Fandom, Fans and Fanfic: A View From The Gallery

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Title: Fandom, Fans and Fanfic: A View From The Gallery
Creator: T'Mar
Date(s): June 17, 2001
Medium: online
External Links: Fandom, Fans and Fanfic: A View From The Gallery/WebCite
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Fandom, Fans and Fanfic: A View From The Gallery is an essay by T'Mar.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.


Fandom is a truly weird phenomenon. Not that this is a bad thing - quite the opposite, in fact. Fandom is quirky, interesting, fun, and at times, annoying or sad. This is an opinion based on 21 years of involvement in fandom: some rather heavy involvement, taking up a lot of time (with fannish activities such as writing fanfic or articles for fan newsletters, attending fan get-togethers, calling other fans on the phone or writing emails to them, participating heavily on mailing lists, and so on); and some peripheral involvement (such as reading occasional stories, checking the occasional website, talking about that particular show only if it comes up, that kind of thing). And it's this semi-participation that makes it possible to see the shows, and fandom, from the 'outside'. And what do I think when I see fandoms from outside? Well, quite often I think, "Are these people CRAZY?" My first exposure to this was when I began in Starman fandom. I would read the dissections of scenes, the trivia quizzes, the letters to the newsletter, and I'd think, "Why would these people go so crazy over a show?" And then I realized that I did exactly the same thing in Star Trek fandom (I'm talking Classic Trek here, Starman's only season was in 1986, before there WAS any other kind of Star Trek). So why was it okay to be a completely crazed fan of Star Trek, and not of Starman? Obviously, it's perfectly okay to be a crazed fan of any show you like, and I later got completely immersed in Starman fandom myself. (Though I have to confess I will never understand why sitcoms or second-rate drama series have fandoms.)
Fans can be very cruel. They form cliques and shut others out. They take great pleasure in 'showing up' newbies who sign onto long-lasting mailing lists. They ignore posts by listmembers they don't like or 'misinterpret' their posts in order to shut them up. They enjoy dissing characters who are liked only by a minority. They play games of one-upmanship. Now I know that this all takes place in "real life" as well, but it's not nearly so easy to detect and much easier to ignore, i.e.: so what if my neighbours have M-Net, a satellite dish and a BMW? As long as they don't run their BM into my front wall or play M-TV at full volume, what do I care? I don't interact with them the way I interact with people on the Net. I know more about people who are on some mailing lists with me than I do about the people who live next door. Despite the Internet, the fan community is not too large. Well, let me qualify that. If something bad happens in one fandom (such as the plagiarism incident from a couple of years back), very soon all the other fandoms out there will know about it. It's like gossip in a small town: it gets around. And when this kind of thing is going on, it's easy to see when fannish behaviour mirrors the worst behaviour from the real world, not the best.