Monday, 19 June 2017

The Power of a Book Fandom - Lucy Coats

When a book becomes a global success, it can have unexpected and far-reaching results. A couple of years ago I wrote on these pages of my love for Diana Gabaldon's series, Outlander, about a time-travelling nurse from the 1940's who walked through some stones and found herself in Jacobite Scotland. Since then, the TV adaptation (on Amazon UK now, but coming to More4 at the end of the month) has garnered many more fans both here and around the world. And that's why I wanted to talk about the power of a fandom, not just to celebrate the love of a particular book, or film, or genre, but also to do good.

A few weeks ago, I went to my third ever fancon, and my second Outlander Gathering. 280 fans of Gabaldon's books, from 14 different countries, made the long trek to Aviemore in the Highlands. It was a meeting of old friends and new, all lovers of the books, but also lovers of history, interested and engaged with places like Culloden, Wardlaw cemetery (burial place of the Fraser clan, who are an integral part of the story) and the Clava Cairns (where many of us laughingly hoped to disappear through the stones into another time), as well as the locations where the series is filmed. So the most obvious good the books have done is to bring both our small representation of it, and also the much wider and bigger Outlander fandom, to Scotland as tourists, thus bringing much-needed money and jobs into the economy. There are Outlander tours, Outlander souvenirs and also the Outlander TV studio at Cumbernauld all pumping revenue into pockets.

The second good this fandom does is driven by the TV series. When the stars who play Claire Beauchamp (Catriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) realised just how big a deal the series was going to be, they each picked a charity to support. Cait picked World Child Cancer, and Sam picked Bloodwise, an organisation researching leukaemia and lymphoma. Outlander fans jumped on board with great enthusiasm, and our fan weekend alone raised thousands of pounds for both. That is only a small tip of the fan fund-raising iceberg, which includes auctions, My Peak Challenge (Sam's fitness challenge involving many hills), and much more. Both charities have benefited immensely, which in turn helps hundreds, if not thousands of those in need.

The kind of book and TV success Outlander has had only happens to a tiny fraction of writers. I knew almost nothing about fandoms before I got involved in the one which organised our Outlander weekend (Outlandish UK). I'm so glad I did, because I've met people and made friends I would never have come across in a million years otherwise. In the scary world we live in, it is nice to feel that these particular books are bringing people together in peace, harmony and laughter -- and doing an immense amount of charitable and economic good at the same time. If you haven't read them yet -- give them a try. You might even become as passionate a fan as me!

1 comment:

catdownunder said...

This reminds me strongly of a quite different and yet similar experience. We have had two very big clan reunions in recent years. We got the first one in while there were still people who were the children of my great grandparents from Scotland - who had settled here. We then had a slightly smaller one because so many of them had died in the few years in between. I met "family" - mostly cousins - I would never have met. And yes, we found we had things in common too. It was an extraordinary feeling meeting strangers who were actually family and "connecting" with them.