This community sounded real cool, so I just wanted to start out by introducing myself and writing why I am so fascinated by transformations in general.
As someone relatively quiet, overly-organized and not open to many risks, I get a perverse joy out of the element of danger and the unknown often involved in transformations, over the prospect of risking the loss of who you are to immerse yourself in a different identity you may not understand yet, but would like to. It all just sounds so exciting that the greatest journey may be confined entirely in finding and understanding your true self. Superhero origin stories, particularly ones like Spider-Man where the person begins as someone normal, attract me for this reason since the person is torn between two equally pressing realities (s)he feels the need to maintain at the same time. There's so many questions which can arise from such a scenario: If you had an alternate identity, how often would you use it? After a while, would this new identity become your primary identity or would you sacrifice part of both to maintain both identities at your will?
I also like how transformations, particularly the more romantic views of it I've seen in Anime (Sailor Moon, Tokyo Mew Mew), often deal with something inside the character who experiences it coming to the surface through an intense physical and emotional transformation. Interestingly, a common thread seems to be that this transformation was somehow planned to happen well in advance for a specific reason, but without the person's knowledge, that the person's true destiny is discovered through the transformation. I really like the element of the uncanny used here through not only a whole identity, but a whole life bound inside someone that, in one intense moment, bursts to the surface. It really makes me wonder how much we really do know about ourselves and our own potential, if we truly are the best judges of our own respective identities.
Similarly, as the stuff of fiction, I've liked how physical transformations blur the line between the imaginary and the real by changing a realistic self into one typically confined to one's own imagination (people with wings, goddesses, etc.) I know that everyone yearns for some part of their imagination to be realized in the world in which we live and, yes, I'm afraid this may explain why I'm so drawn to those sometimes cliche tales of dreams that are realized. But, hey, as Rudy's friend said in the film of that same name, "Dreams are the only things that make life tolerable." It is for this reason that I've often been a fan of such romantic depictions of transformations as opportunities for discovering oneself and finding one's true "home" wherein the transformation is an experience that is desired, even anticipated as an opportunity, rather than the transformation-as-virus that creeped me out when watching "Species" and "28 Days Later;" it just doesn't have the same effect on me.
One thing that has, however, intrigued me about physical transformation accounts which I have seen and read so far is why the feeling of the transformation itself is often omitted. It seems like an entity so strong that it is able to manipulate one's appearance would arouse some kind of sensation in its carrier; is it extreme pain, pleasure, fear, or some combination of the three? It seems that such visceral transformations are confined to the horror genre, but I've always been curious again as to what the aforementioned "romantic" transformations would feel like.
In an odd way, I feel like my own experiences have enabled me to come close to realizing what this sensation may feel like through the physical and emotional transformation I have felt over the past four years as a member of the rowing team at UC Irvine. Before I joined the program in 2001, I never played any sports in my life outside of mandatory grade school P.E. My favorite sport to watch was itself not very athletic, NASCAR. But, regardless, the coach here gave me the opportunity to try out, saying that my experience as a jazz trombonist in high school would help me keep the same rhythm in the boat as the other rowers. Our program's director back then echoed a similar statement which I will never forget: "You will learn more about yourself in this sport than you ever knew existed." Still, my inexperience betrayed me often as I had to constantly learn how to run as fast, lift as much weight, wake up as early, and completely adopt a life compatible with that of my teammates in order to not just compete, but survive. Every day, I literally felt that I was flirting with oblivion, that I couldn't afford not to progress lest I not be able to reach my goal of trying to be more like my teammates. Despite all the frustrations, aches, and other obstacles, however, I received constant encouragement from both my teammates and coaches that if I kept training I could, in effect, actually transform myself into an athlete just like them. And so, over the times, I tracked my progress and compared it with my teammates, setting my mind to the task of earning a spot on one of the competitive boats as a concrete goal which would ensure that I would become strong enough.
And, pretty soon, I started feeling different, which really surprised me when I was away from the boathouse; at home, I could help my folks lift heavy stuff I only months before struggled with, I could outrun my flighty kid brother for the first time in my memory, and found myself physically changed through losing weight and gaining muscle through rowing's rigorous workouts. And now, as I write this, I am completing my fourth year on the UC Irvine Crew as a solid member of the Junior Varsity 8-man boat, having been a part of four winning boats and become just as strong as many of my much more experienced teammates. Although this change certainly did not happen in one brief moment, the fact that it was a more gradual process made me feel like every day was another phase in an ongoing transformation. Some days were pleasurable, others painful, and at times my progress wavered, but looking back on it up to this point I am amazed by what I have been able to experience and accomplish as a result of this prolonged series of transformations. In some ways, I feel the same as I did back in 2001, but I can also sense what the experiences has changed in me, a fact for which I will forever be grateful.
So, basically, and this may sound real sappy, I think my enjoyment of transformations stems from a hope for human potential, that there is literally something inside each and every one of us that, when given just the right stimulus, can come to the surface and change ourselves forever into something we may never have dreamt. It is this "alter" ego which reveals itself to be our "true" self, an identity free of the facades we are often forced to put on in order to function in a society so deeply rooted in reality and limitations which may not even truly exist. That's why so many people, myself included, wish they could fly, literally being able to function in a way far different from others. Underdog stories and tales of real-life valor are perhaps the best examples we have in reality of a dramatic physical or emotional transformations, times when someone is able to change themself into something much more than they would under different circumstances. I see the discovery of an alternate persona as the ultimate adventure, to not just experience the world in which we live as ourselves, but be able to assume another identity which, even for a short time, would enable us to experience the world in a radically different way.
So, anyway, sorry for the long entry, but again this place sounds cool and I'd be glad to talk with y'all!
Seeing as this group's interested in transformations in fiction, I can make a contribution of my own later on if you wish. In January, I completed a short story called "Clearing Tables" where I wrote about my experiences in crew as the basis of a superhero story where my character suddenly discovers that he can transform into a superhero whenever he runs, tearing him between his two identities. If anyone's interested, I can post it up here.