What is Fandom?

Fandom: a word describing the amoeba-like entity that is the collection of fan works and their creators. These days, fandom is mostly online, but it also exits in the real world through small-scale friendships and large-scale conventions. (I’m lookin’ at you, ComicCon).

A good place to go for reference is Fanlore, a wiki page that outlines the ins and outs of fandom. It usually also has links to fan pages, fanfiction, and fic communities. Typically, when I want to get into a fandom, I go to fanlore first to see where all the cool kids are.

Fandom describes the thing as a whole, but it can also be used to refer to particular fandoms, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Harry Potter, to name a few of oldest/most prominent. As I said before, today, most fandom takes place on the internet, and the internet is perfect for it; anonymous, wide-reaching, and text-based. But it wasn’t always so. Even though fanfiction is currently rising as an area of academic study (Thank you, Pop Culture Studies), it is not a new phenomenon. People have been writing stories about other people’s characters for centuries (Milton: Paradise Lost, Dante: Divine Comedy). Recently, as in the 60s, it has exploded in Books, ‘Zines (short for Magazines), and songs. And, oddly enough, it all started with Star Trek. (All of the Star Trek novels are sanctioned and published fanfictions, fan ‘Zines exploded fan works and started slash as a genre, and Leonard Nimoy’s Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. ‘Nuff said.) Then, when this new-fangled thing called the World Wide Web entered our homes and PCs/Macs, fandom as we know it today was born. It is still evolving, and will continue to do so.

But wait!, you say, Did you just say that Star Trek started Slash?!

I did. And it did. When the ‘Zine’s started publishing, some writers began writing about the (some say obvious) subtextual homosexual romance between Kirk and Spock. Those stories were labeled “Kirk/Spock” and the term “slash” refered to the actual punctuation used to differentiate the names. That slash is still used, and the term “slash” has come to refer to any story involving two canonly straight men in a gay relationship. (The recent uprise of gay characters has called this into question. Would Dumbledore/Grindewald be considered a slash relationship or a canon relationship? I say it is slash, because the term has come to be synonymous with gay in fandom. You might disagree. ‘salright.) “Slash” can also refer to two women in a gay relationship, but most refer to this as femslash. (The feminist in me grits my teeth at that, but that’s something I’ll discuss in the blog, where others can discuss with me). Some will also use a portmanteau (Like Branjalena) to signify romantic “pairings” in stories. (Destiel – Dean and Castiel: Supernatural, Snarry – Snape and Harry: Harry Potter, McShep – McKay and Shepard: Stargate Atlantis).

There are several terms, acronyms, and shorthand phrases used in fandom. Most can be found on Fanlore, Urban Dictionary, and on my ongoing page of fanfic translations, FanFic Cheatsheet.

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