Fannish Butterfliness, or Lack Thereof
by Lorelei Feldman
The other day, I was talking to a fan who wondered how people
with more than one, or maybe two, fandoms juggle them all. I've been asked this before, too. Wouldn't you get them confused? How could you possibly write all those characters and give them all justice? How can you get so passionate about so many things?
"But," I will answer all those questioners, "how do you handle having only one fandom? Don't you get bored?"
It's all a matter of perspective. I think the difference lies in outlook as much as numbers; in the world of fannishness, I've noted three different basic approaches to fandoms:
1. Monogamy: One fandom, and that's it. Nothing else grabs this fan. True love, baby! This is not to say that other things don't interest her at all, or that she doesn't nod and smile politely when her friends geek about other things, and occasionally even geek back at them, but the only fandom she's really participatory in is her True Love, and she's not looking for another. Fans like this tend to fall out of touch with folks who switch fandoms, because other things just don't interest them enough for them to join lists, write fic, read fic, etc... at least, not on a regular basis, though they may experiment.
2. Serial Monogamy: One fandom at a time. This fan falls in love, gets all fannish, reads, maybe writes or draws or does a Web page or whatever, is really involved... then something else comes along. They get into the new fandom and abandon the old one. The ex just doesn't really grab them any more. Fans like this may hold onto one fandom for a week, or a few months, or a year or two, but once they're out, they're out. They just can't manage an intense participatory interest in more than one show/book/movie at a time. Whatever's got their current love is It.
3. Butterfly/"Fannish Slut": All fandoms, all the time. Okay, maybe not all of them, but a hell of a lot. Two, five, ten, thirty... as many fandoms as grab you, concurrently. I have friends... oh, hell, who am I fooling? This is me. I blame it on James Walkswithwind, who has pimped me into a good half of them (and still only about 1/4 of hers). As I write this, I have stories in varying degrees of completion in X-Men, Lord of the Rings, Gabriel Knight, The Professionals, Star Wars, Grendel, Wiseguy, Brimstone, Law and Order, The Lost Boys, and Miami Vice. I have a zine story coming out soon in Hollow Man. I've also written Forever Knight. I own zines or am on mailing lists for Blake's 7, Starsky and Hutch, Eroica, Man From UNCLE, Sentinel, Highlander, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Stargate: SG1... have I forgotten anything? Fans like me may have one or two fandoms that are their current loves, ones that they are most active in, but will cheerfully read or write just about anything that comes to their attention.
So, when a monogamous fan is talking to me about a shared fandom, and I veer off into another fandom, I sometimes get a reaction of, "How can you be into anything else?" I have to drag myself back to the shared interest. If I'm talking to a serial monogamous, I have to be careful -- if I manage to pimp them into a new fandom, they'll leave the old one behind!
I've wondered about this difference in perspective for a while. The thing is, while I understand how someone could be more selective in their fandoms, but I don't understand how someone can focus all their energy on just one even just one at a time. It just feels limiting. I mean, Lord of the Rings is a long-time love of mine: the first fanfic I ever wrote (in third grade), books I reread often, a movie I adore, and a fandom I'm having fun in. But I don't think I could ever be in *just* that fandom. I couldn't even write in just that fandom -- there are so many stories and issues to explore that wouldn't work in Middle-earth or with Tolkien's characters.
I know also that my single-fannish friends look with varying degrees of amusement and non-comprehension on my butterfliness. Aside from the "How can you keep them all straight?", every now and again on a list, someone will
disdainfully note how "no-one who writes in that many fandoms can possibly be good at it, or really care about any of them." To the former, I'd say it isn't really all that hard; most of my fandoms are pretty distinct. Though I will admit that if I'm writing one fandom and reading another, the voices may "bleed over" a bit, and I have to be careful to focus myself. To the latter, I'd say screw you. No-one claims that someone like, say, Asimov -- who wrote fiction and nonfiction on tons of subjects and in many different styles -- simply must have been horrid, just because he was diverse.
Further discussion on this topic has made me think that part of the distinction isn't how many fandoms someone has, but how we each define "having" a fandom. To some people, it's writing in a fandom; to others, it's joining a list. There are probably as many definitions as there are fans. This isn't the whole answer, because even adopting someone else's definition doesn't make me a serial monogamist or monogamist, but it may be part of it.
I guess what the issues boil down to is:
1. Do different fan-types think of fandoms differently, and/or experience them differently?
2. Do different fan-types spend their energy in different ways?
3. How interested or fannish do monogamous fans get about shows/books/movies other than their True Love?
4. What draws monogamists to their fandom above all others, and how do they keep the love alive and vibrant over the years?
5. What determines a serial fan's move from one fandom to another?
6. Do serial fans ever go back to a fandom you've deserted? And, I suppose, to be fair,
7. What draws fansluts to so many different fandoms? How do they keep them separate, and why do they need so many?
I haven't really found any answers to these questions, even to the ones for fansluts, but I think if we did understand some of the issues, it would help us understand each other better, which is always a good thing (Babel fish notwithstanding). So, here's a call-out to fans of each type: Write a column! Come on, you know you want to. Let Lucy, me, and everyone reading this understand why it is that you experience fandom in the way that you do, and what that means to you.
Not that I'm likely to change my behaviour. After all, X-Men is my True Lo... oo, look, Gabriel Knight!