Welcome to the Speculative Chic Roundtable! You’re used to hearing us gather and share our thoughts on movies and our favorite things, but we thought it might be fun to chat about other topics that relate to speculative fiction as well. To kick off this new column, I asked:
What was your very first speculative fiction fandom and how did you get into it?
It’s a rather broad question, so I gave everyone some leeway: all they had to do was pick the first speculative fiction thing they started obsessing over, not necessarily the first speculative fiction thing in which they participated with fandom, though I obviously accepted both answers. See what they came up with, and feel free to share in the comments your own first fandoms!
Lane: The first fandom I really got into was Wonder Woman. My anti-television mother decided that Wonder Woman was a good role model, so all systems were go. I thought that Diana was super cool, but the characters who really got me excited? Drusilla and Ammadonna. Wonder Woman was kind of perfect, and no matter how much I turned in circles, I wasn’t as perfect as her. But Drusilla? I could be Drusilla, surely. And by the time Ammadonna wandered onto the scene with her secret undersea past and her fancy jewelry…. well, I hunted all the cheap 5 & 10s for magical jewelry that would let me have magical abilities.
Now, of course, the series is cheesy as hell. The action scenes are laughable. But I still remember it fondly. And I remember it well! So many episodes just come right back to me. The Ant Queen, the evil Brain, the supercomputer that took up a whole room, and was maybe kind of an AI? It had a personality, at any rate. So, I’m hoping to hell that DC and Hollywood doesn’t screw up Wonder Woman this year. I’ve been waiting a long time to revisit my first fandom!
Betsy: My first fandom… I had to think, because I remember reading lots of what would now fall under the “speculative fiction” umbrella as a kid, but it was all just in the juvenile fiction section, mashed up next to The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, and I read all of them voraciously and interchangeably. But I think my first real fandom has to be Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, for a variety of reasons. It’s one of the first series I encountered where the stories truly spanned centuries, a whole world laid out with history and culture — not something that could have been set in our human history if only magic were real. Plus, who doesn’t love a good dragon, what teenage girl doesn’t love the idea of a companion who knows you completely and chooses you anyway in a lifelong bond, and what introverted bookworm-type wouldn’t kill for a pet that could instantaneously remove you from any unwelcome situation in the literal blink of an eye?
But the reason I must count Pern as my first true fandom is because it’s the basis for the first time I connected with other fantasy readers outside my own family. Waaaay back in the fledgling days of the internet, I did a web search for the series, probably to find a complete list of all the published titles. And I probably found it; I don’t remember that part. What I do remember is that search also pulled up a link to the Dragonriders of Pern: an email writing club, with membership requirements and everything, where I would get to create my own character within the world, and write stories about my character interacting with other people’s characters, and form friendships with other fans around the world. That’s right, I wrote fanfic before it was called fanfic, and it was glorious. It was a huge part of my life, and it changed the way I interacted with books and media. So yeah. Pern.
Kelly: When it comes to getting into speculative fiction, I was a late bloomer. I know this will have some of you reaching for the smelling salts, but I have never seen an episode of Star Trek, watched a Star Wars movie, or read a Harry Potter book. But back in 2008, I watched the first episode of a show based on Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries book series called True Blood, and I was hooked from the opening title sequence that mixes sexy images with scenes of death and religious ecstasy while Jace Everett croons, “I want to do bad things with you.” I wound up reading all thirteen books as well as watching every episode for seven seasons. True Blood is over-the-top campy fun with a surprising amount of heart. It is one of the rare times when I enjoyed the TV show more than the books. I related to telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse’s feelings of being an outsider in a small Southern town and I loved how the Louisiana setting added an air of Gothic authenticity. The show also offers amazing some villains — who can forget Russell Edgington ripping out a newscaster’s spine on live TV and then announcing, “Now time for the weather!”? I remember getting into epic debates with friends about which one of Sookie’s love interests we preferred — brooding vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer), bar owner Sam (Sam Trammell), swarthy werewolf Alcide (Joe Manganiello), or bad boy Viking vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgård)? Personally, I’m Team Eric and still can’t believe that anyone picks Sam when Eric and Alcide are on the menu. True Blood ended in 2014 and I still want to talk about how disappointed I was in the series finale.
