Fandom – It is a word you might have come across in your early explorations of the internet. To put it simply, most books, movies and TV shows have fans. These fans come in two flavours –
- The casual fans.
- The fans who live, breathe and dream their favourite book or movie, to the extent that real life seems to them to be just an unimportant extension of the world of fiction!
These are the kind of fans who collectively form the world of fandom – an alternate reality where all their ‘fanny’ dreams could come true and they could live happily in the company of other fans like themselves, away from that pesky ‘Real World’.
Now fandom is hardly a new phenomenon. It has existed for as long as one can remember, and individual fans obsessed with their favourite story or celebrity have always been known to do crazy stuff. For example: When Arthur Conan Doyle planned to kill off his fan-favourite character Sherlock Holmes, he actually received death threats from devout fans of the aforementioned Mr. Holmes, warning him of dire consequences should he stop writing about the detective.
However, organized fandom today is much more widespread than it ever was before, thanks largely to the internet, which has helped to bring die-hard fans of all fiction together, forming a veritable virtual community. The world of fandom even has its own language (fan-speak), its own dress-code (cosplay) and its own festivals and celebrations (comic-cons).
Some common terms in the Language of Fandom, which you may or may not have heard of (depending on how much of a geek you are), are given as follows:
- Canon/Fanon – Not the giant ball of death, no. Here, the word ‘canon’ refers to those aspects of the story which have been written or confirmed by the creator themselves. Eg: The relationship between Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in Harry Potter is canon, as it is in the books themselves, as written by J.K Rowling.
‘Fanon’ on the other hand refers to that aspect of a story that wasn’t part of the original storyline and hasn’t been confirmed by the creator, but which yet exists in the imagination of the ‘fans’, who desperately want it to become reality. Eg: Many Harry Potter fans had wanted Harry and Hermione to end up together, and were sorely disappointed when this did not happen. Hence they formed their own ‘fanon’ version of the story, where Harry and Hermione can actually be a couple.
- Ships – Again, not the big, floaty kind you’re imagining. In fandom, the term ‘ship’ originated as an abbreviation of the longer word ‘relationship’. It basically refers to a fan’s favourite couple(s) in any work of fiction, whether canon or fanon. So for example, if you love the chemistry between Katniss and Peeta in the Hunger Games, then they are your ‘canon ship’, whereas if you would rather have had Katniss end up with Gale, then Katniss/Gale is your ‘fanon ship’ – something that didn’t actually happen in the story, but you would want it to happen anyway.
- Slash/FemSlash – The first documented fandom implementation of the concept of ‘slash’ probably happened during the days of Star Trek, even before the advent of the internet, when some die-hard fans of the series brought out ‘fan magazines’ with stories pairing two of the most popular (male) leads of the show – Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Slash happens when fandom pairs off two characters belonging to the same gender in any work of fiction, seeing them as a romantic couple. The female counterpart of slash is called ‘femslash’, where two female characters are paired together. It is a kind of fanon-shipping, only with characters belonging to the same gender. So if you want Rizzoli and Isles to ditch the guys once and for all and make out with each other, you’re probably a shipper of femslash. Whereas if Barney and Ted together is your dream pairing, you’re a plain old slash fan!
- Ship-Wars – Ship wars occur when the fans of two popular (yet conflicting) pairings in a show or book fight it out for their own favourite ship on the internet, especially on fandom-friendly sites such as tumblr or Livejournal. This frequently happens when neither of the ships has been officially confirmed in canon, making both the teams equally likely to ‘win’ or ‘lose’ in the grand fight of ship supremacy. For example, ‘Smallville’ fans had always been divided over the main pairing of the show – with battle-lines being drawn between those who wanted Clark Kent to end up with Lana Lang, and the others who preferred Chloe Sullivan as a romantic partner for Clark. Such is also the fate of ‘Batman’, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, stuck between fans of the elusive ‘Catwoman’ (Selina Kyle) and the Amazonian Princess, ‘Wonder Woman’. Who finally wins the war, remains to be seen.
If you are yet to be initiated into the strange and wonderful world of fandom, do look before you leap. Who knows, you might just end up bang in the middle of an epic ‘ship-war’!!