What is a Fandom?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The term “fandom” is used to refer to the collective fans of something such as a sport, hobby, or series of books. Typically, the members of a fandom feel interconnected by their common interest, and a fandom can often be a subculture as well. Only the most devoted fans are included in a fandom, separating them from people who may casually enjoy the thing in question. The term is very closely associated with both the fantasy and science fiction genres, with many well known examples of each having very dedicated fandoms.

Collective fans of Star Trek are an example of a fandom.
Collective fans of Star Trek are an example of a fandom.

Although some people think that the term sprung to life when the use of the Internet became widespread, “fandom” is actually an old word. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of it was in 1903, to describe sports fans. Throughout the twentieth century, fandoms expanded to include people obsessed with particular musical groups, films, movie stars, books, and hobbies like model building. In some cases, someone may identify as a member of multiple fandoms.

Some college sports teams have a faithful following of alumni and other fans who watch every game.
Some college sports teams have a faithful following of alumni and other fans who watch every game.

Members of a fandom tend to be very interested in all of the details of their object of interest. Many people, for example, could be “fans” of Star Trek, meaning that they enjoy the series and they may be familiar with some Star Trek trivia. Fewer people could list all of the actors in the series, discuss continuity errors, or argue passionately that Picard was the better Captain. These fans will drink in any available information about their hobby, and they are often extremely knowledgeable. Their dedication also tends to make them an object of derision, with many people poking fun at deeply committed fans.

The Dr. Who franchise is an example of a fandom that started regionally and grew to become worldwide.
The Dr. Who franchise is an example of a fandom that started regionally and grew to become worldwide.

Often, members of a fandom connect with each other through things like conventions and zines. They may also organize games and conferences, or compose art related to their hobby. Fan fiction and art are common among fandoms, and some people also compose music, make sculptures, or create tribute films and shorts. These pursuits indicate how passionate enthusiasts can become.

Fandoms may focus on a particular character or icon.
Fandoms may focus on a particular character or icon.

With the rise of the Internet, many fandoms have taken their interest online. Numerous websites are built and maintained by committed fans of everything from Harry Potter to model trains, and these sites may network extensively with each other. Fans can gather information, participate in conversations, or post their original artwork and writing to community forums. These sites have made it much easier for members of a fandom to connect, even if they never meet in the real world.

Fandoms may try to emulate certain characters or creatures, such as the daleks from "Doctor Who."
Fandoms may try to emulate certain characters or creatures, such as the daleks from "Doctor Who."
Sports teams usually have their own fandom.
Sports teams usually have their own fandom.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@JessicaLynn - Interesting. I don't find fandom creepy so much as I find it a little sad. Most people I've known that were part of a fandom were, well, a little bit socially awkward.

It seems to me that sometimes socially awkward people have trouble making friends and participating in normal society. So they obsess over something like a TV show or a movie series to take their minds off of their loneliness. But then miraculously they are able to form their own little communities over their obsession!

While the obsession itself may not be healthy, I think the communities that form around them are. At least they give these people some sort of social outlet!


I find fandom to be just a little bit creepy. I don't think it's healthy to be that obsessed with anything!

However, I've heard of some authors actually making use of their fandoms to help them when they are writing a series. I read an interview with George R.R. Martin awhile ago and he actually utilized a member of his fandom on his latest book.

He hired someone who was a member of a website devoted to his books to help him with continuity issues in the next installment! The members of the fandom were so obsessed with the series that they knew more about all the little details than the author did. I thought that was kind of funny actually.


Think of how difficult fandom must have been back in the days of Elvis! They had no internet to inform them or link them to each other, and they basically just had to luck into catching an appearance on TV.

My mother was a member of the Elvis fandom, and luckily for her, so were several other girls in her class. They found solidarity in each other by having sleepovers and listening to his albums while swooning over a poster of him.

She told me it’s probably a good thing that no one had the internet to turn to back then, because the obsession with Elvis was so strong that it would have been dangerous for all of those crazy women to have access to so much information. Had they grouped together in an organized mob, they might have accidentally killed him!


I became very worried as I watched my best friend lose herself increasingly in a fandom of a certain movie series. We had gone to see the movie together, and while I liked it, I could not share her life altering obsession with it.

We used to go out on the weekends to the mall and the park. We were together a lot. She started spending all of her free time online chatting with other fans. I was losing my best friend.

I tried to talk some sense into her, but I just alienated her further. After two years, she lost interest in the fandom and the movie and returned to real life. We resumed our friendship where we left off, just in time for college.


@seag47 - I became part of a fandom just after internet access became widespread and vast amounts of information could be found. This enabled me to keep up with the object of my affection constantly.

Every day, I checked for new postings on fan sites and the official website. I watched every television interview, read every article, and commented on every post about my favorite movie star.

I made several friends online who felt the same way I did. I didn’t feel as crazy as my friends thought I was anymore. I couldn’t talk to them about the most important thing in my life, because they just rolled their eyes. With the online fandom, I could be free to be myself.


I was a member of the fandom of several bands as a teenager. However, I found it difficult to connect with other fans, because this was in the days before the internet.

Every month when a slew of new music magazines would come out, I would be at the store looking through every page for a photo or story about my favorite band. I would watch for their videos and interviews on television, and I would always have a blank cassette ready to record in an instant.

It is so much easier for fans to keep up with their favorite people nowadays. Websites list all their upcoming TV appearances, let fans watch videos, and have links to any articles that feature them.


Honestly, there is nothing better than being around others who share the same fandom as you. I absolutely love Japanese animation and have a pretty massive collection of comics, DVDs and various toys I have gathered over the years. I have gone so far as to visit Japan with the sole purpose of buying new items for my collection.

While people may think that those in a fandom should branch out a bit, I really think there is something to be said for being an expert in a topic. Talking with those that share your passion is a lot of fun. While we may be a bit strange to those outside our fandom, I think being part of something bigger is great part of many people's identity.

Don't you think it's a good thing to have friends who share your interests?


One of my friends back in college was very much into the fandom of the original Star Trek series. It was always amazing listening to him talk to another hardcore fan as it was like they had their own language. Nothing about the Star Trek series was too small for them to discuss. Not only that, the amount of money he put into his Star Trek collection was absolutely insane.

I really think there is nothing wrong with being part of the fandom that surrounds a popular show or what not, but having friends outside that should be important too. I really feel like my friend had trouble connecting with those who weren't inside the fandom.

I think the only reason we were friends is because I was pretty open-minded and liked science fiction in general. I can't imagine him trying to talk to someone with no knowledge whatsoever of his favorite subject.

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