Fandom

Amazing Stories April 1925 Cover

A fandom is a subculture of fans of a particular subject that feel they share a connection due to having a common interest in said subject.[1] Members of a fandom typically dedicate a significant portion of their time and energy to learning even minute details regarding this subject. Over time, fandoms have continued to grow and even influence the authors of whom they are fans.

The roots of modern fandom can be traced back to Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazine series, Amazing Stories, which premiered in 1926. The “Letter to the Editor” section of Amazing Stories was among the first to encourage direct correspondence between authors and their audiences. Since fans’ names and addresses were published in addition to their letters, many fans began to write directly to each other to discuss their opinions, often becoming close friends in the process. In 1934, Gernsback established the Science Fiction League (SFL), a correspondence club for fan groups across the nation.[2]

Science Fiction League Logo

After joining the SFL, many fan groups sought regular means of communication through the creation of fanzines. The term fanzine is derived from prozine, also known as pulp magazines. Pulp magazines were hastily executed, graphically illustrated collections of short science fiction tales written by popular writers of the genre that were not accessible in novel form.[3]  Fanzines targeted much more niche audiences than professional magazines, were often of lower quality, and were limited from expanding due to the copying technology available at the time. The actual content of the fanzines consisted of editorials, articles, reviews, short stories, letters, and essays discussing newly released Sci-Fi novels and pulps.[4] Many notable science fiction authors, inlcuding the likes of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, began as fans writing for zines before writing their own novels.[5]

Since then, fandom has evolved to become increasingly focused and organized. Hyper-specific fandoms; those attached to a specific property such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, etc.; have become incredibly common. These fandoms continue the traditions of communication started by zines mainly through websites, social media, and conventions.

[1] “Fandom.” Fanlore, Last modified February 11, 2015, https://fanlore.org/wiki/FandomAccessed June 11, 2018.

[2] “Science Fiction League.” Fancyclopedia, Last modified January 10, 2018, http://fancyclopedia.org/science-fiction-league. Accessed June 11, 2018.

[3] Amy McGarrahan and Nicole Smith. “Science Fiction Pulps and Fanzines.” Science Fiction Pulps and Fanzines, https://library.umbc.edu/speccoll/scifi/. Accessed June 11, 2018.

[4] Flaherty, Joe, “The Amazing Zines That Kicked Off Geek Fandom.” Wired, Last modified February 11, 2015, https://www.wired.com/2015/02/amazing-zines-kicked-geek-fandom/. Accessed June 11, 2018.

[5] “LASFL.” Fancyclopedia, Last modified January 3, 2018, http://fancyclopedia.org/lasfs. Accessed June 11, 2018