Why I love my ATPo

14 Jun


I have been a part of on-line fandom for ten years now. It was some time in the summer after Season 2 of BtVS that I was lured out to teh internets in search of spoilers that would reassure me that Angel was not stuck in hell forever, but would return. Being new to online fandom, I naturally went to the Official Place for Buffy fans, namely, the Bronze Posting Board. I lurked there for several months, reading posts but not writing any until, some time in the Fall, I began to see a small group of women on the board touting their new Bronze club, Faith and Buffy in ’99. I was not any kind of ‘shipper, but the fact that they were so open about their search for lesbian subtext impressed me and I was lured out of lurkdom. My new friends and I discussed various bits of subtext in the episodes. At no point, that I recall, did I ever read fanfic about it. I think I knew, peripherally, that some people were doing that, but people did all sorts of interesting fannish things at the Bronze, including, apparently, writing fictional extensions of the Buffyverse.

For me, being a fan was about discussing the show: what we thought of the characters, what we thought of the plot developments, what we thought was going to happen, how the show resonated with other aspects of our lives. One of the things I personally enjoyed was searching for nods to various philosophical ideas, for example, the contextuality of knowledge, which appeared in a debate between Giles and Jenny Calendar in I Robot, You Jane.

Some of my F&Bin’99 friends encouraged me to create a webpage where I could make a list of all the philosophical references that I found. So on January 1st, 1999, All Things Philosophical on BtVS was born. And it soon became more than one page as Joss and company continued to produce deeply intelligent television.

I continued as a regular at the Bronze posting board for another year and a half, and occasionally got emails in response to my website. Some of those folks urged me to create a board where they could meet and talk to other visitors to my site, so, on June 14th, 2000, I created the first version of the ATPo board. The whole point of the board was discussion: sometimes deep, sometimes shallow, sometimes serious, sometimes silly, sometimes paragraphs, sometimes essays, but for the people who came to the board, sharing thoughts was the shared experience of fandom. ATPo included folks from all over the world, males and females, teenagers and 60-somethings. If any ATPoers wrote fanfic, I wasn’t especially aware of it. I think our first foray into fanfic as a group was in the summer after Season 5. And we only did it because we were bored and there were no new episodes to talk about.

Now, let me be clear here: I am not dissing fanfic. I am not implying it is somehow lesser than discussion. But seeing as it’s the eighth anniversary of the board, and I wanted to commemorate that, I thought it apropos to talk about what made the board special. And one thing that has struck me since I left the sheltered confines of the ATPo board to venture into fandom at large on Live Journal is that in the larger culture of fandom, fanfic seems synonymous with fandom, an assumption that was odd and alien to me when I first joined LJ, and continues to strike me as odd when I come across it on my flist.

In fact, sometimes it seems (and I may be way off-base here, I’ll admit) that fandom culture at large considers discussion lesser than fanfic, or, at least, a secondary pursuit at best. One thing that implies this is the use of the word “meta” to describe discussion-starters written by fans on Live Journal, whether they be one-paragraph thoughts or long posts. “Meta” means, among other things, “beyond, behind, in addition to,” in other words, “besides all the regular stuff we do, there’s that *ohbythewayanalysis* stuff.”* And people who write “meta” posts usually make a point of saying explicitly, “Oh hey, I’m doing meta,” as if that’s something unusual to do.

Which it may be, for you. In the fandom land I first ventured forth from, so-called “meta” was the whole point. Which is why I love, and continue to love, my ATPo. It’s not just about the friends I’ve made over the past eight years who are Truly Awesome People, it’s about having a subculture of fandom that approaches fandom the same way I do.

*What’s a fandom-related post without a footnote? Tollhouse cookies without the chips, I tell you! The most common definition of “meta” is actually, “Something which refers to itself.” In other words, true fan “meta” is a fan talking about fandom, not a fan talking about the show they are a fan of. The journalfen community “metafandom” is appropriately named, for example, and this post is meta. “Meta” about a TV show is when Buffy says, “Dawn’s in trouble, must be Tuesday”, or Tara growls, “Grr-Argh” with a monster hand-puppet. It’s when the characters slip out of their fictional universe for a second and make reference to the television show they are on.

