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Harry Potter fans dressed as Hogwarts students

Fandom (consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in domain) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. 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, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates "fannish" (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest.

A fandom can grow up centered around any area of human interest or activity. The subject of fan interest can be narrowly defined, focused on something like an individual celebrity, or more widely defined, encompassing entire hobbies, genres or fashions. While it is now used to apply to groups of people fascinated with any subject, the term has its roots in those with an enthusiastic appreciation for sports. Merriam-Webster's dictionary traces the usage of the term back as far as 1903.[1]

Fandom as a term can also be used in a broad sense to refer to the interconnected social networks of individual fandoms, many of which overlap.

Organized subculture[edit]

Sherlock fandom on Telephone booth

Fans of the literary detective Sherlock Holmes are widely considered to have composed the first modern fandom[2] creating some of the first fan fiction as early as 1887[citation needed] and holding public demonstrations of mourning after Holmes was "killed" off in 1893. Outside the scope of media, railway enthusiasts are another early fandom with its roots in the late 19th century that began to gain in popularity and increasingly organize in the first decades of the early 20th century.

A wide variety of Western modern organized fannish subcultures originated with science fiction fandom, the community of fans of the science fiction and fantasy genres. Science fiction fandom dates back to the 1930s and maintains organized clubs and associations in many cities around the world. It has held the annual World Science Fiction Convention since 1939, along with many other events each year, and has created its own jargon, sometimes called "fanspeak".[3] In addition, the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medievalist re-creation group, has its roots in science fiction fandom. It was founded by members thereof; and many science fiction/fantasy author/fans such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Poul Anderson, Randall Garrett, David D. Friedman and Robert Asprin, and other members of SF fandom, are or were members of the organization.

Media fandom shot off from science fiction fandom in the early 1970s with a focus on relationships between characters within TV and movie media franchises.[4] There is still much overlap in fannish culture and activities between media fandom and its science fiction fandom parent; media fandom derives some of its jargon, customs and practices from its science fandom roots. Vidding fandom, the fandom related to building and watching analytic music videos based on images, emerged from media fandom in the late 1970s.

Anime and manga fandom began in the 1970s in Japan. In America, the fandom also began as an offshoot of science fiction fandom, with fans bringing imported copies of Japanese manga to conventions.[5] Before anime began to be licensed in the U.S., fans who wanted to get a hold of anime would leak copies of anime movies and subtitle them to exchange with friends in the community, thus marking the start of fansubs.

Related to similar media sources, the cosplay community forms a subculture centered around wearing costumes and reenacting scenes or inventing likely behavior inspired by their chosen sources, mainly from Japanese media, and sometimes from other media around the world. Cosplay at fan events in Japan is thought to have originated in 1978.[6]

Furry fandom refers to the fandom for fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. The concept of furry originated at a science fiction convention in 1980,[7] when a drawing of a character from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphics initiated a discussion of anthropomorphic characters in science fiction novels, which in turn initiated a discussion group that met at science fiction and comics conventions.

Additional significant types of fandoms include comics fandom, sports fandom, music fandom, literature fandom, pulp magazine fandom,[8] soap opera fandom, celebrity fandom, and video game fandom.

Fan activities[edit]

Members of a fandom associate with one another, often attending fan conventions and publishing and exchanging fanzines and newsletters. Originally using print-based media, these sub-cultures have migrated much of their communications and interaction onto the internet, which they also use for the purpose of archiving detailed information pertinent to their given fanbase.

Some fans write fan fiction, stories based on the universe and characters of their chosen fandom. This fan fiction can take the form of video-making as well as writing.[9] Some also dress in costumes ("cosplay") or recite lines of dialogue either out-of-context or as part of a group reenactment. Others create fan vids, or analytical music videos focusing on the source fandom, and yet others create fan art. Such activities are sometimes known as "fan labor" or "fanac", an abbreviated form of the phrase "fan activity." The advent of the internet has significantly facilitated fan association and activities. Activities that have been aided by the internet includes the creation of fan "shrines" dedicated to favourite characters, computer screen wallpapers, avatars. Furthermore, the advent of the internet has resulted in the creation of online fan networks who help facilitate the exchange of fanworks.[10]

Fandom is sometimes caricatured as religious faith, as the interest of fans sometimes grows to dominate their lifestyle,[11] and fans are often very obstinate in professing (and refusing to change) their beliefs about their fandom. However, society at large does not treat fandom with the same weight as organized religion.

