When I first had the idea for a Ladies + Fandom series, I thought to myself: “I am not even going to do this if I can’t get Kate.” E. K. Johnston is my go-to funny, thoughtful human for all things fandom-related (and also just like…all things). Unsurprisingly, she gives great interview.
E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes.
You can follow Kate on Twitter (@ek_johnston) to learn more about Alderaanian political theory than you really need to know, at her website for book info (ekjohnston.ca) or on Tumblr (ekjohnston) if you’re just here for pretty pictures.
Who/what are you fannish about? Why do you love it/them so much? Is there anything you don’t love about it/them?
I am fannish about a lot of things, but for purposes of this interview, I am picking a favourite. It was hard. But I think the TV show SANCTUARY really distills my fannish experience quite well, and also I flipping adored it.
SANCTUARY was a great show for a bunch of reasons, but my loves for it revolve mostly around how Amanda Tapping was the lead (so, a woman in her forties), and also that the show as explicitly about how we treat Other. It had action and mad science and back story and period costume and explosions and exactly the right amount of kissing and also a lot of fire arms. The only thing I didn’t really love was Will, but that was mostly because he was entirely forgettable. There’s a meta thing about being the straight white dude on a show specifically about people who are Other, perhaps, but my failure to connect with him largely relates to the fact that he never got any better at his job over the years we watched him work it.
What’s your favorite part of being a fan? What’s your least favorite part?
I think my answer for both of these things is “community”. We are great at supporting one another, most of the time, but when a fandom goes sour, it goes sour. For example, I really and genuinely like all of the Star Wars movies, which means not only do a lot of people assume I’m an idiot or a fake, but also that I am CONSTANTLY exposed to a barrage of, for lack of a better term, microaggressions. Still, the good has more than outweighed the bad, at least for me.
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 mean: Yes. I have. Since 2003, I have committed some 625K of fanfic, across 40 fandoms. (And a few fanvids, but I am not very good at vidding, so the only one I really like to mention is the John Druitt Character Study vid to PAINT IT BLACK which more or less did what I wanted it to.)
I would love to see fanart for OWEN that isn’t made by my nephew, and someone made a video for A THOUSAND NIGHTS already that is GORGEOUS. I probably would not read the fic (because of Reasons), but knowing it exists would make me quite happy.
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?
My introduction to fandom was on a very moderated chat board called Your Tax Dollars At Work (it was all crime procedurals, predominantly CSI and Without a Trace, but the other shows were somehow related to the government), and after that I moved to LiveJournal, which is also very curated. What I’m saying is that my fannish experience has been entirely controlled, and mostly contained in something I built myself. By the time I moved to Twitter and Tumblr (move incomplete: I will cling to my lj until the world burns down), I already had a pretty large group of trusted friends, and they mostly agree with me about things.
There is a thing somewhere about men collect and women create (so fanboys want all the action figures and women do art, though obviously there is some crossover), and I think that is probably true. That said, it’s easy to find and/or make a safe space online (though it takes time and effort). I have never felt unwelcome in any of my fandoms, and I hope I’ve never turned anyone off of something either.
What has being a fan taught you?
To listen, more than anything. To find the thing you love and then be willing to see its flaws without killing yourself or it. To understand that you can feel so many things about something and someone else will feel nothing at all. To find the cracks in stories where conversations and education can happen, and to widen them enough to fit in everyone who wants to know more, without breaking anything. To dream. To want more and make it yourself, because there is no one else who is better qualified.
How do you think being a fan (of this thing or of other things) interacts with or influences your writing?
Joss Whedon has rather famously said that if you declare yourself politically you destroy yourself artistically, and I get what he’s trying to say, but I’ll add that I think he’s a bit of a coward for limiting himself that much. The community of people I met online in fandom has expanded my awareness exponentially, and yes, that DOES mean I have to take more consideration when I write things about race and sex and so on, but without that sort of progress, WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT?
More specifically, SANCTUARY has shaped my writing and world-view in ways I can’t even measure. For starters, I wrote almost 200K of fic in 2011, and the improvement in my writing is kind of fabulous. I met some of the best writers I’ve ever known in that fandom, and they helped me get better both with words and with social outlook.
Also, I will probably be trying to duplicate a relationship like Helen/John/James for the rest of my life, because, just, damn.