Episode 73: Ship It
In Episode 73, “Ship It,” Flourish and Elizabeth welcome back Britta Lundin, writer on the CW’s Riverdale, to discuss her debut YA novel, Ship It. Topics covered include writing craft, fannish interpretations versus production realities, drawing lines on RPF, how much fans should care about canon, and how to explain shipping to someone who doesn’t understand it—whether that’s your mother or the editor of your book.
Before we get started, you might want to check out two highly relevant episodes: our interview with Zan Romanoff, author of Grace and the Fever (another, very different, YA book about fandom that we super endorse!) and the episode in which we talk about how TV shows get made (a double episode!!)
[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel” by Stefsax.
[00:01:03] Britta’s last episode with us was #43, “A Fangirl Goes to Hollywood.”
Since then, well, this happened.
[00:07:52] Today’s interstitial music is “New Boots Rag” by Dr. Turtle.
[00:10:09] It’s from Big Fat Quiz of the Year:
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is Episode 73, “Ship It.”
FK: It’s “Ship It,” and the people who have been following along may know that this is the title of Britta Lundin’s new YA novel, and we’re going to have her on to talk about it.
ELM: Debut novel!
FK: Yes, debut novel! And Britta, if you are not familiar with her, is a writer on Riverdale, the CW show, and she also comes from fandom, specifically X-Files fandom, and then Supernatural, and then various other things. And she was on our show before, talking about Riverdale and being a TV writer, and now she’s here to talk about her novel! Or will be here shortly, I should say.
ELM: I believe, since I had to link to it yesterday, it was Episode 43, it was last spring, spring of 2017, and it was about making that transition from fan to pro and still being a fan. And I actually wanted to follow up on that a little with her too, because I feel like especially watching her on Tumblr and the way she engages with the Riverdale fandom is really interesting to me.
FK: I think so too. I think she’s going to have a lot of really good insight into what that relationship is like, having been on both sides of it, which almost no one that we ever get to talk to has.
ELM: Even a lot of the people who are fan to creator, it’s often not from the type of fandom that both you and I have spent time in, so maybe that’s changing, but.
FK: OK, but before we get calling her though we should probably summarize Ship It at least a little bit, because I’m gonna guess we’re going to get into it.
ELM: OK. So for the record Ship It came out…I believe for everyone listening this will be in the past…on May 1, and you should get a copy ASAP, I’m just gonna say that in advance, order it, purchase or get your library to get a copy.
FK: We are both super obsessed.
ELM: Love this book. Love it.
FK: Super super obsessed.
ELM: Love it. So. The basic premise: there are two alternating protagonists. One is Claire. She’s 16, I believe. She lives in a very small town in Idaho. We learned about cool farm kids.
FK: An accurate depiction of the farm parts of the Pacific Northwest.
ELM: Yes, from which…from whence?…Britta hails. From which?
FK: From whence, I think. I think it’s “whence.”
ELM: From whence! [laughing] So Claire is a fangirl, she is a fanfic writer, not…it seems like a kind of a fanfic writer who stays out of the fray, she talks about how she really doesn’t have a lot of fandom friends, but she has a lot of followers who read her fic and she engages with them, but she’s not into ship wars or wank or whatever. But. She ships the two main male characters of this CW-like show—which clearly seems to be Supernatural to me, I don't know…I don't know! I haven’t even seen Supernatural. It was as if…
FK: I mean, the show is called Demon Heart.
ELM: When we had one of our listeners write in to talk about her impressions of Harry Potter after reading Carry On, that’s kind of how I feel about Supernatural with this book. I’m like, “I got it.”
FK: Yeah, you do get it.
ELM: And I’ve seen the fandom.
FK: It’s pretty real.
ELM: So there’s two main male characters and that’s her ship and she thinks that it should be canon.
FK: Yeah, for real.
ELM: She’s trying to sort out her complicated feelings about the ship, and she’s very reticent at first, and over the course of the novel also trying to sort out her sexuality—and that’s one of the subplots, I would describe, because the main plot is about the show and the ship. And the other protagonist is one of the actors in the ship, Forest, who is just a pure dumb boy I would say.
FK: It’s like his first kinda big break…
ELM: I like how much affection we have for him. [laughing] He had one Honda commercial once and that was great but he really hasn’t had a lot of success, he’s like 23, I just…he’s trying, but he doesn’t get it. He really doesn’t get it. So I think I can set up the basic plot, she goes to a convention and he’s there, he doesn’t even realize all the fans are female. He assumes that because this is a show about two dudes hunting demons who are brothers to the end, he’s only understood fans as fanboys.
FK: He’s super clueless, like clueless to the nth degree.
ELM: He doesn’t understand shipping.
FK: Meanwhile, by the way, his co-star is totally clueful, [ELM laughs] having been previously on a fan-favorite show, and is super chill about it and is like “Yeah it’s awesome!” Just seems to be slightly stoned and really happy with his life all the time.
ELM: He’s our favorite right? He’s my favorite.
FK: I’m not sure he’s actually stoned in canon, but he seems like the kind of person…
ELM: He’d be happy to, you know. Yeah. He’s just very chill. He’s genuinely pure, it’s not like Forest’s pureness, which comes from his dumb ignorance.
FK: But Rico’s pureness is real.
ELM: It’s his actual personality. [laughs] So anyway, at this convention—I feel fine spoiling this because it’s kind of a setup for the rest of the book—Claire…she goes to ask a question, I believe, about the ship, and they give her a non-answer, and then she just is like “BULLSHIT.” And [laughing] shouts at them in the middle of the panel, causes a huge stir!
FK: It goes viral! And so then the very young social media person is like “We have to get on this.”
ELM: No, it’s also the head of PR, who’s like, very classic…
FK: You’re right, you’re right, you’re right.
ELM: It’s a classic Machiavellian shark PR woman, who I love also.
FK: And then her henchwoman, who is the also fairly pure social media person.
ELM: So the social team or the marketing team decide, “Well, keep your enemies closer,” and set up her to win a contest where she gets to accompany them for the rest of the convention tour. And thus begins a fraught relationship between her and all the people making this show, where she wants the show to canonize her ship, and the dumb man showrunner is just like “I know exactly what you’re talking about, and also fuck you.”
FK: Yeah, but she is very much not taking fuck you for an answer. She’s, like, ON A MISSION to convince them.
ELM: It;s really something! One thing I love about her, too, is simultaneously with these adults she’s kind of…slightly unhinged in her boldness with them, which I love, and then in her personal life where she’s trying to sort out her sexuality and she’s got a potential love interest she’s just confused. And I appreciated that part about the book too, because it let her sit in that ambivalence and not really have any of the answers, and that was fine. You get to decide how you feel about that in your own time. But with the girl herself, she makes some bad decisions I would say.
FK: But it is a very charming YA romance, I would say.
ELM: Do you think that summarizes it? I feel like that sets it up well. Basically you’ve got fans and you’ve got creators and they’re trying to understand each other. They’re actually…some of them are not trying to understand each other. That’s part of the thing. It’s about this transition into good-faith attempts to understand each other, I would say.
FK: I would agree. OK. I think that sets it up, so should we call Britta?
ELM: Yeah, let’s call her!
FK: All right, it’s time to welcome Britta onto the podcast. Welcome Britta!
Britta Lundin: Helloooooo! It’s so good to be back!
ELM: Yeah, welcome back to the podcast!
FK: It’s true! You are a repeat guest.
ELM: How does it feel to be back?
