The facts: Heather Parish or “HP”
Location: Fresno, California
Family: Husband, Jaguar “The Chap”. . . stand-up philosopher, writer, actor, and PR hack.
Fur-children: Big Kitty, age 15.
Education: BA English literature, BA theater arts, minor in education – Whitworth University
Day Job: Non-fiction publishing (soon to add genre fiction). Side gig: Consulting with authors and artists on their social media. A la carte PR services for artists and arts organizations.
Art: Theater whether it be Fringe or Shakespeare in the Park or Black Box Indies (and little dabble in filmmaking).
Hobbies: Story obsessive – reading, watching, creating. Historical costuming and historical interpretation (read cosplaying for history/classics buffs) – sewing and event planning. Member of JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America). Audience obsessive – reading, watching, creating interactions between performer and audience (an offshoot of fandoms!).
Fandoms, current: Richard Armitage. Outlander. All Soul’s Trilogy. Period Costume Dramas. Historical Sewing. Past (primary): Christian Bale, Counting Crows, DMB, Creed (not the high point of my fan life, but really passionate fans!), BBC costume dramas and period films, European royal families, Tolkien, PBS Historical Reality Shows (yeah, it was a thing), Firefly, and various other bands, actors, movies, tv, books along the way. And, of course, JASNA is one of the largest fan clubs ever.
THIS BLOG: Will be what it will be. Probably a goodly amount of Richard Armitage, but I won’t count out a posts about Outlander, historical costuming, costume dramas, genre fiction, and points outward. Also: posts about fans, fandoms and fanning in general.
NOTE: I may eventually regret this, but I’ve made a pretty solid commitment to living my online life “out loud”. I use my real name and my real face. I’m pretty easy to look up. I mean, my social media links are right there at the bottom, aren’t they? However, you won’t find a TON of fandom stuff in my socials, aside from a few @ comments or the odd post/reference here or there. Just so you know, I’m a real person!
ALSO NOTE: Until very recently, my husband was the only person I’ve discussed fandoms within the last decade. He is a sci fi fan and also has a history with fandoms (Star Trek, BSG, etc), so he (mostly) gets it. Also: there will be swearing.
Me in Fandoms, a TL:DR Narrative:
I was probably 11 or so when I started fangirling. Introverted and wired with a very rich inner world, obsessive reader, fascinated by television and movies, I was vulnerable to all manner of interests (still am). Add “information hoarding” to that mix and you get someone designed for fangirling. I had appointments with the tv, knew when the latest issues of the teen and gossip magazines hit the newsstands, recorded (via very fancy VCR) any and all televised appearances of my crushes.
I was 13 when I saw Christian Bale in “Empire of the Sun” and I had never seen someone my own age give a serious performance like that. I was immediately fascinated. There were other crushes (I had NKOTB on a loop and Christian Slater came in a close second to Christian #1), but CB stuck with me for a solid 20 years after that.
It all happened behind closed doors, really. In my bedroom, headphones on, pictures and interviews to pour over. I read magazines faithfully. I wrote my own little versions of fanfic in notebooks hidden under my bed. Wrote the occasional fan letter. But it was essentially a very private thing, my fangirling. I NEVER discussed it with anyone, not really.
At 18, I discovered the theater, which was essentially a way out of my head and into creating a wider variety of stories and meeting a wider variety of people. It was good for me. I grew in skills and confidence. At the same time, though, came college and the WORLD WIDE WEB! Bale’s fanclub was one of the first on the internet and I joined up its first year. Also in college, I discovered the joy that was the listserv. Suddenly, anything I was looking to fan, there was probably an email listserv where people were talking about it and sharing info they discovered. It was exciting and joyful to find others with the same sort of oddball or detailed interests. They were creating communities. They were also gossiping, sniping and fighting from time to time.
Through my ability to type fast and understand threaded conversations (as well as my availability to be online more than people with real jobs), I eventually became moderator for a few listservs. After college, that lead to side-gigs hosting some chat rooms (remember ICQ and AOL?), then modding some message boards, then modding some OFFICIAL message boards.
So from about 1994 – 2004, I witnessed and was party to the rise of the online fandom. Fandom 1.0 and Fandom 2.0, as I like to call them. (My husband would say that offline fandom is Fandom Beta).
