Recently, I've had two of my default assumptions about fandom overturned.
Assumption #1: The Powers That Be know what fandom is.
In May, I attended the first annual Book Blogger convention, where a room full of publishing reps were asked, “How many of you know what fanfiction is?” I was stunned when less than half of them raised their hands.
In fandom, we face constant threat of exposure, legal repercussions, etc. It's hard to grasp that lots of media professionals don't find fanwork threatening because they don't even know what it is. When they *do* discover fanwork, their response hinges on their overall view of fan culture. When they perceive fan culture as a positive thing, fandom becomes safer from threat.
I believe that no one can portray fandom more positively than fandom itself. But do we always?
Assumption #2: Fans know fandom is nothing to be ashamed of.
If fandom has taught me anything, it's that legitimized fanwork exists everywhere. So when I posted a long list of examples to show how fanfic fits into a larger cultural spectrum of reworking previous sources, I assumed I was re-stating the obvious.
But the outpouring of response I received was overwhelmingly one of surprise. I hadn't realized how many fans saw fanfic as illegitimate, or how eye-opening and empowering a simple list of examples to the contrary could be.
Fandom may no longer be widely viewed as something closeted and shameful, but we're still transitioning. We often need reminders that fanwork has cultural and creative significance. We need fans advocating for the legitimacy of fanwork--not just for legal reasons, or as liasons to the general public, but for ourselves.
That's the reason I've been a member of the OTW since its inception. I want my community to take pride in itself and the things it creates. And I take constant pride in the OTW, not only because it secures legal protections for fans, rescues endangered fanworks, and tirelessly educates the public about fandom, but because just by existing, it proves that fans and fanworks are a part of a larger collective experience. The OTW exists as an invitation and a challenge for us to express, to the world and each other, what a vast and valuable part fandom plays in modern culture, and what a wonderful, irreplaceable community experience it is.
Take the challenge! Join the OTW.