak to each other. Directly. But rarely. Often they telephone. So I’ve got these really radical extremes of behaviour, which I suppose is like the ying and yang of my fannish slashy life. Right, the too much and not enough. The extremes of, I don’t know, homosocial behaviour or something. But I don’t know, I think fandom is actually really fun at the minute. I think there is a lot of really fun source going on there. And I have to say I have not yet watched the Teen Wolf, but I was, did you see the tumblr footage of the guys on the ship?

DJ: Well I saw the AfterElton slash poll, and I saw that I guess that they call it Sterek,

Speranza: Yeah.

DJ: This particular, um. Well I saw the popularity of that and thought well I really can’t step away from that, I’m really going to have to check that out now.

Speranza: Yeah I think you have, but if you go on tumblr and you see this footage of the Sterek actors, you know pretty much sitting in each other’s laps. On a ship DJ. As they say, winking at you, ‘We’re on ship.’ Right? [DJ bursts out laughing]

DJ: So they’re feeding the fandom already?

Speranza: Listen, seriously you ca- that is such an understatement that I can’t even convey to you the marvelousness of these two actors’ pandering. It turns out I like being pandered to.[DJ continues to laugh in the background] I know it’s crazy. You feel free, pretty boys, to pander to me any time you like.

DJ: That’s right.

Speranza: I’m open to that. I’ll give you my number, pander away.

DJ: Gimme, gimmie, gimmie – a man after midnight.

Speranza: Yeah, and I saw fans literally being, ‘alright already, I’ll ship you’, you know what I mean? Like, yes, I’ll give in, I will ship you. Anyway, I have not yet had time to see the cute teen werewolves, but I feel like anybody who – I feel like that can’t be bad, you know?

DJ: No, it can’t be bad. And that’s what the PVR is for.

Speranza: Right.

DJ: You can always catch up.

Speranza: No, but I do have to get my hands on the – that sounds wrong – but get my hands on the [laughing] teen werewolves. Just because I think that, you know, that many- that many Sterek fans can’t be wrong. I trust my fellow fans. I think they must be right about that.

DJ: Right. And that’s what they are, they’re like a cult, it’s almost like Amway some days, I find.

Speranza: Yeah.

DJ: They’re all trying to drag you down, drag you under.

Speranza: But you know, where there’s smoke there’s fire. My sense is that the teen werewolves are probably flaming. [DJ laughs] Or something like that. On fire.

DJ: Alright. Well, teen werewolves brings us right to our theme of this episode, slashcast 35, which is of course the supernatural, it is our Halloween episode.

Speranza: Ah.

DJ: That seems to be the hottest trend. You were saying earlier superhero trending, and that sort of thing has happening. Right now it appears to be the supernatural, the paranormal: vampires, werewolves, ghosts, fairy tales-

Speranza: So it’s Thursday in fandom, though, right? I mean.

DJ: That’s true.

Speranza: It’s just Thursday, isn’t it? I mean this, this is opposed to the gravely lit story of, you know, working class poor in Manchester? Like, what? That’s what we do right?

DJ: That’s true. That’s true.

Speranza: Yeah, I mean, yes you’re right, we’re in a particularly paranormal – I don’t know - mean Buffy, I mean really was I gotta say coming out of – I mean I guess when Due South is your most realistic show with the wolf, with the magical realism wolf and ghosts in the closest. I think, um? I don’t know that I think this is so abnormal.

DJ: Yeah, it’s not really abnormal, but it certainly is trending. I guess. It’s very visual starting probably about three-four years ago, I guess, True Blood that sort of broke it open all of the networks, right?

Speranza: You know that there’s this theory that when democrats come into office you get vampires, and [DJ splutters with laughter]. No, no, no. Sorry I’m not making this up. That when democrats come into office you get vampires, and when republicans come into office you get zombies.

DJ: Wow.

Speranza: The zombies. No, dude this is like a thing. The zombies are like a metaphor of like the working class coming to kind of get your stuff, and the democrats bring them all the kind of sexy hotcha, you know, sexual deviants, you know, liberal sexuality bits.

DJ: Nice. Do anything you want to do in your bedroom kind of things.

Speranza: That’s it. So it was literally Obama came in and boom there was like tw- literally like, Obama was elected and it was like boom, Twillight and True Blood, like all the vampires came flying out. [DJ laughs] That’s my political theory of fandom.

DJ: Wow. I think you may have to start a convention of some kind for that.

Speranza: That would have made the Republican convention a lot more interesting to watch.

DJ: Obviously the Teen Wolf is appealing to you, or at least the premise of it is. But I have a question for you. Do you think it’s easier to slash, or to explore kink with non-human characters? Or characters that aren’t 100% human?

Speranza: Um, but I mean I think in general probably yeah, alright. I mean, one of the things about paranormal universes is that they’re just so open to metaphor, right?

