Monday, 7 May 2018

Ship It - Britta Lundin + Giveaway!

Ship It by Britta Lundin

Britta Lundin is a writer for Riverdale - a show I've never seen but one that's nigh impossible not to hear about if you're hanging out in panfandom spaces - and is also a self-confessed fan, open about her long time involvement in fic fandom. So, there has been a fair amount of fandom hype around her debut YA novel 'Ship It', which chronicles what happens when one of the actors behind 16-year-old Claire's OTP laughs off her assertion at a Comic-Con Q&A that his character might be gay.

It's so meta it hurts.

Because in recent years this is something that has happened again and again. Jensen Ackles caused rifts in Supernatural fandom by not wanting to answer questions about his character's sexuality, while Tyler Posey came under criticism for stating that he thought 'Sterek' - the most popular ship on MTV show Teen Wolf - was 'a bizarre, weird, twisted thing'. Supergirl stars mocked the idea of Supercorp (Kara/Lena) becoming canon last year, and the war between Sherlock fans and authorial intent never seems to end.

Just last week Cory Michael Smith came under fire from Gotham fandom for appearing to be dismissive of Nygmobblepot (Penguin/Riddler) shippers.

Because as I said in my IFD post on Fanfiction and TPTB, times have changed since the gasps of horror that accompanied Leonard Nimoy being asked about slash shipping in the early 1980s. When a show's marketing strategy includes active engagement with transformative fandom, it is of the utmost importance that nobody on the payroll turns around and implies only a fool would argue that the juggernaut ship has any real grounding in canon.

There is, after all, no reset button.



In Ship It, however, there is damage limitation.

After Forest Reed laughs at Claire's suggestion his character might get it together with that of his male co-star, and been overheard calling her crazy into the bargain, Demon Heart's PR team go into overdrive. They rig a competition for Claire to win a spot on the rest of the cast convention tour, so she can play her role as online influencer and convince other teenagers to watch the last few episodes of the show.

They need to get those ratings up - or at least start trending online - if they want it to get picked up for a second season.

As Claire makes the rounds of the convention circuit she keeps running into Tess, a huge Demon Heart fan who tries to keep her fannishness in the closet around friends and family for fear of being judged. Claire finds it incomprehensible, even as she struggles to understand how Tess can just be so sure of her sexuality and comfortable letting people know about it. It's obvious from the beginning that Tess and Claire are headed for romance and it's just as sweet as you expect it to be, angsty teen bumps in the road notwithstanding. They both make the other realise that the insecurity they feel on the inside is not what others see. They're seeing their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses. It hits the emotional beats of a mini coming of age as well as a get together.

Meanwhile Claire's got to teach Forest what fandom is and why it matters to people.

Ship It by Britta Lundin - Forest and Rico
SmokeHeart. I ship it.

The writing style is standard YA: first person, accessible, amusing observations, and chapter by chapter POV switches. It does it well though, and main character Claire is quickly established as someone to empathize with. She is an outsider at school, isn't interested in the same things as those around her, instead choosing to live a kind of second life online where she can be the person she wants to be. It reminded me of my own life as a teenager, tuning out during boring lessons to plot out fanfiction in my head.

Because as Claire points out, 'the only way to make sure someone writes exactly the fic you want to read is to do it yourself.'

There were so many moments that had me thinking back, because I might never have been into the celebrity meeting side of things - if I tell you I had Lostprophets posters on my walls you'll understand why I'm glad of it! - but the fic fandom side was so very familiar. There's a scene where Claire's mum, embarrassingly liberal to her teen daughter in a way that made me think about Adrian Mole's mother Pauline discovering feminism in the 1980s, asks her if she's trying to tell her she's gay by talking so excitedly about slash shipping. It was the exact same thing my own embarrassingly liberal mum did to my 13-year-old self back in the early noughties.

So many of the big fandom arguments are touched on too. Should you ever break the fourth wall? Is it the fan's place to dictate where canon goes? What is the dividing line between fanfiction and fanart and their 'real' counterparts. In Claire's cynical words, the latter is 'done by serious people, whereas fanfiction is written by weirdos, teenagers, degenerates, and women.' I say, right on.

If we're talking about writing though, Forest is a gem too. His chapters are different enough to know that we're in somebody else's head, but not so different as to make the void between these two characters unassailable. Forest might think of the convention goers as nerds and geeks, but he does understand what it is to be a huge fan of something - even if on meeting him he has yet to make the mental connection between the two.

He is a character who so easily could have been 2D and unlikeable, but Lundin really imbues him with a vulnerability that speaks to all those times when you've felt out of your depth and uncertain. I was invested in his journey and really enjoyed him slowly coming to terms with the idea that, while he and his character are closely entwined, transformative fandom is not really about him. How he deals with it reflects on him, sure, but the fact it exists? That's all about the fans.

Ship It by Britta Lundin - Hardback Cover
Look what's hiding beneath the dust jacket!


In Conclusion

Ship It is easy to love. Claire is the outsider kid you once were and Forest is the insecure adult you sometimes are. For those who are, or who have been, in fandom, Ship It is a fond look at a niche community that is increasingly wriggling its way into the mainstream. For those who find it all a little perplexing, Ship It is a great fandom primer, explaining the terminology for the layperson and industry insider alike. Does Claire take things too far? Yes. Does she overstep boundaries. 'Fraid so. It's wish fulfillment fiction that explores how great fandom is, why it is so important to people, but also delivers the message that we need to remember that there are real people with real jobs, lives, hopes and fears on both sides of the fourth wall.

Like I said earlier, there is no reset button.

I think the only quibble I have with it is kind of inevitable for a YA book, and is one I expected to have going in. It's close to my heart all the same, especially given the debates that dominated fandom last year about the 'correct' age range for growing up and growing out of fandom. Demon Heart seems to be based on Supernatural and, though there are plenty of teens in SPN fandom, that is far from the whole picture.

But, the only time older Demon Heart fans are mentioned is when two women stand up to ask questions at a panel, then get urged by other fans to sit down. The implication is that they're too old to use Tumblr and know that organised action is about to take place. (...I couldn't help but headcanon them as part of fail_fandomanon's awkward squad instead.)

Other than that it's a fun, entertaining read which deserves to do well!

Go pick up your own copy over on Amazon. Alternatively, enter the running to win yourself a copy by filling out the Gleam widget below:

Ship It - Britta Lundin

(International Giveaway)




For more fandom stuff, please click the image below:
What I'm ReadingFandom - my life as a fan



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