Wanderers, I need to make a confession. I feel a bit of a fraud, but I hope you’ll forgive me. You see, I recently got pulled into a fandom – which shall remain nameless – purely on the strength of a bit of fanfiction I stumbled across accidentally and which featured a non-canon couple from a very famous series of films. I got hooked. I ship it, as I often tell people, like burning. I will go down with this ship.
The thing is, though, I haven’t actually seen the source material. Ever. At all. Oh, I’ve seen other films in the series, and I’ve even enjoyed a few of them, but as yet I haven’t got round to seeing the latest instalment – which is where one of the two characters in this new OTP of mine is introduced. You can see my dilemma. I am tearing through the fanfiction archives at a rate of knots, but I can’t actually create anything and I can’t compare anything to canon, because I have no concept of the canon this pairing’s emerged from. Half of the pairing is fairly familiar to me, yes, from earlier films, but the other is a complete mystery and as for the interaction between the two? I have no idea. What I’m reading could be the most out-of-character thing in all of existence (though I doubt it) and I would simply have no idea.
Oddly, though, that doesn’t bother me. The film in question is currently on an online shopping wishlist, waiting for me to get round to purchasing it, but I’m in no particular hurry. Why? Well, because the fandom itself is such a joy.
My usual habit, when dropped headfirst into a fandom I wasn’t planning to join, is to send whoever unexpectedly plunged me into it a message letting them know that I blame and thank them for my new obsession. Usually, this message is met with a sort of disinterested shrug, but on some occasions – such as this one – I get a reply to the tune of ‘YES! We caught another one!’ from not only the person I messaged, but also several other members of the fandom I’ve fallen into. This is a happy side-effect of public comments, and one I enjoy. I duly established contact with several of these people, trusting them to post things that related to our new shared fandom, and then went searching for a copy of the source material that wouldn’t completely empty my bank account. I put a message up on the internet and tagged it for the ship I was getting into. I’ve never been sent so many links to cheap DVDs in such a short space of time before and I’m having trouble believing that I will ever be sent so many again.
The people in the corner of this fandom that I fell into, despite being aware that I was one of those uneducated, uncultured people who had missed the film so far, were friendly and enthusiastic and very, very welcoming. And – now this is the point of the article, before the Editor starts getting twitchy about there being one – sometimes that’s enough to make all the difference in a fandom. Fandom, after all, is one of the most efficient ways to find a social group you can bond with, here at the beginning of the 21st Century, and it’s relatively free-range fun of the variety that many younger fans have never experienced except through their parents’ nostalgic stories. For me, at least, the pull of this particular fandom has less to do with the romantic pairing at the centre (though obviously, that’s good too) and more to do with the people I’ve found clustered around it, exchanging stories and drawings and some startlingly good photomanipulations.
A fandom always has something at the centre of it, yes – a celebrity, a book, a show, a football team – but more often than not, the fans themselves are their own reward, and they’re what really keeps you coming back to the fandom. It’s not always easy to see until you get into a fandom backwards, but when you think about your fandom (or fandoms!), you probably have a warm place in your heart not only for its central figure or its source media, but for your fellow enthusiasts – even if there are a few you wish would stop letting the side down.
Fans make the fandom, Wanderers – and that fandom community, in itself, can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever experience.
Eleanor Musgrove (loves everyone in this bar)