When people who have never been a part of a fandom hear that word they automatically think people dressing up in Star Trek costumes, going to Sci-Fi conventions, and arguing over which is better Star Wars or Star Trek.
Star Wars all the way baby.
But fandoms are so much more than costumes and cosplay. They are a place where one feels like they belong. A place where it’s not about bills being due, college classes, or the kids need new shoes.
A fandom, be it sports, movies, comics, music….is about acceptance. A sense of belonging in a world where you may not always feel that you fit in. It’s even more prevalent in adults because once away from school it becomes harder to find people who share the same likes as you do.
So you adapt and find meaningful relationships with people who may not know that you obsessively watch YouTube clips of your favorite scenes from your favorite movie over and over again. And they definitely won’t understand that the new movie coming out next year is pretty much your only reason for putting one foot in front of the other.
But seriously who the hell would understand all that? It seems pretty frakking nuts. Except to the other people who do the same thing and they are out there and they come in all shapes and sizes. You would be surprised at who consider themselves to be a part of a fandom and if you immediately flash to the guy dressed up as an Imperial Storm Trooper you would be oh so very much wrong.
My first encounter with this other world was when I was 17 and I met a group of kids who played the game Magic the Gathering. I had never heard of this game before and for about 15 minutes it interested me, but then I got bored. Nothing against the game itself or the people who play Magic or the game itself. Let’s just say that it requires an attention span longer then the one I was provided with.
But here’s the thing even though Magic wasn’t for me these same people didn’t mind at all that I was a complete geek. In fact they thought it was kind of cool. We would talk about all types of things like who would be better to follow The Dead or Fish? Final Fantasy or Dungeons & Dragons?
Final Fantasy, ah yeah.
In that early instance I was on the fringe of fandom. I had stepped my toe in the water and I discovered I liked it there. However I wasn’t quite ready to go all the way because I knew that this particular pond wasn’t for me.
I wouldn’t find my fandom until the latter half of 2005 and it was completely and totally by accident. I had been working at a call center and had a bit of down time on my hands when one day I realized I had left my book at home. This was a very bad thing because you see when I don’t have something to distract me my mind has a tendency to wander and it usually leads me to trouble. Be it through action or sticking my foot in my mouth.
So needless to say when the girl next to me offered to let me read her copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I jumped at the chance. Despite the fact that up until that point I had successfully and somewhat proudly avoided the whole franchise.
Looking back on it I don’t remember why I hadn’t watched the movies or read the book and I am pretty sure whatever reason I told myself would just sound like bullshit. In other words the reason why it took me so long isn’t important. What’s important is that I did begin reading them because by the end of the first book I was hooked. I read the next 2 books in quick succession and by the time I had finished with the fourth book I had caught up with the first 3 movies as well.
Up to this point I still hadn’t met anyone who was as actively obsessed as I found myself becoming other than the girl I borrowed the first 3 books in the series from and she wasn’t that in to them. She had only bought them to get her through the downtime. Which is why I initially started reading them but that’s beside the point.
The same month that Goblet of Fire came out in the movie theater I had moved to a different team where I could finally stop talking to people (if you aren’t a people person I don’t suggest the customer service field) and start answering emails. This also meant I had no more downtime but trust me it was a much better job. Because I was new to the team no one really spoke to me for the first few months. At first I found this to be quite disconcerting but after a while I chalked it up to high school never-ending and whenever I was on break I would just bury myself in the latest book.
One day I overheard a couple of my teammates talking about how they couldn’t wait until the next book came out and they were even thinking of going to the book release party. I’m pretty sure I even heard talk of costumes. But that wasn’t what drew me in to the point where I spoke up and attempted to join in their discussion. No what drew me in was they were really getting in to the book. As in talking about character motivation. Where they thought the story was headed. Why Snape was so misunderstood.
When I say I was blown away by this I was really blown away. Until that point in my life I had never known people in my daily life that who could get that deep in to a book. Let me tell you I don’t think I had ever been happier. I couldn’t be certain but I may have just found my lunch table.
That first day I chalked it up to a fortunate coincidence and went back to my quiet little corner. No it wasn’t until I heard these same people spend the better part of the day rehashing why the Tailies were ruining the show that I knew for certain I had found my people. From that day on we would discuss books, upcoming movies, our favorite tv shows pretty much everything. It was through them that I discovered The Hunger Games and Y: The Last Man series and I introduced them to Friday Night Lights and Battlestar Galatica.
Eventually we began getting together outside of work under the guise of a book club. I should note that our idea of a book club was that we would each bring a few books we had enjoyed and swap them with each other. When we would get together we would talk about anything and everything. It wasn’t about our jobs or our families. It wasn’t about the who we had to be for everyone else. No our little fandom was just about us. Our lives have since taken us in different directions, but we are still close and because of them I was able to discover even more people who belong to the fandom community. I found my people.