It’s not mere coincidence that fan derives from fanatic.
The Oxford English Dictionary goes back to the Latin root, fanaticus, itself derived from fanum, temple. A fanaticus was a person who had been driven mad by a god, or as the OED says, “Such as might result from possession by a deity or demon; frantic, furious. Of a person: Frenzied, mad.”
As Christianity replaced the old pagan religion, a new sense developed: “Characterized, influenced, or prompted by excessive and mistaken enthusiasm, esp. in religious matters.”
And thus by logical extension into American usage as “a keen and regular spectator of a (professional) sport, orig. of baseball; a regular supporter of a (professional) sports team; hence, a keen follower of a specified hobby or amusement, and gen. an enthusiast for a particular person or thing.”
A colleague, Damon Curry, takes exception to last week’s post about J.K. Rowling on behalf of fellow fans of the Harry Potter books and films:
The Harry Potter series, as, I trust, you know, has gained quite the cult following. This following has lifted the world she created out of the context of the series and placed it in a larger cultural context. Look, for instance, at the midnight release parties and the myriad fan fiction Web sites. Online communities such as MuggleNet.com and The Leaky Cauldron sport member boards where the plot is discussed outside the context of the books. At midnight release parties, of which I have attended the past three, theories are tossed around and the plot is discussed outside the scope of the written, as with other popular series such as the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
To the dedicated fan, the fact that Neville Longbottom marries Hannah Abbot is important information. It continues the story, which is the goal of the writer. The same goes for Dumbledore's sexual orientation. If the means by which she continues the story are outside a traditional realm and dip into popular culture, what is wrong with that?
Why must the character development be confined to her pen? Yes, fan fiction is separated from the official work and should in no way be considered a part of the world she created. But she has, indeed, created a world which she has documented *parts* of in the series. She has said that she has enough information left over to write an encyclopedia (and lord knows millions of people are waiting for her to release it). She knows each character's favorites; each character had motivations for their actions, which she, because of space, did not reveal in full.
So, I guess my question is this: Why must the world "beyond the realm of copyright" be discarded?
Harry Potter parties on the night of the release of the (presumably) last book of the series are no doubt innocuous fun. Members of the Baker Street Irregulars gather to read papers about the Sherlock Holmes stories that can be an arch satire on academic societies and papers.
But the tendency in fan is to gravitate toward fanatic. One likes a group of science fiction television series and movies. One discusses them with fellow enthusiasts. One starts to sprinkle conversations with “Live long and prosper” or “Make it so.” One puts a “Star Fleet Academy” sticker in the back window of the car. And soon one is showing up for jury duty in a Star Trek uniform or translating the Bible into Klingon.
It may be that I was displaying a personal distaste for excess last week — copy editors, apart from a fondness for drink, are not a notably Dionysian crowd — but it still seems to me that pandering to the appetite of fans for more stuff beyond the text is not the best use of a writer’s time and ability.