Fandom 101: The Ten Commandments of Fandom

Mar 30, 2013 by

Fandom 101: The Ten Commandments of Fandom

Fandom comes with a host of unwritten rules, which can vary from fandom to fandom and group to group. Some people break them willy-nilly, but those people often gain little but the wrath of other fans and a bad reputation for themselves. Admittedly, fans behaving badly happens a little too often with the “anonymity” of the Internet, or the closeness to  actors, writers and producers that social media can engender. But if you follow these rules, you can avoid some of the more virulent pitfalls that can await a newbie in the community.

1. Thou Shalt Honor The Creator’s Wishes

Usually. Sometimes. Well, if they are an individual. And not horrible about it.

There are certain authors who have expressed a wish that fandom not engage in writing fan fiction or creating other fan art with their characters. When these creators have been polite and kind about it, explaining their position reasonably, fans will usually listen. If the authors, however, approach it from a rude or condescending place, fans will often just drive their creations more underground, like in the old days.

This does not apply to media franchises/networks. LucasFilm can yell all they want–Star Wars fans will still write and play in the Star Wars universe. This goes double if Fox tries to crack down on fans. (Witness the recent debacle over the Jayne hat between Fox and Firefly fans.)

But usually, fans at least try to keep fan art based on a creator who does not like such things out of where it can be seen.

2. Thou Shalt Always Give Credit Where Credit is Due

This may seem odd to those who do not understand fandom and see only people taking characters and settings they did not create to create something of their own. Creators who do not “allow” fan creations in their world are often among these, quick to call “thief!” at their fans. But fans are sticklers for giving attribution. They do what they do for love, not for money or glory. Disclaimers are standard on fan fiction and fan videos, quick to give credit to the creator.

Likewise, if a fan creates a work of art based on another fan’s work, it is generally the rule that the homage piece must somehow link back to the original piece, giving the original fan artist credit.

This applies to using fan art, like icons, or reblogging fan art on sites like Tumblr–the original artist must always be credited. Never, ever, ever repost something as your own that is not.

3. Thou Shalt Ship and Let Ship

This is one more fans need to follow, admittedly. But those with their heads on their shoulders follow it. People like different things in ships. They like different characters. They see different dynamics.

When you come up against someone who ships something different than you do, the polite thing to do is to just let them have their ship, and you have yours. Debates about which is “better” just bring all of fandom down, and are foolish squabbles that can split a fandom and lead to anger and hurt feelings.

This includes a sub-rule–do not tag hate into a character or ship’s tag–i.e. if you are a big Kirk/Spock fan, do not tag your anti-Kirk/McCoy rage into the Kirk/McCoy tag. Allow the Kirk/McCoy fans to have their sandbox, and you play in yours. See, everyone’s happy, that way.

There will be a more thorough post on this later.

4. What Happens In Fandom, Thou Shalt Keep in Fandom

There are fans out there who like to talk to actors and creators about the things fans are doing–ships, plots, art created. They will link fic to the actors that has their character engaged in things that the actor never imagined.

This is generally frowned upon in fandom. Fandom works because it flies at least somewhat under the radar. The actors are sometimes amused, or, in these days of the Internet, they find out on their own about fan fiction and fan art. Some of them are good sports about it, and play along. Some of them find it strange, and then it just gets awkward for everyone.

It can make the actor feel awkward and uncomfortable. It can make fans look crazy/weird/like people who should be avoided. These are not things that fans should want to have happen.

5. Thou Shalt Not Out A Fellow Fan

As fans grow closer and the Internet makes connections, anonymity is something that some fans still prize. Fans come from all walks of life and from different places in their lives. When fans get to know each other and maybe exchange their “real” information, that is a trust issue. When you know who someone “really” is, it is inappropriate to publish that information online somewhere.

Some fans want to keep their identities separate, especially those in positions and situations where their fandom activities could cause them embarrassment or even censure.

Consider the attention that was placed on a high school English teacher who was outed as an erotica author a few years ago. Now think about the elementary school teacher who writes slash online.  Let people keep their secrets.

6. Thou Shalt Always Appropriately Warn

Fic, art and videos should always come with appropriate warnings so people who do not want to read/see/hear material that contains certain things can avoid them. Of course, you cannot warn for everything but there are several warning musts:

  • Spoilers  – in discussion, in fic, in art, in videos, it is important to always warn for an spoilers, especially if it is relating to a recently aired episode or new movie. Consider that not everyone may have seen it, yet, and they do not want to find out what happened via your fic. In fact, most people put a spoiler warning on their fic, no matter how long ago it aired, i.e. “spoilers through season 2, episode 5” might be placed on a new fic, even if the show is now in season 5, simply because new fans come to a fandom all the time.
  • Triggers – People have the right to write anything they want in a fic, but when one is writing fic that may contain darker elements, trigger warnings are expected by a majority of the community. These generally are for the sorts of things that could cause a severe negative reaction in someone who has been through them – non consensual or dubious consensual sex; physical, emotional or sexual abuse; torture; suicide; self-harm; eating disorders.
  • Warnings – Warnings are generally less “severe” than triggers, but things that people might not want to read about/might not be their thing: sexual kinks, death of a canon character, graphic violence, explicit sex, incest (even consensual), derogatory language.

Fans who do not warn about these things are liable to be flamed and called to task for not doing so.

7. Thou Shalt Not Tweet/Email/Harass/Send Death Threats to an Actor or Creator. Ever.

This should be self-explanatory, but somehow it still happens. Fans get so upset over a certain plot arc, or feel that a new character is getting in the way of their ship and they do not just attack other fans who disagree, but actually send hate messages to the actor playing the character or the writer of the arc.

Don’t do it. Ever. It is rude. It is creepy. It is hateful. It is the sign of a horrible human being. Actors and writers are doing a job. It is fiction. It isn’t real. If you find yourself doing this, check your priorities, stat.

8. Thou Shalt Not Judge Another’s Fandom

Unless it’s Twilight.

Seriously, for people who have often been judged for who they are/what they like, fans can often be highly judgmental of others. There are the fandoms that are more “intellectual,” or “better art.” Maybe that is even true. But like ships, people love what they love, and judging them for that is the sign of an insecure person.

Maybe your fandom has more artistic merit, but undoubtedly, there is someone out there who thinks it is the stupidest movie/show/book they have ever seen. Do you want them telling you what an idiot you are for liking it? No?

Then don’t do it to other people.

Even the Twilight fans.

9.  Thou Shalt Use Thy Cut Tags

This is especially true for blogging sites like Tumblr, LiveJournal and Dreamwidth. Blog posts can be long. Picspams can take up a lot of space. When you don’t use a cut tag, you make people who have you on their reading list scroll and scroll and scroll. Then they get annoyed. At you.

Just be nice and put a “read more” or “see more” cut after a couple of paragraphs. If it is worth reading/looking at, people will click the cut and read it/look at it and hopefully leave you lots of lovely comments instead of flames.

10.  Thou Shalt Understand This Simple Fact: Everyone is Gay

Also, if it exists, there is porn about it.

This should stand alone and be obvious, but for the non-fans, these are common fandom/Internet statements. People like their smut, and slash is a highly popular art form. Don’t argue it. Don’t try to explain how canon functions for them. Just accept it and move on.

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