27 Responses to “Why I love my ATPo”

  1. etrangere June 14, 2008 at 8:05 am #

    And one thing that has struck me since I left the sheltered confines of the ATPo board to venture into fandom at large on Live Journal is that in the larger culture of fandom, fanfic seems synonymous with fandom, an assumption that was odd and alien to me when I first joined LJ, and continues to strike me as odd when I come across it on my flist.
    I totally agree with you! I’ve really been missing discussion-heavy fannish activities, I guess LJ isn’t very welcoming for it structural, because discussions is so widespread and dispersed and limited in time, so when you’re not synchronized with it or with the people who do it, you can’t really participate. It’s frustrating.
    I see “meta” not as fannish discussions in general, but at these kinds of discussions that are about fannish habits themselves. So this specific post of yours is meta đŸ™‚ but a post discussing a specific kind of subtext in BtVS isn’t meta.
    And yay for ATPoBtVS anniversary! Thank you for it!

  2. chaos_by_design June 14, 2008 at 8:35 am #

    I like meta too. I only read fanfic by certain authors that I can trust to be pretty decent. A lot of fanfic out there is just awful. My preference is for analyzing and picking apart a show as well but I usually can’t find good discussions for the shows I like. Usually people just want to make icons and post fanfic.

  3. ann1962 June 14, 2008 at 11:38 am #

    Thanks for writing this.
    Happiest anniversary to you and the board.
    Thank *YOU* for the board. You are the core.::hugs::
    Sending us all back to the archives, on a Saturday, you are evil! See you in a few hours.

  4. cactuswatcher June 14, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    The timing for me is amazing. I pretty sure I found your original site within days of it going up. I’d been laid off from work for a week and was about to sell my house. Other than packing I didn’t have much to do, but explore the web for the very first time. I know at the time I thought of your site as always having been there.
    When I moved to AZ I was busy with other things, and didn’t too involved on the Net. It must have been in late 2000 or early 2001 I wanted to see what others were saying about the show. I went to the Bronze first, but except for a conversation when Nick Brendon came on for an evening (Maybe that happened earlier), I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on in at the Bronze. It was a lot of gibberish with someone saying something only every once in a while about the actual show.
    I looked at your site again. Not knowing it hadn’t had the discussion board all along, I thought I’d try reading that. The difference was amazing. People were actually talking to each other. There were almost no random “show off” posts that seemed to fill the Bronze. I lurked every once in a while till Buffy died at the end of the season, then decided it was time to jump in. It seemed like I’d been posting for a very long time by the time 9/11 happened.

  5. superplin June 14, 2008 at 3:32 pm #

    Happy Anniversary!
    It seems especially, then, that tonight we’re going to be discussing how to bring the meta back. ;>

  6. mamculuna June 14, 2008 at 3:43 pm #

    That definition of “meta” is interesting. Before I came to the world of fandom, I thought “meta” discussions were discussions about discussions. I began to see that other definition emerging, and find it strange.
    But I can’t tell you how happy I was to find ATPO and how amazing those discussions were. Interestingly, just this morning has raised one of the issues that I really loved seeing debated on ATPO.
    Thanks, Masq!

  7. cornerofmadness June 14, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    happy anniversary

  8. dherblay June 14, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    Happy Anniversary!
    Um, yeah, board, big part of my life. Thank you for everything.

  9. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:23 pm #

    Yes, it seems that in fandom at large, the right brain reigns supreme.

  10. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:38 pm #

    I’m glad you agree. I was kind of worried about sounding condascending to the ficcers on my flist. Of course, you’re an ATPoer from way back, so you live in both fandom worlds.

  11. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    I was, after all, the First Evil on ATPo!
    Thanks, V!

  12. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:46 pm #

    It feels like the board has always been there as well. I try to remember life before it, and it seems very odd! It seemed like such a by-the-way thing when I first started the site, and it’s become such a major part of my life now.

  13. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:52 pm #

    Yeah for the “meta”!!
    It feels like I never lost it, though. Since I came to LJ, I have done reviews of remaining episodes still showing at the time, then I went back and did reviews of all the AtS episodes that aired before I came to LJ, then I did an AtS marathon with several ATPoers for fun.
    I haven’t done much in the way of BtVS reviews, though, so this will be new!
    And have you noticed that in the last week or so, several other old BtVS fans have started up show-watching projects? I’m not sure if they’re fic or discussion, but people seem to be dusting off those DVDs of late…..

