Because there’s a lot to love and admire about fandom, and 2018 needs all the love we can give to it.
At the end of 2017, my lovely fellow writer Nasim Mansuri wrote about all the ways in which fandom saved 2017. From bringing back cancelled shows to spotlighting long-silenced and marginalized voices to the forefront, fandom’s words and actions were there every step of the way.
More than ever, we were able to see the impact and influence fandom has on the types of entertainment we see and the choices studios, directors, and actors make. Fandom truly did save 2017, and I have no doubt it will likewise save 2018.
But fandom, in many ways, also saves us. It gives us art and fiction and music about all our favorite things, it helps us build a community with which we can share our passions (and often our frustrations), it gives us friendships that span cities and countries and continents.
So here is my love letter to you, fandom. Thank you for all that you’ve given to me and to so many others who’ve been lucky enough to be a part of you.
To the creatives who share their passion with us
The creative content we get from fandom is, quite frankly, absolutely staggering.
First off, it’s staggering in terms of sheer volume. There are over 90 thousand playlists tagged “fan mix” on 8tracks, over 3 million total works of fanfiction currently on Archive of Our Own, and over 13 million videos labeled “fan vid” on YouTube. This doesn’t even account for the untold millions of pieces of original art, GIFs and graphics getting posted across Tumblr, Twitter, and other social media, or the meta posts, headcanons, and ficlets that likewise get posted on these social media sites.
Secondly, it’s staggering in terms of how much work goes into each of these fan works. There are some fics on Ao3 that have over 3 million words, which is longer than the entire Harry Potter series. Those who create playlists spend hours curating just the right mix of songs to shape a narrative or craft an atmosphere, while those who work to make fan vids or GIF sets or graphics spend days or weeks finding and/or downloading the exact right scenes, editing them, piecing them together, and adding lyrics or music or quotes to give us those devastating amount of feels.
Finally, it’s staggering in terms of the quality of work we get. I’ve read fic that’s so in character and so canonically sound, I’ve forgotten that it’s not canon. I’ve read fic that is so well-crafted and interesting that I’ve sometimes been disappointed that it isn’t canon. I’ve watched fan vids that are better than official trailers, seen artwork that has moved me to tears, listened to playlists that I wished I could pay the creator for.
And, here’s the truly amazing thing: almost all of this high volume, high quality work is lovingly made and lovingly shared for free. It’s done simply for the joy and love of the media we consume.
So to all the writers, artists, playlist makers, and countless other creatives in fandom: thank you for your work, your talents, your passion and your time. You’ve shared your love with us and we love you for it.
To the communities we are part of
Fandom isn’t just a group of people who happen to like the same thing. At its best, fandom is a community of like-minded individuals who all love the same thing and who can share their thoughts, ideas, and passions with one another.
In many ways, fandom represents a way and a place — even if it’s a digital one — to belong, to feel welcomed, to feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a place and a space where you can feel comfortable sharing who you are and what you love because you know so many others.
We see this in the creative talents that are shared with one another, in the discussion boards and forums that are scattered throughout the internet, in the numerous and heavily attended fan conventions around the world.
Fandom is a place where we can find other people who understand just why it was necessary to watch that particular scene 10 times, or why that fictional character means so much to us. It’s a place where we can be ourselves — as weird or emotional or slightly obsessive as that may be — and I love it for that.
To the friendships we’ve made
In a little less than a week, I’ll be attending Unity Days, which is a convention held in Vancouver for fans of The 100. While I’m there, I’ll see many of my best friends — many of whom I’ll be meeting in person for the first time. These are people whom I’ve spent the last year or so talking to almost daily about, of course, The 100 — but frequently also about my day, my hopes, my worries, my dreams.
It is these friendships that I’ve made through fandom that makes me love fandom so deeply, that makes me so grateful for its place in my life.
Because while the astounding amounts of creative content is beautiful, and finding a sense of community is astounding, it’s the friendships that I’ve made in fandom that have been truly life saving.
Friendships that you make through fandom are often simple and easy in a way that other friendships sometimes aren’t. Your fandom friendships begin with you both knowing about and sharing something that you both love and connect with deeply, and what starts out as in-depth conversations about narrative and character arcs can quickly morph into in-depth conversations about your own personal narratives, your own messy journey.
These friendships, which so easily begin on a shared affection for a show, book, movie, or character, which are so easily built on an external connection to a piece of media, then become deep, abiding friendships premised on sharing parts of yourself with one another, on building a connection to one another based on past experiences and future dreams.
Fandom is a space you join because you love something, a place you stay because you get to read and watch and listen to all sorts of beautiful content, and — if you’re lucky enough — where your life is changed because of the people you meet.
So, all my love to the fandom creatives, the fandom community, and all my fandom friends. You’ve changed my life for the better and I can’t imagine where or who I’d be without you.