Science fiction fandom

Science fiction fandom or SF fandom is a community or fandom of people interested in science fiction in contact with one another based upon that interest. SF fandom has a life of its own, but not much in the way of formal organization (although clubs such as the Futurians (1937–1945) are a recognized example of organized fandom).

Most often called simply "fandom" within the community, it can be viewed as a distinct subculture,[1] with its own literature and jargon; marriages and other relationships among fans are common, as are multi-generational fan families.

Origins and history

Audience waiting for the Hugo Award Ceremony at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki
Audience waiting for the Hugo Award ceremony at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland in 2017

Science fiction fandom started through the letter column of Hugo Gernsback's fiction magazines. Not only did fans write comments about the stories—they sent their addresses, and Gernsback published them. Soon, fans were writing letters directly to each other, and meeting in person when they lived close together, or when one of them could manage a trip. In New York City, David Lasser, Gernsback's managing editor, nurtured the birth of a small local club called the Scienceers, which held its first meeting in a Harlem apartment on December 11, 1929. Almost all the members were adolescent boys.[2] Around this time a few other small local groups began to spring up in metropolitan areas around the United States, many of them connecting with fellow enthusiasts via the Science Correspondence Club. In May 1930 the first science-fiction fan magazine, The Comet, was produced by the Chicago branch of the Science Correspondence Club under the editorship of Raymond A. Palmer (later a noted, and notorious, sf magazine editor) and Walter Dennis.[3] In January 1932, the New York City circle, which by then included future comic-book editors Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, brought out the first issue of their own publication, The Time Traveller, with Forrest J Ackerman of the embryonic Los Angeles group as a contributing editor.

In 1934, Gernsback established a correspondence club for fans called the Science Fiction League, the first fannish organization. Local groups across the nation could join by filling out an application. A number of clubs came into being around this time. LASFS (the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society) was founded at this time as a local branch of the SFL, while several competing local branches sprang up in New York City and immediately began feuding among themselves.

In 1935, PSFS (the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, 1935–present) was formed. The next year, half a dozen fans from NYC came to Philadelphia to meet with the PSFS members, as the first Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference, which some claim as the world's first science fiction convention.

Soon after the fans started to communicate directly with each other came the creation of science fiction fanzines. These amateur publications might or might not discuss science fiction and were generally traded rather than sold. They ranged from the utilitarian or inept to professional-quality printing and editing. In recent years, Usenet newsgroups such as rec.arts.sf.fandom,[4] websites and blogs have somewhat supplanted printed fanzines as an outlet for expression in fandom, though many popular fanzines continue to be published. Science-fiction fans have been among the first users of computers, email, personal computers and the Internet.

Many professional science fiction authors started their interest in science fiction as fans, and some still publish their own fanzines or contribute to those published by others.

A widely regarded (though by no means error-free) history of fandom in the 1930s can be found in Sam Moskowitz's The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom Hyperion Press 1988 ISBN 0-88355-131-4 (original edition The Atlanta Science Fiction Organization Press, Atlanta, Georgia 1954). Moskowitz was himself involved in some of the incidents chronicled and has his own point of view, which has often been criticized.

By country

Sweden

Organized fandom in Sweden ("Sverifandom") emerged during the early-1950s. The first Swedish science fiction fanzine was started in the early 1950s. The oldest still existing club, Club Cosmos in Gothenburg, was formed in 1954,[5] and the first Swedish science-fiction convention, LunCon, was held in Lund in 1956.

Today, there are a number of science fiction clubs in the country, including Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (whose club fanzine, Science Fiction Forum, was once edited by Stieg Larsson, a board member and one-time chairman thereof), Linköpings Science Fiction-Förening and Sigma Terra Corps. Between one and four science-fiction conventions are held each year in Sweden, among them Swecon, the annual national Swedish con. An annual prize is awarded to someone that has contributed to the national fandom by the Alvar Appeltofft Memorial Fund.[6][7]

UK

SF fandom in the UK has close ties with that in the USA. In the UK there are multiple conventions. The largest regular convention for Literary SF (Book focused) fandom is the British National convention or Eastercon. Strangely enough this is held over the Easter weekend. Committee membership and location changes year-to-year. The license to use the Eastercon name for a year is awarded by votes of the business meeting of the Eastercon two years previously. There are substantially larger events run by UK Media Fandom and commercial organisations also run Gate Shows (for-profit operations with paid staff.) The UK has also hosted the Worldcon several times, most recently in 2014. News of UK events appears in the fanzine Ansible produced by David Langford each month.