  14. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:54 pm #

    There does seem to be a renewed interest in BtVS on my flist of late. I’m going to rewatch the eps with . Should be fun!

  15. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:54 pm #

    Thanks!

  16. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 6:55 pm #

    And I hope you will be popping around a bit more often, young man……

  17. dherblay June 14, 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    Yay, my most cinematic icon! And all my accounts expire in four days!
    I have been writing more compulsively these days, it’s just that my outlet for it has been private emails. Do people really want to hear my improv theories and lovelornness? (My spell check accepts lovelornness?)

  18. neshaffer June 14, 2008 at 7:26 pm #

    You don’t need to post, you can comment! But posts would be good, too, if the spirit moves you…..

  19. midnightsjane June 15, 2008 at 12:53 am #

    Happy Anniversary! You remain the Joss of us, and we are all deeply grateful that you started the board. Without ATPo, our lives would be poorer, because of all the friendships meeting there started.
    My first encounter with the ATPo board was from a rec by a friend who was on the board, but for some reason I didn’t realize there was actual discussions going on for some time. I read all the other parts of the board, the philosophical posts, the character analysis, the essays about Buffy’s journey as a hero, before I found the discussion board. I’m glad I did it that way, because it gave me a better point from which to leap into lurking, and then finally posting.
    I miss the good old days of the board, when everyone would gather after an episode and talk.
    Thanks, Masq.

  20. anomster June 15, 2008 at 6:12 am #

    Good point about the structure of the board being more conducive to discussion than LJ. I think one aspect of that is the mostly friendslist-based nature of LJ, so a post that might engender discussion is harder to find again if you need more time to get your thoughts together, whereas on the board it’s likely to still be there when you come back to comment on it. (BTW, hi, Ete!)
    And to Masq, happy anniversary to you & to all of us! I’m amazed this community has become such a big part of my life.

  21. neshaffer June 15, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    A lot of people sensed something deeper in the show, and went to the internet looking for people who were digging into it, and found ATPo. We were good with the shovels.
    ; D

  22. scrollgirl June 16, 2008 at 2:43 am #

    Joss of us! Joss of us! Joss of us! *waves pom-poms*
    And one thing that has struck me since I left the sheltered confines of the ATPo board to venture into fandom at large on Live Journal is that in the larger culture of fandom, fanfic seems synonymous with fandom, an assumption that was odd and alien to me when I first joined LJ, and continues to strike me as odd when I come across it on my flist.
    I certainly fall into that trap now and then, particularly in fandoms where I’m a passive reader who doesn’t engage in discussion or debate. But you’re right — fandom is so much more than just “the arts” of fic and icons. I may not be writing as much “meta” (yeah, I know the term’s being used incorrectly!) these days as during my Buffy years, but even the tiny bits of character analyses I do write up (like Without A Trace, heh) or the background “profiles” for my fic — they’re all rooted in those ATPo essays and conversations. Your site and the Board helped build the foundation of my fannish understanding. They gave me the tools to help me “read” TV shows, and movies and books, and even people, fan and non-fan alike. To examine real meta, to look at politics, society, relationships, to see how we in fandom mix fiction and reality.
    And I wouldn’t have that framework now without ATPo and all of you guys đŸ˜€
    SO THANK YOU!!!

  23. neshaffer June 16, 2008 at 3:09 am #

    I learned so much from the ATPo board as well. I knew the strict philosophical side of things, but knew very little about literary analysis or political analysis or any of the dozens and dozens of different flavors people brought to the board. I always learned stuff.
    I got your email about Glenfinnan, but unfortunately, I’ve never been there! I have to imagine, though, that if the Jacobite train doesn’t stop there, there is a train that does. You might need to talk to their tourism office.

  24. scrollgirl June 16, 2008 at 3:41 am #

    Huh! I could’ve sworn it was you who’d visited Glenfinnan. Maybe it was fresne? I remember it was a Highlander fan… I think?
    Anyway, I finally found one site that said the train stops for 20 minutes in Glenfinnan. I’ll ask fresne tomorrow, see if she knows.

  25. neaux June 16, 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    I cant believe its been that long!

  26. neshaffer June 16, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    I was the one who saw the Tattoo. Highly recommended.

  27. neshaffer June 16, 2008 at 5:47 pm #

    Time flies, huh?

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