Between the Lines: Fandom Futures

Despite everything I have criticized about fandoms, the fact is that they are still those places, they are still comfort spots for the most of us. We can come to fandom spaces at the end of the day and be assured that we will find something that suits us, we can tweak canon to suit our needs, we can find something to comfort us. Nothing that fandom does wrong can ever negate that sense of comradery, can it, because we always come back for more?

In essence, that is what fandoms are, a found family. Like friends and family, fandoms feel like home, like belonging, and sometimes they feel like home in the sense that you aren’t sure how you ended up here, and you wonder if you’re here because you want to be, or if it’s because it’s too late to go. But I think fandom also says something about the storytellers in us, the stories we choose, the fact that we created fandoms so that we could discuss these stories at length with other consumers, that we could rewrite them to suit our preferences. Sometimes, all we need is someone else’s story to spark the beginning of our own.

This is the point of Between the Lines, by the way, to think about our obsession with stories. To dig deeper to why that obsession exists, what impedes it, what encourages it. There are the more gruesome facts of fandom, of course, as the past four weeks have undoubtedly highlighted: the bigotry, the inter/intra-fandom warring, the miscommunication and bad representation. None of these negate the good things, which are as numerous as they are varied: the familial feeling of belonging to the same fandom, the characters we adopt, the storylines we fall in love that become fic-fodder for AU’s on AO3, the Tumblr posts, the Spotify playlists, the live-tweets and the thrill of following a series from start to finish, of following an actor through their industrial success.

Fandoms, and fans, are a universe in their own right: one that is devoted to storytellers and their stories, and there’s something inherently beautiful in that. There’s something about that which will forever withstand the test of time, fandoms will come out of most things unscathed. Fandoms can take the political and economic crises of the real world and turn them into wondrous backdrops for fictional characters to realize realistic lessons, and maybe this is a characteristic of most writers, most fiction, but there is something magical about the way it happens in fandoms. These are community characters, really, characters who have somehow made it into the mainstream and can still remain so wholly and painfully personal.

There is something radical about fandoms, I think, in how we claim the stories given to the world. How we say, yes, thank you, I’ll take this one and let it speak for me. I will give my words to your characters. I like how fandom blurs the lines between types of creators, blurs the hierarchy. We are all storytellers to a degree, and fandom is the birthplace of the best of them. It takes talent to take a character you have not created and keep them still perfectly in tune with who they are in essence. It’s a practice in perfected nuance. It’s the very truth of storytelling: the sharing of the stories in the first place.

So, this is to fandom: for having been there always, for continuing to be there, despite the faults. To the future of fandom, may it be more diverse, may it be kinder, gentler, louder, more loving.

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