When I Became a Fan
Posted on September 17, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 57 Comments
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.
I’m of the faction that says “I became a fan once I started really liking SF/F. I’m a fan of science fiction. I didn’t become (and really never have become, though as an author I’ve gotten perhaps a default “yes, you are” pass) a part of the group that has a more arcane and restricted definition of “fan” and “fandom”.
I think there’s small “f” fan, which I have always been, and capital “F” Fan, which is sort of a term of art for a specific community that surrounds science fiction and fantasy, attends conventions, etc. All Fans are fans; not every fan is a Fan.
The nice thing is the entrance requirement to both is pretty easy: Just decide you want to be one.
I agree with seawasp. I’ve been a fan of SF since the second grade when I read Asimov’s “The Fun They Had.” In my 45 years as an SF fan, I’ve been to one day of a ComicCon and I’ve lurked in a bunch of on-line communities (rarely contributing). Am I part of fandom? No, not really. (Though that may change. Hey, I bought a membership to Worldcon this year!)
But am I a fan? Oh hellz to the yeah!
This discussion was prompted by the Venn Diagram Steven Gould posted and I agree with the objection that it is hard to imagine someone who is a member of SFWA and a Worldcon member who is not a fan, but you know, there may be some people who don’t identify themselves as “fans,” despite my opinion on the matter. That’s cool. I’m not going to put myself out as some sort of gatekeeper of fans, that’s for sure.
Oops, crossposted with our distinguished host.
Yeah, I can see the distinction between fans and Fans. It’s kind of what I was going with fans vs fandom. I still think it would be interesting to add that extra circle to the original diagram.
I just read the stuff
When I was a lad, I read Sharyn McCrumb’s two Jay Omega mystery novels set in Fandom, which went a long way towards turning me off of fandom and cons forever.
I don’t agree with the capital “F” theory of fandom. It just creates a club, a special tribe, that doesn’t really exist, and people argue over who owns the non-existent thing. You’re a fan whether you go to a convention or not, whether you volunteer at a convention or not, whether you write for a SFF media site or not. You’re a fan whether it’s SFF movies you love, comics, games, books, cosplay, etc. or all of them.
You’re a fan no matter how little you enjoy them. If you like the stuff, that’s it. There’s no litmus test nor must you self-promote yourself from one form of fandom to another. You can play D&D in college, go away from it for twenty years, start playing online tournaments again or read a book, and you were always a fan. People don’t have to call themselves fans if they don’t want to, but being a fan is thinking something is enjoyable, creative and nice. I am a fan of many things.
SFFH fandom, as we call it, is millions and millions of people, (probably several billion actually,) many of whom never talk to each other. It’s special not because a lot of those people always thought of themselves as nerds for doing so, but because SFFH itself is special to us. SFFH has always been one of the most popular, commercial and integrated forms of art global culture has had, from toys to suits of armor to astronaut meals. The constant attempt to pretend it’s a special hiding niche haven is a lie, and has been mainly used to try and keep people away from enjoying SFFH fan gatherings or offerings. We shouldn’t need the concept of specialness over welcome and enjoyment, nor do we really ever have it.
There is no inner circle of fandom, just because a much smaller bunch of people know each other and do conventions (half of which are now run by corporations and Hollywood anyway.) There is an industry that celebrates SFFH fandom, which is commercial, promotional, and conferencing, but no one controls that industry and its rivets are everywhere. There is a SFF specialty media, which consists of whatever types of media want to specialize in covering SFFH art of various kinds. And that media ranges from commercial promotional business to people’s blogs.
People have a problem with the idea of a free for all where all is equal. They want to lay down some sort of order, regulation and hierarchy. But art — and the enjoyment of it — doesn’t work that way.
I’ve been a fan since I was grade school kid tearing through My Robot Buddy and Star Ka’ats, but I didn’t know about fandom until college. I was always periphery–the only girl who liked this stuff and hung out in the SF/Fantasy section of the library, who talked it with bookstore owners. Never found a Dungeons and Dragons group or anything else that included me. And then, in my first year of college, I ran across a book, I can’t remember the title now but it was essentially a dictionary of science fiction fandom terms. It was the first time I realized it was all out there. That was the year they got the Internet at the college. And I went on Netscape, and I found the fandom. My first I-Con convention was in 1994, and it was just . . . amazing. Since then I’ve rattled around a bit, but maturity, parenthood and career have kept me too busy to do much but watch from the sidelines.
I’m a fan, not part of the fandom per se, but really I just had to come here and fangirl over the fact that you read Molly Ivins. Not many people outside of TX know or remember her and she’s always been one of my heroes.
Kat: It’s unfortunate that 80 or so years ago First Fandom used the word “Fan” to mean, more or less “a person in dialog with the self-referential community or set of communities that calls itself “fandom””, but they did. This leads to the linguistically difficult but true statement that one can be a fan of SF without being an SF fan, and one can be an SF fan without being a fan of SF. Nobody is trying to coerce anybody either into or out of fandom. Nobody can. It’s a primarily self-described state.
As for any “inner circle” of fandom, it is to laugh. Which inner circle? Of which part of fandom? Fandom is best described, as I heard it described some decades ago, as a tribe with many medicine lodges. Some of the medicine lodges have very little overlap with others, some are almost entirely overlap. You don’t have to go to conventions to be a fan. You don’t have to write fanfic. You don’t have to publish a fanzine. You don’t have to be a letterhack. You don’t have to be a filker. You don’t have to be a costumer. You don’t have to be a gamer, tabletop or electronic. You don’t have to belong to a fan club. The odds are, if you consider yourself part of fandom, you’ll be part of one or more of these medicine lodges, or others I haven’t thought of offhand, but none are necessary.
And each medicine lodge has sub-medicine lodges. And each one of those, as well. And so on. There are some people that lots of fans can point to as a Big Name Fan, but other perfectly valid members of fandom will never have heard of them. And that’s fine.
Because all that matters when it comes to whether or not someone is a fan in the fannish sense, is if they’ve heard of fandom and consider themselves part of it.
I’m curious where you get your figures that “half of” conventions “are now run by corporations and Hollywood anyway.” I get the impression that by “corporations” you mean for-profit entities, not incorporated fannish groups like Minn-Stf, the Minnesota Science Fiction Society.
I’ve been a fan of the genre (small “f” fan) since I was a kid, but I still can’t say I’m a Fan, as in being part of the community as anything but a voyeur. I went to a D&D-focused con back in high school, and I went to a couple local cons (focused strongly on Dr. Who and Star Trek) back in college, but I went with a group of other small-f fan friends, so we didn’t mingle much or connect with anyone at these cons in any way that lasted longer than the day of the event. This was before the internet, when it was harder to keep up with people who didn’t live in the same town.
Since I’ve been writing fantasy and seriously trying to get it published, I’ve gotten involved in some online writing communities. This has made me more aware of the issues that exist in the SF and F world and more interested in them. But up until a few years ago, Hugos and Nebulas were (for me) just medals stamped on the covers of some books in my favorite genre. I had no idea who gave them out or what their criteria were. I thought about going to fogcon last year, because it’s the closest con to my own city, but I was scared I’d go and not know anyone at all, or worse yet, to go and discover that anyone I did know from internet interactions wouldn’t want to hang with me in real life.
I am a _READER_ of many genres, very definitely including F/SF, and I enjoy what I read, but even though I actually do attend an occasional convention, I do not consider myself a fan. That’s just not my gig. I’ve got friends who describe themselves as fans, but I am not of that tribe. Or perhaps they are not of me, which comes to the same thing.
Side note: I heartily agree with Kara, Mr. Scalzi – the late, great Molly Ivins is one of my all-time favorite writers ever, I own every book she wrote, and while I’m not surprised, I am quite tickled that you enjoy her writing also.
Kara: I’m a fan, not part of the fandom per se, but really I just had to come here and fangirl over the fact that you read Molly Ivins. Not many people outside of TX know or remember her and she’s always been one of my heroes.
Er–another Ivins fan here. (Honestly, there are more of us than you might think!) Just so you know, one of my favorite memories of an sf con was sitting around the con suite years ago and repeating bits from Molly Ivins’ just-published recent collection. With a fairly large group of people, all howling with laughter. I’ve no idea how many people in the crowd were from Texas, but I know at least half of them (including me) weren’t . . .
My opinion of the larger issue, for what it’s worth? I’m a fan (small-f or large-F or both) if I feel like a fan, and that’s all that matters. I haven’t been to a Worldcon in years, haven’t been to a regional in almost as long, and I still feel like a member of a community–it’s not logical, not quantifiable; it just is.
Well yes, they co-opted the word fan, which did not mean just SFF fandom. :) We also co-opted the word nerd and the word geek, neither of which meant just SFFH stuff. And as I said in another thread, I grew up a fan of SFFH and was told I couldn’t/shouldn’t be one because I was a girl.
So I do basically agree with Nick Mamatas’ article about how SFFH is not a tribe and that SFFH media/art was wildly popular and involved corporate consumerism from all the way back, so the tribalism is just a weapon, not a feature. That’s why partly SFFH has this wide system of conventions that no other part of fiction really has anymore — it was plugged into a much wider, multi-media art world. And yes, it has a lot of sub-cultures built around different kinds of art. But almost all of those sub-cultures make up the major, most popular parts of popular culture — West and East really, It was ridiculous to cast fans of SFFH as outcasts, because they never were because of SFFH. It was a perception, not a reality.