There are also active fan organizations that participate in philanthropy and create a positive social impact. For example, the Harry Potter Alliance is a civic organization with a strong online component which runs campaigns around human rights issues, often in partnership with other advocacy and nonprofit groups; its membership skews college age and above. Nerdfighters, another fandom formed around a YouTube vlog channel, are mainly high school students united by a common goal of "decreasing world suck." [12]

In film[edit]

Feature-length documentaries about fandom (some more respectful of the subjects than others) include Trekkies, Ringers: Lord of the Fans, Finding the Future: A Science Fiction Conversation, and Done the Impossible. "Fandom" is also the name of a documentary / mockumentary about a fan obsessed with Natalie Portman.

Relationship with industry[edit]

The film and television entertainment industry refers to the totality of fans devoted to a particular area of interest, whether organized or not, as the "fanbase".

Media fans, have, on occasion, organized on behalf of canceled television series, with notable success in cases such as Star Trek in 1968, Cagney & Lacey in 1983, Xena: Warrior Princess, in 1995, Roswell in 2000 and 2001 (it was canceled with finality at the end of the 2002 season), Farscape in 2002, Firefly in 2002, and Jericho in 2007. (In the case of Firefly the result was the movie Serenity, not another season.) It was the fans who facilitated the push to create a Veronica Mars film (2014) through a kickstarter campaign as well.[13] Another example is fans bombarding the NBC studios with letters about not cancelling the critically acclaimed, but ratings struggling series, Friday Night Lights. The show was given an additional season due to fan pressure on the studio. Such outcry, even when unsuccessful, suggests a growing self-consciousness on the part of entertainment consumers, who appear increasingly likely to attempt to assert their power as a bloc.[14] Fan activism in support of the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike through Fans4Writers appears to be an extension of this trend.

Gaming fans have also recently made a big impact on content developers. In March 2012, when the most recent installment of Bioware's Mass Effect series was released, the fandom was so displeased with the game's available endings that they demanded there be some kind of change. Buckling under the pressure of this heated demand, BioWare released a DLC (downloadable content) packet on June 26, 2012[15] in hopes of reconciling the game's endings and soothing the fandom's aggression. This simple change to the game's ending was a huge step for fandoms because the entertainment industry has never before taken such large steps to comply with a fanbase's desires.[16]

In science fiction, a large number of the practitioners and other professionals in the field, not only writers but editors and publishers, traditionally have themselves come from and participate in science fiction fandom, from Ray Bradbury to Harlan Ellison to Patrick Nielsen Hayden to Toni Weisskopf; and the "fan" vs. "pro" dualism does not exist in the way it does in the media entertainment industry.

See also[edit]

Fandoms by medium[edit]

List of notable fandoms[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Dr. Gafia's Fan Terms"
  4. ^ Coppa, Francesca (2006). "A Brief History of Media Fandom". In Hellekson, Karen; Busse, Kristina. Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 41–59. ISBN 978-0-7864-2640-9. 
  5. ^ Bennett, Jason H. "A Preliminary History of American Anime Fandom" (PDF). University of Texas at Arlington. Retrieved May 10, 2009. 
  6. ^ Thorn, Matthew (2004) Girls And Women Getting Out Of Hand: The Pleasure And Politics Of Japan's Amateur Comics Community in Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan William W. Kelly, ed., State University of New York Press
  7. ^ Patten, Fred (2012-07-15). "Retrospective: An Illustrated Chronology of Furry Fandom, 1966–1996". Flayrah. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  8. ^ Cook, Michael L. (1983). Mystery fanfare: a composite annotated index to mystery and related fanzines 1963–1981. Popular Press, (p. 24-5) ISBN 0-87972-230-4
  9. ^ Jenkins, Henry. "Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture".
  10. ^ Stanfill, Mel and Megan Condis (2014). "Fandom and/as Labor." Transformative Works and Cultures, no.15
  11. ^
  12. ^ Kilgler-Vilenchik, Neta (2013). "Decreasing World Suck: Fan Communities, Mechanisms of Translation, and Participatory Politics." USC
  13. ^ Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter
  14. ^ Chin, Bertha, Jones, Bethan, McNutt, Myles and Luke Pebler (2014). "Veronica Mars Kickstarter and Crowd Funding." Transformative Works and Cultures
  15. ^ Jackson, Leah. "Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC Release Date Announced -- Closure Is Coming". Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  16. ^ Defranco, Philip. "OREOS Are GAY!!". YouTube. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 

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