BL: Like one of the highest honors probably.
BL: In the fan podcast universe.
ELM: [laughing] You just lowered the stakes.
FK: [laughing] The bar just went [downward noise]
BL: It’s an important community and this is a high honor for that community.
ELM: All right, all right.
FK: Now that we’ve been slightly negged…
ELM: Negging works though, right?
FK: Totally works for me!
BL: I have a feeling we’re gonna have a good hour-long conversation now because of that neg.
ELM: That’s right. Just keep wearing us down subtly the whole time.
FK: Oh my God. [all laughing]
ELM: All right, obviously we’re gonna mostly talk about the book, which spoiler, we’re both obsessed with. We just wanted to get that out of the way.
FK: Which by the way, if you want a spoiler free conversation about the book I think probably you should read it before listening to this? I don’t know, it’s hard to say. What do you think we should do? We’ll say “spoilers” if we’re gonna spoil something, right?
BL: I think that we can do the sort of spoiler where we’re lightly spoiling things and talking in vaguenesses without going deep on the ending or something like that. Is that OK?
FK: Yeah, I think it’s OK! We’ll try, we’ll see what happens.
ELM: OK. So we’re gonna talk about the book at length, but first, how’s your year been?
BL: [laughs] Personally, career-wise, it’s been great. I feel like you have to clarify that in this day and age.
ELM: Wait, did you see the…it wasn’t a gifset, it was stills that were going around in late December, and it was from…it might have been Big Fat Quiz of the Year, some round up British quiz show, and Jimmy Carr was saying to David Mitchell “How was your year?” And he said something like “Personally it’s been adequate, but internationally it’s a total disaster” or something. It’s delivered in perfect David Mitchell, it’s, you know. That felt really right for me as well.
BL: I relate to that, yeah. It’s been good. The last time we talked I was in the middle of writing season one of Riverdale, and I was writing the first draft of the book, and now we are talking again and we’ve finished writing season two of Riverdale, the book comes out next week. [FK yelps]
FK: It’ll be this week!
BL: It’ll be this week! It comes out May 1, so whatever that is in your personal timeline. [all laugh]
ELM: Possibly in the past.
FK: Probably in the past for many listeners.
BL: Probably already out for you. So tell me how that is! Because to me that's still weird and bizarre. And then we’re gonna start writing season three of Riverdale in just a couple more weeks, so everything is still truckin’ along despite the wildfire disaster that is our government!
ELM: Yes. You’re not responsible for that, don’t worry.
ELM: One thing I would love to know, and we got a lot of feedback, people loved your episode, I think it’s one of the all time faves, not to put too much pressure on you for this one.
BL: Not at all.
FK: Pressure’s totally on you, it’s fine.
ELM: Kind of. I think that a lot of people really appreciated, and I think we knew this going in, but you had this really unique position as a genuine true person who straddles the fan–creator interaction, and I’m wondering how that looks to you a year on. I have to imagine that’s evolved as you've gotten deeper into not just writing this book, but as Riverdale—cause you had kind of just started, and now it’s really something that’s much more solid.
BL: Yeah, I feel like when we spoke last—I don’t remember exactly when it was, but we had been writing for awhile, and I think that we hadn’t started airing yet, or we had just started airing. And so our fan base was growing but small, and now our fan base is firmly entrenched. There is a fandom. The top ships are what they are, and they’re, every week they’re on Fandometrics on Tumblr and you can see them there.
ELM: Multiple ships from Riverdale are on that list, right?
FK: It’s funny though, in retrospect, because when we spoke to you last you were like “Holy shit, my DMs are blowing up and everything’s happening!” And it seemed like it was really overwhelming then.
BL: It was!
FK: You were super excited! And yet it only grew.
BL: It only grew from there and now…for awhile it was really hard to figure out how I was gonna deal with it, because my instinct was to respond to everybody and give everyone a thoughtful answer about why we did it the way we did it, and “I can understand where you’re coming from,” and every time I got a new DM I would have to restrain myself. And now my go-to is that I don’t respond to anything unless it’s a screenwriting question or a career question or a personal question. I don’t respond to anything that starts with a “will,” like “Will this happen on Riverdale,” “Will my ship do this,” “Will Betty do this,” nothing like that.
ELM: You do on Tumblr from time to time, you do a very “LOL I’m not gonna tell you” kind of response. They’re like “Will this happen?” and you’re like “You think?”
BL: “You think I'm gonna tell you that?”
ELM: “I’m not gonna fall for this one!” Very clearly a policy. And I find them hilarious every time, I don’t know how the askers feel but I think that’s a fine response. [laughing]
BL: I don’t know how the askers feel either. The thing I have to keep reminding myself is, you know nothing about the person on the other side of this question. They could be a total…they could be an adult like you, who’s also a fan, or they could be 13 years old and living in Slovakia. You literally have no idea. So it’s hard to remember that when I’m about to answer in a funny or condescending or snarky way. You don’t know how this person’s gonna take that answer!
But mostly I’m just very conscious of the fact that I don’t want something I say to be considered…if somebody’s like, “What did it mean when Betty told Jughead this?” and I’m like “Oh, here’s what we meant when we wrote that, here’s what we discussed in the writers’ room when we wrote that line,” that might be a fun interesting anecdote for one viewer, but for another viewer it might mean “OK, so it’s canon that Betty said this line to Jughead because XYZ.” And suddenly it’s canon because I answered a Tumblr DM. Or is it canon? It’s like…a little asterisk next to canon that’s like “This was what was on the screen but then Britta elaborated this on her Tumblr and then we believe this….” So it’s just extrapolating in this way where I don’t—this is why I don’t answer those questions. I want fandom to decide all that stuff for themselves and just let the show stand on its own and not tell them what to think about what’s on the show, tell them what we were thinking when we created it. The show is the show, and from there it’s yours to decide what to do with it.
FK: I imagine that must be even harder because you’ve also got the actors in the mix. They may not read the same scene in the same way, and they may not have played it that way or thought they were playing it that way, right? But then…
BL: And they have to do a lot more interviews and media than I do! So they’re constantly on camera and people thrusting a microphone in their face asking them “What did you think about this scene?” Aand sometimes they say stuff like “I thought the scene meant this,” and it’s like, OK, well, that’s not what I thought the scene meant, but now you have that actor’s interpretation as part of the conversation about that scene.
ELM: I feel like despite all that, fans are always…I feel like there’s a bit of a hierarchy, obviously people put a lot of stock in what actors say, but I feel like most fans acknowledge that the writers are the…if you have to put a hierarchy of who decides what’s canon, I think that the writers are gonna be on top. I don’t know, maybe that’s not true. Maybe there are a lot of fans out there who are like “What the actor thinks is…” But I just feel like you see more often people being like “That's what the actor,” if they don’t like what the actor’s saying, “They’re just this dumb actor, the writers are the ones that are creating the work.”
BL: I think it totally depends on if they agree with the actor or not! [all laughing]
FK: The joy of having something that’s done by so many people as a group is that you can always find someone who probably agrees a little bit more with your view of this.
ELM: I kinda want to transition into the book, but it’s sort of in a transition question way!
FK: I feel like this is very relevant to the book, right?
ELM: One of the huge things I was wondering, not necessarily thematically but relevant to me asking how your year has been, is I’m wondering if you could speak in any way to how this book has changed as you have spent more time in your current job. If it has at all.
BL: I’ll answer it in a way that you didn’t mean the question, and then I’ll answer it in a way that you did mean the question.
