Media Fandom

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See also: History of Media Fandom, Fandom, Science Fiction Fandom, Star Trek, Media West, Multimedia, Multimedia Zines, Media Fandom Oral History Project
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The term media fandom first appeared in the 1970s to describe fans of televised or filmed science fiction as opposed to literary science fiction, but is now often applied much more broadly. It is an umbrella term that encompasses an eclectic assortment of individual fan communities that share values, practices, vocabulary, and history.


Although there is no strict rule about what types of source texts produce fandoms that are included in media fandom, media fandom is generally used to refer to fan communities around individual movies or television shows produced in the West. (Technically, what we call media fandom dates back to the 1930s and radio theater.) Historically, media fandom has an affinity with science fiction and cop shows. However, unlike science fiction fandom, it is not defined by the genre of its sources. Media fen have also adopted books, comics, video games, anime/manga, and real people as sources for their fanworks. There is frequently a culture clash during this adoption process if the new source is a threshold fandom or a standalone fandom, or already belongs to a non-media-fan tradition.

Fan activities characteristic of media fan communities include writing and reading fan fiction (anathema to many sf fans), creating fanart and amateur video productions, and engaging in meta discussion. A support infrastructure has also grown up around these activities: zine publishing, circuit libraries, rec lists, archives, beta readers, etc.

Historical Origins

Main article see History of Media Fandom

One view of media fandom is that it broke off from science fiction fandom with the popularity of (and, perhaps, most importantly, the cancellation of) Star Trek. Those who were to become media fans were both more likely to be female than the male-dominated science fiction community and, also, more interested in the characters and relationships depicted on the television series than they were by the futuristic technology it offered.[1] Although there were plenty of men enthusiastic about Star Trek, these fans were more likely to be accepted into the existing sf fandom.[2] In a 2011 interview, Paula Smith recalled,

The SF guys didn't want to talk about things that women were interested in. Buck Coulson, an SF (and U.N.C.L.E.) writer, used to say, "There is no subtle discrimination against Trek fans in science fiction—it's blatant." And the women said, "The heck with this," and started making their own zines and organizing their own conventions.... Trek fandom was the mirror image of science fiction fandom. I would say 90 percent of science fiction fandom at the time was men and 10 percent was women, and there was a reverse 10-to-90 men-to-women split in Trek fandom. The two groups quickly diverged; after a while, only about 5 to 10 percent would shuttle back and forth between the two fandoms.[3]

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a television show that went on the air two years before Star Trek, is also referenced as a possible starting point.[4] Star Trek fans mingled with Man From U.N.C.L.E. fans and then went on to adopt both Star Wars and, in what proved the most definite break from science fiction fandom, Starsky & Hutch (a cop show set in a contemporary analogue of Los Angeles) as source texts for their fannish engagement.


Media fan as a type of science fiction fan. 1984 Warped Space art by Gordon Carleton

The term media fandom is often confusing to fans who joined fandom more recently.[5][6] Especially the "media" part of the term leads to all kinds of conclusions that don't necessarily reflect the usage within media fandom. For example multimedia in media fandom has the same meaning as multifandom[7], which is not something anyone not familiar with the term would guess.[8]

Betty: What? I'm confused! Doesn't multi-media usually mean "Hey, look, I made a half-fanfic, half-vid chimera!" like it does out in the wild?

Arduinna: Not traditionally; it wasn't really possible to mix media formats until very recently, so what it meant was a mix of media sources. (It's the same use of "media" that gave us the term "media fandom" as "fandom that encompasses many media sources, not just one".)[9]

In recent online discussions, the term western media fandom is increasingly used instead of media fandom in order to avoid confusion with anime fandom, another creative fanworks-producing fandom that is focused on a type of media.

Some fans question the applicability of the term media fandom to modern online fan communities.[6] In a 2011 post, Franzeska argues that the present-day online fandom sometimes labeled media fandom is not wholly descended from the offline media fanzine culture; early X-Files fandom is known to have had a strong influence on modern online fandom, and early X-Files fandom predates the migration online of old-school media fans.[10]

In some places, media fans and media fandom are still used in the context of science fiction.[11]

Media Fandom and Science Fiction Fandom


  1. Francesca Coppa, "A Brief History of Media Fandom," in Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, eds. Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006), 48.
  2. Camille Bacon-Smith, Science Fiction Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 112.
  3. Walker, Cynthia W. 2011. "A Conversation with Paula Smith." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6.
  4. St. crispin's, Where Fandom Began, July 3, 2009; reference link.
  5. bookshop. the myth of a "western media fandom", 19 August 2012. (Accessed 21 August 2012)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Franzeska. PSA to fandom: "Media Fandom" and why you should know what it means. Dreamwidth post 23 August 2012.
  7. aka_arduinna. Cites, as requested, 15 November 2008. (Accessed 21 August 2012)
  8. iamsab. making up fannish stuff, for posterity and beyond!, 13 November 2008. (Accessed 21 August 2012)
  9. Talk:Multifandom Revision as of 23:57, 2 October 2008. (Accessed 21 August 2012)
  10. Franzeska. The Usenet Generation. Dreamwidth post 30 June 2011.
  11. ZineWiki's media fanzine category is named Media Science Fiction. Media Convention is listed as a subtype of science fiction conventions on Wikipedia. See also Emma England's fanhackers post questioning whether the separation of media fandom and sf fandom is true or not.