I am so excited to be getting back on the Ladies + Fandom horse, and this week’s interview is SUPER RAD: yes hello, I’m chatting with the inimitable Tessa Gratton.
Tessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. Alas, she turned out too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for a someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in Gender Studies, then settled down in Kansas to tell stories about monsters, magic, and teenagers. She’s the author of the Blood Journals Series and The United States of Asgard Series as well as more than a dozen short stories. Visit her at tessagratton.com, @tessagratton, tessagratton.tumblr.com.
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 consider myself a fan of many things, mostly TV shows (Leverage, X-Files, recently Sense8, !!!!!HANNIBAL!!!!!!!!!) and some movies (The Winter Soldier, Pacific Rim, Mad Max: Fury Road) but the thing I really REALLY get hard core about is… Chris Evans/Steve Rogers.
It’s difficult to put my FEEEEEEELS into words beyond melting and sighs and exclamations of perfection. I came to Evans via Tumblr, by which I mean: I knew who he was and had seen him in several movies I liked (The First Avenger and Sunshine, for example), but it wasn’t until I became active on Tumblr about 3 years ago that my eyes were opened to the magic of fandom + gifsets + visual fanfiction. I’d only ever read some Harry Potter fanfiction (HARRY/DRACO 4EVER) and random stuff friends would send me, so it was like this perfect storm after The Avengers came out. I was primed for STONY* and then STUCKY* au gifsets a year later.
*Steve/Tony and *Steve/Bucky respectively. But the truth is I enjoy Steve/Anybody. (Steve/Sam and Steve/Peggy and Steve/Maria… I mean, it goes on.)
Part of what I love is the sheer beauty of this incredible golden retriever’s person. I just love to look at him and admire the perfect combination of genetics and hard work and movie magic that make him appear the way he appears. On a less superficial level, I love the character Steve Rogers because he speaks to me and what I need from my country and from movies about my country (until the most recent movie at least. *side-eye to Age of Ultron*). He is LIKE me, which is probably arrogant to say, but I see a lot of myself in the character. As for Evans himself, he’s a safe, emotional, bro-boyfriend who can’t hurt me and I never actually have to talk to.
What don’t I love? I don’t love that I’m not in control of Steve Rogers. 😉
But seriously, Steve Rogers is a character in a franchise that does NOT always interpret him how I VERY FIRMLY BELIEVE he should be. And Chris Evans is a human being who I don’t actually know. I know his online persona, the face he shows to the world, and let’s be honest: it’s amazing. Every once in a while he says something problematic, but so far (SO FAR) he’s recognized his mistakes and apologized in what seems like a genuine way. I don’t read fanfiction about Evans himself, by the way. As a public figure through my published writing, I need to keep the real person/fandom line a little more strictly than I think most people might. The Chris Evans I adore is not the real one, it’s the Chris Evans cobbled together by the media.
What’s your favorite part of being a fan? What’s your least favorite part?
I love that fandom has it’s own language that covers so many FEEEEEEELS. There are shortcuts and new phrases and re-appropriated grammar for expressing the joyous, painful, ecstatic experience of being a superfan or shipper of something. If I write ;___; for example, everybody in fandom knows I’m not just making a cry face, I’m making a specific sort of happy-to-be-crying-bc-the-feels-are-so-intense sort of cry face. And ;___________; is just more intense than ;____;.
My least favorite thing about fandom is its tendency to suddenly begin policing the feelings and opinions of others. Critique and discussions of problematic aspects of the things we love are not only important, they’re necessary, but there’s a difference between critical discussion and hateful policing of other fans (and creators).
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 have not! I would be terrible at it because I’m terrible at playing in somebody else’s sandbox. Once I was hired to write a short story in an already existing world of a role-playing game and I hated every moment of it despite LOVING the game and loving my eventual product. I felt hemmed in on all sides with rules and worldbuilding another person invented. I need the freedom to make up anything I want or recreate rules or basically do whatever the hell I want. I know some fanfiction writers DO all of those things (especially in AUs) but it’s not the kind of fic I love to read.
I love fanwork of my books. It’s rare, but always delights me because I know for somebody to take that time they must have been touched by my work right in their feels. The first time I saw fanart of Signy from The Strange Maid I lost it. That book mattered to my heart and knowing it hit somebody else similarly was incredibly important and rewarding.
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?
Fandom is definitely gendered space and anybody who says differently is either not paying attention or is selling something. Fandom is considered by our culture to be a woman’s space, so no matter what gender you are within it, you’re engaging with space that is marked feminine and all the trappings that come with women’s space, both positive and especially negative.
There are places I’ve felt unwelcome – but mostly those places aren’t MEANT for me. I’m a creator, and I’m a bisexual white woman in America. There are spaces where I’m NOT welcome for very good reasons.
I also don’t engage with fandom in a very deep way: I don’t write fanfic or make fanedits, I only enjoy and share them. I opine about my favorite shows and movies and books and characters, but I do that in all spaces, not just fandom spaces. My rather shallow participation shelters me from a lot of the sexism and downsides to being a fan.
What has being a fan taught you?
It’s really driven home the potential for passionate reactions to anything. I try to never underestimate fandom or reader reactions anymore.
How do you think being a fan (of this thing or of other things) interacts with or influences your writing?
Consuming media – stories in TV or movie or book form – is necessary to being a storyteller, in that it refills my well by reminding me what kind of stories I love, what I need from characters, what I want from books and TV and movies and what I don’t. Participating in criticism helps me tease out themes in my own work and learning to recognize problematic material in the media (and fandoms) I love helps me recognize my own prejudices and privileges.
Of course, all of that can be separated from fandom, and fandom doesn’t have to include the above points of view. I like to think I’m a better fan when I’m in analysis mode, when I’m trying to find over-arching cultural themes and dominant discourses. Those things in turn make me a better artist.
Anything else you want to add?
I keep my tumblr (tessagratton.tumblr.com) pretty focused on my specific tumbler aesthetic of poetry, art, magic, death, war, and politics, but every Friday I post a collection called “Fandom Friday” with all the great fandom stuff I’ve seen that week.
Here are my favorite fanfics right now:
Harry/Draco: “Transfigurations” http://archiveofourown.org/works/59676
Stucky: “Out of the Dead Land” http://archiveofourown.org/works/1871955/chapters/4031307
And “This, You Protect” http://archiveofourown.org/works/1752638/chapters/3745571
Stony: “The (Not Really) Secret Origins of Movie Night” http://archiveofourown.org/works/662044