beginning (rough, notes, etc)
I’m reading the last few books of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I started reading it when I was 12, when I was obsessed with him and his neat rows of color-coded paperbacks resting like candy in the old wine boxes my local library used for their pulp and their popular mysteries. I worked my way through everything, starting with Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot and this weird Western called The Gunslinger, and then I found out that he wrote more. He only wrote four, though, out of the seven that he promised, and when I finish the last one – oversize bright purple with a globe of stylized fantasy glass on the cover – I cry because I want the story to keep going.
He starts writing them again when I’m 19, and he finishes them. The sixth is out, the seventh on its way. I really like this boy named Jake – mild-mannered, expansive, intuitive, beautiful Jake. I’m on LiveJournal, making friends online and reading Harry Potter fanfiction and someone I follow, a Big Name in fanfiction, posts about this bar. Milliways, the bar at the end of the universe. I’ve never read Douglas Adams, though I mostly pretend that I have when my nerdier friends ask, but I like the idea of any character from any piece of media being able to interact with each other. So I make a journal.
It’s not going to be just any journal, though. I start a paper journal too, I draw in it – which is text really that I try to stylize and make artistic, I can’t draw real people – and I figure I’m going to scan the pages and post them in Jake’s personal journal. The first page I do is on a yellow legal pad with blue ballpoint pen. After that I go out and buy an artist’s notebook, black spiral bound with thick clean paper.
The first night I go in I’m excited, there are all sorts of threads on the community – some characters I recognize, a lot that I don’t. A lot of characters from Buffy are there and the comment count is huge on their threads. Some others don’t have many and these are the ones I try after setting up my own entrance post – just a few tentative lines, trying to stay in character. A lot of the other players are on East Coast time so the night is mostly wrapping up for them, some of the ones who live in California and across the nation are coming in.
I post my journal entry in Jake’s journal. A few people friend me. I talk to a character from Robert Jordan books, a few from various TV shows. I hear rumors that there’s a Roland, the main character from the Dark Tower, but he’s not in yet. Still, someone who would know Jake. Someone who might like the books as much as me.
You have to understand, I’m sitting in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house in suburban California going to community college after failing out of my four year experience in Arizona and I am bored, yes, but this has been a very formative part of my life for years. I grew up as a teenager on the internet, with new fantasy and sci-fi media. My best friend in the world is someone who I met on a Lord of the Rings fansite, and she’s still my friend now, 15 years later.
I am very lonely but I am very excited. I am isolated, and I am primed for something – something magical and horrible and manipulative and amazing that is about to happen to me, and that I will later participate, often gladly, in for nearly ten years.
There’s a thread that pops up during a lull, when most of the characters in mine go off to bed or we slowtime for the evening, that catches my eye. The character’s name is Todd – he’s a blond boy from seventies-era Southern California and he seems really familiar. And the writer seems really, really good.
I have Jake post and in our chat room, the out of character experience I’m currently timidly being incredibly polite in to everyone, goes quiet.
Someone private messages me – hey, good playing with you tonight, but I’d watch out for that person.
I message back why, what’s the deal? I think they’re playing a Stephen King character
Yeah, and the player is nice. But Todd has done some stuff that some of us in the bar are not entirely okay with. So just warning you.
But the player’s nice?
I sit for a minute and wonder – why would they instantly put someone out like that? It felt incredibly rude, and I felt like a badass, so I decided to message her. I’m gonna do it. And maybe if I do I’ll be a cool kid, maybe I’ll fall into a magical crowd of amazing hip and different people and we’ll run this RPG and walk around together in real life being cool all the time and won’t everyone around us look at us and want to be us?
So I message her
There’s not often a starting point, something that you can loop back to and say yes, that was the moment that everything changed! And it wasn’t entirely – I talked to Annie for a few months and we rapidly developed a close friendship but nothing strange or initiatory really happened for awhile. But that moment when I made a decision to do something because I thought I was so much better than the rest of the players in that Livejournal RPG is when shit really changed for me.