I don’t have a problem with convention runners, for instance, calling themselves Secret Masters of Fandom. It’s a joke, about the fact that because they run conventions, people complain at them a lot and call them tyrannical overlords. If you organize any event or moderate a group or forum, that’s the sort of thing you get. But it is worth noting that the Secret Masters of Fandom always contained lots of women because women founded and organized a lot of the conventions. But they pretended that the women weren’t really there in fandom up until recently. And that’s how it’s done — it’s a claimed perception, no matter what the facts. That’s why the butthurt of those who feel they need to take fandom back is ludicrous. Fandom was never owned by any, nor can be controlled by any. It is people’s enjoyment of SFFH art.
I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on the conventions thing. I didn’t mean that half the conventions were owned and run by for-profit corporations. What I meant was that Hollywood and attached businesses, games and such, have moved physically into the cons, mainly the media and multi-media cons, to market products, film and t.v., websites, software, etc. The big and media cons are sometimes still run by volunteers but they are massive commercial marketplaces and promotional venues for the biggest products — Marvel movies, Pixar, the newest franchise game, mass number of bobblehead dolls. The actors in sci-fi are an enormous draw for cons with media. Even cons without media have loads of goods, books from major corporate publishers as well as small on hand, etc. You have 90,000 people at Dragon Con, 130,000 at SDCC, and so on — stuff like that throughout the world. SFFH is not a small thing in the back of a shop. And it wasn’t in the 1970’s either — a lot of cons were smaller, but they were numerous and had commercial involvement. Thousands of paperbacks were shipped out every month to wholesale venues — grocery stores, newsstands, department stores, along with comics and magazines.
Name big cultural art events/moments of the past thirty-five years. Most of them that aren’t music (and a few that are,) will be SFFH. We’re not waiting on the next Star Wars movie because Star Wars “suddenly” got wildly, globally popular. Is the fan who has 1,000 pieces of Star Wars memorabilia the Fan with the capital letter and the person who happily bought just the DVD’s of the movies the fan with the little f? They both bought stuff from the massive corporations that made and spread Star Wars stuff all over the planet.
So no, fandom does not get its special royalty. Even the runners of cons may be essentially working for Warner Brothers for free while enjoying their fandom; that’s not the worst trade-off in the world, but it isn’t a niche one either. But fans are still special because we are connected by enjoying it. We often care for each other as people through it. We learn about other cultures through it. You walk a convention floor, aside from the heat, there’s a buzz of people enjoying something together, getting in the spirit. It’s the same as a concert or a big movie premiere — it’s an event we are experiencing about art we love to experience. Plus, some people go to the bar. (You don’t have to drink alcohol — they serve tea.)
Mainly, I think the “when did you start being a fan of SFFH?” is a dumb question. We all started being fans as children — it’s always been fed to us, from Santa Claus to Airbender. And just because we get other interests and things to do, doesn’t mean we really stop being a fan and enjoying those things. They are too much a part of our creative cultures.
Fandom-with-a-capital-“F” is an identifiable subculture. It has its own distinctive language/jargon (i.e., FIAWOL, gafiate, fen, bheer, etc); its own “culture heroes”, for want of a better term (i.e., Forry Ackerman, Robert Heinlein, etc), its own distinctive customs/mores (i.e., “don’t fuck with the Hugos” [as the Pups learned to their cost], etc). From a sociological perspective, it makes sense to distinguish between someone who “merely” enjoys reading the stuff, and someone whose enjoyment of the stuff is sufficiently intense that they’ve made the commitment to become part of the Fannish subculture. One might, analogously, distinguish between the ‘casual’ football fan who likes to watch [insert team-name here] games on Monday Night Football, and the ‘committed’ football fan who paints their face in their team’s colors when they’re in the stands cheering their team on in person. Whether it’s SF or sports, there isn’t anything right or wrong with being a ‘casual’ fan as compared to being a ‘committed’ fan; rather, it’s just a matter of where you choose to invest your disposable cash and free time.
Nothing in your article says your boundary condition applies to anyone else, and your previous actions and demeanour suggest that – if anything – it was an attempt to support the opposite: that no one’s boundary condition limits anyone’s ability to call themselves a fan.
However, if that were your intention, your message might be weakened by fame privilege. While your statement shouldn’t gain more support than the evidence and logic provides, some people will agree with you because you are well known.
Therefore, you might want to consider putting ‘everyone owns their own self-image’ explicitly in the lede.
Although you don’t have to: I don’t have a monopoly on being right.
I became a fan at the age of 8 when my father took me to an afternoon showing of The Andromeda Strain. I’m not sure how the timeline works, because the film was released two years earlier, but we saw it in a theater. When I got home, he let me borrow his copy of the book, which I read. I went on to read The Terminal Man (the only other book by Michael Crichton that he owned), then branched off into other authors. I read most of the science fiction in my father’s collection, which was pretty extensive, and supplemented it with trips to the library and, when I had money in my pocket, to the bookstore. My favorite book as a young teenager was The Door Into Summer, by Heinlein. I hit a few stumbling blocks, such as a librarian who was reluctant to check out The Reincarnation of Peter Proud to an 11-year-old. And I couldn’t make it through That Hideous Book (the third in C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy) or anything by Lovecraft. I read The Hobbit, but wasn’t interested in moving on to The Lord of the Rings.
I realized in my first semester of college that I wasn’t a Fan. I joined a science fiction and fantasy club called Cepheid Variable, and I had nothing in common with then. My love of Slaughterhouse-Five (by then my favorite) didn’t get me very far in conversations, and I quickly dropped out of that group. I’d have to find “My People” some other way—and of course I did.
I still read primarily science fiction. My favorite authors are Stephen Baxter, Robert F. Sawyer, Kim Stanley Robinson, and the owner of this blog. I’ve read most if not all of their published work (assuming they don’t have some obscure bodies of work published under pseudonyms). But I’m baffled by cosplay, and confused by sad puppies. I assume that the future will be a more inclusive place than the present (and any future that is presented as a continuation of, or amplification of, today’s prejudices is a dystopia).
For my small input: I because a fan, during reading, “Old Mans War”
I was hooked from there.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a fan. I grew up loving Doctor Who, Star Trek, and their ilk. My dad read me the Hobbit when I was five and my reading preferences have leaned towards fantasy ever since (although it’s not my only reading genre, obviously).
I became a part of fandom when I went to university and had unrestricted Internet for the first time. That was where I found message boards discussing the things I loved (I was on the original Buffy board, but our conversations were pretty wide-ranging) and got to connect with other fans. There were other people out there like me!
I consider myself a part of fandom, the wider umbrella for all the connected parts of SFF love, and within that, I’m part of a lot of sub-fandoms: fanfic, genre TV, comics, books, con-going, original SFF writing. It seems to me that we’re all fans in some form, whether or not we’re active participants in some element of fandom, as well. Fandom has so many sub-cultures that one can consider oneself to be a part of it without taking part in every aspect. There are plenty of fans that I talk to regularly through Twitter etc. who are part of fandom and don’t go to cons or read every new SFF book out there, because they’re fanfic writers or consumers of comics and TV. They’re taking part in a different part of fandom.
We all experience our fannishness in different ways, so it’s difficult to put a label on that and declare a specific time and date when we became fans.
You see, John? This is why you have no fannish cred. *gdrlhwswhwh* and *stitch*
(Grin, duck, and run like hell while shouting “woo hoo, woo hoo”. If you’ve seen Daffy Duck running from Elmer Fudd, you get the idea. “Stitch” is an old term for trying to weave together two message threads. Invented in copyediting-l to the best of my knowledge, but don’t quote me on that origin.)
I sometimes think that “fan” defines the group of people who see the world in binary terms: us (fandom) vs. them (everyone else), fantasy vs. science fiction, puppy vs. non-puppy… I’m glad to see your note that “people were often both, enthusiastically, at the same time”. How true! I’ll officially be a pro by SFWA terms this coming spring, but I’ll still be a big-time fan. They’re not mutually exclusive.
Rather than the fan/Fan dichotomy, I propose a return to some historical shorthand: fiawol = fandom is a way of life, and fijagh + fandom is just a goddamn(ed) hobby. Like something in one of Schrodinger’s bad dreams, I am a quantum superposition of the two. Perhaps “Schrodinger’s fan”?
Fandom (capitol F) is a Granfalloon… ‘o)
Maybe it’s age, but fan to me means fanatical. I’m not a fan of SFF, it’s just what I’ve read all my life. (Okay, not ALL my life, but I know I could already read when I got to kindergarten.)
I’ve been a fan of Star Trek–I even went to a convention once, a hundred years ago, and I enjoyed it tremendously and would do it again if there weren’t travel involved and of course all those crowds of humans–and Star Wars and Beauty&theBeast and Doctor Who and Legos and honeybees. I’m a serial fanatic!
Well, I’m a “Big F” fan; Starting at 13 (reading and watching the stuff in fannish ignorance for the previous 8 years) I spent about 18 months as a “Trekkie”, didn’t find what I was looking for after attending my 2nd Trek convention in the early 70s and found my way to a Philcon (fortunately it was in Philadelphia) and never looked back; I’ve worked on conventions big and small, formed a club, joined other clubs, published a handful of fanzines, wrote for some others and entirely disagree with anyone who wants to try to pretend that there is no meaningful distinction between Big F and small f “fandom”.
Fandom, the cultural phenomena, has been studied academically. Several books have been written on the subject (Camille Bacon-Smiths [BACON!] Science Fiction Culture springs to mind) and it is studied by sociologists.
Cubist above gets it right.
What can’t be stressed enough however is that – globally speaking, culturally speaking – FANDOM is not an elitist, exclusionary, hierarchical society. (Some individuals may think it is and even act that way, but that’s normal variation.)
