So, here’s the story of my biggest fandom regret.
Towards the end of my deep time in Joss Whedon fandom came the tenth anniversary of Firefly in 2012. By that time, I’d been around that show’s fan community since the Fox-run “OB” as it was called (either the Old Boards or the Original Boards, depending on whom you ask); obsessively tracked the mysterious viral release of the River Tam Sessions promoting the feature followup Serenity (though at the time they were referred to by the title of the first clip, “Session 416”); and the global charity fundraiser I’d originally founded, Can’t Stop the Serenity was itself six years old. That last part typically was how anyone connected to the show or its fandom knew who I was at all.
That year at Comic-Con of course brought with it the Firefly big anniversary panel on July 13, and this is where my biggest, face-palming, head-desking fandom regret comes in.
My original photography hobby still was going reasonably strong back then, and I’d rent long, fast lenses for conventions, because you never know just where you’re going to be in Ballroom 20 for large, well-attended panels like this one was sure to be.
Before the panel, and I don’t recall if it was the day-of or the day-before — I rather suspect it would have been the day-of — while hanging out at the California Browncoats booth on the show floor (one of my safe spaces within the teeming crowds) while Tim Minear, who executive produced the show along with Whedon, asked me if I wanted to be backstage for the reunion panel.
Now, here’s where I have to make sure you understand something. This was in 2012, five years before I’d be late-diagnosed as autistic, with an anxiety comorbidity centered around social and performance distress. Had I known these things that July of 2012, I might have had tricks and tools with which to navigate suddenly being unprepared and at-sea conversationally, which is the effect this question had upon me.
The gears ground to a halt. My brain latched onto things like the fact that I’d rented an expensive lens to take photos from somewhere out in the house. Unconsciously, I’m sure I suffered a sort of preemptive social paralysis at the thought of being, in a sense and despite having just been invited, where I didn’t belong.
I said thanks, but no.
To this day, I’ve no idea what Minear must have thought at that moment. Surely, he must have thought I was completely out of my mind. Such is the haze surrounding this event that I don’t even know whether I told anyone about it, either at the time or in the eight years since.
My photos of the panel are okay. They certainly aren’t great, and they mostly aren’t the types of photos every other photographer in the ballroom that day wouldn’t also have gotten.
Imagine what photos I might have been able to get backstage instead. Even if the publicity folks for the Science Channel, which in essence was sponsoring the panel, might have temporarily embargoed them, just imagine them anyway.
It’s not just my biggest fandom regret. It’s clearly my single biggest failure as a fan. Out of all the obstacles that being unknowingly-autistic created until I was forty-seven, this literally is the one that plagues me the most. I don’t think about it often, but when I do — like now, here, tonight — not even the mirtazapine can quite keep the feelings of relived anxiety away.