Sunday, November 6, 2011

When a Fan Hits the Sh*t by Jeanine Renne - A 2005 Read

By the time you read this, I'll be out of the country for a bit; I found this while scouring and shutting down an old blog. If you've participated in an online fan community, you know how easily, and how frequently, people use those interests and relationships to scam others, even though most people are kind and trustworthy.

When a Fan Hits the Sh*t by Jeanine Renne chronicles the Bit of Earth scandals of 2003ish and thereabouts. I didn't pay too much attention to this at the time it was going on, not being in the Lord of the Rings fandom--and besides, even in book form, the story is very convoluted and confusing.

The book starts by jumping back and forth between the beginning and end of the story, alternating chapters. If I'd known the players better, I'd have liked that more. It would make great cinema, but it's a little confusing, though I did figure it out. Something else: stories and parts of stories get repeated several times throughout, but I think the book had to be done that way; sometimes, the time-shifting is necessary to explain a certain specific happening, but telling the whole story at that point in the book is either unnecessary or confusing because other details can't be revealed at that juncture.

The basic story is this: A 19-year-old girl named Amy Player goes on the internet and adopts the pseudonym Victoria Bitter. Victoria Bitter writes slash. VB channels hobbits. VB gets fangirled, and when she's (supposedly) hospitalized and at her worst, Abbey "Orangeblossom" writes her a poem. It is the beginning of a very strange relationship.

Later, Abbey leaves her husband and gets involved with a boy named Jordan Wood. Abbey and Jordan are major players in Bit of Earth, which is both a website and a wanna-be charity. They are at the helm of a big line party for LotR II, build a children's reading garden with Sean Astin, and go on to organize film festivals and band festivals and even a fan convention. OR DO THEY?

Not to spoil anything, but nope. We even get into e-mails (e-mail is forever!) where we find that Jordan Wood and Abbey lied and manipulated some otherwise smart folks, including publicity agents and stars, that money disappeared, and that others were continually covering their asses in terms of events that were canceled and fell apart, including the fan convention that had only 28 tickets sold. There are fake suicide attempts, phony donations to charity, manufactured realities, and a detective who wants to know what happened to Amy Player. It's a fascinating read for people interested in scams and fan interaction. Like the reviewers on Amazon say, it's almost too strange to be true.

As a side note, this story is about real people who do still appear in the online world, and that have had other stories and criticisms leveled at them in the years since, probably easily found through your favorite search engine. And as a side note, as I'm out of the country and unable to moderate any discussion, I'm turning off comments on this post.

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