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The Common Tongue

God knows I'm not trying to dredge up the dead and extremely stinky past here, but I was mulling over the concept of the canon as it applies to contemporary SF&F fandom, partially as a result of what windelina had to say in this post (sorry, it's f-locked) about her reaction to some younger fans who didn't quite get the mockup of HAL9000 that sat outside Main Programming this year at Convergence. It occurred to me that every time we get a big influx of fans, part of what leads the mainstream -however you define it at the time- to exclude the neos is that they just don't speak the language. There are just too many referents to films and TV shows they haven't seen, books and stories they haven't read, and all that sort of thing.

Nowadays, of course, I suppose it's not such a big deal, because there are sufficient ghettos within fandom that you don't really have to deal with anyone outside your circle of Trek fans, Harry Potter fans, or whatever your particular fandom might be. On the other hand, when you venture out to a convention, especially a ginormous Gathering of the Tribes such as Convergence, squatting in your little familiar circle is really a waste of time and money. So as we approach the end of the seventh decade of SF conventions, what is the canon? What do fans need to have experienced to interact intelligently with most of the other fans at Convergence? Is there a canon any more, or has the very notion of a central body of knowledge in fandom become obsolete? If there is a canon, what do you think belongs in it?


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2006 03:08 pm (UTC)
Well, first off, just to be clear - I didn't actually sit and mock. If someone seemed confused, I told them it was from the movie 2001. I don't get a lot of Chris Jones's references, so I really don't have a leg to stand on as far as superior mocking. I'm in the ignorant seat too many times myself!

I think it takes a lot to be a well-rounded fan, and not many can/will do it. But the most important thing is a sense of curiosity and openness - on both sides.
Fan A "You haven't seen THIS?"
Fan B "Nope, but it's good?"
Fan A "Yes!"
Fan B "I'll add it to my list. But I'm trying to get through the last season of THIS."
Fan A "I've never watched that. It's good?"

No matter the age, when fandom gets superior about MY fandom in comparison to YOUR fandom, it's a problem.

Now, as for what should be included...
Comics: The Nail, The Watchmen, Kingdom Come, Marvels, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke

TV Shows: At least a smattering of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, The West Wing, DS9, The Prisoner, BlackAdder, Star Trek Original Series and Next Gen, Batman and/or Superman Animated Series, Animaniacs. Bonus Points: Quantum Leap, Sid & Marty Krofft Shows, The Tick (live action or animated), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Books: I'm not a huge SF fan so I'm lacking in that department. Asimov, of course. Otherwise, Bradbury, Tolkien, CS Lewis, Connie Willis, one or two David Eddings just for comparison, a Jane Austen or two because they are constantly being remade, same for Shakespeare.

Movies: 2001, Clockwork Orange, Lawrence of Arabia, Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven, Once Upon a Time in the West, Star Wars (all 6), Jaws, Close Encounters, one of two J-Horror films, Real Genius.

There - that's a start. The nicest part of being a fan is discovering something new, after all!
Jul. 20th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
No matter the age, when fandom gets superior about MY fandom in comparison to YOUR fandom, it's a problem.


This may come as a surprise, but I agree with you on a lot of these, with some exceptions (The West Wing in the SF/fantasy canon? Is there that much slashy goodness there? ;)) although I'd also put in a plug for the Bible, since so many cultural references come out of that.

*makes notes on the comics recommendations*
(no subject) - windelina - Jul. 20th, 2006 04:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 20th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qob - Jul. 20th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 20th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jul. 20th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
That's me above - windelina - Jul. 20th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: That's me above - wombat_socho - Jul. 20th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - huladavid - Jul. 21st, 2006 12:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 21st, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - revolutionaryjo - Jul. 20th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 20th, 2006 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - michaellee - Jul. 20th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 20th, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - huladavid - Jul. 21st, 2006 12:48 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 20th, 2006 04:09 pm (UTC)
this is interesting. What I find intriguing is that there are sections of the overall SF/F/Comics/et.al. 'canon' that seems intergral to some folks and completely uninteresting to others.
Jul. 20th, 2006 04:16 pm (UTC)
What I find intriguing is that there are sections of the overall SF/F/Comics/et.al. 'canon' that seems intergral to some folks and completely uninteresting to others.

More so as time goes by and people enter fandom from genres other than literary SF, Trek and Star Wars, but it's always been that way. I have a friend down home who's never been interested in comics - he's mildly dyslexic and it's just too much work for him. The same applies to subbed anime for him. OTOH, he knows pretty much everything there is to know about movies and SF in print.
Jul. 20th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
I think it's important for all of us to understand that there is a deep and rich history of Spec-Fi, and that it takes time to learn and appreciate that.

That said: There is always a "know-it-all" attitude in the "younger generation" that the older one have to cut through before those in the younger generation can start to appreciate that something like "Underworld", for example, might not be the End-All Be-All authority on Vampires and Were-creatures.

