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Nobody Ever Admits They're a BNF
by Hope

Nobody ever admits they're a Big Name Fan. It's part incredulity, part modesty, and part self-preservation, usually in that order. The first time you hear somebody call you a BNF, it's ridiculous. I mean, come on- you're just some random schlub who writes stories/makes art/makes vids/talks about the show, BNF? Please! It's funny, too, because then you can have polls in your journal and ask for minions, because the notion of you being a BNF is so ridiculous it's mockable. Mockity, mock, mock!

Then, it's modesty. Because you're not stupid- you can look at your friends list and realize that 400 people is more than 50 people, and therefore, more people are reading what you say. (At least, in theory.) Still, 400 people reading what you say- that's hardly anything to get uppity about. Other people have bigger friends lists. Other people write more popular stories. You're still some random schlub writing stories, making art, making vids, talking about the show, you're just a random schlub that has more than your best friend listening.

Then, it's self-preservation, because there comes a point when denying your BNFness is, to choose the favoritest words of all fandom words used to describe a liar, disingenuous. Now, you're still a random schlub, because you always were a random schlub. But by this point, you are a random schlub whose name gets used as an example for various compare, contrast exercises and your behavior is part of the Neilsen Data for your particular fandom, along with the other BNFs'. Never mind that the statistical margin of error is like 90 percent, the rep of the fandom, that's on you. You know you're a BNF, but you know better than to admit it.

So, for those of you now joining me in the vaunted halls of BNFdom, becase like it or not, no matter how funny and incredible you find it right now, ladies, your names came up for a reason, let me initiate you into the Secret Cabal. There are lots of rules; you might want to take notes.

1) You are a robot. Be the robot.

You are not allowed to have hurt feelings, you are not allowed to argue with someone, and you absolutely are not allowed to have an opinion.

If you get your feelings hurt, you deserve it, because there are other people whose names the fandom doesn't recognize whose feelings are also hurt and theirs count more because they're not popular. Also? It's funny when your feelings get hurt, because you've probably done something to deserve it.

If you argue with someone, whether anyone else backs you up, you are trying to run the fandom, and beating Jane Fan Average down. You're not the people anymore; you're The Man.

If you have an opinion, it's best to keep it to yourself. Someone else might agree with your opinion, and god forbid, two or three people might. Anybody who agrees with you is a minion, and if you ever do anything wrong, these are the people who will fill the Army of your Reign of Terror. Not that you can actually get them to do anything for you. Chances are, if you're being an idiot, the people who agreed with you last week will also be talking smack about you, and rightly so.

Get used to keeping things to yourself. There are lots of things that other people have the freedom to say that you don't. If you love your show and say so, you're forcing the unhappy fans to like it or shut up. If you hate your show and say so, you're forcing the happy fans to hate it or shut up. Any opinion you might have is actually policy making: you are dictating unto the rest of the fandom how things will be.

Before you get giddy over that: the only time you can "make policy" is when people violently disagree with what you say, and they're the only ones who think what you've said is policy, so it's kind of a worthless power. Your policymaking ability does not extend to having the ability to get lots of people to do a fun or happy thing.

2) Feedback is a finite resource.

If you want feedback for anything, you will post it in your own LJ and on your own archive, and nowhere else. Participating in fandom projects is a bad idea when you're a BNF, because if you do something well, and you get feedback- it's your fault that other, lesser known artists didn't get feedback. If you don't get feedback, that's okay, because other, lesser known artists got some feedback and you already have enough.

There are still problems with posting in your own LJ, though. I guarantee you, if you write Clark/Lex NC-17 fiction with any grace, you will get lots of feedback. Also, if you write Welling/Rosenbaum NC-17 fiction, lots of feedback. Now, you're a jerk for getting more feedback on these stories than someone else who also writes Clex NC-17.

You're also a jerk if somebody you don't know recs the story. You're also a jerk if a lot of people rec the story. You are a jerk if you end up on people's rec pages more than once. Now that you're a BNF, everything you do is overrated before you ever post it.

Of course, when you put out your Pete and Chloe investigate the caves story, you will not get massive feedback. Just like the rest of fandom, you must give people what they want, or they won't comment. If you post a really shitty Clex NC-17, you won't get feedback- people don't eat crap, no matter whose name is on it. However, people will still believe you get 500 comments on every single story regardless of content, even though they can plainly see the (0) comments on your LJ comment bar (or at least they would, if they hadn't also ignored the story,) so learn to enjoy dichotomy.

