February 15, 2014: truly a day for the fandom history books. Why? Because by pure serendipity, two milestone events for the fandom community have collided on the exact same day. One is “Fandompocalypse Day”, an movement to unite fans of disparate fandoms in a joint show of pride and unity; the other is the user-oriented, not-for-profit multimedia fanworks site Archive Of Our Own reaching one million published works.
Both events celebrate the diverse and unifying nature of fandom in different ways: Fandompocalypse aims to bring the fandom movement offline with a visual display of fandom support in day-to-day life, while the “ao3million” celebrations are purely online, based around graphics, Twitter hashtags and uploading new fanworks to the site. Nevertheless, the spirit of enjoyment and sharing the fandom love is exactly the same.
I haven’t been able to pinpoint who originally suggested the idea of “Fandompocalypse Day” to credit them here, as the screenshot being passed around the Internet is unsigned, although it looks like it might have come from Tumblr. A fellow member of the fanworks group I belong to, the Neo Writers, shared it to our Facebook group from a page called ‘The Best Books Around‘. The screenshot has also appeared on deviantART, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus, Twitter and a whole host of other sites. It reads as follows:
As soon as I read the post, I was immediately impressed by the idea. I have long been of the opinion that fandom and fanworks need more events in the offline world which will promote a sense of community and show that fandom isn’t just made up of weirdo loners writing and drawing porn from the basement, or uncreative plagiarists leeching off an existing world because they lack the creativity to create their own. No, it’s made up of dedicated, passionate people who want to share and build on something that they love. That’s why I was an admin of the Neo Writers for two and a half years and poured a lot of my time and energy into organising events for fanworks lovers based around London. Some aspects of the “Fandompocalypse” event might seem a little haphazard or odd – such as why the word “Fandompocalypse” needs to be in green ink, or written on the left arm – but it’s an experimental idea, and the movement is only just starting out. I have great hopes that the event will be successful enough to recur, and maybe spawn some analysis, offshoots or other kinds of coverage in subsequent years.
It’s also true that although fandom is made up of good, dedicated and passionate people on the whole, it can be at times be very exclusionist, petty and divided. The line “fandoms generally judge each other, we are never united” strikes home particularly when reading articles such as this one from Paper Droids: ‘Nightmare Fandoms: Terrifying Encounters of the Nerd Kind’. I won’t deny that some bad press around fandom is thoroughly deserved, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t aim to do something about it.
Meanwhile, the #ao3million hashtag has taken off on Twitter in celebration of AO3’s millionth fanwork, with supporters of the fanworks site posting fanworks recommendations and heartwarming messages about their love of AO3.
If you haven’t heard of Archive Of Our Own before, it is one of the many excellent projects run by the Organisation For Transformative Works, which believes in the transformative nature of fanworks and does whatever it can to further that cause. AO3 was created with the aim of being an archive (as the name suggests), a repository for copies of fanworks which had been posted on other sites. But in the time since its creation, it has gone from being a simple storehouse to being one of the foremost fanworks hosting sites, far outstripping sites like Fanfiction.net and AdultFanFiction with its customisable categories, user-centric approach, ad-free style and no-holds-barred approach to content (a far cry from Fanfiction.net’s random purges of M-rated uploads). Although the site should really be out of beta four years and two months after entering open beta, it otherwise can’t be faulted. AO3 is always expanding, playing host to fanvids, fanart and podfic alongside fanfiction, and recently adding meta to its hosted content types. And of course, it’s entirely donation-funded and volunteer-run.
Other OTW projects include the Fanlore Wiki, a fan-run Wiki with definitions and examples of all things fandom, and fanworks-related legal advocacy, in which the OTW supports fanworks threatened by legal action. These projects are exactly what the fandom and fanworks community needs more of: initiatives which take it seriously as a movement and celebrate the creativity, dedication and innovation that is at the heart of fandom. Just like Fandompocalypse Day.
So to sum up, I think it’s extremely fitting that these two wonderful events were to fall on the same day, and I hope that both of them will pave the way for similarly inventive and empowering additions to the fandom world in the future.