Without going into detail, let's just say that I did not grow up in the most nurturing of environments. I mean, I am a straight white male, so, grand scheme of things, I had it pretty good. But suffice it to say that I very often had a need to escape. And in-between the times that I would literally escape, I very much hid within fantasy worlds. Most of my time I spent alone, so 'fandom' was not a phrase or even a community which I was aware of.
I've written before about my love of Star Wars, my first mistress, my first love, and my most comforting escape. It all started there for me. It was certainly a way to interact with my peers growing up, because what six-year-old boy didn't love Star Wars to tiny pieces? That was when I started really reading books, too. And by reading, I mean voraciously tearing my way through libraries worth of sci-fi and fantasy novels, as well as Star Wars novelizations and Expanded Universe stuff.
The next big one for me was Harry Potter, naturally. My long-suffering mother brought me The Chamber of Secrets in the hope that it would take more than two days for me to read. It did not. I then went and got The Sorcerer's Stone, because I realized I was reading the second book. Anyway... These loves of mine, coupled with a preference of reading and playing by myself over just about everything else meant I was an awkward motherfucker at the best of times. I was also, at my core, just a weird kid.
So I never actually entered the fandom world until much, much later in my life. I didn't even know what fanfiction was until college. I had, of course been writing it for years, but I didn't know it was a thing. My exposure to the internet and to the roiling mass that was my more socially developed peers was, at best, limited. Not always by choice, but my own choices did play a part in that. I naturally gravitated towards solo activities and solitary character creation. I created entire worlds in my head and spent an unhealthy amount of time there.
It was this character creation that first brought me to discover the game Dungeons and Dragons. I remember first seeing the game played very briefly at the beginning of E.T., and was very interested. That was when I first heard the typical stereotype of D&D players: that they were basement dwelling mouth breathers, and I needed to spend more time socializing and less time hiding by myself in fantasy worlds. So it took me a while to get into it. But boy, did I get into it.
Suddenly my knack for character creation did more than fill up my alone time. Now I could socialize with my friends AND satisfy my desire to create and portray characters! After my first game in 2009, I was hooked. For a good portion of 2010, Sundays from noon to midnight was a single game played among my closest comrades at the time. And let me tell you, over the years, I got less awkward and a little more socially comfortable.
Even before then, I was into Halloween. It's still my favorite holiday. I've dressed up as all sorts of crazy things, and I always regretted that it was the one day a year I could get away with going out in public costumed. Then I found out about conventions. Holy shit, did I freak out. Cosplay is an actual accepted hobby?! Hell to the yes, my friends! I have made up for a lot of my earlier years by being involved in several geeky photo shoots and costume parties. Which are, of course, my favorite kind of parties...
So, my dear friends and various acquaintances, do I seem a fan to you? Maybe, maybe not. I can tell you this: being a fan is not being able to rattle off obscure trivia at the drop of the hat. It's not spending every minute of every day ensconced within your own little fantasy realm. It's not even having a photo album full of pictures of you doing your preferred activity, and showing it off every chance you get. It's not even necessarily being involved within a certain community of people who love the same thing you do(though, holy shit, is that awesome and boy, oh, boy does it open up a lot of doors).
Being a fan is nothing more or less than loving something, no matter how loud or quiet. Being a fan is knowing that a part of yourself will always be safe within your little love.
It's love. That's what I'm saying. I can flower up the language a lot more and pad this thing out to be way longer, but fandom is love, and love is something we need more of in this world. So be a fan. It doesn't have to be popular, or even all that accessible. It can be as obscure as you want it to be, as long as you love it. Love it, and share it. Because that's what love, and fandom, is made for. To share with others. Come on. Join us. We have cookies.