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Burned for Fandom

Burned for fandom was a support group for those people who'd been emotionally hurt during their time in fandom -- in particular Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern® fandom.

It's long gone idle, but I made some lifelong friends through it. Thanks, guys. :)

If you need to find people interested in protecting Fandom activities, please visit
The Organization of Transformative Works.

I hope you all do better with fandom than I did. :)

Just remember folks: "Fandom is a political monster". You can quote me on that. Some of you already have. ;)

What is Fandom?

Special thanks to rec.arts.sf.fandom for helping with this definition! :)

This is my attempt to define the thing, as well as my take on structure based on my own personal experience. Take it all with a grain of salt. :)

FANDOM: The word is used for a lot of things. Generally, though -- fandom is a group of people brought to together by a similar interest at some time. Sometimes the groups evolve and the object or interest (sports team, etc) doesn't even play into their interactions anymore... they're just naturally friendly and open to discussions with each other, but they identify themselves as a fandom perhaps long after the object of interest has faded from view. It's as if the original interest was used as a common thread to bring people together who might naturally be friends, but would never otherwise meet.

Another definition of Fandom (Media Fandom is sometimes used) is the shared appreciation of your favorite books, movies, TV, comics, etc. This can be expressed either through talking with other fans at conventions or via the Internet, or phone, or by whatever means -- or not at all. You can of course be a fan in the privacy of your own home. Fandom takes a wide variety of forms, many of which are creative, like costuming, art and writing, or don't require much creativity at all, like buying a book.

Some people participate in fandom by creating their own derivative works of fan fiction, fan artwork or by playing in roleplaying games or games based on our favorite works. We'll call this kind of fandom Derivative Creative Fandom for the sake of giving it a name, because I have yet to find one term for it exactly.

This subset of Fandom was where is where people (fans) create their own stories, artwork, or materials derivative of their favorite TV Show, Book, Comic, Movie or what-have-you. Creating these works in the privacy of your own home and never showing them to anyone is completely legal -- However, it's not fun. It's really fun when you get together with other fans and share your stuff, and talk about your favorite stories/episodes/movies, etc. From the start of fandom's history to today, this happens at Conventions. And, thanks to the 'net, fans tend to congregate at websites. Now, fan materials are easy to find everywhere for certain genres (Xena:Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)

Problem is, fandom is both a copyright and trademark violation if not done with the permission of the owner of the original work, and many people don't know about the law. Now, to their defense, these property owners have created their work to feed their families. They have every right to do this -- it's the way America (and the world) works. Some authors/creators are very generous, allowing clubs to form around their works. Others allow no fan activity at all. The owners can be downright cruel, or wonderfully permissive. In the case of TV and movies, these owners are generally profit-driven corporate types who (to their defense) are actually required by law to at least notify unauthorized use of their trademarks to protect their value. They also often use lawyers and something referred to as 'Bigfoot Letters' to shut down unauthorized fans. These letters tend to be very brash and threatening, warning of dire consequences. It's like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer. This creates a betrayal on a most basic emotional level for the fan, who usually only has love in his or her heart for their favorite show and doesn't understand the corporate mindset.

Authors/Owners, please read my note on Treating Fans Like Humans

Fandom is fun, but it often comes with a high price. Fans are almost always not permitted to ever make a profit on their work or to even have any money change hands - even to recoup just production costs of materials or club resources. So, you often run your activities at a loss.

In my experience, only a lucky few get official permission for clubs -- in some cases people get exclusive rights to run a club -- so if you have an idea that those club leaders don't like, you're out of luck. So, basically you have to kiss some serious butt and expect to lose lots of money to run most fan clubs within the guidelines allowed by most rightsholders. And, you often have to follow back-asswards rules and limitations to work in the officially sanctioned clubs. In the case where the number of sanctioned clubs is limited, you have to deal with abuses from the club owners and operators, in addition to any rules or problems the rightsholder might create too. The possibilities for abuse of players are mind-boggling.

And, if you break the rules of these rightsholders, the penalties can be steep. Trademark and copyright violation cases often have fines in the thousands of dollars, and just to take a case to court requires an intellectual property lawyer at between $200 and $500 an hour. Worst of all, fans who get into trouble may be permanently blacklisted or cast out of their fandom, and lose an important part of their life.

Good luck!


All art and text (c) 1996-2008 Dee Dreslough unless otherwise noted.
Please read and understand my Terms of Use for the artwork.