Word of the Month: Fandom

The word of the month for July is fandom, n., a base of enthusiasts for a particularly activity, book, movie, or television series; originally from baseball; from fan + [king]dom; (1903).

Fandom is quite a sub-cultural phenomenon. The word dates to the turn of the 20th century and was originally used to refer to baseball fans. But it achieves it greatest linguistic heights in the realm of science fiction. Science fiction fans have their own lingo in referring to themselves and to their activities.

Fans engage in criticism and discussion. They write their own stories, or fan fiction. They publish web sites and magazines devoted to their subject. All this activity generates a vocabulary and jargon unique to these sub-cultural groups.

The following terms are not exclusively used by science fiction fandoms. Many non-science fiction fandoms use them as well, and some are distinctly not from science fiction, wingnut for example. Within each individual fandom, there are specific terms relating to that subject, but for the most part I’ve included only those that are used across several fandoms or that are names for a particular grouping of fans, like Trekkie.

In the definitions that follow, series refers to any continuing chain of stories about a common set of characters and with a common setting. It can be a series of books, like Harry Potter, a television series like Star Trek, or movies like Indiana Jones.

Alternative history, n., fan fiction that changes the premise of an established series.

Alternative timeline, n., fan fiction that diverges from the canonical series at a specific point.

Anime, n., Japanese animation style.

APA, n., Amateur Press Association, a group of fans who all contribute to a limited circulation fanzine that is distributed among them; (1950).

BEM, n., acronym for bug-eyed monster.

BNA, n., abbreviation for Big Name Author.

BNF, n., Abbreviation for Big Name Fan, a fan who is well known among fellow fans.

Booter, n., fan of the Reboot TV series (1994-98, 2001), the first computer-animated television series. Also Bootnik.

BtVS, n., Buffy the Vampire Slayer. US television series (1997-present).

Canon, n., the accepted “true” history of a series; what is considered canon varies with the fandom, e.g., J.K. Rowling’s books are the canon for Harry Potter, the movie is not. In Buffy, the Vampire Slayer fandom, the TV series is canonical, the movie (which came first) is not.

Completist, n., an obsessive and often indiscriminate collector; (1955).

Con, n. and affix, convention, a gathering of fans; (1944).

Contrib, n., clipped from contribution, a submission to an APA or zine.

Cosplay, n., from cos[tume] + play, to dress up as anime characters.

Crossover, n. and adj., the mixing of characters from two distinct fandoms, may be fan fiction as in Kirk meets Luke Skywalker, or may be canonical, as in the detectives from Law & Order and Homicide: Life On the Streets cooperating on a case in episodes of the two TV series.

Cyberpunk, n. & adj., science fiction sub-genre centered on computers and disillusioned heroes in a world run by multi-national corporations. Bill Gibson’s Neuromancer series is classic cyberpunk. The Matrix is probably the best known example of cyberpunk.

Doctor Who, n., UK television series (1963-89).

Dwarfer, n., Red Dwarf fan, UK television series (1988-99).

Ep, n., clipping of episode.

Fan n.; an aficionado, one devoted to a particular series of stories, 1887, originally from baseball; probably a clipped form of fanatic; often thought to come from fancy or fancier, but there is no strong evidence of this. In fandom, fans are those that actively participate in groups, cons, or zines. Casual readers/viewers are not considered fans, no matter how much they like the series.

Fanfic, n., fiction, written by fans, about characters in literature, movies, or television; clipping of fan fiction.

Fanwank, n., an explanation made up by fans to resolve an inconsistency or explain an anomaly in the story; from fan + wank (masturbate); also a v.

Fanzine, n., a magazine for fans of a particular series of stories, from fan + [maga]zine; (1941).

Fen, n., plural form of fan. Parallels man/men in form.

Filk, v., to write a song parody about the subject of one’s fandom. Also n. for the product of filking.

Furry, n. & adj., fandom subgenre concerned with anthropomorphic animals.

Gafiate, v., to quit fandom, from acronym GAFIA for “get away from it all.”

Gay Nazis for Christ, n., self-appellation given in front of mundanes. Supposedly, BNA Robert Heinlein was guest of honor at a con. While sharing an elevator with some mundanes, they asked him who all these strange people were. This was his reply.

Gamer, n., a fan of role-playing games; (1976).

Hammerspace, n., type of n-dimensional space in badly written fan fiction from which characters can produce life-saving tools or devices, such as hammers.

H:LOTS, n., Homicide: Life On The Streets. US television program (1993-99).

Hugo, n., award for science fiction. Named after Hugo Gernsbach, an early sci-fi editor.

Jossed, adj., previously written fan fiction that is rendered inconsistent with canon by subsequent developments is jossed; after the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Joss Whedon, who is famous for unexpected plot and character twists.

Mary Sue, n., a fan fiction or guest character who is an avatar of the author, is nearly flawless, has the key to an episode’s dilemma, and who has a romantic encounter with an established character; (1974). The term is derogatory. From Star Trek fandom. The term Mary Sue can refer to male characters as well as females, but sometimes males are called Marty Stu, Harry Stu, or Gary Stu.

Mistie, n., fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST), US television series (1988-99) that lampooned old science fiction and horror films.

Moonie, n., Sailor Moon fan, Japanese anime television series (1992-97).

Mundane, n., a non-fan.

Redshirt, n., anonymous character that is clearly destined to die in a story’s or episode’s early going; from the red-shirted security guards of original Star Trek series.

Relaxacon, n., a small con with little in the way of planned program. Essentially a party.

Retcon, n., a clipping of retroactive continuity; altering the established backstory or canonical history to provide for a desired change in plot direction; also a v.

Self-Insert, n., fan fiction where the author appears as a character.

Ship, n., a clipping of relationship; a hoped-for romantic or sexual relationship between two characters. Those who desire such a relationship are called shippers.

Slash, adj. and n., a romantic or sexual pairing of two characters in fan fiction, especially a homosexual one; from the convention of using a “/” between the two characters names to designate such works, such as Kirk/Spock or K/S; (1984 for adj.; 1988 for n.).

Spinoff, n. & v., a series based around one or two characters from an already established series, to create such a series. Originally a business term (1957), applied to broadcasting in 1963.

Spoiler, n., information that reveals the plot or outcome of a story.

Spoiler space, n., space left at the top of newsgroup messages, so that people don’t inadvertently read the spoilers contained therein.

ST:TNG, n., Star Trek: The Next Generation. US television series (1987-94).

ST:TOS, n., Star Trek, US television series (1966-69). The TOS stands for The Original Series.

Trekker/Trekkie, n., a Star Trek fan; there is no consensus on which of these terms is derisive and which is complimentary, but invariably one is used derisively and the other in a complimentary fashion; 1973 for Trekkie, 1978 for Trekker.

Twinking, v., the sudden granting of new powers, skills, or abilities to a character that conveniently enables them to escape a situation or change the direction of a plot.

-verse, suffix, used to describe the fictional world of a particular fandom, distinguishing it from the real world, e.g., the Buffyverse or Trekverse; from universe.

Winger/Wingnut, n., a fan of The West Wing, US television series (1999-present).

Zine, n., a clipping of magazine; (1947).

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