Communities: Color Outside the Lines

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Title: Communities: Color Outside the Lines
Creator: Renay
Date(s): 13 October 2014
Medium: online
Fandom: SF
Topic: definitions of Fanart, SF fandom and art
External Links: Strange Horizons
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Communities: Color Outside the Lines is an essay on fanart by Renay. It was published in Strange Horizons, a weekly magazine of and about speculative fiction.


My history as a fan is rooted in the history of Star Trek fandom's immense influence on the fandoms I now inhabit, as well as the explosive popularity of Japanese doujinshi that I was exposed to as a fan of Sailor Moon and Final Fantasy, both Japanese in origin. Harry Potter, which was my first large western fandom, had a huge fanart culture that I participated in as a viewer.

After fifteen years of thinking of fanart as one thing, I was surprised a few years ago when I learned that there's another definition and type of fanartist coming from the science fiction and fantasy fandoms. Artists creating original, non-derivative works, either for fanzines, convention materials, their fan bases, or themselves, that relate to science fiction or fantasy topics, aren't only considered original artists. They're also fans of a particular genre of art, in this case, anything that could be considered SF.

The term "fan fiction," which used to stand for amateur original fiction, has been completely redefined by popular culture. [...] Why has the term "fanart" within specific science fiction and fantasy space not done the same, or at least widened to recognize the multifaceted nature of fanart in other fandom communities?

But the celebration of original amateur art has nothing on fanart groups I am in or have known. I live within some of the most amazing, vibrant fanart communities. There's fanart for everything imaginable, especially on Tumblr, and artists have really taken Tumblr's functionality to the next level in order to share and promote their work. The community is so open and celebration is so easy. I follow fanartists working in a wide range of styles, with amazing speed, at a professional level—the only difference is that often they're drawing other people's characters and worlds.

The structure of SF fandom—at least the parts I can see—seems to only passively engage with artists while deliberately ignoring the thriving fanart communities and vibrant talents that are making art, especially those spaces that are gendered female.