Liking Transformers is a good start. Beyond that, it's all up to personal taste. Whether one prefers Beast Wars to Generation One, whether one buys zero toys or all the toys, whether one identifies with the Autobots or the Decepticons, whether one makes twenty posts a day to Transformers boards and newsgroups or has never visited a single forum... that's all irrelevant. The term "true fan" gets thrown around a lot by people who seemingly can't understand that there are people out there with different preferences that aren't in any way "wrong". You know the type: "Beast Machines is a bad show, so, anybody who thinks it's better than Beast Wars is just messed in the head." Or, for a more classic example: "No true Transformers fan would put up with that Beast crap."
The only quality in a fan which is widely agreed upon as important is open-mindedness and willingness to give a chance to Transformers material that they haven't seen without dismissing it as stupid. Transfan Matt "Thylacine 2000" Greenbaum said it well in a post to alt.toys.transformers: "As far as I'm concerned, being a fan has nothing to do with how dedicated you are or how much you know; instead, it's a question of attitudes. If someone legitimately thinks that ONLY the stuff which he/she happens to know about (read: remembers from childhood) really counts, and that everything else sux.... well, they don't belong here."
After a rather influential message by M Sipher in 1997 the term "true fan" has taken on a whole new meaning among some TransFans. It's a sort of twist on Godwin's Law where anybody who accuses somebody of not being a true fan automatically loses any argument, and is often discounted as a buffoon afterwards. The point is, there is no correct way to be a Transformers fan. There's not even "better" ways. A fan is a fan is a fan. Deal with it, Magnus.
Sure. The two main options are "TransFan Code" and the "Transformers Purity Test", both of which are adaptions (or ripoffs, if you're feeling cynical) of older ratings for other things. Many fandoms have their own versions of a "fan code" and a "fan purity test", although both seem to be less popular now than they were in the 1990's.
TransFan Code was adapted from the classic "Geek Code", and is not a way to encrypt messages. Rather, it is a string of letters and other characters to put in your .signature (or elsewhere, like your website) which summarizes your involvement in TransFandom. For example, the letter G is followed by a series of plusses or minuses, the number of which express your "General Love of TFs". There are more letters for MUSHing, fanfic, size of toy collection, convention attendance, and so on. To write your own code -- or to understand somebody else's -- you need to look at an instruction sheet which lists the letters and their meanings. TransFan Code was developed originally by Lizard, with the help of various members of ATT at the time of the code's first writing. Currently, the code isn't being updated, but an old version of the specs can be found at the website of the mighty Jameel.
The original Purity Test is a classic Internet document consisting of a long list of yes / no questions regarding sexuality and sexual experience intended to gauge one's "purity". It's a big joke, but it's fun to play with. In the same vein, several fandoms have created purity tests to find out just how devoted its fans are. The TF Purity Test was written by Diana Calder, and it hasn't been updated in a very long time, either, so it's pretty much a G1-only thing for now. Maybe somebody ambitious will bring it up to date.
Feel free to be proud of a high purity test score or a long TransFan code, but don't be under the illusion that it really means anything. ^_^
Complaining is something that you'll encounter in any fandom. It probably varies slightly in intensity from topic to topic, and it definitely varies within a single topic (such as Transformers) depending on what forum you're looking at. Not too surprisingly, most of the complaining is motivated by dissatisfaction with some aspect or another of Transformers or Transfandom. If people aren't happy, they'll say so. And that, in itself, is not bad. The point of gathering with other fans is to talk about Transformers, both likes and dislikes.
There are times, though, that discussion of the dislikes starts to take over and / or becomes heatedly angry and even hostile. It often reaches a level where the complainer is essentially saying that only an idiot wouldn't agree with them. And that, really, is a problem. It gets other people angry, too, either because they get caught up in the vitriol, or because they disagree and don't like being insulted. Before you know it, the whole forum is just a bunch of people yelling at each other.
Why are they getting angry in the first place? Basically, Transformers "means" something to them and they feel like the powers that be are treating the franchise with a lack of respect. I can sort of understand that -- Transformers definitely means something to me, although I don't think I could really put it into words. It's never seemed to me like something that was worth being angry about, though. Transformers is a hobby, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. If I thought Hasbro was doing something that would bring about an end to the franchise, I'd be bothered by it. The important thing to remember, though, is that whatever changes might occur never invalidate what has come before. If you hate everything that's been released since 1987, you still have everything that came out before that. The fact that there is more Transformers material in addition to the stuff that's dear to you... it doesn't seem like that should be a source of frustration.
