In September 2015, the call for entries for RAW: A Hannibal/Will Fanthology came across my Tumblr dash. The final season had wrapped up a week before and the fandom was still endlessly turning over the end, an incredibly “Wait, what? Did that just really happen?” ending of a “Wait, did they just do that on TV?” series. I immediately got super excited at the thought of more Hannibal content created by the fandom, and then tagged the folks I know who created in the space, and reblogged it back out.
Over the next month I watched as questions flew back and forth, participants were finalized, and when the Kickstarter finally launched on November 1, I threw down my money to secure a copy. Then suddenly, overnight actually, everything about this Hannibal/Will Fanthology grew very big very fast. And when everything settled one month later, the first thing I thought was, as incredible as all of this was to witness, I can’t begin to imagine what the person at the center of this all must have gone through… So I decided to ask. And Aimee Fleck was kind enough to tell me her story.
And it’s kind of the best story ever. Over the ninety minutes we spent chatting I discovered that Aimee Fleck is incredibly hilarious, brave, creative (and not at all surprising) wonderfully passionate about fandom and fanworks, but with the organizational and math skills to wrangle people and get complicated shit done. I am a big fan. I had such a great time listening to the giant, crazy, scary adventure that was RAW: A Hannibal/Will Fanzine, and I’ve never laughed as hard while editing an interview. Enjoy!
“Let me tell you, you’ve never been in an awkward situation until you’re trying to explain to somebody what you made without using the words ‘Gay Hannibal Book.'” – Aimee Fleck
Curious: When did you first get started in fandom? Did you have a gateway show?
Aimee: I started when I was about 10. I was a child of the big anime boom, so I started out, as many do, with either Sailor Moon or Inuyasha being my fandom. I spent a lot of time online looking at art archives and stuff, for the saucy bits of the Sailor Moon manga. I first read and wrote fan fiction in the Inuyasha fandom.
Curious: Were you part of a community back then?
Aimee: No, it must have been the Harry Potter fandom. It must have been that I was finding fan fiction and fan art on LiveJournal, and so I got a LiveJournal. I think probably the first time I really was part of a community was when I was part of a roleplay community on LiveJournal. I think some people may still remember this. It was really big. It was a interfandom role play set at a zombie summer camp called Camp Fuck U Die.
Curious: That’s a brilliant name.
Aimee: I remember it was started by Biz. That was her handle. I got in on the second round, which was fine, because after that the quality [necessary to get in] exceeded, by far, my horrible application. The best part of the story is that for several years at Camp Fuck U Die, I played Ron Stoppable from Kim Possible.
The thing about that was that since it was interfandom it was every single character from anything ever all hanging out. They had a really, really busy and alive out of character community. Everyone got pretty close. There’s one person, especially, who I still talk to today, which is a miracle because I was 13 and she was not 13. It was like, “Bless you, we liked you a lot, but you were very 13 years old.” That was probably my first real fandom community experience, and honestly it was super awesome. It was mostly people who were significantly older than me, but they were all very nurturing, very supportive, very open to being mentors. They welcomed me in and let me play with the big kids and be a weirdo on the internet.
I feel like that, for me, it continues to define fandom today. I really love the community aspect and I love interacting with people who are very different from me. I like mentoring if I get the opportunity. I really like doing that. I think that probably a lot of that I owe to having had such a super great experience at zombie summer camp in middle school.
Curious: When did you get into making zines? What got you started in that space?
Aimee: That’s pretty separate, honestly. I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art for illustration. I came at zines from a completely different angle, entirely, which was hard. I was an illustration student. A lot of people worked in comics, so zines were what everyone did. So I’d do comic conventions and movie conventions and everything. I think I did my first … I don’t remember where exactly … We were seeing other people’s zines and we were like “These are super cool.” Like art zines, or comic zines, or even more punk zines sort of things, on that side. I think the zine that I did sophomore year that I ran with all of my classmates would probably technically be my first zine.
Curious: Was that a fandom based one?
Aimee: We drew whatever superheros we wanted in high fashion couture clothing. It’s funny. It has a whole bunch of people from my year in it, most notably Noelle Stevenson (gingerhaze), who’s pretty big in comics right now. I was like, “It would be super fun to put a zine together because all the seniors are doing it, and theirs are really cool.” We were in a lifestyle illustration class, so we did a lot of style/fashion illustration. I think I drew Emma Frost and Iron Man.
Curious: That’s a brilliant combo.
Aimee: I can actually show it to you. I have it right here. Yeah, so this is Style Punch.
Curious: Oh my God.
Aimee: I have my shitty box of everything I’ve ever done.
Curious: That’s a really nice looking zine.
Aimee: There are many possible outcomes of art school. I had a really good experience. I really loved the people I was in my year with. That wasn’t the only zine. We all took turns running them. I guess it was in my senior year somebody ran a Lemongrab from Adventure Time zine, which sold a bunch of copies. Technically that’s fan art that is coming at it from a very different aspect than a fandom aspect.
Curious: And you continued making zines after school? How long was the gap between school and the Brooklyn zine?
