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Fans of Fiction: cool or uncool? By Eleanor Ball

Fans of fiction.

Are they cool?

A lot of fan culture takes place online, and we’ve established now that the internet is cool. See, we’re on it as we speak, and we’re super-cool. The Social Network is one of the biggest films of the past decade; it seduced critics, hustled massive audiences, and rolled around in Oscars the way Colin Firth rolls around in melted chocolate (which he does, by the way, and often).

And in The Social Network the geeky jabbering and lines of code are perpetually melded with beer, parties, and Victoria’s Secret models. These things are cool, and The Social Network was cool, alongside its subject matter Facebook, which is seen by some as being the core of the internet. The internet is cool.

But the natural home of the fan is not social networks but message boards. Facebook and Twitter are about quick short updates and the “like” button, but fans prefer to ramble and analyse. When I was 15 I joined a Green Wing fan forum in which the key subject was Stephen Mangan’s chest hair. No joke.

Maybe an issue some people have with such fans is that they fixate on things they are unlikely to be a part of – someone they’ll never meet, a series they’ll never write, and so on. It’s better, perhaps, to fixate on something that belongs to you. I had the pleasure of attending a screening of West is West at BAFTA earlier this year, and the producer, Leslee Udwin, spoke about the film beforehand. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone speak so passionately about a film. She’s a real West is West fangirl! Devoted to something she’s actually a part of.

So perhaps the idea is that if you’re devoted to something you’re nowhere near a part of, then you’re a bit of a loser. I’ve heard this opinion a thousand times, from friends and strangers alike.

And they’re WRONG! Because if you participate in fan culture online and immerse yourself in a story and maybe even contribute to it with fanfic (just look at all the Doctor Who writers who started off writing fan fiction), then you’re an enormous part of it. Take Harry Potter. Very current topic of conversation given the release of the final movie (which I loved!).

JK Rowling admitted to consulting fan website The Harry Potter Lexicon while writing her books, and I recently returned to Mugglenet for the first time in 9 years to find it bursting with essays that would make English literature graduates gaze shamefully at their feet. Fans are now an enormous part of the Harry Potter world. Actually, they kind of ARE the Harry Potter world!

So these people are devoted to their fixation and they’re actually part of it too; like the producer is a part of West is West; in a completely different capacity, but just as passionate.

Therefore, it’s not really valid to think fans are uncool because they’re wasting their time on something they’re not a part of. They’re a big part of it, so they’re not wasting their time. And at least it’s cooler than golf…
Eleanor is on the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith’s, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.

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