The War on Fandom– By Fandom
Background here. And this. And this. And this.
Sigh. What happened to that happy amoeba of “we all share our weirdness together”?
I matriculated in the fan culture that built fan run conventions. Yes, I’m talking about cons like Worldcon. Working from the inside, the original culture of fandom was inclusive, welcoming– a veritable melting pot of shared love of our various obsessions. There are many obsessions, but these are mine! See, this is how I enjoy them and we can be our geeky awkward selves in a shared space! For a time, those values overtook barriers of politics, false identity and economic differences and put all that BS aside to have a special place. Then, somewhere along the line, fandom got… popular.
We weren’t really sure what to do about it.
Since then, some values from the outside our ranks have gotten their way in.
They say sinister things, like:
- Some fans are more fannish than others. They don’t belong among us.
- You aren’t safe here. We’ll make separate, safe spaces under our broad tent, so you will not be harmed/tainted by these other nobs.
- You aren’t really inclusive if you don’t specifically check all the check-boxes we say you need to check.
All of this boils down to one toxic message:
People who are different from each other cannot hope to get along. Strangers will attack you. Separate into your comfort zones and be safe.
Let me give some people who claim to be our leading lights some insight.
THESE ARE NOT THE VALUES THAT DIY FANDOM STARTED WITH. If they were, mass fandom would not exist.
First: you live or die by how many people you could entice into the community. These awesome cons cannot survive without attendees– and fresh blood. And while families do come to cons, there aren’t enough to support us– or replace us.
Well, if we really believed the new school, why would be bother creating big diverse organizations to begin with? Who would bother to attend conventions in hotels surrounded by people? We’d invite those safe people to our homes, and tell the rest of the universe to go hang. We would be content with local clubs. Under circumstances like these, who would bother inventing WORLD CON?
Why do I go to conventions? I go to MEET OTHER FANS. I could care less what the vast majority of these media conglomerates want to sell me. If I want to buy something? I will go and find that thing on the internet. I don’t need to stand in line for hours for a brief glimpse of some movie star I’m in love with. I can write fan fic in the privacy of my own basement.
Honestly, it is the characters I care about, full stop. The actor wears the visage for a brief shining moment (he or she calls it work) and shares himself with that character so we may all love him. This is awesome, but not my area of interest.
The second thing I want, is meet the minds who came up with these characters, and script their lives. I’d like to buy them a drink (doesn’t even have to be alcoholic) and have a social chat with them. That is why I chose to join fannish society– and that is why I still love the idea of Worldcon.
Maybe DIY fandom can’t scale the way Media West and Dragon Con can. You know what? Unequal numbers don’t bother me. Local smaller groups just makes it easier to find time to spend with the folks who socialize in consuite. I’ve talked to some incredibly famous writers– including Terry Pratchett even a hand full of movie stars. I have truly been blessed to be part of Fandom. And my old stomping ground convention wasn’t even that big, or that rich. We just had a good culture that ran a reliable con, so we got some big names for treating everybody well.
But if the big tent is divided into ever smaller warring factions– all these cool things won’t even be possible.
What bothers me is that these apparent leading lights of DIY fandom have forgotten their roots, their purpose– and that is a threat to ALL fandom. Because, once we forget our roots, we forget who we are, period.
This divide and conquer strategy is lethal. Because sooner or later, folks will realize they don’t have the money to be a part of this global social club where they only meet the people they are comfortable with. Why can’t they just meet those safe approved people somewhere cheaper? Aren’t there a hundred different ways to have a private safe gathering that exclude people we don’t like? Suddenly, you don’t need a con anymore.
Because, surprise, the con is SUPPOSED TO BE THE SAFE PLACE FOR ALL OF US. Not just the special ones, but everybody.
Take a risk and meet someone new.