My generation (boomers) and earlier generations did experience discrimination for their interests; plenty of stories abound of fans who had to hide their reading matter (as I sometimes did), often had to explain that they weren’t ‘crazy’ because of what they believed the future might hold. Many of us DID take to Fandom because we found acceptance within it (and non-acceptance outside it).
I’ve not read the Mamatas piece referenced previously but if the conclusions about what it said are accurate, I’ve got a few other historical references (specifically to women in early Fandom) that appear to contradict it. Likewise for the “outcast” thread and insofar as the “corporate shill” thing goes, I don’t think anything could be further from the truth. FANDOM, from early on, had a very anti-commercial bent and has frequently rejected attempts by commercial interests to “use” Fandom. The situation referenced in a comment earlier may be a valid perception of “gate shows”, but not of traditional conventions (all of which are non-profit that plow any surplus they may make back into their own and other fannish activities).
Fans, for the most part (a culture that is most decidedly “anti-definition”) are people who want to do more with their interest than just indulge that interest, and they usually want to socialize that “more” with those who are similarly inclined. “Is the fan who has 1,000 pieces of Star Wars memorabilia the Fan with the capital letter and the person who happily bought just the DVD’s of the movies the fan with the little f?” I’d argue that, absent other detail about their involvement, both are “Star Wars fans” and neither is a Fan. Partly because of the commercial aspects mentioned and partly because their involvement with the material has not been socialized, nor does their activity have any but the most tenuous connection to the actual culture of fandom. (Historically, those who “only collect” were seen as a marginally related sub-set of Fandom, just as those who attempted to make some of their income from fannish interests (hucksters) were viewed as a separate enclave and were valued more for their other fannish activities than for their hucksterism.) Of course you can be a FAN and a fan of Star Wars and/or Trek and/or Who…Firefly…My Little Pony….just as you can be a fan and have accompanying special interests.
If someone is genuinely interested in exploring whatever differences there may be (and I argue, are) between Fan and fan, it’s really necessary to study the history of the culture, and to drop any perceptions they may have that they are viewed negatively if they aren’t a FAN. “fans” are potential FANS and are cherished as such.
I grew up ignorant (outside lettercols in Astounding, Galaxy, F&SF, and old disintegrating pulps), that there WAS such an entity as Fandom.
Meanwhile, my book editor father would bring home to dinner the luminaries of PRODOM, such as:
Poul Anderson, Taylor Caldwell, “The Devil’s Advocate”, Curtis W. Casewit, Mark Clifton, alas published but I never met him Philip K. Dick, Gordon R. Dickson,
R. C. W. Ettinger, “The Prospect of Immortality”, (75-166, 1966), J. Hunter Holly, Damon Knight, Murray Leinster, Sam Moskowitz, Eric North [B. C. Cronin], Alan E. Nourse, Dorothy Sayers, Clifford Simak, too late for me to meet Edward E. “Doc” Smith, J. Stearn, William F. Temple, my later friend A. E. van Vogt,
Essentially all of them were Life of the Party wits, but almost all drank too much, and grovelled for bigger advances on royalties.
Okay, I was destined to be a SF Pro — but knew that I’d need a Day Job, such as dealing with computers, robots, spaceships, molecular biology, astrophysics, spacecraft propulsion, Artifical Intelligence, and the like. And Lo! It came to pass. Thanks to Science Fiction.
I will always fondly remember when I realized that fandom was a community I wanted to be a part of. It was at the second con I attended. I didn’t know anyone yet, but I was meeting people who would turn out to be friends for life.
ConFusion in 2005.. That would mean your 10th fanniversary is coming up soon. I wish you a happy celebration!
My definition of a fan is “participating in dialogue about pieces of media we loved with others* or the media itself in a creative and/or analytical way and doing it for fun.” It’s not everyone’s definition, and it’s always a work in progress, but it’s what I’ve got so far.
While I didn’t realize there was such an entity as “fandom” until high school and my introduction to the community of fanfiction, I was a fan since childhood. When my brothers and I created a Star Trek game called Away Mission and spread it to our friends, that was an act of fandom. When my mother read Tolkien, Brian Jacques, Harry Potter, and Star Wars novels to us and we each figured out how to copy the dwarf runes, what wand we would use, and what Jedi specialties would be the most fun, that was the beginnings of fandom.
*(or potential others, for those who haven’t found the right sections of the internet or the right IRL friends)
I’ve been a fan since I was a kid, starting with Flatland and A Wrinkle in Time, then Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs, then reading everything I could get my hands on – not just SF, but everything. Got into the Heinlein juveniles, then others. I remember my first Andre Norton book – “Catseye”. I loved Doc Smith and just recently found his novels at Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis and reread them (a couple were not very good, but I did enjoy most of them). In addition, to my SF fandom, I like historical naval fiction, Georgette Heyer, and yes indeed Molly Ivins. I don’t have even close to enough time to read all the books I want to read. They are piled up all over my house and fill my Nook. Retirement in 3 years will give me the opportunity to catch up, although I will probably just end up discovering more writers and subjects that interest me.
I am such a compulsive reader that I read labels on boxes as I walk through the store. In my bartending days I memorized the labels on beer and liquor bottles so I wouldn’t keep reading them.
Not exactly. People who run and work cons are kind of an identifiable subculture that has definitely developed jargon and traditions, but it’s an amorphous one, with lots of people moving in and out of it. And if you volunteer for a con and learn the jargon, that doesn’t make you a more committed fan than someone who doesn’t go to conventions but has extensively read SFF. Essentially, there are people involved with cons who have self-appointed themselves the fan culture with a capital letter as a badge of honor, creating then again a bar of entry — you have to do this to be that and we’re going to call it Fan. It’s not at all aggressive — they love having people join — but it’s still a clubhouse where you are granted Fandom by working a con. But con culture is not fandom with a capital F. It’s just convention fandom. It’s an experience, not a state of being. :)
The confusion comes because what SFF had, pre-Internet/1980’s, with its developed specialized market from the beginning is a specialized dedicated media. That media involved the magazines that published short fiction but also non-fiction about SFF, fan newsletters about SFF (often mimeographed,) comic books and magazines that covered comics, book reviews specifically of SFF, exchanges of letters by authors that were sometimes published in the magazines, fan organizations for books, movies&t.v., comics, etc. that then put together conventions, at which well known booksellers and authors would show up, etc. They essentially made a mini-SFF Internet of content and commentary focused on SFFH with live promotional get togethers in the conventions. It’s the combo of SFF media and the best known conventions (and awards at them,) that was decreed fandom with a capital “F”. They got to call themselves the experts who were covering SFF.
It’s in many ways a lovely, community-vibed thing, but it was also an exclusive fan nobility we’re the ones who really care about it thing. And women were harassed or made invisible in it, and non-whites were barely invited. Changes in the market, the shift from magazines to books as the central focus in writing, increased globalization, increased media, the increasing involvement of Hollywood in convention content, etc., all put a lie to the never really accurate idea that a small network of media commentators and convention runners were in charge of fandom and the really true fans, the keepers of the flame.
So it’s not that there’s a sub-culture that calls itself capital letter Fandom. It’s that there was a concept of capital letter Fandom that may have had a media and community use back in the 1950’s say, especially in the U.S., even if it wasn’t true, but doesn’t really serve much use now. And it is that conflict — between kind of clinging to that old concept/perception of a special “fan” and the reality that nobody’s really in charge of anything and no subculture, even the con-runners, gets the capital letter to their fandom — that fuels a lot of problems we run into in fandom today. It’s hard to give up specialness, to be distinct, to be part of a tribe.
Which is why football fans who pay a bunch of money for a ticket and paint themselves in team colors to experience an event — being at a game, painted up and cheering — like to also paint themselves as extra special fans for going to that event. They’re more fanatical — because they picked a certain experience — and therefore more fans. But they really aren’t. Anybody can buy a ticket, slap on paint and go to a game and scream. It doesn’t make you more dedicated or special. It doesn’t make you more of an expert about football.
Fandom is about enjoyment, and at events, sharing that experience of enjoyment with others as part of the experience. (Which is why you should’t harass other attendees and ruin their enjoyment.) You can declare that your enjoyment is somehow superior, more special, more dedicated or more expert, but that’s self-appointed. It’s setting up hoops for others — you have to do as much as me, like me, or you’re not in the tribe and not in the know. That’s how we get “fake geek girls” and other nonsense.
So no, I don’t like the concept of fandom with a capital letter. It’s used mostly for exclusion these days as people feel threatened that other people get to go to places or do things or enjoy things without their special authoritative permission. I have great pats on the back to the people who try to run the conventions — it’s work as well as enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean that they have the purple sash while I have the green one. :) So I find the question of “when” you “became” a fan kind of meaningless. Of course, if you ask me, when did you become a fan of particular X, that’s a different thing.
I think there are several groupings.
I like SFFH – I will go into a bookstore or media store or whatever and buy one SFFH thing and one Romance thing and one Sports thing, etc. and none of them are different to me.
I am a fan of SFFH – I like SFFH a lot and I prefer to engage with it in whatever media more than anything else.
I am a congoer – I attend SFFH cons on a somewhat regular basis and I like them This does not differentiate between SDCC, Comic Cons, Worldcon, local cons, Who Cons, etc.
I am a member of fandom – I engage with the people who want to socialize their love of SFFH. Doesn’t matter if I do it on the internet by reading Whatever or File 770 or Black Gate and commenting once in a while, if I do it in a local club like NESFA or BASFA, through e-groups like SMOFs or JOF or a subreddit, if I do it at cons (this means you do more than just attend, you engage with the people there and perhaps become friends with them; no you don’t have to be friends with all of them, no one is), or if I do it through good old fashioned fanzines, sending in letters and getting lots of mimeographed paper in the mail. We all feel comfortable socializing in different ways and different levels and one person’s engagement in fandom shouldn’t be discounted because it isn’t mine For the record, I engage in every one of the ways above, and that is why I listed them. If I missed one, it’s own of ignorance, not spite.