Conventions

Since the late 1930s, SF fans have organized conventions, non-profit gatherings where the fans (some of whom are also professionals in the field) meet to discuss SF and generally enjoy themselves. (A few fannish couples have held their weddings at conventions.) The 1st World Science Fiction Convention or Worldcon was held in conjunction with the 1939 New York World's Fair, and has been held annually since the end of World War II. Worldcon has been the premier convention in fandom for over half a century; it is at this convention that the Hugo Awards are bestowed, and attendance can approach 8,000 or more.

SF writer Cory Doctorow calls science fiction "perhaps the most social of all literary genres", and states, "Science fiction is driven by organized fandom, volunteers who put on hundreds of literary conventions in every corner of the globe, every weekend of the year."[8]

SF conventions can vary from minimalist "relaxacons" with a hundred or so attendees to heavily programmed events with four to six or more simultaneous tracks of programming, such as WisCon and Worldcons.

Commercial shows dealing with SF-related fields are sometimes billed as 'science fiction conventions,' but are operated as for-profit ventures, with an orientation towards passive spectators, rather than involved fans, and a tendency to neglect or ignore written SF in favor of television, film, comics, video games, etc. One of the largest of these is the annual Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia with an attendance of more than 20,000 since 2000.

Science fiction societies

In the United States, many science fiction societies were launched as chapters of the Science Fiction League and, when it faded into history, several of the original League chapters remained viable and were subsequently incorporated as independent organizations. Most notable among the former League chapters which were spun off was the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, which served as a model for subsequent SF societies formed independent of the League history.

Science-fiction societies, more commonly referred to as "clubs" except on the most formal of occasions, form a year-round base of activities for science fiction fans. They are often associated with an SF convention or group of conventions, but maintain a separate existence as cultural institutions within specific geographic regions. Several have purchased property and maintain ongoing collections of SF literature available for research, as in the case of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the New England Science Fiction Association, and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Other SF Societies maintain a more informal existence, meeting at general public facilities or the homes of individual members, such as the Bay Area Science Fiction Association.

Offshoots and subcommunities

Star Wars Celebration IV - The 501st legion guards the Obi-Wan bust I won as sculptor Lawrence Noble returns it to the booth (4878296123)
Star Wars Celebration IV - The 501st legion guards an Obi-Wan bust at Star Wars Celebration IV
Star Wars Celebration 2015 - Jawas & Droids (17833161638)
Star Wars Celebration 2015 - Jawas & Droids

As a community devoted to discussion and exploration of new ideas, fandom has become an incubator for many groups that started out as special interests within fandom, some of which have partially separated into independent intentional communities not directly associated with science fiction. Among these groups are comic-book fandom, media fandom, the Society for Creative Anachronism, gaming, and furry fandom,[9] sometimes referred to collectively as "fringe fandoms" with the implication that the original fandom centered on science-fiction texts (magazines and later books and fanzines) is the "true" or "core" fandom. Fandom also welcomes and shares interest with other groups including LGBT communities, libertarians, neo-pagans, and space activist groups like the L5 Society, among many others. Some groups exist almost entirely within fandom but are distinct and cohesive subcultures in their own rights, such as filkers, costumers, and convention runners (sometimes called "SMOFs").

Fandom encompasses subsets of fans that are principally interested in a single writer or subgenre, such as Tolkien fandom, and Star Trek fandom ("Trekkies"). Even short-lived television series may have dedicated followings, such as the fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly television series and movie Serenity, known as Browncoats.

Participation in science fiction fandom often overlaps with other similar interests, such as fantasy role-playing games, comic books and anime, and in the broadest sense fans of these activities are felt to be part of the greater community of SF fandom.

There are active SF fandoms around the world. Fandom in non-Anglophone countries is based partially on local literature and media, with cons and other elements resembling those of English-speaking fandom, but with distinguishing local features. For example, Finland's national gathering Finncon is funded by the government, while all conventions and fan activities in Japan are heavily influenced by anime and manga.

Fanspeak

Science fiction and fantasy fandom has its own slang or jargon, sometimes called "fanspeak" (the term has been in use since at least 1962[10]).

