S1/E2: “Know Your Terms”

Whovian. Shipping. Slash. As with any academic field, Fan Studies is one complete with its own language. Some of them created by the fandoms themselves and others used to understand and catalogue the fan(s)/doms. I have always been behind the curve when it comes to contemporary language usage and terminologies. I often have to have people interpret the acronyms they use in messages to me (perhaps, defeating the time-saving attempts that the phrases were meant for): the LOL’s and FWI’s and WTF’s. At the same time, I usually find myself comfortable within the language of scholarship. I should be grateful (blameful?) for years of literature courses for this. So, when I first came to the Fan Studies field, I found myself able to quickly grasp the terms of study, but repeatedly having to double-check the terms that the fans themselves had created (it’s quite possible I still don’t have some of these down and anyone who believes I’m using them wrong, please do correct me). In hopes of helping anyone who is like me (or suffers from the vice-versa problem), I thought it would be helpful to address the terms I will most likely be using in future columns.

There are considered two types of fans in the field of Fan Studies. These types are delineated into Transformative and Affirmative. The field itself seems to primarily concern itself with Transformative (although, I think that Affirmative has an equally important part to play and should have time devoted to it as well). Affirmative fans are those that remain primarily digesters and discussers of a show/series/ etc. When I am excitedly discussing my vast and spiraling theories about A in Pretty Little Liars, I am being an Affirmative fan. Transformative, on the other hand, are those fans who step into a fandom’s world and add their own creative spins into it: cosplayers, fan fiction authors, creators of fan art, etc.

This leads me into Fan Fiction: the term for (primarily, I think) written works that exist in a pre-existing world or story. This a large subject as it ranges from people who continue a story past it’s point of finishing (there exist many works that follow Harry Potter into adulthood, for one example) or who examine a world from a newly created character or one who was a side-character, or in some cases explore romantic relationships in the world (some of which might be new pairings). These are, of course, just a few examples.

In the last example, this brings up another term, that of Slash Fiction. Slash (so called after K/S or Kirk/ Spock fiction) is a fan fiction that explores romances usually between established characters and for the most part these are relationships not in existence in the original work.

Slash leads inevitably to another term: Shipping/ Ship. This has nothing to do with boats (and that took me longer to figure out than I should probably admit to). It’s the term for the relationship that is being supported or (in many cases) hoped for within a world. Destiel for one example is the name for an imagined pairing between Supernatural’s Castiel and Dean.

There are many, many more such terms that I am still figuring out and I will continue to bring them into this column. I should also mention that I plan to devote full future columns to all of the afore-mentioned topics. One additional naming aspect that I hope to devote a future column to is that of the names that fandoms give to themselves. One of the few that I know is Whovian, for the fans of Doctor Who. I am keen to know more of these terms and any readers who wish to help a Whovian out (not to mention the plethora of other fandoms I belong to), please let me know the terms or fandom names which jump out to you, either @PintsNCupcakes or @lunaquarterly with hashtag #ghostsandfandoms. Til next month: Keep Fanning On.

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