On meeting a fellow fan, or: a penpal becomes a real person

I still struggle with the “how crazy am I really?” problem, perhaps more than is obvious given my apparent surrender to acute logorrhoea at this blog.

One boundary I set for myself that’s made this writing easier for me is the feeling that Servetus the writer isn’t entirely real. I overlap with her in significant ways, but we are not entirely contiguous. The daily household chores, my engagement with the pumpkins, the practical problems I’m called on to solve, the housekeeping, gritting my teeth: those things are real and justify this activity as unreal escapism — even as I put aside my increasing awareness that as trivial as it may seem, it’s specifically the desire to do this writing that keeps me animated and helps those words pour out. I may be troubled by Servetus but unleashing her is the thing that makes me happiest in the world at the moment. I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep Servetus alive and functioning. So the apparent unreality of Servetus is frequently a helpful fiction: say what you think, be honest — but don’t let Servetus ever be fully real. That way she can’t be damaged in the way that you have been.

It’s been unclear to me where meeting a fellow fan falls in the spectrum from crazy to sane, but it’s definitely a step in the direction of making Servetus more real. If Servetus meets a fellow fan in her physical form, she has to cop to being a real person, to saying: I am responsible for all of this, whether good, bad, or mediocre. Meeting a fellow fan makes spheres in my life that I try to keep separate collide. All that on top of the anxieties that always accompany meeting someone whom one knows well in a limited setting and has never met. We all compensate for things in our writing, we all make up for holes we sense in ourselves by means of narrative techniques. Writing successfully makes me feel strong, but it doesn’t obscure my awareness of reality. First of all, the flawed nature of human communication means we can easily create false impressions. (One of my worries, for instance, is that my ongoing discussion of clothes here makes readers think I am a stylish fashion plate — nothing could be further from the truth!) Then, there’s my awareness of how I really am when I am not writing. I worry about not being pretty enough, about having disagreeable political opinions, or displaying some bothersome and unoverlookable tic. I see myself from the perspective of meeting one of the characters in Seinfeld, who find something objectionable in every person they meet, and worry that I am not lovable enough to spend even an afternoon with. And finally, there’s the problem of the expectations that are created by fixing a particular identity through interacting with another person. If I have a particularly thoughtful day when I meet someone, then I feel under obligation to continue being that person in situations where I know that person is reading or watching. Never meeting anyone I am in contact with through the blog means a more flexible identity, the preservation of a larger discursive sphere of freedom for myself. And then there’s the “what will we talk about for seven hours?” question.

So although it’s been suggested to me a handful of times that I meet a fellow fan, I’ve never agreed to do it — and excused myself with the explanation that I just wasn’t ready. I’ve gone to cities where I knew other fans live and never gotten in touch. Wasn’t ready to give up the freedom, but also: not ready to be weighed in the balance and found wanting, or — perhaps — not ready to let go of my fears?

Recently a series of improbable planets aligned — I still can’t fully explain it — and so I actually proposed to a fellow fan that we meet. I took the initiative. And she agreed! That’s how I spent most of Saturday, bracketed by drives to and fro that allowed me to think about it all.

Result: it was a day with everything! Good weather, culture, fresh air, nature, exercise, good food, and conversations about everything possible including, but not limited to, the really vital questions about Richard Armitage. (And it was neat to be with a real life person who I know wouldn’t mind if I wanted to talk about him, and the nature and politics of Armitageworld, a lot.) Beyond Armitage, we found we had a lot in common, including our senses of humor. We talked about the stuff we saw, dealing with parents, careers, karma, the world, travel, books, and even that touchy topic: U.S. politics. In real life, my fellow fan was just like she seems in other contexts: witty, understanding, intelligent, a great observer of the world around her, mature, together, kind. I left hoarse from hours of talk, feeling like a virtual friend had become a real friend. It was both what I would have expected if I hadn’t allowed my fears to control me — and simultaneously so, so much better than I expected. Like Anselm says, things that really exist are per definitionem greater than the ones that you can only imagine.

