Our four part series, Being Fandom, looks at aspects of belonging to and being in a fandom. This issue, let’s take a look at the strange but brilliant phenomenon of mutual fandom.
Alright, wanderers, let’s be honest. We’re all here because we’re fans of something, or somebody, or both. And that’s great, because frankly the people we look up to are, as a rule, worth looking up to! There are some great actors, actresses, shows and showmakers with their own fandoms – can I get a “Moffat” or a “Whedon” here? Hm. Apparently the best-known showmakers are the ones who kill every character we love. We should probably look into what that says about our deep inner selves… but not today!
No, today I am writing a Being Fandom article and you are reading it (please keep reading it) so we are going to ignore our deep attachments to creators who hurt us, and think about the creators within our own fandoms. We spend vast quantities of our lives hanging out (usually online, but not always) with fantastically talented artists, writers, and even some people with more unusual fandom-related talents (221 Baking Geeks, we are looking at you and drooling over your cakes). We – a bunch of massive fan types – spend our time surrounded by swathes of skill and genius. It’s obvious where we’re going here, right?
In the Fandom Wanderers office, none of us would really call ourselves well-known fan creators, but we’ve all given it a go – in fact, we’re all fairly regular fanfiction writers in various fandoms. Lately, one of us got a message – a reply to a review they’d left on someone else’s work.
“OMG,” it said, “thank you. It means so much that you like it, especially coming from you. I love your writing.”
It took me a while to realise, when I first got into the fan-created aspects of fandom, that you could acquire fans of your own, as a fan creator. Of course there are the Big Name Fans, the ones everyone in a fandom knows and often reveres, but you don’t even have to be a big name fan to acquire your own little fanbase. I’ve replied to reviews in much the same way myself – “I’m glad you thought he was in character, you’re kind of the authority on him around here”, for example – and I have to admit that there are a few writers and artists whose pages, even if their work was suspended over a lake of boiling lava, I would still have to check out on a daily basis.
We’re fans. We’re not ashamed of telling people we like something, and if we really like something we don’t mind obsessing over it. And it’s such a good feeling when you realise someone else feels you’re worthy of being a fan of. Of course, some of you will be reading this, looking forlornly at the account with all your fan creations on it, and pulling a Very Sad Face. “I don’t have fans,” you’re thinking, “what am I doing wrong if I can’t get fans in a fandom?” Well, stop it. Stop it! Unless you created that account yesterday and haven’t posted anything yet, chances are someone will have seen something you’ve made and thought “That is cool, I like that.” And after all, isn’t that how you got into every fandom you’re a part of?
The Big Name Fans, the ones everyone knows of – yeah, they’ve probably got more fans than you have, but they also tend to attract more of the downsides the actual stars of your favourite show sometimes have to deal with. As the celebrities of fandom, they can find themselves being held to ridiculously high standards, and occasionally have to create spare screen names in order to have normal conversations. For some Big Name Fans, fandom becomes a full-time occupation, and that can be very rewarding – but if you’re a BNF in the Avengers fandom and you suddenly decide to focus on your Peter Pan fanart, you might find people get a little confused. BNFs have a great platform to start conversation, though, and it must be a confidence boost to realise that, in the words of Professor McGonagall, “every child in our world will know his name!”
Meanwhile, regular fans with their own little fanbases are pretty much free to do what they want without the whole fandom watching them or falling over themselves to accommodate them. They might not get so many hits on their best work, but they can still find themselves with a loyal pack of commenters/reviewers just waiting for their next release. There’s a lot to be said for wandering through the fandom as a normal, relatively anonymous fan – if only for the little startled jolt you feel when someone does turn round and say “I know you, you wrote that fanfic I love.”
Perhaps the best thing, though, about fans within fandom – not least because it’s speculated that some of the main people we’re fans of, from the actual media we count as fandom, might be lurking among us – is the feeling of mutual fandom. When you get a message from a fan-creator you think is amazing, saying that they think you’re amazing, well, there are few better feelings. Levels of fandom in this situation vary from the following:
Fan1: I love your fanfiction.
Fan2: Thank you! I love your fanfiction.
To the other end of the scale:
Fan1: ASDGHFEMSOEJSXFVHSEFNCL this is so good, I love all your writing. Wow, it just… I’m going to go and curl up in a corner and fangirl quietly to myself.
Fan2: OMG it’s you, are you kidding, your work is like 10000x better than mine, I’m so glad you liked it *flails*
This second situation can go on for hours, or even days. I made a friend on fandom recently who was so excited about talking to me – little guessing that I devoured their work as if I needed it to live – and couldn’t believe it when I said I chatted to one of the small fandom’s BNFs, who they’d been too shy to approach. Now we all chat together like old friends, but we all still have moments where we all go “I can’t believe I’m talking to you!”
Society in general these days tries to set people with talent apart, making stars of them, and it’s frequently well-deserved. But we shouldn’t forget that a person with an amazing gift is also still a person, with feelings and passions and things they get excited about. Get chatting to that fanfiction writer you admire or that artist you can’t believe can really draw like that. Exchange tips, exchange compliments, exchange enthusiasm. Because maybe, just maybe, the person you’re so excited about talking to is just as excited about talking to you.
Eleanor Musgrove (No keyboards were mashed in the making of this article… well, not fatally)
Next issue, all bets are off as to what we’ll be talking about, because apparently we never quite stick to what we say. It might be that etiquette thing we mentioned before. It might be dolphins. We don’t know. But whatever it is will be awesome so don’t miss it!