Fanfiction and Fandom as Escapism

I apologize for missing a post last month; this past spring has been busy, but also I failed to set aside time for my blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and how it’s an act I struggle with, despite being in graduate school for it. Who knew it could be so hard to sit down and just, well, write.

I finished my second ever online class, an English course entitled: Exploring the Margins Between Adult and Children’s Literature - Girls’ Coming-of-Age Fiction. The focus of the class was the Künstlerroman (German for artist’s novel) and aspiring young female authors. The syllabus and extensive reading list, from Little Women, Emily of New Moon, the Betsy-Tacy series, to Harriet the Spy, The Color of My Words, and Fangirl, has given me plenty of food for thought. I’ve had quite a spring to reflect on writership and what it means to be an author. My final essay for the class was an exploration on the validity of fanfiction for two protagonists in two YA Künstelrromans on the reading list. While researching this modern phenomenon of rewriting and reimagining, I’ve learned that fanfiction is not only a prominent theme in understanding today’s aspiring young authors, it is also an extension of fandom culture in general.

I used to think nerd culture and fandom were synonymous, but it seems in more recent years, fandom has become more accepted in the fabric of society. Comic conventions are more popular in mainstream culture, and sci-fi and fantasy movies are enjoyed by a greater populace. I’ve wrapped up my first year working as a graduate assistant at Hollins University, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of students here are very much into fandom culture; we even have a dormitory dedicated to it called Fandom Hall.

But I don’t think fandom is necessarily a bad thing. I see it as a form of escapism, a portal that leads us away from our boring 9-5 lives or dead-end weeks of work and routine. And I myself am into it to a certain extent with my love of Star Wars. Movies and TV are really nice ways for people to bond with each-other and make friends out of a shared love of a character. I of course saw Avengers: Endgame, which I am still reeling over even though it’s been about a month and a half since I’ve seen it, and just being there in the theater with other fans shouting, gasping, and crying made me feel a certain way, like we were all connected in this one weird moment. I guess what I like about fanfiction and fandom culture is that it can bring anyone together, I think that’s something we as a society really need.

My older sister is deep into multiple fandoms, and at first, I never really got its appeal. Why not just live in reality? Well, reality is oftentimes boring, not to mention disappointing. It’s important to acknowledge your daily life and to hold onto your responsibilities, but I don’t see what the big fuss is over fanfiction and fandom in general. If people want to nerd out together for a favorite book and reimagine their own continuation (as long as they’re not profiting in any way), what’s the big deal? There’s something innocent and playful at a crowd going to a movie dressed in costume, or having watch parties over a TV series they really love. I will delve into the “in too deep” mentality that I think is the counterpoint to people taking their passions for movies, TV, music, books, etc. a little too seriously in another blog post. But for me, I think a little dabbling in the ideas behind fandom actually help me as a writer and artist to not only take a break from the stresses of creating, but it also helps me generate new ideas. Sure, I may still struggle with writing anxiety and the perfectionist artist in me wants to always get her art right, but I think now I know how important it is to step back and enjoy something a little childlike and weird for a moment. For now, I say watch that Marvel movie with a group of friends and enjoy a walk on the nerd side, it’s helpful to take a break from life’s seriousness, plus it’s fun!