Aimee: Well I never really stopped making books, because I do the comic convention circuit pretty regularly. I’ve done illustration work in professional comics. I’ve done a couple of covers for Boom! novels. I did all the covers for the Banana Garden Academy Adventure Time mini series. I’ve done a couple pages for Bee and Puppycat, a couple pages for Lumberjanes.
I’m less comics than I’m comics adjacent, but I still regularly attend Small Press Expo and everything. I have been putting out books pretty regularly. My thesis for art school was a plus size fashion guide called Damn Girl, That Style is Fat. I haven’t stopped making books.
I can’t remember the impetus for doing Brooklyn. I’d been working a lot that year. I think that was the year that I did all the Adventure Time covers. I’d done a whole bunch of professional work when I was just like, one thing after another, and some personal work. It was a lot, so it was kind of stressful. I think I got super, super into Captain America. I got bashed over the head with a Captain America trophy, right? You’re like ahh, and down. I must have just been like, “I haven’t wrote a zine in a while, let’s do that.”
I had the time and I was bored. I don’t tend to think things through before I jump into them. I think I probably was just bored.
Curious: Some of the best creative projects come out of just thinking, “I want something to do.” Then suddenly you launch into this awesome project. Did you organize Brooklyn by yourself?
Aimee: Yes. That was entirely me. I was like, “Hey, would anyone buy a Steve/Bucky zine?” And everyone was like, “Yeah, okay.”
Curious: What year was that?
Aimee: It was in September, 2014 I believe.
Curious: Ah, post Winter Soldier…
Aimee: It was like, everyone got run over by the Winter Soldier train and it was like, “Oh shit, okay.”
Curious: How did you get the word out to everyone that you were doing this?
Aimee: I literally just made a post on my Tumblr like, “If you want to be in my Steve/Bucky zine email me if you want to be in this. Applications are open for a week, and we’ll take everyone.”
Curious: What kind of response did you get?
Aimee: We got about 50 people, which I was not expecting, which was why I was like, “We’ll take everyone!” Then I was like, “No, no I want to take everyone!” Because of some of the thoughts I had behind actually doing the book, conceptually. It ended up being bigger than expected from the start, but I just went forward from there. I’m trying to remember how long the process took. It was probably maybe two or three months.
Curious: How did the people wrangling go? Trying to organize and pull it all together.
Aimee: Honestly, they were a great group of people to work with. I don’t know if it was lucky or fandom is great but … This is the thing that I told people from art school and everyone was like, “Holy shit, that never happens.”
Every single person turned in their work on time or within a day of the deadline. Which is literally impossible. It’s scientifically proven to never happen. When that happened I was like, “Oh my God, do you guys understand how nuts this is?” I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I basically did not stop talking to everyone the whole time.
Tumblr sucks for fandom communication, so I wanted to do something that was halfway between a professional art book and a Big Bang, which is why I wanted to accept everybody. I wanted it to be about community.
When I set it up, I sent out regular emails telling everyone what was going on. I also set up a Google group, which is like a forum. You can set it up sort of like a combination forum and chat room. I encouraged everyone to post their works in progress and give each other feedback and hang out in the chat room. For the most part, people did. It was really good, and I still know some of the people from that. Some of them are in RAW. Some of them I’ve become very close friends with, actually.
It was a really good experience, I feel like even some of the people I haven’t necessarily stayed in touch with, I still see them, and they’ll still be talking to other people from Brooklyn too. I’m really proud of the fact that I think I sort of succeeded in that aspect of giving people a chance to do work in proximity.
Curious: I think that’s so key. Creating a community around the art project you were building was just such a smart way to do it, and a very fandom-centric way to do it.
Aimee: Jumping ahead a little bit but, I had a person who I’ve never met or spoken to before reach out to me towards the end of the process saying they wanted to throw me a launch party. That person is now my good friend Chloe. She was like, “This was cool, let’s have a party.” So we did. She pulled it together. It was insane. It turned out that she decided to this while also planning her own wedding. Props. Chloe’s phenomenal.
Curious: What was the launch party like?
Aimee: We had an event at Word Bookstore in Brooklyn in Greenpoint. That was, honestly such a good culmination of the book. The book itself was almost, not secondary at that point, but we had about 50 people come. We packed their downstairs. They were impressed with us because we were just like, “Hey, can we have our gay Captain America party in your basement?” They were like, “Sure, I guess.”
I think Chloe knew somebody there who was like down-low fandom. We’re everywhere, apparently. We had a picnic beforehand in the park, in Brooklyn. Chloe was like, “This is where Steve and Bucky would have been.”
It was all in Greenpoint. We had a picnic in the park then we went to Word and we had a panel with all the authors and the artists who were there, talking about Steve and Bucky and what they liked about them and their drawings. I gave a presentation on how to make a zine. Then we all went to a bar. It was like an entire afternoon/evening event, and it was so much fun.
The book was about making something cool, but getting people together. I feel like the launch party was like, “Yes, everyone is here. It worked.”