The growing pains were tough. At first, gleaning information from all over the world so quickly was a joy. Someone met the band or actor? Pics would be posted *within a week!*. Many people had wonderful gushing things to report. Many others didn’t have the greatest experiences. Then gossip came along more quickly than the pics did. People usually took sides. I probably jumped into as many online “discussions” as I settled as a moderator.
Even in such fandoms as Tolkien, costume dramas, or European royals there were knock-down-drag out feuds. Opinions about the intent of this or that. . . . and lo, the onset of Peter Jackson and the LotR trilogy! O.M.G.
During that decade I saw people’s interest in this or that fandom wax and wane, as my own did from time to time. I saw self-dramatizing “break ups” with a crush (American Psycho was a weird time for the Bale fandom), book series tossed aside in disgust, and quiet deaths of websites and message boards. All while other people argued that “real fans” stick things out, no matter what.
After a decade’s rise and fall of my love of fandoms, it was becoming too much. I was approaching 30 years old and I was looking to get more serious about my life and my own voice in it. My mother had become extremely ill and I was stepping into the role of caretaker, leaving teaching behind. The fandoms were taking up too much energy, and as often as not that energy was negative and felt unproductive.
So I quit. I quit them all, save one small community (shout out to Colonial House! Holla back!). I focused instead on my mother, on my own creativity in the theater, and on a hobby that gave me a lot of release and joy (historical interpretation and costuming events). By quieting the number of voices I managed in the world, I could start to hear my own a little better.
First funny thing happened, though. In 2005, PBS aired “North & South”. A near-perfect adaptation (and I knew good adaptations!) of one of my favorite 19th century novels. Thornton was a literary crush right up there with Mr. Darcy, in my world. I found myself doing my usual “new fan internet search”: Richard Armitage.
I stopped there and worked to keep my information seeking to a minimum. But I kept track of when he was going to be on TV. I recorded the Robin Hood series as my guilty pleasure for late night viewing after rehearsals. Same with MI-5. Thank god for BBC America.
When his casting in The Hobbit was announced, I allowed myself a peek back into the Tolkien fandom to see what reactions were, but went no further. I enjoyed his performance, but purposefully avoided discussion of it. With anyone.
By this time social media Fandom 3.0 had taken over and fandoms have become a largely unrecognizable beast to me. I mean, I am fairly skilled in the way of most social media, but the rapidity and tone of the social media fandoms were foreign to me. Also, the tendency to think of the subject of the fandom as accessible – even “owned” – was odd. That was never much of an issue with Fandom 2.0. We suspected (often KNEW) that the subject or their reps were peeking in, but unless an official Q&A was arranged, it was largely a private world. Not so with social. So I kept out of it.
Then, the second funny thing happened. It’s ten years down the road in 2014, I’m putting together my monthly newsletter on theater happenings and the alert from The Old Vic comes in. Richard Armitage has been cast as one of my biggest literary crushes in my favorite play outside of Shakespeare.
Well. . . it’s totally okay if I read up on this, right? I mean. . . ITS FOR THE THEATER!
It was all over after that.
I was very disappointed that I couldn’t afford to go and see The Crucible live. But the DigitalTheatre filming came in good for me. I spent the summer of 2014 catching up on just about every interview he’d done in 10 years and lurking about the fandom. Then his twitter came along (for better or worse).
And since I dipped back into fandoms and had been getting sucked into the online costuming world along the way, I went ahead and treaded a little water in the Outlander fandom and a few others in a casual way. While I haven’t been in the middle of fandoms in a long time, I have been watching them in the same way I watch the audience seeing a play I’ve directed.
So here I am. . . a dozen years after giving them up, falling off the wagon. In some ways, it is a very gracious return. I feel a lot of the early enthusiasm I had for fangirling. I’ve always loved actors and I love them more now that I work with them regularly, so learning how to fan again is a great thing for me.
But I’m also, I hope, learning how to fan like a Fully Grown Fangirl – with some generosity, some perspective, and a better understanding of how far to take it so it stays satisfying for me.
That’s where I’m at. I know my Fangirl style will not suit everybody, but the thing about fangirling at 43 instead of 23 means I don’t care as much about everyone being into every little thing I do. I know better where my boundaries are, where I should put my energy and where I should save it, and that there’s only one way for any Fangirl to fangirl: her own.
And this is my way.