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Fannish Drift: All We Are Is Lust In the Wind?

Hello, Manga Bookshelf!

It’s the time of year where everything turns into a frenzy, and I haven’t had much opportunity for reflecting upon fannish things; but lately something has been on my mind, and that’s the syndrome of Fannish Drift. In this case I’m speaking in the fandom sense–how people move from one fandom to the next.

There are several reasons this has been on my mind: the primary one is that May 5th, the flagstone day for my previous fandom, Hikaru no Go, has come and gone without my doing anything to commemorate it, other than allowing the fandom at large to take over the “Let’s Five!” meme that I began 6 years ago. As you may remember from last year when it was hosted right here, the meme had been hosted in numerous places, and I didn’t have the heart to move it to yet a 4th location when it could have a permanent home. And while I love the canon as much as ever, I’m just not in the fandom anymore. I’ve stopped participating in the community and devoting large sections of my headspace to thinking about board games and the ghosts who play them. :D

Since 2010 I’ve been happily esconced in the fandom for Inception, which is an unlikely fandom to have survived this long because it’s a film fandom, and film fandoms tend to have very small fandoms and very short afterlives. For whatever reason, luckily for us, Inception fandom has been the exception, and is still going strong as a mid-sized fandom nearly two years later. Still, it’s inevitable that there’s been a decline in size over the years as people move on, and in a fandom whose largeness was always a surprise, it’s impossible not to notice the change. Which brings me to my second reason–watching fannish drift occur in my current fandom, and the accompanying experience of feeling overwhelmed by the current “trendy” fandoms.

As far as western fandoms go, I seem to be a bit of a strange bird because while I’ve dabbled in all kinds of fandoms during down periods, I tend to be very fandom monogamous. Literally for the last two years I’ve read nothing but Inception fanfic, because it was all I wanted to read, and it’s hard to get me to participate actively in multiple fandoms at once. I am, of course, aware of other fandoms and general fandom trends, but I don’t really invest in them heavily when I’m pre-engaged. :) My experience with Japanese fandoms has been totally different, however: during the period I was most heavily involved in Japanese fandoms, I was involved in, or at least actively conversant in, several at once: Tenipuri, Hikago, Nobuta wo Produce, Death Note, J-pop and J-rock. There have been moments when I’ve engaged with western media this way (most notably every year at Yuletide) but I also think there’s more of a culture, with western media fandoms, of movement from one fandom to another, rather than inhabiting multiple fandoms at once. I think that’s why lately I’m experiencing more of a disconnect between fannish social platforms: on tumblr, where it’s incredibly easy to reblog evidence of 20 different fandoms a day, fannish activity seems endlessly diverse; but in most other fandom corners I inhabit, the evidence for “active” fandoms–the fandoms people are talking about the most, the fandoms people are actively engaging in–seems largely confined to a handful at the moment: primarily, of course, Avengers, but also Teen Wolf, Sherlock, and hockey RPF.

Of course, the active fandoms I’ve just listed all have a white male bromance at their center, and many fans talk about this trend of movement between fandoms as being linked to the constant desire to seek out endless repetitions of this dynamic.* You might hear this phenomenon termed “Migratory Slash Fandom” or “Random Militant Slashers.” I have incredibly mixed feelings about this, honestly. I think it’s a very valid depiction of how many western media fans respond to canons, and a valid depiction of what kind of canons gain fan followings quickly. But I also think it’s a) sexist, because it’s usually used as a way to judge other female fans for doing fandom wrong, and b) limiting, because it presupposes that the only reason for fannish drift–for this movement from fandom to fandom–is because the fans are just moving around in search of more hot white guys to ship.

(Though for today, at least, the popular pairing seems to be F/F. I am speaking of Creamsicle, everyone’s new favorite OTP created in under 24 hours entirely from an unlikely internet meme!)

