Eoghann Irving from Solar Flare has written a post claiming, “There’s No Such Thing as Science Fiction Fandom.” His main point:
It would be more accurate to claim that there’s no such thing as a single unifying science fiction fandom.
I think there’s a strong case to be made that historically there used to be one. The one that formed around the pulp magazines, that essentially created WorldCon and the Hugos. Members of that fandom were at one time a pretty good example of the average science fiction fan (Solar Flare).
Is Fandom splintering?
In February, I wrote Three Types of SF Fans, in which I explored the major divisions within SF Fandom. I do not believe that Fandom is splintering, our problem is Pop Culture exposure and a misapprehension about what fandom is.
The Source of the Problem:
- Fans are fanatics! They eat, drink, breathe and live SF.
- Enthusiasts think they are fans. They get excited by the release of an SF film, maybe play some games, but are not defined by their interest in SF.
As SF has made its flash into the Pop Culture, many new enthusiasts have been created and a few new fans. Every flash in the pan has this effect.
We are at the point in the cycle when SF has past its peak in popularity and is falling out of favor causing the enthusiasts to stay interested in the series that turned them on, while talking trash about other SF so they can hold on to an image of coolness, the image of a fracturing fandom is born.
The Scifi Channel is to Blame
The Scifi Channel and the major studios have fed this seeming division by conflating futuristic action films and series with science fiction leaving many enthusiasts to believe that SF is synonymous with futuristic action films.
This makes it almost impossible for any non-action based series or film to have any sort of traction.
To make this point clearer, I have debated with people whether Dead like Me and Eli Stone are SF. The group I was talking with insisted that they were not because they were not action packed...
Promoting Fan Culture
But the scale of the genre now is such that you really can’t assume that another science fiction fan will like or even be interested in what you are interested in. The sheer number of fandoms within the science fiction fan community results in a huge diversity of opinions and tastes (Solar Flare).
Our biggest problem with multiple fandoms is that fans have failed to communicate fan culture to the next generation. We have allowed pop culture to parody and ridicule our lives without offering an alternative take for people to see. The beauty and power of a filksing, the humor of a masquerade, or the basic comradery of a convention.
As long as we allow pop culture to define fandom, true fans will continue to find themselves pushed further and further out of the picture. So keep the faith, and spread the word.