ELM: Sure! The question is open to your interpretation.
FK: Answer the question you wanted to be asked, not the question you actually were asked.
BL: The first way it’s changed is that over the last two years, since I sold the book to now when it’s being published, I’ve been in the writers’ room for the breaking and writing of 13 episodes in season one and 22 episodes in season two, so that’s 35 episodes of television. And during that process, I have learned so much about how to break a story and how to write conflict and drama and create characters that are memorable that I think I as a writer am fundamentally a better writer now than I was two years ago. I could feel it happening over season one: “Oh my God, this is more writing in a very short period of time than I’ve done in my life, even when I was in film school.” It’s just a very intense process.
So when I look at the book, I can look at the beginning of the book and the end of the book and I feel like I can see myself become a better writer by the time I get to the end of the book in this way that…it’s probably one of those things that nobody else notices, but I can feel myself growing more confident and secure in my writing by the end. So that’s one way that being in the Riverdale writers’ room has changed it.
But I think you’re asking about how has being a TV writer helped me understand this story about TV writing. Which is…I talked to a lot of people when I was writing this book. PR people, actors, people who worked in marketing, screenwriters, fans…lots and lots of fans…to make sure that I was getting things right about the experience. And not right, like, in a technical way. Some of the details are fudged here and there about how this would actually happen. But right in an emotional way. So then when I got into the Riverdale room, I saw a lot of stuff happening firsthand that I didn’t have to ask people about anymore. I was seeing it for myself.
Some of the stories in the book are literally pulled from conversations I’ve had with friends. There’s a moment where, for example, Forest is about to go on stage at this Comic-Con and someone’s like “Your shirt’s not nerdy enough,” they make him take it off and they have a bag of other shirts and they hand him a nerdier shirt, “this will go over better with this crowd.” That’s a story I got directly from a friend who was working with an actor who saw this happen backstage at Comic-Con. And so that’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about. That’s not something from Riverdale, by the way. [ELM laughing] It was somebody else.
FK: I did really like that there was that little character moment where at first he has to wear a shirt that’s nothing like him, and then later on he gets to wear the shirt that’s of the thing he’s actually a fan of! I was like “Oh Britta, you did that and it was so charming!”
BL: Oh good, I’m glad! Yeah, everyone’s a fan of something. Even people who don’t think they’re fans are totally fans, they just don’t realize it yet.
ELM: I cannot believe your reference to the Buffalo Bills. [all laughing]
BL: I’m so happy I reached you!
ELM: I mean, I don’t think you understand…
BL: Knives to the heart.
ELM: As a Buffalo Bills fan…the line was, what was it? “Why is fanfic more embarrassing than liking the Buffalo Bills or Bruce Springsteen,” or a couple of other items, and my response to that is: nothing is more embarrassing than liking the Buffalo Bills. It’s fine. Look, we went to the playoffs this year, after the longest drought in the history of professional sports in America.
BL: That’s pretty embarrassing. I can't believe that you’re admitting this on a public podcast.
ELM: I mean, what are you gonna do? No. More embarrassing is when we went to the Super Bowl four years in a row and we lost every time. [FK laughing at her] That was formative for me as a young person. But. Enough about me and my sad, sad fandom. I’m wondering about you personally. We talked a lot, and I want to talk more, about how you feel about all the themes in this book about the idea of what belongs…what’s canon? What’s fanon? What is interpretation? Queerbaiting, and shipping, and all of these big themes that I think you handled in a really nuanced way. There’s a diversity of opinions throughout the book, on the fan and creator sides. But I’m wondering if your perspectives on all this stuff have changed now that you’re in a writer’s room in a more permanent way…permanent, I don’t know.
BL: Permanent, wow!
ELM: You know what I mean?
FK: More established.
ELM: Yeah, more established. You could quit your job and become a nudist sculptor.
BL: I’m not counting it out, it could happen.
ELM: She was also a great character in the book. I love that mother so much. [laughing]
BL: I think…you know, one of the biggest things I learned about how TV gets made when I started working on Riverdale is it’s just incredibly messy. So as a fan, when you’re watching, every decision that seems intentional and obvious and clear cut…it could have been…or it could have been the result of weird scheduling problems or weird money budgeting problems, like budgeting plays a huge role in what creative decisions do or don’t get made on TV. Or it could be because an actor’s kid got sick and they stayed home from work that day to take care of their kid, so you’re looking at a scene as a fan and you’re like “Why is one half of my OTP not in this scene? Clearly the writers hate my OTP,” and it’s like “No, actually, his kid was puking.” That’s a made up reason, Cole Sprouse does not have a child to my knowledge. [all laughing]
FK: TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE.
BL: To my knowledge.
FK: This is how rumors get started, Britta!
ELM: The example in the book, what seemed like a really shippy moment for the fans, and the actor Forest was grateful because the other actor Rico gave him a coat cause he was cold. He was just feeling the bonds of friendship.
BL: And also I love the line where he’s like, if I can quote my own work to you to say how much I love it…?
ELM: Yes. You wrote it and you should quote it.
FK: You can definitely do that.
BL: Where she’s like “What are you feeling in that moment? It looks like you’re feeling love,” and he’s like “I don’t know, it was a split second captured on camera six months ago!” And it’s true that he was just spending a night in the woods. His life has been a long and rich tapestry and he’s had many feelings over the course of it, [all laugh] but this one was captured on camera and pulled out and put on screen, and someone gifed it, and now you can watch it over and over again in slow motion, this one micro-moment of this guy’s life, over and over again, dissect it and figure out what it means.
That’s part of the fun of fandom, but it’s also really freaky to the guy who’s like “I don’t know what I was feeling! That was a long time ago, and it was so fast, I have no idea!” That dynamic.
FK: I really appreciated you bringing the RPF aspects of this into it because I felt like that was…that’s where it gets even…there’s this moment, you’re in one level, and then it’s like “We have to go deeper!” Here we are and now we’re in RPF land and oh, shit, cause then it’s not just a moment…at least he knew that there was a camera on him in that moment. There was something intentional about that, or at least he was aware that it was going to be shown to people, whereas I think if you’re on a convention stage you know on some level that it’s gonna be shown to people but it’s not the same thing. Or whatever, someone’s greeting a fan and then those expressions get obsessively [laughing] picked apart.
BL: Totally. I actually had a lot of conversations with my editor about RPF for this, which was great. My editor’s so great and so smart about writing and didn’t know much about fandom at all, which was actually really good, to have fresh eyes on this. Does she understand what’s happening even though she didn’t know what shipping was when she started this project?
And one of the things she wondered was, during the course of the story Claire crosses the line and writes some RPF that’s too personal. That uses personal information that Forest told her which he didn’t think she would then blast out to all of fandom. So that’s something, an instance where she crosses the line and does something she shouldn’t have, overreaches. An invasion of privacy. So at the end of the book she apologizes for that. This is one of those light spoilers we talked about, I think it’s OK.
ELM: I think it’s all right.
BL: My editor was like, “Should she apologize…” Basically she was like, “Should she apologize for writing RPF at all?” And I was like, “No. This is something I want to be really clear about.” Because she writes RPF earlier in the book and I don’t think that’s as big of a deal, because it’s RPF of these two guys’ public personas, of yes, they’re the actors, but it’s about who they’re putting forward in the world—as opposed to RPF of their true selves using private information that they don’t intend for the broader audience to know.