DJ: Right.

Speranza: And we like metaphor. And you can kind of suspend the rules a little bit. Um. You know it’s funny because it reminds me a little bit of women’s writing, you know, I think women have always actually been really, really, great at writing genre. And I think that women actually don’t. Here’s another of my theories, I think that women actually don’t like realism all that much. Realism’s kind of depressing. And I think that the extent to which we do want to talk about things we care about we prefer to talk about them in metaphor and I think that that’s much easier to do, in kind of really paranormal fandoms. And so I don’t think there’s any sort of accident when you come up on the big women writers and it’s Rowling and it’s Twilight, and it’s The Hunger Games. I think there’s something about the metaphor there that allows women to talk about stuff that they care about. Where like doing, you know, some lifetime movie of week, is just drab and boring. At least to me it is. I know some people like that sort of thing, but I don’t like it at all, I’d much rather read The Hunger Games than I’d read a serious, a serious novel about the problems of being a teenage girl. Like I’m completely bored by that, I’m bored by the description of that. I feel like have her kill everybody with a bow and arrow and I’m interested.

DJ: As a metaphor, of course.

Speranza: Well it is, kind of a metaphor, right?

DJ: It is. It is.

Speranza: It is a metaphor, even as it is not a metaphor. Right?

DJ: Exactly.

Speranza: There’s the thing with the- You know fandom works on that level all the time, but what is happening is, you know Buffy right?

DJ: Right.

Speranza: I mean it’s totally serious that she is actually killing actual vampires, and she is also negotiating herself through high school, college, and life and those things are exactly the same. And The Doctor is, you know, is fighting Daleks, and he is also on a different kind of a journey that is emotionally significant and meaningful, right? So, you wouldn’t want to read only one of those parts, I think. You know you want that double layer of it mattering on a more serious life level, and having the flying monkeys attack.

DJ: It’s like reading the paper versus reading, like you say The Hunger Games, you know I don’t want the News I want to watch Hawaii 50.

Speranza: Yeah.

DJ: The hand-waiving realism is the reason I turned it on.

Speranza: Right. I agree. The fannish version of Hawaii-50 is likely to be about something you care about even more than the show. [DJ makes agreeing noise] You also have all the other entertaining stuff. I just think that a lot of the fiction that is meant to be written for women realistically is really dull and depressing. So I think we all love the paranormal. It’s very funny because you know mundanes thing that genre is somehow flatter than serious literature, and in fact I find quite the opposite. What’s great about genre and paranormal and all of that is that it’s usually working on three levels at once. Yes on the one hand it’s a straightforward adventure story in which person a is trying to kill person b, but it’s usually there’s at least two other, there’s a sort of science fiction layer, the kind of metaphor layer socially, and then there’s often another kind of layer where it’s actually realism that I think is the two dimensional thing, I don’t know how genre got the bad rep. But I think it’s actually changing which is kind of cool. At least I hope it’s changing.

DJ: Where you are seeing more Emmys and awards going to – in media fandoms – towards the movies and the tv shows that maybe do focus a little bit more on the supernatural and/or a little bit more layered, a little bit less real-life ish.

Speranza: Yeah.

DJ: It’s happening.

Speranza: It’s been kind of weird also to watch, I mean I’ve been talking about this in my academic work a little bit, but it’s been really interesting to watch industry borrow fan practices. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

DJ: Yeah.

Speranza: But something, again, like Avengers, up until recently only fans could do that kind of crossover. That’s like a mainstream crossover. Like, I dunno, they’re stealing – they’re trying to steal our bag, and I don’t know how I feel what I think about that. Though I suppose I like being pandered to, as I say.

DJ: But the fanservice, some people might consider it disrespectful, or some of us might just find it very amusing.

Speranza: Well see in the old days fanservice, I don’t know, I tended to find fanservice a little bit more problematic because you got the sense that they were not genuinely comfortable with fandom. But I think that they do now recognise that fandom is kind of buttering their bread. [DJ makes agreeing noise] er and the fanservice feels a lot more heartfelt and genuine, to me, than it did five-ten years ago.

DJ: And our closing words here. How about some philosophy for our fandoms, some words of wisdom?

Speranza: I think even this day people somehow think that it’s somehow too late, not like it’s too late to join, but there’s some sort of secret entryway. Fandom is really one of those things that you just start doing it. You start making stuff and you start talking and I feel like sometimes think there’s some other secret handshake or you if need to know the knock. In fact that was definitely much truer in the old days, where you really couldn’t find fandom. And actually I think maybe that the kids today actually don’t need to hear this, that they do know that what you need to do is to start making your thing and put it out there. But in that way it’s always been easier to join fandom than it may have seemed, I think when you’re first joining fandom you think ‘my goodness how do all these people, sort of know each other and know their way around and do stuff’, and then the answer is you write one story to say thank you and you’d be surprised how it can spiral away from you, you know, right there. But, I think that the people who don’t know how to join are the people afraid to say something and I hope that people won’t be afraid to say something. I do worry a little, what do you think about the tumblr?

