Fandom (consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates “fannish” (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest.
I can’t remember when I first heard the term “fandom.” I know it was sometime before I graduated high school, but, other than that, I really can’t say. What I do know, is that, the moment I first heard the word, I knew exactly what it described. Fandom is the world I had become familiar with in middle school, it is the community of people who not only don’t shun you for your somewhat obsessive commitment to learning all there is to know about Lord of the Rings, but embrace you for it. It is the community where, instead of receiving a cacophony of eye-rolls when you explain, again, that retconning Star Wars so Han no longer shoots first is a fundamental betrayal of the character, they respond with a passionate, “I know, right?”
When I find myself trying to explain fandom to those not in it, I find the easiest method is to simply say, “Like Trekkies.” Of course, there’s more to fandom than that one corner, and the term “Trekkie” has become such a pejorative that many fans prefer the label “Trekker” instead. But Trekkies are the most easily identifiable fandom out there if in no other way than name recognition. (Even if that name is almost totally disavowed by the fandom itself). We’ll address the issue of fandom names more in a later post.
Getting back to the issue at hand, however, one mask as why I choose to associate what I spend an inordinate amount of my time being a part of with a group of people who have long been such an easy target of ridicule for decades. There’s name recognition, of course, but why else? The truth is, as much as the cultural image of “Trekkie” has become an over-blown, negative stereotype, so too do Trekkies (Trekkers) symbolize a lot of what fandoms are at heart. And “heart” really is the operative word. For, as much as fandom is about debating whether Kirk or Picard is the better Star Trek captain, racing your friends to see who can name all the episodes of the original series quickest, or collecting action figures and props, fandom is, above all, about deep emotional connections. It is that deep, (to them nearly psychotic) love for Star Trek most laypeople think of when you say “Trekkie,” and it is indeed this love that is the cause for much of the derision.
Why would people, grown men and women (yes women to exist in fandoms outside of Twilight, more on that later), waste their emotions of fictional characters? Why do these fandoms exist?
Well, I’m not sure I know, but maybe in the process of writing this blog, I’ll find out. What I do know, as I still grapple with understanding the ins-and-outs of fandom and am constantly confronted by how tertiary my relationship with it is in comparison with others, is that a fan’s love is the last thing people should mock. Not just because mocking a person for the fandom they love is a good way to be physically assaulted, but because that love connects people. It crosses boarders and opens minds. It can instantly turn complete strangers into fast friends. And, sometimes, it can turn the worst days into the best ones.
Throughout this blog, I’ll be exploring my connection with fandom: how it has and will continue to shape me, and my take on the existence of fandom as a living subculture especially pertaining to its online presence. Hopefully someone will come along for the ride.