Intro from Alice: I do love sharing these fan stories when I get them. I remember when I shared my own story, just when I started blogging for Supernatural back in 2008, I only found the show at the beginning of season three. I'm stunned how new fans are finding it today, often times through the daily TNT repeats. This is one such story. I had to honor of meeting and spending time with Nightsky at Chicago con, and her story is always so refreshing to hear. It reminds me why I keep doing this. Because the Supernatural fans are the greatest in the world.
This is part one of Nightsky's story. Part two will be up in a few days. Enjoy!
I was very hesitant about going to my first Supernatural convention. I was a person who had traveled to different continents, had a rewarding career, raised a family. I was happy, living a normal, gratifying, respectable life, minding my own business. How could I even be thinking of going to a fan convention? But I am getting ahead of myself.
The Journey to Becoming a Card-Carrying Supernatural Fan
Part 1, Indoctrination
I discovered Supernatural accidentally (if you believe anything ever happens by accident) about 6 months ago. I saw reruns of the show one morning while I was spinning through channels and remembered my daughter telling me about it several years earlier. She said it was a good story about two guys who hunt ghosts and demons. Yuch! I hate creepy things that keep me up at night! Well, it was either that or CNN, so I decided to give it a try.
At first, I was only half paying attention, but something about it pulled me in. I found I had stopped what I was doing and was watching these two brothers who were gorgeous, unassuming, sensitive, dangerous, complex and ingenuous. They were gun toting heroes who were driven by "family". The classic rock music was my music and unlike most TV shows, I couldn't figure out the plot's "big reveal" in the first 3 minutes of the show. The next morning, I tuned in again. This happened day after day, until I realized I was completely hooked! The reruns were somewhere in season 4, which was exciting, confusing, compelling and a little terrifying all at the same time. Who were these guys? I could tell there was a much bigger story here, and I was intrigued. So, shedding the reticence that had previously kept me squarely rooted in the real world, I bought the entire series on DVD (the first time I had ever bought a TV show on DVD). The show was currently airing its 7thseason in prime time, so I had 6 years of captivating suspense and heart-wrenching moments ahead of me. I caught up on the lives of "the boys" by watching 130 episodes straight! Two to three hours of Supernatural every night. My poor family had to either watch Sam and Dean with me, or be exiled to the basement TV!
In retrospect, I think this was the best possible way to enjoy seasons 1 through 6. I didn't have to endure suspenseful cliff-hangers, "Hellatus", character or plot angst, or writers' strikes. Impala gets T-boned "“ no problem. Just start the next episode from the spot on the floor where I collapsed in shock. Sam dies by getting stabbed in the back "“ hit "play" with the slightly tear-soaked tissues in hand. Dean gets strung up in hell "“ gasp, breathe"¦hit play. You get the idea. It is not enough to say I had absolutely fallen in love with the show, no, I had become obsessed with it. Nothing had ever captured my imagination, my dedication, like this before.
As much as I told myself to get a grip, I just couldn't shake my need to be further immersed in the SPN world. There was something going on with the show, its fans"¦and me that I didn't recognize and couldn't identify. I needed to know more, but where to start?
My first frustration was recognizing that everyone seemed to know things about the show, its actors, the season - really anything related to SPN - much faster than me. How were they all so connected? Exactly how did everyone know to vote for the People's Choice awards at exactly the right time? Why didn't I find out about Jared and Thomas being on the cover of People magazine until the issues were no longer at the newsstands? This was no longer just about the show. I was feeling something else going on. There seemed to be a broader connection, a vastly interconnected world I was beginning to sense. I had to find out more. So I Googled. And Googled. And Googled. Which sites had interesting information and intelligent commentaries? Which analysts gave insightful, respectful reviews? Who knew what was going ON??
What I found completely amazed me. Technical analyses of directing, lighting, timing and writing. Complex examination of plot arcs and mythologies based in world religions that rivaled the symbolism autopsies I had to do on Shakespeare's works back in school. I learned that I wasn't alone in my fascination with Supernatural. There were a lot of really smart people mesmerized by this show. That, at least, was comforting. So I picked a few web sites and started reading.
This was about the time that Jared was approaching his 30thbirthday. The fans seemed to have a personal connection to Jared, Jensen and Misha (as well as several others) that was really cool. I wanted in. From the web sites I was following thus far, it seemed that Twitter was the path through which all information was flowing. Oh boy. Out of necessity and blatant peer pressure I had a Facebook account, but I had never really found a use for it (I have no idea why anyone would want to know what I am doing every minute of the day!) Now, it seemed, an even faster paced social media formed the links in the chain that bound fans together. No one I knew was on Twitter, not even my kids. So if I was going to be in the middle of fandom, I would have to enter this brave new world by myself.
