Elayne Riggs: Beyond Fifteen Minutes
At my age (insert obligatory "hey you kids, get out of my store!, what do you think this is, a reading room?" here) the blasts from the past seem to blow with ever increasing frequency and velocity. I’m used to various elements of my past circling back on me, as my forays into pop culture hobbies always seem to result in intersecting circles of friends and acquaintances. A number of the same people who used to write for a zine I self-published twenty years ago probably (like me) have their own weblogs now, in an era where self-expression means you no longer have to spend a single cent to get your writing out to potentially millions of readers every day.
And yet, the more things around us seem to update and lurch into fast-forward, the more familiar they seem to me. No substantial difference, really, between passing around handwritten story pages to classmates or cranking out apazines or posting on message boards or blogging. It’s all one-to-many conversation, it’s all storytelling and essay-writing, it just comes down to a matter of scale and audience. The big difference is that nowadays, thanks to online archives and search engines, our stories are no longer so easily lost.
Last winter, my best friend from college passed away. Bill-Dale Marcinko was heavily involved in comics fandom back in the late 1970s, and a tremendous influence on the hobbies and interests I would have in my adult life. He was the first person to try and get me interested in comics (which I dismissed at the time not because they were "just for boys" or "all fight scenes" but because I had neither the inclination nor the disposable income to "keep track of all those soap opera’y plots"), he introduced me to good music and comedy that made me aware there were people out there who thought like I did, and he was even responsible for me meeting my first husband when he put an ad in CBG publicizing my then-new zine and Steve became a subscriber.
I loved Billy with a passion beyond definition, even after we fell out of touch when he decided to become a recluse, and I will always consider him my mentor. Billy’s demise was not only untimely but tragically preventable – he burned to death in a house fire from which he could not escape nor be rescued because all egresses were blocked, it was said, by "an immense amount of cardboard boxes". But I wonder if his gradual pushing away of all friendships didn’t do him in as much as his love of collecting and clutter. Billy was a terrific writer as well, but none of his work is online, so he lives on through the tributes of others lucky enough to have known him or read him in "hard copy."
Unlike Brian Converse, who left this earth last autumn. Brian was known to Firesign Theatre fandom (something else in which I got involved thanks to Billy) as "klokwkdog" and was a kind and witty soul, knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects as so many online fans seem to be. We held a midnight remembrance of Brian recently on the Firesign chat site, and were able not only to listen to his voice via streaming audio, but to search through past emails and chat sessions to reread his words and wisdom. Chances are, as long as we live his "voice" will be as accessible to us as he was in chat and email.
And early this year my best friend in the world, Leah Adezio, suddenly succumbed to liver and kidney failure at the age of 46. (I’ve written about her more on my blog.) One of Leah’s favorite expressions was "It’s all good," reflecting not only her cheerful demeanor but her enthusiasm for all the cool and fun stuff in life, such as online participation in a number of fandoms, including comics (as creator of the Ari of Lemuria project – which I was privileged to co-author and a little of which saw print in Friends of Lulu’s Storytime anthology – as well as an active con-goer and fan writer and artist). She left a legacy in both paper and pixels almost as impressive as the one she left in our hearts. It is to her that this column is dedicated.
Unlike Billy and Brian, Leah passed away surrounded by family and friends; like them, she’s missed and loved by a fair amount of others whom she inspired and helped. Fandom will do that. As far as I’m concerned, the more connections we make through our writing and our love of other people’s storytelling, the more we enrich our lives and the lives of everyone we touch.
This brave new world certainly serves as incentive to keep fandom flourishing, and whether it also steers amateur writers away from actively trying to "turn pro" – because they know their stories will live on regardless, as long as there’s an internet – remains to be seen, now that we needn’t publish professionally for our words to be remembered well past our actual lifespans (let alone our promised "fifteen minutes of fame" Warhol foretold). It’s a strange sort of immortality our forebears could hardly have envisioned.
And the more my generation deals with the reality of bodily mortality and the illusion of permanence, the more some of us contemplate that immortality of our tales and ideas.
Most of the other contributors here on ComicMix are in my generation, perhaps even a bit older. Many have left indelible marks in the world of comics that are still being discussed and will be for years to come. In addition, John Ostrander’s late wife Kim Yale was one of my heroes, and the main reason I was so involved with Friends of Lulu for so long. The way she connected with and inspired people was magical. Comics is like that – both the medium and the industry. It’s full of heroes both within and between the pages, characters and people you want to befriend and emulate.
I’ve been lucky enough to be welcomed into the comics industry family for the last couple of decades, both in my first marriage to a staunch fanboy and my current marriage to an industry professional, and have been privileged to cultivate the friendly acquaintance of countless creative people at conventions and via online gathering places from CompuServe to Usenet to message boards and now blogs. And they, like me, recognize that we "comics folk" have things in common that transcend the generations. I can relate to a pioneer like Hilda Terry (may her dear soul rest in peace) as easily as I can to an age peer like Heidi MacDonald or to relative newcomers like Lisa "Ragnell" Fortuner and Melissa "Kalinara" Krause (the talented brains behind the must-read women-in-comics compilation weblog When Fangirls Attack!), because we share a love of the medium and its rich history and its promise of more riches to come. And in sharing our love and our hopes and our stories, we become a part of our hobby and, thanks to 21st century technology, a part of generations to come. We can achieve our little bubbles of specialized immortality now just by reaching out to each other and committing our ideas to pixels.
In addition to editing the ComicMix news, Elayne Riggs is host of one of the finest and longest-lasting popular culture blogs, Pen-Elayne on the Web.