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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/13/2004 Archived Entry: "Book review: When A Fan Hits the Shit"

When a Fan Hits the Shit
By Jeanine Renne
Published by Heisenberg Press
352 pages, $14.95

Reviewed by Laurel Sutton

In which we ask the question: Are science fiction/fantasy fans really crazier than the rest?

Harlan Ellison once wrote an essay called "Xenogenesis" in which he detailed all kinds of horrific and appalling fan behavior perpetrated on SF/fantasy authors, himself included. The truly insane and dangerous fans are a small minority, to be sure, but they make the rest of us look like a bunch of lunatics, don't they? Once story in particular was about a Very Famous Author who showed up to speak at a con, only to find there was no con it was all a front so that the con "organizer" got to spend the weekend with said author.

Multiply that by the cast of the Lord of the Rings movies and you've got the plot of this book. If you hang around Fandom Wank you've probably read pieces of this story; that's how I got hooked on it. I followed it there and at the now-defunct Bit of Earth web site, checking in every day to see what new revelations were coming to light, courtesy of Jeanine Renne, aka Turimel, the author of this book. The short version: a woman named Amy Player blew into LOTR fandom up in Portland, Oregon and immediately began "organizing" (scare quotes used as above) projects and festivals involving cast members of the movies, for the sole benefit of herself and her girlfriend ("Those Two"), i.e., so that they could meet them and hang out with them and be fangirls. In the process they screwed many people out of many dollars, pissed off people in three continents, broke the law regularly, and lied creatively and compulsively. Did I mention that Amy Player tried to pass herself off as Elijah Wood's male cousin? And that she believed she could channel actual hobbits?

Jeanne Renne was one of the people who was conned out of many dollars and got mad enough to do something about it. Her detective work into the many lives of Amy Player was originally posted to the Bit of Earth site, and then to her Live Journal; she decided to publish the saga as a book so that everyone would know the real story of "Those Two", and also to right financial wrongs as best she could. As a book, it's lively and funny, crammed with the kind of details bring the reader right into the story. It's almost too much information: I could have wished for a scorecard to keep track of the cast of characters, and a linear timeline - the book's chapters jump back and forth chronologically, which is an effective storytelling device but confusing as hell when you've got so many different versions of the same events. At times I thought that the lies should have been printed in red and the truth in blue; it would have made for a very colorful book.

Of course, the story isn't over. "Those Two" are still out and about, in LA, presumably still telling people lies but not actually breaking the law whilst doing it. These stories aren't ever over, really; we all know people who con and manipulate others, sometimes emotionally, sometimes financially, just so they can get what they want. Know anybody like this who changed and became a trustworthy member of society? Didn't think so.

When all this shit blew up, there was some talk online about "how the other fans should have known they were being conned" after all, would you believe somebody who claims to be Elijah Wood's cousin, who also claims to be running from the IRA, who has just asked you for your credit card number? But that's the funny thing about fandom: you join it to find a home with people who are crazy about the same things you are, and you're instant friends, and you have all this stuff in common, and why would they lie to you? That's the basis of fandom. You want to believe, to trust. You help each other, work cooperatively, volunteer your time and energy just to have more fandom to play in. And when you find out that another fan somebody like you has taken advantage of you, well, that really is when the shit hits the fan. Sometimes you're lucky no one ends up dead.

This book is only available now at Renne's website, Turondo, Unlimited, and I urge you to go buy yourself one. You can also buy some lovely pottery there, include Hobbit Chia Feet (I'm not kidding).

Also, go to the Newsletter page of Turondo and scroll down to the picture of Royd Tolkien, JRRT's great-grandson. Is he hot or WHAT? And he had a small role in ROTK, as a Ranger! Why has no one told me about him before? You people really need to write me more often.

Replies: 4 comments

And that she believed she could channel actual hobbits?

If it was anyone but you, Laurel, I would wonder if they were making that up. Hm, why are the weirdest stories usually true?

Posted by Ginger @ 11/13/2004 11:54 PM PST

Oh trust me, it is so completely true. There's even chat transcripts in the appendices of about the channeling experiences. Jeanine also found out after it was too late to add anything to the book that the channeling stuff was going on full force all through the time she knew "Jordan" ... a teenager who lived with them sent her an email with lots of details. I'm kind of torn about whether Those Two really believed this, or if just Abbey did, and Amy/Jordan was manipulating her mental weaknesses or something ... for all we know Abbey and/or Amy STILL believe that they have been chosen by the great diving spirits to change the world and are being contacted by them through the guise of the LOTR characters.

There are some quotes from those parts of the books in this FW thread:

Posted by Grianne @ 11/18/2004 08:11 AM PST

I have no doubt as to the truthfulness of the complaints against Amy, I knew her for a few years during my high school days and frosh year of college (my uncle and her father work together) and she always did seem a bit off and a bit full of shall we say bovine fecal matter.

Posted by Bryan @ 05/20/2005 02:34 AM PST

When I heard about the book and all the things that Amy & Abby had done I was very surprised. I hope that they both realize what they did was wrong and ask for forgiveness, while trying to get help. I also hope that Amy knows we were all shocked, but being that I am kin to her will do anything and all I can do to help her if the road gets rocky.She has always known she can talk to me.

Posted by Christine @ 05/24/2005 02:24 PM PST

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