Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big Foot and Me

I'm back, sooner even than I expected to be, with another post at

This one is about my friend Eric Spitznagel, his Vanity Fair piece on Bigfoot, and the reaction it caused among cryptozoology enthusiasts.


Anonymous said...

Very much enjoyed this. I agree 100% about the mainstreamization of various kinds of geek/ fan, sports being only one of the most widely recognized.

I've been thinking about the difference between what makes a fan vs. an appreciator; perhaps the moment where one decides to participate in an activity rather than just soak it in. I.e., actually going to a game rather than just watching it on tv, or going to a con or joining a forum rather than just reading a book/ watching a movie.

Not only did I enjoy the article, I find it amusing that both you and your roommate produced books titled Fast Forward, no matter how wildly varying the content.

Lou Anders said...

And at the same time - in total ignorance of what the other was doing! We've both had very interesting career trajectories, which both launched (with some false starts) from Chicago. Eric introduced me to Russ Meyer, who, it seems was a major influence on Tim Burton, David Lynch and John Waters. You can kind of break that down, seeing what each one took: the bizarre underbelly of middle America, the uncomfortably weird and dysfunctional, the camp. In the same way - I think if I weren't in science fiction, I'd be into McSweeneys, Chuck Palahniuk, Nick Hornby, etc.. which is Eric's domain. I'm probably rambling - but if feels like we run parallel courses in separate universes.

As to what makes a fan - you may be correct, but I think there are probably fans who don't socialize out there too. As a kid, I painted hundreds of Lords of the Rings miniatures and read The Tolkien Companion obsessively, but had no idea anything like fandom existed. I think it's the impulse to "drill down" and learn more, as Neal Stephenson has suggested when he contrasted "geeking out" with "vegging out" as two inverse impulses.

Anonymous said...

I love the bizarre underbelly. I very much admire all three directors you mention- I'll have to check out Russ mEyer. I've always wanted to see Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, but for whatever reason, haven't yet. Part of what I like about the campiness of that kind of story is that it's aware of it's dysfunctional outsider status and celebrates it (esp. thinking John Waters here.)

Re: Fans- Ok, my bad. I accidentally picked social activities for all of my examples. The "drill down" analogy is a good one. I would say the act of seeking out the Tolkien Companion and getting the miniatures is an act of participation with the book itself, not necessarily any community around the book, if that makes sense. I'd say whatever impulse moved me to draw She-Ra fan art (I was nine! It was the eighties! Don't judge me!) even though I never showed it to anyone except maybe a few friends was an early act of fannish behavior, just because it was a way of getting more involved with the material.

Lou Anders said...

I love Meyer's Up, but be forewarned that someone described it as what would happen if Stanley Kubrick did porn. But it has all that self-conscious tongue-in-check as something like the forgotten classic, The President's Analyst.

And yes, it's degree of participation that defines geekdom, not community, I think. Community wasn't as available as it is now everywhere.

Anonymous said...


Loved this piece (think he pretty much nails the conference scene) when I read it on the VF website, love the idea of there being some kind of Wildman still roaming uncaught through the Big Woods, and I don't particularly care if big foot is ever captured or proven entirely mythological.

Hmmm...maybe that "Teddy Bear's Picnic" song is *really* about remnant anthropoidals.

Full disclosure: I own a 3-ft tall wood sculpture of a sasquatch (northern CA type) and regularly read about crypto-beasties at


Lou Anders said...

Hey Robert,
I'm glad someone with a Bigfoot interest (so tempted to say "a (Big)foot fetish!") wasn't offended by Spitzy's piece. Again, I thought he got the mix of nuts and credibles well, as well as, yes, that desire to keep a little mystery in the world. I wonder how long before someone mentions Steve Austin though.

Anonymous said...

Or Harry and the Hendersons...


Lou Anders said...

Great movie!

Eric Spitznagel said...

Robert, you are unreasonably generous. (I'm going to assume you meant I "nail(ed)" the conference in the Stephen Colbert sense.)

But just so we're clear, I'm in no way judgmental of Bigfoot fetishism. In fact, my youth was a blur of sasquatchian obsessiveness. I still shriek like a schoolgirl whenever I think of that hairy-knuckled fist coming through the window in "The Legend of Boggy Creek." Or Leonard Nimoy hosting the sphincter-clenching "In Search Of" Bigfoot special. Or my personal favorite, Andre the Giant dressed up in a wookiee suit and fighting with Lee Majors in slow-motion. To this day, I still own (and occasionally read) The Secret of Bigfoot Pass, the most ass-kicking, page-turning, adverb-abusing novelization of a late 70s sci-fi TV show ever written.

I have an unapologetic crush on all things Bigfoot. That's why the conference was so disappointing. After the Georgia hoax, I expected something better from the true believers. At least something less laughable than PhDs explaining (with a straight face) how much Bigfoot enjoys tickling and tampons. When a kitschy episode of The Six Million Dollar Man has more scientific credibility than a non-ironic Bigfoot conference, something is very, very wrong.