I have to admit Mr. Torgersen’s viewpoint overlaps with mine. In fact, what he offers is not so much a radical interpretation of his observations of fandom, but is more of a visualization and description of how science fiction has Balkanizedsince the mid-
I can’t imagine many people disagreeing with the basics of this viewpoint; it has definitely become a familiar topic on convention
panels and in assorted fanzines and blogs, and there seems to be, in my mind at least, a consensus opinion that SF Fandom has become a monster in more than just size: it is also capable of generating a massive amount of money. Greenbacks. Cashola. Beaucoups bucks.
One thing is definite to me: Science Fiction is now the mainstream. At least it is the Media Mainstream, in terms of how Hollywood sees it. Those of us who have been active in science fiction fandom through conventions, clubs, fanzines, and so on for any length
of time – say, on the order of 40 years or so – understand that since the mid-1970s when Star Wars, and then Star Trek, proved how much money could be made through those two mega-popular movie franchises, every single production company in the television and movie industries decided to jump into the apparent lucrative Science Fiction pool and soak up some of that filthy lucre. I can understand this rationale; in fact, it doesn’t surprise me and is
quite predictable. That’s the Hollywood mindset. The problem is that cracker-jack computer graphic animation doth not guarantee a big pay day. Sure, a movie can look wonderful, especially when it’s based on a popular book by a big-name author, then add in a decent cast, but if the screenplay is terrible, then the result is Starship Troopers or John Carter(which I enjoyed as mindless entertainment, which the original story, A Princess of Mars (1912), was meant to be).
The point I am making is that many non-traditional fannish people call themselves “science fiction fans” when what they really mean is that they are media science fiction fans: in other words, they are
fans of how television networks and movie producers view science fiction and what it’s like, or rather, what is likely to appeal to viewers; this is how consumer fans are created, and they are legion. There is, of course, cross-over interest from “true” or “pure” science fiction fans – those who read the books, magazines, produce fanzines, discuss the literature, et cetera – who also
watch the shows and movies, but percentage-wise, they’re a miniscule minority when compared to the vast numbers of media consumer fans who hold the money that media producers pursue.
The problem is defining the term “Fannish.” It is such an amorphous word that can mean anything we want it to. Being a fan does not necessarily mean you publish a fanzine, go to conventions, read the books, belong to a local sf club, or things like that. These days the mass media (a.k.a., Hollywood) has used its own definition of “science fiction fan” to muck things up. For example, the popular television program The Big Bang Theory portrays a group of highly intelligent young men and women who are heavily into comic books, movies, television shows, and gaming. I have yet to see any of the characters – Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard, let alone the women – Penny, Amy, and Bernadette – actually reading science fiction books and discussing them as part of an episode. That would be boring to 21st century television viewers. No, what those characters are seeing and responding to need to be available to the viewers, the “fans” of the show. Hence, these characters are media fans, not science fiction fans as most trufen see themselves.
Does this make media fans outsiders? I don’t think so. They are all fans of shows/movies/comics/graphic novels that they enjoy: Star Trek, Star Wars, Serenity/Firefly, Doctor Who, Logan’s Run… the list is lengthy.
My conclusion is that a fan is a fan if he or she is enjoying something that falls under the general label of Science Fiction. That’s fine. At the 1973 World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, Texas, and then again at AggieCon (held in College Station, Texas, where I currently reside) and other regional conventions, there is a lot of media-oriented science fiction and fantasy. Also, this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, maybe some of these media fans might broaden their horizons outside of
Dr. Who,Firefly/Serenity, Star Trek, Anime, comic books, vampires, or whatever it is that they are fans of and strike up conversations with older, traditional sf fans. In my mind,
that could be a very good thing.