Hello, and welcome back to the blog.
Here’s the thing: I’m a fangirl. I don’t go out of my way to advertise this about myself, but I don’t try to hide it, either.
I read a book, watch a movie or a movie series, play a video game, and I fall in love with the characters and the story and the lessons. I fall so hard that I, and people like me, take to the Internet on places like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt, etc. to talk about these things, to point out the cool little things we notice that maybe a more casual consumer doesn’t, to appreciate this thing that we all love and have in common.
That’s the definition, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
However, many people think that fandoms are weird. Objectively, this is true. We get obsessive about universes that don’t exist and people who are not real. That’s kind of quirky. I don’t deny it.
I find it ironic, however, that the people who think your love for a book/series/movie/video game/ TV show/comic book/tabletop game/blog/webcomic/webseries/YouTube channel/podcast is weird— well, they are often the people who are Very Adamant about the Life-Changing Importance of their Chosen Sportsball Team.
Now, I’m not denigrating sportsball of any variety. I was in the marching band for three years of high school and I did enjoy attending football games. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy here: sportsball fans go to or watch games and cheer for their favorites and buy merch and emotionally connect with the success or failure of their Chosen Sportsball Team and talk to other people about it. People who are part of media fandoms go to events or view their media and cheer for their favorites and buy merch and emotionally connect with the success or failure of their Chosen Media Fandom and talk to other people about it.
That being said, I’m here today to talk about some of the amazing things that media fandoms accomplish.
We have to start with the classic: fanfiction. Fanfiction is OLD AS HECK. If you think it’s some weird new phenomenon where teenage girls write stories about their favorite characters in their favorite YA paranormal romance, you would be dead wrong. One of the most famous examples I can think of is The Divine Comedy, written by Italian poet Dante Alighieri and published after his death in 1472. The Divine Comedy is a trilogy of narrative poetry about a tour of hell, purgatory, and heaven— or, as you might know them, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
What makes this fanfiction is that the main character is, in fact, Dante Alighieri himself. This is what is known as self-insert fic, where you write yourself into your fanfiction story
because you want to be the sexy alien of the week who actually joins the Starship Enterprise and marries Captain Kirk instead of being just one of his many flings. Dante wrote himself into the story so that he got to interact with many notable historical figures, saints, politicians, and European nobility. (All of whom are dead, but that’s beside the point.)
In Inferno, Dante’s tour guide through hell is the Roman poet Virgil, the author of the Aeneid. Virgil and Dante are nowhere close to being contemporaries— Virgil lived from 70 BC to 19 AD and Dante was born in the year 1265 AD— but they become friends on their trip through the nine circles of hell. As Dante travels through the earth (because apparently the nine circles of hell are located inside the mantel of the earth), emerges on the other side at the base of Mount Purgatory (which is apparently in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, directly across the globe at the furthest point from Jerusalem), and climbs Mount Purgatory where he ascends to space and sees Paradise (which is apparently located in the Milky Way and has different sections categorized by the planets of our solar system), he and Virgil get to know one another and become friends. Virgil has to leave him about halfway through Purgatorio because Virgil was a heathen Roman and technically belonged in Limbo (but was permitted to show Dante around by virtue of being Dante’s favorite author). Dante’s guide at this point is Beatrice, who finishes up Purgatorio and takes him to see Paradiso. Beatrice was a woman who like Dante was from Florence, Italy. Dante met her in childhood and admired her from far away— and then immortalized her in verse. (This is after the fashion of “courtly love,” the ideal of pining over your crush, which is noble and godly, instead of telling them you like them, which is sordid and vulgar. Basically, me.)
Dante was also involved with some political intrigues of his day— Italy at the time was split between the Ghelphs and the Ghibellines. Quick history lesson: the Ghelphs supported the Papacy and the Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Emperor; there was fighting, there was silliness; the Guelphs split into the Black Guelphs and the White Guelphs; then Dante, a White Guelph, was exiled from Florence at the order of Pope Boniface VIII, who supported the Black Guelphs. Dante was really angry about this, and it shows in The Divine Comedy because all of the people he liked and supported were shown to be in purgatory or heaven, while all of his political opponents and people he disliked were shown to be in hell. In fanfiction, you can change the reality to suit you. The Divine Comedy is absolutely, one hundred percent self-insert fanfiction.
As we look at the history of literature, you can see that fanfiction is prominent. The famous poem Paradise Lost, by John Milton, is literally fanfiction of the Bible, specifically the events of the Garden of Eden. This form of fanfiction is what is known as a retelling— when you say, “No, wait, it actually happened like this.” Without Milton, we might never have gained the cultural image of Satan being an oddly charming fellow, which makes sense because how else would he be so successful? (Seriously though. Read Paradise Lost; Lucifer is one of the best characters in it.)
Star Trek launched a fanfiction movement in the sixties. It was mostly done in letter-writing communities, but you had excited fans writing stories to each other about things that could have happened on the starship Enterprise. As the Internet became a thing, people created websites and forums to share their work and their excitement, and now you could probably search fanfiction for literally any book, movie, or TV show and find results.
However… you may not like what you find.
