You guys! It is a great day, because it is the day I am talking Carrie Mesrobian about Ladies + Fandom! In addition to writing one of my favorite YA books of the last couple years, Carrie has one of the best twitter feeds in the whole universe. I knew she’d have interesting stuff to say about this topic, AND I WAS RIGHT.
Carrie Mesrobian is the author of the YA novels Sex & Violence, a 2014 Morris Award finalist, Perfectly Good White Boy and Cut Both Ways (forthcoming, September 2015). A native Minnesotan, she teaches writing at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Find out more at www.carriemesrobian.com or follow her Twitter: @CarrieMesrobian
Who/what are you fannish about? Why do you love it/them so much? Is there anything you don’t love about it/them?
At the moment I’m very fannish about The Walking Dead and Supernatural. Supernatural I’m late to getting into and haven’t watched up to the current season but I’m in total love with the Winchester Brothers and the whole insanity of the show. I couldn’t say exactly what it is about that show that I love, beyond always loving demonic horror and male banter. Also, on Supernatural, even though it’s casted heavily with bros, there is SO MUCH CRYING. BRO TEARS! It’s like Christmas for me.
The Walking Dead is a little more complicated to explain. I don’t like gore or zombies, really. And I haven’t read the comics. But what I love about TWD is similar to what I loved about that show Friday Night Lights. The Walking Dead isn’t really a show about zombies, though the first few episodes really are heavy on the gore and grossness. Friday Night Lights, while centered on football, isn’t really about football; it’s about the relationships surrounding the football coach and his family. The Walking Dead is about survival and how that mandate changes human interaction.
My favorite character is Daryl Dixon, who is played by Norman Reedus. Daryl isn’t even in the comics; they wrote him into the show and he became a fan favorite even though he wasn’t a part of the main cast at first. What I love about Daryl is the very real fantasy he provokes: he’s a man’s man, a survivor, someone uniquely bred to live outside of civilization as a savage. He’s perfect for the Zombie Apocalypse. But the fantasy is that he’s also a man who has a deep moral core. Daryl is so brimming with compassion and empathy that he’s never been given a chance to express and his tragic irony is that he’s finally able to be his best self now that the world is become barbaric. I don’t think that’s how a man like Daryl would behave necessarily, but I enjoy entertaining the fantasy. Also, I’m a total marshmallow of a person. In terms of post-apocalyptic survival, I’m not making it in anyone’s life boats. I hate shooting guns; I hate camping. I’d be a total ninny about bugs and discomfort. So nothing is more attractive to me than someone who embodies all those skills. People like that make me feel literally and psychologically safe.
It also helps that I find Norman Reedus so goddamn beautiful it makes my stomach hurt.
What’s your favorite part of being a fan? What’s your least favorite part?
My favorite part is the unity of both my friends in real life and online. In real life, we have Sunday Night Walking Dead potlucks on my street, where we all make food, eat together, and then watch the show. (You don’t really want to eat while watching TWD.) Even when the season ends, we still maintain the practice because there is so much good TV that is scheduled on Sunday nights (like Game of Thrones, another show you shouldn’t eat while watching). It’s a nice way of easing back into Monday, I think.
I love talking about TWD and Supernatural with people online because we have a shared short-hand reference and also it’s just fun to be enthusiastic about things that aren’t real. Which is really the best part of fandom.
My least favorite part is having to explain to people why I love these things, especially if they are snobby about watching television. I feel sorry for people who don’t watch television sometimes. And I hate how they act like I’m some consumerist loser for enjoying TV narrative. There’s a lot of shit on TV, no doubt. But so many of the serial dramas are at the top of their game.
Have you ever written fic or made fanart (of this thing or of other things)? Would you? Would it wig you out if someone wrote fic or made fanart of your work, would you think it was awesome, or somewhere in between?
I write fan fiction for The Walking Dead. I had never done that before, though. I had never understood why people do this! I thought it was crazy that my teenaged students wrote fan fiction. I felt like they needed to be more “original” or something. But since then I’ve met up with enough fans online who kind of explained it to me. How fan fic and fanart are often compensatory, making up for narratives that exclude certain populations, like LGBT folks or people of color. I think that’s very cool and subversive and also just so fucking fun!
Also, I think teenagers should write fan fiction. It’s a great way to practice story-telling and sentence-making. And it’s much like the imitative training all students of a creative craft undertake: drawing nudes, painting bowls of fruit, writing novels that are total Harry Potter ripoffs, etc.
I like fan fiction that has sex in it, because I am a total sleazy prurient dirtbag. All my fic is rated Explicit because, you know, why the hell not, right? All of it involves Daryl Dixon, though his partners vary (usually Carol, once Michonne and once Beth). The thing that’s enjoyable about this is that it’s writing, but since it’s not my world, I have less at stake. I’m doing it just for the enjoyment of writing. There’s no deadline, no contract, no money involved. It’s very pure. I work out lots of different themes that I didn’t even know I was considering in fanfic. And a couple times I’ve lifted key turns of phrase in sex scenes that have ended up in later drafts for “real” books. So that’s kind of handy, because I think part of writing good sex scenes is coming up with fresh turns of phrase about these very familiar physical activities.
I would LOVE it if someone did fic of my books! It would signal their enthusiasm and their willingness to immerse themselves into my world. It would highly flatter me to think that someone else was as immersed in my Fake World and its Fake People to the same degree I am! A lot of fan fic is written because people have curiosities about secondary characters that they want to see more involved; that would be nothing to me but complimentary.
What has your experience been as a lady in fandom? Do you feel like fandom is a gendered space? Have there ever been times you felt unwelcome?
The main fandom I’m involved in is TWD and that’s basically the Caryl fandom – people who ship Carol Peletier and Daryl Dixon. It’s mostly women my age (I’m 40) and so aside from it being very heterocentric, it’s felt quite welcoming and good. I’ve never felt unwelcome; in fact, I’ve had my stories entered in little fan contests and people were really nice about inviting me to submit stories and be a part of various fansites. I like that they don’t know anything about me except for my fanfic, too; it feels like a true complime
What has being a fan taught you?
It’s taught me that the obsessive enthusiasm that I’ve always had isn’t anything to be ashamed of. And that’s good, because it’s a major fuel for writing my stories.
How do you think being a fan (of this thing or of other things) interacts with or influences your writing?
I think I’m always mulling over male archetypes of one shape or another. I’m very influenced by masculine power, because I’m really bewildered, annoyed and angered by how patriarchy hems in my life. I want to understand how men move through this world that is very dangerous and hostile toward me as a woman and I want to imagine myself into a world where men could be different. The funny thing is, I was not that enamored of the TWD story line or Daryl Dixon himself, until Carol Peletier, who is a mother and a woman living with domestic abuse, entered the picture. To see carol become strong, to become an object of focus and admiration for Daryl, who is living with his own history of abuse, was the thing that was fresh and new for me. Carol starts out as a mother and wife and the show proceeds to strip her of both identities in short order. She’s in a weird, in-between place. And that is where following the story becomes central to my own concerns, because this strays from the tropes just a tiny bit, and yet it feels so dynamic and surprising. That pivot of cliche when it comes to gender and culture is what interests me greatly.
Anything else you want to add?
Follow your fannish impulses, kids! There you will find so many riches for your own creative adventures.