Here's something that was once posted to alt.toys.transformers by a fan named Kendrick:
"As a singular entity, Transformers is not a religion. You cannot blaspheme it. Transformers is not politics. You cannot be a traitor to it. Transformers is not sacred. You cannot desecrate it. Transformers is not science. You cannot measure it or give it standards. Transformers is not dead. You cannot expect it to stop changing as long as there is a continuing fiction... or a continuing business need."
The age question used to be a lot easier to answer. For a long time, nearly all Transformers fans had grown up in the mid to late 1980s. With the wide success of the Beast TF lines, and continuing success of the newer stuff, new and younger people are joining Transfandom all the time. The distribution of ages depends a lot on which Transfans you're talking about. In the Usenet newsgroups, most fans are in their 20s or even 30s. In newer fora like the Allspark, the average age is a lot lower, with most (not all) participants being between their mid-teens and mid-twenties.
You'll find that most Transformers fans are fans of science-fiction in general, often (but definitely not always) with a particular fondness for robots and anime. They usually like video games, and many read comic books. It's difficult to get much more specific than that, though, without being inaccurate. There are widely ranging opinions on things like Pokémon, Buffy:TVS, Disney, South Park, or whatever else you can imagine. Trying to summarize would be unfair. If you're looking for people with whom to discuss your other hobbies, you should do a couple web searches to find communities set up by those fandoms. And don't be surprised if you see a few other Transfans in those other groups that you find. ^_^
Yeah, no problem. Just check the glossary (XV/A) at the end of the FAQ. Over time it will fill in with more stuff.
The most-talked about TF staffers such as major writers and artists are discussed in the appropriate sections of the FAQ (Simon Furman in the comic sections, for example), but there are lesser-known figures that generate some conversation, and you might be wondering who they are and what they've done. I've decided to keep my list of people in the glossary (XV/A), so just check it out.
Of course -- tons of places, really. Most of them fall into one of three categories: Usenet newsgroups, web bulletin boards, and IRC channels. Newsgroups and web boards are message forums where you read posts made by other people and can make your own posts as well. They do not operate in real-time. IRC (like other forms of chat) is more of an immediate gratification, where you can have an actual conversation with other fans, but there's generally less thought-provoking or informative content being passed around in chats than in message fora.
Web boards are probably the easiest of these to understand. Basically, somebody sets up a website where people can submit comments using an HTML form, and then those comments appear on the website for other people to read and respond to. There are dozens, if not hundreds of smaller web boards on Transformers sites all across the WWW, and it would be pointless to even try to list them all. Basically, if you visit any moderate-to-large TF web portal or blog, you'll see that they have a board, or "forum", or "discussion area", or whatever they want to call it. There are a few boards that stand out, though, because of their popularity or because of who runs them. The big winner among web boards is probably The Allspark, but you should check out several and stick with the one(s) you like.
Usenet is one of the older parts of the Internet. A lot of newer netizens even see it as archaic and obselete, but it's still very much alive and kicking. Usenet is sort of like a bulliten board, but it's not hosted by any one machine, or even on a small group of machines. Essentially, it's a bunch of plain-text messages which are labelled in their message headers as belonging to certain groups or topics called "newsgroups". (The word "news" in there is sort of misleading; early newsgroups were mostly for news about various technical and computer-related issues, but that's not true anymore.) These messages are passed around from one news server to another much like on a peer-to-peer fileswapping network. There's no central hub for Usenet; it exists only as a fleeting collection of messages which are passed around and then deleted when they get old (although Google keeps an archive of Usenet posts). Each news server has an administrator who decides which newsgroups will be carried on that server. Whenever the server connects to nearby servers they trade all the messages they have. In this way you can make a post to a newsgroup on your local server, and it will be passed around in a series of small hops until every news server in the world which carries that group has your message (hundreds of thousands of them, at least). There are several TF newsgroups, but one is far-and-away the most popular and most used: alt.toys.transformers.
You can read more about what groups and web boards are out there, as well as how they compare to each other, in the FAQ's section on newsgroups and web boards, I/C.