So I had to write her an email of “Here’s why one RPF is OK and the other RPF is crossing the line,” and she was like, “OK, well, you seem to be very clear on this topic so I’m gonna trust you on this.” I was like, “No, yeah, I’ve been following the discourse and this is where I’ve decided I land.” [all laugh]
ELM: You know, the first RPF scene totally faked me out?
BL: Good, good!
ELM: That was the intent, I’m assuming.
FK: It was going to fake you out, also, because one of the things Elizabeth had asked me was…
ELM: Before I read the book…
FK: She was like, “Is this going there? Is this book…”
ELM: I was like “That seems like too many.”
FK: Too many ships. Too many.
ELM: Too many things to conquer. But I stopped paying attention to the headers and then I didn’t even notice that that one didn’t, you know, the chapter headers about who the narrator was. I cackled out loud when I realized what was going on and my cat did a double take. Good cat.
BL: So what Elizabeth is talking about, if you don’t know, is the book is told in two perspectives, one from Claire who’s the fanfic writer, and one from Forest who’s the actor in the ship, one half of the OTP. But then interspersed throughout Claire writes fanfic, and much like Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl there will be a short chapter of fanfiction in there. And there’s one that's a bit of a fake-out. Which I’m glad, because I was worried as soon as we added those chapter headers that it wouldn’t fake anyone out, so I’m glad it did.
The reason that’s there is that I wanted people who have never shipped anything in their lives to read that, and it ends abruptly right before they go into the kiss, and I wanted their little hearts to go, “But I wanted them to kiss!” [all laugh] That’s shipping! Right? They have it yanked away from them right before they get the moment that they were waiting for. And if anybody who never has read gay fanfiction in their lives reads that and suddenly is like “OH! But I wish it had kept going!” It’s like OK, then you’re in it. That’s what I need from you.
ELM: I also think that when, what was it, when I sent you that message saying “I can't believe you’re getting me to read about Destiel by proxy,” and I’m like, still slightly resentful of you for this…but I will say…
FK: It’s such a rich vein to mine!
ELM: So I’ve never seen Supernatural and Flourish, you’re different than me on this, I don’t really get…it’s hard for me to read fic for something I’m not in the fandom of, even old fandoms that I’m not currently in, right? A lot of people really vary on this. I know Flourish is often up for a good story regardless of her true emotional connection. So the fic that’s the SmokeHeart fic, I was like “OK, whatever.” They were well written, I;m not saying they were bad chapters or whatever, but I didn’t feel any emotional investment. But the RPF section, because I was with those characters, I felt emotional investment in that, which I found very funny, cause I was like…cause I didn’t actually have context for the fictional show. I understand her feelings for it, but I'm not a fan of Demon Heart.
FK: I will say that as someone who has watched Supernatural, all the SmokeHeart bits…
ELM: I will not be a fan of the…
FK: I think a little bit like in Rainbow Rowell if you were into Harry Potter and it’s like “Oh, you’re a parody! Oh, oh, this is a parody of everything! It’s an accurate parody! Wearing Carhartt things and being men and having long staring into each other’s eyes talks and oh my God I can’t.” Yeah. It was very pointed.
BL: Well I’m glad!
ELM: Look, when I read Fangirl too, if I hadn't been a Harry/Draco shipper back in the day I’m not sure that…those scenes instantly, boom, the exact, and they were so Harry/Draco fanfictiony. Same with Carry On. It’s not anything to do with, I mean, it’s not disconnected from the original Harry Potter but it’s so much about that kind of fanfiction, so I believe I understand what it is to be connected to Destiel [Dess-tiel]. Dee-stiel?
BL: You can just say Dean/Cas if you want.
ELM: Wow, you’re gonna let me do the old school one?
BL: Yeah, yeah! I’m all about that. I never really liked Destiel as the name anyway. But when I was writing Demon Heart, I had to create the fake TV show within the book, and have it be shippable enough that it was undeniable that Claire would ship it. And so yeah, there’s heavy dashes of Supernatural in Demon Heart, but there’s also a splash of Teen Wolf in there and a little bit of Buffy in there.
FK: Oh yeah, it;s not a direct…an exact. But it’s enough. It’s definitely a CW show. If someone, if I read that pilot I’m like “Oh, this pilot is definitely gonna be picked up on the CW cause that’s where it belongs!”
ELM: Don’t forget the part where they say there’s no one else to ship them with because they killed off all the women.
FK: It’s true! [all laughing]
ELM: That was extraordinarily to the point. On point. Yeah. So.
BL: That was a subtweet.
FK: Also even the idea that people are shipping these two characters and we don’t want them to ship them so we’d better introduce someone else. “Please! Let’s stop everybody from wanting Dean and Sam to get together cause that’s iffy!” [all laughing] Yes, yes, small people who were not there in Supernatural fandom prior to Destiel existing, this was the big drama and the discussion around why Castiel had to show up. Cause he’s not a brother and so it’s OK.
ELM: Are people who were not watching Supernatural 12 years ago small people? [all laughing] C’mon, as we know the young people think of them as dads.
BL: Yeah. They do.
ELM: Adopted by Dean and Sam.
FK: Yeah, it’s true. I really never felt more old than the moment that I realized that that had turned that corner.
ELM: Sorry, that’s the way it is.
FK: The moment where the “dad” is not a joking “dad,” it’s an actual “you are a dad.”
BL: One day all your faves will be dads.
FK: I KNOW. I know. It’s frightening.
ELM: Didn’t I tell you that all my faves have always been dads? I was talking about this with Flourish. My first fandom online was Buffy, and literally the only character I cared about was Giles. Literally only. Absolutely no one else.
FK: And before that…
ELM: I wrote fic JUST about Giles.
FK: Before that you were into Sweet Valley High and what did you write about Sweet Valley High?
ELM: Yeah, I traumatized my friend the other day who thought we were gonna bond over our love of some random female character in Sweet Valley High, and I had to inform her that my Sweet Valley High fandom when I was 12—did you read Sweet Valley High?
BL: I did not, I was too gay for that.
ELM: Yeah. So I was really into, there’s the twins, and the superficial twin, her best friend is this obnoxious rich girl and she has an emotionally absent father and I wrote massive sprawling fanfiction about him and his company and his corporate world.
BL: Wait, I’ve heard this. Is he involved in plastics?
ELM: Silicon chips actually. Did we talk about this in the last one too?! [laughing]
BL: I think we did! I think we did, this sounds familiar.
ELM: I swear I don’t talk about this in every episode. You bring it out in me! My obsession, and I checked out every book in the middle school library on self-made men.
ELM: And told everybody I wanted to be a ruthless businesswoman. [laughter] Giving you a little insight into my sixth-grade self.
FK: But this is a really good question actually…a really good question, there’s no question there.
ELM: Just dads.
FK: This is something interesting to me because you’re talking about checking out the books in the middle school library, and one of the things I thought was interesting in Ship It was that the two major fan characters have different attitudes towards being a fan. One of them is like…
ELM: Yeah, I wanna dig into that!
FK: One of them is like “I can’t tell my friends that I am into Demon Heart because it’s too nerdy and I just can’t,” and the other one is like “Yeah, everyone knows it and you may think that means I’m confident, but in actuality I just have no friends so I therefore don’t care, because who could judge me! Who can even judge me.” And I thought that that was really interesting, because I was trying to cast my mind back to being in high school and feeling whether people were judging me or not, and it just seemed like such a foreign land to me now. I was like “Oh, I can’t even remember what that was like!”