(Source = Tumblr, possible (?) credit to whileothersreap)


I’ll use my own fandom as an example: Inception fandom primarily revolves around the Arthur/Eames ship, which is a relationship between two characters who have literally three minutes of total screentime together. But they fit the formula for what pulls in the Random Militant Slashers completely: hot white guys, banter, easy chemistry, and: voila! Instantly popular fandom. But is that all there is to it? As I’ve said earlier, everyone was surprised by Inception’s popularity, and two years later, no one expected the fandom would still be this active, much less thriving. To me, that’s all the credit to the incredible possibilities the film gives us for worldbuilding and creation and literally endless interpretations of the canon universe and its alternatives. In other words, Arthur and Eames may arguably be cardboard stock characters dropped into a heist film ensemble, but if everything else about the film weren’t so compelling, none of us would be writing fics for it.

Still, when I see people moving on from Inception fandom predictably moving into other fandoms where the “two white guys + banter” phenomenon holds sway, I wonder what a more accurate set of criterion is for what pulls people from one fandom to the next, or if maybe there just isn’t one.

So tell me, MB: in your experience, what creates fannish drift? What draws you to a fandom initially and what keeps you there? Does it change over time, or does it change with every fandom? Is it easier to be in lots of fandoms at once or to devote yourself just to one until you’re done with it, then move on? Is there a culture divide in how we perceive fannish movement between Eastern and Western fandoms? I have no idea. But as I’ve already said, I’m an odd bird.

(Then again, I might just spend the rest of my day writing Normal Girl/Other-Girl-san~.)

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  1. There was a time when I’d say I was very fandom-monogamous, like you. Though I’ve never been pairing-monogamous, even if I had my favorites. Later, I became very pan-fandom, which really started when I began reading manga, now that I think about it. When I was in HP fandom, most of the people I knew at the time were really *only* in HP fandom (or primarily so). Manga fandoms were small, and seemed to overlap each other a lot, and (perhaps coincidentally) the group of women I was most closely involved with in fandom at that time were pan-fandom writers, so I felt comfortable that way, because by that point, it was *writers* who got me interested in reading fanfic, more than the fandoms themselves. I’d read fanfic in fandoms I was completely unfamiliar with if anyone in that small group wrote it. I wrote fanfic in fandoms (like Banana Fish, for instance) that pretty much *nobody* was going to read. At that time, I just wanted to get into stories that meant something to me, and I didn’t expect a huge amount of fannish interaction. And I wanted to read good writing, no matter what it was about. This was definitely a shift from my experiences in western fandom, but I don’t know if it was the fandoms or me that changed.

    I think I’m a poor example, and I’m not even involved in that kind of fandom anymore. I’m not even sure why. I’ve been obsessed with BSG lately, but haven’t had any driving urge to seek out its fandom (which is likely way past its prime, anyway, I suppose).

  2. I’m also a poor example, I think, because the only fandom I’ve ever identified as a part of in any serious way is Takarazuka, and it is such an anomaly in structure and social dynamics and all the rest. But apart from Takarazuka, I tend very much to be a migratory fan, who spontaneously bursts with love for something and drops by for the fan community if there is one.

    I’ve noticed the Two White Guys factor and I’m really not sure how much of it is fandom preference – here is our cookie-cutter dynamic rebooted with a new canon – and how much of it is that, honestly, given how fandom works and what it does and how it does it, there just aren’t a lot of options that *don’t* come down to two white guys. If Avengers involved Black Widow snarking at Pepper Potts while Freya laughed at them except for when she was trying to take down genderswapped Loki, etc. (Or there were any lead roles of color, any at all.)

    Fandoms, for me, are a happy mix of finding something that I love in a fannish way, and then happening to discover a community that feels the same way about it. And since falling in fannish love with something is so different than thinking it’s good, or approving of it, or … or any logical factor, the fandoms themselves have very little in common. The process, though, seems to be the same every time. I discovered Takarazuka one fateful day, looked it up, couldn’t stop looking it up, and oh my god here are all these people on the internet who *also feel these feelings,* and that was when I got a livejournal. And Inception, here was this movie the whole internet was talking about, and then I saw it and it was amazing, and then there were all these people who kept making these *things* for it and the things were amazing, and there it was. (And then there is the lonely not-story of my High School Musical fandom therapy, in which I hated the film and then found one fanfiction for it and it fixed everything, the end.) It is definitely community which keeps me there far longer than the content could.

