aka Tephriam, the Incinerator of Marauders (Tim for short)
*Due to the sensitive nature of this interviewee’s relationship with the particular fandom discussed, the game’s title and associated character names have been omitted by request.
Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Tim: Hmm… to be a fan of something… I guess, like, to enjoy the sort of media you’ve become attached to. That’s my loose definition of a fan. Like a sports fan, for example—I guess sports is a media.
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
Yes, I have. I’m in the [GAME]* fandom, but drifting away from that for the meantime. I’m a fan artist, and… that’s kinda what I do for the fandom, I suppose.
How often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
It’s been about a year by now for the [GAME] fandom, at least. I used to be really fucking obsessed about it, like I’d go every day on Tumblr or some shit. Nowadays, it’s kind of like, eh, I check in every week because it’s gotten really quiet because of all the drama and everyone’s tired of it. It’s dwindled.
Would you like to expand on that drama that you mentioned?
The lowdown of it is [that] someone didn’t like something that one of my friends did—writing not safe for work [NSFW] content—in a specific… What would you call it… I don’t even know what to call it. I think it’s just stupid [laughs]. They just don’t agree with each other, and it was to an extent where they would non-stop be putting stuff in the [GAME] tag—ranting about her and ranting about me, because for some reason I’m an “accessory to a crime,” in quotation marks [laughs]. People just stopped following the tag because they were so tired of hearing all this drama. Some people did agree with them, but it was kind of like, “Well, there’s nothing you can do, also shut up.” That’s the state of things right now, which is much better than what it was before, which was non-stop, in your face, even on Twitter—I don’t even go on Twitter, but people were being angry at me on Twitter, and I’m like, “Okay. No. No more.” That’s… that’s it.
Please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces.
Woof, man (laughs). I’ve had really good experiences and also really bad experiences. I guess, as a fan artist, a lot of it is interacting with other people about that character. I draw a lot of [this] one guy from the [GAME] fandom. I’ve met a lot of people who want to discuss theories about him—I thought that was nice—and the other side of the spectrum is people just saying that they hate him, and I’m like, “I drew him. You don’t gotta look at him.” But that’s just about that scale, minus the people that are angry.
Describe your ‘history’ with a fandom. What made you join? What made you stay?
What made me join was that I used to follow a bunch of other fan artists and they just seemed like really cool people that liked the same character as I did, so I kinda wanted to be their friend, but in a lowkey way, so I was like, “Oh, I’m also a fan artist.” Then I’d just start talking to people, but I slowly realized that I really enjoyed making all of this art because I didn’t have that inspiration before, but now I do. And it’s let me fill the space. Around last year I had [a] portfolio class, and that was just a lot of work non-stop. Whenever I’d find downtime, I’d just be either sleeping or playing video games, which I felt was kind of unproductive, which is… I dunno… That’s just what people do when they rest, but I felt like [I wasn’t] resting, and I just wanted to make something and meet new people.
If you knew then, when you started being a fan, what you know now as a fan, would your fan experience be different? Would you join it again?
I think for a long time I—especially when the drama was going on—I would think in my head, “Aw, I wish I didn’t interact with these people,” “I wish I didn’t try and talk about my opinions,” but the more time I’ve spent away from it and the more time that I’ve spent with the people that I’ve met in it, I’ve kind of come to take it as it is, and I really like how I dealt with things. I wouldn’t not change a thing about it, because I’ve made some ride-or-die friends. So, I guess even if I did know… I guess the only thing I would change would just be… I guess I’d be less on the fence about things and I’d be more vocal about it. Yeah.
Has being in this fandom helped you be more decisive about things? Maybe for the future?
Maybe not more decisive, but mostly just because I’m an indecisive person, but a bit more concrete [in] my feelings. Confident in what I feel.
How important are your fandoms to you? Why are they important?
I mean, right now, it isn’t very important to me, because it’s kind of devolved into just hanging out with friends that I’ve met in that fandom. So I guess it wouldn’t be very important to me at all.
Has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so?