ELM: You were weird. You’re a terrible example, Flourish.
BL: Yeah Flourish that’s true.
FK: I’m not using myself as an example, I’m just trying to put my…
ELM: You are literally the worst example.
FK: I just can’t even remember what, it’s not just what I thought about it but what other people thought about it. I was interested to know…
ELM: Britta, what did you think about it?
ELM: You seem like a less terrible example.
BL: First, of all I think you need to do an episode where you bring back middle school classmates of Flourish’s and ask them what they thought of Flourish.
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: That is an extraordinary idea. Let’s do it with multiple ages.
ELM: Someone who went to college with Flourish also, just like you, and hear some stuff.
BL: Flourish is dying because it's such a good idea! [as Flourish wails]
ELM: This is your life, embarrassment.
BL: I know…you know, I struggled with that a little bit because I don’t know what it's like for kids these days, cause I went to middle school and high school a decade ago. But I know what it was like when I was in seventh grade and I discovered The X-Files and I went HARD on The X-Files immediately. I joined the fan club and I got some swag and I had a T-shirt that I loved, that I was…
ELM: Did you wear that to school?
BL: I wore it to school under an oversized plaid shirt that would cover it. But I knew it was there, and so…I had a picture of Mulder and Scully that I’d pulled out of a VHS tape and I kept it in my bag and when I would get stressed out or when things would get really hard or something I would pull it out and look at it. And it would calm me down.
ELM: This is so pure.
BL: I know! I had friends who liked The X-Files, but it was a different level. They just liked watching The X-Files, but for me The X-Files was something much more. There was an emotional connection there that went way deeper, and it was just clear from a young age that I was feeling things harder than my classmates felt things. So from that it was clear that it was not something that I should be public about or talk too much about and certainly being on X-Files fan forums and debating fan theories nad reading fanfiction was definitely not something I ever talked about.
So having this secret online persona that Tess has, and Tess is the love interest of Claire in the book, who is secret about her fandom, that was something I definitely relate to. At a certain point I had to come out as a fan—and that’s kind of a bad terminology because it’s not the same as coming out as gay, but it might feel the same for some people a little bit at times. And I came out as gay before I came out as a fan [laughs] but as a fan once I started, it was really when I started writing Ship It and talking about it that I would talk to other people and I’d be like “Oh I’m writing this,” at the time it was a screenplay, “I’m writing this screenplay about gay fanfiction,” and they would be like “Oh, my God! You read gay fanfiction too!” People were coming out of the woodwork to tell me about their weird Social Network OTP or whatever that they loved.
So that’s when I was like, “Oh, there’s a lot of other people who kept this part of their life secret as well.” That's something I wanna talk about, because there’s a line in the book where someone says “You should never be ashamed to love the things that you love,” and it’s true. It’s something Tess has to learn, not to be ashamed of loving this weird genre show that’s on a small network, and it’s something that Claire has to learn when she’s coming to terms with her sexuality, not to feel ashamed of being queer.
ELM: I’m wondering if it was conscious. Cause it is tricky when you think about actual teens right now. While I don’t think every teen in fandom is running around putting it as their yearbook quote or whatever, I do think teens these days are inherently…a lot of them do have a different relationship to it and fandom spaces are really different. You may have a fandom Twitter but you might not. Or you might not draw those distinctions, or…and so I felt like the way that you sidestepped that, whether that was intentional or not, by having Tess be friends with popular girls, actually was a great way to kind of get around that because yeah. It’s not…what are the odds that this cool girl in her cool-girl clique is also gonna be able to actually talk about this in any way? Because those stigmas obviously, are you gonna be the head cheerleader and a top fanfiction writer? Not that they’re cheerleaders, but you know what I mean.
BL: Right. They were on the dance team actually.
ELM: Oh, OK, yeah, all right.
BL: One of the things I think is maybe different about a lot of the more mainstream fans is, for example, I’m on Twitter and Tumblr and all over the place followed by a bunch of Riverdale fans. And there are so many, for example, Bughead fan accounts. And their username will be something like Bughead but with three As or something like that. And that, I think, feels slightly more mainstream, but Bughead is a canon het ship. And I think maybe there’s a difference between shipping something like that, which is validated and endorsed by the show and every time you watch the show you feel like your viewpoint is valid, and you feel like this is what you’re supposed to be feeling when you watch the show, as opposed to shipping a non-canon slash ship that may never go canon, that every time you watch the show makes you feel like you might be seeing things, you might be delusional, you might be hysterical, all those things.
ELM: Watching it in opposition to the text, yeah.
BL: So I feel like you look at Tess’s friends, and I was trying to be careful with how I portrayed them cause I didn’t want them to be evil popular girls.
ELM: I didn’t mean to draw them that way.
BL: No, no, I'm glad you brought it up, because it was something that I thought a lot about because I think there’s that stereotype can be rooted in misogyny, so I wanted to be careful about portraying them as the kind of girls who maybe wouldn’t be open to this kind of fandom, who might be open to a Bughead fandom for example. But also, you can understand why Tess is keeping this part of her life secret and is just like, “You know what, maybe it’s safer not to talk about this part of my life with my friends. They don’t have to know everything about me. Some stuff can just be secret on the internet.”
ELM: Tess and Claire also have opposing viewpoints about canon versus fanon.
FK: Which it was such a relief, by the way, to see this in a book that someone was writing about fandom, because I feel like most books about this…I don’t know, it’s not that they don’t address it, but it seems like it’s never a central thing and this was very clearly a central part of this book. I was like “PHEW.” Cause this is one of the biggest conversations!
ELM: I;m going to press this on everyone I know who has anything to do with this in real life, FYI. I’m gonna hand-sell it to anyone who asks me any question ever about fan–creator interaction.
BL: OK great.
ELM: Just FYI.
BL: Great! And I think if it could just be required reading for any up and coming actor who gets cast in a sure to be fandom favorite…
FK: I like that you’re like “Read my book, buddy, read my book.”
BL: That would be great.
FK: Are you gonna personally gift it to every actor on Riverdale? [laughs]
BL: I think that would go poorly for me. [all laugh]
FK: I’m sure it would, but I just had the vision of it. [all laughing]
BL: Oh oh OK. Canon.
ELM: Fanon and canon. Obviously I’m a little curious to know…cause actually I don't know where you stand on this. And again, wondering if your feelings have shifted over time as you started to see the other side of things. If you have opinions about this. My feelings vary.
BL: OK. So let’s dive into it. One of the central questions of the book is Claire wants her slash ship to go canon for two reasons. One, she looks at the show and she thinks “Well, obviously they’re in love. Clearly. Any person who watches this would see that. So just do it, ya dummies! What’s so hard about that?” So first of all she ships and she wants her ship to go canon, that’s an actual reason you can understand.
And the second reason is this social justice reason, which is she wants to see more queer people on TV. And I think those two things get conflated a lot and they’re two separate ideas. And so I think that’s important.
So in the book I try to pick them apart a little bit, which is…with the first reason, you have people like Tess who question why is it important that your ship go canon. Your ship. You can read the fanfic of it and the fanfic, let’s be real, is frequently better than whatever the source material is in the first place. And you can read a million different versions of it in a million different ways, and you can satisfy any whim you might have through fanfiction. So why is it important that the showrunner, or the writer, or the screenwriter, make it go canon when you can just have it be canon in your heart? So there’s that argument, which I understand and I believe a lot, and there are a lot of things that are canon in my heart that aren’t canon in reality, and a lot of things that are canon in reality…
FK: [laughing] That are not canon in my heart! I’m looking at you, X-files. Right now. I’m personally staring you in the eye.
