When I Became a Fan
Over in the comments section of this entry at File770, there is a minor discussion of when it was I considered myself a “fan,” and whether it was before I made my formal entry into the world of science fiction fandom (at Torcon 3, the 2003 Worldcon in Toronto) or not. Well, I know the answer to this, so let me answer it here.
The answer, no, not really. Certainly I was a fan of science fiction as a literary genre before Torcon, but it was to the same extent I was a fan of lots of other things, which is to say that I had a comfortable bias toward the genre as something I enjoyed. It was one of my favorite genres to read, but I liked other genres as much if not more — I would as happily read a Fletch novel or a collection of Molly Ivins columns as I would a book by Heinlein. I’ve noted before that when it came time to write my first novel, I basically flipped a coin to determine whether it would be a SF novel or a mystery/crime novel; I could have gone either way (they both would have been set in Hollywood).
Also, I knew I that “fandom” — the group of people who attended and participated in science fiction and fantasy conventions — existed prior to attending Torcon, but I had no connection to that world at all. The closest I came to it was covering a one-day Creation Star Trek convention in Fresno when I worked at the newspaper there (Michael Dorn was the headliner). I don’t count that because I was on the job; I was assigned to go there, I didn’t attend of my free will. Interestingly, before Torcon, Krissy had been to more conventions than I had; she attended an X-Files convention (also done by Creation) as a fan of the series before she met me.
Nor, to be blunt, was I particularly interested in being in “fandom” once I started writing science fiction with an eye toward publication. The group that I wanted to be part of (and did become part of, basically as soon as my contracts got signed) was SFWA, the professional organization of science fiction writers. I assumed (incorrectly) that there was a sharp division between fans and pros in the SF/F world, so obviously I would want to be sorted into the correct group. Note that when I did go to my first science fiction convention, it was with the intent of me, as a pro, meeting the people who would soon (hopefully) be my audience. This is not precisely the attitude of someone who is diving headfirst into fandom.
Did Torcon turn me into a fan? Not really, no. Torcon was mostly about me trying to figure what fandom was and what being a professional science fiction writer was about. I had a great time and I learned a lot and I met some people there who I have been friends with since, but I don’t know that I would say I considered myself a fan after the convention. Nor do I think it took with the next convention I went to, which was the 2004 Worldcon in Boston, although by that time I felt I understood better what fandom was and how I connected to it, in part because I was by that time participating with other writers and fans online.
I would say the first time I felt that I was part of fandom was when I attended my first “local” convention, which would have been the 2005 edition of ConFusion, which takes place in suburban Detroit. It was smaller and less overwhelming than a Worldcon, which was useful, but the other thing that happened is that I started making friends, not just with the pros at the convention, but with the other folks too — and I realized that I liked them as people, and I hoped that they liked me, and I enjoyed the convention for itself and not just as a thing I should go to for professional reasons. I had also by that time learned that there really was no dividing line between “fan” and “pro” in the context of fandom — people were often both, enthusiastically, at the same time. So I stopped worrying about where I was in the context of fandom and simply started being a part of it.
So, yeah, 2005. That’s the year I felt I was part of fandom.
To this day I like to joke that I’m a naturalized citizen of fandom, in that I became part of it in my mid-thirties, having not really had a point of connection to it previously. I know people who are third- and fourth-generation fans and that fact kind of blows my mind. Naturalized or not, fandom has taken me in, with all the positives and negatives that entails — I won the Fan Writer Hugo in 2008, for example, for the writing I do here, which was to me a concrete sign I had been accepted into the tribe. I cherish it for that and for being my first Hugo… but I’ll note there are people who still grumble about the fact I won it, which is of course a very fannish thing to do, too.
And that’s fine. Being part of fandom means accepting it has many aspects and opinions and controversies and drama. It’s part of the package. I’ll take it.