I guess? Kind of like… (laughs) remember that one time when you asked me what I identify as and I said, “Yeah, I identify as Bad Bitch.” Yeah, I feel more in line with that, right now. I guess after that whole debacle with the fandom… I guess I never really had the opportunity to interact with people who just really disagreed with me. Like, to an extent that they would not listen to [me] at all. I’ve just come to the realization that, I dunno, you can be a Bad Bitch, you can have your own opinions, and it won’t matter. Not won’t matter… I dunno, I guess it’s the opposite of “won’t matter.” It matters a lot to have your own opinions. Like, yes, I identify as Bad Bitch (laughs).
Do you create content as a fan? Please describe (laughs).
No! I’m kidding (laughs). Yes, I do. I do fan art, and I also do fan character stuff, though I haven’t been doing that a lot lately, but basically, people would ask about my playthrough of this game and I would draw something up real quick about it.
Okay! Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your fandom experiences?
I mean, I started doing art commissions, does that count?
You’re makin’ money, so… (laughs)
I like makin’ money… (laughs) But yeah, I worked on my commissions… What else did I do… I feel like there was other stuff that was inadvertent, like I met someone in that fandom, and then they suggested something to me. Other than the commissions, that’s it. Oh, I found a lot of artist friends on there. One of them works in textile stuff, so she suggested that I contact some people in a company, and they [said] that it doesn’t matter what degree you have—graphic design, whatever—she [was] just like, “Oh, just submit your portfolio and maybe I can get in contact with someone.” So… textile design! What she does is make patterns for shirts and stuff, so printed patterns.
Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences?
New interests… I don’t like anything (laughs). Okay, to be real… I have gained interest in drawing NSFW art (laughs), because my artist friends were just like, “This is just what I do to get paid,” and I’m like, “... What?” And, I just figured out that I enjoyed drawing other things that I never thought to, I guess. Since the whole group that I found revolves around OCs, we’ve just started taking it out of the [GAME] fandom, and just kinda drawing… whatever the fuck we want with them. So it’s just an interest in general storytelling as opposed to just that one game.
So it’s kind of evolved from just connection to fandom to making your own kinda stuff?
Nice. Do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
No, because… I don’t know… People online are scary (laughs). I mean, if people ask, I’ll tell them, but I don’t really talk about it, because… I don’t know. I guess I just like the anonymity of it and… so, I guess, no, I wouldn’t tell anyone about that. I mean, you know because I ranted about it, but…
Would the same go for offline?
Offline? Yeah, definitely—if not more. I would never talk about online stuff offline because it’s just like… I don’t know. It’s like a different zone of things you can talk about, I guess. I guess, because most of my offline interactions are not with people who know what fandom stuff is, so I wouldn’t be like, “Oh yeah, I fuckin’ love this character. I’ve read so many fanfics about him.” I wouldn’t do that to someone (laughs). But I’d be more open to talk about it with someone who does know what fandom is.
Which kind of leads to my next question: Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not? ... You look confused (laughs).
Hmm… It’s weird, because usually my interactions online have been through Discord servers and usually my icon is very recognizable to who I am on Tumblr, so people are usually asking if I am that person, specifically, and I’m not gonna lie and be like, “No!” (laughs), so I usually end up talking about that. But like… offline, yeah, I guess I would be more vague about it. I wouldn’t say I’m in the [GAME] fandom specifically. I’d just be like, “Yeah, I’m a fan artist.” Unless they’re friends, I guess, in which case I just kinda info dump on all of you guys (laughs). That’s what happens.
Now you said in these Discord servers, people recognize you, right? Could you expand on that a little bit? Is that some kind of “fame,” within the fandom?
I feel reluctant to call it “fame,” because it’s a small community, and it’s hard to not recognize other people, especially if you’re one of the, like, three fan artists that are making stuff (laughs). So… I guess it’s fame? But like a lowkey fame. I don’t wanna admit it’s fame.
If not fame, what would you call it?
Infamy (laughs). I thought that but I was like, “Let me not say that.” (laughs)
Yo, at this point, it might be infamy, because, fuckin’, that one guy who kept running his mouth on everything. I actually met a lot of people that were like, “Who the fuck are you and why does this guy keep talking about you?” (laughs) and then they just realize, “Wait, what the fuck is he talking about?” And then we’re friends, because that’s how people work. But, I guess a mix of fame and infamy, huh?
By “that’s how people work,” what do you mean?
