This is not an article that I ever wanted to write – or that I ever, in a million years, imagined myself writing. But I want to say something about the friend that I lost this week, and remember just how special Kathy Larsen was.
I met Kathy through fandom. In fact, she was one of the first people I met through fandom, shortly after I discovered that online fandom was even a thing that exists. We were part of a small listserv, passionate about some of the same rather obscure things – a movie, a band, an actor that not many people had even heard of – and fangirled each other’s writing immediately. Kathy was a brilliant writer, whether it was fiction or nonfiction. She could make you laugh, pull you into a mystery, or absolutely gut you with a tragic ending. She could explain concepts that were difficult to grasp in a way that never felt like talking down to anyone, which I’m sure her students appreciated too.
Once we found out we lived only a few hours from each other, we started driving that two hours often, especially when we fell down the rabbit hole of loving a new thing – a relatively unknown little TV show on the WB called ‘Supernatural’.
Along with two friends, we fell in love with Supernatural together, and became fascinated by the close-knit community we found in that show’s fandom. At the same time, we questioned whether it was really okay for us to be quite so far down the rabbit hole. We were professors, professionals, partners, parents. Was it really okay for us to spend so much time and energy loving a TV show? Maybe because we were both professors and accustomed to research, or maybe because we just needed to prove to ourselves that it WAS okay, Kathy and I set out to find the answer. We would write a book, we decided, that set the record straight about fans and fandom, and especially fangirls. We’d examine it from our somewhat diverse perspectives, me as a psychologist and her as an English professor. But to do that, we reasoned, we needed to dive into Supernatural fandom head first and not look back – and that’s exactly what we did.
We flew across the country on almost no notice to see Jensen Ackles on stage in Fort Worth for A Few Good Men, leaving partners and kids a bit stunned. Especially when we decided one performance was not enough. The personality differences between me and Kathy made our fangirl adventures quite a contrast, and occasionally hilarious. We met Jared Padalecki (who had flown in to see his friend in the production) in the lobby candy line. I marched right up to say hello; Kathy opted not to budge from her spot in the corner and watched from a safe distance.
We needed some margaritas after with our friend Amy.
We flew across the country again all the way to LA for the premiere of the Ackles-laden indie film Ten Inch Hero (starring both Jensen and Danneel). I managed to tell Danneel how much I loved the film while Kathy once again watched supportively from across the room.
But in other things, Kathy was fearless. We rented a PT Cruiser, figured out how to drive it (mostly) and drove down to San Diego to experience Comic Con and the Supernatural panel for the very first time.
Driver picked the music.
Shotgun shut her cakehole (and enthusiastically sang along to the classic rock and a little Steve Carlson).
Comic Con was eventful. We finally met Jensen Ackles.
Kathy watched supportively from ten yards away and then hugged me and patted me until I calmed down.
(A short while later, we met Eric Kripke for the first time. It was Kathy’s turn to cry that time.)
Sometimes our fangirl proclivities trumped our personality differences and we ended up on the same page – which was often a unique one.
We took a detour to Capistrano and giggled nonstop while taking photos of a giant vat of holy water, enacting our very best Sam and Dean and confusing all the other tourists who were less than fascinated by it.
We stayed up half the night for days on end to get a good ticket for the very first Creation Supernatural convention – and the second, and the third, and the fourth.
If you’ve read Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls, you know that Kathy HATES having her picture taken. The fact that I dragged her into a few photo ops is really a testament to the power of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, who she adored enough to allow Chris Schmelke to snap a few pictures.
We made a pilgrimage to Vancouver and joined a few other Supernatural fans in a quest to find some of the locations where our favorite show was filmed. A bench, a gas station, an alley, a playground, a bridge. Things that were unremarkable to others were cause for celebration.
We nearly got arrested at midnight, looking for the iconic fence (in the dark, without a flashlight) where Dean finally confessed to Sam what their Dad told him he might have to do. That one was hard to explain to local police.
And all the while, we wrote.
