For years now I’ve been citing Harry Potter as my gateway fandom – meaning that it was this much-beloved book series that introduced me to the beautiful realm of fan activity when I was 11.
But then a couple of weeks ago while watching an episode of PBS Idea Channel, I remembered something about elementary school and realised: Sailor Moon actually came first.
Cosplay without costumes
No, I didn’t read or write fanfic back then, but my friends and I slipped into the characters from the show and held epic battles on the playground during intervals at our school. You could say we were cosplaying without costumes =)
Too bad I can’t for the life of me recall what storylines we hashed out. I somehow always ended up being Bunny, aka the title character, and my best friend usually seized the villain role even though I thought being the villain would be much, much cooler than Bunny the do-gooder. Sometimes I got to be Sailor Jupiter, though, who I can call my first same-sex crush in retrospect.
Nevertheless, those bits and pieces or brief flashes that I do remember from my elementary school days are already tinged in the sort of feeling that being in fandom nowadays invokes in me. Sure, some aspects sucked, but overall the experience of being part of a community united by a common source of enthusiasm will always win out.
From letters to fanfic
The story doesn’t end here, though. Memory truly is a fickle mistress – yeah, it’s luck... or hang on, it's fate… ah, they’re all fickle sometimes!
Anyway: I tend to regard the Harry Potter EWE AU (meaning an alternate universe story that ignores the infuriating 19 Years Later epilogue of the final HP book) I started after reading Deathly Hallows as the first fic I ever wrote. But I actually wrote a Alexander/Hephaistion fic that was never finished after watching the film Alexander gave me too many feels about that canon pairing, and if you want to get technical you could also call the letters I exchanged with friends as fanfic.
It was a great thing my best friend from elementary school and I started, which then spread to other friends of ours: again, we’d pretend to be a character in a fictional universe, but this time we’re original characters, OCs. We’d self-insert like so many people still do today, but without a concept of Mary Sue-ing or even fanfic.
I’m not sure if we started as witches within Harry Potter or as female soldiers in a Band of Brothers inspired Second World War narrative (mind you, we were two German women born in 1991 playing characters on the side of the American forces^^)… but I still have folders of letters at home. We’d type them out on mid-90s computers, then print them, which took, like, an hour per page, seriously… Then we’d call each other on the landline with an excited, “My reply’s done!” and both rush out of our respective houses in our village in rural Bavaria. Both our houses are near the village’s outer limits so we’d meet up in the middle near a bridge in the fields between us and watch the other read the letter. When we weren’t both home we’d hide them and wait for the call about the update. It was hilarious and so much fun that even typing this makes me grin from ear to ear :D
It’s baffling that nowadays, I can’t stand first-person narrators in any literary work of fiction and harbour a great dislike of epistolary, when my roots as a fangirl reside within a fan activity that united both of these facets.
Whatever shall we make of that, folks?