Last summer, I went to visit my friend Tristan1 in Chicago, because, well, he’d been living in Chicago for quite a while and I hadn’t visited. And also, I wanted to see dinosaurs at the Museum of Science and Industry2. While I was there, I figured I should make some time to meet up with friends from the Midwest, and duly made the arrangements.
Well, actually, I flailed around about how it would be “nice” to see people and they made the arrangements. Because I didn’t want to be all dictatorial and say “Hey, you should totally drive four hours to Chicago just to see me and sit by the lake.”
The appointed day arrived, and Tristan asked me where I’d met my friends.
“Oh, the Internet,” I said airily.
“Do you want me to come with you in case they’re creepy serial killers?”
I gave him a blank stare, thinking that maybe he was making a joke. We are prone to joking, particularly of the macabre flavor. He looked seriously back at me with a slightly furrowed brow, the classic Tristan look of concern, the expression that means “Oh dear, I think there’s going to be crying before bedtime, and I wonder where my hanky’s gotten to3.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “They’re in fandom.”
And then I pranced out the door to meet them at the restaurant around the corner and we had a fabulous time eating sushi and, yes, sitting by the lake. Apparently this sitting by the lake thing is a thing people do in Chicago when it’s not cold enough to freeze the tits off a metal statue or so hot you’d melt if you stepped outdoors. So, basically, this happens like three days a year?
This is a rounabout way of saying that I love fandom.
The thing about fandom is that it’s not just about terrific transformative works (aka fanfic) (and fanvids) (and fanart) (sorry about all these parentheses, Emily4). It’s also about terrific people, and I think this is something that gets missed by people who live on the outside.
I say nice things on the Internet about fandom a lot, but they’re usually in fandom spaces, where everyone’s all “Yeah, we already know we’re awesome, thanks.” So, in honor of Say Nice Things On the Internet Day, I thought I’d spread the nice a little more, and take my love for fandom to an entirely new platform. Not least because many people seem surprised to learn that I’m in fandom, because I guess they think it’s weird that I hang out with amazing people who also happen to produce incredible creative works.
People in fandom truly connect with each other on a level that constantly amazes me, and it’s a connection rooted in a mutual love for creativity, and pop culture, and things that make us giddy with excitement. Like, I love "Revenge," and I love being able to get seriously fannish about it. And I love how that fannish connection turns into a friendship with someone I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and what that friendship can turn into. Fandom makes amazing things happen, people.
It’s not uncommon for people in fandom to have financial crises for various reasons, especially with this economy; a house burns down, someone gets slammed with medical expenses, the bank comes knocking with a foreclosure notice. And sometimes financial issues are about systemic problems; for example, the annual Con or Bust event helps fund conference attendance for fans of color and nonwhite fans who might not otherwise be able to go because the expense can be a significant barrier. The immediate response to these calls for community support is really just knock-you-on-your-butt incredible: People set a specific goal and a target, and they work to make it happen.
They raise money via any means possible, like auctioning off original art and fiction, fanworks, interesting possessions, offers for baked goods...whatever it takes. Published authors participating in fandom might auction off character names or sneak peeks or advance reader copies or other lovely things. Meanwhile, people might be putting together care packages with everything from cookies to new underpants to help people get back on their feet, and feel loved.
Fans don’t just beta read5 fanworks. They also help people with resumes, and cover letters, and pretty much any other written thing you can imagine. When fans face tough life choices like “Hey, I was just diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and I’m not sure which course of treatment to pursue,” they turn to other fans for information; and it’s likely that several people have experience, and can offer their insight into the situation.
Being in fandom feels like I have this huge crowd of people who have my back, and that’s pretty fantastic when you’re feeling down in the dumps, or you’re faced with a tough decision, or you really need help with something. If I’m having a can’t get out of bed day, someone will send me cute kitten pictures. If I need to make a life choice, someone else has been there and knows how it feels. If I’m traveling to a strange city and I have nowhere to stay...there will be somewhere to stay.
People have these complex and amazing discussions in fannish spaces, and here is something else about people in my corner of fandom: They are wicked smart. I can turn to them with a question about pretty much anything and not only will someone have an answer, but someone else will have Opinions and there will be a whole complicated discussion on the subject that quickly surpasses my knowledge and leaves me reeling. And then I go “Okay, so...” and that sets off a whole new round. It’s amazing.
I hang out with physicists and computer programmers and historians and doctors and scientific researchers and people doing these seriously hardcore cool jobs who then just sit down and knock out 20,000 words of fiction like it ain’t no thang, and find time to support members of their community. And that’s why I love you, fandom.
1. Who is, incidentally, a really awesome guy. We went to school together as wee young things and he’s always the one who intervenes when I come up with harebrained schemes like moving to Norway, streaking in City Council meetings or going to grad school. Return
2. Which is actually somewhat lacking in dinosaur-related content, fyi. The Field Museum is where you want to go with that, Tristan just lured me to the Museum of Science and Industry because he wanted to go on the U-boat. The U-boat is pretty cool, though. Return
3. I get this look a lot. Return
4. No I’m not. Return
5. Edit and offer advice on style, tone, and whether the piece is true to canon (if desired). Return