Many of you have probably heard old jokes about how some fandom is someone’s religion, or that it’s “bigger than Jesus”. But then I got to thinking: what are the big differences between participating in a fandom and being a member of a religion? Personally, I grew up during the rise of the Harry Potter fandom and hold a couple of degrees in theology. The biggest and most obvious difference between fandom and religion is that (most) religions demand that one believe in the divine. Fandoms, on the other hand, don’t even need to bother with such metaphysical questions of the universe (if they don’t want to). But other than God, just how much is being in a fandom like being a member of a religion?
Back in May of this year, YA author Maureen Johnson issued a Tumblr challenge to her followers: coverflip a book. What exactly she meant by that was unclear, so as she explained it:
1. Take a well-known book. (It’s up to you to define well-known.)
2. Imagine that book was written by an author of the OPPOSITE GENDER. Or a genderqueer author. Imagine all the things you think of when you think GIRL book or BOY book or GENDERLESS book (do they EXIST?). And I’m not saying that these categorizations are RIGHT—but make no mistake, they’re there.
The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been around for eons, but Johnson’s challenge made the point that yes, we do judge books (and books’ readers) by their covers. As covers are the first thing anyone sees about a book, it’s easy to formulate an (often incorrect) idea of the author’s intent from a graphic and a name. Does the cover feature half of a smiling girl’s face, two people kissing, or generally have a lot of bright colors? Probably written by a girl. Check the name. Does it sound like a girl’s name? Okay, I’m not in the mood for chick-lit romance today, I’m going to go for that book over there with a dragon on it! It looks like it’s written by a guy, so it’ll probably have a lot of action and adventure!
A bit simplistic, perhaps, but you get my point.