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Replenishing the blood supply

I think it's a cliche that people join fandom looking for community. Traditionally, this has certainly been the case, and to some extent continues to be the case for some people, but now that SF and fantasy have become part of the mainstream I don't think it's quite as common as it used to be. The result of this is that fandom is less of a ghetto than it used to be, and some of the social aspects have weakened as a result.

The irony of me bitching about this is not lost on me. Thirty years ago when I first got involved in fandom here in Washington, I was annoyed to discover that WSFA was more of a social club than a place where people went to talk about science fiction; this was reinforced a few years later when I went to MNSTF meetings and learned that "sercon" behavior like mine was discouraged. MNSTF and its regulars preferred to be "silly" instead, and left actual talk about SF to the fringe. To this day I'm not sure whether this was "Minnesota Nice" in fannish clothes or just a common feature of fandom in general.

Bringing this back to contemporary times, I find myself thinking about how fandom can adapt itself and get new blood from anime fandom. How do we socialize anime fans and get them interested in the seminal works of SF and fantasy, so that instead of just being fans of anime and media they also become fans of the old canon and its descendants? How do we get gamers to recognize that behind the awesomeness of HALO, there's half a century of combat SF, to say nothing of the direct influences of the Culture novels and Niven's Ringworld? While I haven't been very active in East Coast fandom yet, I get the feeling that conventions like Balticon are getting distracted by side issues like webcomics and podcasts, and neglecting the kind of outreach that needs to be done.

At one level, it may already be too late. The relationship between Anime Detour and Convergence is anomalous; I don't know of any connection or interaction between Otakorp and BSFS, but then since I'm not an active member of the latter and have no involvement with the former, there might well be something going on that I'm not aware of. The same applies to WSFA/PRSFS locally with respect to Katsucon and Anime USA. So perhaps working from the top down, so to speak, is not the answer here, unless a new SF convention starts in the DC/NoVa area that deliberately reaches out to the otaku and gamer communities. I have been thinking about this; it's one of the many items on the "After I'm working steadily again" list. At another level, there's something to be said for individual evangelizing. Volunteering to do panels at local conventions and reaching out to individual fans through room parties may be the way to go; it's certainly the way to build support for a new multimedia convention of the sort I've been thinking about.

So, some food for thought. Feedback would be nice.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
qob
Jun. 14th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
dunno. My fandom is differently focused than yours, but I do find it interesting that anime fans and CONvergence have a huge crossover, and in the costuming end there is no line. I like good SF, there is some in anime, I can't think of specific names.
wombat_socho
Jun. 14th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
I suspect a lot of anime fans would have found their way down 494 to Convergence even without us giving them their props at every opportunity, but you are correct, there's a lot of crossover, if for no better reason than everybody likes a party.

Ghost in the Shell and the various Gundam series are probably the best known SF anime, but there's a lot more of it out there.
badger2305
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
Some of this might be attributed to "product differentiation" but I think you are right - there is more room for cross-over between fandoms. Your ideas for how to approach it - panels, parties, and events, and possibly a new con - are all right on the money, as far as I can tell.
wombat_socho
Jun. 15th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
I'm all in favor of crossovers/multiple fandoms, but my main concern is that there's a real danger of cultural breakdown/failure in fandom. I think most people who come into fandom through media or anime fandom don't realize there's a huge amount of materials and social history in (for lack of a word) literary fandom, and I think more ought to be done to make them aware. I'd rather not have to start a new convention out here to help accomplish that...ah, who am I kidding. There's a tremendous void in the convention calendar out here between Memorial Day and October where there used to be cons every month from May through October, and it irritates the shit out of me.
michaellee
Jun. 15th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
I think fandom is still very much about community. In fact, more than ever it should be about community, but perhaps in different ways than it was in the pre-internet era.

I've often felt (and said) that Anime fandom is just another form of SF Media fandom of the 1970s and 1980s, so while I don't expect complete overlap, they are part of the family.

One of my goals is to provide an environment for the teenagers of today and tomorrow to have the same life-shaping experiences through fandom that I've had.

But these are things I'm very actively thinking about as well.
wombat_socho
Jun. 15th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
I think you've done a great job of that through your work in Programming at Convergence, and I'm glad this sort of thing is on your mind too.
(Deleted comment)
wombat_socho
Jun. 15th, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
Well, actually you did bring up something I didn't address, which is to say the persistence of fuggheads in all the different categories of fandom. :) It almost makes me wonder if anyone's ever done a panel or a paper on Fandom as the Other, in the pomo sense.

Agreed that anime fandom is more diverse in some ways than SF/F fandom; it's like media fandom in that way since people often fall in love with anime/manga that has no SF/F content. Granted, there's not so much of that in media fandom, but it is there. As for "isolationists" being in charge of anime fandom...I dunno. I really think it's more a case of otaku just not being aware the books are out there.

As for gamers, it's funny that you go off on HALO fans, because I got involved with the game as a direct result of starting Detour. Also, somebody's buying those Eric Nylund books. :)

See? You weren't just babbling. ;)
(Deleted comment)
wombat_socho
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
"The dormant lit geek in me has just awoken and now needs to go look that up and or/write that essay."
I was thinking that badger2305 has probably come across something like that paper in his time at Wiscon, which (more than any other con I'm aware of) tends to cross the streams of academia and fandom, but there's probably as many ways to do that essay as there are individual fans.

Ah. See, this sort of idiocy is why I try to avoid message boards and forums and blog comments, with very few exceptions.

Eric Nylund has written three of the four HALO novels (the fourth being done by William C. Dietz) and has done a damn fine job of it.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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