Fandom Unites Inventive Fiction Buffs

When Sixth College junior Ginny Tice first stepped foot in
University of Westminster’s Cavendish Campus in London, she was struck with
fascination. Not only were robe-clad wizards and witches interacting with
non-magical folk, there were even a few Arithmancy and Divination classes being
held and a game of Quidditch underway.

Tice is part of an Internet subculture called fandom — a
group of fans who share the same interest or activity in a specific work of
fiction. The appeal of this fantasy world led Tice to London, where she
attended Sectus, a renowned convention dedicated to Harry Potter.

“It was my first convention and my first trip to Europe,
which probably ate up all the money I earned that summer,” she said. “However,
getting to see all the places mentioned in the books, and more importantly,
getting to meet a lot of cool people with similar interests was very surreal.”

Although fandoms began in the late ’60s and early ’70s with
the start of fanzines and the TV show Star Trek, the use of the Internet has
expanded their popularity.

“Suddenly, anyone
obsessed with something obscure or not so obscure, or with a certain paring or
type of fiction could generally find a group of people with similar interests,”
Tice said. “The general joke of the Internet now is ‘Rule 34: if it exists,
there is a porn for it’ but now it’s like ‘if it exists, there is a fandom for
it.’”

Tice also reads fan fiction that is related to Harry Potter
— a common activity within a fandom. Fan fiction is literature written by
amateur writers about characters from their favorite movies, books, television
shows and games. This breed of fan club is very popular on the Internet with
over 100 Web sites focused on just Harry Potter fan fiction alone.

Eleanor Roosevelt College freshman Justine Yang participates
in Transformers fandom and dabbles in various others. As one of the officers of
Darkstar, a science fiction and gaming club at UCSD that was formed in 1978,
Yang said fandoms come from the popular culture of TV and video games that
children are exposed to at a young age

For Yang, that TV show was Godzilla, which prompted her to
write a 42-page story and surf every other show on FoxKids.

“I don’t know what it is about fandoms,” she said. “But they
pique my interests through various means like style, story, characters and
sheer creativity.”

While many people close a book or see a show or movie they like and move on,
fandomers are unable to put something they like to rest, Tice said, translating
to looking it up online, then reading summaries, interviews, reviews, then eventually
fan fiction.

Like many others, Yang reads and writes fan fiction because
she likes to express her creativity through this medium and find people with
similar interests.

“What I like about fandoms is that I don’t feel like the
only freak in this world,” she said. “I can talk freely with people who have
the same interests as me that I can’t with ‘normal’ people, whatever the hell
‘normal’ means.”

As a way to showcase many people’s popular culture
obsessions, Fanfiction.net, a Web site where fans can share, read and review
stories, lists fan fictions categories from more than 250 books, movies,
authors, and videogames, ranging from the more popular “Harry Potter” or “Lord
of the Rings,” to “Of Mice and Men.”

While there are millions of fans on the Internet, whenever
Eleanor Roosevelt College freshman Charlotte Harland finds out that a friend of
hers dabbles in fandom, she said it is like an automatic fellowship.

“I was actually surprised to find that a bunch of my
suitemates are fan fiction junkies, too,” she said. “It’s like ‘ooh, yay, someone
who won’t edge slowly away from me if I start talking about such-and-such
pairing or alternate universes or something.”

Yang said that although many of her friends know that she is
interested in fandoms, she tries to express her obsession minimally to avoid
alienating them. Although some people don’t understand the lives of fandomers,
their intense fascination with fiction is what makes them different.

“It doesn’t help that my dorm keys include keychains of
Bumblebee and Optimus Prime,” Yang said. “A handful of my friends are similarly
interested in one or two of my fandoms, but they’re not as devoted or obsessive
as I am. That’s what sets me apart; I sometimes overreact to certain things,
like crappy, poorly written fan fiction. That’s the main difference between me
and them — I have too much of an emotional attachment to these fandoms.”

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