There’s No Right Way To Be A Fan?!?

imagesSarah, over at the Bookworm Blues review blog wrote a piece the other day entitled Hey Fans, You’re Doing It Wrong.

She very quickly followed that title with the disclaimer that the title was ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and she followed that with an egalitarian screed on equality, openness and an appeal to the least-common-denominator, something vaguely equivalent to:  if you like this stuff, you are a fan, no apologies necessary.

As if.

As if someone who isn’t at least 50 years old has any authority whatsoever to talk about what it means to be a fan and how to identify, if not become, one.

Sorry ’bout that.  ‘Ageism’ is not an acceptable way to judge fannishness – unless you are a fan.  It’s mere coincidence that real fans are all over 50.  Happenstance.  A conspiracy of the calendar.

I’m here to fansplain to Sarah and everyone else in the wider so-called genre community that Sarah’s title was not tongue-in-cheek. It was finger-in-the-eye.  Without realizing it, Sarah nailed it.

Fans, you ARE doing it wrong.

Wrong. WRONG. W R O N G!

W  R  O  N  G  !!!

If you want to be a fan, there are just a few simple steps you must take, some check boxes you must check off, some oaths you must orate and some things you must do.

Fortunately, they’re all fun, relatively inexpensive (after the infrastructure has been acquired anyways) and will reward the seeker in the end with the appellation of TRUFan.

Precursor:  find a fanspeak dictionary and learn what a Trufan is.  Check out Not-a-fan, FAAN, Femmefan, Fen, Jophan too.

1. Get yourself born around 1912 or so, preferably in the US or the UK, or even Australia.

Bonus Points Awarded if you can arrange to get yourself born male and white into a scientifically or literary oriented household

Double Bonus Points Awarded for being born in NYC or LA or Chicago (or your birth family immigrates there within a few years of your denouement)

2.    Become friends with people named Forrest J. Ackerman, Virginia Kidd*, Raymond Bradbury, Warren Fitzgerald*, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Raymond A. Palmer, John Michael, Donald A. Wollheim,  Leslie Perri*, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Samuel A. Moskowitz, Mortimer Weisinger, James C. Taurasi, William Sykora, Milton A. Rothman, Julius Unger…**

(*Note: may not be white and/or may not be male)

(**Note: for purposes of this discussion, “jewish” (almost) equals “white”)

Bonus Points awarded for exchanging LOCs with any of the above; taking cross-country bus trips to attend the first Worldcon; paying for someone else to take the bus trip

3. Align yourself with a fannish quasi-political party such as Michalism, Scienceers, Animists…

Bonus Points awarded for:  disrupting a club meeting with political recruitment and rants; having your compadres kicked out of a convention for unacceptable political activities, taking your fan activity so seriously that you enter into real politics

4. Choose your Fannish Religion:  Make whatever obeisance required, perform the necessary sacrifices and declare your allegiance to Ghu, Roscoe, Ignatz or another Ghod of your choosing.

Bonus Points awarded for:  choosing the right one.

5. Publicly declare your position on the Yngvi question.

Bonus Points awarded for: making a declaration on the Yngvi question in a manner that can be construed as supporting either side of the argument.

6. Learn the fannish ideals – openness, diversity, acceptance,  creativity, sharing, caring, – and then make sure to embrace them as academic ideals that will rarely be put to practical use.

Bonus Points awarded: LOCs, rants, screeds and public remonstrations denouncing groups or individuals as not being real fans

league7. Start a science fiction club, one with at least three members. Obtain a club number from the Science Fiction League.  Hold meetings and discuss science fiction so you can determine which of your club members are not really fans.  Use political maneuvering to remove the not-fans from your club.

Bonus Points awarded for: leaving the club you founded to start another one within 6 months of inauguration; merging with another club for the purpose of destroying it from within; starting another club to get back at the folks who kicked you out of the one you founded.

Mimeograph,_19188. Buy a hektograph, ditto machine or mimeograph;  learn how to type on and cut stencils; publish a fanzine.  (Don’t know what those things are?  Read that dictionary and/or pontificate on why real fans don’t need to read no stinkin dictionary!)