We documented our wild road trip through Supernatural fandom and what we learned about being a fan and being part of the community of fandom. Warner Brothers was shocked that anyone was interested enough in the constantly-on-the-bubble Supernatural to write a book on it, and invited us to the set to talk to Jared and Jensen.
In conversations in the boys’ trailers, Kathy consistently provided the voice of reason (and elbows to the side none too gently) when my fangirl side threatened to derail my professional side. (Don’t let that fool you though, she was as affected as I was by Ackles in single layer black tee shirt and Padalecki taking off his Sam Winchester wardrobe as we chatted).
The next time we went to set, we interviewed Misha Collins, brand new to the show, in our hotel bar, talking to him for so long that his manager called and reminded him he was missing another appointment. We chatted with brilliant director of photography Serge Ladouceur in the same bar until well after midnight, endlessly fascinated.
We set up shop in the green room at the next few conventions as we worked on the book, conducting interviews with the Supernatural actors while we swallowed our nerves, to understand their views of fandom – and getting to know some of them as the awesome people they are along the way.
Sometimes we met up with the actors in the local coffee shop so we could caffeinate at the same time – Kathy’s love of coffee is legendary, and probably influenced my current addiction to iced lattes, though they’re decaf now. And on one memorable occasion, at Jim Beaver’s house, because he’s just that lovely.
We wrote articles for Supernatural Magazine, thrilled to contribute and never tiring of writing about our favorite show.
After our professional chores were done, we put our fangirl hats back on. We drank purple nurples and toasted the show we loved and bought matching Chevy Impala replicas one night stuck at an airport at 2 am while trying to get home, having much too much fun opening and closing the doors in unison like we were Jared and Jensen on set.
And we wrote and we wrote and we wrote.
We met in a Starbucks at a rest stop halfway between Philly and DC on I95 every time we had a few free hours to work on the book. If we had a weekend, I’d stay at her house or she’d stay at mine, and we’d watch Supernatural.
And we’d write.
We got together on family vacations in Ocean City, Maryland, our kids and partners growing close too, united in their annoyance when Kathy and I inevitably ended up with our noses in books, drawn back to the research.
Writing a book is of course only a part of the battle. For a while, it looked like the powers that be would publish our book themselves, eager for the much needed publicity. That didn’t exactly work out when they belatedly realized we wanted to tell it like we saw it and not like anyone else wanted us to see it when it comes to fandom, and then we were back to square one. I was discouraged, ready to give up. Kathy, on the other hand, was not. We have an important story to tell, she said, and goddamnit we’re gonna tell it!
Kathy did the hard work of finding us our first agent, who then did the hard work of trying to find a publisher who would take a chance on a book about fandom and a show no one had really heard of. Some publishers thought it was too academic and “fans won’t understand this”. Others thought it was too fluffy and “won’t be taken seriously.” All our protests of “actually fans are really smart, and yes they will read this” didn’t work, and eventually our lovely agent gave up.
But once again, Kathy didn’t.
We found a little publisher in the UK almost as obscure as Supernatural itself, who was willing to publish the more academic part of our research but allow some anecdotes along the way to bring the story to life so fans might read it too. Henry Jenkins, the ‘father’ of fan studies himself, liked it and invited Kathy and me to discuss it on his popular blog. We celebrated the publication of Fandom At The Crossroads like we’d had another child.
Writing is a little bit addictive, as every writer, published or fanfic or both, knows. People kept encouraging me and Kathy to tell the rest of the story – our own story of falling into fandom. Chad Lindberg was one of those instrumental people. So was long-time friend M. Night Shyamalan.
Eventually, despite our misgivings about being so personally vulnerable, we listened. University of Iowa Press took a big chance and published Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls, the behind the scenes story of our unlikely roadtrip through fandom – and of our friendship. Now that Kathy is no longer here with me, I am beyond grateful to have the story of our friendship and all our fannish adventures immortalized in that book. You get to know her when you read it. Her sense of humor, her wit, her intelligence. Her loyalty and affection and passion.
God, I’m going to miss her.
