Wanderers, I don’t mean to make a habit of starting articles by regaling you with what I’ve been up to lately, but a few days ago I found myself stumbling across my own trail on the internet. On a whim, I’d looked up a roleplaying forum I was a part of a couple of years ago, and found a lot of it intact even though the forum was no longer active. A couple of the friends I’d made on the site joined me in scrolling through old threads and laughing over memories of things that had only really happened in this fictional online world, and it was a bit like flicking through a photo album. All our old conversations – even the ones that had disappeared from the internet – came flooding back and we had a good laugh at some of the more bizarre memories that spring up when you’re reminiscing about a group of friends which, at one point, included Godzilla.
It seems that we can use fandom in yet another way; we can use it as an alternative way of breaking up our own past. There are some things that you might remember definitely happened in your first year at university, or your last year at a particular school, or while you were living in a certain country for a while. Knowing that your Aunt Mabel’s birthday cake had so many candles it actually caught fire during the year you spent living with her in France, for example, helps you to place it in sequence in your own personal timeline. You may not remember that the cake was from 2007, but you might well be able to confirm that that was the year you spent in France.
Fandom can work in the same way. You may remember that something happened when you were really into Glee, or be able to trace a friendship back to when you were on a specific forum. Sometimes, an old TV show or a long-forgotten book will bring back all the memories from the time when you were really into it – because, Wanderers, let’s face it, many fandoms come and go and fade as you get involved in other shows and films. Those memories are important though, and those fandoms can serve as short eras that can help you place things in order when you look back at your life.
This may all seem a bit bizarre, but I’m sure some of you can look back and pinpoint some of the events that happened when you were in the middle of your Spice Girls craze, or the time you were introduced to the idea of online roleplay right before the second series of Merlin. Sometimes, those are the contexts that stick in your head, and if that’s so then why not embrace it?
If ‘when I was about 12’ and ‘back in fresher’s week’ are both valid ways to work out when something happened, why not use fandom phases in the same way? If nothing else, it gives you the opportunity to chart the change in your own tastes over the months, years or decades. It gives you a few extra milestones and anniversaries to make a fuss about – ‘this time ten years ago I was just finding my seat to see Billy Elliot for the first time’ – and it helps you to remember what was going on in the wider world (as reflected in the media that you were consuming) back when you wrote that killer essay on the June Rebellion, or wore that truly awful Hallowe’en costume based on a villain your fandom no longer talks about.
And, if you find your memories of college or high school or whatever are fading, you can bring them right back again by immersing yourself once more in the source media of the fandoms you were feeling at the time. Win-win, right?
Eleanor Musgrove (gets very forgetful sometimes)