Fanspeak is made up of acronyms, blended words, obscure in-jokes, and standard terms used in specific ways. Some terms used in fanspeak have spread to members of the Society for Creative Anachronism ("Scadians"), Renaissance Fair participants ("Rennies"), hacktivists, and internet gaming and chat fans, due to the social and contextual intersection between the communities. Examples of fanspeak used in these broader fannish communities include gafiate, a term meaning to drop out of SF related community activities, with the implication to Get A Life. The word is derived via the acronym for "get away from it all". A related term is fafiate, for "forced away from it all". The implication is that one would really rather still be involved in fandom, but circumstances make it impossible.

Two other acronyms commonly used in the community are FIAWOL (Fandom Is A Way Of Life) and its opposite FIJAGH (Fandom Is Just A Goddamned Hobby) to describe two ways of looking at the place of fandom in one's life.

Science-fiction fans often refer to themselves using the irregular plural "fen": man/men, fan/fen.

In fiction

As science fiction fans became professional writers, they started slipping the names of their friends into stories. Wilson "Bob" Tucker slipped so many of his fellow fans and authors into his works that doing so is called tuckerization.[11][12]

The subgenre of "recursive science fiction" has a fan-maintained bibliography at the New England Science Fiction Association's website; some of it is about science fiction fandom, some not.[13]

In Robert Bloch's 1956 short story, "A Way Of Life",[14] science-fiction fandom is the only institution to survive a nuclear holocaust and eventually becomes the basis for the reconstitution of civilization. The science-fiction novel Gather in the Hall of the Planets, by K.M. O'Donnell (aka Barry Malzberg), 1971, takes place at a New York City science-fiction convention and features broad parodies of many SF fans and authors. A pair of SF novels by Gene DeWeese and Robert "Buck" Coulson, Now You See It/Him/Them and Charles Fort Never Mentioned Wombats are set at Worldcons; the latter includes an in-character "introduction" by Wilson Tucker (himself a character in the novel) which is a sly self-parody verging on a self-tuckerization.

The 1991 SF novel Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn constitutes a tribute to SF fandom. The story includes a semi-illegal fictional Minneapolis Worldcon in a post-disaster world where science, and thus fandom, is disparaged. Many of the characters are barely tuckerized fans, mostly from the Greater Los Angeles area.

Mystery writer Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are murder mysteries set at a science-fiction convention and within the broader culture of fandom respectively. While containing mostly nasty caricatures of fans and fandom, some fans take them with good humor; others consider them vicious and cruel.

In 1994 and 1996, two anthologies of alternate history science fiction involving World Science Fiction Conventions, titled Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons, edited by Mike Resnick were published.

Fans are slans

A.E. van Vogt's 1940 novel Slan was about a mutant variety of humans who are superior to regular humanity and are therefore hunted down and killed by the normal human population. While the story has nothing to do with fandom, many science-fiction fans felt very close to the protagonists, feeling their experience as bright people in a mundane world mirrored that of the mutants; hence, the rallying cry, "Fans Are Slans!"; and the tradition that a building inhabited primarily by fans can be called a slan shack.

Figures in the history of fandom

See also

References

  1. ^ Bacon-Smith, Camille (2000). Science Fiction Culture. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1530-3.
  2. ^ Allen Glasser, transcribed by Richard Newsome, "History of the Scienceers: The First New York City Science Fiction Club, 1929", republished in Timebinders, lists the founding members as "Warren Fitzgerald, Nathan Greenfeld, Philip Rosenblatt, Herbert Smith, Julius Unger, Louis Wentzler, and myself, Allen Glasser. With the exception of Fitzgerald, who was then about thirty, all the members were in their middle teens." Fitzgerald, an African-American, was the club's first president, "from its start in December 1929 through the spring of 1930."
  3. ^ Moskowitz, Sam; Joe Sanders (1994). "The Origins of Science Fiction Fandom: A Reconstruction". Science Fiction Fandom. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 17–36. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ via Google Groups
  5. ^ Bengtsson Rylander, Louise [red.] (2014). Science Fiction i Göteborg: 60 år med Club Cosmos. ISBN 978-91-87669-93-4
  6. ^ Science fiction fandom in Scandinavia
  7. ^ Alvar Appeltofft Memorial Foundation
  8. ^ "Giving It Away". Forbes. December 1, 2006.
  9. ^ Patten, Fred (2006). Furry! The World's Best Anthropomorphic Fiction. ibooks.
  10. ^ Franson, Donald. "A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom" National Fantasy Fan Federation, 1962
  11. ^ Jeff Prucher (2007). Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Oxford University Press. p. 342.
  12. ^ Baen, Jim. "The Tucker Circle". Jim Baen's Universe. Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  13. ^ "Recursive Science Fiction" New England Science Fiction Association; last updated 3 August 2008
  14. ^ fantasticfiction.co.uk

