On being an Australian Hanson fan and fan fiction author
by: Aeryn (website)
Like many other Hanson fans, I was nearly thirteen years old when I heard MMMBop for the very first time. For me, it was a Saturday morning in the middle of May 1997. But unlike many other fans, I didn’t see the MMMBop video on MTV. My very first sighting of Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson was on a TV show called Video Hits — an institution of Australian TV and the Australian music industry since June 1986.
Yes, you read that correctly. Unlike the vast majority of Hanson fans, I’m Australian through and through. I have lived on the world’s smallest and only island continent for my whole life, and have left the mainland just once in all my twenty-five years. This puts me in a rather interesting position for three particular reasons — isolation, dialect and accent, and sense of humour.
Australia is by its nature very isolated. Our closest neighbours are Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Indonesia. To give an idea of the sheer distance, a typical flight from Los Angeles to Sydney takes around fourteen hours, with your average Sydney to London flight being on average twenty-three hours long. Both are flights that I have experienced first-hand. Until my first overseas trip, I had never truly appreciated just how far my home country is from pretty much everywhere else. Perhaps because of this, Hanson have visited Australia in a professional capacity just four times — in 1997, 2000, 2004, and 2005. Only one of those visits has been for anything other than a promotional tour — the Australian leg of the Underneath Electric Tour in late May and early June 2005, during which I attended my very first Hanson concert at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. By extension, it can be difficult for Australian fans to travel to the USA for Hanson’s tours within their home country, due to a combination of distance and travel costs, though some of us have managed it. I, unfortunately, am not yet one of them.
Our isolation as a country and people has also given way to the evolution of the English language. The first non-indigenous inhabitants of the Australian continent were English convicts and their gaolers, with European settlement beginning on January 26 1788. Almost 212 years later, the brand of English spoken Down Under has diverged dramatically from British English and evolved to become known as Australian English. My native dialect, common to most of the 21 million-odd inhabitants of my homeland, can be very difficult to understand if someone is unfamiliar with it. I call my friends mate, I call and text my friends and family on a mobile phone rather than a cellphone, I barrack for my favourite sports team (as rooting for them in public would be considered indecent exposure), and instead of saying hello I do occasionally say g’day. I also swear a lot more than might otherwise be considered polite, and my speech is peppered with quite a bit of slang (rhyming or otherwise), shortened words and phrases, and regionalisms. To give something of an example, my own nickname is typically Australian, and is given to Australian girls and women who are called Erin, no matter the spelling. I have been called Ezza since the seventh grade, itself often shortened to Ez if the speaker knows me particularly well. The Australian accent is also quite distinctive, and to the ears of some non-Australians does sound English, due in part to our Cockney and Irish influences. A characteristic of the accent is a tendency to raise the inflection of the end of a sentence up a number of tones, resulting in the speaker sounding as if they’re asking a question when they might not be. Perhaps for these reasons, ever since joining fandom I have identified more with my fellow Australian fans than with fans in other countries — I understand them better than I understand, say, the American or English fans, purely because of a common language and accent.
Also part of being Australian is our sense of humour. Three things in particular make it stand out — it can be very irreverent, we find it easy to make a joke out of very nearly anything, and nine times out of ten we have a tendency to get quite crude. Australians of Generations X, Y and Z often will not so much as blink when hearing some of the more forceful and potent swear words, and rarely hesitate to use those words themselves. This may be due in part to a lack of censorship of coarse language post-watershed, this time being 8:30pm one day until around 5:30am the next. Even so, during the day and prime time at night, only the most harsh of swear words are censored on the television. Our sense of humour extends to a poem by bush poet and balladeer Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1864-1941) called Waltzing Matilda, which has since been put to music and that many Australians consider to be our unofficial national anthem (Advance Australia Fair being our official anthem). Waltzing Matilda in fact tells the story of a man who steals a sheep (at the time the poem was composed, this was an offence punishable by death from hanging), drowns himself in a waterhole after being caught by the sheep’s owner and the police, and forevermore goes on to haunt the site of his death — thus making its usage as the unofficial national anthem very tongue-in-cheek. In 2003 Melbourne comedy duo Scared Weird Little Guys went even further with the poem, turning it into a rap song in the likeness of Eminem’s Cleanin’ Out My Closet. A downside to the Australian sense of humour is that oftentimes, the humour of other nations and cultures can be largely incomprehensible to us.
So how does all of this tie into being an Australian fan fiction author in a fandom largely populated by Americans?
I was thirteen-and-a-half when I began writing my very first fan fiction story, during my summer break from high school between the seventh and eighth grades. I had no regular computer access at the time, and while I had certainly heard of the Internet I had never used it. I had no idea what fan fiction was until shortly before my eighteenth birthday. When I began writing, I wrote the sort of stories I liked to read. This is a trend that has continued to this day. At the time those stories were about kids like myself — Australian teenagers. A lack of Internet access meant that my research about other cultures was limited to watching television and movies (Buffy The Vampire Slayer being a favourite show), reading books that I borrowed from the library, browsing through the Encarta and Grolier CD-ROM encyclopedias owned by my family when I could get on the computer, and a set of World Book encyclopedias from the 1960s. My very limited resources at the time meant that it was easier for me and my somewhat immature muse to set my stories within my home country, something that needed very little research on my part. Even now, during the Information Age and with seemingly limitless resources just a mouse click away, I still prefer to set some of my fanfics within my home country, purely because it allows me to concentrate on telling the story. As an example, my most recent project for National Novel Writing Month is set wholly within my local area, known as the Illawarra. The only research needed for this story is bus and train timetables, my local phone directory, Google Maps, and all the knowledge of my home region that I’ve stored away in my head over the last two-and-a-half decades. My preference for giving my stories an Australian ‘flavour’, so to speak, does often result in them being categorised as alternate universes or alternate histories, but I have never allowed this to bother me. Even when I do set a story in the United States, I still use Australian terms and spellings for common words. A pavement will be renamed a footpath, for example, or I’ll spell ‘colour’ with an extra letter (a ‘u’ in this case). Rather than being stubborn and refusing to write as my fandom compatriots do, it is merely the way the words flow from my brain to my fingertips, and from there to the keyboard of my laptop, the way I was taught by my parents and my English teachers all through primary and high school to use the English language.
I’m proud to call myself an Australian Hanson fan. Even in the face of constant torment and ridicule, it is something that has never wavered since I heard their music for the first time. And I am even prouder to call myself an Australian Hanson fan fiction author.