Fandoms – They’re Real For Us (#COT2014 Poster)
Please click on the picture to download a PDF version of the poster I am displaying at the 2014 College of Occupational Therapists conference in Brighton on 3rd – 5th June.
Below is an informal autoethnography relating to my fandom occupations.
Following conference I will add a snapshot of the fandoms added by the OTs who interact with my poster.
You are at a dinner party and someone asks you, ‘What’s your occupation?’ What do you reply?
Usually most people would tell you about their job. This is often how we form opinions about someone’s identity.
My answer to that question, if I was following common practice, would be, ‘I’m a lecturer in Occupational Therapy.’ If, however, I was being obstinate I would want to clarify the term occupation, ‘Do you mean my job? Because as an occupational therapist occupation can mean all the activities I engage in that are meaningful to me. If you were asking that my main occupation would be Books!’
In fact, I was so pleased, when talking to an OT colleague when she said, ‘When I think of you I think about books and writing before I think of OT.’
You’ll see on the poster I added OT as a fandom of mine and I am a hugely passionate #OTGeek. However, books were my first love and have led me to my recent fandom occupations.
Being a fan of something even ten years ago might have seen you spending time alone thinking about it but social media has truly opened up a way to connect with like-minded individuals who might obsess over the detail…just like you.
I have always collected books, I’m one of those people that keeps on buying even though many of my books still remain unread. They are there as an escape, and literally, I can escape to anywhere through them.
Alongside books I have also been a fan of TV series and films, collecting memorabilia, magazine clippings and so on about Friends, The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as three examples. I like to think I am easy to buy for, however others would disagree, especially when it comes to my most recent obsession, they have a fear of getting me something I’ve already got.
Anyone that knows me will already know that my number one fandom is Harry Potter. It all started with the books, though I only got into them as the fourth book had been released. Books five and six were ordered online to arrive on release day with a virtual attack on the postman before he even got to my door, they don’t deliver until mid afternoon. The seventh book saw me heading to a midnight release, where we chatted in the queue with some people dressed up and a couple of girls played the film’s theme tune on flutes. Once the book was in my hand I dashed home and read through the night. Yes, that’s right, fandom occupations can cause sleep deprivation. The fear of spoilers meant I had to read it before I found out how I had all ended. Of course I went to see all of the films, the last one I even saw twice on the same day.
As a writer/aspiring author my Mirror of Erised moment (for those that aren’t familiar with Harry Potter Erised is Desire spelt backwards, when you look in the mirror you see what you most desire) would be to on the red carpet at the premiere of a film based on one of my books (obviously this still includes the sub dream that I will actually get a book published). After the third Harry Potter film I really became aware and more accepting of books and films as different entities, both with their own rules, pros and cons. One of the biggest pros of films is putting picture to the words that I seem to find difficult to form in my head. I’ve been to the Harry Potter studio tour five times and there is always something new to see, the detail they put into bringing the world to life is astounding. Learning more about the detail for me enhances the magic rather than destroying it.
Along came twitter and searching for Harry Potter hashtags led me to discover LeakyCon. This is a Harry Potter convention that had been going in the States for a number of years and in 2013 it was coming to London. Another midnight event was staying up to get tickets; had I not I would have missed out, they were pretty much sold out by the next morning. This led to me going on my own and having almost a year building up anxiety for doing this. As a fairly reluctant traveller and a self proclaimed introvert this was quite a big step for me. I signed up to Volunteer, to meet people, and I am so glad I did. In the run up to LeakyCon I quickly realised that Harry Potter was more than just the books and films, there was cosplay (dressing up as characters from the series), fan fiction, Wrock (Wizard rock) and Starkid. The latter is a group who have produced three Harry Potter musicals (another fandom of mine). I had a lot of catching up to do, listening to albums, watching You Tube videos, thinking about my ships (click link for detail of what this means) and so on. LeakyCon also runs a literary track where they invite a number of authors to talk about their books, their writing process and sign books too.
Thanks once again to Twitter I’d already got back into the Young Adult literature scene after a couple of years of letting work take over and not reading nearly enough books. I bought some of the books by the authors who were going and read one on the train down. I left with a huge pile of books and, I think, much longer arms from carrying them all. In July I am off to YALC, the young Adult literature convention, that Malorie Blackman, in her role as Children’s Laureate, has convened. As well as seeing some of my favourite authors I’m excited to meet some of the book blogging community that I’m gradually starting to feel more of a part of.
Book blogging involves not only reading books (which often kind publishers will send you a copy of), but also writing and posting reviews, taking part in blog tours and interviewing authors about new releases. I was also invited to attend the premiere of the film Divergent which I’ve now seen five times, not that Theo James has anything to do with that?!
The final thing that LeakyCon introduced me to was the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA). This is an organisation that brings together fans of Harry Potter (and other fandoms) for social activism, using themes from stories to effect positive change in your local community. Following a session run by them I was inspired to start my own Chapter called Phoenix Rising. To date we have collected items for a local food bank and soup kitchen and recently four of us ‘Faced our Boggarts’ by facing phobias of spiders and snakes. Here’s a link to the You Tube video of my encounter with the tarantula ‘Venus’. My participation in this fandom has pushed me to step outside my comfort zone and try things I ordinarily would not have done.
My bank account is not going to forgive my next adventure which is a trip back to LeakyCon, but this time in Florida. I will get to tick a number of items off my bucket list on this trip though so it should be worth the beans of toast I may have to live off for the rest of the year.
As I suggested in the poster the one thing that OTs have to remember above everything is to try not to judge. As a 35 year old people may consider me too old to be a fan of a book series for “kids”; at 35 I am almost past caring what others think…almost!. A teenager, who is still in the process of forming their occupational identity might struggle with criticism and potentially be turned away from an occupation that may be very meaningful to them. Fandoms can turn into so much more than the place they start from, new friendships, new roles, and new occupations.
Instead, grow your awareness of the range of occupations this could encompass and facilitate their engagement. Look at what they might get from it.
For the OTs reading this – I have only implicitly touched on some concepts within occupational science literature in this piece, I’d be interested on what explicit connections you might make between what you know about occupational science already and what I’ve shared. Please do comment below.
For anyone reading this – Feel free to share your fandom experiences and why they are meaningful to you too.