There is something admirable in taking something to its fullest extent, then saying to yourself, “no, that’s still not quite far enough.” I was reminded of this recently when a fan presented Brandon Sanderson with a homemade shardblade, a weapon from his Stormlight Archives series. As a writer, my goal is to fill someone’s head with my own world as they read about it. Things like this are evidence of someone making it a step beyond, of filling someone’s mind so full of their world that it had to spill out into this one. This is true inspiration. This is what the creative mind aspires to. To me, this is success.
This sort of devotion is more commonplace in visual media. It is far easier to recognize crazy fandom when you can connect the costume or prop with the original work. Go to any geek-friendly convention and you’ll see characters from TV, movies, video games, and anime/manga that are instantly recognizable. Anyone can identify Captain America or a stormtrooper. As you get more and more obscure, it becomes a badge of geek honor to identify the costumes.
However, when it comes to non-visual media, the bar is set a bit higher. Fans of books in particular must draw their inspiration from the pages and create from their own minds the visual representations of their favorite works. Many times, this process is delayed until someone translates it to the screen. I don’t recall their being too many Minecraft renditions of Westeros before Game of Thrones became a TV show.
Of course, sometimes you’ll accidentally create an outdoor sporting event. I can only imagine J.K. Rowling hearing about her new children’s fantasy book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, being accepted by Bloomsbury and thinking to herself “I wonder how long it will be before college students run around on brooms playing quidditch?” Sure, the brooms may not fly, but if you call it “Muggle Quidditch” then you can be excused for a lack of overt magic in the game. It can be argued though, that sometimes sport creates its own magic, so be on the lookout, just in case.
And I can’t see how you can have a discussion about crazy fandom in literature without mentioning Tolkien. Middle Earth is a real place for many people. It exploded after the movies came out, but even before then, there were obsessive devotees of his works.
Tolkien Third Place
Tolkien Runner Up
For me, eliciting this sort of reaction in your fans is the ultimate sign of success as a writer. Selling millions of books would be wonderful, but I don’t think it could ever match the feeling of seeing people who love your world so much that they want to bring it to life and experience it. I would, however, be willing to try out both.