Bandfics, Part 1

Led Zeppelin, by artist Matteo Palleli. As is typical of male-created fanart the figures are caricatured and slightly grotesque, though their musical prowress is undisputed. Bonzo and John Paul Jones are more recognizable than Robert and Jimmy.

When discussing rock band fandoms, there are two types.

The first is the “typical” one of love of the music, which also includes listening to albums, attending concerts, and discussing these with other fans who share the same passion. It can run along a scale. At one end are those who buy an album or two, at the other, those who obsessively track down every bootleg and foreign record pressing, buy every media item, and proudly display concert stubs in picture frames. I’ll call this the “male” fandom, even though it has both male and female fans. It’s a love of the band’s output, taken at face value. Creative endeavors, if there are any, are limited to playing the band’s music or creating worshipful artwork.

The other fandom is the “female” one of fanfic and fanart, using the band and its accumulated work, media presence, and history as a springboard for the creator’s own dreams and fantasies.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, by Martyra Durska, an example of female-created Led Zeppelin artwork, colorful and fanciful with a delicate sex appeal.

These stories and artwork, likely first scribbled in secret by young teens, took off in the mid 1990s when the internet enabled communication and sharing between them. Unlike the male fandom which is centered on acquiring and discussing what has already happened, the female fandom flies off into creating what-ifs. It accretes on itself with every fresh creation. It is not static, but continuously evolving, and the evolution is shaped by its members. The love of the music and the band is still there, but the focus is on personalities, both of the band members and the band as a whole.

A more complete explanation of band fandom is here.

The first band to inspire widespread bandfic was undoubtedly the Beatles. The technology was not yet there to disseminate fannish creations, yet teens still sketched, wrote, and play-acted stories about the group between themselves. Supposedly some Beatle fan magazines of the 1960s accepted fan stories; yet it’s also safe to say that much of the material was lost to time. (The same could be said of other groups of the day popular with female fans, like Herman’s Hermits or, later, the Osmond Brothers and David Cassidy.)

It took the 1970s for printed fanzines to appear with the arrival of photocopiers and cheap offset printing. But even so, such material remained rare and obscure, until 1993 when listserves, mailing lists, and newsgroups came along, than AOL, Compuserve, and the first websites. Email and internet storage for college students, at least in the U.S., helped fandom along as well.

These days, there are perhaps billions of bandfic stories floating around, both those of the past, and those of the present. As of this writing, Archive of Our Own has the greatest variety, yet is holding its own, and older archives like are still around. Where once stories were posted on Myspace and Livejournal now they’ve migrated to Tumblr and Wattpad. The platform changes, yet the stories go on and keep multiplying.

Yet, not every band inspires such devotion. In my next post I’ll take a look at what fandoms are trending and where Led Zeppelin fits into all this.

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