Sunday, December 13, 2009

The power of the story

In which our Diva finds new reasons to believe in people

You hear a lot about the "dark side of fandom," about unstable people who go beyond love of a shared story, sometimes to the extreme of threatening or even harming the storytellers.

If you're even casually around the virtual water coolers centered on TV shows or movies, you're also aware of the harmless bulk of fannish activity, the discussion and sharing of delight, and of creativity in the form of fan fiction or visual art or music videos.

What you probably don't hear enough about is the brightest side of all, the fans who harness that energy to make the real world a better place.

I was a smart kid. I'm a pretty smart adult, for that matter, and there are still people who think I'm wasting that gift in a frivolous profession. (They're just usually subtler about telling me so than they were in college.) Smart kids are supposed to cure cancer. Solve our energy problems. End hunger.

Save the world.

Here's the thing: I can't imagine spending my life doing any of those things. I'm not cut out for saving the world. What does hold my passion, what I wake up every day itching to do, is telling stories about people who do.

I'm the audience for a lot of those stories. Most of them tend to take place in worlds not our own - in the far-flung future, or across galaxies, or in secret underworlds of primal magic. But the challenges faced in those worlds are not as different from our own as you might think.

And some people, maybe even some of those who are cut out to save the world, look at those stories and decide they want to be like those characters. They want to face down that evil and defeat it -- not in the created world beyond the glass of the TV screen, but here and now. Sometimes it's a one-off -- fans of Blood Ties drumming up eyeglass donations to the Lions Club in honor of its vision-impaired heroine, blood drives by fans of every vampire show ever, and so on. Sometimes it's a little more ambitious.

Not a Doll is the newest such effort to come to my attention. Whatever you might think of Dollhouse -- and much as I love it, it's controversial for good reason -- for these fans it's an opportunity to educate about "the very real issues of human trafficking, poverty, oppression against women and children, the loss of self, and the negation of human rights." Sure, they're starting small. Writing a few articles and designing a handful of T-shirts might not seem like much. But the people who read those articles and find their eyes opened, the established organizations that receive the proceeds from those T-shirts? I don't think they're going to argue. And the site has just begun.

You might think this sort of thing would be a short-lived diversion, fading when the show that inspired it is no longer the flavor of the month. You'd be wrong. Just ask the folks at the Stuffy Guard Project Association, who've coordinated donations of thousands of stuffed toys and thousands of dollars for children in need since 2000. Inspired by Stargate SG-1 star Teryl Rothery, and embraced by her and her colleagues -- the show and its stars are associated with several children's charities, including Make-A-Wish and the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and various episodes focused on the effect of injustice on children -- they're going strong and continuing to grow.

This is just a tiny sampling. There are plenty more examples out there -- some were featured in an article on Firefox News a while back -- and more power to them all. I'll support them as I can, and keep dreaming of being involved in a project that inspires a save-the-world drive of its own.

Song for today: "Stranger" by Lili Haydn. I know I mentioned it just a couple weeks ago, but I can't think of anything more perfect today. "Goodness brings a chain reaction."


Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog posts. I really do. You make my world better and brighter.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much!!