Further reading

  • Jenkins, Henry (1992). Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. Studies in culture and communication. New York: Routledge. p. 343. ISBN 0-415-90571-0.
  • Kozinets, Robert V. (2007), "Inno-tribes: Star Trek as Wikimedia" in Cova, Bernard, Robert V. Kozinets, and Avi Shankar Consumer Tribes, Oxford and Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 194-211.
  • Kozinets, Robert V. (2001), "Utopian Enterprise: Articulating the Meanings of Star Trek's Culture of Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, 28 (June), 67-88.
  • In Memory Yet Green by Isaac Asimov (1979)
  • The Futurians by Damon Knight (1977)
  • The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl (1978)
  • All Our Yesterdays by Harry Warner, Jr. (1969)
  • The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom by Sam Moskowitz. Hyperion Press 1988 ISBN 0-88355-131-4 (original edition The Atlanta Science Fiction Organization Press, Atlanta, Georgia 1954)
  • Hansen, Rob THEN Science Fiction Fandom in the U (Ansible Editions, 2016)K: 1930-1980

External links

Baltimore Science Fiction Society

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society is a literary organization focusing on science fiction, fantasy and related genres. A 501c3 literary society based in Baltimore, Maryland, the BSFS sponsors Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention.

Down Under Fan Fund

The Down Under Fan Fund, also known as DUFF, was created in 1970 for the purpose of providing funds to bring well-known and popular members of science fiction fandom familiar to fans on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Fanac

Fanac is a fan slang term (from fannish activities) for activities within the realm of science fiction fandom, and occasionally used in media fandom. It may be distinguished from fan labor in that "fanac" includes the publication of science fiction fanzines of the traditional kind (i.e., not primarily devoted to fan fiction), and the organization and maintenance of science fiction conventions and science fiction clubs.

"Fanac" has also been used as a title for at least two science fiction fanzines, one published by Terry Carr and Ron Ellik, and later continued by Walter H. Breen, in the late 1950s through early 1960s; and the other published by Swedish fan John-Henri Holmberg from 1963 to 1994.

Fanspeak

Fanspeak is the slang or jargon current in science fiction and fantasy fandom, especially those terms in use among readers and writers of science fiction fanzines.

Fanspeak is made up of acronyms, blended words, obscure in-jokes, puns, coinages from science fiction novels or films, and archaic or standard English words used in specific ways relevant or amusing to the science fiction community.

Finnish science fiction fandom

Finnish science fiction fandom started getting organized in Finland when the first science fiction club (the Turku Science Fiction Society) was founded in Turku in 1976. The first fan conventions were in 1982 and 1985. The Finnish national convention, Finncon, was established in 1986. One of the main actors to start an active fan culture in Finland was Tom Ölander.

Biggest semiprozines in Finland are Portti, edited by Raimo Nikkonen, and Tähtivaeltaja, edited by Toni Jerrman.

Gaylactic Network

The Gaylactic Network is a North American LGBT science fiction fandom organization. It has several affiliate chapters across the United States and Canada, with a membership of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people and friends, sharing an interest in science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics and role-playing games.The Gaylactic Network oversees Gaylaxicon, an irregularly-held science fiction convention in various states. It also originated the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, given annually for outstanding LGBT content in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genre publications.

The Network is registered as a nonprofit organisation. Organizational records for the period 1986-2005 (bulk 1987-1991) are held by Brown University, and other universities mention it as a course resource

Gorean subculture

Gorean subculture is a fandom based on the philosophy espoused in John Norman's long-running sword and planet novel series Chronicles of Counter-Earth.

Huckster

The term huckster describes a person who sells something or serves biased interests, using pushy or showy tactics. Historically, the term "huckster" was applied to any type of vendor or reseller, but over time it has assumed distinctive pejorative connotations.

Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, Inc., or LASFS, is a science fiction society that meets in the Los Angeles area. The current meeting place can be found on the LASFS website.

LASFS is the oldest continuously operating science fiction club in the world, helped considerably in that record by being one of the few to own a clubhouse. The organization continues to hold regular weekly meetings on Thursdays. The club maintains a private lending library of books, videos, and other genre-related materials, for use by members.

