Summer was fast reaching its conclusion, and although I'd suffered several months' toil amongst the dishsuds and plebes, I now had two weeks' grace in which to amuse myself before the full-time drudgery commenced.
I wanted, as I'm sure you can appreciate, to find something really meaningful to do. Left to my own devices, without a plan in place, I knew all too well that the hours would trickle away from me, wasted in refreshing capslock communities or writing dubcon f/f spyporn. No, I needed some concrete, worthwhile endeavour to refresh my soul and revive me from those dreary, sunlit days of summer employment. I wanted recovery, that was the thing.
What I ought to be doing, of course, was making some sort of decision about the immediate future. A momentous change loomed on my personal horizon. I had started the summer with a single credit required of me before my bachelorhood, the degree kind I mean, would be well and truly behind me, and that credit was mine now, or would be the moment they handed out the final marks for Pretty Manly: Maleness as Signifier1. After that, homelessness would have loomed, but I'd taken the plunge and almost decided to maybe devote some considerable chunk of my life to graduate studies at St. Schol's.
The thing was, I hadn't so much decided in the sense of actually making a decision; it had all just kind of happened. That mysterious source of funds with which Camp Silver Lake had been funding my time here would, a discreet letter had informed me, continue to pay adequate sums to cover my tuition and board, provided I was up to par. To that end, it assured me, my grades had already been submitted for assessment by St. Schol's School of Graduate Studies.
And then said school had gotten back to me in turn, harassing me about making a formal decision re: the specific department I would be turning to for graduate supervision, and offering me a graduate student pittance in return for various labours. The pittance would never have been enough to support myself unless I continued my current kitchen drudgery, naturally, but it hung there as an interesting offer, one I could take up if necessary--only of course it wasn't necessary, not really, because I had the Camp Silver Lake thing.
It all felt quite backwards to how I'd thought grad school worked, and now I had a bunch of choices to make that seemed half-made for me already, and was enrolled in a degree program with no clear sense of how I'd got there or what, precisely, I'd be doing. But at least I had the option.
All of which was simultaneously reassuring and alarming. Did I actually want to do graduate work?
In the 'non' column, there were the facial expressions of every graduate student with whom I'd ever been acquainted, who all sported the greyish pallor and dark-circled eyes of your less fresh class of corpse.
In the 'sic' column, they did all insist they found their research fascinating and meaningful, and claimed to quite prefer it to the service industry or the dole queue. Or course one had to take those claims with a largish dose of coarse rock or sea, as possibly born of sheer exhaustion.
And on top of the crucial 'to grad school or not to grad school' question, I was beginning to have entirely unforeseen qualms about my source of funding.
It had begun, I mean, to strike me that accepting continued dependence upon some mysterious pile of cash with which Arc was somehow connected might be, well, impinging upon my ability to meet her on equal terms. I suspected she was looking at me and seeing a brilliant recipient of this scholarship thing, which was all well and good but was, in the final analysis, a bit like being a brilliant child or a brilliant charity case.
Some sort of dignified though impecunious state might well, I thought, be preferable.
Perhaps I should hang on to my current employment, sadly déclassé though it was, grab my share of the going grad student gruntwork, and bravely embark upon further study relying on my own slender, indeed anorexic, means. I couldn't even count on my creative talents to supplement my income. I was at that awkward age: too old to attempt to sell fanfiction on Amazon2 for profit, too young to attempt to sell fanfiction on eBay3 for profit. But one could, I supposed, scrape by.
It was all moot anyway unless I could decide on a department, pull together some sort of tenuous inkling of a plan of study, and persuade them to take me on. A lot of forms, and at least one really properly pleading letter, had to be got through.
And somehow the prospect of having to choose a subject on which to throw away several years of my life didn't sound like a restful way to spend my well-earned break. What I needed, I decided, was a distraction. I wanted some sort of adventure, during which inspiration would strike.
