It was very nice returning to my old favorites, and I've made several striking discoveries along the way. For instance, now that I'm older, I know the stories by heart well enough that on new reads I find I'm paying more attention to the way it's being told. Reading with more of a writer's eye, so to speak. Also, I'm realizing what a very good book Mammoth Hunters is – no really! If you just drop the whole main A/J angst plot-line, the rest of the book is very well told. Valley of Horses was always my favorite and the one I savored most, but I'm really enjoying this read of MH and I almost wish I'd gone slower to savor it even more.
My musings got me thinking about these books and how they might relate to me. It goes beyond squee, fandom for me, and as I was reading yesterday, I toyed with my amulet and tried to recall just how that had happened. Many people don't understand the passions behind fandoms, especially when it comes to fanfic and things like that, and it occurred to me that
I tried remembering the first time I picked up Clan of the Cavebear, and I can't. It had to have been in middle school, I think. I was probably 11 or 12 when I first read it. I remember finding it in the school library (I'm surprised about that now, actually), and I vaguely remembered seeing the movie when I was little and was intrigued enough to read the book.
I've always been a reader. I can't remember ever learning how; I always just knew. I wrote my first published story at age 7, when my second grade teacher really liked a story of mine and passed it on to an editor friend of hers. She encouraged me to be a writer, and that's what I wanted. Nothing could incite passion from me as quickly as discovering a new good book. When my step-dad came into the picture, I lost myself in the worlds of both my imagination and others', and I devoured books (especially spec fic) as a means of escape. I hated the world I lived in, and I preferred living in other worlds whenever possible.
Clan of the Cavebear blew me away the first time. Jean Auel is a decent writer, but she's amazing with research. That woman knew her stuff when she wrote, and even the fantastical things were written with believability. At that point, I was too immature to pay attention to how books were written, because I would always get lost in the story and zoom through. I did notice, though, that Auel had pages of description – that, for the most part, held my attention and taught me a lot. I learned a lot about the natural world, and how it once was, reading those books.
Sure, I was impressionable, but the book found me at a crux in my life. My mom had just started getting into her New Age thing, and we were actually having a lot of teas and herbal remedies, so reading about Ayla's training as a Medicine Woman resonated a bit with me and piqued my interest further. We lived in the mountains and were dragged out hiking every summer. Hiking in my family was not like hiking in normal families – for us, it was forced labor while our stepdad dragged us out into the deep woods where fewer people could hear us cry. I won't get into all that here, but it wasn't all smiles and blueberries, although they did have their moments. Usually it was torture, and I wished I had a bit of that freedom that Ayla had – being able to go off by myself, learn how to take care of myself, and just in general have something that I excelled at. I cried much more than Ayla did, but I wished I had her strength and talents. I didn't know she was a Mary Sue then, I just knew that she handled things much better than I did, and I wished I had a bit of Cave Lion totem to me.
As you can possibly tell, I also empathized with her life of abuse. I, thank God, was never sexually abused, but abuse is abuse. I was mainly emotionally/mentally abused, occasionally physically, and people rarely spoke up for me either. Living that as an adolescent girl, and then reading about another adolescent girl in a similar situation, but who overcomes her abuser, really called to me then. Growing up as a child, that's the life I wanted – I wanted to have my own private cave somewhere, a utopia where I could just take care of myself and grow strong. I hated life, I hated society, I hated people. To this day, I'd still be happier if I were living in a cave somewhere. I have plans, if civilization ever falls as everyone predicts. In fact, my dream come true would be to win the lottery with enough funds to buy my own island and start a naturalist tribe where me and any like-minded friends or family could go live freely like that. Hunt my own food, tan my own hides, hold ceremonies, maybe even dabble in somuti...
So I found this book at a crucial point in my life, and it called to me deeply. I devoured it, then Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, and Plains of Passage in quick succession. Then I started over. They became my favorite escape books, and I couldn't even guess at how many times I've read them in my life.
