Beginning in 2012 and through 2013, while waiting for my first call, I worked for the missional outreach face of my seminary’s website. I edited a collection of essays from a class on church revitalization and wrote a few original pieces reflecting on my experiences as a Millennial who was also a practicing Christian. In one of the posts I wrote, which I called “The Original Fandom,” I drew a line connecting the people who call themselves Potterheads, Trekkies, or Bronies/Pegasisters with the people who call themselves Christians. This article of mine was the very first place that I began to think that maybe fandom had something to teach those who follow Christ about what it means to be shaped by a story, or a Word, in the Internet Age. Though the article itself hasn’t survived my seminary’s transition to a new website or my transition to a new computer, the act of writing that article set me on a course where I would be continually fascinated by the activity, practices, and commentary of fan culture. This, in turn, has inspired me as I question and experiment in ministry.
The impact of story fandom (think books/movies/RPGs/TV shows) on larger culture has been maturing on a parallel path to my own growth and maturity. In some ways it feels as if story fandom has been growing up with me. I was four when The Little Mermaid released, five when Beauty and the Beast hit theaters, and so on. The Disney Renaissance was my childhood. Toy Story came out when I was nine. The first Harry Potter book came out in 1998 when I was 12, and Harry, the eponymous main character, had just turned 11. I spent my teenage years soaking in massive movies about Jedi, hobbits and elves, and pirates. I was 22 when Iron Man was released. Maybe it was only a matter of time before I and the members of my generational cohort (with our neighboring cohorts!) began to approach fandom as something more than child’s play. Maybe it was only a matter of time before we began to examine the casual and lively networking of fan cultures that was blossoming alongside our churches, which were struggling to adapt to new rhythms and realities of a culture in flux.