Confessions of a Super Fan
For the record, high school girls get a sh*tty wrap. Some of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and hopeful young people I’ve met are young high school women. When people think of fandoms they think of high school kids, nerdy boys playing D&D (dungeons and dragons) or shy girls drawing anime. Young people who like those things are most definitely part of fandoms. But so are many other types of people participating in fandom, myself included.
Here it goes. I’m part of a fandom. I came to later than most. To be honest, I don’t know how I didn’t join one earlier. Perhaps the internet made it easier. Or it was a perfect storm of the right fandom at the right time. Today, I’m a full-fledged member of the ASOIAF/Game of Thrones fandom.
It started out innocently enough, the show was one of my favorites. I would read the recaps and reviews the day after each episode aired. For the first several seasons I was a show watcher only. The recaps helped explain nuances and give more background information because they were often written by people who had read the books. This was a big part of the experience. Being able to engage with the show by watching and reading about it. I was hooked.
To this day I’m convinced the show benefited from a certain portion of its fans being able to explain the details to the other portion. The show overtook the books as far as material goes. I for one miss the dynamic of the show and books working together. Granted I would say that sentiment is much debated in fandom.
Those written recaps were a gateway drug to Youtube recap videos. As the season moved away from the books. Fans went from explaining show events based on the books, to predicting future events. Before I knew it I wanted to make my own predictions. I even had my own ship! A ship is a relationship between two characters that you like. It may exist in the story or it may not. In my case, I ship Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, the power half-sibling/soon-to-discover-their-cousins team. JonxSansa or Jonsa as it is called was the most popular Game of Thrones ship on tumblr in 2018. There are a lot of us out there.
This all led to a lot of writing. I wrote fanfics, metas (explanations of events, characters, etc. with heavy doses of speculation), answered quora questions, tweeted, tumblred, made friends with other fans. I joined a Thursday Night Youtube Bookclub that is doing a re-read of the first book. This rabbit hole goes deep.
It’s paid off. My writing has improved by leaps and bounds. I feel confident saying I can write fiction. This year my fanfics were longlisted for the Wattys, which is WattPad’s yearly writing awards. I didn’t go into joining a fandom with the goal of becoming a better writer. But it happened all the same. There are fans that have read and enjoy my work. This might be the most rewarding part.
When you are part of a fandom, there are people of all ages, backgrounds, from all over the world. You never know who might be on the other side of a username or where they might be from. In some cases, I write very mature fics. They are not age-appropriate. I also can’t control who reads my stories even when I tag appropriately.
This realization…made me think about the I have a responsibility to my readers no matter how old or young they. I see it as an amazing opportunity. It’s about more than fandom. Sure the fandom stuff is fun, but there is a back and forth happening in the space. Fans comment, argue, share, all types of creative output from simple artwork of the characters to full multi-chapter works of fiction. The work can be truly amazing. There are fics that are better than most published works. There is art that is stunning.
In a way, it is all very subversive. The writing or fanart acts as expressions of the original, or what is called ‘canon’ in fandom. It is also a commentary on the original work. Are female characters sidelined in canon? You can bring them to the forefront in fanwork. Not enough LGBTQIA representation or people of color? You can fix that too. Or maybe you didn’t like the ending. Fans do it all. They turn the original work on its head. It can be jarring, or funny or in some cases, not the greatest work. Other times, it’s better, much better than the original work. What it’s really doing is giving another perspective on work we already know and love. A perspective that in other forms is often marginalized.
Women of all backgrounds may get published but often get smaller books. If they write smut, it’s put in the romance category not fit to be considered literature. In fanfiction, they can write 60 chapter fics, if they want and they do. There is no one to tell them they can’t write an epic story. And that story can be filled with smut. Fanfic is filled with non-native English speakers, LGBTQIA people, and people of color writing all manner of stories.
In my past two years of being heavily involved in fandom, I’ve connected with people across the globe, written hundreds of thousands of words, read and discovered all manner of creative work. And I have a new appreciation for all the people creators making this work. They are largely unknown outside of the fandom, unpaid, and doing it for the love of it. By doing this, they are participating in the subversion of a system that has never been friendly to less-then traditional creators. The hidden talent in this space is real.
So tonight, I’ll be joining a Thursday Night Book Club to talk about ASOIAF’s A Game of Thrones. Follow me on twitter and I’ll tweet out the link. Come jump down the rabbit hole with me!