Fandom 101: Pleasures of Fandom (AKA – What do fans do for fun?)

Mar 3, 2013 by

Fandom 101: Pleasures of Fandom (AKA – What do fans do for fun?)

We’ve already covered some of this in previous posts, or alluded to it, but it’s easily lost in the midst of other information, so I want to highlight a few key fan activities here. There are a lot of fan activities I will miss, I am certain, but, like the terminology, these are the ones I focus on most in my research and thus the things that are most likely to show up in my essays or posts.

Some of these may be activities and practices you have observed or heard of, some of them may be new. Feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below!

Discuss (generally critically, at length and in depth) their fan object

Fans are fans in the first place because they love something enough to devote their time and energy to that thing they love. With the explosion of the Internet in the last decade, fans have immediate access to each other to discuss shows, films and books in real time. Despite what you might expect, much of this discussion is more critical (in the academic rather than evaluative sense — though there is an evaluative element, of course) than sheer adoration. Fans spend time dissecting plot, characterization, narrative development and possible future events. They take apart their media object with the same thoroughness one might dissect Shakespeare in a college English class. With the ease of rewatching episodes of a television show, for instance, fans are able to slow down or speed up the narrative, to watch it out of sequence, to focus in on what is happening, and discuss the ramifications of that with others.

Create Fan Art

Fan art is one of my primary areas of focus, as the terminology post likely revealed, especially fan fiction and fan videos. These are not activities new in the time of the Internet, but online archives and services like YouTube have made it far more accessible to fans. Fans are generally a creative lot, and many of them take their fan art very seriously. They are expressing their love, their point of view, and sharing their creations with the rest of the world. This is a labor of love–fans are not trying to monetize their efforts–but it is not usually something that fans do not strive to do well at. Far from being something that gets thrown together, many fans labor long and hard over their art, striving to create at the best level they are capable of–many times crafting narratives, art or video work at a level to rival professional artists and writers.

Role Play

While many fans do engage in table top role play or online video games, the role play I am talking about here is narrative based role play that is more appropriately seen as collaborative storytelling. In this sort of RP, each writer/player takes the perspective of a character, while their partner(s) take on the perspective of others. From there, they create narratives and universes together, writing what could be seen as a large fan fic, alternating turns with their characters. These games can play out over online journals like LiveJournal, or on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, on online forums or via Instant Messenger, or any combination of the above. Each medium offers certain challenges and advantages. Often times these RP threads are available for others to read then, as if they were, indeed, fics.

Attend conventions

This is one of the main things most people think of when they think of fans, and it is, indeed a popular activity among fans. Conventions can range in size from small events lasting one or two days in a single space to large affairs spanning multiple locations and attracting tens of thousands of attendees. So, what goes on at conventions? There really is something for everyone. Generally, there are celebrity guests of some sort–actors, writers, graphic novelists, producers. The larger conventions obviously attract the larger guests–Dragon*Con in Atlanta and San Diego Comic Con generally have guests anyone aware of popular culture would recognize. All conventions have some sort of programming, as well, often along various tracks–writing tracks, tracks related to certain genres, tracks related to costuming, and so on. Fans attend panels where they can discuss shows or activities or genres they enjoy, ask questions of celebrity guests, or learn a particular skill in a workshop setting. There are almost always costume contests and multiple parties, and a lot of the goings on are about meeting new people and seeing and being seen.


Cosplay is when fans dress up as their favorite characters–often at conventions or for photo shoots with other cosplayers. Costumes can range from simple to intricate–from things you can buy at a Halloween store to elaborate handmade costumes. Serious cosplayers strive to have their costumes be as screen accurate as possible from buying the exact pieces worn by actors to scouring stores and the Internet for convincing alternates to making the clothes themselves when nothing appropriate can be found. More casual cosplayers are satisfied with being recognizable as a character, or with approximations. No matter how intricate or casual, every cosplayer does it for love of the character. Warning if you start–it’s an addictive hobby!

All of which leads to…

Connecting with others who care about the same things they do. Fandom is a community (albeit a sometimes dysfunctional one). Many media fans were stigmatized as outsiders for their “geekish” interests in the past. Maybe some still are. But fandom activities allow them to find other people like them. Fandom can allow for deep friendships and connections, a sense of belonging, a sense of place. There are ups and downs and problems (more on that later), but at its core, it is about bringing people together celebrating something they love, as much as cheering for the local team or conferences in your field or Meet Up groups for your favorite activity.

What are some of your favorite ways to connect with people like you–fannish or not?

[Photo: Firefly group in Dragon*Con parade, Atlanta, GA 2011]

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