Items that should be understood by a "Fan":
1. The Hobbit (LOTR is recommended, but still optional)
2. Star Trek TOS (Next Generation is recommended, all others are optional)
3. Star Wars (At least the first trilogy)
4. Arthurian Legend (pick one)
5. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Pick one)
6. One of the following series:
~Harry Potter
~The Chronicles of Narnia
~The Martian Chronicles

If you can get this simple background, you can at least follow most (51%) conversations at CONvergence. Hopefully, you'll realize your ignorance at this point and become interested in learning more.

Other things an older fan SHOULD be familiar with, not necessarily all of them, but these have been on fan radar long enough to be known. This list is not exhaustive:

The Bible (Old Testament more than New)
William Shakespeare
Geoffrey Chaucer
Mary Shelly

The Dragonriders of Pern
The Belgariad
The Dark Tower
Starship Troopers
The Chronicles of Amber
The Wheel of Time
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
The Riftwar Saga

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Superman (1980)
Battlestar Galactica

I have to run, but I meant to put on a few other television shows...feel free to add on.
Jul. 20th, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
I think people should know about the Thomas Covenant books...in the same way they know about Perry Rhodan and the "New Wave" SF writers. Don't know if I'd actually recommend them to anyone, though.
(no subject) - fsf_rapier - Jul. 20th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - digex - Jul. 21st, 2006 05:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wombat_socho - Jul. 21st, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2006 12:55 am (UTC)
Maybe it's becuase I'm an asshole...
...or maybe it's because in my mind "culture" is whatever two people agree on, but SF canon is whatever a fan thinks is canon.

(Maybe I'm an anarchist, but then would an anarchist spend hours carefully shaving his head and dousing it with bay rum aftershave? And the woman sitting next to me just asked if I was a Buddhist, go fig.)
Jul. 21st, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Maybe it's becuase I'm an asshole...
How culturally insensitive of her! ;)

I think it has to be better defined than that, or we wind up with all kinds of marginal stuff like Tom Clancy, The West Wing and Gore Vidal clogging up the cultural commons. To expand on the analogy, the country of SF&F is a really big sprawling place; I'm just trying to get a handle on what people think are the cities and monuments worth checking out. Especially because the kids sometimes aren't aware that the newer parts of the city aren't all there is.

Jul. 21st, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC)
My deinition of canon would include:
Lord of the Rings
Star Trek (at least the first series)
Star Wars (the original three movies)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Foundation Trilogy
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Dragonriders of Pern (at least the first trilogy)
The Cthulhu mythos
Doctor Who (at least know the concept behind the show)
Highhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Also, key concepts/names they should recognize, even if they've never read the book/seen the movie:
Berserkers (Saberhagen)
Hammers Slammers

Also, people important to the field they should be aware of:
Gene Roddenberry
Ursula LeGuin
John W. Campbell
Jul. 21st, 2006 07:30 pm (UTC)
Interesting...I haven't seen either CE3K or Robotech, and never managed to finish Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (I may be one of the half-dozen people in fandom who doesn't think Douglas Adams is all that funny.)

This whole business is tempting me to assemble a fandom version of the Purity Test, although that's almost certainly the wrong name for it.
Jul. 22nd, 2006 04:51 am (UTC)
Close Encounters comes highly recommended by me - Just an FYI
Jan. 8th, 2007 09:26 pm (UTC)
When I was a wee one, I read all the sf in my school library. Unfortunately, that wasn't very much. At least at home I had Lewis, Tolkein, L. Frank Baum and E.B. White. As an adult I scrambled to read all the sf that was recommended to me. But I can't count how many times I've had this conversation at a con:

Elder fan: "What're you reading? ... Oh, that's a good book."
Me: "Yeah, I'm liking it." (We talk about it for a moment)
Elder fan: "You mean you're just reading that for the first time??!" *in shocked disbelief*
Me: "Well, uh, yeah."
Elder fan: "I can't believe you've never read that one before! Sheesh!"
Me: "Well, I was about negative-15 when it came out, and so were most of my friends."
Jan. 9th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
Sadly, many older fans have crappy social skills.
Jan. 8th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
Now I'm going to add that a well-rounded fan shall be familiar with some anime. He will have seen:
Battle of the Planets
something by Matsumoru (sp?), like Captain Harlock or Galaxy Express
Sailor Moon
at least one incarnation of Gundam
If he really wants to be hip, he needs to see Utena, Cowboy Bebop, something by CLAMP, and Fullmetal Alchemist.
And Miyazaki is too obvious to even mention.
Jan. 9th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
But you did!
Of the anime you mention, I've only seen a couple of the Captain Harlock series, Sailor Moon, and Akira (which I hated). Then again, I came in late to this anime thing.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )



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