Bonus Points awarded: ditch your phone, tablet and computer. Buy a Remington portable typer. Include an editorial in every issue of your fanzine ranting about print’s superiority, the sterility of electrons.  Make sure your fanzine is not distributed or read by more than a couple of hundred people; editorialize about your lack of influence

9. Buy a Propeller Beanie

boywithapropellerbeanie1948 - Copy10. With Propeller Beanie in hand, become a SMoF.  (?  DICTIONARY!)

Bonus Points awarded for: telling everyone that SMoFs don’t really control all of fandom.  Then chuckle in an insanely malevolent way.

Double Bonus points:  Copypaste long threads to one sentence comments on the listserv.

Triple Bonus points awarded for placing your one sentence comment in whatever location (top or bottom) opposite from what was last complained about on the listserv.

11. Wear your propeller beanie to a media con.  Spin your propeller as you yell at and belittle the kids standing on line to pay for TV star autographs

Bonus Points awarded for being escorted off the premises of the convention by security

conlinesDouble Bonus Points awarded for having the story picked up by the fan press;  TRIPLE points if one of your detractors writes something akin to “who do they think they are, saying we’re not fans…?”

12. Chair a Worldcon.

Bonus Points awarded for: con themes that focus on pre-1980s subjects, guests, panels and exhibits

Double Bonus Points awarded for: disappearing from Fandom once the convention has concluded7981623137_f3495e9819_z

13. Read the classics, beginning with The Castle of Otranto, progressing through Shelley, Wells, Verne, every story and column in Amazing Stories 1926, ’27, ’28, ’29 and ’30. Read every story and column in Science Wonder Stories, 1930 through ’39.  Every story and column in Astounding Stories of Super Science, 1930 through 1938.  Memorize. Pick a favorite character from one of the stories (Gunner Cade, Buck Rogers, Lamont Cranston).  Write your PhD dissertation on that character, focusing on their importance to modern society and culture.  Do not talk about anything but that character, ever again.

Bonus Points awarded for writing reviews of these works in your fanzines and/or for writing LOCs to the magazines declaiming that this or that story is not really science fiction…because….Always conclude your LOC with demands for more stories about (insert favorite antediluvian character here).

Double Bonus Points for not being sure if the Campbellian revolution was a good thing…and following it up with a screed against the New Wave

14. Attend conventions held for new fandoms, like Star Trek.  Ostentatiously leave conventions for new fandoms (like Star Trek) because they are obviously not real fandoms

Note: NOT an authorized William Shatner autograph

Bonus Points awarded for standing on line for several hours to pay for an autographed picture of Spock.  (Do this before leaving the not real con)

Double Bonus Points awarded for forming a new Star Trek club, designed to appeal to the real Star Trek fans

Special Bonus (unlimited extra points):  Learn The Law:

“Now begins the Saying of the Law!” The strong voice rang out.

And all the fans turned upwards to the speaker, and as one the voices filled the room, and even the hotel corridor beyond.

“Are we not fen?” they replied.

“Not to call it sci-fi, that is the Law.”

“Are we not fen?”

“Not to wear pointy ears or long scarves, that is the Law.”

“Are we not fen?”

“Not to have California Crap in our zines, that is the Law.”

“Are we not fen?”

“Not to have the Worldcon on a boat, that is the Law.”

“Are we not fen?”

“Not to go to programming, that is the Law.”

“Are we not fen?”

 (from Hlavaty & Bosky’s The Island of Dr. Gernsback)

15. Write a science fiction novel and have it published by a traditional publisher.  Start a blog to support your audience.  Attend any convention of any kind that will have you as a guest.  Sit behind a desk for hours signing autographs.  Write blog posts about fannish ideals and the importance of implementing them in real life.  Stop your club and fanzine activities because you just ‘don’t have the time’. Tell the fans (real or not) how important they are.

Bonus Points awarded for writing about the importance of getting along, being open, embracing diversity.

Triple points awarded for assuring everyone that it doesn’t matter what kind of fan they are as long as they buy your books.  New.

NOW you are a fan…and you no longer need to be.

…but if you still want to be a fan – read this to help you start your journey THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent encapsulation of everything positive and negative in a compressed history of the evolution of fandom. (Modern fans would be amazed at the level of feuding, even political feuding, among 1930s fans, for instance.)

