My good writer friend Karen Rought is taking over the Mental Sweatshop today, talking about the importance of fandoms. Karen is an editor and writer for Hypable, and she’s one of my beta readers. She knows her stuff.
Take it away, Karen!
According to Wikipedia, the word fandom is “a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.” The article goes on to say, “Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest.”
In other words, if you’re part of a fandom, you’re no casual viewer.
Potterheads, Twihards, Little Monsters. You may have heard of these names before, but have never really known what they meant. These are the names of fandoms. These are what the participants in those fandoms are called.
What does it mean to be a part of these fandoms? I like to list them as symptoms: Con fever, Tumblr addiction, Twitteritis, a strange blend of insomnia and chronic fatigue, an inability to talk about anything else, failure to explain your favorite show in less than a three page monologue.
It sounds funny, but considering I suffer from all of these symptoms, I can tell you it’s true.
And it also sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? No one should be that invested in fictional characters, but as many of you are avid readers, I think you can see how one would slip from being a fan into that other, darker, scarier category of devotee.
So, should we shut down Tumblr and disband all fandoms until people can learn a little self-restraint?
You might not believe it, but fandoms are important. And they do a great many things for the people involved with them.
As someone who’s an introvert, who’s a little socially awkward, who’s always looked at the world a little bit differently, fandom is my kind of place.
I’ve met some of my best friends through various fandoms. Some of them I haven’t even met face-to-face yet. We’re in an age now where that’s not as scary a thought as it used to be, and seeing as a lot of us frequent the same blogs, I can probably say the same things about many of you. But if geography is our only obstacle, that doesn’t seem like such a bad friendship, does it?
Because of fandom, I’ve learned to analyze character motivations and pick apart dialogue. I’ve gotten better at hypothesizing and looking for clues or foreshadowing.
It’s like everything your high school English teacher wanted you to do in ninth grade, but voluntary.
And it’s made me a better writer. Being that involved in something has taught me to look at what works and what doesn’t, to see how a creator can build a character from the ground up, to notice which ones fans like instantly and which ones they don’t. I experience these feelings as a member of the audience, and I crunch that information, accumulate it, and put it to use in my own stories.
Fandom is probably the only disease people suffer from that they actually enjoy. It’s emotional and full of drama and punctuation abuse, but it’s also full of friends who get you on every level. They understand why you’ll spend an hour playing a ten second clip over and over again, crying in the dark, unable to just close that tab and make the pain go away.
In fandom, you can be exactly who you are. You can be weird and loud and passionate. You’ll be admired for pulling out the tiniest detail and writing an essay on its significance. You can be the biggest nerd on the internet, and people will flock to you because you speak their language.
There are fewer walls thrown up between people in fandom. And you’ll wonder how someone on the opposite side of the world can be so exactly like you it’s as if you’re related. You’ll find yourself wanting to travel all over the country, just to rub elbows with the people you’ve befriended.
Fandom isn’t just for those people who sit behind their computer all day and have trouble forming sentences longer than four words at a time. It’s for people who are looking for like-minded individuals that understand you and can speak as passionately about something as you can.
Fandom is a home, a safe place on the internet, and it’s importance to the individual — especially if that individual is a writer — cannot be discounted.
I belong to many fandoms, and my involvement varies between each one. But I wouldn’t give it up, not for anything. Some of my closest confidantes live in that magical world, and although it may seem a bit scary and strange from the outside, it really is like a home away from home.
Are you a part of a fandom? Do you just experience it from the outside? Do you have any fandom-related stories to share?
Karen is a fantasy writer from New York – no, not the city. She spends her days working at a job she loves, selling antiques and collectibles online. But at night she transforms into the Midnight Novelist. She enjoys creating stories about everything from frolicking faeries to gruesome mass murderers. On her blog, she writes about TV, movies, music, books, art, and just about anything she finds interesting. Comments, discussions, and the sharing of stories are always welcome.
In addition to her day job (and her not-so-secret identity as a writer), she also works for Hypable.com. It’s a pop-culture website where writers are truly passionate about the fandoms they cover. There, she copyedits, reports news about Teen Wolf and Percy Jackson, writes columns, and is featured on multiple podcasts (all of which you can find on her Accomplishments page). There’s quite literally something for everyone over there, and her only word of warning is that it can cause obsession, insomnia, caffeine-addiction, and the inability to stop quoting your favorite TV shows.
(Also, in the hopes that no one ever mispronounces her last name again, you’ll be delighted to know that you say it the same way you would say “wrought” – as in “wrought iron.”)