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Harry Potter fans dressed as Hogwarts students

Fandom 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 on 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] It is formed of the word fan plus the suffix -dom (as in kingdom).

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

Fan art for the Sherlock TV series on a Dutch telephone booth

Fans of the literary detective Sherlock Holmes are widely considered to have comprised the first modern fandom,[2] holding public demonstrations of mourning after Holmes was "killed off" in 1893, and creating some of the first fan fiction as early as about 1897 to 1902.[2][3] 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. Fans have 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".[4] 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 and fantasy authors such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Poul Anderson, Randall Garrett, David D. Friedman and Robert Asprin are or were members of the organization.

Media fandom split from science fiction fandom in the early 1970s with a focus on relationships between characters within TV and movie media franchises, such as Star Trek and The Man from U.N.C.L.E..[5] Fans of these franchises generated creative products like fan art and fan fiction at a time when typical science fiction fandom was focused on critical discussions. The MediaWest convention provided a video room and was instrumental in the emergence of fan vids, or analytic music videos based on a source, in the late 1970s.[6] By the mid-1970s, it was possible to meet fans at science fiction conventions who did not read science fiction, but only viewed it on film or TV.

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.[7] 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.

A cartoon of an "anthro vixen" furry

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,[8] 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 subjects with significant fandoms include comics, sports, music, pulp magazines,[9] soap operas, celebrities and videogames.

Fan activities

Members of a fandom associate with one another, often attending fan conventions and publishing and exchanging fanzines and newsletters. Amateur press associations are another form of fan publication and networking. 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. Often, fans congregate on forums and discussion boards to share their love for and criticism of a specific work. This congregation can lead to a high level of organization and community within the fandom, as well as infighting. Although there is some level of hierarchy among most of the discussion boards in which certain contributors are valued more highly than others, newcomers are most often welcomed into the fold. Most importantly, these sorts of discussion boards can have an effect on the media itself as was the case in the television show Glee. Trends on the discussion boards have been known to influence the writers and producers of the show.[10] The media fandom for the TV series Firefly was able to generate enough corporate interest to create a movie after the series was canceled.[11]

Some fans write fan fiction ("fanfic"), stories based on the universe and characters of their chosen fandom. This fiction can take the form of video-making as well as writing.[12] Fan fiction may or may not tie in with the story's canon; sometimes the fans use the story's characters in different situations that do not relate to the plot line at all.

Cosplayer. She-Hulk, 2012

Especially at events, fans may also partake in cosplay (a portmanteau between costume and play) – the creation and wearing of costumes designed in the likeness of characters from a source work – which can also be combined with role-playing, reenacting scenes or inventing likely behavior inspired by their chosen sources.[13]

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 favorite 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.[14]

Some fans create pictures known as edits, which consist of pictures or photos with their chosen fandom characters in different scenarios. These edits are often shared on social media networks such as Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest.[15] In some edits, one may see content relating to several different fandoms.

Fandom is sometimes caricatured as religious faith, as the interest of fans sometimes grows to dominate their lifestyle,[16] 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".[17]

In film

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.

In books

Fangirl is a novel written by Rainbow Rowell about a college student who is a fan of a book series called Simon Snow, which is written by a fictional author named Gemma T. Leslie.

Relationship with the industry

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 likewise the fans who facilitated the push to create a Veronica Mars film through a Kickstarter campaign.[18]

Such outcries, 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.[19] 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[20] 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.[21]

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 and Harlan Ellison to Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Toni Weisskopf; the "fan" vs. "pro" dualism does not exist in SF the way it does in the media entertainment industry.

See also

Fandoms by medium

List of notable fandoms


  1. ^ "Fandom - Definition of fandom by Merriam-Webster". 
  2. ^ a b Brown, Scott (2009-04-20). "Scott Brown on Sherlock Holmes, Obsessed Nerds, and Fan Fiction". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2015-03-12. Sherlockians called them parodies and pastiches (they still do), and the initial ones appeared within 10 years of the first Holmes 1887 novella, A Study in Scarlet. 
  3. ^ The editors (2015-02-06). "Sherlock Holmes". Fanlore wiki. Fanlore. Archived from the original on 2015-02-06. Retrieved 2015-03-12. The earliest recorded examples of this fannish activity are from 1902... 
  4. ^ "Dr. Gafia's Fan Terms". 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Walker, Jesse (August–September 2008). "Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the vidding underground". Reason Online. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 
  7. ^ Bennett, Jason H. "A Preliminary History of American Anime Fandom" (PDF). University of Texas at Arlington. Retrieved May 10, 2009. 
  8. ^ Patten, Fred (2012-07-15). "Retrospective: An Illustrated Chronology of Furry Fandom, 1966–1996". Flayrah. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Laskari, Isabelle. "Glee Producer and Writer Discuss the Show’s Fandom". Hypable. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  11. ^ Miller, Gerri. "Inside Serenity". How Stuff Works. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Jenkins, Henry. "Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture".
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Stanfill, Mel and Megan Condis (2014). "Fandom and/as Labor." Transformative Works and Cultures, no.15
  15. ^ "fandom edits on Tumblr". 
  16. ^ Archived December 2, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Kilgler-Vilenchik, Neta (2013). "Decreasing World Suck: Fan Communities, Mechanisms of Translation, and Participatory Politics." USC
  18. ^ "The Veronica Mars Movie Project". Kickstarter. 
  19. ^ Chin, Bertha, Jones, Bethan, McNutt, Myles and Luke Pebler (2014). "Veronica Mars Kickstarter and Crowd Funding." Transformative Works and Cultures
  20. ^ Jackson, Leah. "Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC Release Date Announced -- Closure Is Coming". Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  21. ^ Defranco, Philip. "OREOS Are GAY!!". YouTube. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 

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