    As a bit of a Fantiquarian and lover of fannish lore (& zine publisher, archivist for multiple fannish entities, etc. etc. blah blah) I consider myself a trufan of sorts.

    Trouble is, I’ve always hated the term. To me, and many others, it implies all the SF fans who are not trufen are false-fen or fake fans. I believe (and have experienced first hand confrontational experience of this when I attempt to ‘convert’ SF fans to traditional fandom) that trufandom has something of a reputation for exclusivity. A negative reputation. This is undeserved by and large, but some trufen take certain ‘facts’ for granted.

    Facts like: Cosplay costumers are not fans. Media lovers are not fans. Anime fans are not fans. Gamers are not fans. Comic collectors are not fans. Plastic kit modellers are not fans. And so on. Only fanzine fans are fans. And ‘real’ fanzine fans have nothing to do with science fiction. Logical conclusion? Science fiction fandom doesn’t exist. It’s a myth.

    Just a tad too exclusive, methinks.

    In actual fact trufen say ‘fan’ when they actually mean ‘faan,’ the latter being a term for a SF fan devoted to traditional fandom (which is mostly to do with fanzines and fannish customs whose template was first laid down more than seventy years ago).

    So when a trufan describes another type of SF fan as a ‘non-fan’ all he/she means is that the other person doesn’t fit within the current definition of traditional fandom. Which is true.

    But all too often the person in question takes it as a personal affront, as if they’re being told they are not at all any sort of legitimate SF fan but rather some kind of poseur, a fake, maybe even a freak. Hence many SF fen dismiss trufen as elitist snobs, which is not at all true (except in rare cases, but such people are found in every group).

    So the hostility some SF fen feel for trufen is misplaced and unjustified, but it’s hard to convince them of this. Meanwhile many a trufan is oblivious to their collective negative reputation, if only because in their hearts they know they are pro-tradfandom and not anti-everything else. Trouble is, being steeped in the lore and traditions of their niche fandom, they assume everyone understands the context of the terms they use, that everyone understands what they mean when they call someone a non-fan. Sadly, not.

    On the other hand, there is ‘some’ hostility on the part of trufen toward the rest of fandom, but it has to do with the fact traditional fandom used to be the ‘only’ game in town, but no longer. As far back as the late 1940s when conventions began to separate from fan clubs and become self-aware entities of their own, with increasing emphasis on professional trade fair aspects, traditional fans began to develop an uneasy feeling their monopoly of fannishness was beginning to slip away from them.

    A later example, indeed the classic example, of perceived ‘threat’ was the rise of Star Trek fandom most of whose enthusiasts were not at all interested in the sacred template of tradfandom. To this day there are still trufen who froth at the mouth at the mere thought of the cursed ‘Trekkies.’

    Point is, traditional fandom used to be the only organized fandom, and a very pleasant and cozy institution it was too (apart from being rent by disputes that make modern flame wars a damp squib in comparison.)

    What happened is that SF exploded into mainstream and created vast numbers of fans, most of them specialized in areas of SF fandom other than tradfandom which went from being a solitary big frog in a tiny pond to a tiny frog in a vast ocean, and some tradfen are still in a state of denial and feeling grumpy.

    After more than forty years of fan activity I’ve come to the following conclusion: science fiction fandom today is a multi-faceted display of multiple niche fandoms every one of which is valid. A science fiction fan is anyone who likes any aspect of science fiction. Simple as that.

    For too long I was focused on trufandom. Writing a weekly column for Amazing Stories has revived my interest in all things SF. It’s like a breath of fresh spring air after being cooped up with cabin fever over a long winter.

    Used to be a sense of obligation/responsibility/duty motivated me in my fan activity promoting trufandom. No longer. Oh, I will continue to promote trufandom, a niche fandom I cherish, but I will be doing it for the fun of it, doing it to celebrate science fiction and science fiction fandom. I’m doing it for the sheer joy of celebration.

    So you want to be a fan? Find your niche and enjoy it. That’s all it takes to be a fan.

    Me, I’m a generalist, I love multiple niches within SF fandom. You can too, if you want.

    And why not be a ‘faan?’ Traditional fandom is loads of fun and very satisfying… as long as you remember it isn’t the ‘only’ fandom but merely one of many.

    And mainly, have fun. That’s what being a fan is all about.

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