Our new four-part series, Being Fandom, will look at aspects of belonging to and being in a fandom. First up, one writer’s experience of getting into fandom in the first place.
Entering a fandom for the very first time (and I do mean the very first time) is quite a strange experience, because you don’t really know it’s happened.
I was ten or eleven when I first took the plunge, but I didn’t even realise I was doing it. At the time, I was hooked on X-Men: Evolution, a sort of modernised rerun of the old animated series, but there were only four seasons and I was relying on Cartoon Network to remember that they were still called ‘Cartoon Network’ and start playing animated series again – something which, I have on very good authority, they still haven’t done.
But I digress. We had just acquired a computer – it was XP (which was fairly new at the time so it took absolutely no games) and had the old AOL dial-up connection, so it took forever, but it worked and I took to Googling this show, just to find something – anything.
I stumbled across fanfiction – and I swear, it was like the heavens opened and a shining light shone down upon me.
There were people – real people – writing stories about pre-existing fictional characters.
I had been doing that for ages – I never actually thought other people did it to!
I became hooked, reading just about everything I could find, squeeing every time I found something about my OTP (there weren’t many – even though they were canon, people seemed to hate them).
Was I in the fandom at that point?
I was writing fanfiction, yes, and I had my OTP, and I interacted far too deeply with the show for my mother’s liking (“But it’s a children’s show – grow up!”)
But was I really part of something?
Maybe. I don’t know.
Then came high school, and four years of “Fanfiction? What is this fanfiction of which you speak?” and “Yes, those are the initials of the boy I fancy, not the initials of a fictional character” and “Harry Potter? Yeah … Yeah, I quite like the books” – when, of course, my actual reaction was “Yes, of course I’ve read Harry Potter – I know the first four books off by heart!”
Actually, come to think of it, there were a few people I could have opened up to, but I had the self-confidence of a snail at that point, and I wasn’t brave enough to hand over ammunition.
But by the end of those four years, there were a few people I could talk to about it, and we spent many a Physics lesson discussing theories and rumours about Deathly Hallows (this, of course, was before the seventh book was released – my age is showing). Perhaps unsurprisingly, I did not do too well in my exam …
It was around this time, as well, that I started posting fanfiction, which definitely made me feel more involved, because I was actually interacting with other people, rather than just passively watching.
When I reached university, I began telling people I wrote fanfiction, and gradually became more confident doing it.
“In my spare time? Well, I faidisfhjbfdshbgh – what about you?”
“Oh, I write. What do I write? Erm … it’s called fanfiction? It’s … erm … Well … Hey, what’s that?”
“I write fanfiction.” “What’s that?” “Difficult to explain really.” “Cool.”
Once I’d had that conversation, I didn’t know what I’d been so worried about. Because other people did it too (which, you know, I already knew, but I didn’t think any of them were people I knew. Turns out some of them were.)
But did I know I was part of something?
Not yet. Not really.
Because when you enter a fandom, you do it in such a way that, as I said, you don’t realise you’ve done it.
And then you realise that ship that everyone else thought you were mental for even considering actually has other fans …
… or you watch the season finale and find yourself messaging someone on the other side of the world that you’ve never met, just so you can scream “DID YOU SEE IT?! DID YOU SEE IT?! HE SAID HE LOVED HER! HE SAID HE LOVED HER! WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THREE SEASONS FOR THIS AND SHE’S NOT EVEN STILL THERE TO HEAR IT! ASADFDFPSFDFB!!!”
Because it was either that, or wake your housemate up, and she doesn’t watch the show or have any idea who or what you’re talking about.
Or something happens in your own life and you mention it briefly online – maybe as an author’s note on one of your fanfics, apologising for not being around lately – and you promptly get an influx of well-wishing from complete strangers, more so than from your own family.
That’s when you realise that you’re not just a fan; you’re part of a fandom.
You are part of a community that can reach all four corners of the globe (which is impressive, considering a globe doesn’t have corners).
And that’s an impressive thing to be part of.
Next issue we’ll be continuing this series with a look at the particular etiquette found within fandom. Don’t miss it!
EDIT: Apparently we should stop making predictions. Next issue we’ll be looking at mutual fandom. You should still check that out though!
How did you get into fandom? Tell us about it in the comments below!