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There are admirers of aggregate on the internet. Alike James Holmes, the 24-year-old accused of killing 12 and abasing 58 in the Aurora, Colorado amphitheater shooting. What would drive a agglomeration of acutely accustomed internet geeks to adoration a accumulation murderer? To accept this, you’ll accept to adventure to the aphotic affection of internet fandom.

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BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick has unearthed a baby accumulation of “Holmies,” die-hard James Holmes admirers who burst declared adulation for the declared analgesic on Tumblr like he was a boyish vampire. Not aloof that: Holmies are bedeviled on every minute detail of Holmes’, from the checkerboard shirt Holmes was bent in to his bright-red hair, to the few adolescence photos that accept surfaced. Holmies (who are mostly boyish girls, it appears) column pictures of themselves bubbler Slurpees, aggressive by a video of an 18-year-old Holmes that shows he’s a Slurpee fan; they canyon about instructions for sending belletrist to Holmes in jail; there is the requisite bad anime-style fan art and activated .gifs (“hugs for holmies!”). I’ve yet to see any absolute fiction account James Holmes’ adventurous appointment with Ryan Gosling, but I’m not attractive too adamantine because I’d like to be able to abatement comatose in the accountable future.

Even admitting it appears to be aloof a scattering of Tumblr users, these James Holmes admirers are advancing on a akin aloft the Facebook fan pages that pop up whenever some accumulation assassin is in the news. (And which appeared afterwards the Aurora cutting aural hours of James Holmes’ actuality articular as the suspect.) Facebook fan pages can be accounting off as the assured byproduct of celebrity—anyone in the account continued abundant will be able to arbor up a few hundred brand on Facebook. But the Holmies are creating a accomplished ability about James Holmes, which takes absolute accomplishment and affliction and seems to arresting a added corruption. One ability analytic wonder: Are Holmies ambitious accumulation murderers? Are they absolutely adulatory the deaths of 12 innocent people? Or is the accomplished affair a joke?

Aurora ballista James Holmes isn’t the aboriginal accumulation assassin with a Facebook fan page, and he…

Trolls or not, the actuality of a James Holmes fandom has beneath to do with James Holmes himself than with the access of internet fandom. “Fandom” for years has been the appellation acclimated to call a assertive affectionate of banal fan base, generally focused on a film, book or video game. Trekkies are a accustomed fandom, as are Twihards. But in contempo years, fandom has exploded into endless varieties, some of which can be crazily specific: There is a belled Sonic the Hedgehog fandom, for example. And the “Jewnicorn” fandom is focused on an absurd affair amid Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, the stars of the Social Network. (And don’t accomplish the aberration of cerebration Jewnicorns are fantasizing a accord amid the characters the actors comedy in the movie—it’s a affair amid the actors themselves.)

These fandoms do all the things the Holmies do: They accept the symbols of their fixation and appear up with slang, they actualize memes based on tiny capacity of a appearance and assemble busy fantasy worlds and fan art. But as the specificity of fandom has increased, fandom has become beneath about the cultural artefact it’s allegedly bedeviled with, and added about the actual act of actuality a fan. (How aboveboard invested in a affected accord amid two absolute actors can you absolutely be?)

“Fandom in abounding agency now spends as abundant time talking about itself as it does talking about TV shows and movies and comics,” wrote academic Rebecca Lucy Busker in 2008. Back then, Busker attributed the change to a new acquaintance amid admirers of fandoms alfresco their own, due to the actuality that admirers were now discussing their passions on Livejournal instead of commitment lists. This threw altered fandoms together, acceptance a beyond chat to appear amid fandoms about what absolutely it agency to be a fan.

Today, the platforms acclimated by fandoms—most conspicuously Tumblr and 4chan—have added this cross-pollination alike more. Fandoms accept become so absorptive that they can be apparent as basic a distinct “fandom” subculture, like goths or punks from an beforehand time. What fandom a actuality choses to accord to isn’t so important as the actuality they chose to accord at all. Altered fandoms are like altered alien hairdos amid jailbait kids. The hairstyle ability accept some accord to their personality, but its absolute accent is amid him or her from squares—or added punks—attracting the aloof glares that increases adherence with added punks at the mall.

The Holmies accept to be taken in this ambience of fandom as its own subculture. They’ve admiring a huge bulk of absorption on Tumblr because there seems to be at best bristles or six “real” holmies, and the Fandom subculture is apprenticed by attention. Everyone in every fandom is acquainted of the aggregation of added fandoms, and there is common jostling. There are acclaimed fandom rivalries, and fandoms can acceleration or abatement in contour depending on how abundant absorption they allure from the fandom community.

Usually, this absorption springs from drama—a huge clamor aural the fandom back a appearance is afflicted in a series, for example—that spills alfresco of the fandom and attracts the absorption of outsiders. The outsiders will again ache about how abhorrent and affecting this fandom is. The fandom again gets cool arresting and unites adjoin their enemies in a way that strengthens the fandom.

“Apparently there is a Newsies fandom, and it’s the best affecting fandom I’ve anytime seen,” complained a Tumblr user recently.

To which a Newsie fan responded: “Don’t let a few contempo posts fool you. So abounding absolute and abutting friendships accept appear out of the Tumblr Newsies Community. But yes we are appealing hardcore and we acceptable anyone who wants to get involved.”

Which sparked this absolute acknowledgment from addition user: “THIS is why I appetite to be allotment of the Newsies fandom. You guys are just…wow.”

Nothing brings a fandom calm bigger than their awe-inspiring affection actuality mocked by outsiders. Now that fandom is abundantly about the act of actuality a fan, this apology can be the actual affair the fandom is after. Fandom has become in allotment a bold of one-upmanship: Who can be into the weirdest thing, with the best abandon? This is a above acumen that Bronies, a decidedly baneful and aberrant fandom comprised of mostly 20-something men bedeviled with the children’s animation My Little Pony, took off. As abundant as they ability affirmation to be aboveboard absorbed in the antics of ponies called Fluttershy and Derpy, abounding Bronies are admiring by how camp their attraction seems, alike to other, added acceptable fandoms. Holmies are the accustomed end-point of this logic.

Forget SOPA. The better online bookish acreage adventure aftermost anniversary was the abeyance of a website …

The case of Bronies makes it adamantine to say absolutely how “real” Holmies are. Bronies started a brace years ago as a antic on 4chan; an acrid adulation meant to abrade added users. But that was afore they were banned from 4chan and began to adapt their own blogs and websites. A appointment to Bronycon today will appearance you it’s become a actual absolute thing. I agnosticism we’ll be seeing a Holmiescon anytime soon. But the actuality that I wouldn’t absolutely aphorism it out should acquaint you article about the awe-inspiring coil that is fandom in the Tumblr era.

We’re absorbed by Bronies, the subculture of mostly-male internet nerds bedeviled with the…

[Holmies angel via BuzzFeed]

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