Thursday, May 4, 2017

Superfandom: How Our Obessions are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are

I started quilting in 1991 and by 1992 it was how I spent most of my leisure time.

I hoarded quilt fabric, driving up to an hour or two to quilt shops. There were 'had to buy' quilt books. I joined a monthly quilt guild and a weekly quilt group and attended local quilt shows. I took quilt classes to learn new techniques and I subscribed to the important quilt magazines.

As my husband's work took us across Michigan, everywhere we went I quickly identified other quilt addicts.

Like most quilters, I discovered which national quilt teachers, writers, and artists inspired me. I bought their books, took classes with them, followed them online, and bought the fabric lines they designed.

I had become a quilting superfan.

In the 'old days' quilters bought cheap fabric, made cardboard or paper templates, and with a pair of scissors, needle, and thread and made a quilt. Today, quilters purchase fabric that costs over $10 a yard and buy ready made kits with pattern and fabric included. They have machines to cut patches or applique shapes, fuse applique pieces instead of hand stitching them, and pay long arm machine quilters hundreds of dollars to quilt their quilt top. National shows and quilt retreats mean overnight stays at expensive hotels, and there are even quilt cruises or trips abroad. Quilting has become big business and an expensive hobby.

Reading Zoe Fradde-Blanar and Arron M. Glazer's new book Superfandom I realized how I had become a superfan without realizing it.

The authors are the founders of Squishable.com, Inc, which produces stuffed animals for the teen and adult market--Squishable Cthulhus and Grim Reapers. They even have States of Happiness, so if you love California or Michigan you can now, well, squish them.

In the preface they tell the story creating a prototype Shiba Inu Squishable. The Kickstarter concept art was well received: a red dog with circular eye patches. But when fans saw the actual toy the fans complained. It was all wrong. To keep the fans happy they had a virtual Halloween party--in the middle of a hurricane that hit New York City in 2012.

Our Shiba, Suki
I know Shiba Inus. We have had four since 1991. Our first Shiba was home bred, her daddy champion stock. But few Americans had heard of Shibas and the breeder could not find buyers. We got our Kili cheap; it was the best $250 we ever spent. She gave us over 16 years of happiness.

Over those 16 years we bought Shiba calanders, rooted for the Shiba in the television dog shows, bought Shiba Christmas ornaments--and my brother made me a Shiba key rack.

By the time we adopted our second Shiba the breed had become the Internet sensation known as Doge.

Doge
Our (once) unusual, beloved bred suddenly was appearing on television commercials, on dog toys and pet food, and all over the Internet. We were Shiba fans before we were Superfans.


Our son funded a kickstarter for a role playing game aimed for younger children and featuring dogs. He paid to have our Shibas appear in the art work:


Now that is Superfandom.

The book dissects fandom, the motivation behind our affiliation with a sport, a cartoon character, book or movie series, why we attend Trekkie conventions and Renaissance Fairs, and invest our money, time, and emotional commitment in fan objects.

In a world where affiliation to family, place, church, or school has been disrupted by mobility, we need to find community, a common love, people 'like us'. Now we buy our way into social networks with an Apple phone, concert T-shirt, or even with a trendy dog to walk.

I received a free book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Superfandom: How Our Obsessions Are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are
Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Arron M. Glazer
W. W. Norton & Co.
$27.95 hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-393-24995-8