Curious: What was your first con experience like?
Leah: Let’s see, it was Prophecy, which was a Harry Potter convention in Toronto, Canada. I was 17 years old. It was closed canon. It was months after Deathly Hallows had come out. You can’t imagine, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. I hadn’t made a ton of fandom friends at that point. Later on, Harry Potter cons became all about meeting back up with those fandom friends, but this first time I went with my best friend from high school. Both of our moms came with us, because it was an international trip. Our moms also loved Harry Potter. It was very cute.
I just remember being so thrilled and gobsmacked by the idea that I could be in the hotel lobby, and go into the little Starbucks that was attached to the hotel, and I’d be wearing my Hufflepuff tie, and I could turn around to the person behind me and be like, “So, what about Snape?” This complete stranger would be like, “I know! Snape, right?” You could have a conversation. That was what blew my mind, was that everyone in that room also wanted to talk about this just as much as I did. That was great.
Jarrow: I kind of have 2 firsts. It’s almost like talking about your first kiss, and then when you lost your virginity. They’re both really important. My first actual con was in 2005, it was a Buffy con called Moonlight Rising. I think it was in Pennsylvania. It was a celebrity con. It was a completely surreal experience, because I was not only at a con for the first time, I was meeting actors for the first time. Anthony Stewart Head was very sweet to me. When I walked away, I cried, because that just happened. It was a very small event. Most of my memories from that are just blurry, except for that moment. Wow, meeting celebrities for the first time. That was cool. That was my first fix. I was addicted to that feeling for a while.
My first fan con was Vividcon in 2007 and that weekend changed my life. I remember the Thursday night, even before the con had started, I had been snatched up in the lobby by people I didn’t know and whisked away to dinner. I’m sitting at a long table with a dozen fangirls who are talking about this show and that show and, “Oh, we should make a vid about this.” I didn’t say a word. I didn’t know anybody. Just hearing those conversations happening around me, I had never been in a situation like that. I actually teared up there at the table. I remember my body was shaking and tingling, because I had never experienced anything like that. It was magical.
By the end of the weekend when I left, I spent the entire 4-hour flight home crying. I talk about crying a lot, apparently. That’s the thing that I do. I typed up … I think it was like a 10,000 word con report. It was too big for LiveJournal. It had to fit in 2 separate posts. I broke LiveJournal recounting every single moment, every single conversation that I had, because I lived the whole weekend in slow motion. Everything was just so vivid and real to me. That weekend truly changed my life. I almost don’t go to celebrity cons anymore, but the fan cons, that’s a passion.
Curious: I’ve never been to a celebrity con. I’ve only been to fan cons so I can’t really compare.
Jarrow: Yeah. That first Buffy con I went to, there were probably discussion panels. I don’t remember them. I remember photo ops. I remember autograph lines. I remember Q&A’s with the actors, but I don’t remember if at any point it was just people sitting in a circle talking about things they liked about the show, and building community laterally on that level.
Curious: What was your first fandom OTP?
Jarrow: Willow and Tara, and Buffy and Faith. That was all kind of at the same time. Again with the canon was important. I was a fan of Willow and Tara being canon, but, man, Buffy and Faith, that was like my dirty side. My bad side.
Curious: That’s a great one!
Leah: I think it’s Harry and Ginny. I latched on to Ginny Weasley so fucking hard, so early on.
Jarrow: The first pairing that I really ever wrote was Ginny/Hermione. They’re all PG. They’re very cute.
Leah: That’s the other thing, it wasn’t until… Like I said, I was really into canon compliance, aside from when I was making up original characters (who were secretly me), or doing crossovers. The idea of shipping Ginny and Hermione would never have occurred to me. It wasn’t until much, much later in my fandom life that I even was exposed to that. I was like, “Who thinks of that?”
I actually had a really great conversation with Jarrow about how I’d missed out on a lot of that. I didn’t watch Buffy until so many years after the fact, so it was common knowledge to me that Willow would end up with a girl. I was like—to me, shipping Buffy and Faith seemed weirdly counterproductive. Like you know that there’s a canon lesbian couple coming down the road, so why waste time? And he had to remind me, “Well, we didn’t know. No one knew!”
Jarrow: Why stop at just one? Let’s have all the things, Leah.
Leah: Things seem obvious after the fact, but they’re never obvious when you’re experiencing them for the first time. That really helped me kind of realize, “Oh. Okay, I get it.” It broke open, for me, the things you’re allowed to do with fandom. That there are no rules. You can do whatever you want.
Jarrow: Similarly, we’ve had a lot of, or I know I have, had conversations with people about Faberry, and about Quinn and Rachel. We had someone come to the third con, who I met at Bitchin’ Party and at Vividcon. She loves Glee, and was very canon compliant. I was like, “But Quinn and Rachel.” She had never even thought about it before. She had never let herself. When she let herself go there, it was like, “Oh. Oh. Oh…”
Leah: It’s going to get you.