Mimi Noyes is really good at getting people together, not just a few, but by the hundreds. In many ways, she is the center of Sherlock fandom in Seattle. Out of the spark of her idea back in 2012 to show Sherlock on the big screen, have come three epic conventions bringing together Sherlockians from across the U.S. and around the world.
For one weekend every year, Holmes and Watson fans converge on Seattle to celebrate all things Sherlock, from the original ACD canon stories to the latest incarnations of the world’s most infamous detective. And as the Sherlock Seattle site also adds: “You are welcome to join us!”
I first met Mimi at the Wayward Cafe back in 2012. She had put the word out that she was creating a convention about Sherlock Holmes and when she shared her vision of all of the cool things that she wanted to achieve, showcasing fan writers and artists and bringing together Sherlock fans of all eras and interests, I knew I had to be there.
Mimi is a total blast to chat with, full of energy, a great storyteller, incredibly funny and honest and open. We met up again, back at the Wayward, and the time flew by way too quickly. We talked about her fandom history, and love of conventions, and how she went from volunteering at cons to running the biggest Sherlock con on the West Coast.
“For the longest time going to conventions was the only time in my life where I felt like I belonged somewhere and where I felt completely 100% accepted.”
Her words really resonated with me. For a lot of people I know, myself included, attending Sherlock Seattle is like meeting up with your tribe. With the creation of Sherlock Seattle, Mimi has come full circle, generously giving a new set of fans a place of belonging.
The first thing I wanted to talk to you about is the origin behind your fandom handle. The Mamishka.
My nickname is Mimi. So throughout my life I’ve always had various nicknames based off of that. But the one I went by for a very long time was Meems. Mamishka started because I went to LiveJournal and I was going to create an account using the name meems, and of course the name was already taken.
I wanted to have something that was personal, not just something random. My friend Anna and I used to live in a house together that had separate units. So you’d kind of come in and out of each other units. Often when I would come in, she would go, “It’s the Ma-mish-ka!” like Gomez did in the second Adam’s family movie, where he’d say “It’s the Ma-moosh-ka! Everybody dance the Mamooshka!” So Mamishka became one of my nicknames.
On LiveJournal I was Mamishka. And when I came to tumblr I tried to get Mamishka, but it was already taken. So that’s why I am The Mamishka, which does create a lot of confusion because there already is a Mamishka on tumblr and my AO3 is just Mamishka. But I was unwilling to give up that name at this point so I just added the, as that was still available.
I like it because it’s a little cute. I think maybe it has a slight feminine quality, but is not particularly masculine or feminine. It’s just The Mamishka. It’s just kind of cute quirky like I am. That suits me.
How did you get started in fandom?
My first fandom was Star Trek. I have all these older siblings and they were into it so I started watching it. I was instantly hooked. I was a Kirk girl. I still am. Spock, pssh, whatever. Kirk all the way!
It wasn’t until I was in high school and I was watching television that I saw my first commercial for a Creation con. I’m much more of an old fandom kind of girl so I grew up going to cons like Lunacon which takes place in Tarrytown, New York.
Lunacon is a generic science fiction and fantasy convention. For a long time you didn’t have what you have nowadays. There weren’t really a lot of specialized conventions unless they were financially budgeted. There is a total difference in how conventions are run. You basically have two different schools of thought. One is created by the fans for the fans so that’s all volunteer run, and then you have the ones that are specifically made for money, these are businesses. They’re the ones where you have to pay for each day separately and have the big-name stars and have basically become things like Comic-con and Creation cons. All of those are money money money money money.
Lunacon was one of my first conventions. I went to other ones back East but that was the one I remember the most. The first fandom con was a Creation con. I went to one with DeForest Kelly as one of the guests, another time I went James Doohan was the guest. I went because I was a huge Star Trek geek, so I was like, “I got to see them!” And then I just stopped going to those. They weren’t as interesting to me. I kept going to science fiction and fantasy ones in general. Before I moved from the East Coast the last con I went to was Arisia, I went there the very first year in Boston. Arisia number one was a great con. I had a great time.
One of my favorite Lunacons that I can remember was when Madeleine L’Engle and her husband, he was an actor who did soap operas, did a dramatic reading of one of her stories. He played Meg and she played Charles, when Meg has been taken over, I think it’s from A Wrinkle in Time. It was so powerful to listen to the two of them perform the section of this book.
The thing about the early cons that I liked were that because they were not genre specific you got all the people who didn’t really fit in. For the longest time going to conventions was the only time in my life where I felt like I belonged somewhere and where I felt completely 100% accepted. It didn’t matter what I looked like, or if I was fat or thin, I could just be myself for practically the first time ever and just be accepted.
Like any social situation there are those who are a little bit geekier than you might like, and those who are less. It’s not like it’s a perfect world or anything like that, but there was just an enormous amount of freedom and an enormous sense of acceptance.
I guess nowadays it’s really not a big thing, but you have to remember that when I was a kid there was no internet. There was barely television, so it was really easy to feel very very isolated. When I was in high school I had maybe two friends and that was kind of it. By that point I remember my first year of high school I had gotten used to the fact that I was not likable. That’s how I felt. I was just too weird to be liked and was just kind of okay with that at that point.
I don’t think people realize now it’s a lot easier to find acceptance or find places where you can be accepted on the internet. But back then if it wasn’t local you didn’t get it, which was why cons were literally an oasis in the desert. This wonderful place where you could go and suddenly completely be yourself, and be not just accepted, but actually celebrated for being weird and geeky and funny and bizarre.
How did you transition into the organization side of cons?
Cons are always looking for volunteers. I had never ever volunteered for a convention because I felt like if I was volunteering I wouldn’t have time to enjoy the convention. So it never even occurred to me to volunteer. When I did start volunteering for conventions it was always in a pre-con position. I didn’t start getting involved with cons until after I moved to Seattle and I started entering art shows. That was my closest step in terms of being a part of the convention. And then at some point, somebody tapped me and asked me if I would be interested in doing the art programming track for Norwescon. Basically that means figuring out which artists to invite, figuring out panels, soliciting ideas for panels, creating the programming, and then scheduling it with the head programmer.