(Tangentially there are people who engage with fandom, at least in part, through conventions who like cons so much and the experience cons have given them so much, that they become conrunners. Some of those people call themselves SMOFs as running gag because they have run or helped run many conventions and thought themselves quite visible at the cons they were running and thus “Secret” was ironic. This term has gained a negative connotation of people who think they control con running and dictate how cons should be run. I would posit that there are surely some like this but there are other SMOFs who just run a lot of cons and accept the moniker. I still haven’t made up my mind on how I feel about the term personally, even though, by the definitions of some, I am one.)
Pros can like SFFH, they can be fans, they can be congoers, they can be members of fandom, or, who knows, they could despise SFFH but just be really good at writing it or filming it and so they do it for a living. What you do as a job doesn’t determine what you like or how you engage with what you like and other people who like the same stuff.
And, most importantly, no one in any of the above levels (people who like SFFH, fans of SFFH, congoers, members of fandom, conrunners or SMOFs) should ever demean anyone else, in another group or their own for how they engage with SFFH. We should all well know that there was a time, and still is, when even the person who just kind of likes SFFH is made fun of for that and just because someone doesn’t engage with a genre the way you do or to the level you do or doesn’t practice their level of engagement in the exact manner you do, doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
@Kat Goodwin: I entered fandom in 1973. I have been involved, directly or peripherally since.
Your characterization is, I have to say, at best skewed and at worst very far from the mark.
As a 15 year old, I was given high level responsibilities at various conventions that belies your statements regarding “exclusive fan nobility”. I entered, displayed ability and quickly moved into positions of influence and responsibility – which were only good and effective so long as I continued to perform well.
You remaining statements ignore (deliberately) the DIRECT historical connection that convention going fandom has to the creation of the genre and the creation of fandom. I suggest you go and read a little history regarding first fandom, second fandom & etc.
Further – who do you think was editing, creating artwork and writing for the vast majority of that “special media” you seem to denigrate? Fans. Sam Moskowitz, Fred Pohl, Donald Wollheim, Mort Weisinger, Degler, etc; Who went on to get the book publishers to open up science fiction imprints when paperbacks hit the market? Wollheim, Del Rey, Ballentines.
You are completely and totally ignoring the fact that the Fans BUILT this genre. And that the media related and commercial conventions are direct descendants of that community (violating one of its core precepts against commercialism btw; we’ve come to accept them – can’t fight city hall – but studying the rift between the Trek cons (the first real media conventions tied to SF) will produce thousands of words on the initial rejection because they were overstepping cultural mores.
And you initial statement “are kind of an identifiable subculture ” flies in the face of the recorded academic research and publishing that has been done on the subject at least since the 80s.
It strikes me that your rejection of this reality is due to a perception that you are somehow viewed as a second class fan as a result of it – which says to me that you misunderstand the culture. You are more than welcome to enjoy SF and your fandom in any way that you so choose – and however you choose is perfectly valid. But it is not Fandom with a capital F, the existence of which is amply proved by the history of the genre, not to mention my own personal, near half century experience of it. My statement comes across as “giving you permission” – which of course you do not need and I’m not making that statement in that way. If you were a spelunker and I were one who also dove caves underwater, my involvement with spelunking is different than yours and the things I do with it are different to a certain degree; my stating that underwater cave exploration requires different skills and experience, and at the same time saying that you don’t have those skills in no way diminishes your spelunking experiences.
As one of the participants in the file770 discussion, first I want to say thank you John for answering a question I asked on some other random website. That’s feedback above and beyond the call of duty! :)
As it happens, though, I was thinking more of what people here are describing as “small f fan”.
The context (for those who missed it) was a Venn diagram with three circles representing fans, professional writers, and Worldcon members. (Plus a smaller circle representing SFWA which isn’t really relevant here.) And I was sort of making fun of the fact that all three circles were the same size, and evenly overlapped. Proportionally, of course, the circle labeled “fans” should have been much much larger than the others. Especially if you interpreted it, as I did, as referring to “small f fans”. And more than a third of the Worldcon members circle did not overlap with either fans or writers. While I admit the category is not empty, I somehow doubt that a full third of all Worldcon members are neither fans nor writers. :)
But now that the question has been raised, I’m curious if you would have considered yourself a “small f fan” before your first Worldcon? Freely granting that the definition (like that of “big F Fan”) is highly subjective.
edit: never mind, I see that you say you would have considered yourself a small f fan in an earlier comment. So I’ll substitute another question. Do you remember when you first became a small f fan? Was it some particular work? Or just gradual osmosis? Or something else?
I grew up in big F fandom (first convention at age 2), so for me it was definitely osmosis.
— signed, annoyingly snoopy for no particular reason. :)
Excuse me: the above sentence “You remaining statements ignore (deliberately) the DIRECT historical connection that convention” should have read
“You remaining statements ignore (deliberately?) the DIRECT historical connection that convention…”
I was not impugning, merely questioning. My apologies for the error and any heat it may have raised.
Kat Goodwin wrote: “I don’t agree with the capital ‘F’ theory of fandom. It just creates a club, a special tribe, that doesn’t really exist, and people argue over who owns the non-existent thing.”
This is just the sort of discussion fans love to have — and, obviously, are having here today — not because they agree or disagree with the proposition, but because even raising the question produces a frisson of terror as they ponder “Does someone, somewhere think I’m not a fan?”
What’s more, there is no amount of Big Tent reasurance that can overcome that fear because the very act of giving reassurance is intepreted as a gatekeeper attempting to assert control. (I took a swing at this subject last February — http://file770.com/?p=20905 — and look at the first comment I got!)
I find the whole concept of the borders of fandom fascinating, because I’m on them myself. I read very little fiction that isn’t in some way SFnal (counting fantasy, horror, slipstream SF, and fantastical litfic for these purposes) (and, indeed, a lot of the non-fiction I read has an SFnal “feel” to it, to me at least), I’ve written an SF novel and sold SF short stories. I read every SF book in the local library before I was ten, and I’ve got hundreds of beat-up old paperbacks by Fred Pohl or Philip K Dick or AE van Vogt, and dozens of ebooks by Charles Stross, Jo Walton, Greg Egan, and Scalzi. I learned the distinction between “science fiction”, “fantasy”, and “fiction” when I was six, and knew it was the first two I liked.
But I’ve never been to an SF convention (I go to comics conventions, but ones specifically focused on comics, not on media stuff), and never had a huge engagement with fandom. I don’t have many friends in SF fandom, and I’ve also missed out on a lot of the SF “canon”, and a lot of the very popular stuff (I’ve never read a Larry Niven book, only read one Connie Willis, not read A Song Of Ice And Fire, only read maybe four Silverbergs), so maybe I’m not part of fandom.
But on the gripping hand, I feel a strong affinity to that specific part of SF fandom that is “literary SF fandom”, the part focused around books. The language, the attitudes, the cultural norms, just seem to fit my brain, in ways that are hard to explain.
So am I part of fandom? I don’t know. Either I’m not and never have been, or I was born into fandom, or both.
I think I prefer the terms “active fan” and just plain “fan”. For one thing, it makes it clear that one is pretty much a subset of the other, rather than implying that there are two separate groups. Active fans, who participate in fanac (fan activities) like going to conventions or publishing fanzines, or whatnot, are simply more active. They don’t necessarily love the genre more, or read more, or enjoy it more. They just enjoy expressing their fannishness in certain ways that may not interest other, equally fannish, fans.
I usually find myself in agreement with Kat Goodwin, but I’m feeling a serious generational gap here.
“Name big cultural art events/moments of the past thirty-five years.” That only goes back to 1980, which kinda takes a pass on nearly a half-century of organized/semi-organized fannish activity preceding those cultural events.
And I’m old enough to remember when science ficton, fantasy and comics were regarded as “trash”. (My personal discovery of capital-F Fandom dates from 1968, and I’d been reading SF/F for years before that.) If you read science fiction, you weren’t one of the Cool Kids, or even normal. You were a friggin’ weirdo. You didn’t fit into any of the normal social tribes. You were at best an eccentric with an inexplicable hobby, or at worst a Creepy Weird Guy. You were a square peg in a world where only round holes were approved of. I wrote a college paper in 1970 on whether Fandom could be considered a “deviant subculture”; my conclusion was “Yes, it fits the definition.”
In retrospect, that college paper was short-sighted; events were already taking place, or had taken place, that would change the public perception of SF. I didn’t understand, in 1970, just how big and transformative those changes would be.. And the 800-pound gorilla in that room was Star Trek.
More specifically, the campaign to keep Star Trek on the air when it was facing cancellation after its second season. Because that campaign showed several things:
— There were a great many people who not only appreciated reasonably-intelligent SF (Star Trek, however ham-handed it may have been at times, at least tried to address serious subjects in many episodes; compare-and-contrast with ST’s contemporaneous competition, Lost In Space, which more accurately encompassed the public perception of SF, and featured a talking carrot in one episode), but were willing to actually work for its continued availability.
