I don’t know if you’ve heard a lot about fandom and what it means to those involved, or if you’ve only ever seen The Big Bang Theory representation of those who love things, but here’s a column dedicated to the good, the bad and the ugly of fandom in all of it’s (somewhat questionable) glory.
So what is it?
Well, ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’, technically. To be a fan of something is to enjoy it somewhat more enthusiastically to your friends or family or the average joe. Most people are a fan of something – be it a band, a movie star or franchise, a comic book… It doesn’t matter what the medium is, if you like it and follow it then you’re a fan.
Fandom, along a similar vein, is the collective term for a group of fans, the subculture created by a feeling of camaraderie with others who share a common interest. It’s a place (metaphysical, of course) where you can meet people who enjoy the same thing as you and talk about it in great detail. Sometimes, the kind of meta-detail that might make the people in your life look at you a little weirdly.
A lot of people, you’ll find, will defend their fandom to the last and find that some friendships formed through the mutual love of a particular TV show, comic book or video game (to name just a few) can be a powerful boon in the world. In fact, some of my best friends have been met through various fandoms and I’ve had experiences (both good and bad) that wouldn’t have happened if not for my various loves and fandoms.
Being in one fandom doesn’t exclude you from being part of another. In fact, you could be considered “active” in one fandom and not so active in a number of others. This is particularly commonplace during TV show hiatuses or long breaks in the anime while it’s busy catching up with the manga. It could be because the TV show you love (Merlin– don’t talk to me about it, I’m still not over how series 5 ended) has finished and another show you enjoy has come along (The Musketeers, for example– but don’t talk to me about that either, it’s busy breaking my heart on a weekly basis).
Just because I’m obsessively devouring Musketeers fanfic (which I’ll cover off properly in a later column) doesn’t mean I don’t hop back and dip my toes in the veritable ocean of Merlin fanfic that’s sitting on Archive of Our Own (Editor’s note: hey that site is awesome, but please be aware that it does contain explicit material, so keep an eye out for warnings before you read anything there. Peace.). It could just be that you’ve moved on from that fandom because you’re not a fourteen year old anymore (that being said, I can’t wait for the new Digimon TV show to come out later this year: takes me right back to my first year of secondary school). Besides, people’s tastes change over the years just like with anything.
How do you become a fan?
There’s no right of passage, particularly. Being able to speak Klingon is a bonus (joking!). We’re not all like Sheldon Cooper and the rest of the crew of The Big Bang Theory although being like them isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Chances are, like I said at the beginning, you’re already a fan of something and if so? Welcome! Over the course of this column, I’m going to be looking into the fandom culture from conventions to cosplay, fanfiction to RPGs (role playing games), and looking at the places that fans can gather online from livejournal to Tumblr. I’ll be looking at the history of fandom, some of the various subcultures (such as the (to the uninitiated) terrifyingly huge Harry Potter fandom to the rather smaller Uncharted fandom) and the different ways people can express their devotion to various events as well as looking at the friendships forged in the fires of mutual enjoyment.
Follow the yellow brick road, if you dare.