I have to pause here and explain something. I had been quite proud of the fact that in the last several years of my life, I had lived a fulfilling existence without burying myself in the technological advances that connected people electronically. Don't get me wrong - I was quite adept on the internet, instant messaging and texting. But that is where it ended. I had a cell phone, not a smart phone. I liked to read books by turning paper pages, not scrolling down on a screen. I had been given an iPad for a gift, but I used it only for to-do lists on the "notes" tool. I didn't have "apps" or "accounts" or "screen names". It was painfully clear though, that I wasn't going to be able to break through to the inside of the Supernatural world without upgrading"¦a lot.
So I got myself an Apple account, learned how to add icons to my iPad, downloaded the Twitter app and taught myself the power of 140 characters. I had a deadline: July 19. I read the help screen and "followed" @jarpad. My very first tweet was a heartfelt congratulations to Jared on 30 wonderfully successful years and living his dreams. I had done it. I was the newest member of the Supernatural fandom! In about 3 months Supernatural had catapulted me out of my safe, familiar world into the world of iPads, apps, blogs, social media, podcasts and internet radio. Twitter is now the second thing I check every day (the first still being email). I know which "WinchesterFamilyBusiness" writers share my views. I anxiously await the episode rating from the "Supernatural Review Blog". Supernatural had done in just a few months what I had not been motivated to do for several years"¦.catch up on technology.
So now I knew what was going on as fast as any other fan around the world, and I was awed by what I saw. Something about the Supernatural fans, and the power they collectively have, inspired me. For example, The People's Choice Awards were avalanched with votes to win Supernatural the Best TV Drama award. More than popularity contests, though, the fans could, and have, quickly organized themselves to change the world for the better. Recognizing his opportunity to harness this power, Misha founded the Random Acts charity, and with the fan's support was the first person ever to win 25,000 from a European lottery system for his charity. In the very next month, Jensen was propelled to #1, winning another 25,000â‚¬ for his Down Syndrome charity"¦ and the fans are now working to get Jared's charity to #1 for his share of the pie. When Thomas Colton was born, Jared and Genevieve were astounded by how much money was raised for St. Jude's Children's hospital, all because they requested that gifts be given to the hospital instead of sent to their home. There is even a group (Support SPN) whose mission is to help the show and its fans while raising money for charities. At a moment's notice, the worldwide fandom can be pointed in a direction, and it/they/we will accomplish amazing things.
So we have arrived at my interest in the Supernatural fan conventions. Through Twitter, I heard stories of the worldwide conventions. I felt the excitement shared by the fans before, during and after they got together. I started following links to YouTube clips, which led to watching longer clips, which led to doing searches for entire panel talks, which led to (have you guessed yet?) adding YouTube to my iPad and getting my very own YouTube account. I became familiar with the uniqueness of each city's conventions, and the best (and worst) questions asked by fans. I would have thought that I was beyond being surprised by anything SPN, but I was once again amazed at the thought and care Jared and Jensen put into their answers. They were honest, personal and open with their fans. I guess I expected standard, practiced answers, but no matter how many times the same question was asked, they were attentive, polite and sincere. Who were these guys? How long could I hold out without seeing them in person?
I have tried to analyze the show's strange magnetism many times. I know that it motivates me, entertains me and inspires me. I have become completely absorbed by the Winchester brothers' pain, fears, doubts, loyalties, triumphs and courage to keep going against all odds because a part of me has experienced so many of the same emotions in the privacy of my own heart and mind (albeit not with real demons, monsters, heaven or hell but with the more recognizable challenges of living life). But go to a convention?? Admit my dedication to a compelling fictional story, imagined characters, and oh yeah, two amazing actors?? What was wrong with me? How could I even be considering such an indulgent use of much-needed paychecks? What had happened to the practical, responsible, type-A family member I had always been? Picture a house in the suburbs, SUV in the garage, dog in the backyard. Was I really ready to be seen at a fan convention of any type? I may have joined the Supernatural wave, but I was ready for the big plunge into fandom?
Maybe I could find a way to test the waters and judge if it was safe to go in. Chicago is my home town, so I rationalized that I wouldn't have to spend the money to travel to a remote convention location. I could go home each night, further reducing costs, but more importantly, holding onto that life preserver of sanity and familiarity I needed. I peeked at one and two day admission prices, thinking I wouldn't be totally committed to the whole convention, but the people I wanted to see and the parties I wanted to attend were strategically spread across all three days. So I priced out a silver ticket, which would at least guarantee me a place to sit in the totally unfamiliar universe I was entering. I had controlled the experiment as much as I could. So feeling guilty, embarrassed, crazy and uncertain, I dug deep for some courage of my own and bought a ticket to ChiCon.
Get the rest of the story! Part II - The Convention Experience