What was your first fandom? Not the first thing you loved, or your favourite show as a kid, but the first thing that motivated you to seek out other fans, to become a part of a community devoted to loving a particular book, video game, film, or sports team?
For me, it all goes back to Terry Brooks’s Shannara series. Tolkien introduced me to epic fantasy, but Shannara was the rabbit hole that dropped me deeply into epic fantasy fandom. I was a teen when BBS made was for Internet forums and online chat clients like ICQ or MSN Messenger, and, thanks to Brooks fans like Shawn Speakman, I discovered many communities devoted to his works. Furthermore, they were lively and positive places, not yet soaked in the latent toxicity and turf wars that defined many message boards of the era (and has become a global industry and political platform 20 years later.)
Like any microculture, fandom can be tricky to navigate. Cliques abound, public sentiment changes on a dime, going against the grain of popular opinion can make you a target for harassment, and it’s easy to get unintentionally caught up in turf wars between fandoms (or even factions within larger fandoms.) And that’s not even to mention in-person fan conventions.
But just because it presents all these challenges doesn’t mean the experience isn’t worth the hassle, especially for kids, who can find it liberating and validating to meet other kids (and adults!) who share their passions.
So, how does a kid take their first steps into fandom? Amy Ratcliffe’s here to help with her new book, A Kid’s Guide to Fandom.
“It’s all about helping kids learn about what fandom is and how to embrace it,” she told me. “Specifically transformative fandom that encourages kids to take their passion and use it to get creative and then connect with others who like the same things. Ultimately I hope the book helps kids feel more comfortable embracing the things they love and just being themselves.”
Fandom has “a million different sparkling facets,” Ratcliffe continued, but it all comes back to one special feeling. “At its core, fandom is that feeling you get when you read a book, play a game, or watch a movie or series and you think, ‘This was made for me.’”