— A lot of those active keep-Star-Trek-on-the-air campaigners were women. Like, a lot. Like, maybe a majority. (Actual numbers are kind of vague, but that’s my definite impression.) And even though Star Trek eventually left the airwaves (before returning with a vengeance in syndicated reruns), that letter-writing campaign was the basis for 1) a lot of female SF fans being able to contact each other, 2) those same women becoming aware of the existing SF-fan subculture and more joining that subculture (there were women in SF fandom before Star Trek, but they were damned thin on the ground; if a guy was discouraged from reading SF by mainstream culture, women faced exponentially more disapproval because, hey, how will you ever get a husband if you read that crap?)
— The Star Trek renewal campaign led, I will argue, to the establishment of the first Star Trek conventions, leading to other media-based conventions with tens of thousands of attendees, rather than the hundreds or at most several thousand attending the written-SF conventions that had previously existed.
(I will admit to mixed feellings about the glut of mega-conventions. I haven’t been to a Worldcon in over thirty years because Worldcons have gotten Too Big To Enjoy. The idea of going to a con with tens of thousands of attendees fills me with trepidation. And you’d have to hold a gun to my head to make me attend San Diego Comic-Con. No, actually, you’d have to hold a gun to my wife’s head, because if it was just me, I’d be tempted to take the bullet.)
Now, here’s the irony: One of the major figures who organized and led that letter-writing campaign to save Star Trek, probably the major figure, was a lady named Bjo Trimble. And Bjo was not only one of those thin-on-the-ground members of fandom who existed before Star Trek, she’d been a major mover and shaker and organizer for the Los Angeles SF club, LASFS, for years. I’ll argue that it was those years of herding the fannish cat-herds of LASFS that gave Bjo Trimble the experience and knowledge to organize such an effective campaign.
So a great deal of the present state of SF fandom comes from the actions of one of the members of that capital-F Fandom that Kat would like to think wasn’t very important. Sorry, Kat, but I think you’re just wrong on this one.
1) I’m not denigrating anybody or anything. I said specifically that convention folk are hard-working folk, and certainly SFFH media has been important in the success of SFFH. I said the convention system we’ve had is remarkable. But, being involved in conventions does not make you a special, more fan than a fan who doesn’t even go to conventions. The problem is not that different fans do different things and it’s not a matter of taking convention runners down a peg. It’s pointing out two common social perceptions that don’t happen to be true: 1) that SFFH was a ghetto outside of the mainstream instead of a big commercial mainstream enterprise; and 2) that there is an inner circle of fandom graced with a capital F that is a dividing line among fans and has an activity test. Neither of those serves fandom very well now.
2) I think a lot of you don’t realize the kind of shit a lot of fans get thrown at them for trying to participate in fandom, in the past and now. Not by those who aren’t fans — by those who are. Women, non-whites, etc. haven’t always had the same sort of experiences you’ve had, especially when it comes to conventions. It was the same situation with trying to get harassment policies at cons — we got a lot of convention runners declaring that there was no harassment because they never saw it and that nobody got to tell them what to do. So the concept of capital letter “F” fandom, while not inherently awful in itself and not necessarily having anything to do with actual fandom events, has been used to sit on people. When you have prominent comic artists and writers telling women that they aren’t welcome at comic conventions and aren’t real fans, as if they’re in charge of comics fandom — which we did have quite publicly — that’s a problem. And it comes from the idea of a hierarchy of fans with a ruling class of fans — the capital F fans.
To be clear, most of the capital F fans running conventions would never dream of trying to exclude or pull rank on other fans. But that doesn’t mean that attitude is at all absent from the general culture of fandom. And I agree with Mamatas that we’re past time and we can abandon it as a concept. Not abandon conventions, just the hierarchy.
That’s because you are not thinking about what you are saying in terms of social inequality and what other people may experience trying to participate in fandom. That you are putting it as you getting to reassure people about being a fan is elevating yourself to being a gatekeeper. :) You put yourself in charge of the tent and reassuring people they can come in or be in. It doesn’t seem that way to you, but to those particularly who aren’t white male fans, it’s the sort of permission welcome that isn’t required (since they’re already in the tent by their own choice,) but that is being imposed. And it tends to gloss over the problem of those who are actively trying to kick them out. It’s kind of a parent talking to a child thing and those fans don’t like being treated as if they’re kids to be reassured by parental authority, especially as it reflects the parental authority and power that certain groups are automatically given in society at large. So it’s not a matter of overcoming a fear — it’s dealing with anger that other people are making the statements of their fandom for them, with or without awareness.
You’re still the guy who kept us all sane and informed during the Hugos odyssey. :)
I think you misunderstood what I was saying there. I wasn’t talking about fandom cultural events. I was talking about mainstream pop culture. And that mainstream pop culture has had most of its biggest arts moments be SFFH. I said past thirty-five years to be on the conservative side, but yes, it could be way back to Superman, Batman, Frankenstein, etc. SFFH has never been outside the mainstream. It wasn’t a niche, it wasn’t outcast.
The problem is again that people didn’t get teased for liking SF or reading comics — most kids liked SF things and read comics if they could afford them. People got teased about those things because the individual person seemed socially awkward and physically vulnerable, sometimes the wrong ethnicity or gender, etc. — and the SF and the comics were just a handy thing for them to claim was the reason they bullied you.
The reason that we’re still doing Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman today — they were POPULAR. Globally so with millions of people and children for decades. Asimov had a t.v. show, Harlan Ellison was a talkshow guest. Lost in Space, The Thing, The Blob, Alien, Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, The Twilight Zone, PacMan, Asteroids, Robin Hood and King Arthur, The Wizard of Oz, Disney, The Exorcist, Transformer toys, G.I. Joe, Saturday morning cartoons, The Jetsons, Jaws, Ben-Hur, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, decades of Doctor Who, Halo, World of Warcraft, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Doctor Strangelove, Sesame Street, manga, Godzilla, The Wiggles, Hamlet, A Christmas Carol, My Little Pony, Underoos, Cinderella, Dick Tracey, etc.
I’ll give you The Godfather as being one that’s not and Gone with the Wind, etc. But most of our pop culture big art events and thus cultural references, of nearly any age and certainly in those last thirty-five years? Dominated by SFFH. They’ve always owned comics, they own games and electronic games, they’re top three in books and a major part of the classics, dominate movies, take up a substantial amount of major t.v. And not just the U.S., though I know the above is centric — everywhere. It’s not niche. It’s never been niche. It’s big, commercial, franchised, corporate pop culture art that every kid has been saturated with since the time they were small and read Padington Bear and Rabbit Hill and Sandra Boynton books — whatever you started with, it was probably SFFH. And it follows all through adulthood. It’s in the classics and it’s in the new.
The only reason we think we had a ghetto, from about the 1930’s to 1990’s — which is again a very U.S.-centric concept and not very nice to appropriate the word — is that people who thought they were in it and people who thought they were outside of it, claimed it existed. And since words can have cultural power, it had an impact. But most of it wasn’t real. Kurt Vonnegut bobbed out of the “ghetto” by simply switching which imprint he published his novels with. And the ghetto never existed at all with movies and t.v.; it was mainly a written fiction thing. Games just said we’re taking the young people, you all can come too. Comics said we have everybody, you just hide us under your mattresses.
So somebody says that you’re a juvenile weirdo for liking SFFH — ask them what movie they went to see recently. Um, San Andreas, Mission Impossible, Inside Out. And you can do the exact thing back in the 1950’s. We didn’t “win” into the mainstream, we just stop pretending that we weren’t the mainstream. And a lot of people who were in fact perhaps a bit hesitant to call themselves fans because they thought it was a special club, then went oh, we’re fans too then. We were always big, we just stopped being embarrassed by it. (And started actually noticing groups of fans as people instead of invisible because they got noisy.)
So that’s why, again, some of the old concepts of fandom, like fandom with a capital F, I don’t think are always very helpful. They were limited, they were often exclusionary and they were frequently deluded. They were how we got called weirdos. They were how we got the Puppies who thought they’d take back what they never owned and really have no clue about. I’m just saying I don’t personally have a use for it in my being a fan. Doesn’t mean I don’t love conventions.
(This was a long one even for me. Sorry.)
“Sorry, Kat, but I think you’re just wrong on this one.”
There was and is a cultural ghetto “outside the mainstream” that was/is science fiction fandom. You’ve got at least three people commenting here who experienced it and lived it. Your blanket statement is completely denying that experience with no support whatsoever.
“And it comes from the idea of a hierarchy of fans with a ruling class of fans — the capital F fans”.
This is another one of those “i say its so, therefore it must be” arguments.
Later in the same paragraph you conflate media/commercial conventions with traditional fandom and conventions and then largely blame “Big F” fandom for incidents that clearly took place at a commercial con. This approach makes me wonder what your goal in doing so is.
Given your response – that your discussion only goes back to the 80s and you make no acknowledgement of the history of this sub-culture, I will not have to assume that you are deliberately ignoring it and, I suspect, doing so because taking that history into consideration pretty much undermines your entire argument.
Fan, fan, or not a fan.
Just remember, the sorting hat takes your choice into account.
The problem is again that people didn’t get teased for liking SF or reading comics
Yeah, they did, Kat. I’m sorry. By other kids, certainly, for being geeky and bookish (and yes, that included comic books, especially for girls, from both boys and other girls, if a girl read “boy” comics with superheroes, etc.) but most especially by disapproving adults. “Why are you still reading that trash?” was a fairly common remark during my adolescence–not from my immediate family, who respected me enough to trust that I knew my own tastes (and who are probably the reason I never developed the knee-jerk defensiveness I saw in some of my fannish peers), but from everyone else around me . . . yes. I’d agree that the dividing line was the 1980s, though I’d put the Popularity Marker at Star Wars rather than Star Trek, but in the 60s and 70s? The assumption was that kids were supposed to grow out of those things at adolescence at the latest, including “silly television shows” and what were essentially seen as “trashy” B-movies. Remember “the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12?” That. If you were an adult who never grew out of it, you were weird.
