Fandom in student groups
Fandoms come in all shapes and sizes, and MIT has a smattering of several groups dedicated to different aspects of pop culture. The Tech sat with a few groups on campus to examine where fandoms fit in at the Institute. Not all groups we wished to interview were available for comment.
MIT Science Fiction Society
Members: 200–300 officially, about 0–15 attend any given meeting.
Office location: W20-473
What is it?: “We’re not fans, we just read the stuff” is one of the mottos of MITSFS. Housing the world’s largest collection of science fiction and fantasy, MITSFS has over 65,000 titles in their library (and more copies of books located off-site). They have everything from Asimov to the most recent sci-fi novels — most of the club’s money goes towards buying books.
MIT community members pay $11–15 a year for a subscription to the library, and can check out any book they like. In addition to serving as a library, MITSFS invites authors to speak. Recent guests have included John Scalzi and Charles Stross.
Popular fandoms: “In regards to fandoms, we declare ourselves not fans,” said Alex Westbrook ’13, former Skinner (president) of MITSFS. “We have novels based on a lot of fan things … people generally read what they want to read.”
Thoughts on the survey: It’d “be interesting to see if we could ask everyone [about sci-fi]” Westbrook said, “To see what percentage of MIT is actually interested in that stuff.”
The Assassin’s Guild
Members: 100–200 (“that’s counting people who don’t play very often”).
What is it?: “The Assassin’s Guild runs live action roleplay games,” said Alex Westbrook ’13, who served as the Secretary of the Exchequer (treasurer) of the Guild last year. “LARP is where people act out various roles in a set them. You pretend to be a character that’s given to you and it’s like acting, but without a script.” It is similar to a game of Dungeons and Dragons, but live action. Concerns about keeping a straight face shouldn’t deter anyone from joining, Westbrook said. “People do break character so don’t feel nervous!” she assured.
Game length varies — some are 10 days and have 60–70 players, but there are also 3-days and 1-days.
Asked if anyone cosplays for games, Westbrook replied, “Sometimes people do dress up. There’s a wide variety, some people will go extremely dressed up, some people will go in what they came from work. There’s no requirement that you dress up.”
Popular Fandoms: The Guild hosted a Harry Potter inspired game during IAP of 2011 and had a Team Fortress 2 game recently, but they mostly stick to their own storylines. However, Westbrook hinted that there are plans for a Firefly game sometime in the near future.
Members: About 8.
What is it?: The Quidditch team plays Quidditch, the fictional game from Harry Potter. The game is played on a field, with players holding brooms between their legs. The snitch is a cross country runner and bludgers are dodgeballs. Except for the lack of flying, the rules are nearly the same as they are in the book.
The MIT Quidditch team is part of the International Quidditch Association, said Chinua “Chewy’ Shaw ’13, a chaser and captain of the team. The team was recognized by the ASA in fall of 2009, and has since been competing with other local schools like Harvard, Bostun University, and Tufts.
“We are kind of a lower key team,” Shaw said, “We just practice a few hours every week.” Practices are 2-3 hours each week, on Briggs Field and games occur about once a month.
Popular Fandoms: Unsurprisingly, Harry Potter is enormously popular within the team. Though most people are HP fans, “There are a couple people who aren’t but thought it’d be a crazy thing to try out,” Shaw said.
Members: Showing attendance of 30–40, over 100 Library members.
Office Location: W20-445
What is it?: The mainstay of the club is the weekly anime showings in 3-133, which are open to the MIT community. To mix it up, the club often hosts other events like a movie or karaoke night, game night, or barbecue.
The club maintains a large library that members can access for a small fee ($5 a semester for students). The library includes a large collection of manga (Japanese comic books) and DVDs of anime.
Popular Fandoms: The interests of the anime club are very diverse. “Everyone has their preference,” said James A. Duyck ’14, club president.
“It really depends on what you like already,” said Steve Powell ’14, “There’s such a diversity of different types of genres that are represented by anime.”
Though it’s difficult to suggest one anime for everyone, the club members recommended Hayao Miyazaki movies to start for the anime novice.
Thoughts on the survey: Approximately 7 percent of MIT students identified themselves as serious anime fans on our survey. “I’m not surprised,” Duyck said, “That seems about right. ”