Fangirl Thursday: Coming Home

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When a television show you love ends, it can feel like leaving home. But when a television show ends years after you stopped really loving it, it can feel like hearing that the house you grew up in—but have since moved far away from—is going to be torn down. You might not have the same connection to that place anymore, but you still feel that loss, and that loss makes you think about who you were when you lived there and how much has changed since then.

I haven’t watched American Idol in years, but for a brief time, that show and its fandom were my home. So before it ends tonight, I wanted to look back—not so much at the show itself (because people far more talented than I am have done that already) but at its impact on my own life as a fangirl.

I was an Idol devotee for its first two seasons. I had a picture of Justin Guarini in my high school locker and worshipped Kelly Clarkson. (Let’s be honest: I still worship Kelly Clarkson.) I saw the Season Two contestants on tour, and, yes, I will admit to casting more than one vote for Clay Aiken. That show was something my family—even my extended family—wanted to watch and talk about together, which was rare at the time.

But as time passed, I drifted away from Idol, only returning for occasional episodes and each season’s finale. In fact, it was during the Season Eight finale that I saw Kris Allen and Adam Lambert perform “We Are the Champions,” and I knew right away that I was in trouble. Allen had the cute, singer-songwriter vibe I always adore, and you had to be crazy not to be drawn to Lambert’s incredible voice and magnetic stage presence. When coupled with the genuine friendship I saw on display when Kris was named the winner, I knew it was only a matter of time before I fell down an Internet rabbit hole, trying to catch up on everything I missed during the season.

During my trip down that rabbit hole early in the summer of 2009, I encountered a LiveJournal community about American Idol, and it felt like finding a home. The people there were smart, funny, and just as obsessed with the show and its contestants as I was. It was the same magical feeling I got when I discovered my first Star Wars fan site and visited MuggleNet for the first time. I didn’t feel alone anymore. But I didn’t have much experience with actual fandom participation. Sure, I’d posted on message boards about So You Think You Can Dance and even had my own blog about my hometown hockey team, but this was bigger and crazier than a message board and much wider in scope than the Buffalo Sabres fandom. I was scared to make that jump from lurker to participant in the discussions.

But then it hit me: I wanted to be a part of this. I didn’t want to watch everyone else having fun and making friends like I did in the Alias fandom back when I was in high school. I wanted to have fun and make friends myself. So the night of the first stop on the Season Eight tour, I stopped lurking and started commenting, and I never looked back.

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10 Things I Learned at NYCC

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This year, I had the pleasure of being a part of the biggest gathering of nerds on the East Coast: New York Comic Con (NYCC). After hours spent waiting in a virtual queue last spring for tickets, months of extensive trip research (aka asking people where the best place to get cheesecake is—for the record it’s Junior’s in Times Square), and a very early flight from Buffalo to NYC, my equally nerdy best friend Mary and I finally made it through the doors of the Javits Center and into fangirl paradise.

I’d never been to a real convention before NYCC. Star Wars Weekends in Walt Disney World is similar in some ways but very different in others, so this was an entirely new experience for me. And it’s one I hope to have again as soon as possible. The early mornings, long lines, sore feet, and big credit card bills were all worth it when I look back on the experience I had. To be a part of an environment that isn’t just friendly toward nerds but created specifically for people like us was incredible, and it’s something I think every fangirl and fanboy should experience at least once in their lives.

I expected to have a lot of fun at NYCC, but I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did—not just about the con-going experience but about my own relationship with fandom and my place in it as a writer (forgive me for getting a tad bit introspective/sentimental). So here—in no particular order—are 10 things I learned during my time at NYCC that I wanted to pass on to my fellow nerdy girls (and nerdy guys).

1. It pays to be patient.
The theme of much of my NYCC experience was “Hurry Up and Wait.” Thankfully, years of Disney World trips have taught me how to handle waiting in crazy lines, but there were still more than a few moments at NYCC that tested my patience. Lines to get into panels felt like they went on forever, and the line to get into the convention on Friday morning wound around entire city blocks. For rooms that weren’t cleared between panels (anything besides the Main Stage), you needed to get there at least one if not two panels before the one you really wanted to see to ensure a seat. But I learned you can use that time to have fun chatting with people around you, to catch up on the eating/drinking you will inevitably forget to do during the day, and to enjoy some quality people-watching. And at least from my experience, once the lines start moving, they move very quickly; while it may feel like you’ve spent so much time at the convention standing in line, it was actually a small fraction of your day. So if you ever find yourself faced with a crazy con line, just remember that the experience waiting at the end of that line will be worth it. Patience is a virtue, fellow nerds.

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