And that said, I don’t think you’re wrong about mainstream culture in the last 30 years, or even about the convention subculture. Part of both the strengths and the weaknesses of SFF fandom (I’m excluding Horror fandom here, because I think that’s always been a slightly different though related thread) has been the sense of marginalization and “outcaste” community from the early days. On the one hand, it made fandom this incredibly inclusive, welcoming, warm, “big tent.” On the other it then prevented fans from noticing bad behavior from those inside the tent–“my tribe wouldn’t do that!”–even when that behavior resulted in making some potential new members uncomfortable (which is where I suspect you’re picking up the discussion).
I have avoided this “Am I a Fan?” argument because I really have nothing to contribute but emotions–I’m a Fan, and a fan, because I feel like one, and that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned. But arguing from an emotional base is a waste of time, in my opinion, so I backed away the subject. However, this particular conversation does seem to have hit a genuine generational divide, one complicated by the fact that it also covers a vast shift in social expectations: behavior that was “acceptable” in the 1960s emphatically isn’t now. (I’ve had more than one try at explaining just what a huge deal it was to have Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise, short skirt, secretary-like role and all, to someone who hadn’t grown up assuming that women couldn’t be actively serving naval officers in any capacity except nurses, maybe–and an African American woman? For all the retrospective problems I now have with The Original Series, there are times when I would like to hug Roddenberry just for that. Today, it would be tokenism, at best. Then? It was astonishing.) Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that what felt inclusive in the 1960s wouldn’t have felt that way in the 1990s, and I suspect that that’s part of the disagreement. In any case, as I said, I don’t think that your specific argument is wrong–just slightly incomplete, maybe?
The problem is again that people didn’t get teased for liking SF or reading comics — most kids liked SF things and read comics if they could afford them. People got teased about those things because the individual person seemed socially awkward and physically vulnerable, sometimes the wrong ethnicity or gender, etc. — and the SF and the comics were just a handy thing for them to claim was the reason they bullied you.
Thank you for explaining what my experience really was. I see that I’ve been confused all this time.
[Deleted because it’s a jerky comment that adds nothing to the discussion – JS]
“This practice of Fansplaining is a term I have coined who when people make bold statements about an entire fandom that they have little to no knowledge about.” — from a 2011 article on Reverse Thieves, an anime and manga blog. (“who” in the above was probably meant to be “for”.)
“teased”? I wish that was all, Kat. I was SCREAMED at, repeatedly, over years by my mother because I preferred reading comics or SF over the things “normal” kids and teenagers did. The mini-profile I use under my picture on my blog and Twitter account reads: “Mom always said reading science fiction would rot my mind, ruin my morals, and lead to hanging around with disreputable characters. Thank God, she was right.” Only the last sentence of that is an exaggeration.
(It was a difficult parent-child relationship. As I’ve gotten older, and raised my own son, I’ve come to understand the constant anxiety and low-grade terror of raising kids, the constant worry that you’re screwing this “parenting” thing up. Mom wanted her children to be normal, to be average, to be invisible, because Exceptional Kids, Noticeable Kids, Weird Kids would be crushed by normal society. She thought if her kids were “normal”, then they’d be safe.)
When I was beaten up (and I was beaten up fairly regularly), it was never explicitly for reading comics or reading SF. But being a voracious reader, of any kind of books, that probably meant you were a queer, and fair game. If you wore eyeglasses, then you were probably even more queer. (I’ll admit, it was even worse because I had absolutely no aptitude or interest in physical sports. And because I didn’t date at all in high school; being publicly laughed at and ridiculed when you try to ask a girl out is a bit discouraging, and it wasn’t until college that I worked up courage to try again and actually had my first date. But I didn’t date in high school, so I must have been queer.)
And it wasn’t just my mom, and other kids. My junior year in high school, my Advanced Placement English teacher told me I didn’t deserve to be in AP, because I’d said I enjoyed science fiction more than Shakespeare. She not only said that to me, she tried to have me moved into the regular English classes. That was one of the most devastating things that ever happened to me, because “being smart”, getting good grades, being in AP classes, was about the only positive thing in my life then; I felt like she was trying to erase me from existence. (It didn’t happen, because I got upset enough to be sent to my counselor and ended up in psychological counseling for a while. The rest of that English class’ semester was, ahh, a little uncomfortable.)
In college, mid-1970’s, my Creative Writing professor refused to accept any science fiction or fantasy writing. (This was common.) I ended up fictionalizing some of my Army experiences for the class instead.
Science fiction was “trash”. It was “crap”. It was that “silly kid stuff”. It was “What the hell is wrong with you?”
If I hadn’t encountered fandom, that capital-F Fandom where I could actually fit in and be accepted, the way I’d probably be known today is “Remember Bruce? Did anyone ever figure out why he killed himself at such a young age?”
So it’s a little upsetting (is it obvious?) to find someone whose opinions and arguments I’ve almost always admired saying the experiences I lived through were only “teasing”.
I got picked on for reading books. Sometimes it was SFF, sometimes romance, sometimes non-fiction, sometimes mystery, sometimes something else. Because I was an eclectic reader I picked on no matter what book/comic/magazine I was reading. Reading was bad. You should only read what the teachers force you to read. I saw other kids picked on for reading. Again it didn’t matter what they were reading… Well reading cigarette packages and alcohol bottles/cans looked to be ok from a distance.
Those of you picked on who read only a certain genre assume it was for reading that genre. I have to ask did you look around to see what other kids were reading and whether they were getting picked on? What kind of reading was ok when you were growing up?
Those of you picked on who read only a certain genre assume it was for reading that genre
Are you really responding to someone talking about being harassed with “Well, you assumed that you were harassed for this reason, but are you sure? Did you check with other people about why they were harassed?”
Tasha Turner: I have to ask did you look around to see what other kids were reading and whether they were getting picked on? What kind of reading was ok when you were growing up?
Reading got you called a “brain” and that was okay; I grew up in a community that valued doing well in school, even for girls. (I won’t say there wasn’t sexism involved–there was, but it was on a different level.) Reading science fiction, like reading comic books, was “wasting your brains,” especially after a certain age. If you were a boy–in my experience–the age was a little older, maybe even up to 16 (the drivers license was a big Turning Point for boys). Maybe because boys were supposed to be interested in science and technology? (I did say there was sexism involved, too. Intersectionality, for the win!) For girls it was usually younger, I’d say, and might even have started out as being an oddball to begin with–again, in my experience. The point is not, it was weird to read sf/f; the point is, it was weird to take that garbage seriously. Kids’ stuff. When are you going to read a real book? Why do you want to talk about Star Trek? (Watching the show was okay; even adoring one of the characters/actors was okay, schoolgirl-crush territory. Wanting to actually talk about it, as if the ideas meant something to you? Deeply peculiar. Of course, there was also that “it’s just a tv show, fer chrissake!” attitude about all television, too–but I could say something similar about most of the sf movies of my adolescence, as well.) I never read a science fiction novel or short story as part of a classroom assignment; they just weren’t serious enough, weren’t included in the textbooks, etc. (No, not even Bradbury.) Reading sf was for turn-your-brain-off entertainment, like reading Harlequin romances. You weren’t supposed to think about it. Again, that may have been different elsewhere, but it was my experience.
I can’t say for sure if I would have been harassed if I didn’t read sf/f. I did, so that would be asking me to imagine what my life would have been like if I were a different person. (Probably pretty different, but who knows?) I can say that reading and liking sf/f was something that marked me out as “different”–everywhere but fandom.
Which, come to think, is probably at least partly why I still have that emotional reaction to the “Are you a fan or a Fan” question. I don’t have the investment in it that some people seem to have–my most serious response to being told “you aren’t a Real Fan!” or “You shouldn’t think of yourself or anyone else as Real Fans/Fen!” is to shrug and say, well, Whatever, or My choice, none of your business–but it has been at least a minor part of my self-definition for a very long time, and I don’t see it going away any time soon.
I take David’s point, but you all are doing the same thing to me — making remarks about what history I must know and what my fan experiences must be. And this is exactly the problem for me with the continued idea of capital F fandom — it’s not a badge of martyrdom that makes you a better or a more capitalized fan than others, and it was never an inclusive concept even though that was the goal. Again, I have no problem with the SMOF idea — it’s affectionate for people dealing with similar complaints and duties. Conventions have their cultures and their friendships. There’s the history of the magazines, etc.
But even if you lived through the history part, Fan is a name that’s appropriated to make a special category, an entry fee. Sometimes that’s used benignly and in community building — but frequently it is not and has not been. A lot of people did not feel welcomed and belonging by those supposedly helming Fandom. A lot of them didn’t call themselves fans at all because Fandom folk would go after them for it. And a lot of the cultural touchstones that were SFF that I brought up were much earlier than the 1980’s. That’s not a part of history that can be erased either. SFF has been big business for a very long time, even when we had a cultural concept that was untrue — outcast — and we were treated horribly due to it.
There were black fans who couldn’t go to conventions because of segregation in the U.S. — that’s part of Fandom history. Women fans had to go through the same things as men — scorn, being beaten up, threats of violence. And they also got extra fun experiences just for them like being groped by Isaac Asimov while strange men held them down at a convention. That’s part of capital F fandom’s history too, the part that tends to get swept under the rug. Joanna Russ’ famous essay on invisible women (also part of Fan history,) is still frighteningly relevant today.