DJ: You know the tumblr confuses the heck outta me.

Speranza: Yeah, it is a bit.

DJ: I find it very impersonal, like the Twitter. I don’t see that there’s a lot of dialogue there. I know that it seems to be the trend and everybody’s saying everything in 160 characters or less or one big ass picture or less, but I just don’t even know if I can even communicate that way. I- there’s the shiny, but I can only be distracted by the shiny for so long.

Speranza: Yeah I like the shiny. The shiny is what brought me. I was sort of where is all – I mean the beautiful fan art.

DJ: Yes.

Speranza: And you know I’ve been really appreciating, you know there seem to be all these new forms, these new fan forms that are developing on twitter, I mean on tumblr in particular, and I find that all really exciting. Um but the reason I’m thinking about it is that it seems really clear that like the good thing about tumblr is that it does seem to kind of lower the barrier for participation. But I hope that also fans will reach out to form the kinds of friendships, you know the more personal level. Because you might like a lot of people fannishly, but only – and this is no insult – but only a smaller number of them might be the kind of people you really become friends with in a real life way.

DJ: Right.

Speranza: But in fact I feel like, you know, newbies today just do not underestimate the potential for this to become a really meaningful life choice for you. And I guess I hope that tumblr allows people to engage others – not everybody – but others in fandom sufficiently in order to have it be their culture in a way that I feel like I was lucky enough, and am lucky enough, to have fandom be my culture. You know what I mean?

DJ: Right.

Speranza: Like fandom really is my tribe, it’s like my home and my tribe, and has been for quite a long time, where I feel like those are my people, and that I’m in a real relationship with people who have brought so many great things to my life. And I hope that the new interfaces with the shiny also allow people to connect in deeper ways. And I suspect they will, I mean, fans are like water, you know, we’ll find the crevices.

DJ: That’s right.

Speranza: You know, we’ll find the ways to talk and communicate and dammit if we can’t find it we’ll build it, ‘cause that’s what we do. But in fact I do hope that the newbies don’t be afraid to reach out and kind of know the person behind that gif, or whatever, as a person, because in fact fandom is full of really great people, behind the shiny.

DJ: That’s really good advice. I’m going to try to learn more about tumblr myself so I don’t fall behind on it, but um…

Speranza: See I’m good at reading, I’m trying to figure out how to, I always want to meet new people, like I don’t always, as much as I have many, many, many fantastic people already in my life, you know one of the things you want to do in fandom is as you move into new fandoms you want to be able to make a personal connection with people whose work you think is amazing. I’m finding it a little hard to reach out, but I’m determined to do it because it’s so worth it.

DJ: Yeah that’s great. Yeah those days are slowly coming to an end too, the comments of-

Speranza: You think?

DJ: -between people, in some ways. It seems, I mean I only watch so many things, of course I’m on the journals, Dreamwidth, livejournal, all those things. So it seems as if they seem to be narrowing.

Speranza: Yeah but I feel like it’s got to come out somewhere.

DJ: Absolutely.

Speranza: We’re Whac-a-Mole aren’t we? If you whack it down one place it’s gotta come bursting out some place else, it’s gotta be some place. Some people say it’s chat. Which it might be. Maybe like it’s live chat or something like that. Yeah ‘cause that’s how fandom started in fact was off people connecting directly, right?

DJ: Yes.

Speranza: We don’t only want to interface through the software, I think.

DJ: Yeah.

Speranza: We’re going to figure this out, DJ.

DJ: We’re going to figure this out, we are.

Speranza: I know that we’re going to do this, it’s just at the moment, a couple of us oldos are kind of confused, and we’re going to get past this. I’m confident.

DJ: That’s awesome and it’s awesome that you’re going to fight the good fight to stick around with us, cause we sure appreciate that.

Speranza: I have to yeah. It’s where I live. It’s like, you know, I’m not going to lose my house, I just have to remember where I live. [DJ chuckles]

DJ: That’s exactly right and thank you so much for joining us today in this interview. Talking about your fandom tribe. I’m stealing that.

Speranza: Yes.

DJ: And fandom Whack-A-Mole. Which is also worthy of stealing. I think it’s a pin worthy.

Speranza: Great. No, no, I’m confident we’re going to come popping up, as we do.

DJ: Well this has been DJ interviewing Speranza, thank you so much for joining us today for this interview and for telling us all about your fannish history, and your fun times then, and fun times coming up and we hope to see you, and a lot of you hopefully, on tumblr or wherever you want to be.

Speranza: So I’ll be popping up somewhere near you! [laughs]

DJ: That’s great. We’ll find ya! Thank you so much.

Speranza: Thank you.

Transcribed by: angelbabe_cj

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