Fandom (from the noun fan and the affix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates "fannish" (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest.
A fandom can grow up centered around any area of human interest or activity. The subject of fan interest can be narrowly defined, focused on something like an individual celebrity, or more widely defined, encompassing entire hobbies, genres or fashions. While it is now used to apply to groups of people fascinated with any subject, the term has its roots in those with an enthusiastic appreciation for sports. Merriam-Webster's dictionary traces the usage of the term back as far as 1903.
Fandom as a term can also be used in a broad sense to refer to an interconnected social network of individual fandoms, many of which overlap.
A wide variety of Western modern organized fannish subcultures originated with science fiction fandom, the community of fans of the science fiction and fantasy genres. Science fiction fandom dates back to the 1930s and maintains organized clubs and associations in many cities around the world. It has held the annual World Science Fiction Convention since 1939, along with many other events each year, and has created its own jargon, sometimes called "fanspeak".
Media fandom shot off from science fiction fandom in the early 1970s with a focus on relationships between characters within TV and movie media franchises. There is still much overlap in fannish culture and activities between media fandom and its science fiction fandom parent; media fandom derives some of its jargon, customs and practices from its science fandom roots. Vidding fandom, the fandom related to building and watching analytic music videos based on images, emerged from media fandom in the late 1970s.
Anime and manga fandom began in the 1970s in Japan. In America, the fandom also began as an offshoot of science fiction fandom, with fans bringing imported copies of Japanese manga to conventions. Before anime began to be licensed in the U.S., fans who wanted to get a hold of anime would leak copies of anime movies and subtitle them to exchange with friends in the community, thus marking the start of fansubs.
Related to similar media sources, the cosplay community forms a subculture centered around wearing costumes and reenacting scenes or inventing likely behavior inspired by their chosen sources, usually from Japan, South Korea, China, and Philippines media. Cosplay at fan events in Japan is thought to have originated in 1978.
Furry fandom refers to the fandom for fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. The concept of furry originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, when a drawing of a character from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphics initiated a discussion of anthropomorphic characters in science fiction novels, which in turn initiated a discussion group that met at science fiction and comics conventions.
Additional significant types of fandoms include comics fandom, sports fandom, music fandom, literature fandom, soap opera fandom, celebrity fandom, and video game fandom.
Members of a fandom associate with one another, often attending fan conventions and publishing and exchanging fanzines and newsletters. Originally using print-based media, these sub-cultures have migrated much of their communications and interaction onto the internet, which they also use for the purpose of archiving detailed information pertinent to their given fanbase.
Some fans write fan fiction, stories based on the universe and characters of their chosen fandom. This fan fiction can take the form of video-making as well as writing. Some also dress in costumes ("cosplay") or recite lines of dialogue either out-of-context or as part of a group reenactment. Others create fan vids, or analytical music videos focusing on the source fandom, and yet others create fan art. Such activities are sometimes known as "fan labor" or "fanac", an abbreviated form of the phrase "fan activity." The advent of the internet has significantly facilitated fan association and activities. Activities that have been aided by the internet includes the creation of fan "shrines" dedicated to favourite characters, computer screen wallpapers, avatars. Furthermore, the advent of the internet has resulted in the creation of online fan networks who help facilitate the exchange of fanworks.
Fandom is sometimes caricatured as religious faith, as the interest of fans sometimes grows to dominate their lifestyle, and fans are often very obstinate in professing (and refusing to change) their beliefs about their fandom. However, society at large does not treat fandom with the same weight as organized religion.
Feature-length documentaries about fandom (some more respectful of the subjects than others) include Trekkies, Ringers: Lord of the Fans, Finding the Future: A Science Fiction Conversation, and Done the Impossible. "Fandom" is also the name of a documentary / mockumentary about a fan obsessed with Natalie Portman.
The entertainment industry refers to the totality of fans devoted to a particular area of interest, whether organized or not, as the "fanbase".
Fans, have, on occasion, organized on behalf of canceled television series, with notable success in cases such as Xena: Warrior Princess, in 1995, Star Trek in 1968, Cagney & Lacey in 1983, Roswell in 2000 and 2001 (it was canceled with finality at the end of the 2002 season), Farscape in 2002, Firefly in 2002, and Jericho in 2007. (In the case of Firefly the result was the movie Serenity, not another season.) Such outcry, even when unsuccessful, suggest a growing self-consciousness on the part of entertainment consumers, who appear increasingly likely to attempt to assert their power as a bloc. Fan activism in support of the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike through Fans4Writers appears to be an extension of this trend.