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~.)