Fandoms. They’re big and scary and seem a little uncontrollable at times, depending on who you meet, and with little real world value. Not so as Katie Behrens describes in a short little article that covers fandoms nicely. She states that a fandom “generally arise[s] out of a shared love of a particular story, whether that story is told through television, cinema, video games, and… books.” That doesn’t sound arbitrary and useless. That sounds a lot like a community to me. But not just a simple live-together community, but one that lives in and thrives in collaboration. The more collaborated they are, the deeper and more expansive their understanding goes, which ultimately leads so some very elaborate (and jaw-droopingly impressive) creations. These have real-world application, not just in the workforce, but in the world at large. Collaboration, sharing ideas, and playing nicely together tends to get things done.
And Behrens hits on another crucial point of this less than a paragraph later. “Fans are different from the average reader/watcher/gamer, though; they are not satisfied to just passively consume media… Fans actively participate with stories”–whether that is through fan fiction, filking (creating songs created for that world), knitting a scarf, or literally any number of other ways to create and expand on what has already been made to exist by the original creator. They are actively engaged with the the world. Some might decry this and say it is living in a fantasy realm. That if anything, they are disengaged from reality and the real world. But that “disengagement” often creates something in the tangible world, and many times acts as a springboard for further creation. In the very act of bridging imagination and reality, they are in fact creating something that did not exist before, and this often leads to create something else entirely.
For example, many advances in our technology have been inspired by the imaginary. Documented cases have traced Martin Cooper to be directly inspired by Star Trek’s communicators to create what we now know as cell phones. The submarine, designed by Simon Lake, was inspired by his love of Jules Verne’s Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, as was Robert H. Goddard, the inventor of the first liquid-fueled rocket, was inspired by H.G Wells’ War of the Worlds. And the taser was a end-result of Jack Cover’s love of a series of young science fiction books created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. It is even named after one of the main character’s fictional inventions – the “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle” (Strauss, 2012). Talk about a blending of fiction and reality!
At it’s heart, fandom is active, collaborative, and immensely creative. Just. try. a. search. for. any. favorite. subject/story. on. Etsy. These places are safe places. Usually in fandoms, there is almost universal support, because everyone there is coming to geek out over a shared commonality. It can be a neutral place to explore and share new ideas and see from different perspectives, even while being united under a common ground. These collaborations and sense of community while fostering creativity with which to actively engage in the real world are just a few benefits from fandoms.