I had an interesting thought earlier today: that the origin and growth of many minority communities such as gay, lesbian, queer, transgender (non-monolithic to be clear) is in many ways similar to the origin and growth of science fiction fandom.
Think about that. Back in the late 20s and early 30s, fans lived in isolation. Each individual had interests, feelings, thoughts and emotions that they perceived as setting themselves apart from the mainstream. Many of their interests and beliefs were non-conformist, antithetical to society, challenging to the primary culture’s belief systems.
And even more: no one would know how different a fan was unless that fan was revealed through accident, sabotage or took the then risky (but ultimately self-fulfilling) step of proclaiming their affiliation to a group of outsiders.
And more so: in being outed, fans found themselves subjected to ridicule, discrimination and disdain, both from society at large and also often from the people who were closest to them – family and friends.
Once the magazines began hitting the stands, these isolated untouchables acquired a communications channel, made the happy discovery that they were not alone. They experienced relief, felt a sense of justification. They became armored with the evidence of the existence of others just like themselves.
They began to organize. They argued and fought over what exactly being one of them meant. They created safe havens for themselves, they created organizations that engaged in outreach and recruitment. They began speaking out, defended themselves against discrimination and in doing so created a narrative that taught the mainstream how to speak to them and about them.
Today, well, today, fandom has transformed into geekdom and geekdom seems to be ruling the world. I haven’t heard of a single schoolkid getting beaten up on the bus for reading Asimov’s Foundation in at least four decades. (If such a thing has happened more recently, please let me know.)
Of course the analogy breaks down if one begins to analyze it too deeply. Perhaps the greatest disconnect being the fact that fans chose to be fans while sexual orientation and gender identity are not choices (though I am sure you will find many fans unwilling to agree that their fannishness is a choice).
Regardless, there are some mighty strong similarities to be found here. Food for thought. Maybe there are a lot more people out there just like us than we ever imagined.