Let me take you by the hand and lead you gently through the world of fandom. It can be scary if you’ve never been before, but stick with me and you’ll be safe. If you’ve never even heard the word before, fandom describes a community of people who come together as fans of a movie, book, TV show, video game, band or individual (and more). While many people will, for example, watch an episode of their favourite show and then continue with their lives, others take to the Internet to share their love on a deeper level.
Before the invention of the World Wide Web, fans kept in touch and geeked out together through fanzines (fan magazines), mail-order lists and meeting at conventions. When the Internet arrived, forums and social groups allowed for new places to get in touch with kindred spirits. For a long time, LiveJournal was probably the centre of fandom, but recently that’s changed. Without a doubt, the place to go for fandom drama now is the terrifying beast that is Tumblr. As with many kinds of social groups, fandoms have developed their own contributions to language – I’m going to give you a quick and dirty introduction to help you survive.
Fanfiction and fanart
These are major parts of being in a fandom. Since so much of fandom is about becoming more involved with the characters and stories you love, there are huge amounts of fiction and art produced. Stories range from filling in gaps between episodes and fixing things you didn’t like to epic adventures set in alternative universes, with little relation to the original work. Fanart takes the form of anything from pencil drawings and paintings, to GIFs, videos and even crocheted character dolls.
Canon, headcanon and fanon
Canon describes the events and character development as they have been presented to the audience. It’s what everyone knows to have happened. Headcanon is an individual’s opinion on something that might have happened off screen – a character’s motivations, someone’s backstory (history) – basically anything the audience doesn’t know, but can imagine. Fanon is sort of a fandom-wide headcanon. Let’s say a character doesn’t have a first name (we’ll call him Officer Smith) and someone decides they’re called John, and then more people decide he’s called John, until almost everyone agrees that that’s his name. If a headcanon or fanon is ruined by new canon information, it is said to be jossed, after Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.
Ships and shipping
No, this is nothing to do with boats. Ship is short for relationship, one that is either canon or that fans are rooting for. Ships often have a portmanteau, a mash-up of the couple’s names (e.g. Glee’s “Finchel”). Ship can be used as a noun or as a verb, as in the phrase, “I ship that.” and one who ships is a shipper. Ships might also be referred to as pairings.
OTPs and brotps
OTP stands for One True Pairing. This is your favourite ship – the couple you think are destined to be together forever, the couple you think are endgame, as some might put it. A brotp is a platonic, brotherly OTP, to which you might apply the word bromance.
Slash (or sometimes femslash) is the romantic pairing of characters of the same gender, whether or not they’re actually together in canon. The word comes from the fact that you separate the two names in the couple with a forward slash. It’s widely accepted that the first popular slash pairing was Captain Kirk and Spock (or Kirk/Spock) from Star Trek.
Lastly, certain fanbases like to give themselves names. You might have seen fans of sparkly-vampire series Twilight call themselves Twihards or people refer to Glee fans as Gleeks. Others include Harry Potter’s Potterheads, Star Trek’s Trekkies and Doctor Who’s Whovians. My favourite is the name fans of British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness) like to call themselves. I’m not sure it’s SFW, so I won’t repeat it, but simply replace the A in his last name with another vowel and you’ve got it.
Do you belong to any fandoms? What do you like to be called?