It’s debbiechan with the small d and no hyphen before the chan. Yes, I know that’s wrong; I’m an English teacher. But when I first started “researching anime” (i.e., combing the internet for cartoon porn), I figured I needed an anonymous handle like everyone else. My husband was already calling me “Debbie-chan” because of my fascination with downloading Dragonball Z episodes in the original Japanese, and I decided to give the name a “cyber” quick-typed feel by uncapitalizing it and running it together. I told Hubby it was my homage to the poets I studied in grad school, to those folk too inspired to be bothered with punctuation.
Do you believe me?
Before typing up this biography, I considered making up an exotic life history, but I settled on telling folks the truth. So here you go, the story of debbiechan:
Like so many others in anime fandoms, I was that kid who finished her Free Enterprise assignment early and spent the rest of the class period writing little stories in a notebook and illustrating them with doodles. Kind people called me “creative,” and everyone else called me “strange.” This strangeness and creativity, in my case, happened in the dark ages, before the internet, when Pong and Asteroid were marvels on my Commodore 64.
I grew up and became a writer—yes, a “real” one, with a decent resume of published poems, essays, stories, translations. I probably could’ve gone on to have a middling successful career as a strange creative person. I won a few national contests, got the occasional teaching gig, spent one fall at a “Writer’s Colony” doing nothing on a generous scholarship beyond sitting on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s tomb writing postcards to my boyfriend. Sometime after the apex of my success (some four minutes of fame reading my poems on National Public Radio), I realized that my worst work was derivative and only occasionally witty. I also came to the sad conclusion that my best work was unabashedly unfashionable but (as the poetry of most strange creative people in their 20’s) more obsessed with sex than ideas. I thought that my voice on NPR sounded like Minnie Mouse’s.
After a few failed love affairs, the deaths of many friends from AIDS, and a growing disgust with the petty pompous clueless culture of the Ivory Tower, I got religion, started teaching Hebrew in a nice suburban synagogue, married a philosophy teacher, had kids.
I was still strange and creative. I wrote the occasional fluff piece in alternative, vegetarian, and homeschooling magazines. I drew pictures for children in pediatrician’s waiting rooms and made up songs in the shower. But I was your real granola girl—no room in my life for television, gadgets like Playstation 2 or (horror of horrors!) violent cartoons.
Then one day my four year old son said he saw the “best show” called “Dragonball” over at Grandpa’s house and could he please please get Grandpa to tape some episodes for him? I said “sure,” but I had to screen them first.
That pointy-haired guy with the rage issues caught my fancy and before long, I was in love with Vegeta. It was about another year before I realized that there was a whole community of insane Vegeta lovers on the internet and that some of these strange, creative people were moms like me. I discovered the strangest phenomenon—so many of these people wrote stories and illustrated their stories themselves. This culture was “outside” academia (which I had major granola girl bitterness against) and while there was a ton of junk in this community, a surprising bit of it was as good as anything in mainstream fiction and art.
I lurked, reading fanfics for a while, until one night in 2004, I left a review for a story I found exceptionally thoughtful and well-written. The writer of that story was LisaB, and we became fast friends. I “came out” in fandom and in a flurry of excitement, wrote 200 pages of stories and drew 30 or so fanarts in a ten month period. Most of my fics had plot and some of my pics were about color and form, but I’ll admit it—most of my stuff was about how sexy Vegeta is. Unlike some nice mommy people who start writing cartoon porn and drawing pics of naked cartoon men, I had no shame. I had been raised a hippie, after all. This was just expressive fun. My husband, the philosophy teacher, was supportive, but to this date he’s only read one of my fanfics (the one with my first sex scene—he pronounced it tamer than some of the poetry I wrote in college). He’s still more interested in reading Arts and Letters Daily than any of my smut.
I became infatuated with fandom insanity. I drew pics on request, I wrote smut in my head while chanting my morning Hebrew prayers, and then Lisa and I started a message board that became wildly populated with fangirls and fanboys from all walks of life. Fandom folk are like folk everywhere—except, perhaps, they are smarter, funnier, and more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness.
Then, in my eleventh month of fandom (and that’s not a metaphor—I mean literally eleven months after I first “came out”), I had a nervous breakdown. What was supposed to have been my escape had become another hard job. I decided to ease my way out of the fandom. Before I went, though, I wanted to leave a footprint. So I decided to build a website for fans of my work. Here you go—the stories and pics are yours as long as my brother-in-law continues to give me free space on his server.
I’m still looking over notes towards a book I wanted to write about my adventures in a cartoon landscape. I have in mind something like The Orchid Thief, that lovely nonfiction account of obsession and delight. I may never write that book, though–gathering permission from all the folks I’d like to be quoted in the book seems like too much trouble at this point. But if you’ve got a Dbz fandom story you want to share, pass it along to me. Who knows, I may sell the movie rights, and your fandom anecdote may end up in a movie adaptation with Meryl Streep playing you.
Or not. ^^
And I have a sneaking suspicion that my “career” in Dragonball Z fandom is far from over. Folks say that Dbz is the gateway drug to anime. I’m currently obsessed with Bleach and expect to ride out that obsession with more typing and drawing. Meet you in the sandbox, fellow “creative” types!