Members of the club have run the World Science Fiction Convention several times, initiated the regional science-fiction convention Westercon, and hosts a yearly science fiction convention called Loscon. It maintains a web site and discussion forum, publishes (at irregular intervals) an amateur magazine called Shangri L'Affaires, and hosts the collations of a weekly amateur press association, APA-L. The LASFS monthly newsletter, De Profundis, is named for the club motto, De Profundis ad Astra ("From the Depths to the Stars"). DeProf is available (in PDF format) for reading at the LASFS web site, and can be obtained by writing its editor/publisher, Marty Cantor.

MIT Science Fiction Society

The MIT Science Fiction Society (or MITSFS) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a student organization which maintains and administers a large publicly-accessible library of science fiction, fantasy, and science fantasy books and magazines.

MSTing

MSTing (), MiSTing (), or riffing is a method of mocking a show in the style of the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) and, in particular, is a form of fan fiction in which writers mock other works by inserting humorous comments, called "riffs", into the flow of dialogue and events.

Mundane

In subcultural and fictional uses, a mundane is a person who does not belong to a particular group, according to the members of that group; the implication is that such persons, lacking imagination, are concerned solely with the mundane: the quotidian and ordinary. The term first came into use in science fiction fandom to refer, sometimes deprecatingly, to non-fans; this use of the term antedates 1955.

National Fantasy Fan Federation

The National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F or NFFF) is one of the world's oldest science fiction fandom organizations. The organization was founded in April 1941 when all science fiction, horror, and fantasy literature was lumped into one category called "fantasy." The group actively encourages the development of writers, editors, and artists.

New England Science Fiction Association

The New England Science Fiction Association, or NESFA, is a science fiction club centered in the New England area. It was founded in 1967, "by fans who wanted to do things in addition to socializing"[1]. NESFA is currently registered as a non-profit literary organization under IRS section 501(c)(3).

The organization holds regular meetings (at their dedicated site, the NESFA Clubhouse) of and for members and other interested parties. A weekly meeting is held most Wednesday evenings, for socializing, projects, and miscellaneous business. Two weekend meetings are held every month: a Business Meeting (for administration), and the Other Meeting. The club also publishes a regular newsletter, Instant Message. There are two book groups that meet on a monthly basis, as well as a monthly Game Day, and a monthly Game Night. In addition, there is a monthly Media day. This involves showings of two episodes of an anime series, two TV series episodes and a movie choice. All are science fiction/fantasy related. There is currently a NESFA Short Story Contest, accepting submissions from amateur writers seeking to improve their science fiction/fantasy writing through constructive critical analysis from expert readers, editors, and professional writers.

Philadelphia Science Fiction Society

The Philadelphia Science Fiction Society (PSFS) is a science fiction club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. PSFS is the second oldest group in science fiction fandom and hosted what is considered by some to be the first science fiction convention. Anyone living in the greater Philadelphia area and interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror, whether written or on TV or in the movies; SF, fantasy, and horror art; gaming, board games or video games; comic books/graphic novels; and related arts is welcome.

The PSFS Constitution requires that a person must have attended three meetings before being voted into membership. The traditional club greeting for a person voted in is, "Pay your dues!" shouted in unison.

Science-fiction fanzine

A science-fiction fanzine is an amateur or semi-professional magazine published by members of science-fiction fandom, from the 1930s to the present day. They were one of the earliest forms of fanzine, within one of which the term "fanzine" was coined, and at one time constituted the primary type of science-fictional fannish activity ("fanac").

Society of Fantasy and Science Fiction Wargamers

The Society of Fantasy and Science Fiction Wargamers (SFSFW) is an international body established in the early 1990s to promote the fantasy and science fiction genre within the table top wargaming hobby and also to promote the hobby in general. The society distributes the Ragnarok magazine and formerly the Nastrond newsletter; and it hosted the Bifrost convention until 2006.

Towel Day

Towel Day is celebrated every year on 25 May as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams by his fans. On this day, fans openly carry a towel with them, as described in Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to demonstrate their appreciation for the books and the author. The commemoration was first held 25 May 2001, two weeks after Adams' death on 11 May.

Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, often known as TAFF, was created in 1953 for the purpose of providing funds to bring well-known and popular members of science fiction fandom familiar to fans on both sides of the ocean, across the Atlantic.

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