Alright, Wanderers, we’ve talked before about fandom functioning as a community in a number of ways, but here’s one I don’t think we’ve mentioned yet; fandom as a social circle. Today, I’m not even going to talk about internet fandom specifically – I’m going to take a risk on staying in the so-called ‘real world’ as far as I can. I know, it’s a bold move – some would say foolish – but I will not be dissuaded, for I am on a quest!
…Ahem. Sorry, got a bit carried away there.
Now, Wanderers, there are a lot of things from the past that we’ve improved on in the last century or so. Long-distance communication, for example, has come along in leaps and bounds, and great scientific innovations in many fields have improved the quality of life for many people. We’re living in the future, and what a glorious future it is. But the fact remains that as things have changed, some of the outdated customs we’ve outgrown haven’t been updated; they’ve just been forgotten. For example, a hundred years ago, as a young adult, you could probably expect to spend a lot more of your social time with your parents, their friends, and their friends’ children. This may not seem like a particularly idyllic view of the past in itself, but since it’d be just as awkward for your parents to have only you for company as it would be for you to only have them, they would tend to take you to social gatherings and encourage you to mingle. The situation might have been rather forced and stilted, but you would meet people nonetheless – outside of school and work. In particularly posh families, it’s possible that you would make your debut at a ball and be introduced to all the equally-posh young people who could be prevailed upon to introduce themselves.
Fast-forward a bit, and that sort of situation doesn’t arise so often. I frequently hear people complaining – admittedly, often in the context of romance – that they don’t meet anyone outside of school or work, and wondering where on earth they are supposed to meet someone. Clubbing is all well and good, but often leaves little opportunity for conversation in between beats of the loud music, and other than that it can be difficult, especially for those no longer in education but too young to consider expensive salsa classes, to start new relationships of any sort.
Enter fandom, stage left. You see, one thing fandom does remarkably well is focus a group of people on one main central goal, and perhaps a couple of secondary goals. Of course, people in more than one fandom have more than one focus, but the fact remains that fandom is loosely structured as a ring of people looking in on something. When that ‘something’ produces an event, such as a screening, book launch or convention, a fair portion of that group is pulled together.
All very well, you might say, but watching a film with someone doesn’t make me their friend. This is a good point, but fan events are rarely without their fair share of milling-around and waiting time. During this time, absolute silence often becomes awkward and fans are, however reluctantly, led towards chatting with one another as a way to pass the time. Strangers are introduced, half-remembered faces are spotted over the heads of crowds, shoelaces are complimented and contact details are swapped. Debates emerge over everything from what colour the walls are in the TARDIS’ swimming pool room to the overarching meaning and cultural impact of the Twilight franchise. Conversation is sparked, food is shared. Friendships are formed, Wanderers. Fellowships. Families.
I’ve heard of married couples who, rather than being introduced by their parents at a second cousin’s friend’s sister’s New Year’s Eve party, met in front of the judging panel for a cosplay competition. Friends so close they’re practically sisters who simply got chatting in the queue for the fourth Harry Potter book. Study partners who teamed up on the first day of class because they were both wearing Firefly t-shirts. Fandom brings together people of different occupations, genders, races and backgrounds, and it gives new relationships a firm starting-point because, well, you already know you have one thing in common.
Go out there and get mingling if you can, Wanderers. It’s a great experience.
Eleanor Musgrove (still regrets not getting the number of a guy dressed as Dobby at a launch)
Fandom Wanderers would like to encourage our readers, especially our younger readers, to be safe and sensible when talking to strangers.