Hello, I’m One of Your Characters

(Warning:  I’m gonna ramble here, but it’ll all tie together by the end.)

There’s a wonderfully wry scene in the movie “Galaxy Quest,” where Alan Rickman’s character Alexander Dane is confronted by fans dressed as Dr. Lazarus, the character he played on the show.  Once a Shakespearean actor of some renown, Dane despises Lazarus, a roll in which he is trapped (thanks to fan love) despite the show’s having been cancelled for something like 15 years.

In the scene, these kids (one a toothpick, the other a doughnut, and both just as sweetly geeky as can be) practically vibrate with awe and delight to meet their hero, a man who can barely control his sneer as he scribbles a signature on the photos thrust at him across the table.  A lesser actor would have made this a moment of humiliation toward the fans, but Rickman pokes fun at Dane and his self-inflicted agony.

A woman I knew (who saw the movie, but had never attended a science fiction convention) said to me, “Tell me the truth.  That sort of thing doesn’t really happen, does it?”

“Bet your ass it does,” I replied with an evil grin.  (She was appalled.)

Some of the best times of my life have been at conventions.  I was introduced to the phenomena at the 1980 Worldcon (Norescon II) in Boston (sort of like going from zero to lightspeed in less than a second).  THOUSANDS of fans, HUNDREDS of writers and artists.  Costumes!  Panels!  It was wonderful!  I was overwhelmed (being subsequently abandoned amongst strangers by the woman who brought me only added to my internal uproar).

I met some lovely people, though.  “Captain Alex” and his crew (a young man and some high school friends) spent a good part of the long weekend squiring “Laryne” (me) around the convention.  Dressed in our ships’ uniforms, we staged terrific shoot-outs through the lobbies of the hotel (much to the wide-eyed amazement of the mundane visitors).  I met my favorite writer that weekend (Harlan Ellison), had a brief but delightful conversation with Isaac Asimov, and made the acquaintance of artist Barclay Shaw.

Such involvement in fandom introduced me to the phenomenon of fanzines.  For the uninitiated, a fanzine is a fan-produced magazine, usually focused around a specific fandom (Star Trek, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Elfquest, etc.)  Fans write articles, letters, and (best of all, to my mind)  stories.  It’s a great way for a fledgling writer to get their work out there where someone will read it and, if they’re lucky, comment on it.  And it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

I played in such fandoms as Elfquest (Great Water Holt) and Pern (Segel Weyr and Fort Weyr).  I wrote short stories and novellas for those three groups, as well as Lost Jedis (Star Wars), Jellybaby Chronicles (Dr. Who), and a fanzine based on the TV show “The Phoenix” (whose name, I’m sorry to say, I can’t recall).  Fandom gave me the liberty to play, to put my work out into the world in a safe way, and to grow as a writer.  I even dabbled in editing, first as co-editor for Segel Weyr’s “Blowing Off Steam,” and then for my own ‘zine, “Promethea One.”  (Short-lived, one edition.)

Writing leads to the creation of characters and it’s a short hop from there to role-playing.  I don’t mean computer or board games.  I’m talking about creating a persona, crafting a costume, and taking on that role for an entire weekend.  What freedom I felt in no longer being the everyday me, but slipping into the shoes of Laryne, First Mate on the Silver Panther; Mira, Weyrsecond and rider of the brown dragon Brenth; Silverjoy the elf; or space-jockey Vixen Sumatra.

I never chose to play a character established by an actor.  (See?  As promised, I’m coming back around the track to where I began).  How odd it must be for an author to meet someone dressed as one of their characters.

I can’t wait for the day when I attend a convention as a guest and see some big brawny blonde striding toward me through the crowd with a dark shadow of a woman at her side and introduce themselves as Banya and Rai.



About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in Books, Connecticut, Darling Wendy, Dr. Who, Dragonriders of Pern, Elfquest, fandom, fantasy, Fanzines, Fiction, Independent Writers, Melissa Crandall, novels, Science fiction, science fiction conventions, science fiction fandom, self-publishing, Speculative Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars, Weathercock, Writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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