I first became interested in studying fandom in the late 1990s. Henry Jenkins’ ground-breaking Textual Poachers had come out in 1992 and his co-authored follow-up, Science Fiction Audiences, was out in 1995, but there wasn’t much else at the time. Even by 2002, when I wrote a (thankfully unpublished) paper on comic book fandom, there still hadn’t gotten that much support for the study of fans or fandom.
In 2009, I felt there was enough of an audience for comic fandom material that it warranted writing a book on the subject. It garnered some light praise, but one thing that was repeatedly lauded was the bibliography I included. People who were interested in the subject of fandom were still having an insanely difficult time tracking down research of any sort that the list I compiled was seen as valuable.
When I started writing a fandom column over at MTV Geek back in 2011, I still felt a discussion of open fandom was lighter than it should be. Things have definitely improved even in the past few years, so much so that I another fandom scholar, Lori Morimoto, recently launched a fan studies Patreon which has already attracted over a 100 followers.
Think about that for a moment. There’s someone out there making probably not a living but still a nice chunk of change from talking about fandom. In all the time I’ve been studying fandom, I would never have considered that feasible. I suspect she’s already earned more money on her new Patreon than everything I’ve earned from my book! More power to her for that! (Even though, yes, I will cop to a few pangs of jealousy.)
But that is a phenomenal achievement. Not just for her personally, but for fan studies in general. This is not a subject that’s strictly academic any more. It’s not a subject that’s readily dismissed as juvenile or unworthy of attention. Morimoto does note in her first lecture that there are still some dangers in outing oneself as an “acafan” (you’ll have to listen to see how exactly she defines that) but we’re talking about a phenomenal amount of acceptance relative to where things were even five years ago!
I’m thrilled to have been able to watch the studies of fandom change and grow, and I hope to continue to watch them evolve. I’m by no means a definitive authority on fandom, but I honestly look forward to being completely irrelevant in the discussion because it’s gone so much further than my attention would be able to follow. I’d rather these conversations were just being had instead of me trying (and generally failing) to lead them. I’d love to see more folks like Morimoto out there, pushing people’s thoughts and understanding forward!