My wife and I have been married since January 2015, but we’ve been together for over a decade now. This has been ample time to reflect a lot on how our personalities are similar, how we are different, where our interests converge and where they deviate. This post isn’t about our relationship as a whole, but I just wanted to reflect a little on how we both approach fandom.
I think it’s safe to say that we’re both “nerdy” or “geeky” people. She’s a fan of several anime series, The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Harry Potter; I’m a fan of roleplaying video games, paleontology, American history, and paranormal stories. We crossover with Avatar: The Last Airbender, tabletop roleplaying games, The Elder Scrolls, and Star Wars, among other things.
We both manifest what it means to be a “fan” of something in very different ways, though. For as long as I could remember, I have obsessed over topics that interest me. As a child, my first passion was dinosaurs, and I loved to watch shows about them and play with dinosaur toys and learn their names and recite factoids in little “presentations” that my family members somehow remember fondly (I must have been a very annoying kid). After dinosaurs, I became obsessed with the American Civil War, and I especially loved to learn the obscure history of my Midwestern home–like Morgan’s Raiders and the Battle of Corydon. One of my fondest childhood memories of my paternal grandparents is when they took me and my sister on a meandering tour of battle sites throughout the South on a drive between my father’s house in Indiana and my mother’s house in Florida. Roughly around the same time, I started diving into the Bible and into paranormal booklets; my teenage years would be spent deconstructing these materials. And so on and so forth.
I devour a source, think about it a lot, and then move on. Sometimes I’ll revisit an obsession; some obsessions will fade with time; some obsessions become reinterpreted in light of new obsessions. But I obsess. And I like to know all there is to know about a subject.
But it’s a fruitless endeavor, with any sort of fandom. No one can know everything. And my drifting obsessions mean that I’ve become a generalist about a lot of things but a specialist in only a very few things (currently my kick is the life of Indianapolis gambling boss Isaac “Tuffy” Mitchell–and Arena, obviously). I don’t think knowing more about any of these topics necessarily makes the subjects more rewarding. It’s just knowing for the sake of knowing.
My wife, in contrast, simply seems to be able to appreciate something without having to know it all. She still absorbs a lot–she’s smart, and it’s impossible to be a fan actively engaging with a subject without learning more about it. But she can enjoy something and be content with that thing without having to obsess over it.
Our reactions are different, too. I’m very excitable by nature. I get exuberant very easily. My wife, by contrast, is very calm and reserved, not prone to emotional outbursts. She can take something in, even be excited by something, but not outwardly communicate that.
I think I can be too much. I like who I am, but sometimes I envy my wife’s ability to be stoic, to simply appreciate without having to act like a conquering invader, pilfering all available knowledge, laying claim to a space.
Funny enough, as time goes by, I think my wife has gradually become more of a fan like me. She gets a little more visibly excited about the things she’s passionate about. She is more eager to discuss her interests, to introduce them to others, to engage with them regularly. I admittedly like this gradual change because I like to see other people passionate about the things they like. But there was nothing wrong with how she used to engage in fandom.
And all that said, I’m not a very “active” or “involved” fan. I don’t go to many conventions. I don’t participate in forums. I only passively keep up with what other fans are doing. I don’t contribute to Wikis. And I don’t really purchase all that much merchandise (although I guess that depends on how we define merchandise–I certainly buy plenty of books and games and shows related to the things I like, especially the larger franchises).
The most active fans are an interesting type of people to me, and sometimes I’m envious of that too.
I don’t think I have a larger point. Just reflecting on fandom, and what that means to me and to someone close to me.
P.S. This week is Gen Con week, and while I plan to have a post about Arena during the week, it will almost certainly be a shorter one, and it will almost certainly cover very little game time.