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My livejournal has been largely abandoned of late, but I thought I would share a few thoughts on some recent events related to fandom from years past, that have been the "talk of the town" on some other blogs in the past couple of weeks.

The first involves Kevin Lillard, whose name was synonymous with anime conventions for many years. His website "A Fan's View" was the unofficial visual "newspaper of record" for the rapidly growing anime fandom. While he did photograph all sorts of panels and events at conventions, his specialty was anime cosplay, shooting hundreds of photographs and putting the best ones up on his website. Hell, I even ended up appearing in some of the photos (the website is long-gone, however).

But recently, Kevin Lillard has fallen on some pretty hard times -- lost his job, lost his home, dead-broke, living out of his car, and there has been a call for donations to help him in his time of need.

There really isn't a whole lot I can add that hasn't been mentioned by others already...except when Dave Merrill added an interesting twist on the whole situation in a recent entry on his livejournal. (http://davemerrill.livejournal.com/767502.html). Dave bluntly calls out a certain type of fanboy (whether it be comics, anime or what-have-you) that puts their fan obsession before "real life" -- which is something that is fine when you're young and stupid, but not exactly a rut you want to be stuck in when you're middle-aged without a future or savings to show for your efforts.

Read it. It's short, and a little harsh...but spot-on. And also rings somewhat true for my life as well, although it wasn't so much that I was immersed in fandom as a fan, but rather as my method of employment for the first fifteen years of my adult life. And when I did finally leave Cold Cut when it went under in 2008, all I had to show for it was a bit load of debt, no job, no savings, and a room-full of comic books. At the age of 38.

Since that time I've obtained an honest-to-god real jorb; it doesn't pay much, but it's steady and reliable employment and I actually am fairly good at it even if it's unglamorous. I'm slowly building up a 401K, I'm in the middle of a payment plan to finally take care of my 5-figure debt. Over the past several months I've been selling off a large chunk of the remaining dregs of my comic book collection, so far to date shipping off somewhere between 15 and 20 long-boxes-worth of comics to Lone Star for a few thousand bucks (what's the point in keeping comics around if you haven't cracked them open to read in two decades anyway?). This, on top of the thousands of graphic novels I've sold on Amazon in years past, which is also on top of the tens of thousands of comics sold on ebay in years past. I still have years to go, but it's a start.

It's not like one day a few years ago I suddenly thought, "Oh shit, I've been wasting my life, just barely treading water, now I'm getting old and have nothing to show for it!" Nah, nothing so dramatic, but that's effectively the result -- perhaps an unconscious realization? Dave Merrill's THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU! cautionary warning might have been directed at me a few years ago. And I certainly know plenty of people it could apply to now, just as Dave knows several as well. Both of us have watched people we know in various fandom circles who are stuck in the same place in 2012 as they were in 2002...and as they were in 1992 for that matter. I hope his "don't let this happen to you" admonition is taken to heart by those who need it.

As for me, I'm still interested in anime, I'm still interested in comics and manga and whatnot. That's never going to change. I'm still watching gob-loads of anime shows, and picking up the occasional comic or two. Haven't been to a convention in a while, but I have no doubt I'll head off to one or three at some point (I kinda-sorta wanted to crash AWA because I've been on an "old school" kick as of late). But I have to keep it all in perspective, remember a hobby is just a hobby -- it is not my life.

-----

Moving on to the next topic that has one small corner of the fandom a-twitter, there's the unseemly matter of Mitch Beiro. Earlier this month, he was arrested and charged with several counts of child porn. (No links, but if you're interested a quick search will bring up the details.) Frankly, no one saw it coming. Mitch was definitely NOT the sort of person that you would suspect, never gave off any clues or hints or "bad vibes". Anyone who has been immersed in various fandoms (whether it be sci-fi, comics, anime, or furry fandom) can probably very easily tick off half a dozen names of people who give off that "child porno" vibe; and Mitch was nowhere near that list.

Mitch was (er, is) a genuinely nice guy. I cannot say he was a friend, but throughout the nineties and aughts I probably met him on dozens of occasions, either on a friend-of-a-friend basis or professionally (I worked on plenty of comics in which he was published). By-and-large, I enjoyed his company. He was more of the "lovable loser" type of guy (and I say that affectionately rather than pejoratively), the type of person who never seemed to get a break in life, but also never seemed to make any sort of serious effort to break out of whatever hole he found himself in. In fact, he's exactly the sort of person the Dave Merrill cautionary warning above could be directed towards.

Mind you, at this point he's been arrested and the charges are 'alleged'. Lots of people are coming to his defense, some even trying to trump up wild conspiracy theories. But one news article says he admits he has a problem, which is pretty damning.

The problem of child porn has always been an unspoken and rarely acknowledged undercurrent in some of the darker circles of various fandoms. No surprises there, no doubt because sci-fi/fantasy fandom, comics fandom, anime fandom, what-have-you fandom has always been in some respects an "island of misfit toys" where those who do not fit in can gather and commiserate in their shunning from the larger society as a whole. The over-arching uber-fandom of sci-fi and all its subsets have always been more accepting of those who tip-toe around the fringe of polite society. I really doubt that's ever going to seriously change. Mitch's arrest changes nothing.

Except that I hardly saw it coming. NO ONE SAW IT COMING. Based on multiple interactions with him over the past twenty years, I would never have guessed of the mere possibility. And that is a little scary.

Who else out there is hiding some deep, dark, unfathomable secret? I would like to think that I could pick up on that sort of thing, but apparently I had no clue. Which can only make me wonder about other people I know or may have known in the past. Just sort of makes me a little bit less trusting of people in general. I'm already turning into a bitter old man, I hardly need this to make me that much more bitter. Bah.

Comments

theidolhands
Oct. 15th, 2012 06:00 am (UTC)
What a great post. Really makes me wish we could hang out in person.

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