I’m sure you know the rest of the saying. Goodness knows it’s been floating around in the back of my mind a lot lately:
Jack of all trades (fandoms), master of none.
Simply put (if one can make a pithy quote even simpler), I’m a general fan of many speculative fiction properties, but I wouldn’t call myself a ride-or-die fan of any particular one. The closest I’ve come to that description is my “serious Trekkie” days in the early 90s.
Back then, I frequented the Prodigy Star Trek bulletin boards as a member of Roddenberryberg and attended a handful of conferences, including Tex-Trek ’93 in Arlington. I owned all the Hallmark ornaments, several books and models, and even started work on a screenplay for Deep Space Nine. I was a committed Trekkie, until life went sideways and my priorities were reshaped.
I still love the Star Trek world, especially the new shows, But these days, my interests are more vast than deep. I spread my love and participation across more fandoms rather than pour all my interests into one. Yes, I know I’m neither peculiar or unique in this regard. So why does it matter, you might ask?
If you’re familiar with the world of fandoms, then you’re also familiar with the concept of gatekeeping. That’s why I’m plagued with a slight sense of impostor syndrome when I wear my X-Files shirt in a photo or post a Doctor Who quote on social media. I briefly wonder: do I have the credentials to present myself as a fan in such a way?
The answer, of course, is yes, because fandom participation doesn’t come with purity tests. At least, they shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read all the books, watch all the shows, own all the Funko Pop figures, quote all the lines, or know all the fictional languages. If you love even one part of a fictional world, then—ominus dominus—you’re a fan.
But there are also those who pride themselves on being the ultimate “XYZ” fan. Not only do they read/watch/own/quote/know all, but they cosplay their favorite characters, attend—maybe even arrange—the conferences, and run the fan sites. They are the ones who keep fandoms thriving long after the entertainment industry has left the properties behind. I admire those people. I love their passion, so long as it’s not used as a measure stick or acceptability test for determining which newcomers are allowed to participate and in what ways.
I’ve been lucky enough to have not been on the receiving end of overt gatekeeping. I’m too reserved in my fandom participation and presentation. And other than being a woman, I’m not a member of any marginalized groups that’ve historically had gatekeeping used to exclude them. I point this out because I know I’m fortunate that the little voice asking me if I’m “fan enough” to quote Doctor Who or post a LOTR meme is only in my head. I can overcome my own self-limiting thoughts, but they do still plague me from time to time.
The “jack of all trades” saying—in its most often-quoted form—is intended to be somewhat derogatory. It implies a lack of competence when one spreads themselves too thin. I do myself wrong when I apply this phrase, as is, to my fandom participation.
However, the “full” quote (or rather, a modern variation of the quote), implies there is value in generalizing, as well.
Jack of all trades (fandoms!), master of none though oftentimes better than master of one.
I wouldn’t say either way is best. Whether you are a deeply devoted fan of one particular fandom property or love a little bit of all of them, the joy your fanhood gives you is all that matters.
So no, I’ve never read the Tolkien books, but I consider myself a fan of the Middle Earth universe based solely on the movies. I’ve not read any of the Marvel comics, but I adored the X-Men 80s cartoon and LOVE the MCU, so yep—I’m a fan. I enjoy the Grishaverse series of books, but I found the Netflix series underwhelming. Guess what that makes me? Still a fan, albeit one with her own preferences that may or may not match up with other Grishaverse fans.
And that’s okay. Just know that when I describe myself as a “jack of all fandoms and master of none,” I mean that in the best way. There’s just too many good fictional universes out there to not sample them all!