IRC stands for "Internet Relay Chat" and is, basically, the oldest form of what people call "chat rooms" today. You boot up your IRC software (called a "client") and connect to an IRC server, and then you can enter any of the chats taking place on that server. Each chat room or topic is called a "channel". There are even large, world-spanning networks of IRC servers that talk to each other so you can connect to a reliable server near you, and still visit any channel which exists on any of the servers in that network. The advantage of IRC over other forms of chat is that you can connect to it from anywhere with a wide variety of software. To participate in an AOL Instant Messenger chat, for example, you need AIM installed. IRC is a chat protocol that is not owned or controlled by a corporate giant, and it is not operated for profit. There are tons of different IRC clients. Pick one you like (mIRC and vIRC are popular choices, to get you started), connect to a server or server network, and join in. Some channels to get you started: On irc.cybertronium.net, #transformers. On irc.dal.net, #cybertron. On irc.nightstar.net, #wiigii! and #tfw2005. Note that each of these channels is different. Different sizes, different people, different customs, etc.. Some of them may intended mainly for TF-chat only, while others may be more like a place fans who are friends to get together and talk about whatever they want. Just drop in on a few, try them out, and see if you like them. There are surely other channels out there, too -- just ask around to see. Lastly, there's a lot more to know about how IRC works, what the IRC jargon is, what features you should look for in a client, etc.. Do some Googling and you can find a lot of info quickly, but there's an independent IRC Help Page which should get you up to speed.
Since 1994 there has been an annual Transformers convention, usually called "BotCon" (for two years it was "The Official Transformers Collectors' Convention" (OTFCC)). The convention is such a major event in the fandom that there is a full section of the FAQ (I/D) devoted to it, as well as the smaller, unofficial conventions that have become more widespread in the last few years.
For a short time, from roughly summer 2003 to summer 2004, there was an official Transformers fanclub for the first time, organized by 3H Productions, the same group that ran the official convention. At the beginning of September 2004, however, it was announced that 3H had lost their license for the fan club and convention. It is unclear at this time whether a new club will be established, or if the current club will continue under new management.
There was a time that the fandom was full of unofficial clubs, but with the dominance of Internet communities in all fandoms these days, clubs have become a much smaller component of Transfandom than they used to be. There are still a few around, but really, the fan-run "Transformers club" scene is almost entirely composed of small, sparse organizations who keep in touch through Internet mailing lists, small web boards, or on Yahoo!Groups. A proper list of these clubs would be long, practically impossible to comprehensively research, and would require frequent updates as little clubs pop up and go under. That's really not the sort of thing which I can do within the FAQ. If you want to join a small Transfan organization, my best recommendation is to do some web searches.
There's really only one major unofficial club: TransMasters International has been the largest unofficial TF club since the early 90s, and will probably always be so. The UK branch, TMUK, is well-known as a sort of clearing house for fan-made comics, artwork, and fiction. The website for TransMasters Central maintains a list of fan-made comics and zines which are still in production, so you can see what sorts of publications are available.
Transformers is not now, and has never been, a 30-minute toy commercial. It's a 22-minute toy commercial. Or closer to 20, these days. Please think a little before asking these questions, okay?
It seems that some fans have trouble believing that other fans are sincere when they say they like something. Pretty much every fandom has a few things in common, no matter what the fandom is centered on. This is an example of one of them: the fan who despises some aspect of the mythos or merchandise so vehemently that for all practical purposes (if not literally) they believe that the entity in question is objectively, undeniably bad. Even further, they are sometimes offended on a personal level by the existence of this entity, feeling as if the corporation which spawned their beloved franchise has inflicted a terrible and deeply hurtful insult upon them.
They behave as if anyone who disagrees must be either in denial, or too stupid to recognize the obvious truth of the entity's suckiness, or have been essentially brainwashed by the producers into blindly accepting anything that bears the brand logo. After all, liking something which is so repugnant can only be the result of idiocy or a deep-seated need to fit in; anybody with a even a gram of individuality would refuse to be the company's lap dog and would instead invest vast quantities of time on complaining as loudly and bitterly as possible, right? Well...
I feel a bit like an idiot myself in even bothering to point this out, but all it takes is a brief visit to any Transformers message forum to see that there are people who need to hear it: No person's taste in toys or fiction is correct or incorrect. If somebody says they like something, it means that they like it, and it is an invalid leap of logic to assume anything about them (such as a zombie-like devotion to the franchise) upon learning this. Matters of taste are matters of taste, not matters of justice and ideals. If you find yourself becoming this upset by differences of opinion, you might want to consider stepping back from the fandom for a while.
Steve-o's Transformers FAQ is written and maintained by Steve-o
Steve-o and this FAQ are not affiliated in any way with Hasbro, which owns trademarks on many of the terms used within. This FAQ is presented for the entertainment and reference of Transformers fans, and is made available under the terms of a Creative Commons License