I started re-reading this journal's namesake -- William Gibson's Pattern Recognition -- recently and when I came to that line (*points to post subject*), it caused me to burst into tears rather suddenly; I'm afraid I may have scared the dog. I've been riding on a natural emotional high since yesterday (because big_bang_hd went live) and I was overdue for a mood swing, I suppose. The thing is that I've been in "fandom" for exactly six years -- my active participation in online fandom began when the Zion Mainframe (my Matrix fansite) went live right around this time in 1999 (I also joined the now-defunct AcmeCity Matrix message board). Before that, I used to lurk in newsgroups but I wasn't active in any fandom, my online time was consumed by IRC and various computer-related websites.
Pattern Recognition is (also) about fandom at its extreme -- one of the main plot threads in the novel revolves around "footage", a series of film episodes that are released online anonymously at random intervals, and "footageheads" are the people who obsessively try to make connections between the snippets and discuss them, it's all terribly cinematic and far from me personally, but I think Gibson did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of online fandom -- the personality dynamics are such that anyone who's spent any time in an online community will be able to name their own "Parkaboy" or "Cayce" or "Mama Anarchia" or "Ivy". The thing that sort of got me was that I've been all four: the extremely volatile (reactionary, even) idealist, the reserved and aloof independent-type, the haughty and sarcastic ivory-tower intellectual type and the overworked (and sometimes under-appreciated) admin.
I started looking through my old entries to try and come up with some sort of framework for these newfangled tags and I was struck by how "me" this LJ really is, despite (or perhaps because of) the fandom content. Before I entered LJ-based fandom, I was only really familiar with fandom through specific sites/archives where people spend the bulk of their time and are focused solely on fandom with "personal" lives kept to private communication -- on LJ, fandom and personal lives sort of mesh together, even though some people keep separate journals for "RL" and "fandom" - there is always overlap.
My first five years in fandom involved just one community (TMC), just one group of people who were intensely focused on the Matrix series (I say series even though I left that fandom partly due to the sequels sucking majorly in comparison to the first film). I was aware that fandom existed on LJ but I thought it was vastly inferior to what "we" had because I'm a longtime watcher of fandom_wank (since before I even read the HP books) and, well, fandom_wank doesn't exactly paint a pretty picture of the Harry Potter fandom. *g*
Here on LJ, I'm sort of... baffled by how I don't really fit into any of the aforementioned stereotypes anymore because the way I react to individual posts is more often based on the content of the post I'm reacting to, rather than some preconceived "reputation" of the person who'd made the post - and similarly, the way people react to me seems to be based far more on what I say (or sometimes their personal experiences with me) rather than some "label" attached based on "number of posts" next to my username or the "types" of people who agree/disagree with me.
In a way that makes me glad, because back at TMC, some people would suck up to me without knowing anything about me just because I was admin. Alternatively, some people would be immediately belligerent towards me just because I was admin -- even though I never pulled the admin card with anyone during "fandom" debate, some people still expected me to do it because at most messageboards, there is this mentality of "admin is god". There was no escaping that, really: being labelled. Here on LJ, if I sense that a person is reacting to me out of some sort of unfounded bias or label, I can ignore them (or, in rare cases, tell them off) and I'm not being "disruptive" to the community as a whole because there is plenty of room for all kinds of people in LJ fandom and it's not centralised or even hierarchical.
There are cliques, yes, but they're not nearly as toxic as they are at more focussed communities. A clique of mods at a fandom site is a sad, sad sight to behold and while I was at TMC, I often fought tooth and nail against moderators being overly friendly with each other to other members, or mods "ganging up" on members who broke the community guidelines. We were pretty lucky because we did have the community's best interests in mind and our group of mods was never a clique (or at least I never felt like I belonged to one). But despite the fact that there was no "modly clique" there were cliques, some focused solely on ridiculing one person because the members had either given up trying to reason with said person or were simply afraid of facing them. Cliques tended to focus on being "anti" something rather than being "pro" togetherness or friendship or whatever have you, which is, I think, mostly the case on LJ. LJ fandom cliques tend to be composed of like-minded people who enjoy one another's company -- within a community that's supposed to be entirely like-minded people who enjoy one another's company, the cliques tend to form when two or more people are negative towards something or someone in the group.
