Fans and fandom. What a fascinating subject this is. What makes a person latch on to a particular team, band, film or TV show? At what point does a passing interest become a fixation and then an obsession? And there are obsessives out there, from the mildly eccentric who will pay a fortune to complete a set of trading cards, to the bonkers stalker who feels that they and the object of their obsession should 'be together'. Eek. I personally suspect it's a tribal thing. The world may be becoming a global village but we're still hard-wired to be small collectives of hunter-gatherers. We need to be in a gang to feel whole. It's no coincidence that, as society becomes more fragmented, kids are finding solace in banding together. It may also explain why - even though there are many female fans - collecting, hobbies and fandom do seem to be male dominated.
The word ‘fan’, when used in the sense of an ardent follower or devotee, is around 100 years old and has its origin in the word ‘fanatic’ which was originally the term for an orgiastic temple maniac or frenzied religious devotee. It's not a new phenomenon by any means. We tend to mostly associate the term - and the resulting derivative terms like fanclub, fansite, fanzine etc. - mostly with followers of cult TV and films. These are people who so enjoy a particular show or film that they watch the episodes over and over again, collect the merchandise and attend conventions. And yes, some of them like to dress up. I've never got to the dressing-up stage (although I wouldn't rule it out) because I've never been fixated to any degree on any one show or film. I suppose Doctor Who comes closest ... and my mum did once knit me a very long scarf. But that was a long time ago and I never wore it anywhere in public. But I do enjoy conventions. It's great to meet the stars and the people behind your favourite shows. And most of the people at conventions feel the same. It's that tribal business again; the feeling that you're with people who understand you. If you want to know what these conventions are like but are afraid to go in case to catch a dose of nerd flu, check out Bob Fischer's excellent new book Wiffle lever to full! Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy-Eyed Nostalgia at the Strangest Sci-Fi Conventions. It's a very funny, affectionate look at these events. I highly recommend it.
Fans sport a bewildering range of collective names, which is the proper subject of this post. I went looking for them and found hundreds. I started with rock and pop. Back in the 1980s, fans of neo-punk New Romantics Adam and the Ants were called Antpeople. ‘Sex music for Ant people!’ was their rallying cry. Aerosmith’s fan base are known as the Blue Army due to them usually dressing in denim. Kiss meanwhile has the Kiss Army. Grateful Dead fans are called Deadheads and are immortalised in the lyrics of Don Henley's ‘Boys of Summer’ in which he sees a ‘Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac’.
But it is in the worlds of cult TV and film that we find the very best and most inventive names. Here are some of the ones that I've found:
Babylonians or Fivers or Lurkers (Babylon 5)
Beasties (Beauty and the Beast)
Browncoats or Flans (Firefly and Serenity)
Buffistas or Scoobies or Watchers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Dwarfers or Smegheads (Red Dwarf)
Fang Gang or Team Angel (Angel)
Gateheads (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis)
Holmesians/Sherlockians (Sherlock Holmes)
Leapers (Quantum Leap)
Lostralians, Lostaways, Losties (Lost)
Potterites or Potheads (Harry Potter)
Fargaters (Farscape fans who've followed Ben Browder and Claudia Black over to Stargate SG 1)
Peak Freaks (Twin Peaks)
Questarians (Galaxy Quest)
Ringers (Lord of the Rings)
Simpsonites or Springfielders (The Simpsons)
Smithies (The Sarah Jane Adventures)
Wingnuts (The West Wing)
Whosers (Whose Line Is It Anyway?)
Woodies or Jack-Offs(!) (Torchwood)
X-Philes (The X Files)
Xenites (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Star Trek fans are often called Trekkies (and if you ever get the chance to see the documentary film of the same name, do so. It's brilliant), but the true Trek fan calls him/her/itself a Trekker. One fan told me ‘Trekkies are just older Shatner groupies’.
Doctor Who fans are Whovians and have a magazine called the Whovian Times. Back in the 1970s and early 80s I was a member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS) and met Peter Davison on the set of Time Flight, and John Nathan-Turner - the then producer - on many occasions. No one called us Whovians back then so it must be a new-ish title.
But the award for best name goes to fans of 1960s cult series The Avengers. They’re apparently called Steedophiles. Their website is called Steedophilia. Oh dear.