Then, adventure neatly concluded, I could dash back to campus, write up my application whilst newly galvanized, and await the results. True, I'd have to do said awaiting whilst shoulder-deep in dishes. But no doubt I'd be so energized by my exploits that that would be practically a pleasure. So. What to do?
It was at this point, or rather a point moments later when I was spilling my woes via IM, that Warr1or and PrinceC proposed we take a roadtrip. They had no destination in mind, but their immersion in Occult fandom had imbued the word 'roadtrip' with an entirely undeserved glamour. They seemed to expect that setting out on such a trip would automatically result in adventurous male bonding and noble, purposeful identity theft.
I'd seen just enough episodes of Occult to be suspicious as to my role in all of this, and worried briefly as to whether I end by being shot, stabbed, possessed, beheaded, or graphically eviscerated by either demons or angels. In the end, though, their complete lack of direction proved irresistible. I could take their idea and improve upon it, just as I have with so many canon works. I had my own personal reasons for wanting to do some reasonably localized travel, so as long as the boys let me chart our course, I was more than happy to join them.
I had, you see--in spite of the hellish hours I'd put in slaving over a hot sink--recently caught a glimpse of a kind of Holy Grail. I had just possibly found the perfect fandom.
Perhaps 'perfect' is the wrong word. It had its share of problems, to be sure. It had suffered outbreaks of acafen and, worse yet, aca-outsiders4; it had, like every fandom known to humanity, been plagued by profiteers hoping to make a buck by persuading actual fans to write up lengthy wiki entries.5 It had its share of sub-par fanfiction,6 and the pairing smoosh names were frankly horrific.7
But it was perfect for me, and I'll tell you why: it was utterly, undeniably, impeccably British. In fact, it was better than British. It was English. I positively yearned to immerse myself in it.
One slight snag had prevented me from doing so at once: it was so very British that the source material wasn't terribly available to Americans, and this put the full range of the historical canon, if not entirely out of my reach, at least largely out of my reach for now. What needed doing was for me to travel to the homes of a few American fen so that they could have the opportunity to burn me copies of all the episodes they'd downloaded, and magazine articles they'd collected, and so forth.
Sure, I could have found some of those things myself on the internet, but that didn't sound nearly as entertaining a vacation prospect as meeting a few of my fellow Anglophiles. Although in my case, obviously, I was much more near being an actual Anglo than merely a phile thereof. But I wouldn't rub that in; I wanted to make a good first impression.
So this roadtrip was just the ticket, really.
1. I bet Why Jensen Ackles Matters: A Study in Fiction and Meta was on the reading list.
2. Twilight fandom at work: fanfiction for sale on Amazon, as reported by Dunc on Club Jade.
3. And again with the Twilight fandom: fanfiction for sale on eBay, as reported by Caito. N.B. that as far as I can tell, most Twilight fans don't attempt to trample over copyright. Right?
4. Unlike the average market observer or academic she was able to view a frank discussion where those involved were unaware that they were being observed by a researcher.
"I thought at first it might be unethical," she said. But that problem was answered for her by one fan who wrote: "This is a public forum and everyone in the world can read it." Uh.
4. 1. It'd be soothing to think outsiders had gotten a clue, but then there's the massive research fail of RULE 34: WHAT NETPORN TEACHES US ABOUT THE BRAIN, explained in many eloquent posts by many fans.
5. Don't worry: this isn't a link to That Wiki, it's a link to a fan's Bebo page--but if you scroll down, you find one of those all-too-familiar comments. Can anyone help edit the Coronation Street article on Fan History? It is an introduction to the history of the fandom, containing a timeline of events, information on fandom fights and more. Needs some bulking up to make it more accurate.
Thanks for any help you can provide in improving the article!
Also strangely hilarious is this foray into the Coronation Street blog; note the first comment is from someone familiar with That Wiki...
6. Fanfiction, not necessarily sub-par, can be found here.
7. C'mon: Liarla? Seriously?