Looking back now, it was all so terribly insidious and at times we were ridiculously self-congratulatory and petty. I don't know, my view on this may be skewed -- here on LJ, I have what I consider a core group of friends in the HP fandom but I wouldn't call it a clique since it's not a "we all get together and we have a secret community where we all hang out and snark at people" type of thing but rather they're people I enjoy talking to and I make myself available to for beta-reading and chatting and whatnot: several of them don't even know each other (due to being in different parts of fandom vis a vis preferred characters/pairings/etc).
Then there are the BNFs -- it's funny, but people can be adoring towards them (either because they genuinely respect their talent or because they're hoping to bask in reflected glory, or some other reason I haven't thought of) or people are immediately derisive of them (either because they expect all BNFs to conform to the stereotype of "the one with the overinflated ego", or maybe they're jealous of the attention, or maybe they genuinely don't believe that the BNF deserves the hype [sans jealousy]) -- it doesn't matter what the reason is, the point is that at the end of the day, the reactions are very personal and less based on "community standards" or "house politics" that exist at more insular communities. Everyone makes up their own damn mind how to act and I suppose I find that refreshing.
At TMC, there was a bit of "oh, how dare you question f, don't you know she's admin"? I fucking hated that but it kept happening. I've seen something similar happen in the HP fandom with the extremely popular authors: I myself got into a spat with some fangirls after leaving concrit on a popular author's fic; their baffled reaction was "Don't you know who this is?" I found it amusing, to say the least, but I don't begrudge the fangirls their fangirly-ness because, well, they obviously feel comfortable fangirling and that's their choice. I'm a total fangirl of several popular authors as well; I feel they deserve to be fangirled because I think they're just that good. I am sure there are people out there who read the squeeful reviews I leave for these authors, shake their heads and brand me a fangirl, because they can see flaws that I either look past or don't notice (or maybe I don't consider them flaws at all).
No work of fiction is ever perfect; the relative 'worth' of a fic is subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis. I love some fics that no one ever recs and I hate some fics that are recced fandom-wide and held up as masterpieces of HP fanfic. The point is that I'm allowed to make up my own mind and I'm not obligated to agree with "the powers that be" because there are no "powers that be" in LJ fandom. You don't have to suck up to anyone to be recognised; if you've got anything worthwhile, eventually people will take notice. Some people choose the suck-up route anyway: no matter how distasteful I might find this on a purely personal level, it's none of my (or your ;p) goddamn business that they do.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that after I've spent some time in LJ-based fandom, I've come to view it as superior to the "other" kind of fandom, because it lets people connect quicker and on a more profound level -- I'm not talking about TMI-y stuff but rather the fact that there's far less stigma attached to being "OT" in personal LJs and so people seem to find topics of common interest quicker. LJ Communities are different, but even they are very often just a conduit to individuals - you read a fic you like and check out the person's LJ; if they aren't friendslocked you might find them interesting based on what you read and friend them. I mean, LJ is not without its drama and preconceptions, either, I'm not saying it's perfect (friending and commenting being the biggest areas for drama, so far as I have seen) But overall, I think a LJ-based environment is a far more effective framework for building fandom-oriented communities and establishing connections with fellow fans because it makes it easy to know people.
At the end of the day, fandom is not about the source material - I've plenty of things I'm a fan of that I feel no desire to discuss with anyone (e.g. Nietzsche, Dumas, Maurice Druon, the Alien series, Asimov, etc ad nauseam). I'm still a fan, but it's not fandom; online fandom is about people and making connections and maybe even friends if you're lucky. So obviously, if you treat everyone like shit, you're not going to be very popular with most members of the fandom - though you might be with those who find "treating people like shit" an admirable hobby and don't mind being treated like shit themselves. There is a difference between having strong opinions and being a fucktard. There are also people who don't understand the difference, and they'll think you're a fucktard if you have strong opinions (luckily, they're easy to spot: they're the ones who defriend [rather than debate] the minute they see an opinionated post). But even fucktards can thrive in LJ fandom - given a sufficient number of other like-minded fucktards. :))
...and I run out of steam right about here. Don't you hate it when that happens? But I think I've made my main point. I guess you can consider this an addition to the heap of "LJ/fandom = OTP" posts. :-P
Thoughts? Opinions? ♥
And vaguely related, what's your biggest fandom- or LJ- or internet-related pet peeve at the moment? Go on and vent. *g*
Mine: when my away message on AIM/Y!M/MSN says "DO NOT PING" in any version of the phrase but people ping me anyway. It's there for a reason. Plz to be reading the status message before pinging.