    Finally, Creamsicle. Oh my god. Fandom, I love you.

  3. Depends I used to be a rafting Azumanga Daioh Fan (it’s the reason I started writing Fan Fiction). But these days barely pay it any mind I drifted in and out of Punk, Heavy Metal, and Rap for a while (don’t know if that applies though).

  4. …Had a bit of a dilemma here whether to use my fannish pseudonym or not! Going to stick with the pseudonym to avoid crossing streams.

    Anyway, just wanted to comment in that I think if you look at the full list of fandoms I’ve written fic for alone, it definitely follows the model of being in multiple fandoms at once, which I agree is common in anime/manga fandom. That being said, I really started being active (and have remained the most active) in Hikaru no Go and consider that to be my fandom base, so in a way, I would consider myself rather fandom monogamous. (I realized last month that next year will be my 10th fandom anniversary for Hikago!) I think that back in the day of mailing lists, you saw a lot more fandom monogamy, and there was even a bit of the same “Migratory Slash Fandom” trend (“Migratory Yaoi Fandom”?) going from Yu Yu Hakusho to Gundam Wing to Weiss Kreuz to (the very early days of) Prince of Tennis. Order may vary of course depending on which corner of fandom you occupied. (Tokyo Babylon/X probably fits somewhere in there as well though I was a bit late in getting into X.) It was harder to be multifannish on fandom-specific mailing lists, but once we moved on to LJ, it was easier to make friends who were reading different manga series than you and writing fic for them, thus propelling you to consume those series as well. So I think that speaks less to a cultural divide and more to a platform one—as you mention, Tumblr is even more multifannish than journalsphere.

    I do think there is one cultural difference though in that the anime/manga panfandom BNFs on LJ in the early 2000s tended to revisit older series a lot and write new fic for them, instead of exclusively writing for new series, so there stopped being a unidirectional migration and more of a general sprawl. Also might have helped that general prompt communities, like 30_kisses and 31_days, were very popular in anime/manga fandom, and those tended to encourage multifannishness as well.

  5. Late to the show , as always, ^^ is me. Fascinating stuff.
    Never having been part of writing fandom (just an occasional reader of fanfic and watcher of fanart), I can’t answer the question though.

  6. The rise and fall of fandoms is something I find inherently fascinating to watch, and I’m frequently intrigued most by when something doesn’t take off (like a pairing that seems obvious isn’t the pairing that becomes mainstream, or a show I thought would have a giant fanbase turns out to have a tiny one.)

    I think I have become, over the years, a multi-fandom person, but I go through phases of loving one above the rest. I also return to old favorites frequently to refresh my memory and see if anything new is knocking about that will catch my attention. I think my love affair with Harry Potter fandom is ongoing, as while the big rush is over, there’s still a lot of quality work to discover.

    I’ve now noticed a tendency to follow people, not fandoms — so, if a writer I like starts writing in a fandom I don’t know, I am more likely to try said new fandom. That doesn’t meant it’ll always work — there are plenty of fandoms that just don’t work for me, no matter how well written they are — but it certainly does lead me from fandom to fandom. With Inception, for example, I had no idea there really was a fandom happening until I saw the movie (much later than everyone else) and commented to a friend about the, ahem, tension between characters, and she was like, “Well, yes, that’s why everyone is writing that pairing.” Then I began to notice how much there already was among the writers I’d been following, I just hadn’t noticed because I wasn’t yet aware of the source material.

    I do think what’s most interesting is that whatever your fandom of choice may be, the chances are now good that there is fanwork somewhere about it. Whether it’s good or not remains to be seen, and frequently it’s not very good, but it’s become such a part of how people express their affection for the thing they love that there truly is fanwork out there for everyone, about seemingly everything. And it takes mere hours to start one up if it isn’t already there (see: Creamsicle.)

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