In high school I wrote fan fiction (although we didn’t call it that then) for The White Shadow.; Mary Sue self-insert. I wrote RPG spy fiction. Again Mary Sue self-insert, but with a little more character development. I wrote band fic; less Mary Sue, more career exploration. I was a photojournalist for the opening act, and I guess except for the band, I kind of try to do that now with my blog. It reminds me of the inspiration and the you can do anything feeling that I forgot about in my thirties.
I like to think I’ve gotten better, both as a writer and a creator of original content. Those three examples are not something I usually share. It’s in the embarrassing box of teen angst, and hiding my fan side in the closet. It’s okay with certain people, but not others, and that’s how we give off the aloof, quiet, introvert vibe. Some of us are those things, but as a whole, fans are exuberant and fun and loud; very loud.
My first fandom was Star Trek. I was in every aspect of fandom. I watched every episode multiple times, I knew every episode by heart, I learned Klingon, I went to conventions. I bought the books and set my clock by Starlog’s publication date. Star Trek led me into every other science-fiction/fantasy from space to dragons to magic to time travel. There were watching parties, and special menus for mystery dinner nights. I could recognize later generation actors out of their makeup by their voices or body language. I’ve stood hours in line for autographs, but in those early days, we didn’t pay for them.
As a TV junkie, I’ve followed many actors on their careers. Shaun Cassidy for one; William Shatner and George Takei for others. I’ve gone in and out of fandoms, although most of them continue to have a place in my heart. I was recently reminded of H.R. Pufnstuf, one of my favorite shows and Land of the Lost by the same team of Sid & Marty Kroft.
I belonged to the SCA, which in and of itself is its own fandom; the fandom of medieval history. I’d claim to be a history buff and a political junkie, but those are just different words for fan and for the fandoms.
Fandom now is far more extensive and out in the open than I ever imagined it would be. There are mainstream stores in the malls dedicated to them: Hot Topic, and you can find licensed merchandise from Minecraft to Lego to DC and Marvel Comics franchises in Wal-Mart and Target. You can’t get more mainstream than that.
When my daughter was three, I found a beautiful, mostly historic rendition of a velvet scarlet Spanish Renaissance gown with a matching velvet tiara for Halloween. That was in Target, and it was less than $20. It would have cost three times that or more for me to make it for her. The only princess costume I could ever wear as a child growing up were those plastic ones of Sleeping Beauty. My face still gets hot when I even think about it.
We’re not embarrassed to say our pop culture loves, and there is no wrong way to be in fandom. Many of us wax and wane on our involvement, and which fandom gets the most attention at one time.
Harry Potter was the book series that brought me into today’s fandom. It was loaned from a friend who thought I might like it. I did. With Harry Potter came movies – in fact, Prisoner of Azkaban was the first movie I ever attended alone. In addition to the movies, I discovered a whole new world on Live Journal of fan fiction, and from there found other fans, and groups, and sub-fandoms, and meta – the analysis of the details. No longer would the minutia of details be relegated to small groups meeting in basements and youth centers once a week or month. Now, the minutia is everywhere. There are headcanons and alternate universes (AUs). There are wikis for individual television shows, movies, and comic book characters. There are kinks and squicks, which aren’t always sexual in nature, but preferential, and their are triggers and spoiler etiquette.
I hear my non-fandom friends expressing fandom sentiments like canon and ships. Many of my closest friends are originally from fandom. What we’ve discovered in fandom is that in addition to our mutual love of fandom, we also have families and jobs and our mundane life doesn’t need to be so mundane as our friendships broaden and include people from across the country and around the world who we never would have met if not for our intersecting fandoms. In turn, we share our views and our values, we accept and learn.
I would say that the fandom I am most involved in is Supernatural. I’m sure most people would have guessed The Walking Dead, and while I do consider myself in that fandom, I don’t get to meet and know the people who are also in it except for Norman Reedus‘ Facebook and Instagram.
With Supernatural, there is tumblr, conventions (even though I don’t attend), watching parties, meta, fan fiction, discussions, speculation, compassion and kindness. Every day I witness those last two in the fandom. It was there already, but is even more pronounced with Misha Collins’ charity, Random Acts and gishwhes, his annual scavenger hunt.
Supernatural showed me a literal whole new world, and was instrumental in my recovery from depression. I love the shows, I love the plots and the characters and the fan family, but I also keep Supernatural on as my background noise. I know many of the episodes so it doesn’t interfere with my writing or my living for the most part, but the voices give me the soft comfort, the hand on my shoulder, the short, quick hug when I need it. We all must have something like that in our lives, and for me, Supernatural is it.
Fandom is here to stay, and I for one, am glad of it. It is so much of my life that I forget when I’m talking to a non-fandom person that they don’t know the details; that the casual viewer doesn’t recognize the reference back three seasons, or the foreshadowing.
Fandom is a life unto itself, and a life unto others. It is supportive and comfort in a loud, sometimes angry world. It can be hope and faith, some of the things that most of my fandoms ascribe to be; a better world in the future, a future of exploration and creating; of ideals and compassion, and so many of the things we embrace and try to emulate in our own lives.