I feel like a lot of conflicts could be resolved if you just talk about something, or just admit you don’t agree on something. I have a few friends who don’t agree with that whole thing my friend did, which is fine, and even my friend understands. They just don’t talk, and that’s it, and you don’t have to start any drama about it, and you don’t have to keep running your mouth on Twitter about it. Yeah, just talking to people… because there’s a lot of slander going on, there’s lots of lies, like… [my friend] got accused of being a pedophile at one point, and she was like, “Literally, where the fuck does this come from?” And people just believed it, just because one person said it with no evidence. So, a lot of it is just people deciding, “Maybe I will not just believe what this one person is talking about, and talk to someone else about it.” So… that’s what I meant. I don’t even remember the original question, I went on this rant (laughs). Fuck that guy! Yeah, people just… Some people just don’t know my stuff, they just know the name, and that’s just… I don’t know what you’d call that (laughs). Exposure. Bad exposure. Well, any exposure is good exposure, I guess?
Yeah, I was just gonna say, “Any press is good press.” (choking noise)
Ah, yeah, there are a lot of younger fans. There are a lot of 13-14 year olds… I’m like, “This game is for adults, what are you doing here?” But yeah, younger people, definitely.
In the [GAME] fandom, are there any younger fans?
Ah, yeah, there are a lot of younger fans. There are a lot of 13-14 year olds… I’m like, “This game is for adults, what are you doing here?” But yeah, younger people, definitely.
Is there any conflict between the newer fans and older fans? Could be age-wise/generational or newness to the fandom, either way.
Usually when I encounter these babies they’re like, “Oh yeah, I just finished the game a few months ago!” and then it’d just be new people, constantly, but they’re just younger. Odd.
A little bit odd.
Just based on the maturity of the game itself?
Based on the maturity of the game. It’s rated M for Mature. "How did you get that game?" I don’t know! "Who’s letting you play that game?" Stuff like that.
I was gonna ask a question like, “Should parents let their children—” but eh.
(pained laugh) I mean…
“Whose fault is it?” (laughs)
Surprisingly a lot of the kids that I’ve talked to have been mature about it. I mean, of course there’s always the opposite end of the spectrum for that, but they’re not weird about it, and… I don’t know how to explain “weird.” I guess that just goes into ratings of games and maturity and how kids deal with stuff. They seem pretty okay with the themes that were in the game, didn’t seem all that bothered by it, and they were able to voice their opinions about the characters pretty well, so it’s like (shrugs), you’re just a baby. You’re a tiny person (laughs). And that’s it.
Are there issues with these younger fans possibly coming into these NSFW spaces that you mentioned earlier?
Definitely. But, I feel like… the impression—because I’m relatively new to the fandom, as well. A lot of people have been there forever… their whole lives. But, especially with the porn ban on Tumblr, it’s kind of been easier for them to not encounter that. Especially with Discord servers—it’s really strict with that. You have to be 18 to view any of it. And… the only issue for it would be this new “woke” culture—whatever people call it. Once again, I’m not on Twitter a lot, so I don’t even know what it’s called, the origin, nor do I care (laughs). With younger generations, you get this different opinions on how things should be dealt [with], which is how society works, but a lot of people don’t acknowledge that, I guess. There are themes of slavery in [GAME], and a lot of the younger generations are really focused on that and are really angry that they included that in the game, like, “That is a theme that should not be in the game.” Meanwhile the older generations are like, “It’s just a realistic portrayal of what this world would be,” but I don’t know. That just goes with censorship laws and what the younger generation views is appropriate to be put into things. That’s the main butting-heads thing with them.
As a fan artist, were you affected by Tumblr’s porn ban?
I didn’t really start doing fan stuff until after the ban. I didn’t really hear about the ban until after I realized that my friends couldn’t post their porn on Tumblr. I was like, “Wait, what?!” and then, that’s it. I wasn’t really into that zone of art, so it didn’t really affect me, but… I feel like there was recently something that bothered me about it… They made you jump through a few hoops to even be “unbanned”—I don’t even know what you’d call it… ugh, I’m old—to be able to view those NSFW tags, and then they ended up taking it out completely, and it’s like, “Well… … … Fine. (laughs) Whatever.” It doesn’t really affect me that much besides my friends not being able to be horny on main anymore.
