Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stranger than fiction

Most of fandom has been gripped by the unauthorized biography of Msscribe, even those of us who know nothing of the people involved. It's just a crazy, crazy story, but meticulously researched and well-written about events that happened years ago. I was struck by the investigate quality (which reminds me very of my awe with "The Smartest Guys in the Room" -- which I highly recommend for anyone wanting to know what really happened with Enron), but at the same time, the story illuminates that true aspect of human nature that all of us feel, but none of us really want to admit feeling: the need and desire to be liked, to be part of a group, to be loved, admired, and respected. Most of us wouldn't go as far in that respect as Msscribe did, especially not with something so life unaltering as fandom (okay, some people may very well disagree with me on that fact).

I am fascinated by the story from a purely social anthropological view. Fandom is one of those places where you find instant community, a refuge from the trials and tribulations of the real world, where you can pretend for a while that RL isn't happening around you, but mostly it's the place to go to get instant adulation and adoration. You can make friends and some of these friendships actually have legs and are not fleeting. You post stories, and whoa, someone writes to you almost instaneously. Who wouldn't feel good about that kind of thing? Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? And who wouldn't want to take the average 3 to 5 pieces of feedback per story and turn into something amazing -- y'know, to be that author, no matter what s/he writes, gets 1,000 pieces of feedback?

I'm not saying that msscribe did was right, because hurting people to the extent that she did over something as trivial (to the non-fannish world) like sitting at the fannish table with the cool kids is twisted on so many levels. But the story is fascinating because it does illuminate psychology and in a way, makes me rather uncomfortable. I'd like to say I'm in fandom for the fic, for the experience of writing, but that's not entirely true. While I might say publicly and often that I write because I want to write, I'm also lying to myself. But while I admit to the desire, I also admit to wanting the feedback and friendship and awards to be genuine.

But I think the impulse and desire to belong is so incredibly strong that it's hard to push back those feelings of insecurity, especially when there's a blatant hierarchy, when you can see where people are succeeding when you are not, and you wonder, "What do they have that *I* don't?" There's a certain amount of patience required to succeed at pretty much anything you attempt in life, whether it's professional or personal or fannish, but time and time again, we see people do stupid things to get themselves ahead, at least temporarily. That's what happened at Enron, when temporarily beautiful financial 'fixes' elevated the company in a way that made it prettier, brighter, and more shiny than anyone else on Louisiana Street (not, btw, that I'm equating fandom with the debacle that was Enron, since Enron ruined lives in ways that cannot be quantified).

So is it better to succeed wildly and beyond expections on a fleeting and false basis, or is it better to toll steadily in obscurity, hoping one day, one day you'll get ahead and be able to claim what everyone who arrived before you already has? The good thing about the latter is that if you never attain it, you don't miss having it. But dang, it'd sure be nice to experience that high.

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