Said fellow fan pointed out to me toward the end of the day that meeting someone in real life is maybe the most “normal” aspect of participating in a fandom. I hadn’t thought about that, but it seemed true to me, and just as importantly, it would also have been true even if it hadn’t gone so well. Meeting a virtual friend is a way of normalizing a highly regulated relationship, of allowing both the friends to grow. It’s not a restriction of freedom, it’s a granting of freedom to another person to be herself. That has to be a positive thing.

I hope I’ll be braver the next time someone suggests a meeting. I learned Saturday that real life contact with fellow fans definitely falls on the sane side of the fan spectrum. And if things are better that exist in reality than only in the mind, maybe meeting other fans and letting them see me be real is a way to make the Servetus of the blog as real as I wish she could be, of making her discursive strength a strength that moves beyond words.

[ETA: Hazel Osmond, she of the wonderful “Love is a Wound” (at DF), posted on a similar topic a few days ago. I just saw it now. Worth reading. I especially liked this quote: “This is a fascinating process because it’s a direct reversal of what normally happens when friendships are formed: you meet someone, get to know them, decide if you want to be friends – in this instance, you’ve decided quite a way back down the line if you want to be friends by picking up on all those little signs that people give out that tell you you’re on the same wavelength”.]

[ETA: Judiang outs herself as the fellow fan in a revealing post.]

~ by Servetus on July 25, 2011.

88 Responses to “On meeting a fellow fan, or: a penpal becomes a real person”

  1. Oh, Servetus, I am so glad your day with a fellow fan went so well–and that you feel so encouraged to consider allowing yourself to do the same with other fans.

    Don’t we all have these fears we won’t live up to other’s expectations somehow? That we won’t be judged thin/pretty/smart/witty/ interesting enough if they actually met us?

    But being brave and taking a chance paid off. You learned something new about relationships and about yourself.

    Personally, I would love to meet you and so many others out there. For one thing, you all understand and relate to my mania for Richard ; ) Benny is pretty understanding, but still . . .

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    • yeah, if you can’t have us, you’ve got Benny πŸ™‚ including his willingness to put on black leather for you πŸ™‚

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      • True. Not every man would be willing to look for a pair of black leather pajamas, would they? πŸ™‚

        I also loved the fact he made sure I noticed the second time Richard’s name appeared in the credits. He teases me a lot–but I think he also gets a bit of a kick out of it all. He’s always like that childlike sense of wonder and whimsy I have retained . . . even though it’s taken a beating at times.

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  2. This is great but I am bummed that you didn’t come near enough to my neck of the woods. : D

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    • I thought you might say that πŸ™‚ Hey, at least someone else got me over my reservations about it. Now if it turns out to be convenient maybe I won’t be so reluctant πŸ™‚

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    • See, I softened her up for you. Now where’s that super secret video you mentioned? πŸ˜‰

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  3. So glad it went well for you!

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  4. Lovely! I have some friends from another fandom that I’ve had for over 10 years. These days we rarely speak about the musician that brought us together, they’ve just become “normal” friends. I didn’t have an alias back then so I don’t know how I’d feel about doing it now, it hasn’t come up. Past experience has been good so I guess I’d be open to it. I’m glad you’ve had a positive experience! Having a safe space to talk about RA mania while also expanding a relationship beyond a singular interest can only be a good thing on both counts πŸ™‚

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  5. That’s great! I wish a bunch of us RA buddies could get together in one big hoard and have lunch together~ enjoying each other’s company, laughing and discussing The Armitage. πŸ™‚

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    • I’ve always wanted to do that Nat! The only one I’ve met in real life is 24 years old and a close friend of my granddaughters! I loved meeting her and she is one of the sweetest people you would ever wish to meet but I had to wonder what she thought of this old granny who’s “in love” with a guy SO many years her junior!! It didn’t actually seem to bother her and the three of us do plan to get together again soon. When I say “the three of us” I didn’t mean she, RA and I, sadly! I wish!! πŸ˜‰ Not in reality anyway!

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      • many young people are condescending to old people, so I’m glad she was sweet about it. (then they get older and realize what dolts they were πŸ™‚

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    • given the distances in the US we’d have to have a convention, Nat. RACon? Armitagecon?

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      • Maybe we could have an East Coast and West Coast event–I think a three-day weekend would definitely be in order. πŸ™‚

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      • That would definitely be a good idea. Other admirers/fans catch up during premier nights in cities nearest them while others do fly out distances to be together with a group they want to be associated with.

