What is a fandom or shipping? The meanings of 5 popular terms used by fan communities

You’ve probably heard words like “fandom” or “fanfiction” before, but what exactly does it all mean? In this article, you will learn the definitions of some of the most used terms within popular culture.

Take the following conversation for example:

  • It is said that Gwyneth Paltrow will no longer participate in Marvel movies.
  • What a pity. Pepperony’ is my favourite MCU ship. If there are no scenes together, at least I’ll have the fanfics left.
  • Pepperony may be canon, but one of the most beloved OTPs by fans is Captain America and Iron Man. Stony’.

If you understood this hypothetical dialogue, congratulations; you can consider yourself a great fan of Marvel or of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’re not familiar with words like ship, OTP, canon, fanfics or fandom, don’t worry, in this article you’ll know a little about the terms most used by fans.

If you are a fan of a book series, movie, series, musical group, artist, comic or manga, you should still listen or read at least one of these five words on the Internet or in conversations between fans.

1. Fandom

In simple terms, a fandom is a group of fans who associate with a particular show, movie, or person.

Mariana de Lama, author of the book Fanfiction: A social network in the space of fiction, told RPP Noticias that fandom “is a way of distinguishing fan groups”

“What unites these fans in their own fandom is the common denominator of their hobby. They share a hobby. It’s the cohesion of that group,” he said.

Herbert Köster, a 13-year-old geekster and philosopher from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), has said that the first official fandom was that of Sherlock Holmes, the popular character of English author Arthur Conan Doyle. It was a book club that had an organization: president and members. Everything changes when the World Wide Web arrives.

“With the advent of the Internet, there is a break and a shot of all that are the communities of fans who go directly to electronic media as their main medium. Even local clubs are organized through the network,” he said.

While it is not necessary for a fandom to have a name to identify itself by, there are some fandom names that are already very popular. Oscar Soto, the technology journalist for RPP News and radio broadcaster, has several examples: “The fandom of BTS, a very popular South Korean group, is called Army. Star Treks are called Trekkies. Soto commented that there can even be fans of brands: Nintenderos are the fans of Nintendo.

Not all fandoms are this big, however. Many fandoms include smaller groups as well, including An Awfully Big Adventure and Omarion don’t get as much hype and aren’t as big, but still have their passionate fans.

2. Fanfiction or fanfic

Fanfiction or fanfics are texts made by fans based on cultural products or pre-existing franchises.

Mariana de Lama puts it in simple words: “They are fictitious universes created by fans”. During her research, which led to the publication of her book, she found that Harry Potter and Twilight fans are the most popular fandoms.

If you want your fanfic to be one of the most read or popular on the net, you need to be an “expert” on the story, says De Lama. “It’s like a book, the more complex the narrative and the more character construction you have, the more readers you’re going to attract,” he says.

Oscar Soto explains that fanfics are not only popular in the West, but also have a variable in Japan called doujinshi. There are success stories behind fanfics and doujinshis. For example, mangaka artist Toyotaro, chosen by Akira Toriyama himself to continue the Dragon Ball saga, was a doujinshi writer for a long time.

“I find it fascinating that many times from the fanfiction have appeared the great stars who have made the following hits of popular culture,” says Soto also recalling the group CLAMP, authors of mangas such as Magic Warriors, Sakura, among others. “They started making doujinshis from other stories. That was like their quarry. There is a whole market of people that consumes only fanfiction”.

A well-known case is Stephenie Meyer and her Fifty Shades of Grey saga. The franchise first began as a fan of Twilight. The fanfic became so popular on the web that Meyer turned it into a novel. It was a bestseller. Without even needing to write a query letter or anything, she was able to use the popularity to create her own success.

“The book generates a film, and then other subcultural products. Now there are fanfics about Fifty Shades of Grey. We see how, thanks to the digitization of these cultural products, a circle of creative production begins. There is an original story, it adapts and then it is reintegrated into mass cultural production,” says De Lama.

Latin America also has successful experiences in the production of fanfics. One of the best known – to cite one – is that of Chilean author Francisca Solar. Back in 2003, she published her fanfiction Harry Potter and the Dark of the High Elves. According to Solar, his fanfic had more than 2 million readers on the fanfiction.net page and was translated into English and Italian. The success of the “Dark of the High Elves” led Solar to become a writer and has even published her own novels such as Souls in Red and Messengers.

3. Canon

“Harry Potter went to Hogwarts,” “Harry Potter married Ginny Weasley,” “Harry Potter is from Gryffindor.” These are some examples of what canon is. According to Mariana de Lama, canon comes to be “the norms of character construction and context of the original story.

“Everything that is established as if it were the norm in original stories such as locations, personality, character construction and circumstances with context. Canon is what the original author establishes,” he says.

Köster details that the term canon comes from the Catholic Church when in the Council of Hippo the canonical books of the Bible are established. “The term canon has a religious origin and refers to books accepted by the Church as sacred texts. It was used analogically by fans to describe the official products that correspond to the official line,” he said.

Today there are franchises so elaborate and complex that there are departments in charge of establishing what is canon or not. Soto says one such case is Star Wars. “When the Star Wars franchise was bought, there was a whole change of canon. There were a lot of novels that defined what happened after Episode 6 and when Disney buys the intellectual property decides that those novels were going to belong to another universe and came to start a new canon,” he said.

The stories of Star Wars’ expanded universe ceased to be canon and became known as “Legend”. The new trilogy: Episodes 7, 8 and 9 is the official Star Wars canon. Reiterating here, fanfic is not canon so Star Wars Fanfiction about Darth Vader or Anakin being written into fun side stories would be considered fanfiction and thus not canon.

4. Shipping

Just as in real life we like to match, in the world of fiction the same thing happens. “They are fiction products: literature, cinema, series, comics, animation. The characters, although they are owned by a company or an author, end up being part of the life and imaginary of the fans,” says Soto.

When fans have a close relationship with their favorite characters, then they “pair them with each other. They don’t necessarily have to be “canon” couples.

For De Lama, the ship or shipping is “the creative freedom that fans have to build relationships. “It doesn’t matter the genre, it doesn’t matter the character, it doesn’t matter if he’s a villain with a hero.

Köster says that in the fandom world, everything can be shipped. A very graphic example, and at the same time bizarre, is that on the Internet there is a very popular fanfic whose main ship is Goku and Anne Frank. “It can be anything. People have the right to fantasize about whatever they want,” he says.

5. OTP

OTP stands for “one true pairing”. It refers to the couple that the fan believes is superior to others. A very popular example among the Potterheads, the Harry Potter fandom, is Harmony [Harry and Hermione].

“Shipping is when you take any creative freedom, while the OTP is more organic in its narrative. The OTP is different in its level of cohesion,” says Mariana de Lama.

For Köster, OTP is like an illusion or desire of the fans. “Han and Leia are my Star Wars OTP. That’s real. But others can say my OTP is Kylo and King. It’s an objectively used term.

With these definite terms… tell us what was your first fandom? what ships do you have? would you encourage you to write a fanfic?