We published two more books together – Fan Culture: Theory/Practice, and Fan Phenomena: Supernatural. But that wasn’t all Kathy did to make her mark on the world. Kathy was a force of nature in the field of fan studies too. She was instrumental in starting the Journal of Fandom Studies, which has been a major influence on the field and continues to be today. I joined her as Assistant Editor for a while and am on the Editorial Board now, as the Journal has flourished under her leadership. She chaired the Fan Studies area of the Popular Culture Association, where I’m presenting at their annual conference next month. I thought I would (virtually) see her there – it’s surreal to know that I will not.
We started this website together, as a place to share thoughts on fandom, accessible to everyone. We hoped our books would help other fans feel good about fandom, and come together to celebrate the things we loved.
Our fandom paths diverged some in recent years, as Kathy moved on to other fannish loves and I remained steadfastly fandom monogamous, but we stayed friends and we stayed fascinated with fandom and all the things that are good and healthy and positive about being a fan. We had a zoom chat not long ago and spent some time reminiscing about those early days when fandom was so new and exciting and we had all the time in the world to discover it. We were looking forward to a new semester of teaching, new projects, new shows and films and music to love in 2022. To new adventures with friends and partners and the amazing people our children have become.
Of course, you never know what “all the time in the world” means or when that will come to an end. I didn’t expect to lose her so suddenly, when she was so full of life and vitality.
I’ve been thinking about the question we asked ourselves when we fell into fandom so many years ago – is this okay? Can we really do this? I think Kathy would be glad for all the times we threw caution to the wind and did something that seemed a bit outlandish but ended up making memories that would last a lifetime. Together we traveled places we never would have, shored up courage we didn’t know we had to attempt things we never expected would succeed, and made friends all over the world as a result of a little show on the CW that we all had in common.
Yesterday when I posted the news that Kathy had passed away, that same fandom that we discovered many years ago reached out from all over the globe to express their sadness at her loss, and to share how the books and her writing had helped many other people feel good about being fans and following passions themselves. I hope Kathy could feel the love. I’m pretty sure that she’s now certain, as am I, that the answer to that long ago question is a resounding YES.
Thanks for helping me and so many others figure that out, Kathy. I love you, always.
Thank you, SPNFamily, for all the love and support.
[For those who asked about donations in her name, Kathy’s family – her amazing husband Dave and her awesome kids Mikah and Alex – suggest the Lupus Research Alliance]
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42 thoughts on “In Memory of Kathy Larsen, With Love”
I’m so sorry for your loss, Lynn.
I’m so very sorry for your loss 💔😢 I’m a long time SPN fan from back in 2005 , I literally never knew that someone had written a book about SPN awesome fandom and being a fan girl….now that I do, I will be reading yours and Kathy’s book, THANK YOU AND KATHY for putting a voice to how much SPN means to people ❤️ May she RIP
I’m new to your story but I had to comment after reading this on Google. I was a quiet fan of Supernatural so I never got into the Fandom, not to mention I live a long way from California or Vancouver being in Indiana. I can relate to your story because I have my “partner in crime” friend who shares my crazy Fandom of new kids on the block. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I lost her suddenly, we’ve stayed friends through different majors, different colleges, my autoimmune disease flaring, her marriage & 3 children, & my moving back in with my parents because of the before mentioned disease. We even saw them again 28 years later. I hope all the good memories help you through this terrible loss. My sympathies.
Oh Lynn, I am so sorry to read about Kathy’s passing. Hugs and condolences in this sad time.
What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I love all of your books and look forward to meeting you. I’m
Sorry I never got to meet Kathy. She was a wonderful writer (like you!) and the world has lost a true light. Much love to you and Kathy’s family.
My deepest sympathies for the loss of your dear friend. If I may share a bit I would like to say that the books you wrote together were some of the first examples of adults with professional backgrounds telling me I was OK for finding happiness in my “fandomness” as an adult with adult responsibilities. Before then I was ashamed because I linked the word fan with fanatic, having heard it used with this connotation so often in the media. I has been badly teased by an older sibling while growing up for my deep love of book characters, music groups and such. You both helped on my path of self reclamation. I wish I could give you a hug.
