Fannish migration patterns have once again become a topic of some intense discussion and and analysis in certain circles, and interesting to observe as one moderately-sized fandom, Stargate: Atlantis, just saw the airing of its final original-run episode. While not a fandom of the size of, say, Twilight or Harry Potter, Atlantis has been very popular within certain circles of media fandom for the course of its lengthy run, generating a large number of livejournal communities, fanzines, and various other kinds of fanworks.
While surely many Atlantis fans will remain at least partially active in continuing to produce related fanworks (and those who prefer “closed” to “open” canons may now start to gravitate towards it), there is still a void now left for those fans who crave the active, participatory environment that only occurs with “live” fandoms–post-episode discussions, episode-reaction fics, speculation over coming canon events, etc. So the question of where those fans will go next is one worth considering.
Already there seems to be a swell of interest in Merlin, and it has been noted that a number of popular Atlantis fandom members have begun to post works there. However, as is always the case with fandom migrations, not everyone is especially happy about this being the next “Bright Shiny (or Slashy) Object” among their fandom friends. Whereas Atlantis featured a fairly mature, adult cast, Merlin is clearly a show aimed toward the Young Adventure audience and the main characters are very, very youthful. Given that one of the major reasons Atlantis fans decried the replacement of their show with the upcoming Stargate: Universe series was that Universe, with its youth-oriented cast, sounded a lot like “90210 in Space”, it is hard to imagine Merlin filling the void for those members of fandom not interested in teenage adventures.
There has also been some discussion and criticism of Merlin for its debatable race and gender issues, as well as overall writing quality, yet at the same time some of the series’ defenders would point out that Atlantis was not necessarily free of those issues either, nor was it the most intelligently-written science fiction show. Fandoms do not always spring up around the “best” source materials, the logic goes, as at least fan-writers often find more room to work in and explore in shows with interesting characters yet poor plot and writing execution.
So how will the situation play out? Already it seems as though Merlin is an unstoppable fandom-on-the-rise, no matter how some people may bemoan and resist it even as their friends flock there. But this is nothing new–I still recall the cries and moans when Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon became the fandom that seemed to eat up half of Sentinel fandom, and that’s only one case I can think of quickly. For those who are not interested in Merlin but missing Atlantis where will they go now? It may be too soon to tell, and dependent on what they’re looking for most in a fandom first and foremost: A certain genre (scifi, fantasy, procedural)? Certain character types (older, younger, superheroes or ordinary joes)? Certain subtexts or relationship dynamics (slashy or UST)? Or just following particular actors?
I’ll be curious to keep watching the statistics and seeing what happens next.