I think that’s all that I have! Was there anything you wanted to circle back to or rant about or…? Feel free to air all your grievances about fandom, it’s totally fine.
I’m just really tired of all of it. Tired seems really negative about it. I guess, “over it” is the word. I’ve started caring less about the whole Tumblr thing, and I’ve started caring more about doing my own shit, which I guess is a blessing in disguise (laughs). I was looking for job shit while doing the whole fandom thing, but now that I’m moving away from it, I’m dedicating more time to trying to move away from the art commissions to actually getting a studio [job]. I’m spending more time with those ride-or-die friends I talked about. I feel like there was something I wanted to talk about… Oh, Jesus… (laughs) There was more fuckin’ drama the other day. Again with this “wokeness” online and people lying about their race, for example.
Is that a common thing in fandoms in general?
I feel like yes. Maybe not specifically lying about their race because it’s not really come up with the fandom, but what has come up was lying about your age. Especially with a mature game, and in our Discord servers we have a lot of mature art. So there’s a lot of people being like, “Oh yeah, I’m 18,” and then we see that they mention that they’re actually 14 in another server, which is really concerning because you could get in trouble for showing that kind of content for a minor. And they’re like, “Nope, fuck it! I’m 18 years old! I’m a baby!” But they just keep fucking it up like that. I’ll kick their asses. Kick anybody’s asses (laughs).
Any positive stories that you want to share?
I do have a lot of positive stories! Like I said, I met some ride-or-die friends, and one of them—because I like this one character, and he’s a shithead, I hate him (laughs)—she had the same opinions of him and was the first person who was open to talking to me about everything about this character, which I thought was really nice. And that’s how we became friends (laughs), because we were the only two people that were so into this character. But then we slowly met more people, and now we have a whole server dedicated to this one shithead (laughs). Like I said, I was getting really shitty comments for a bit, death threats and some stuff, but I didn’t really talk about that on my blog because I really don’t want people to be like, “Boo hoo! Feel bad for them!” Through that—I don’t know who it was, if I knew them at all—a lot of the anonymous messages were more often nice people being like, “Ah, just don’t listen to them!” But, I don’t know. I don’t talk about them, and I feel bad, but there’s just really nice people out there, but they’re too nice to say anything about it because of how violently angry that this online community is in general. It doesn’t have to be in that fandom, just… the internet is scary. I feel like, mostly, if given the chance to be anonymous—I dunno, this might be me being optimistic—people will most likely be nice people. That’s what I’ve experienced. But also, I’m a nice—(laughs) I’m a really nice person. I guess I get the nice comments because I’m not mean on the internet. I’ve never talked shit about people, even the one shithead I hate so much. I keep it to the DMs [Direct Messages]. I don’t make that stuff public. It’s okay, it’s water under the bridge … No it’s not, it’s water right there! (laughs) Especially with [my friend], a big rule that we have—because a lot of the people that we’re friends with aren’t really affected by it—it’s just kind of us being like, “Hello, we’re target practice, whatever. Don’t start shit with other people, please.” We don’t want to be part of the problem, and I’m really thankful for her being that mature person, to be like, “Eh, I don’t feel like insulting him back, like what’s it gonna do?” He’s gonna insult my fucking… belt drawing again. Fuck him (kicks air). Fuck that guy. (laughs)
Alright! Any last words of wisdom?
I keep thinking about that one Obama interview. [Researcher's Note: This one! Obama on Call-Out Culture] You know, the one where he’s like, “What the fuck is woke culture?”—okay, he did not say that. He was just kinda like, “Kids these days gotta learn, etc.” That’s not really a fandom culture thing, that’s more of an internet thing.
Which could still be fandom culture! The internet fandom…
(laughs) I’m a fan of the internet. I guess… we are, huh? Fuck.
Somehow? Yeah. (laughs)
I think the gist of what Obama said—(meme voice) Mr. Obama. (laughs)
(meme voice) Mr. Obama.
He was like, “Kids have to realize that there are going to be people out there who are going to disagree with you, and you don’t have to call [them] out just to feel better about yourself.” He probably said that more eloquently than I did. I’ve only seen GIFs of it.