This is beautiful, Lynn, and captures Kathy’s spirit so well. Thank you. I will miss her so much. xo
Such a beautiful legacy to leave behind. I wondered through the whole article what happened to her. And when I got to the end, well, as a lupus warrior myself I am completely in awe of all your accomplishments together. We never know what tomorrow might bring. But you’ll always have the memories you’ve made together.
My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your friend. I have read your books and they have helped me understand that being a fan is a legitimate thing.
I’m sorry for your loss for sure. A close friend is hard to find and impossible to replace. May your happy memories sustain you as you miss her presence in your life…
Lynn, I am so sad to read this. I have been following your blog for years and so much enjoyed reading about your adventures with your friend. I also am pretty sure I have ALL of you and Kathy’s books! I bought the early ones about 9 years ago when I first joined the fandom, and devoured them! They are all amazing, and made me squeeee! as well as think about fandom in a different way than I ever had before. I, too found a wonderful family at cons, starting with my first one in 2015. SPN has become a huge part of my life and brought me so much comfort and joy, in good and bad times.
You have my deepest sympathy on the loss of your friend. I wish you comfort in all the happy memories you shared <3
Lynn, this is a wonderful tribute to Kathy. It saddens my heart when I read this and know how much her passing effects you and her husband children, friends and the SPNFamily. I have personally enjoyed reading your books and blogs. And Kathy’s wit and humor will be greatly missed.
My wish for all those reading your tribute, for those who have followed Kathy and you and for her family, a peace that knows no end and a never ending memories of Kathy.
With love to you Lynn –
A beautiful, heartfelt tribute. Long distance hugs for you,
Sad to hear the news. Kathy will live on through her work, which clearly continues to help people. Condolences to yourself and Kathy’s family and friends.
Great tribute to a good friend and fellow fan. My condolences for your loss
Oh, Lynn: I had not heard about Kathy. I’m glad I learned this news from you. May her memory be a blessing to us all.
Lynn, I hadn’t heard the news about Kathy until seeing this. I’m so sorry and send my condolences. I so enjoyed meeting Kathy and you in Vancouver in 2007 and then getting to see you again at Creation conventions in 2008. I remember those purple nurples! This was a lovely tribute to her. And I may just have to reread Fangasm in her honor. Sending love to Kathy’s family, you, and your family.
Condolences to you Lynn in the loss of a great friend. I too lost a very close friend several years back and so I understand the void it leaves. Take insolence in knowing that you both have touched more lives in your books then you will ever know. I meet you both when Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls and Fandom at the Crossroads came out and have my autographed copy in a special place. These books helped me realize that long before Supernatural, that my obsession and love of the Twilight Series (it also helped that Stephanie is an Arizona resident also) was okay so I went full on with being a huge Supernatural fan. Thank you for sharing a beautiful tribute to Kathy.
I am so sorry for your loss and the loss of the fandom. What you wrote was so touching. I have enjoyed reading your books and being part of the great SPN Fandom.
Thank you, Lynn, for the extraordinarily beautiful tribute to Kathy Larsen. As a dedicated SPN fan and academic myself, I am enduringly grateful to Kathy (and to you) for giving fandom a place in the academy. Kathy’s energy of inquiry, passion, and support will forever be a part of the shining light of our fandom.
What a beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss and sad to lose a member of our SPN family. I wish you all healing.
What a beautiful tribute. Sorry for your loss
Dear Lynn, I own your shared books, I read the Fangasm page regularly, I love Jared, Jensen & Supernatural. I am an older fan (almost 69 now) & felt like something was wrong with me to be so passionate about my loves. I had a wonderful marriage (he passed in 2020 after 47 yrs of marriage) & 2 adult children who also were a bit bewildered but humored me. I found one friend, then a 2nd that now wallow in this world with me. I had dinner with you & Kathy in Seattle a # of years ago at Lunchbox labs. I don’t think Kathy spoke, but we rattled on with you, I had your book in my bag & you both signed it for me. (We didn’t know who you were when we sat together, but we knew you were SPN fans) Your books lessened my fear that I was loosing my sense of reality. Thank you to you both for putting it into words. This was a lovely tribute & a special friendship. Thank you for sharing!