So no, I want no erasure of the history of many fan cultures — including the parts that weren’t very nice. It built many wonderful things. But it doesn’t give them their own fortress of fandom and the concept — not the people or the history — has a lot of limits, for me. There are black fans who are being told that they can’t cosplay certain characters because they’re black. There are Asian fans who watch half their cultural art get taken by the West/English language market and whitewashed (even though the other half is perfectly fine with western audiences,) while Asian writers in the West can barely get published and are told that “Asian fantasy doesn’t sell,” while Asian fantasy actually makes millions. There are women fans who still get quizzed about the authenticity of their fandom, and they and women authors are regularly accused of destroying some part of SFF with girl cooties.
If fandom was actually concentric circles of activity and dedication with capital F Fandom in the middle, well then, it would be capital F Fandom’s job to fix these things as the central force. But that’s not really fair to place on any group’s shoulders and no group really does have any central control or say of fandom. I don’t really see fandom as a Big Tent for that reason. As I said on another thread awhile back, if you do look at the cultural history, fandom is more like a river, in which people jump in, participate and enjoy as they choose. But sometimes some people try to damn parts of that river, and they do sometimes invoke the concept of capital F fandom to justify attempting it. They’ll fail, but newer fans aren’t real attracted to the concept of capital F fandom if it’s just making a divide they’re expected to jump over. That’s not how a lot of people who call themselves Fans want it to be, of course, but it is also part of the history and the current situation.
So Scalzi can define his fandom experience as he chooses, but it was strange for me to see him doing so as if he had to climb levels of activity and experience, like a video game or Fitbit. For me, I’ve been a fan since I was old enough to understand what a story was. But all my life, my fandom has been questioned and used as a weapon and not simply by people who weren’t fans. So I don’t like the idea of activity and dedication tests to classify fans and have them advance to some kind of name. I don’t like classifying fans. I respect the history and I do know a lot of it and lived through some of it, though you can always learn more. But part of that history is that the concept of capital F fandom has always been complicated and thorny, and not the same for everybody dealing with it.
So while I might qualify as a capital F Fan, depending on who is playing gatekeeper and administering the test, I’m not interested in the title. I don’t think it’s a title of shame, or of pride, and it’s not necessarily a title of belonging for everybody. It was a historical term, a marker of stuff that was going on. I’m not sure how much relevance it has now beyond that. And I don’t like, as a fan, the way a lot of people try to use it. (While having nothing but good feelings and well wishes for many others who use it to say to all, “isn’t this SFFH neat.”)
So as I originally said, before getting sidetracked into pointing out things like that Lord of the Rings was globally popular in the 1970’s, I am not into the concept of capital F fandom because I find parts of it problematic in its applied history and in some of the cultural assertions made from it that I don’t find accurate. And you can’t make me be either, because I get to decide my own fandom too, as a fan. :) I don’t have trouble with anybody calling themselves a Fan if they want. I have concerns — legitimate, historically factual concerns — that the concept of capital F Fandom can be used as a weapon to exclude fans and would-be fans. I’m not alone in that in fandom. It’s not an attack on individuals. I think pretty much everybody here, whether they see fandom as a tent, a video game, a river or something else, would like as many people joining in as possible.
Kat Goodwin: I don’t have trouble with anybody calling themselves a Fan if they want. I have concerns — legitimate, historically factual concerns — that the concept of capital F Fandom can be used as a weapon to exclude fans and would-be fans.
It can be. It has been. It probably will be in the future. I agree that that’s bad–but if we want to prevent it, ignoring the experience of any portion of the community isn’t a good idea.
I don’t think Scalzi’s original post was about “climbing levels of experience”; it was about identifying the point in his life when he felt like a Fan. Which is how you become a Fan, in my opinion; you just–suddenly feel that you are, that you belong. (And yes, I agree that there are people who try to keep other people from feeling this. Screw them. Idiots exist in any given population, and they will always find the weapons they need.) When you wrote, I don’t agree with the capital “F” theory of fandom. It just creates a club, a special tribe, that doesn’t really exist, and people argue over who owns the non-existent thing, it read as though you were saying that this group, this thing I feel I belong to, doesn’t exist. Or shouldn’t exist? I’m not sure, and I don’t think it matters. In either case, the fact that I don’t see fandom as exclusionary, or that I see it as being completely a matter of self-definition, becomes irrelevant. When you move on to writing SFFH has always been one of the most popular, commercial and integrated forms of art global culture has had, from toys to suits of armor to astronaut meals, it reads to me as though you are declaring that my (extremely local, decidedly non-global) experience of SF/F and fandom in the 60s and 70s was a lie, or at least an exception that shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s dated, maybe, but it was real to me at the time, and undoubtedly figures into my definition of Fan. When the next sentence is The constant attempt to pretend it’s a special hiding niche haven is a lie, and has been mainly [emphasis mine] used to try and keep people away from enjoying SFFH fan gatherings or offerings, it feels like an attack–because I’ve always seen this “niche” as not remotely niche-like but as something to welcome as many people to as possible. (In the Old Days some people called it the SF Ghetto; I rejected that term then and I do so now. But never mind.) To say that fandom doesn’t always live up to that standard is one thing; to say it is a lie is something else.
I don’t think you meant to say that my experience of and idea of fandom was a lie, exactly. (I’m trying not to say “I think you meant . . .”; trying to keep the focus on my reaction to your words, period. You do specify that you aren’t talking to or about individuals, but still. If I feel that capital-F Fandom is a real thing, a good thing, it’s difficult not to have a personal emotional response.) I do think that you were outlining a very specific use of the term Fan that has been unfortunately too common in the last few decades–and I agree that that is a Bad Thing. But I’m still a Fan. Are you? I hope so, in any sense you choose, because I really enjoy being part of a community with you.
So. Maybe we’d better agree to disagree about the value of this particular discussion?
Are you really responding to someone talking about being harassed with “Well, you assumed that you were harassed for this reason, but are you sure? Did you check with other people about why they were harassed?”
I certainly didn’t mean to. My apologies. I could have worded that much better.
Reading romance certainly even as an adult, even now, gets me looked down on. PNR and much UF are considered “lesser” forms of SFF because the are written and read by and for women for the most part (Butcher and Hearne and those who were writing original UF in the 1980s aside).
@Mary Francis you mention Harlequin romance so it’s not just SFF/comics it was “low reading” versus whatever society and parents considered “good/serious reading”. When I was growing up at all 3 schools I attended other students except honor thought being smart was bad. Teachers & parents thought (or said anyways) smart was good but disagreed on what that was & what books were “appropriate” to get there. My parents didn’t care as long as we were reading. Teachers it depended on school I was going to & individual teacher.
Ereaders freed a number of us and our kids/grandkids in being able to read publicly what before had to be kept hidden. Yay technology. Now if we’d stop looking down on romance, and urban fiction, and other categories aimed at women or specific minority groups we could really be proud of ourselves. I believe I’m moving off-topic and will stop now.
As to whose a fan versus whose a Fan. I volunteered at the few cons I’ve been to except my 1st. I participate on a number of online SFF related blogs about SFF Fandom topics. I’ve read SFF on and off since I was a kid and read The Hobbit as well as Conan. I saw the first Star Wars when it first came out in theaters and loved it. I’m a fan and a Fan and at times a very ashamed and/or angry Fan when we fail. I hate every time I see these kinds of debates. Because we end up “attacking” each other or thinking we’ve been attacked and going on the defense.
I’m a fan and a Fan and at times a very ashamed and/or angry Fan when we fail. I hate every time I see these kinds of debates. Because we end up “attacking” each other or thinking we’ve been attacked and going on the defense.
Fair enough, Tasha. I should have continued to back away–I know better. As I said above, I usually find “arguing” about something that stems from an emotional conviction a waste of time (at best); I think these kinds of conversations pretty much exemplify that . . .
But that’s what you are doing — ignoring the experience of the portion of the community that doesn’t have a happy experience with Fandom, which definitely doesn’t prevent exclusion or change it. That was the same problem with getting harassment policies at cons — many con runners and “Fans” refused to consider them, claiming they’d never been harassed or seen it, therefore it wasn’t real and by bringing it up, that was saying that cons are bad places and Fandom is bad. Which it wasn’t. We need the harassment policies.
It’s not fans attacking each other to acknowledge that the concept of Fan with a capital letter — as a cultural concept, not individual personal experience — is more complicated than some people’s experiences of community with it, and therefore fans can have problems with that concept thereby. I’m not delegitimizing Bruce’s experiences, but he was a white guy walking in. Other people did not get a welcome; they were told to go away. Often they were threatened by Fans. In the 1960’s and 1970’s. And their experiences are not any less legitimate. They have mixed feelings about it as a cultural concept. That doesn’t make your experiences a “lie.” It just doesn’t make us a rosy, united tribe that are all comfortable with the word.
So it does not threaten people who run conventions and participate in that community to say that Fandom doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody, that for some, it’s an exclusion, not an invitation, as their experience. And that, while it was fun, it’s a term that might have outlived its usefulness in welcoming people in to various events and communities, or that at least some fans have trouble with it and dislike it as a term. That’s something to consider, and it’s the view I have from the experiences I’ve had and from experiences others have talked about and my knowledge of the history. The people are great, but the cultural concept itself is complicated. Scalzi, you and others say, well you’re a Fan just by saying you are, when you feel you are. But that’s not actually true in the culture. It’s true in principle, because no one can stop someone else from being a fan. But it’s not true in practical history of how people have always used it.