        In the case of another actor, his manager does his homework who the blog owners are and during premier nights, or TV appearances if they are in the audience, the Manager would call the actor’s attention and introduce them. I suppose the Manager and the blog owners have previous communication or they have banners to identify themselves. I believe this is acknowledging the input of blog owners for supporting the actor’s career. It depends on the Blog Owners if they want to be opted out. It’s understandable… some have to protect their privacy due to their profession.

        In some cases, during press conferences, blog owners aside from the press gallery are given the chance to interview the actor for their own blog and following. The choice is yours.

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  6. I am glad you could connect Servetus to real live in such an enjoyable way. I hope Servetus feels comfortable in the real world. She conquered a new space in your life it seems to me ;o)
    I never met RA-fans in RL so far, so I did not make this experience of having to connect (roles/) identities. I fear it as well. Perhaps when watching Captain America and taking my RA-bag along?

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  7. I sounds like you had a great day with a fellowfan and this is really why I joined the fandom (not why I became a fan ;-)). I needed someone to talk about RA. To talk to someone who knew what kind of feelings I mean, when I say: “SWOON” or “SQEEE”. Luckily my cousin is also into RA, but I dont see her very often, and she is rarely on the internet.

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  8. Nat, I would love that too.

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  9. I think it would be great fun to meet others from RA land – I don’t know anyone in my neck of the woods who is familiar with his work. Maybe we could arrange some sort of US get together? Or even a regional get together? Probably too hard to coordinate schedules, but a girl can dream, right?

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    • I feel like that’s a task beyond my powers, but who knows. Maybe someday?

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    • It is definitely doable. I’ve been part of gatherings organized in London and Toronto. It’s really not that hard.

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      • The key would be to outsource as much of it as possible, though that might make it more expensive, and to have it in a place where people would want to go anyway.

        There’s a group I watch, moms of adopted children with severe trauma, and they have a yearly event somewhere in Florida where they reserve a small resort. The point for them is venting / exchanging about their difficult home lives and getting lots of rest around the pool. They seem to at least break even.

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  10. How wonderful! And thank you for your honestyβ€”you describe anxieties and fears that I often feel.

    I love the clothing commentary on the blog by the way. At times, I feel like an aberrant writer of poetry for taking an interest in fashion. I love the transformative aspect of fashion, but I am also interested in the craft and the historical implications of what we wear.

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    • I’m glad you like the clothes talk. I always used to distinguish between knowing about clothes and caring about them (the men I’ve dated haven’t cared that much, and it hasn’t bugged me, although that’s the reason in part that i knew so much — because we had to have advice about how to buy a suit), though Armitage is breaking down that distinction somewhat.

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  11. There are many meetups organised in RA land that I see referred to on forums – though have not participatrd myself.

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    • The ones I’ve seen advertised were all in England. However, the U.S. is so large that it makes it hard. Maybe the East coast people could manage it, or the people in one of the larger cities. But for instance, I had to drive two hours in each direction on Saturday and so did the other fan. If you’re going to make that kind of commitment, you usually want more than just drinks or supper.

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  12. Fandom means you will share one common interest and when you’re already communicating, be it through a blog/forum/email, you usually will find yourself drawn to some people more than others. Which means even with just the written word there is something about that person you like.

    I’ve met some wonderful people through fandom, even if I’m only on the outer fringes. And some have become real friends.

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    • yeah, I definitely know fans i wouldn’t necessarily want to meet, or at least not one on one πŸ™‚

      This made me wonder what would have happened had I ever met any of the “penpals” I had as a child. You pour out your heart to someone you don’t know IRL precisely because it feels safe for that reason.

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      • Ha! I’ll be blunt, there are some fans I simply would not want to meet. And if I do find myself in their company, I’d still give them a wide berth for as long as possible. πŸ˜‰
        That’s probably one of the reasons why I keep a (very irregular) diary. When I find myself mulling too much, I need to write it down so I can fine-tune my thoughts, dissect them and try to understand them etc.