Look, fanfiction already has stigmas. It’s not “original” and sometimes networks and producers aren’t sure if you’re trying to make a quick buck off of it or not. So the community stays in this sort of quiet, hidden place, and what happens in that place is that you get a lot of people writing pornographic material. I’m not going to get into detail, but Rule 34 of the Internet states that: “If it exists, there is porn of it.” In my forays into fic I have done my best to avoid porn, but it is there. Studies which I’m not citing because I don’t remember where to find them have shown that men prefer visual or “hard” pornography, but women prefer written or “soft” pornography; if you don’t believe me, consider Fifty Shades of Gray and the demographic of its audience. (It’s pretty much women.) And because fanfiction is a quiet place, you also get things that are made for communities who do not find media targeted to them. The LGBTQ+ community, in particular, takes advantage of this. Because you don’t often find anything except heterosexual characters in mainstream fiction media, fanfiction becomes a place to explore: “What if this character was gay?” This isn’t because the gays are out to get you or anything stupid like that. They just don’t see themselves in the media. The question is not “What if this character was gay?”, but “What if this character was like me?” As a person who has often felt alone and isolated, I have great sympathy for people who ask this question.
In summation: if you find my explanation of fanfiction fascinating, and you can think of a few books or movies you love and would like to see fanfic for— expect to find porn. Expect to find gay porn. You can find PG, heterosexual material if you look for it but proceed with caution, because you will almost certainly come across things you didn’t intend to see. You have been warned.
However, fanfiction is not the only thing that fans create to show their love, obsession, appreciation, and support. Fan conventions are a big thing— events made by fans, for fans. Ever heard of Comic-Con? The best one is in San Diego, but you can find them in pretty much every major city in the USA. At conventions you see all kinds of fan creations. You get cosplayers— people who devote unbelievable amounts of time to making costumes, obtaining wigs, and learning makeup skills so that they can dress up as a character they love. It’s Halloween on steroids and I love it.
Fan art goes along with fanfiction. The PG stuff is very easily found, and you can often find it on Facebook where someone has shared it from their Pinterest account or something like that. There is also rated-R fan art. It’s the Internet— Rule 34 will always apply. If it exists, there is porn of it and if you go looking for it, it’s there. I advise you not to go looking for it, because some things can be forgotten but not unseen.
My favorite form of fan-created work is devoted to video games. Video games are an interesting type of media because they are entirely interactive. You have choices about what you do in a video game. Some games have more choices than others, but they all have choices. Sometimes the choices even affect the outcome of the game. When you have a fan that is devoted to this form of media and decides to create something related to it, the something can come in a few different forms.
Mods are fun. If you’ve ever played Garry’s Mod, you might know that it’s a physics engine developed from the coding of the video game Half-Life 2. Garry’s Mod is very elaborate and has had a lot of successful derivatives— Murder, Prop Hunt, etc. I would venture to guess that Garry’s Mod is the most famous video game mod. The PC version of Minecraft has TONS of available mods made by fans. If my computer were not a complete potato, it would run Minecraft and I would try to get some of the mods I’ve seen used: Biomes O’ Plenty, OreSpawn, Chisel and Bit, DecoCraft, BiblioCraft, Mr. Crayfish’s Furniture Mod, Ars Magica, Botania, Witchery, Tinker’s Construct, Immersive Engineering, Mekanism, Forestry, Applied Energistics, Ender IO, Galacticraft— to name but a few that look really, really cool. Seriously, there are hundreds.
And then sometimes you have fanmade games. Pokemon, a favorite franchise of mine, has quite a few of these. The idea of Pokemon is that you have a lot of little (or not so little) animals that have elemental or magical powers, and you train them to become powerful and form a close bond
and beat other people. Yes? Okay. Now, the fun part is when you get people who love Pokemon so much that they do some coding with RPG Maker or some other video game design programs, and they put together a Pokemon game with original characters, a new story, and sometimes completely new and made-from-scratch fake Pokemon (Fakemon, as they’re known). I love fanmade games because they are such creative endeavors. I’m an author and a musician and sometimes an artist and I love to see what other people make. Fanmade Pokemon games are absolutely fantastic. I’m currently playing Pokemon Uranium, one of the few completed games, and it’s brilliant— story, characters, music, Fakemon, everything. Pokemon Zeta and Omicron are also complete. They don’t have Fakemon, but they do have a ton of the existing Pokemon. I don’t love them the way I love Uranium, but they are very good. The maker of Zeta/Omicron is currently working on Pokemon Insurgence, which at this point is a demo version with six available gyms. Insurgence is not for the faint of heart— it’s dark and gritty, there’s death and cults and blood sacrifices and it’s rated PG-13 at the very least. It’s also very difficult, but I’m enjoying it. Again, there’s no original Pokemon— but they do have some twists on the ones in existence. And Pokemon Ethereal Gates is a demo version with only two gyms, but it has all-original Pokemon and music and I love that little bit I’ve played far, far more than even Uranium. I am so excited for the full version to come out.
I like fan creations because they are a labor of love. Legally, you cannot profit from fanfiction, fan art, or a fanmade video game without breaking copyright law. So the people who make these things? They do it for free, and they do it for fun. I am a person who writes and plays music and creates things for fun, and I know for a fact that creatives are my favorite types of people. Both of my parents are creative. My older brother is creative. My sister is creative. My two younger brothers are creative. Many of my extended family are creative. I have a ton of creative friends. And the celebrity role models I have (which is different than just liking a celebrity, but I won’t get into that today) are creative people.
If I met these people who write fanfiction, draw fan art, and make mods and video games— if I met the fans, the cosplayers, the writers and the artists and the crafters— I would be at home. They are my people. They love the things they do, and they love hard. As someone who has always loved too hard for her own good, I admire that.
Have a lovely day, and may you take just as much satisfaction from the things you love as I do.
If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.