When I was 16 or 17, I was visiting my dad and hopped on his intarweb for a short bit. I did a search on Jean M. Auel, hoping to find out any new news about the next book. I didn't find any, of course, but what I did find was EC Fans, then called the Auelboard. I spent several years there at the Auelboard, and that was how I learned about the yahoo RPG groups that were popping up. A friend from the Auelboard was the first person to make an EC RPG, the Snow Leopard Camp (Mamutoi – which I tried for years to keep going but it just fizzled). After that, TheClanRPG opened up, and then a quick succession of groups – everyone was on EC crack! I belonged to at least five or six groups at one time, mostly Mamutoi although people started making groups up. It was crazy with all the horses, wolves, falcons, etc. that everyone wanted to have. Everyone wanted to top Ayla, so it got kind of
And so I had inadvertently joined a community of like-minded fans. I'd never heard of 'fandom' or even fanfic until then. I was always very careful to use only original characters, since Jean Auel is
Now when I discovered Orson Scott Card (and later Jacqueline Carey), I had already learned a good deal from being sucked into the EC fandom. The first thing I did was seek out these writers' sites and do some googling for good RPGs. EC started that, and my RPGs have become an integral part of who I am. I haven't stopped rping since I started in Snow Leopard Camp, and I really do feel that they've helped me to become a better writer. I love taking someone's established universe and just being let loose to play in it. It keeps me writing, it keeps me passionate, and it keeps me revisiting my favorite stories.
It's been one or two years since I got my amulet. Well, it's really a Medicine Bag, but in my head I always think of it as my amulet, since that's what I grew up knowing it as. I started feeling I needed one, and I told Josh, who surprised me with one fairly quickly. I don't think of it so much as a Clan amulet, but I love having it to carry around my own special things in. People always remark on it, ask what's in it, then knowingly tell me that I'm not supposed to tell anyone. LOL I say “Rocks and stuff. Things that have meaning only to me.” I've been feeling like I should share my amulet, and I'm contemplating it, but I felt this post should come first.
I play several characters in my Clan RPG, and I'm trying to breathe some new life into it. It's been seven years, I think, and things got kind of slow. We lost a lot of members. I almost gave up, but it's been a labor of love for so long that I couldn't. lessthan90sheep, bless her heart, has been my faithful co-mod for many years and has helped keep it alive when my periodic absences would flare up. Now we have a lot of new storylines coming up, and I'm very happy to have my excitement back about it. I've realized that, like the Clan, our group will quickly become extinct if there's no room for change. The EC universe is so rich and fun that we should be able to tap into that, but Clan life was strictly structured. I already had the most 'accepting' leader a la Brun (Bron, modeled after him, actually, but when I took Bron over from the OP I made him my own), but I've laid the groundwork for some major changes coming up soon. You can get a hint of that in the short story I wrote about The History of Nord's Clan, and we're going to be introducing more people of 'mixed spirits' and allowing more room for change, to make our storylines more exciting and inclusive. I had lots of ideas already, but rereading the series is giving me even more. Some of them devious.
I'm excited about this new chapter. If you're interested, please check out our group and the ClanRPG Website (I'm updating it, so things are in the middle of switching around), and join up! We're going beyond Clan hunting/cooking/coupling and making room for new innovative stuff. We have an 'evil spirit' targeting our women, and Mog-ur is going to insist that they spend more time in women's rituals and exploring their spirituality. Half our Clan is about to be decimated by a Cavebear, and they'll actually end up gaining status while we cull unplayed characters. This is the first time in many years that we've opened up the floor to introducing new characters (as opposed to 'adopting' someone in the cave who wasn't being played), and there are a few good surprises in the mix.
This Clan is close to my heart. I created Mog-ur with a Wolf totem before I found out that Wolf was my own totem, and my character Iba got pregnant both times I did. 'Edie' and 'Iva' resulted, and I played out my pregnancies through her. My character Edra is Mog-ur's sister, who finally realized her dream of becoming a Medicine Woman in her 'retirement', and who is a healer gifted in pregnancy and childbirth. ;) And the leader Bron...well, I didn't created him, but I've played him for so long that he has a wee bit of me in there, too. Poor guy keeps his hands full, and all he really gets from me is giving his mate away, killing another (soon, soon...), and generally just creating havoc in his well-ordered clan.
But it keeps me passionate. :)
Thus is the beginnings of my fangirl journey. It's the tip of the iceberg, really, but it has definitely shaped my life. I wonder...could these books have been the initial seed planted that started my Sign Language journey? Well, I seem to recall the seed being planted before CotCB, but I'm sure it helped lead me that way.
I'm sure I'll make some icons whenever I manage to download GIMP again.
I am going now.
Walk with Ursus.