Changing Face of Fandom

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Title: The Changing Face of Fandom and Its Challenge to the Outside World
Creator: Sharpiefan
Date(s): 28th November 2012, 22nd December 2013
Medium: online
Fandom: all
Topic: fanworks, perceptions of fanfic
External Links: here
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The Changing Face of Fandom, and Its Challenge to the Outside World is a meta essay by User:Sharpiefan written in response to the BBC Radio Four programme When Harry Potter Met Frodo.

In the essay, she muses about how fandom and its products are more discoverable to non-fans because of the spread of the internet and the ease of conducting internet searches.

It may be found here on the AO3 and here on Sharpie's fic journal.

Some Excerpts

30 or 40 years ago – even 20 years ago – it was much harder to find fandom. Personally, I was a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from the time the first episode aired, but I never had the first idea about how to get into fandom itself: There were no conventions near me that I could get to, I never had the money to join the main fanclub advertised in the novels I could afford and I had no other connection to people in the know. Fandom was not something that you could stumble over as an outsider.

These days, fandom – or certain expression thereof – are much more discoverable because of the Internet. But these days, if you Google Star Trek, or Harry Potter or any of a half a dozen other things, you'll get fanfic archives listed as a matter of course, almost. I tried a small experiment: I Googled 'Harry Potter' (not one of my usual searches, I wanted something that Google did not think was a typical search for me) and 'Harry Potter fan fiction' was the eighth suggested search that Google threw up as I typed. Depending on what sort of thing you watch on Youtube, you get fanvids suggested as their 'you may also like...' links.

Despite our very visible fannish output, fandom as a whole is an invisible group. We wear the same clothes as those around us. We speak the same language – though fandom does have terminology of its own (slash, fic, gen, hurt/comfort, pr0n). There are fans on Facebook, on Twitter. We have respectable jobs, or are students. We are adults who look no different to those around us.

So because we look the same, mainstream is surprised to encounter us. They don't realise, when they stumble across fanfic, that they have found just one expression of a much bigger thing. They are the Colonial explorers who stumble across the sacred story-telling circle of the Lost Tribe of the Congo without seeing any evidence of the village and villagers it serves. No wonder they treat fans the way they do and are surprised by the way we react in turn. And they don't realise that to learn about us, they have to be prepared to view our discussions, our squee, our long long drawn-out debates about details that, to non-fans, would be minor, irrelevant things – the AoS breeches v trousers debate that I was really annoyed that I missed comes to mind here. Was Captain Sawyer pushed or did he fall is another debate that comes up time and again on Horatians – and it never grows old.