Lifecycle of a Fandom: Part Four – Cancellation

Our series,  Lifecycle of a Fandom, looks at the way fandom evolves and changes throughout the lifecycle of the media it loves. This issue, we’re wrapping up by thinking about Cancellation.

I know, dear Wanderers, that this is a painful thing to contemplate, but nothing lasts forever. One day, your canon will run out. Whether that’s a mid-series cancellation that leaves no time to tie up loose ends, or a long-planned end to a story already drawing to a close, the fact remains that at some point, there will be no more canon. Maybe, one day, it will come back and be uncancelled and the whole fandom lifecycle will start over again but for the moment, all you can be sure of is that it’s going to end.

How does a fandom react to this news? Well, when the announcement is made, there is usually a certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth – even when a show was only ever planned as a five-season arc, for example, the official confirmation still hurts. Generally, the object of a fandom, be it show, book or film, has taken up a fair amount of a fandom’s lives; they’ve invested time and energy in loving it and now it has the temerity to leave them. It’s understandable that people are initially unable to move past the sobbing stage.

If the cancellation was announced before the last installment was released, there’s then a period of anticipation. This is largely characterised by people stating what they’d like to see in that last instalment, often with a general undertone of ‘this had better be good’. After all, if something has to end, it should end well. We’d all rather see our canons go out with a bang than a whimper… or maybe, if we’re very lucky, a happy ending,

Then, of course, when the last credits roll, or the last page is turned, there’s a brief return to the wailing and weeping before coping mechanisms start to appear. Someone will start livestreaming a marathon of every episode that’s ever aired; someone else might decide it’s time to work out, once and for all, how the language used for magic in the books actually works. Assorted recasts, reboots, and sequels can be suggested; letters might be written in an attempt, however futile, to get their canon to update.

And then – here’s the clever bit – fanfictions update. Gifs are created. Fanvids and art flood in. The fandom continues out of habit, out of a sort of duty to finish all the things they’d started before the canon universe came crashing to a halt. And, slowly but surely, something becomes clear.

Fandom can’t be cancelled. Fandom never has to end.

Yes, it’s likely that many fans will become more focused on their other interests – new shows, other books, whatever takes their fancy – but that doesn’t mean the fandom just ceases to exist. There will still be new fanfics, new adventures. There will still be new cosplays and roleplays, new art and music and videos. New people will still discover the fandom and old friends will still revisit it. After all, fandom doesn’t need the backing of a studio or a publisher, does it?

‘This all sounds great in theory,’ I hear you say, ‘but my series has just been cancelled and it feels like the end of the world. Where’s the proof that fandoms can keep going?’ Well, my dear doubting Wanderer, the Browncoats have been flying for ten years since their series was cancelled and they show no signs of stopping. The Harry Potter fandom is still going from strength to strength. For that matter, there are still a fair few Shakespeare fans out there and he’s been really lazy about bringing out new plays over the last few… um… centuries.

If the thought of a fandom freed from the restraints of trying to comply with future canon (or am I the only one who’s ever tried to match my fics up to a predicted future timeline while a series is still airing?) doesn’t quite make up for the grief of losing the opportunities presented by new episodes… think of Young Dracula, which returned to television a few years after it was cancelled. Think of Doctor Who, which was cancelled for a lot longer (from a strictly linear perspective) but is now going strong and appreciated by new and old fans alike. Think of the time that passed between the publication of J.R.R Tolkien’s last book and the release of the first Lord of the Rings film – and there was still a fandom ready and waiting to welcome it.

In the meantime, while there’s no new information from the Powers That Be, there’s absolutely nothing to stop you continuing the story yourself. Well, that is unless your series’ creator ‘Nineteen-Years-Later’s you with their final move, but even then, there’s a whole range of possibilities to explore further in the past or future of that universe; there are hundreds of untold stories, unseen faces and unknown destinations scattered around the periphery of any canon and, now that there’s no definitive official version to sit down with, maybe it’s time to get out there and explore it.

Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be making an authorised sequel and releasing a trailer that will whip the dormant fandom and newcomers alike into a frenzy. Maybe one day, it’ll be time to start again with the hype.

Cancellation is the last part of our series and the last stage of our fandom lifecycle – but that’s the thing about cycles. They never really end. And neither do the fandoms we really love.

Eleanor Musgrove

This concludes our Lifecycle of a Fandom series – don’t worry, you can still catch up if you missed parts one, two and three! Next issue, perhaps we’ll have something new and exciting for you. Watch this space!

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