BL: Yup, yup. Yup. Yuuuuuuuuuup. OK. So that was something I wanted to talk about. And another thing is the social justice thing, which I do think there is a strong leg to stand on when you want more queer characters in a world in which most of the media we consume is based on big franchises, or is based on something else. It’s great to have original queer characters coming out into the world…not coming out, but entering the world. But another really important way to get queer characters in our media is to take characters that already exist that people previously assumed were straight and turn them queer, and that goes for Captain America and it goes for Elsa and it goes for Dean Winchester and Sherlock Holmes and it goes for all of them—because if you don't do that then all the burden is on up and coming writers to create brand new queer characters that are not necessarily gonna have all of the weight and importance that these characters that already have huge franchises behind them have.
So I feel like there’s something to be said for that. Where you get into trouble is when you start to assume the only way to have queer representation is if my ship goes canon. It’s not about you and it’s not about your ship. It can be important for these ships to go canon, that can be really great, and it can help improve our media landscape, but I think you have to pick apart your own personal feelings about your ship with the desire to have more queer characters on TV. Cause if 10 new queer characters are introduced, but your ship didn’t go canon, that’s still a win. That’s still a good thing.
ELM: I was very impressed with how subtly you picked that one apart. Because this is obviously a theme we talk a lot about, our listeners think a lot about because we talk about it constantly, so.
FK: All the time.
ELM: Discussing shipping does not equal activism. And I thought it was really masterfully done the way there were a number of angles you came at it. Some of it was exposing a bit of the hypocrisy of it, in terms of well, you care so much about these two, these men in these bodies, that kind of thing. Talking about lack of other representation. I don’t know, even the…you're skirting around femslash stuff too, which I thought was really interesting and I’m actually wondering if you have, and maybe this is too thorny to go into right now.
BL: No no, we can talk about femslash.
ELM: Even a suggestion of this disconnect between a queer woman, possibly exclusively a lesbian, she hasn’t…well, is it a spoiler to say she doesn’t know?
BL: That's fine! That’s her big question in the book, how is she gonna identify by the end?
ELM: Right. All the references to femslash were very interesting to me, some of them in the sense of…I don't think it’s a huge spoiler to say that line at the end Caty has where she says that when she started reading femslash things kinda came into focus for her. I’m wondering if you could…Caty being a queer woman. And I’m wondering if you could talk a little about that and if you had your own personal feelings about that.
BL: Yeah, I mean, I think Claire is someone who ships a slash ship, and over the course of the book confronts her own sexuality and tries to figure out how she identifies. She meets Tess, she starts to feel feelings for Tess, but she doesn’t know: does that make me queer, am I just…is this just a phase, is it a one-off thing if I come out because I like this one girl, what if I never meet another girl who I like again, and then I have to un-come-out in the future…
FK: I felt that so hard! [laughing] I was like “THIS IS SUCH AN ACCURATE PORTRAYAL OF TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW YOU IDENTIFY.”
BL: Yeah! When you're young, you haven’t had that many experiences to try to make a straight line out of them, to understand what is my sexuality. And also sexuality is so squishy and hard to put a label on already. Claire’s struggling with all of that. And then I think she’s reading a lot of slash fic and I think this is something I’ve seen a lot is that women read slash fic…reading femslash is a little too on the nose, or close to home. You know what I mean? Maybe you’re having questioning feelings, you can read slash and there’s a level of removal there where you can relate to that and maybe explore those queer feelings without having to actually be thinking about yourself and your own body and you with another woman, cause that might be really scary or too much to even think about.
So I think that’s kind of what Claire’s doing, and along the way she has these moments where someone’s like “Have you thought about femslash?” There’s a moment where she’s having her first makeout with Tess where she gets to a certain point and she doesn’t actually know what to do after that, and the thought comes unbidden to her mind, “Maybe if I read more femslash I would know what to do right now!” [all laughing]
ELM: I laughed out loud at that part. And thinking about her googling male/male sex in the beginning, too. She's just like, “I don’t know.” Also yesterday Flourish and I saw The Cursed Child, which we don't need to go into right now, but there was a lot of teen foolishness.
FK: Oh my God there was so much teen foolishness!
ELM: We were watching each other because it was just so…and the kissing scene in this book also made me feel like “TEENS!” She’s so [all laughing] brutally awkward, it’s so good.
FK: Every brutally awkward teen interaction…I found the whole book was actually very subtle in a great way. It wasn’t just the things about teen awkwardness or the ways people were talking. It was also the big stuff. Like for instance, I kept laughing about how Forest’s entire career dream is to be in a fucking video game movie. I was just sitting here being like “Of course that is what the lead in a CW show dreams of.” But also, oh man, oh bro, oh man bro. Oh bro. Chris Pratt might be in the running but like…it’s like a boat payment for him, and for you it’s never gonna get you where you wanna be, bro! There were all those little moments and it was on both the fan side and the industry side I was just… [laughs helplessly] Or the showrunner having the jealousy of his friend from film school who had hit it big as a director. I was like, “Oh. You just slipped that knife in and twisted.”
ELM: The most brutal knife for the showrunner was when you described him as like the kid from E.T. but old. [all laughing] That was the harshest thing in the book. Oh, it was so good.
BL: But you can immediately picture it!
ELM: I got it, I got it! All your descriptions of all the showrunner types, or the Hollywood man types, I thought were really brutal and beautiful.
FK: They were very accurate descriptions of Hollywood man types!
BL: I’ve met a bunch of ’em at this point!
FK: And Rico was also like, there he was. Bein’ his beautiful self. Sort of a…
ELM: Rico is by far the best person in the whole book. I’m just gonna come out there and say it. Do you think that’s too much?
BL: Rico, for those of you who might be wondering, I don’t think we’ve introduced him yet, is the other half of the OTP.
FK: You’re so good at this.
ELM: Who’s listening to this at this point who hasn’t read this book?
FK: Most people, because it’s gonna be like May 2 and they’ll have just gotten it!
BL: It will have just arrived in the mail from Amazon, because they’ve preordered it.
ELM: That’s right. They’ll have stayed up all night reading it like it was a Harry Potter book. And they’ll listen to Fansplaining the second it comes out, 11:01 a.m.
BL: Rico is the other half of Claire’s OTP. There’s Forest and there’s Rico, and Forest is the clueless one who’s obnoxious in how much he doesn’t get it.
FK: 23 and living in Koreatown, another delightful example of deep Hollywood. [laughing] Yeah, that dude lives in Koreatown.
BL: Rico’s slightly more experienced and has been on another genre show before, and so kinda gets it a little more and is a little more generous.
FK: He probably has a grown-up apartment. A real person’s apartment.
BL: A house he bought in Silver Lake 15 years ago for $200,000 probably.
FK: When he first got his first genre show.
ELM: Wow, are these your head canons about your own characters?
BL: Oh God, this is not canon. This is not canon! This is my head canon.
FK: But it’s totally what that person would be. It’s completely MY head canon. It just is the truth. [all laughing]
ELM: Slight aside, but another thing that I love more than life…I already said I loved the mother, but the conversation where she explains what shipping is was—never in my life have I read a more accurate…when she’s like “Oh, I ship myself with Obama!” [all laughing]
FK: Peak mom.
