Saturday, August 08, 2009

Milt Stevens. Simi Valley, CA

In Challenger #29, the opinions in Warren Buff's article on the graying of fandom sound awfully familiar. Someone has said all of this before. They may even have said it a number of times. Of course, it's hard to remember at my age. You know you're getting older when your dandruff suffers from malnutrition.

There is a difference between Fandom and fandom. I didn't always make this distinction, but I now believe it to be necessary. When I say Fandom I mean the science fiction and fantasy thing we've been associated with in the past. It's basically an intentional group for people who have some association with science fiction and fantasy. In the early days, Fandom was a universal state something like the Roman Empire. We still use the terminology of that long gone universal state. By now, Fandom is more like the Holy Roman Empire. We're really a loose confederation of feuding principalities. I suspect this was an inevitable evolution. There is probably a maximum size that any intentional group can reach before it starts breaking up into smaller groups.

When I say fandom I mean any intentional group. I can talk about comics fandom, mystery fandom, SCA fandom, gaming fandom, or anime fandom, and I believe I'm making sense. When I was in college my father joined the Horseless Carriage Club of Southern California. I started referring to it as old car fandom. After awhile, so did he. All intentional groups have some similarities. This even includes groups that are ostensibly political or religious. In the large anonymous cities of today, our only real communities are intentional groups.

There are thousands of fandoms. Some of them resemble us even though they aren't really us. There have been a whole bunch of Creation Cons in Southern California. They are devoted to things like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Xena. I've thought about attending one of them, but I've never done it. At times, they've done things that might be interpreted as unfriendly. They have scheduled cons the week before one of our cons and in the same hotel. That's how we discovered that they have no impact on us at all.

Thinking about recruiting people into Fandom, I'm reminded of the movie Dogma. In that movie, a Catholic cardinal is trying to increase the attendance of his church. First, he gets rid of the statuary of the crucified Jesus, because that creeps people out. He replaces it with the OK Jesus who sort of looks like Bob's Big Boy with a beard. Then he made a special offer of forgiveness for all sins whatsoever for everyone who entered the church on a particular date. Even people who are not religious should realize there is something wrong here. We should be careful not to do something similar to what the cardinal was doing. We don't want to sacrifice our essential nature for the sake of expansion. That would be counterproductive.

Naturally, there are some things going on in the general culture that influence us. The Bowling Alone syndrome is one of them. Maybe because of the internet and maybe because of other reasons, people are not gathering together to socialize as much as they did in earlier decades. It seems unlikely that this will be a permanent situation. By nature, we are social beings.

It is generally assumed that the internet is attracting many of the teenagers who would have been attracted to fandom in times past. That seems to be true. Another thing that slows our recruitment of younger people is the fear of pedophilia. I think back to how things were years ago. In 1970, Craig Miller and I lived a couple of miles from each other on the west side of Los Angeles. We both were members of LASFS. I was in my late twenties, and Craig was in high school. At the time, I didn't think anything about having Craig drop by my apartment. If a similar situation were to happen today, the neighbors would start watching me if they didn't call the police. These days, you have to be a little more careful about being friends with teenagers. Even with older people, it isn't a good idea to be overly friendly. People will start suspecting your motives. When you think about it you realize one of the worst things about the evangelicals is their oozing friendliness. We don't really want to be like them.

And yet more ...


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