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Words for Writers: Why Is Fandom Important?

In honour of INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY, I am reposting my article on why I love fandom!

This was originally posted at RuthanneReid.com, now AmongTheMythos.com.

Photo by Francis Baker

Photo by Francis Baker

Authors need fans, right? Sure we do – we need people who like our books, our writing, who recommend them to other people, who spread buzz and vote for them, who defend them and squee over them, who recommend them to their librarian and give them as gifts. We need fans, at the most basic, to buy and read our books or we couldn’t afford (financially or emotionally) to write more.

But what about fans? I’m talking the come-to-every-event-you-do, attend-every-signing, write-fanfic, build cosplay, analyze-the-crap-out-of-your-work kind of fans. Do we need those?

Yes. YES WE DO.

And I love you, too. I love you guys a lot.

Let me tell you why I love you – and why many authors love you too.

I was Once One Of You

  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Fanfiction was my novelling training wheels.
  • You encourage new creatives to take chances with their work, to stretch and grow, to learn, to explore. More than that, you encourage us toshare, which is sometimes the hardest part of writing a novel or making a piece of art.
  • You teach writers how to take praise, how to take critique, how to edit and how to build character and worlds and narratives every time you leave feedback.
  • You provide a safe community in which to explore creativity.

…And I Still Am.

  • I read fanfic constantly. I call it my “comfort food” because I already know I love the worlds I’m about to spend time in, already know I love the characters. It’s a safe, wonderful, happy, glowy kind of coming home but I get a brand new story/idea/AU/world.
  • I still cosplay, when I can get away with being a professional guest in costume at Cons.
  • I still roam Artists’ Alley and drool and buy way too many prints and bookmarks and buttons and cool things, because they are innovative, and beautiful, and fun, and for just a moment creates a thread of mutual understanding, respect, love of the media text, and a tingle of creativity passes between me and the artist/vendor.
  • I still think like a fan – every story I create I approach with a fanficcer’s mindset: “How can I tell this from a new angle? How can I use the traditions, the clichés, the assumptions to push against the envelope of the narrative? Whose voices are missing and how can I give them the center?”

I Have Met Some Of My Best Friends Through Fandom

  • One of my best writing friends was my fanfic crossover co-author, and I’ve to date never met her in person, but I’ve known her for about 15 years. We have cheered on each other’s pro careers, edited each other’s books, and supported one another for literally half of my life.
  • Some of my very good friends IRL I met while at Cons and while cosplaying.
  • I met pretty much every other pro writer friend I have at conventions
  • I sold my first novel at a convention.
  • I made very good friends at university by introducing people I liked to cosplay and fanfiction and working with them on fics, art, and costumes; then I dragged them to cons where some of them are now professional creative, too.

You Are Unabashedly Passionate

  • You have the guts to wear the proof of your passion on your person: to cosplay, to wear tee-shirts, to attend cons, to get tattoos, to style your hair or your wardrobe as a tribute to your favorite characters.
  • You spend hours, years, and sometimes a significant amount of money creating things based on other creatives’ works
  • Really, Simon Pegg might have said it best.

You Are Smart As Heck

  • You build communities like those Archive of Our Own andFanfiction.net, Tumblr and Deviant Art.
  • You do good deeds in the name of the writers, actors, and shows that you love –David Hewlett’s Squirrel Army all donating to Medicines Sans Frontiers for his birthday, or the charitable deeds of the Browncoats, for instance
  • You parlay your love into degrees, courses, conferences, academic readers, and text books
  • You call out work that is problematic and encourage creators to grow, to learn, to take an interest, to get better.
  • You find things in my work that I might not have realized I put there and you play with them. It’s incredible.

You Are the #1 Best Form of Advertising

  • The best kind of advertising in the world is a friend or family member or teacher or librarian handing you a book and saying: Read this. Trust me.
  • Crossover fanfiction is what got me into like, 90% of my fandoms.
  • You tell the book stores about me, and demand that I be kept on the shelves.

You Are Hella Supportive

  • You buy everything I write.
  • You come to every signing, every reading, every pubnite.
  • You come talk to me and tell me what you loved (and didn’t love).
  • You ask questions. You force me to ask questions of myself.
  • You ask me to come be a guest, a guest of honour, a judge, a participant, a contestant, and interviewee, a guest star, etc.
  • You invite me to submit to newsletters, journals, magazines, anthologies, and blogs.
  • You interact with me on social media.

And You Are Vocal About It, Too

  • Fans send letters to magazines, to film executives, to bands, to playwrights, to graphic novel creators, to other creative and say Have you Read this? You should totally do something with this. You make other people pay attention to me and my work and you help forge connections.
  • You tell people on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, on Pinterest,everywhere what you love and why you love it.

You Keep Me Accountable

  • You make me think of things that I might have missed, critique what I’ve published in ways that helps me be more thoughtful and more compassionate with the next book and characters, and you point out flaws that I didn’t see before, and never know I had.
  • You ask me when my next book will come out, remind me that there are stories that I promised, and help me stay on track if I start playing around on social media too much.

You Keep my Worlds and My Characters Alive

  • You write fanfiction, fancomics, build cosplays, and make fanart and fanvids that breathe new and continued life into my work.
  • You write the scenes and/or plug the gaps that I had to leave off screen for logistics or narrative reasons (and usually with way more imagination that I would have!)
  • You psychoanalyze my work and find things in it that I hadn’t realized I put there. You make the characters realer, their reactions more human, and you teach me, in breaking apart my work like this, to do it for myself and to really craft my characters with the same care you take in studying them.
  • More importantly, when I hand in my novels for the last time for publishing, the world becomes closed to me. I can’t change anything, play with anything, push and pull and turn it on its head and play with dynamics. But you can and you do.
  • I love AUs. I LOVE AUs. I LOVE IT WHEN YOU TAKE MY WORLD AND REMAKE IT. LOVE IT.

You Tell Me How Much My Hard Work is Appreciated and Loved

  • You leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads that make my heart soar. Or make me think critically about the choices I made and consider how to do better next time.
  • You post your art or pics of your cosplays online and make sure I know how hard you worked on them. (And I know, oh, I know.)

And most importantly:

You Engage in A Dialogue With Me About My Work

  • Every fanwork you put up is your response to something that I said or did in my book. I have offered the opening and this is your reply. And the conversation is marvelous.

To close, a lovely quote on fanworks by Ruthanne Reid:

“When you create a new world, a new story, it’s like you’ve just built a brand-new playground. Other kids love it so much that they CHOOSE to come and play in that one with you. When you lock them out of fandom, you’re sitting in it all by yourself, wondering why the other kids don’t want to sit outside in the grass and watch you play.”

*

For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

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