Hello everyone, and welcome back!
So I wasn’t sure I was going to pick up with this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, because to be honest with you, I feel like books kind of get the shaft in terms of fandom content. I mean, yes, one of my first huge fandoms was Harry Potter, and that started for me just prior to the movies coming out. And of the fandoms I’ll list, there are definitely books (adapted to TV shows or movies, but still) and comic books happening, because I’m into reading like that.
But I mean, in terms of big, very active fandoms, they tend to be TV and film ones. (Which doesn’t rule out books entirely, since they get adapted. But then the fanfiction isn’t based on book characters too often, which is sad.)
But then again, fandom for me has always been a lot about fanfiction, which is all about reading and writing—exactly what I do as a reader and a blogger. So what’s this whole other side of my reading/writing life been like, and what have I learned from it? Well, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. (Let me know the fandoms of/in your life down in the comments!)
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This was my first fandom, and at the time, it was largely on a mailing list. The pre-Fanfiction.Net times, my friends. We used to link our personal sites (some of which were Geocities and Angelfire, RIP) where we hosted our fanfiction, and sometimes emailed around about updates. This was a time when it wasn’t weird to start emailing personally with one of your favourite fanfic authors, although of course I made an ass of myself because I was like 12 pretending to be 16 and still unknowingly emulating everything I wrote after everything I consumed. (My first “novels” were basically Sailor Moon with rainbow swans and Nancy Drew but with my dog.)
TMNT was such a multimedia fandom that we basically had anything and everything to geek out about (I mean, I didn’t join the list in the TMNT heyday because I was too young, but I still had a list friend send me a cassette tape of the TMNT band’s musical tour, for real), and nothing to declare firmly as canon or not-canon (not sure how to define for the uninitiated, but: part of the official story or not, I guess). It was a great space to be creative—and, let’s be real, for people to write shameless self-inserts because all of the protagonists are brothers. But that was before OCs (original characters) were entirely hated, or maybe they were more tolerated given the fandom.
This is the fandom I first shared with other human beings in real life, and it led me down the rabbit hole of all other sorts of geekery, because it helped me find friends and acquire more geekeries and then acquire other friends, and so it goes.
Okay, so a thing about comics fandoms: later in life, I would realize they’re not always the most fun to be in because comics can be a really unwelcoming place to hang out if you’re a lady, both in terms of the guys who want to act as gatekeepers, and the artists who draw female bodies in wild, whacky ways. But when I was young, they were such fun fandoms because comics are so compatible with fanfiction and fanart. A premise is created (characters and their origins), and then all sorts of people go to town on it and what’s canon is kind of a shrugging motion. (This is particularly true with X-Men and all of its timelines.) This increases creativity and reduces the amount of possible Fandom War, which is something I discovered in my next fandom.
3. Harry Potter
My friends and I all became obsessed with Harry Potter to some extent, although maybe for me it was the most visible because it led to a boom in me writing fanfiction. I don’t know if it was the world or how active the fandom was (in that hazy time before the first movie and/or between books four and five, which was when my participation in the fandom really picked up), but I was so into writing Harry Potter fanfiction that we used to pick pairings out of a hat and challenge each other to write them up, and I always did it.
Of course, Harry Potter was also home to Fandom Wars, like whether Harry/Hermione or Ron/Hermione was endgame (I was on the right side of history there, I’ll have you know), or whether Blaise was a boy or a girl (I was on the wrong side of that one; why is Slytherin so male?), and a million other disputes that come up when canon is contained within definable, readable limits where people can comb carefully for subtext. And that’s part of why I both love and hate book fandoms: because when it comes down to it, I studied English literature, and I love combing for subtext and looking for connections and deeper meanings. But also I kind of hate fandom fighting, so yeah.
4. Buffy the vampire Slayer
At the time I got into this show (during its fifth season), part of why I wasn’t already into it was that I had never had cable, which when you were my age in Northern Ontario pretty much resigned you to watching hockey games and the first season of cool sci-fis until they pulled them off Global. Or South Park but at 12:30 am on Fridays. The struggle was real.
So Buffy is one of the most extreme stories of me getting into a fandom: I read transcripts of every episode over the summer after the fifth season finale. (Fan-transcribed television was in fact a thing on the Internet at that time.) I think the werewolf suit was probably cooler in my imagination, to be honest. My friends surprised me for a birthday by pitching in to buy me some of the actual DVDs, and the fanfiction began. To this day, I still rewatch Buffy.
So I had a pretty big gap in fandom consumption in my life between early high school to university undergrad, owing to a few factors. (I stopped producing any writing altogether, something that didn’t change until my next fandom.) But after I read New Moon and was just annoyed as heck about how it had turned out (an annoyance that compounded through Eclipse and became almost comical after Breaking Dawn), I ended up turning to the Twilight fandom—or actually the anti-fandom, as it turned out—for solutions.
One of the coolest things about fanfiction is that it can explore what didn’t happen, which means that when canon is unsatisfactory, fanfiction can, well, fix it. And that’s what I found in the people that called themselves the Twilight anti-fandom. They’d seen a lot of potential but also a lot of bungling in the phenomenon that was the Twilight saga, and they sought to fix it by laboriously rewriting things from various points of divergence. And that dedication (and ability to compellingly change everything through minor deviations) is one of the things I love about fanwork.
During and after its first season, Glee was this huge thing, and as a person who enjoys musicals and obviously teen drama, I was there for it. One of the best things about Glee, though, was its fandom.
The thing about cultural phenomenons like Twilight and Glee and so on—the things that hit big, for however long they do—is that you’re almost always going to find a corner of fandom that suits you. Even rare pairings or secondary characters will get more focus from some people than some main characters will find in other, smaller fandoms. Which was why Glee was where I learned to love all of the characters and to ship basically everything and to write absolute crackfic, like the Rachel Berry/Captain America novella-length crossover I did for Nanowrimo in 2012. (I kid you not. And no, it’s not on the Internet, because I never edited it for human consumption.) Though I never posted this, the effect of writing it was cathartic: after years away from writing anything in fandom, I knew I could get back to it again.
7. The 100
Oh, The 100. This fandom got me back into fandom again after another long hiatus. It also taught me, indirectly, that fandom is actually my best coping mechanism when I’m stressed. Because it’s reading and (less often now, but still) writing, but in a context where it’s fun and familiar and low pressure and escapism at its best. (I may have burned myself out slightly with the whole many-years-of-academic-creative-writing thing.) Nowadays, when I’m just a mess in my head, I know well enough to know that one of the things that can help is finding some fanfiction.
This is also a fandom that taught me that I don’t even have to keep up with the show (I haven’t; I know I’m not going to like what happens with Lexa and Lincoln), but I can still be forever and entirely in love with fanon versions of characters. (Fanon is basically…like everyone in Supernatural fandom calling the Impala the Metallicar for a while, or everyone in The Avengers fandom for a time being fixated on Thor with Pop Tarts. It’s whatever is a big trend in fandom, so much so that it appears “canon” in fandom.) (Also, I’ve read the books so far for this fandom, for what it’s worth, but no one talks about them because they’re not really as compelling as the show? Which is weird?)
So right now, I’m living a life where I’ve been reading Mass Effect fanfiction before bed, but I mean, that may just be a fling since it’s not the world’s biggest fandom. (Though, of course, time will tell.) One thing I know, though, is that though I may be drowning in my TBR, I will always make time for fandom and fanfiction, because even though books are one of my favourite forms of escapism, going back to familiar characters with new stories is the kind of escape that will always be the most comforting for me.
…and yeah, this was bookish but not totally about books, so. I’ll catch you Friday with some more book reviews!