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Allyson Beatrice - "Will the Vampire ... Leave the Lobby ?" Book - Giantmag.com Interview

Tuesday 31 July 2007, by Webmaster

Vampires, Dirty Cops and Sex…Oh My!

Everything you always wanted to know about online cult fandom, sex-obsessed independent filmmakers and British cops but were afraid to ask.

In honor of the just-wrapped Comic-Con, The Scanner lets his fanboy flag fly, chatting with the author of the geek-friendly book Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? as well as Nick Frost, co-star of the cult favorites Shaun of the Dead and the new-to-DVD Hot Fuzz. Plus…sex! Lots and lots of sex—indie film-style.

The Q&A: The Internet Is For Porn Building Friendships For the past seven years, Allyson Beatrice has led two lives, one in “meatspace” (i.e. the real world) and the other online. In both existences, much of her time is devoted to advancing the cause of cult TV fandom. After getting her start placing a “For Your Consideration” Emmy ad for Joss Whedon’s late, great series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she went on to organize Buffy-related charity fundraisers and was instrumental in running the campaign to save Whedon’s follow-up show, the short-lived space western Firefly. Those experiences form the spine of her new book, Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby?, out this month from Sourcebooks, Inc. The Scanner spoke with Beatrice, appropriately enough via Instant Messenger, about the book, her Web-based lifestyle and why The Unit is the silliest show on TV.

The Scanner: In the interest of full disclosure, I should let readers know that I know you through my wife, who is a member of the message board that you’re also a part of and that plays a big role in your book. That seems only appropriate since the book’s overarching theme is about the interconnectivity of a life lived online. Do you have to distinguish in your own mind between online friends or offline friends? Or does the distinction not even matter anymore?

Allyson Beatrice: The distinction only matters when people who don’t use the ‘net as a medium to connect socially to other people ask me how I’ve met someone. Even though the friends I’ve made through the net are all unbelievably accomplished, interesting and bright, it’s still difficult for non-’net people to “get it.” Which is frustrating. Why is meeting someone at a bus stop or at a coffee shop more legit?

The Scanner: Demetri Martin from The Daily Show bragged about having 9, 000 friends through his MySpace page. Have you ever counted?

Beatrice: I’ve never counted, no. There are people I’ve met online who live in my area who I see socially all the time. There’s about a dozen close friends in Los Angeles. These are the people who’d help me move, pick me up at the airport, remember I hate cilantro, have my mom’s phone number in case I go missing or end up with severe head trauma in a hospital. And I met them online. And they’re all attractive and svelte and don’t smell like cheese. So there.

The Scanner: I wanted to start out talking about the Internet because while the cult fandom stuff is the book’s hook, I thought the best essays were the ones that addressed that sort of prejudice and also indicated the extent to which people value their online friendships.

Beatrice: Those essays were hard to write. I’m constantly wary of whining about being OMG OPPRESSED, or crying about being shoved in a locker. I don’t feel embarrassed by other people’s snobby reactions to ‘net interactions. At this point, that reaction just means one is a Luddite.

The Scanner: Not to put words in your mouth, but was one of your driving impulses with the book to show all the Diane Sawyers’ and whatever the dude’s name is that does “To Catch A Predator” that the Web isn’t just home to thieves, rapists and scam artists?

Beatrice: Again, I’d go with the Luddite comparison. It makes the media look foolish. Especially when they close the segment with, “For more information on keeping your child safe online, visit our website” after leaving the audience with the impression that the Internet is made of rusty razor blades. The Internet is really about as dangerous as letting your kid play hopscotch in the driveway.

The Scanner: The Internet has obviously played a crucial role in your own life in terms of allowing you get to where you are today. Looking back, do you think you could have planned to end up here?

Beatrice: No, I think it’s all serendipity.

The Scanner: Does that come with the territory of being a person who lives online? I guess what I’m trying to get at in a very roundabout way is whether the Internet can and will help people decide where they want their lives to go or if it’s all accidental. If that makes any sense whatsoever.

Beatrice: No fair on the existential questions. I CALL NO FAIR.

The Scanner: It’s something I’ve wondered since so much genre fiction revolves around how technology will help us become better people.

