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How to Succeed in Fandom Without Really Trying

by Melusina




My fannish advice, to newbies, and everybody else:

1. Make your own fun. Fandom is a participatory sport - if there's something you'd like to see, do what you can to make it happen. Even if you're not a writer, you can still promote your favorite pairings and kinks with fanart, meta discussion, or by betaing for your favorite authors. Whatever your talents, I guarantee there's a way to use them in your fannish life. Don't sit back and wait for people to entertain you - get in and get your hands dirty. I guarantee it's more fun.

2. Nobody owes you anything. Avoid demanding that people write the sort of stories you'd like to read. You'll get much better results if you ask nicely for recs. If all else fails, I've had good luck with bribes. . .

3. If you enjoy a story, give the author some feedback. If you can't manage a long response, at least say, "I read this and I enjoyed it."

4. Even Big Name Fans need love. You may think, "so and so is a wonderful writer and everybody knows it; she doesn't care what I think about her stories," but you're wrong. Everybody loves feedback. Also, I think a certain degree of the purported cliquishness of some circles is due to perception, rather than reality. Don't assume that because someone already has lots of friends, she doesn't want to talk to you. If you're lurking, people aren't going to seek you out to ask your opinions on things. You have to make the first step. If you like what someone has to say, friend her journal, comment on her fic, and participate in discussions with her. Unless someone has disabled comments on a post, it's safe to assume that she's interested in what you have to say.

5. Don't air your dirty laundry in public. When in doubt, take it to email. Criticism and disagreement can be much easier to handle via email than in a public forum.

6. Avoid criticizing other people's tastes. Fannish taste is extremely personal and it's difficult not to feel like you're being attacked or mocked when someone calls your favorite pairing ridiculous or your favorite kink weird. If it's not to your taste, don't read it.

7. Don't write anything off completely. Sturgeon's Law applies to fanfic - 90% of everything is shit. But the 10% of good stuff isn't limited to one pairing or genre. Refusing to read het/slash/pairing x/what-have-you guarantees that you'll miss some of the best stories. Keep an open mind and you'll discover some great stuff out there.  Note, I'm not suggesting that you force yourself to read stories that squick you, but just that you don't limit yourself too much.  If someone you trust recs something you normally wouldn't read, it might be worth it to give it a chance.

8. Betas aren't essential, especially if you're an accomplished writer, but they can be very helpful. If you haven't been writing long, using a beta will almost certainly improve your work.

9. Get to know your fellow fans. You'll be surprised at how many other things you have in common. Don't think of your fannish participation as something outside your "real life." Remember that these are real people you're talking to on-line - treat them with the same respect you use in your face-to-face interactions.

10. On the other hand, you don't have to like everyone. Sharing an interest in pirates, or vampires, or Harry Potter isn't necessarily enough to base a friendship on. There are going to be people whose personalities grate on yours, whose opinions you disagree with, who you think are talentless hacks. Be polite anyway, but don't feel obliged to be buddy buddy with them just because you participate in the same fandom or are on the same mailing list.

(For more on this topic, read maeglinyedi's  post about getting your foot in the door in a new fandom; isiscolo's responds, in which she theorizes that the structure of live journal encourages cliques; and scribbulus_ink's advice for newbies.)


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