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        • the thing about a one on one meeting is you can’t avoid that particular fan, right? while at a conference you could just always stand on the other side of the room πŸ™‚

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          • As a rule I usually don’t meet one on one for the very first meeting. Just to avoid such a situation. πŸ˜‰

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  13. Having just arrived home after spending all last week at a…drum roll please…fandom thingy, I am amazed and delighted to find this particular post when I finally slowed down to catch up on emails, blogs, etc.!!!!! Too eerie!!?

    Old lady experience has taught me to forge ahead on the stuff that scares the pants off of me. Nearly 10 years ago, I drove over a 1000 miles by myself to join a crowd of fans. I had spent a year communicating with a group of around 14 “fans” with whom I had “bonded” thru a message board. The message board eventually evolved into emailing each other after 9/11 (we sorts of jelled as a group during that horrible time.)and that evolved to phone calls and then actual face to face meetings. The opportunity to do such a nutty thing was way beyond my job description…NEVER had I done such a thing. On my OWN?!! Heaven forbid. I was 50 years old and had not once in my life ventured out on my own. Not kidding. For real! Yep, I was a tad anxious and about backed out of it. But I put on my big girl panties, packed up the SUV and took off. I prayed the entire 1000 miles. Please Lord, no flats. No overheated motor. No running out of gas. No getting lost. And I did it!!!! I had an excuse all worked out if the ladies I was meeting were the least bit Trekkieish. “My husband just called and there’s an emergency at home.” Voila! I had a BLAST!! Yeah, there were some weirdos (but not severely weird!) and there were a couple of situations to deal with, but HEY! That’s life! The result? I have lifetime friends who I talk to at least weekly and get to see yearly. Three have been to my home…from Texas and Missouri.

    Believe me. It’s worth the apprehension! Heck, I’ve met up with one of US. And she wasn’t one bit weird. Well, except for that license plate that has RA on it…I’m kidding!! And we talk on the phone now. And I didn’t scare her off. Well, I don’t think. Not yet anyways.

    Yes you have to be careful. Discernment is key but just think of the wonderful laides I would’ve missed knowing if I had let fear rule my actions! I’ve learned SO much from them. And I am learning tons from you lovely ladies!!

    So glad you enjoyed your visit and hope you’ll do it again! I plan to!! πŸ™‚

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    • NB, I had the same trepidation when I joined the Doctor Who fandom. They had their annual convention in my city and virtual friends wanted to meet me. My plan was if there were too many weirdos, I could always go home. Yeah, there were some odd ones but everybody else seemed “normal.” We had a blast. We really looked forward to that con and were sad when the organizers disbanded several years later.

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      • thing is…there are “odd ones” in our town and in my family. You just learn to steer clear w/o being mean? Very quickly (usually) I find those with whom I have the most in common. I look at as a stretching exercise because in my rural situation, I just don’t get many opportunities to meet such a wide variety of people. I love it!

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        • yeah, and in situations where you’re more responsible for them — like in your church / house of worship.

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        • Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that not only do we have that TV series in common, but found out that among our leadership team, I have a fellow RA admirer. Scenario: we’re at a team/VIP dinner. Someone mentions Alan Rickman in Costner’s Robin Hood. My buddy says something like “he was good but didn’t have the lovely deep voice of the other Gisborne.” I whipped around, grabbed her and said, “Are we talking about the same Gisborne, as in the BBC production?!!” She screamed, “YESSS! RICHARD!” “As in Armitage??!” I asked. “YESSSS! IS he not gorgeous?!” she asked, with which I replied, “But have you seen N&S? And Spooks?”…by that time, we had a somewhat shocked if not entertained audience who was certain that we were either crazy or well on our way to crazy. We’ve known each other since 02 and have been on the team together for the last 3 yrs. Didn’t want to out ourselves I guess. She’s already emailed me her fav screensaver featuring you know who! And she’s introduced him to another team member. I enticed 2 other team members to watch N&S so we’ll see how their fandom/obsession progresses!!!! I’m so mean! However, my BFF on the team does the eye roll thing at the mention of his name, altho she did go to see Captain America with me. And loved it! So there’s hope.

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    • were you at Comic-Con, NB???!??

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      • ROTFLOL! Nope, but I MUST check them out! This is a group that gathers around a 90’s TV series that was cancelled inexplicably. Good people they are!

