Andrew Olmsted, a blogger and US soldier, was killed in Iraq within the past few days.
I don't mention him because I knew him, or because I read his blog
. I mention it because I read his final post, and it's worth a link
. He knew what he was getting into, and so he composed a final post, in the event that he didn't make it back.
And the reason I mention this is that Andrew Olmsted was a fan.
There's a lot of talk about fandom as a transformative culture: we take the objects of our fandom to our heart, and shape them to suit our ends. But it's rarely mentioned that the reason we do so is that we see ourselves, our hearts, in it in the first place. Andrew Olmsted's final post reminded me of that: he sprinkled in quotations that felt relevant to him: Plato, yes, but also TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE and GREG THE BUNNY, and, overwhelmingly, BABYLON 5.
I don't know if I've ever posted here how much BABYLON 5 meant to me: it was my first serious fandom, and it was my gateway into organized fandom as a whole. And to see it quoted so heavily, and often, by a guy who was writing his farewell to the planet and the people he loved, meant more than I could easily express: because I saw the heart of a man I never knew in a show I deeply loved -- and so his letter spoke to me, for me, not just because of his own words, but because of his invocation of words that were written by someone else. Because there was a time when I was heading into a dicey situation, and I composed a just-in-case letter for some friends. And the last line that Andrew Olmsted quoted, I quoted, too.
Fandom does the damnedest things. When Olmsted posted on the group blog to which he was a contributor, he posted with the username "G'kar." That's what BABYLON 5 meant to him. It helped him to see, and feel, and express what he felt within himself. Fandom has lately focused on the aspects of transformative culture: we change what we take in. For me, it's always been the other way around: what we take in changes us. Fandom transforms us. It transformed me.
And tonight it gave me an unexpected, deeply felt connection to a man I never knew. He asks that rather than mourn his passing, people remember the good things. I didn't know him, so can't speak to that. But I can say that tonight he reminded me of parts of fandom I hadn't remembered, or felt in quite this way, for a while.
He also asks that if you're going to think of him, have a good time while doing it:
What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.
I have 'Freedom Isn't Free,' so that's covered. As for the '80s music? Only one choice
Rest well, Andrew Olmsted.