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  • Writer's pictureJ J Hanna

A Newcomer's Guide to Fandoms

It is highly likely that you or someone you know has been pulled into the “fandom life.” How they fell into the amazing black whole of fanatic domains varies from person to person. I, personally, was introduced to it through Doctor Who. But, if you are new to the fandom life or someone you know has just learned of all of the amazing fanbases for common shows, this guide to Fandom Talk will help you understand what they’re saying, as they’ll start using these terms accidentally and unexpectedly.


A “fandom” is a fanatic domain. This basically allows people to identify their interests and obsessions in as little words as possible, and each fandom usually has a name for itself. For example, the Sherlock fandom (Sherlockians) often refers to themselves as being “Sherlocked,” a quote from the BBC show. Fans of the show Doctor Who are often referred to as Whovians, just as Star Trek Fans are referred to as Trekkies. You also have your Potterheads (Harry Potter), Hunters (Supernatural), Winter’s Children (the name given by Sebastian Stan for the fans of the Winter Soldier), and the members of Loki’s Army (people who love Marvel’s Loki).

The Big Three

Often when conversing with people in fandoms, it will become obvious that you can be a member of more than one fandom at a time. One of the most common combinations is SuperWhoLock, or, a person who is a fan of Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. This person is then called a SuperWhoLockian. These fandoms took over social media a while back and have since dominated the conversation.


This is the official story, told by the writers who actually get paid by a company to entertain viewers or readers with more. Anything here can be sourced and pointed to as having “actually happened.” This gets confusing in comic books, especially since many comic books have multiple timelines or storylines, and all are canon.


A fan may come up with a headcanon, an idea that they wish was canon that seems plausible within the actual canon. These are usually individual to each fan, unless the fan shares and other members of the fandom exclaim “Headcanon accepted!”


A fic, short for fanfiction, is a story using the characters created by the writers of the canon and taking them into a realm of the fan’s creation. Nothing is off limits with fanfiction. Read with discretion, as most have ships (explained below) that the fic writer wished were canon. There are some fanfictions that are the same length as, if not longer than, some of the Harry Potter books. Crazy, right?


An AU is an alternate universe. This is not to be confused with a headcanon. Remember, a headcanon takes place off screen but within the canon, without disrupting the original plot. An AU, then, assumes that the original plot has not been followed, therefore the fan can make anything happen, regardless of whether the original plot would be disrupted.


This is pretty much what it sounds like. Often fans desire a crossover between shows (how SuperWhoLock got its start). When a fan wants a character from one show to meet another character from a different show, you get a cross over. One of my favorite crossovers is a theory of what would happen should Voldemort (from Harry Potter) meet Merlin. Because of the difference in magic systems, this gets interesting very quickly.


Everyone has a ship. Some people have an armada. A ship, short for relationship, is an intense desire for two people (or characters, often fictional characters) to start dating and “get together.” Everyone has their ships. Common uses of the word include, “I ship it,” or often, “I ship it so hard.” People hardly ever ask for permission to ship people, and it’s even less often that the characters end up together in the canon.


A person’s OTP, or one true pair, is the ship they want the most. Possibly their original ship or their newest ship. Regardless, this is the pair they want to be canon the most. To follow the armada image, this would be the biggest ship there, the most important to the person.

Platonic Shipping

Also pretty much how it sounds. Every once in a while there are characters that a fan feels just need to be best friends. This is a platonic ship.


This is sort of the computer equivalent of “text-talk” for in real life. You’ll hear people in fandoms say things like, “If I ever meet you IRL, ______ is the signal.” Or, after conventions you’ll see tons of posts where a fan says they met so-and-so IRL, usually accompanied by a picture of the celebrity and the fan.


“I have so many feels right now! All the feels!” If you, or someone you know, has joined a fandom, get ready for lots of intense feelings. Either rage, sadness, happiness, or anything of the sort. Rather than saying “I have so many feelings,” it’s become widely accepted to use the phrase “all the feels.” This is often accompanied by sobbing and eating feelings away after a killer season finale.

The Cinnamon Roll rating system

This meme took over the internet for a while, but many fandoms have applied this to their characters. “Looks like a cinnamon roll, is actually a cinnamon roll” describes a fully harmless person who is typically happy and fun to be around. “Looks like a cinnamon roll, could actually kill you” is the character who doesn’t seem dangerous at first but then a dark side is unlocked and you can never look at them the same way again. “Looks like they could kill you, is actually a cinnamon roll” is the person everyone expects to be evil, but then is actually the most kindhearted person you’ll ever meet. Lastly, there’s “Looks like they could kill you, could actually kill you.” This is the person who looks dangerous and is actually dangerous, the most obvious assassin of them all.

Sherlock: The Fandom that Waited

The creators of Sherlock probably had no idea how much people would love it. If they had, maybe they wouldn’t have done a three episode mini series every time they filmed. Or, perhaps they’d have made more than three seasons. Regardless, The Sherlockians spend more time waiting for the next season than they do actually watching, as for a while the only new material they got to work with came in two year intervals. It is possibly the largest fan to material ratio, as there are only ten episodes in comparison to, say Supernatural’s 264 episodes.

Supernatural: A GIF for Everything

Given the numbers given above, it’s not surprising that there are enough circumstances given in the show Supernatural for the fandom to have gifs and screencaps that can relate to anything. There have been many times when other fandoms challenged the Hunters to find a gif for various random things, but seeing that there have been episodes where Tuesday repeats, the main characters die regularly, you’re talking about a show with Angels, Demons, shape shifters, witches, and almost everything else in between, not to mention the conventions, there’s a lot of material to work with.

Special thanks to Megan Alms for helping me compile this list! Go check out her blog here.

Photo Credits: Links are in the pictures.


J. J. Hanna is attending Taylor University for a degree in Professional Writing. She has published multiple devotions and book reviews and is a beginning comic artist. She published her first book Existence in 2015. Look for it on Amazon.

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