3) You are not allowed to shape your fannish destiny.

You can neither add too many fellow BNFs to your friends list, nor remove too many non-BNFs from your friends list. If the former, you're part of a clique. If the latter, you're a bitch. See also rule one about arguing with people. Also, you must friend everybody who friends you, or you're an inaccessible elitist. If people ask you for things, you are obligated to give it to them. This means you are now officially the beta for the entire fandom, that you will write an epic porn story about Lex and Clark in space on demand, and even if a total stranger asks you to read their entire archive, you'd better do it or you're a jerk.

4) It does not matter who your friends are, everyone else knows better than you.

Everybody knows that once you become a BNF, you have to drop all the friendships you've already made and make friends only with the other BNFs. Whether you have ever spoken to BNF Mary, you are now friends with BNF Mary. Even if you thoroughly dislike BNF Mary, and BNF Mary equally hates you- you are friends. Everything BNF Mary does, she does with your explicit approval, even if she eats babies' brains with spoons for lunch.

Also, there's no point in denying you are not friends. Everybody knows you are, so quit protesting.

5) There are secret meeting rooms.

Up until now, you have probably enjoyed private conversations with your best friend in IM, and, well, all it was was a private conversation with your best friend in IM. You've probably also sent e-mail to friends and acquaintances, discussing the show, or fandom, or your gnarly big toe infection. Now that you're a BNF, that's exclusionary. You belong to mailing lists that do not exist, you chat in chat rooms that do not exist, and any business you choose not to conduct in the full view of fandom in an unlocked journal is being unfairly withheld from the fandom-at-large.

Locking your journal because you don't want Aunt Marge reading your slash is also exclusionary. Using a pseud when your real name can be found online is exclusionary. Because you're a BNF, it's okay for other people to use your real name in public, and there's nothing wrong with other people re-posting your locked LiveJournal entries so the whole fandom can enjoy. You are public property.

6) You know everyone in fandom, and what they are doing.

Now that you're a BNF, you're expected to read every single journal that lists your fandom as an interest, and if you don't, you're an asshole. You must know about every single community, newsletter, challenge, and individual's fannish CV, or you're an asshole. You must also know exactly what everyone else is saying about you at any given time, in every LiveJournal and community- and really, you're being lazy if you don't know what they're saying on TwoP, K-Site, DTS, fandom_wank and/or the subsidiary fandom_wank communities. If you don't know these things, it's because you're lying or not paying attention, which are equal, mortal BNF sins.

7) Don't try to give advice.

It doesn't matter that you worked your way up from confused newbie to BNF, as soon as you become a BNF, you forget everything you knew about being a newbie. It doesn't matter that you've been in the no-feedback-nobody knows me-nobody loves me stage, the fact that you are no longer in that state disqualifies you from dispensing advice on how to advance in fandom. You, dear new BNF, have officially sprung from the head of Zeus: you are the once and future BNF, forever and ever, amen. This is how all BNFs are born, and you can't possibly understand the way it feels to try to make a place in a new fandom.

8) Don't write essays on how hard it is to be a BNF.

Boo hoo. Nobody cares. What about that poor kid who joined the fandom last week and only got one comment on her story? That's a tragedy; you're just a big baby.

9) It doesn't all suck.

It's really nice to feel like you're generally welcome to comment anywhere you go. It's really nice that people can connect your name to the fanwork you've created. It's really nice to be used as the "good" example in other people's examples. It's really nice to have the latitude to try something new because somebody *might* give your Chloe/Pete story a chance, just because you wrote it. It's really nice that you can talk and know that somebody's listening, even if they don't comment. It's really nice to be asked your opinion... in short, it's really nice to feel like you belong.

I just recommend staying one tick shy of being a balls out BNF, because once you get the title, you don't really belong anymore. You're different again, and once you get to that point, all you can do is shut up or start over in some other fandom. Or, you can keep plugging on because you LOVE YOUR SHOW! and you love your fandom. It takes more maneuvering to get around, you don't have as many options, but it can be done if you really try, and if you remember one thing:

You have absolutely no power, even if people think you do.

I'm a Smallville BNF, and you can take my word on it.


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