Curious: When did you get into the Captain America fandom?
Speranza: Yeah, Cap has been a very personal fandom for me. I grew up in Brooklyn, my family is there. My dad is younger than Steve but not so much younger than Steve that I can’t telephone here from there. I had a lot of first hand knowledge of the kind of world that he would’ve been in. Literally, the truth is that I wasn’t really in the Cap: First Avenger fandom but I saw Winter Soldier around the time that my father got sick and I was spending a lot of time in Brooklyn.
In a weird way I was really in a nostalgic mental place and literally to distract myself I wrote my first MCU story in a Brooklyn hospital. I’d been dealing with a lot, and to distract me, friends of mine, said: “Oh let’s go out and see The Winter Soldier.” I kind of went: “Yeah okay.” I got really caught by it. It was one of those places where it’s like a perfect fusion of nostalgia and memory and fannish experience where I felt like all of a sudden I could really use all these feelings and emotions and knowledge that I had fictionally. It’s been and is still a really great fandom for me. It’s a good place to be right now.
Curious: Were you familiar with the MCU fandom before Captain America?
Speranza: A little bit, in fact I have friends who were doing Steve/Tony back when that was a big thing. I saw Iron Man 1, I thought it was fine but I was not fannishly captured by it. I was really still into Sherlock, Person of Interest … I liked Iron Man fine but I didn’t feel compelled to write it. I have friends who were writing Steve/Tony. I get it because as the due South person I could see Steve/Tony in a way, it does remind me a little bit of Fraser/Ray where you have an incredibly noble character and a much more kind of urban contemporary character. Iron Man 3 killed it when Tony really seemed to get together with Pepper. But the Bucky/Steve thing just really reached out from the movie screen and grabbed me in a big way.
Curious: They’ve grabbed thousands and thousands of us.
Speranza: Right, it is catnip. It was our kind of soulmate fic. This kind of love that transcended time, this kind of devotion. Winter Soldier was extremely well done, it’s not like we are the only ones who think so. You go online and people say: “what’s the best movie in the MCU?” I think the consensus broadly speaking is that Winter Soldier is the best of the MCU, even better than the two Avengers.
Curious: Yeah, it’s my favorite too.
Speranza: I think so, it really is. I don’t think we’re really being biased to say it. Part of it is the MCU and all comic book universes, they always have a villain problem. The most compelling stories have been the one where the stakes are real and I think women care about that more than dudes do, frankly. The thing about Avengers was that it was Thor or Loki. It was his brother. I felt for Thor, the enemy was his brother. In the first Thor and in Avengers I think that’s why Loki was so compelling. He wasn’t just some villain, it was a case of: even if you win, when it’s your brother, you lose. If you vanquish your brother, you’ve still lost your brother. I think fandom really related to the stakes of that.
Then of course, with Winter Soldier, Bucky was his brother. Again you had a case of the “villain,” the antagonist is your brother, so even if you win, you lose. It’s not just a matter of saying: “Well, you know, is Steve gonna beat Bucky?” Of course you don’t want to beat Bucky! He’s the only link to your past, the stakes are enormous. In fact, that’s why I was very excited about Civil War, as I thought: “okay.” I understood immediately why they wanted to make Tony the antagonist figure, because again you don’t want anybody to win! It’s his metaphorical brother, you again have people where it’s not so simple … I mean the thing with Ultron, it was like: “Is he gonna beat the giant robot or isn’t he?” Do you think he’ll beat the giant robot? I think he is gonna beat the giant robot.
Curious: How long after you saw Winter Soldier did you start on “4 Minute Window?”
Speranza: It was about six months later – I was writing it around Thanksgiving, which I know because that’s how the ridiculous thing happened that I released a missing scene (The Second Time As Farce) to a story I hadn’t even finished yet – which ended up jossing my timeline, lol. But I was working on 4 Minute Window at Thanksgiving even though it wasn’t finished and released until the New Year.
Curious: How has the feedback been? You mentioned it was overwhelming. I even heard it recc’d on the Empire Magazine Podcast! I was like wow!