It was such a shock to see your tweet about your friend Kathy Larsen, I have never met either of you but as soon as I heard of your first book I bought it and have bought and read all of your and Katherine’s Supernational books since. I have just re read some of Fangasm to remember how much both of you and your words meant to me and still do resonate. Rest in peace Kathy, you were very much loved.
My deepest condolences, Lynne. Your books are so important to understanding the love we all have for our little show and Kathy was a huge part of helping the fans get that understanding. Huge hugs to you for losing such an important friend.
Such a heartfelt tribute to your friend .Condolences to you an all who knew her. Treasure all her travels an such a great friendship you all had. Prayers to all family members , and The Supernatural family who knew her .
So sorry for your loss and close friend.
Dear Lynn, this beautiful tribute so pulled my heart, and since I just last month lost a very, very dear friend, the wound is fresh. I so related to both of you in your Fangasm book, which I have been re-reading just the last few weeks, and remember some of my early days of meeting some of my musical ‘idols’ many years ago (I am a musician) when my band would open for them….stumbling over attempted words when Peter Rowan approached me after our opening set – I got nothing coherent out.
I remembered that as you described in your book how Kathy always tried to hang back when the stars were around.
I am sorry. I missed your initial posting about her passing. When was it? What caused it? I will say prayers for her, and am sure that she has found peace – in that ‘Supernatural’ room in the great beyond. My heart is with you.
Hi Lynn, I’m a work friend of Kathy’s and just wanted to say thank you for these remembrances. Kathy included me in the film locations: dc book and I appreciated that gift, her clear-eyed editorial chops, and her great laugh. I’ll miss her too.
I consider myself part of the supernatural family been a follower since the beginning to end which I cried,my heart was broken 💔, all on my recorder,and still watch 🧭n🧭again.plus the new shows. To the family God bless remember the great times,smile,laugh and yes she’d a tear,happy tears than sad.oh-that great smile!
I’m so sorry for the sudden loss of your friend.
I’m so sorry for your loss. My condolences to you & her Family and friends. ❤ It sounds like she was a wonderful person.
I am so sorry for your loss and the loss to the fandom.
Condolences and much love to you Lynn and to Kathy’s family on her passing. Grateful to you both for sharing your works and bring light to the fandom world. May her memory be a blessing.
I’m sad to say I never had the opportunity to meet Kathy. I’m so sorry for your loss, Lynn! Keep grinding!
I’m do sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. But I also want to thank you and your friend for the books that you wrote together. Now she is carrying on as a wayward girl.
I remember meeting the two of you at my first SPN con in Toronto – I really enjoyed chatting with you both. I am so sorry for your loss. Kathy was a great person and will be missed by many – big hugs and lots of love
I’m so very sorry to hear of the loss of Kathy. My sincere condolences go out to you Lynn, along with her family and all that had the honor of crossing paths with her.
Thank you for this, Lynn.
Lynn, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and collaborator. Thanks so much for this lovely tribute.
Lynn, It is hard to lose a friend, especially one that you had such a unique relationship with. I am very sorry for your loss. I’m also a professional adult who gets very invested in certain shows and I’ve always felt a little embarrassed about it so I am going to read your books. I was very late to the party, not even starting to watch Supernatural until one year to the day after it ended. I feel a huge sense of loss that I missed out on the years it was actually on but the books you and Kathy wrote are going to help with that. I can’t wait to read your books and show my husband that being a fangirl is normal at any age! Kathy will live on as long as there are fans. I hope you continue with the work you did together.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I love your and Kathy’s books and admired her from afar; she was a great scholar and such a vibrant, warm, engaging writer.