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        • Dr. Quinn? (That’s one I liked back in the ol’ 90’s.)

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          • @Nat…the precursor of Dr. Quinn, Christy, based on Catherine Marshall’s novel. Just got back last week from the gathering! Too much fun!

            And now I know what Comic-Con is! Looks like PJ was there?

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  14. […] Servetus posted about meeting a fellow fan on Saturday but mentioned no […]

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  15. Okay, just outed myself as the fellow fan on my blog. πŸ˜€

    Servetus, I had a great time with you. Your were exactly as I’d hope you would be. I’m thrilled it was such a great experience for you ( and me too). Do you think we’ll start a trend?

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  16. Servetus, welcome to the wonderful world of “people who’ve met judiang”! We’re an elite group who have discovered what a fun and witty person she is.

    It’s always nice to know that not every person that you meet online is an ax murderer. (I think I’ve only met two IRL that come close and I’ve avoided them ever since.) I still remember my fear & trepidation of going to my first fandom convention back in ’95. My folks driving me to Ft Wayne to meet up with a lady from Detroit. That lady, long with judiang a year later, became my besteriest friends in the universe. And funnily enough, still are. πŸ™‚

    For me, the best part of fandom is the people that you meet and the friendships that you form. And it’s great to see RA fans beginning this trek as well.

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    • judiang is seriously cool. And she has a very orange dress. πŸ™‚ We had agreed to use very obvious signs to meet each other, and that was really obvious. (I had a neon green messenger bag.)

      Thanks for the comment, trinalin.

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      • I figured you couldn’t miss me. A good thing too, seeing how many black people got off the train. πŸ˜‰

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      • Wait, trinalin came over here and posted???!!! I think I just pulled her into RA fandom sideways. Must show her North & South as soon as possible. πŸ˜‰

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        • surprised me too.

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          • And we continue our relentless conquering march across the continents with the rallying cry “Vive L’Armitage!”

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            • is that ‘veev l’Armitidge” or “veev l’ahrmitahge”?

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              • LOL! Well, technically, it would be Ahrmitahge if you wanted to be Frenchified about it–hey, maybe those red carpet interviewers thought he was French! πŸ˜‰ Of course, then it would have been “Ree-shard Ahrmitahge . . .” Suddenly I have an overwhelming need to hear RA speak French. Ooh-la-la-la-la! *sigh*

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  17. It’s great you guys (Servetus and Judiang) had fun and enjoyed your day together. I was part of a fandom that made annual get-togethers, it was mostly in the US so I wasn’t able to participate but from the stories they shared afterwards and from what I could gather from their interaction in the chatroom (something like the one judiang has ‘opened’) they had an awesome time and formed a great friendship.

    OML πŸ™‚

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    • I invision creating a similar experience for ArmitageWorld. The chat room was part of my Master Plan for world – er, socializing. πŸ˜‰ We have enough fans in various locations to hold regional get-togethers. Maybe we could stage a big annual gathering for example when RA does The Rover. I’ve been a part of a London event like that before.

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      • Way to take charge, judiang!

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      • Well, if I’m lucky The Rover will take place in 2 or more years, so I could go to the London meet-up LOL

        Ok, so you’re officially the leader in world – socializing πŸ˜‰ “Everything started with a chat room, then came the… the responsible: Judiang”

        OML πŸ˜‰

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  18. Well done ladies! I’ll be waiting for the next episode …..

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  19. Great reading about your meeting from both of you. πŸ™‚ Sounds like you had a great time!

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  20. […] gone because total hits now number 11,173!Β Β  The On Meeting Another Other Fan post about meeting Servetus and my musings on racism took the honors with the most hits, followed by the completely silly but […]

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  21. […] OK, let’s admit, I never thought I’d actually meet people whom I’d never met because of doing this! […]

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  22. […] when I ask myself about vivid, so many moments come to mind. My first fan meetup. Watching the Captain America premiere red carpet via live streaming. Seeing Richard […]

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  23. […] more comfortable telling some fellow fans my name. And I’ve actually met several fans — Judiang, Fedoralady (we didn’t write about that meeting at the time because of the person who bullied […]

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