Beatrice: No no no.

The Scanner: Retracted, retracted!

Beatrice: Technology is bullshit. The invention of the wheel didn’t make people better. It made assholes go faster.

The Scanner: And here I was about to make some grand theoretical statement linking the Internet to the secret of life! Anyway, getting back to less flighty territory, you said that the Internet-related chapters were the hardest to write. Which were the easiest?

Beatrice: The chapters where I describe people I love (who I met online). Anytime I get to honor a friendship is a pleasure.

The Scanner: You delve into some pretty personal areas of your life. Were those portions difficult to write as well?

Beatrice: It was most difficult to explain why it is that I’m so fortunate. I kept asking people, “Dude, why do you like me? I’m such an asshole.” I sort of have this rule that if I’m going to poke fun at someone, I have to poke fun at myself twice to make up for it. But the hardest thing was trying to figure out how I was worthy of these relationships. I still don’t know. The only thing I could do was try and express gratitude to these people, and the sense of community I found online.

The Scanner: This is such a clichéd question, I’m ashamed to ask it, but it seems like a natural follow-up: Given those feelings, is writing a kind of therapy?

Beatrice: Truth? Writing, for me, is like performing on stage. It’s attention. See how I’m a jerk? Writing is performance. I get to be a clown, or a hit man, or a loser, whatever. I know I’m not explaining this well. But I get a rush when people read me. Therapy comes with a $10 co-pay.

The Scanner: Getting into the genre side of things for a bit, given your experience with the Save Firefly campaign, what’s your take on fan campaigns like the ones mounted for Jericho and Veronica Mars? And why did Jericho succeed when so many others failed?

Beatrice: My take is that they don’t really work. I can’t and wouldn’t speak with any sense of authority on Jericho. I haven’t looked into what the network had to fill its slot. I don’t know if they had any confidence in their fall lineup, if the producers found a way to make the show cheaper. I suspect that the bottom line had be met in some way. I don’t think it was saved by nuts, because networks aren’t big on charity.

The Scanner: Maybe it’s just because their shows are cancelled more often than other genres, but it seems like sci-fi/fantasy fans are the ones most likely to get involved in campaigns. Are they just more passionate about their programs than say a CSI fan?

Beatrice: They have to be, there’s fewer viewers. If you’re a HUGE FAN of cop shows, you’ll never cry in your Cheerios about feeling disenfranchised as a viewer.

The Scanner: Good point—to use a less popular example, let’s say The Unit. Which does okay, but was classified as on the bubble this year.

Beatrice: The title makes me giggle like a 12-year-old. They know it’s another word for dick, right? Seriously. The show is called The Dick.

The Scanner: The fact that it’s a David Mamet show makes that more appropriate. If it was on HBO, it could be The Fuckin’ Unit.

Beatrice: And it would be way awesomer than John from Cincinnati. Seriously though, sci-fi fans are probably more connected online. (she says, with no data to back her up), which makes a campaign feasible.

The Scanner: Right. But I also wonder if there’s just a drive (or a gene) that genre fans possess that the rest of the viewing population doesn’t. Because the desire to save a show seems to distinguish genre fans from everyone else.

Beatrice: You know, we could experiment and cancel football.

The Scanner: At one point in the book, you write about how you saw a guy walk into a coffee shop dressed like Michael Jordan and no one batted an eye. You go onto say that if a person did that dressed as Gandalf, “someone would call the cops.” Do you think that’s still true? With the huge box-office numbers for Lord of the Rings and Spider-Man I wonder if we’re reaching a tipping point, if geek culture is becoming mainstream culture.

Beatrice: Okay. But in all fairness, Ethan. You live in New York and I live in LA. I see a guy in a Superman costume walking around everytime I head over to West Hollywood. So I try to put that in perspective. We live in weird cities that celebrate weird.

The Scanner: True. Still, I’d love to believe that one day a hotel employee would say something like “Will the vampire people please leave the lobby” and not mean it in a derogatory way. And in NYC and West Hollywood, they probably wouldn’t.

Beatrice: I don’t know as that will ever be as uneventful as wearing a basketball uniform, though. I’m just hoping it will be a subculture that doesn’t get shoved in a locker, someday.