It’s easier to be a fan nowadays, easier than it was when I was a kid. Gracious, I sound like an old woman, reminiscing, or rather complaining, about the ol’ days. The internet has made it easier to find alternate avenues to explore, groups to join, and art and fanfiction to continue to grow our devotion.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have fandoms, we just liked something. We were fans, but we didn’t have nicknames for what we aligned ourselves with. If we had, I guess I would have been a Smurfette, or maybe a witch (Bewitched), perhaps Wonder Woman’s younger sister, or even a gelfling (The Dark Crystal). I’ve always been a princess.
Now there are Browncoats (Firefly), Loki’s Army, and SuperWhoLocks (the trifecta – Supernatural/Doctor Who/Sherlock), among so many others. We now refer to ourselves as Cumbercookies (Benedict Cumberbatch fans) and Whedonites (Joss Whedon supporters). As I’ve discovered myself drawn to new fandoms with more fervor, it’s made me think: How do fandoms choose us?
Dragon Age to me is what Star Wars is to The Sis (she’s a Sith, by the way). I loved Star Wars growing up. I had an X-Wing (which was sold at some point in my youth at a garage sale much to The Sis’s disappointment), dressed as Princess Leia on multiple occasions, am pretty sure Han Solo was my first crush, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I don’t feel the same way about it anymore. Maybe it’s because while I was growing up, I didn’t have those alternate avenues to explore; those resources to fan the flames of my devotion. Don’t get me wrong, I still get that sense of awe when I hear the Imperial March, and I welled up during the opening credits of The Force Awakens, but maybe it’s because it’s always been a part of my life that I take it a bit for granted.
The Sis, on the other hand, is a walking encyclopedia of Star Wars information. For a speech in her communications class, she was deemed an authority by which she could use herself as a source due to her knowledge. She IS a Star Wars fan.
Dragon Age, Captain America, and Doctor Who are all newer to me and I love them all individually for their uniqueness and ability to draw me in, and am thankful for all the ways I can explore these worlds more fully. Dragon Age is medieval and fantasy combined – a true favorite of mine – and why I love Game of Thrones as well. Captain America is a man out of time with a great sense of self-sacrifice to do the right thing, while rarely thinking himself worthy. Gotta love a do-gooder. This is why I’m on his side for Civil War. And then there was Doctor Who. Hmm…what was it exactly that drew me in? Maybe it’s the ability to mix a laugh while simultaneously breaking your heart in the same breath. Maybe it’s that the Doctor is so alone in the universe and you just want to hug him. It could also be the show allows one to travel in time and space, so there are a number of worlds and people to explore and meet, and he’s always so happy to do so. The perfect traveling companion.
I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing and he was greatly inspired by 50s horror movies and stories, and that is what influenced his work. I think the types of stories we’re exposed to as kids leave a big mark. I was raised in the 80s with Disney princesses, Roald Dahl, and the dark stories of Jim Henson’s puppetry genius. I am drawn to characters that want to do the right thing, that have an opportunity to go on a great adventure while falling in love and defeating some larger than life villain. Pretty much sums up all those fandoms I’m invested in, and the types of stories I write too. I think this is how a fandom chooses us -it speaks to us on some deeper level.
While the internet has created a great divide in human interaction in general, it has also allowed people who have felt isolated to find others like-minded in their devotion easier. When someone recognizes the gaming symbol on your shirt, there is an instant connection. When some random salesperson overhears and understands your fandom reference, we feel a kinship, and that is what this new world of fandom has created: a network of allies. The Sis and I made a new friend at a Supernatural con because she had a Star Wars tattoo on the back of her neck and it instigated a conversation that led us to finding a soul sister. Thank you, fandom world.
I have friends who don’t have a fandom, and I think, how boring is your life?! What do you have to look forward to? This new sphere has opened up a number of opportunities is which we don’t have to hide our love for a fictional character or world. We are now free to openly celebrate what makes us geeks. That is a great thing.
Of course, there are stories of fan-hating at cons and on the internet, but trolls will be trolls, and as in real life, we can’t control what others think of us, and it’s none of our business anyway. Eff ’em! Do what makes you happy and love your fandom.
If you’re in need of some recommendations for a fandom, I’d be happy to help you find one! After all, who knows what kind of friends you’ll meet; interesting, creative, clever, devoted, good people. I have a bunch I’ve never even met in person, but our fandoms united us and allowed friendships to grow. Now we support each other in all our endeavors, not just the geeky ones.
Also, becoming invested in a fictional world can help you in your own writing. You may be exposed to new ideas and beliefs. A variety of characters with subtle nuances and habits can help you with your own character toolbox. Role playing games have you make decisions that effect the world around you, and having that sort of decisive mindset may help make a difficult decision in your own story. Expansive gaming worlds, like the Marvel universe, have a great way of connecting a number of storylines and characters, and if you’re building your own world, it may help you connect those dots. I’ve found resolutions or ways to make my worlds better because of my fandoms. Maybe you can too.
So, who do you align yourself with?