So no, I don’t call myself a Fan. I’m a fan. I’ve gone to conventions, I’ve helped with events, I help moderate a forum, I talk online, I spread word of mouth on books, I know far more publishing history including of SFF than people probably would prefer me to talk about, and I read and read, and watch movies and t.v., etc. But I’m not comfortable with the division, and I don’t think a lot of younger fans are, and they are facing a lot of purity tests from others. I am not more special than other fans, new or old. And being part of fandom communities is great — but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically great for everybody yet.
As for the other thing, culture — which can be very powerful and have impact — is not the same thing always as fact. Our culture is that black people are looked on as suspicious until proved otherwise — that’s got nothing to do with fact. It does have something to do with black fans and authors getting often excluded in fandom. Cultural beliefs and people’s individual experiences are not the same thing. Cultural beliefs and actual statistical facts are not necessarily the same thing.
So we have a culture of fandom that involves everything from reading clubs to giant media conventions, and that is very dedicated to all things SFFH. It certainly wasn’t a lie. And like a lot of hobbies that aren’t football, it was often considered weird by others, and anything weird is jumped on as an excuse. It was also considered culturally weird that girls liked SFFH, and so that interest was culturally erased and often discouraged. Women didn’t go into comic bookstores often because they were dangerous and they’d get harassed and told to leave as fake fans. (That still happens today, though not as much because women kept risking going into and working at the stores.) So guys claimed that women weren’t interested in comics, conveniently ignoring the fact that they drove women away and told them to stay out, and that women did manage to get comics from other places, including borrowing them from men. So the culture was that comics was a boy thing — but that wasn’t the actual fact.
Likewise, there is a cultural narrative that SFF fandom was a small outcast tribe, enjoying things that most other people didn’t, niche interests tucked away and ignored by the rest, a safe haven for folks who weren’t in the mainstream. And it was a safe haven for many and fun, but the folks were mainly middle-class white guys and perfectly in the mainstream. And what they liked was — statistical fact — the most popular stuff in pop culture a lot of the time, with millions of fans, coming mostly from consumer corporate content providers. Everybody had Star Wars backpacks, people dressed up as Batman for Halloween. Disney was a major part of U.S. culture. They weren’t niche, factually. Some people got ragged on or bullied for being fans of it; others didn’t. One of the reasons SF did so well in the 1960’s and 1970’s was that Hollywood was massively adapting and putting out SF for the masses to great success, with SF authors on t.v. and as consultants. And women were a main force in running cons, i.e. Fandom, and yet were ignored and not credited frequently as making up the numbers.
So the narrative that suddenly women got interested in SFF fandom is a cultural mistruth. It’s not fact. Women just stopped hiding fandom as much and demanded to be accepted as fans — and for spaces to be made safe for them to better participate, something still going on. The narrative that SFF enthusiasm suddenly got large and mainstream but wasn’t before in the 1960’s and 1970’s is, statistically, factually, not accurate.
That doesn’t mean that people’s experiences in fandom or being bullied are a lie. They happened. But it does mean the mantle of outcast cast over all of fandom was part fabrication, part cultural enforcement both within and without fandom. And unfortunately, it has again often been used for gatekeeping attempts at keeping fans out. So the outcast narrative — even though I went through the same bullying and ostracism as many of you, including the special stuff saved for women, I’m not fond of it either. People got less ashamed to say they were SFF fans — and thus could participate more — by standing up to all forms of bullying about enjoying SFF and otherwise, not because SFF suddenly became more popular in pop culture than it was before. Because statistically, factually, it was always popular. (And outcasting is also part of the imaginary literary versus genre war, and things like not-SF SF, which is another cultural inaccuracy I’m not fond of.)
So it’s not an argument between fans or derision, just to acknowledge a wider spectrum of fandom. It’s actually a way to make sure more fans know people aren’t going to challenge them about whether they are fans and try to shut them out. It doesn’t take away from convention folks to do that. And regardless, for me personally, I find aspects to the term Fan somewhat problematic within the culture of fandom. While I don’t mind that other people use it for themselves, and it’s great that they had great experiences, I am more comfortable with just the term fan.
There is a sliding scale that goes from non-fan to fan, you can’t pin it down there is only successive shades of fandom.
Kat. I’m a woman. I first encountered fandom in the 1970s. It was the first experience I can remember of feeling socially equal. Yes, there were jerks, but they were a minority, in my own personal experience. Not the usual overwhelming, smothering, majority.
Please don’t speak for me.
I’m not speaking for you. I’m not speaking for anybody except to say why I have some problems with the continuing concept of Fan, why I don’t use it, and why I think going forward that it’s something many fans have and continue to find sometimes more exclusionary than inclusionary. And I have offered facts and examples of other people and myself to explain why I have a thorny relationship with the cultural concept, especially in our modern day.
I’m delighted that you had great experiences. But I didn’t always have those great experiences and many other women did not. We got bullied by Fans as well as others. Many women had great experiences but it was still claimed that they were not there or barely there in fandom, that women weren’t interested in SFF. How many magazine articles have you read saying that you, a long time woman fan, didn’t really exist until the last ten years or so?
Many women fans have been subjected to hostility, gate-keeping, purity tests, harassment and derision. Many women fans have recounted incidents, including with prominent authors and others in the industry, back in the 1960’s and 1970’s and currently. James Frenkel harassed women at conventions for decades, and the con Fans did diddly squat about it until absolutely forced to. A number of those women have in fact shared those experiences in various threads on this blog over the years, and there’s plenty of them on the Web.
And then there are the women SFF authors who face discrimination in the industry, including from Fan reviewers and at conventions. (You might want to check out Charlie Stross’ blog for a very depressing conversation by women SF writers about what they’ve faced in the industry and ways they’ve been shut out and limited.) The women who did get harassed at conventions, the women SFF authors told to pretend to have a male author name back in the day, etc. There was the woman SF author who showed up for her signing at the assigned table to find men authors there who refused to move and told her she wasn’t a real SF writer. Women authors who find male moderators talking over them at panels, or have at tough time getting on panels. There was Genevieve Valentine getting sexually harassed at a con by a prominent Fan who’d apparently been doing this sort of stuff again for years and years. A lot of women have stayed out of writing SFF, going to conventions or calling themselves a fan, because they did not get the sort of greeting you did.
If these facts that others haven’t had the same experiences as you, now and in the past, are inconvenient for you, tough luck. Please do not pull the I think jerks rarely happen so it doesn’t matter card with me. That’s the same thing a lot of con runners did when the issue of harassment policies were raised — it never happened to me, it isn’t that bad, we don’t need to bother, you’re attacking all the nice people at the conventions by bringing it up.
And that’s again one of my main problems with, not the people who call themselves Fans, but the cultural concept of Fandom. It does create a division, a club which is sometimes open and sometimes not to people. And if you bring up critical historical fact and any attempt at a nuanced look at the actual multi-layered, complicated aspects of the culture, there’s the defensive reaction that it’s an attack on conventions and the people who run them. The insistence that the cultural concept can only be used for benign, positive effects and that any negative, exclusionary ones people have had should be ignored and minimized as unimportant, or their own happier times are somehow being erased.
We are not a binary species. We have a whole spectrum of fan experiences dealing with different fannish cultures and events. We have issues in the industry and in the larger society that affect fannish cultures too — and certainly did in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Whether the people who run conventions, write about SFF and work in the industry call themselves Fans or not, convention culture will continue and overall be big celebration parties. The name is not the fandom, though it is part of the history, which is more complicated than you’re making out. But those who use the concept of “Fan” to try to run others down and keep others out, rather pathetically, those problems are going to keep being brought up; every time a prominent Fan writes an article about fake geek girls at conventions, for one thing. The history isn’t going to get scrubbed clean either, although the bright sides are not ignored. But that’s not a bad thing that endangers Fandom or fandom. It means we’re being honest and looking forward to addressing problems and including as many people as possible in the future.
Kat: The problem is again that people didn’t get teased for liking SF or reading comics
Holy shit. Seriously?
I take David’s point, but you all are doing the same thing to me — making remarks about what history I must know
I won’t say what you “must know”, but when you make such broadbrushed statements about what every individual throughout all history has never experienced, I think its safe to say you’re talking out your ass.
I’m not speaking for anybody
Yes. You. Are.
When you say “PEOPLE”, you’re using what’s called a generic noun, and as the link explains, its a “blanket statement”. You are attempting to speak for ALL PEOPLE. And your refusal to acknowledge what’s there in plain text is ridiculous. And changing the subject to the bad things that happened to you has nothing to do with the fact that you tried to speak for everyone.
I didn’t always have those great experiences and many other women did not.
That doesn’t mean you get to make shit up about the lives of every other person on the planet, and then pretend you didn’t just do that.
You have the right to your own opinion and your own experience. You don’t have the right to rewrite other people’s experiences, speak for everyone else, or invent your own facts, which is exactly what “people didn’t get teased” is doing.
I don’t agree with the capital “F” theory of fandom.
Well, the general rule is that you call people by what they want to be called by. For example, we refer to transgender people by whatever their preference is, even if you don’t agree with their choice. And if a whole bunch of people want to say they are part of capital F Fandom, then who are you to say they can’t???
John, I well remember that January 2005 ConFusion that you identify as the con where you became a fan. Indeed, I specifically remember the long Friday afternoon in the bar with a mixed crowd of fans and pros, where I watched you, over about three hours, go from being a very tentative onlooker on the outside of the conversation circle to being right in the middle of it, the person that everyone wanted to talk with.
I am not the only person to have remarked, in the last few years, on the way that you went, practically overnight, from being someone mostly unknown in the SF world to someone who, it seemed, had been around for decades. I believe that the post-singularity intelligences that regularly rearrange human history and edit our memories are rarely visible — but in that bar in suburban Detroit, one could, if one paid close attention, discern them at work.