Lloyd A. Behm II/Contributor
For some reason, the word fandom is getting a lot of use these days. Apparently, like everything else lately I’ve been using it incorrectly, as I thought it applied to anyone who was a fan of science fiction and fantasy. According to the goodthink folks, it doesn’t. It only applies to those who attend conventions and or work there. So, by their definition, I was once a member of fandom, but since I have stopped attending conventions, I’m no longer eligible to claim to be part of fandom. Which is utter and complete elitist bullshit. Fans are a subset of fandom, not the other way around. If you attend conventions, you’re a fan and part of fandom. If you read SF/F, guess what? You’re a fan and part of fandom as a whole. We’re all fans – the elite that want to keep the wrong fan’s out and the wrong fans as well.
I’ve been reading SF/F for pert near longer than my wife has been alive. Got my first fantasy novel in 1977, and shifted to SF about a year or so later. There were these things I’d heard of called Conventions, I’d even seen an ad or two for them in Dragon Magazine, but I was, back then, by and large a gamer. Back in ye days of old when that meant things like Dungeons and Dragons, Iron Men and Wooden Ships, and companies like Steve Jackson Games or Avelon Hill.
Then I got older and moved from the smallish Central Texas town I’d grown up in and into the Metromess that is DFW and the surrounding areas. Went to my first convention as an attendee in 1986 if I remember correctly. Met some really neat folks – Phil Foglio, Steve Jackson, Robert Adams and a few others. I thought I had found people who understood me. Gaming as well – the games were going on all night long, and after three days of gaming and autograph collecting (I’ve got Foglio’s in my copy of Hoka! by Poul Anderson, of all places) I went home with a feeling of all is well in the world.
Soon, I was working the very same cons as staff. I met more people into the same things I was (and a couple that were there because the con organizer could get them there cheap) – Robert Aspirin, Crumb, Harryhausen, and more names than I can remember this late at night after killing more brain cells at cons than I care to morn. The times were good, and so were the people. One of the reasons I quit going to con’s outside of a couple of smaller venues (Aggie Con) was seeing the shift in attitudes towards gaming years ago – when I started going in the 80’s we were all fen – and I’ll admit to sitting around and insulting Yang the Nauseating while he was paying for the drinks – course he was insulting us right back so things were good. But it didn’t matter if we were there for the authors, the gaming, the cosplay or anything else, we were all fen. Hell at one point I was staffing three cons a year – and me and a buddy almost got thrown out for our suggestion for quote of the con, which involved the con’s organizer and his perchant for helping under endowed young ladies become better endowed. But then things started changing – the thrust of the con’s I was seeing became more literary and less about the things we had in common. The last straw came at a con in Austin where I actually got to meet Jim Baen. The gamers were stuffed in a far back corner away from the “normal fans”. I’d seen where things were going, and I’d seen enough to know I was the wrong kind of fan.
Again, I’m the wrong kind of fan. I read books I enjoy. I play games I enjoy. But to some folks, because I quit going to cons, mainly because all the fun had gone out of the death march and I was in no mood to be told how I was oh so powerful because I appear to be light pinkish. I was told I couldn’t understand the struggles of X group because of the power inherent in being male and of European extraction, but a twatwaffle who was going on about the need to invite more diverse people to the con. His look of total incomprehension when I said, “Well, if you didn’t make assumptions based upon appearance you wouldn’t have lost the business of an Arab” almost made it worth it. But yeah, I haven’t been back since. Only reason I thought about going to a con last year was to meet someone I know from Facebook who was supposed to be in town. I’m considering Liberty Con at some point in the future. But from what I’ve seen, that’s my kind of people. Not the stick up the ass holier than thous that I keep running across on the internet who keep talking about saving science fiction. Hell, they’re the ones who’ve put it where it is now, divided amongst the elite and the unwashed masses.