Nancy: I was twelve-years-old when I first heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I didn’t know what to think at first, but, thanks to encouragement from my friends, I ended up tuning in to my very first episode. It was the season two finale. Emotions were high, everything was very epic, and I had absolutely no idea about what was going on, but I was 100% hooked.
I ended up piecing together what I could from re-runs, then fully committed during season three. From that point on, Buffy was my favorite television show. My life revolved around Tuesday nights at 8PM, when I would sit down on my couch, watch the latest episode, and refuse to talk to anyone until the show was over. I obsessively discussed every plot twist with my friends. I wrote fanfic. I joined an AOL message board for mega fans. I followed the show as it made its way from the WB to UPN, and I was devastated when it ended my senior year of high school.
Buffy was my first love, as far as speculative fiction goes. It was such an important part of my formative years, impacting my tastes in entertainment, how I came to view the role of women in stories, and how I talked as a teenager. Because it was such a big part of my teenage years, I am completely aware of the fact that I cannot view the show objectively, and am blind to most of its faults. Even to this day, I can’t help but feel a little warm and fuzzy whenever a friend tells me that they’ve started watching Buffy on Netflix. Even though their experience will be much different than mine, it’s good to know that the show continues to live on, over a decade later.
Carey: 1983 was a magical time for kids: Return of the Jedi, He-Man, Nickelodeon ‘toons, and… Voltron! Voltron was my first real obsession. Without the Internet and VCRs, I think fandom was defined as “watch every episode, especially the reruns,” “pretend you’re Pidge/Allura/Hunk/Sven/
J.L. Gribble: Even though I grew up watching Star Trek: The Original Series episodes from Blockbuster and reading Dragonlance books from the library, that was my normal. I was a fan of science fiction and fantasy things, but I never considered myself part of a community because I had no one to share these things with, or even teach me that there was anything special about them. I didn’t truly discover such a thing as “fandom” even existed until we got dial-up Internet and the first thing I searched for was information on a weird television show I’d been watching by myself down in the basement. Online, I found message boards dedicated to the show. I found additional stories written about the characters and mythology. I found my people, and for the first time in my life, I learned that I didn’t have to be alone in my interests. Even though my interest in SF/F properties existed prior to it, I happily claim Highlander: The Series as my first fandom. Without it, I wouldn’t have discovered my loves for writing and urban fantasy (and especially writing urban fantasy). This online community cheered on my first clumsy attempts at fanfic and supported me through the agony that was middle and high school as a nerd. It’s no longer my favorite television series, but 20 years later, I’m happy with who am today because of the connections and community I found online back then.
Nicole: When I was 13 someone introduced me to anime. The first image I ever saw was Sailor Neptune’s face and I thought it was the prettiest cartoon art style I’d ever seen. Lucky for me, that’s when the anime boom really started. Cartoon Network created Toonami as Sailor Moon and other shows came to the USA (and I discovered how awful dubbing can be), and then one day their newest addition aired: Dragon Ball Z.
The fighting! The action! Everyone with their special moves and cool character designs! A story unlike anything I’d ever seen before. And then Vegeta came onto the scene and shit got real.
I had one friend who also watched the show. We would call each other after various episodes and gush about what just happened and how badass Vegeta was and what were they going to do against Frieza who was even more powerful and what was this Super Saiyan thing we kept hearing rumors about and dang Android 18 straight up broke Vegeta’s arm and holy cow, Cell just ate that guy.
I watched Dragon Ball Z for years. I knew all the voice actors’ names and was mad when they traded them out for others (but I grew into them). Watching Goku go Super Saiyan for the first time was an epic moment, and seeing Vegeta go evil once more with the Majin symbol was chilling in the best way possible.
I’ve never stopped loving Dragon Ball Z. I cosplay as Android 18. I have the Saiyan royal crest (Vegeta’s) tattooed on my shoulder. I adore Team Four Star’s parody of the show. And it’s fun talking Dragon Ball Z with other fans. While it was certainly my first true fandom, it definitely was not my last, and will probably forever be my favorite.