Speranza: That was amazing! I got a piece of feedback that made me really happy, it was talking about the working-classness of them. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood and I was really moved. There were a couple people who were like, “Wow, you make them work, man.” I was like, “Yeah.” I have a real respect for the craftsman. Classic working-class work. People who can make things, that fix things. I was really deliberate in “4 Minute Window” that they create a shop where their sign says: We fix things.
Curious: I loved that!
Speranza: I’m going to sound wonky but there’s a saying that when you don’t know what to do, you could do worse than just actually fixing something in a practical way. You know what I mean?
Curious: It made perfect sense that this would be their progression. Once they finally got out, they took up the task of fixing and building things. I loved that part of the story.
Speranza: Yeah, you can fix the world or you can think of yourself as contributing on this high level, but sometimes it’s actually nice to have somebody who can actually just fix the thing. I really respect that. The people who make things are kind of invisible. I was really pleased that some people noticed and commented on it. It wasn’t just that they lived in Brooklyn but that they were making things and there was a respect for them making things, maybe? In a way that not every fic has.
We were talking earlier about how fandom has changed, I think that one of the things about fandom getting younger is that a lot of people writing, they don’t really know what work is. I like Avengers Tower fic, but a lot of times there’s a sense in which I feel like the characters are spinning their wheels in Avengers Tower. Because the authors,–and again I’m not saying people should have experiences that they haven’t had–but they don’t really know the ways in which people engage in the world. The whole world doesn’t just like Netflix and ice cream. People actually have to make stuff and use, often build … You know what I mean?
Curious: Exactly, yeah.
Speranza: I think Avengers is a sort of teenage fantasy. You know, living in a dorm or living in your parents’ house, where your parent is Tony Stark, God help you. I’ve gone to Coney Island Avenue. You go down there and people know how to fix stuff. When your car is broken you bring it to the guy and the guy fixes it. He fixes it and he knows how to put up drywall, he knows how to whatever. Do the things that need doing and those are real things. I think sometimes fandom, which because it is female and is not working class does not always see that as work and so I was … Anyway, that’s wonky but it’s true.
You know, that’s one of the things, too, that played into 4 Minute Window: the feeling that I am missing the skills of the generation that is passing. People who knew how to really make things and fix things and repair things and build things, who owned tools before we lived in a completely disposable culture. I always think that Bucky and Steve would be horrified at how much we throw away. You buy it and it’s already crap as you are buying it. Of course you’re not going to fix it, you’re just going to toss it and get a new one. Because that’s what makes economic sense. Because the thing isn’t very good to start with. It’s just some piece of fiberboard furniture. You’re not going to fix your fiberboard furniture, you’re just gonna toss it and buy another piece of fiberboard furniture.
So it was nostalgic. I think it was more common in the ‘30s that you bought something and it was made out of real materials and then you fixed it, or you repaired it or you built it. That was, for me, really important about that story.
Curious: Another part of your story that I loved was the way that you talked about art and the work that Steve created, and how you described that process. Are you an artist as well?
Speranza: No, but again I think that was really characteristic of the 30s. In fact, in many ways, it’s a fannish sensibility … I feel like I’m speaking against Netflix and ice cream, and I like Netflix, and I like ice cream! But I think that there’s something in our culture that tries to make us be spectators. I feel like even in the 30s people had to make their own fun. You played an instrument or you danced because you didn’t watch Dancing With the Stars. You danced yourself.
You didn’t always pay other people to watch them do things. You did the thing yourself. I think art was one of those things. I bet more people’s grandparents paint than they do themselves, except in fandoms. This is why I like fandoms, because the fandom people are painting. Shout out to all the fan artists out to there that are making things. That are not just watching TV and watching other people make things, they’re making things themselves. Bucky dances and Steve makes things. That’s quite characteristic. I will say also, the house I grew up in, in Brooklyn, had been an artist’s house before, and there was a sort of studio. There are all these kinds of cool Brooklyn houses where you can have a studio. I knew that those kinds of spaces existed, so it’s a little bit of my fantasy that Bucky would find a place like this for Steve and give him back a kind of authentic life.