ELM: It was SO mom. It was so good. She’s such a good mom.
BL: I know. That scene literally exists because there’s people like my agent who started reading this book who don’t know what shipping is, and so that’s in the first 15 pages, Claire’s mom is getting an explanation, a primer of what shipping is. The writer’s challenge is to make a purely expositional Wikipedia article about shipping sound interesting and fun, and the way to do that is just to have a peak mom character peak momming.
ELM: I just think those were very mom reactions, and then later when she meets I think Forest, and she’s like, “I ship myself with him!” Of course that’s the way she's going to think of it. “I ship myself and your dad.” [all laughing] OK! Fine!
BL: Yeah, that’s how shipping works. OK fine.
FK: I will say that is a preferable mom reaction to my mom’s reaction to being told what shipping was when I was in high school and reading X-files fanfic, which was to ask me to recommend to her Mulder and Scully fanfic, and then read it and want to talk about it and I was like “I’M GOING TO DIE. I’M DYING. First I can't believe I gave you this, and now I can’t believe you read it,” and it had smut in it too if I recall correctly, it was a novel-length story, and I was just sitting here like “Now we have to discuss this over the dinner table Mom, I’m not sure I can cope!”
BL: OK, we have to have Flourish’s mom on the show.
ELM: Yeah! She’s in the rock fandom.
FK: She is the rock fandom. Not The Rock the actor, rocks. Actual physical actual rocks. [all laugh]
BL: Oh, I was thinking The Rock like the actor.
FK: No, not The Rock.
BL: She can also like The Rock.
ELM: If you explained it and she was like “Yes I ship myself with the Rock,” can you imagine.
FK: My mom would probably like The Rock, actually. The person she actually loves is Michael B. Jordan though. To the point where she saw Black Panther and then she had to tell me all about how Michael B. Jordan was the perfect man. For like.
ELM: Michael B. Jordan himself, not…
BL: Not Killmonger.
FK: No no no, she also loved Creed because Michael B. Jordan was in it.
ELM: She’s a fan of him as an actor.
FK: She’s a fan of Michael B. Jordan. I’m not sure as an actor. I think just because she thinks he’s incredibly cute and she has a crush on him.
BL: She’s not wrong.
FK: She’s not wrong, but just saying, babies don’t let your mommas grow up to be shippers, or something. [BL laughing] OK, obviously the entire book is sort of about this weird situation we’re currently in, almost a current cultural moment where everything is brushing up against each other and we have this creator-fan interaction that’s happening way more that it ever used to, and to some degree it seemed like it was about the porosity of the barrier between fan and pro, cause there’s that moment where Caty gives Claire her tumblr name and is like “Psst, I’m on Tumblr too!” Note, she’s like a 23-year-old so it’s not shocking. But of course it is shocking when you receive that Tumblr name and—Oh! People are in fandom!
So I guess I’m wondering about, when people read this book and they start thinking about their position, fans, their position vis-à-vis Hollywood, vis-à-vis…I mean, not just novel writing, which I think is something that people commonly see themselves as potentially breaking into, but it seems like this really invites people to imagine themselves in the entertainment industry. What…how do you think about that? Cause it doesn’t seem like you're totally valorizing it. Some people are like “Oh obviously you want to go pro,” and that’s not the message of the book. It’s a more complicated relationship.
BL: I agree. I think there’s a moment there where Caty’s like “Oh, and hit me up in a few years if you want a job, I can totally see you as being really good at PR.” And Claire is like “Oh, I never really thought of myself as doing anything like that.” I think a lot of fans think of themselves as sort of permanently on one side of the fandom divide, who could never cross over. So part of that was giving Claire options. If she does want a future affecting the shows that she loves, that’s an option available to her. And also if she just wants to write fanfic and go do something else for a living, that's fine too!
But I think Hollywood would be better off if there were more people who came from fandom working in it, so that’s my little baby pitch to the teens [laughing] to be like, “This world could use you! Could use your voice and your minds and the way that you think about celebrity and the internet! Hollywood needs that right now. So if you’re interested, come on down, the water’s not warm. It’s really cold. And dangerously full of sharks. But please come down anyway!” [laughing]
ELM: Not to be the Debbie Downer to that very positive invitation, but don’t you think that…
BL: Oh, please, go ahead!
ELM: To some degree there are, one of the reasons that makes the novel so enjoyable, there’s a bit of wish fulfillment involved in this. It’s something of an unrealistic, it’s unprecedented certainly, that an angry fan shouts about her ship and then she gets invited because they can see…you know. I don’t know if this is the right idea, but it’s kind of a fantasy in that regard, and that’s not a criticism.
BL: Not at all.
ELM: It’s a fun…
FK: It’s a delightful, it’s still a fantasy that I hold even despite working in the entertainment industry, so that when I first read it I had to read it ALL in one NIGHT when it was in DRAFT form and I think I emailed you keysmashing about how this was my dream. [ELM laughing]
ELM: It’s definitely fantasy elements, and it’s something that you see people referencing when they complain about shows and they’re like…I guess even with that element, she’s extraordinarily bold, she’s…someone calls her a psychopath at one point, and I’m not saying she is, but her behavior is very much “Fuck it, I’m doing it,” and you’re like “Holy shit, go for it,” and I’m wondering if with the reality if that tempers your advice a little bit to say “come on down.”
I know you just said the water is incredibly cold and full of sharks, but do you think that it’s actually a lot more disheartening…how many fangirls need to show up in Hollywood for…even with, sorry this is an incredibly long question, but even with this kinda being a fantasy, the realities of these situations are still completely present in the book and actually huge factors, right. All the stuff about the video game franchise is incredibly frank. You’re like, “Oh, that’s exactly what it’s like.” Or all the stuff that Jamie says, the showrunner, is incredibly frank. So I’m just wondering how you reconcile that with the real world.
BL: Yeah, I think…you know, I’m in a community of fans who also work in Hollywood, and there's about 50 of us in this community, and we’re very tight-knit, and we talk about these issues a lot, but the truth is there are fans here already on the inside. We’ve penetrated the gates. And we’re infiltrating the castle.
ELM: Commence the uprising.
BL: Exactly! It’s happening. It’s slow, but it’s happening. So I think throughout the book you see instances of where an individual can make a difference. You see Caty helping Claire and you see Paula, the only reason Claire’s there in the first place is because Paula made an executive decision and was like “This is what’s happening.” You see times when Rico can affect Forest’s thinking. So you see if Jamie were just 25% more open, or if John Reynolds, the director of the video game movie, were 25% more open, or if those people were replaced altogether by fangirls, right, this story would have had a totally different outcome.
So you can just feel that while it is hard to make a difference, it is possible on an individual level every day, and I’m just glad that Caty is Caty and not a baby Jamie. And Paula is Paula and not a Jamie type. You know? It’s…if everyone was a Jamie, we’d be back in 1985, where everyone’s a douchebag and doing coke a lot. But we’re not! It’s slightly getting better, so I just wanna make it better than it is today.
ELM: Wait, somehow I asked a really cynical question and you managed to give an answer that was not only incredibly hopeful but a really beautiful example of having faith in incremental progress. Which I feel like people don’t often enough praise incremental progress. Progress that steadily marches forward.
