Thursday, August 08, 2013

Who Is a Fan?

Recently one of my e-mail lists had a discussion about whether the same person can be both a fan and a scholar of a particular area of fantasy, SF, etc. The consensus was that a scholar can definitely also be a fan. But the list didn’t reach a consensus on what makes someone a fan.

The stereotype that “fan” implies uncritical enthusiasm was quickly disproved. As several people pointed out, fandom often involves encyclopedic knowledge of an author, TV series, etc., and fans notoriously enjoy nitpicking inconsistencies and other defects in their beloved material. And fan publications can feature in-depth analysis as insightful as any academic article.

So what defines a “fan,” as opposed to someone who enjoys a certain body of work but wouldn’t claim that designation? (A member of my family recently remarked about a TV show he’s fond of that he considers himself a fan of it but “not a FAN.”) Is it enough to have watched every episode of a program or read every book in a series? Does one have to pore over the material repeatedly and learn the plots and characters well enough to pass a trivia contest? Or is a true fan someone who engages in fannish activities such as reading fanzines, writing fanfic, and attending conventions?

I’d say it’s up to each individual, regardless of defined categories, whether to identify himself or herself as a fan. Many people, however, recognize different levels of involvement as the threshold for that self-identification. Where do you locate that boundary?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. I view it as the difference between a "fan" and a "fanatic." A fan is fond of a genre and watches all the episodes, reads the whole series, etc. A fanatic pours over the mythology, dresses up, attends conventions, and buys figurines. They're all wonderful in my book! :)