So this year, I didn’t get a formal press badge for NYCC. However, I spent my Sunday hanging around at the Del Rey booth, surrounded by my Star Wars friends, and it certainly got me thinking about the community that fandom has really become. Star Wars fandom has been greatly fractured over the last few years, but it still plays such a vital role in so many of our lives. We’ve all met amazing friends through fandom, and some of us have even met romantic partners that way. It’s such an important part of our lives, even if our perspectives and place in fandom change over the years. It’s more important than I expected, for one.
One of the biggest changes in my relationship to fandom has been becoming a blogger. When your hobby also becomes something of a part-time job, it really changes how you think about it, and that’s likely true for anyone who ends up prominent in any fandom. A lot of us are probably old enough to remember the days of LiveJournal fandom, in which famous fanfic writers did end up with quite a following and substantial name recognition. We all probably remember a time when someone prominent in a fandom notices us; I definitely spent a few minutes slightly incredulous when I was first asked to write for this site. And here I still am, spending my spare time writing analysis about a fictional universe.
Fandom brings people together. We all have friends we’ve met because of fandom, and for those of us who are frequent con-goers, we have our groups of con friends who we always plan to see at the annual conventions. We all have stories of people meeting their best friends and significant others through fandom, and that’s no longer considered unusual. That kind of bringing people together is one of the many reasons I’ve stayed in fandom for as long as I have.
There is a darker side to the community of fans and how they handle fractious developments. The amazing House Organa has an “I survived the Jaina Solo ship wars” design, and I’ve joked that I have indeed; I was active on TFN’s forums at that time. The very media that brought fans together has also driven us apart at times, as the Legends decision has shown. We all recently celebrated and/or mourned the anniversary of Disney’s purchase of Star Wars, and I couldn’t help but think of how that’s changed the face of the fandom. In my heart and soul, I’ll always be a Legends fan, but I’m still in the fandom despite the changes in what’s being produced now. A lot of us can say we’ve seen friends drop out of Star Wars fandom entirely, whether due to content or fellow fans. Bring Back Legends has divided us further, and the dedicated dislike of new Star Wars is a bit disturbing. A fandom divided can still stand, though.
Let’s look at the next generation of fans. There are very much several groups of Star Wars fans out there- I was brought in originally by the Special Editions of the OT and later, by the PT and then all of the books. There are plenty of younger fans who were introduced to Star Wars by their parents (the original generation of fans) or by The Clone Wars, and now, Rebels. The Force Awakens will bring in even more people totally new to the fandom, and what will they walk into? Other than taking their first steps into a much wider world, of course. The way new fans perceive Star Wars is so different from what I grew up on. What’s it like to come into this universe already spoiled for “No, I am your father” or knowing that Chancellor Palpatine is Darth Sidious? That’s such a different perspective than a GFFA where so much of your favorite storytelling was in books, and you’ve been left to your imagination to see what the Yuuzhan Vong invasion of Coruscant looked like. All of these perspectives are unique and valuable, and we as longer-term fans have to be careful to not exclude or act superior to the fans who have just seen this cool movie about spaceships and guys in bathrobes who swing laser swords. They’re just as much a part of it as we are.
I’m writing while waiting in line in Target, and marveling at all the Star Wars merchandise around me. Science fiction, video games, geeky things in general are no longer the preserve of stereotypically nerdy people who are looked down upon. Geek is mainstream, let’s be honest. It’s less that geek is mainstream and therefore Star Wars is everywhere, and more that Star Wars is an icon of American pop culture. Almost everyone can name some characters and recognize a few major things from Star Wars. And yet there’s still a dedicated fan community that’s much more involved than people expect. It’s the difference between “we should do a group Star Wars costume at work for Halloween” and “I think I can find some people who know how to make screen-accurate stormtrooper armor.” Fandom brings people together, and helps us weird nerds find friends we didn’t expect to ever meet.
I’m still in Star Wars fandom despite walking away a few times. I keep on coming back, and I have to say that the people are one of the biggest reasons. This isn’t just escapism or a particular sort of media I enjoy; this is friends, a social life, and meeting so many amazing people. All of us in fandom can say we’ve made friends this way, and found a whole community of people much like ourselves. There’s so much more to fandom than what is often thought of, and for all that Star Wars fandom can be a wretched hive of scum and villainy, it’s also found me an amazing community.