BL: It does steadily march forward, and you kind of have to believe in that, because if you believe it’s hopeless, then I should just quit Hollywood right now. Go be a lavender farmer outside Portland, Oregon. Which is the backup plan. Even though I’m allergic to lavender, it’s still the backup plan. But I don’t feel that cynical yet! I still feel like I can make a difference, which is why I keep doing things. And look, here we are! I wrote a book and now we’re on a podcast talking about it to a bunch of people who probably at this point are really excited to read it, so you know! Things do happen. Good stuff does happen!
FK: Things happen! Thank you. Britta, it was such an incredible pleasure having you on this podcast. Genuinely, please come back many times in the future because this was such a good conversation.
ELM: She should probably write—yeah. Write one fandom novel that is a total delight, once per year, and we will have you back and discuss it.
BL: No problem!
ELM: Just get writing. Hang up and go write.
BL: OK great.
ELM: No, thank you for this book, it was absolutely wonderful, I’m not kidding when I say I’m gonna force everyone to read it.
BL: Thank you. I’m glad. No, I know that because you were joking on Twitter about being really…
ELM: My bad joke?
BL: Being really hard on it and being a very tough judge, and so I’m glad that you like it. I think it’s hard when you’re making a book about a community for that community cause you know that not everyone will like it—and particularly because Claire is not the platonic ideal of a shipper. She does make mistakes and she does overreach, and there’s times where you cringe for her and you’re like “Oh Claire, don’t do that, that’s a terrible idea,” and those times a fan might be like, “Oh, this is not a good representation of fans.” But without that it’s not an interesting or a good book. It would have no drama. So I hope that you get to the end of it and people who know nothing about fandom love it and feel like they understand fandom and have empathy for it, and forgive Claire for her mistakes and her overreaches.
ELM: I think that one of the book’s great strengths is actually there’s no clear…I think there is a desire in some fandom novels, one other thing I thought was really successful about Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff too is that Grace is a fairly flawed protagonist too. Makes some decisions that I think horrify me, from a fan perspective. I’m like “NO! Don’t be that fan.” I don’t think there’s any one of these characters, including Jamie, fuckboy that he is, who are like…everyone is right on something. And everyone is wrong on something. Wrong on many things or right on many things. And I think it’s a really extraordinary example of truly nuanced flawed characters. All of whom have a point but are not 100% right. And that’s very hard to do, so this is my official book critic… [all laughing] So well done. Well drawn characters.
FK: OK. So if people have not yet bought the book what is the…I assume the best way for them to buy it is from their local independent bookseller.
ELM: That’s right!
BL: For sure, and if that doesn't exist for whatever reason, it’s also on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Powells.com.
ELM: Powell’s! Oh, actually, did you guys see that post going around, I bookmarked it so we can put it in the show notes, did you see the tumblr post about the gay bookstore or queer bookstore in Michigan and they were like, apparently they had posted on Facebook that they had had no sales that day. And so then someone was like, “They have an online store, so…why not order your stuff through them?” So they posted a week later and they were like “I don’t understand but 300 people ordered books from us today, we genuinely can’t handle this.” This got hundreds of thousands of notes and it was very pure, and obviously this store cannot handle that many people seeing this, so someone made a long long list of other queer bookstores around the country that can do an online shop. So we should put that in the show notes.
FK: We’ll put that in the show notes! That’s where you should buy it.
FK: For real this time, it was a pleasure having you on and…
ELM: Actually goodbye now.
FK: Actually goodbye now! [laughing]
FK: OK we really do have to have Britta on once a year because she has to write us a book once a year.
ELM: Do you think that she takes requests.
FK: It can’t hurt to ask, can it?
ELM: Cool. I’m gonna think of a plot for her next one.
FK: OK great.
ELM: I want it to engage with a canon that I care about, not pretend Supernatural.
FK: Yeah, I don’t know what to say about that. I really want her to somehow get involved with The X-Files and make it good, but that's a vain hope.
ELM: Oh! Is that your request?
FK: My request.
ELM: To put her in a different writer's room?
FK: Solve The X-Files’ problems.
ELM: Britta we’re arranging your career for you, don’t worry about it.
FK: We’re both fans, it’d be great.
ELM: That’s right.
FK: We can solve The X-Files together.
ELM: Fan–creator interaction. This is what you SHOULD do, creator. That’s right.
FK: Yeah, totally. OK. [laughing]
ELM: As people, I hope people buy it and read it and I’d love to know people’s reactions! Cause one of the things too is talking about Claire vs. Tess and their different feelings about fandom. And its relationship to canon. And I love that they’re both there and I think they both have good points and I’m curious to know…I wrote about this on Tumblr, a post plugging it, and I said that unlike all the other fandom YA novels I've read—several of which I’ve really loved, obviously I loved Grace and the Fever and I loved Fangirl, and the few which I didn't love which I'm not going to name—usually you don't get multiple perspectives. You get the protagonist's view of fandom and you get other fans, or in Fangirl, her twin has said “I’m growing up now, I’m putting that aside.” Obviously that’s another perspective on fandom. But this was two people in fandom with opposed views, so I’m really curious about how people read that and if they feel, as I did, that it was a really great balanced depiction of the different opinions within fandom.
FK: I am also interested in this and I look forward to hearing from our listeners.
FK: Other business, we have a ton of mail that has been piling up but we don’t have time to get into it now, so I am sorry to all the people who are waiting to be on the air. We will get to you, I’m so sorry.
ELM: Yes. OK. All right. So. Wrapping up business. Contact information.
ELM: [laughing] It’s fansplaining at gmail.com if you want to write to us. To tell us anything! As we’ve said, we’re going to read some letters that you sent us hopefully next time. But you can also leave us an ask, that’s fansplaining.tumblr.com, and anon is on, so don’t be mean.
FK: Be nice!
ELM: Yeah. You can also tweet at us, fansplaining, or send us a message on Facebook—both of those are not ideal for longer more nuanced questions but if you have a quick question you can get in touch with us that way, and on our Tumblr, which is fansplaining.com, we have a voicemail. And we haven’t gotten any voicemails in months and I love them so if you have thoughts…we get these great emails and I would really love if you sit down with your computer and read it.
FK: Yeah, you can literally do it on a phone too. It’s just a phone number that you can call.
ELM: You literally call…I meant read it, read it from your computer, the email that you wrote in a text document.
FK: Yeah, that thing.
ELM: I don’t want to control how you go about calling us. You can do whatever you want.
FK: But we do want to have other people’s voices on here. so please if you are willing, do it.
ELM: We get these great emails from everyone and I would just love to actually hear people especially…I always feel weird when it’s clear, they say they’re from a different country and I’m just doing my dumb American accent. Call us with your great other accents. Not to fetishize other people’s accents.
FK: OK! [ELM laughing] So also, if you happen to have extra cash lying around and you want to support us you can always support us on our Patreon. Patreon.com/fansplaining. If you don’t have any extra cash lying around, or if you do but don’t want to give it to us, or if you do and also want to do something nice, you can review us…
ELM: Too many choices.
FK: On iTunes! We believe we deserve five stars. You can give us however many stars you feel like we deserve, but it really helps people find us, so.
ELM: Yeah, reviews and ratings, either or both will be really really awesome. And sharing the podcast generally, just letting people know, and also we’re putting together, we’ve got a few posts in the works for our Medium collection, so we’re gonna get that up and running too so if you have friends who are not podcast listeners but…this is a thing I am thinking about for my job right now. Is that it?
FK: I think that’s all the #content we have right now.
ELM: #Content. Yeah, that’s all we got.
FK: I’ll talk to you later then, Elizabeth.
ELM: OK bye!
[Outro, thank yous and disclaimers]