April 22, 2014

Fun Fan Merchandise

        We all know that, for better or worse, merchandising is a big deal for the most popular science fiction and fantasy worlds (especially those that have been movies or television shows.)  I’m not immune to the temptation to savor my favorite imaginary worlds through merchandise, but if I’m going to get a fan T-shirt, I don’t want one that says “Harry Potter” across the front with a photo of Daniel Radcliffe.  No, I prefer merchandise with a little more subtlety, and the things I like best are those that encourage an illusion that the fantasy world is real.  Particularly effective and satisfying are T-shirts celebrating imaginary schools.  Hogwarts, of course, but I’ve also seen and appreciated Starfleet Academy, 
University of Gallifrey, Imperial Academy of Coruscant, and Unseen University.  Fictional companies and institutions also make good candidates for logos, such as Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, the Thieves Guild of Ankh-Morpork, Aperture Laboratories, Order of the White Lotus, and the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Professional Thinking Persons.  Sports teams are good, too, as are political campaigns promoting everyone from Mrs Wiggins of Bean’s Farm to Admiral Ackbar.  (Just make sure you don’t sport a sticker of a candidate you wouldn’t really support - no Beeblebrox bumper stickers for me!)
        Along the same lines, I like T-shirts (or posters, mugs, or other products) made to look like travel souvenirs.  Planets, countries, cities, restaurants and inns, and special events like the Quidditch World Cup all work well for this.  After all, I’m clearly not a Jedi, but I can still pretend that I’ve visited Tatooine as a tourist.  Not that tourists would want to visit Tatooine, of course.  Milliways and Fhloston Paradise are more popular destinations.
        All these things tend to work better for sci fi universes than pre-industrial fantasy worlds.  For those the best bet may be a simple coat of arms, like the White Tree of Gondor or the gate of Moria.  Whatever it is, though, I like it just a little subtle, so that other fans recognize it and smile, but it isn’t a screaming billboard for a product.  After all, the purpose isn’t to advertise, but to remind me of something I love.
        (Full disclosure: I think the only fan merchandise along these lines that I actually own is a mug with the Hogwarts coat of arms.  But I’ve certainly discovered a few things today that I might have to add to my gift list!)

[Pictures: Hogsmeade poster from 716designs;
AUPSLOPTP T-shirt on cafepress.co.uk;
Mos Eisley T-shirt on starwars.com;
Milliways T-shirt on redbubble.com;
Fhloston Paradise poster on allposters.com;
Gates of Moria T-shirt on redbubble.com;
Ba Sing Se Bears T-shirt on redbubble.com.]

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