Where are all the SF fans?
Long time passing
The rise of throw away media in the '90's and '00's sapped the passion of a generation of would-be fans away. With the exception of a few cult classics like Firefly, Lexx, and Farscape, the last two decades have produced little quality content.
Firefly and Stargate produced the most rabid fan followings, but they were slow to adopt the fan culture established by earlier franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. As a result, a gap in fandom grew between the older generation of fans and the newer generation coming up. The new fans were not brought into the conventions, filk, and fan works until lately, and they are still few and far between.
Enter the web
Compounding the problem, through out the '90's, the Internet began to take over the work of more traditional media. The BBS became the forum. The fanzine became the website. The local fan club became the blog.
These newer form of fandom introduced new issues:
- Unlike fanzines, fanfiction sites are not edited.
- Fan clubs went from being collections of local friends to a collection of anonymous strangers on the web.
- Fans stopped sharing new finds, and specialized in one franchise.
Fandom became increasingly less personal. I have watched the average age at conventions and filksings go up. Then it happened:
Revenge of the Corporation
Paramount started suing fan sites and clubs. The few fan clubs that went online had their sites taken down. The corporate obsession with copyright pushed more would-be fans away.
What had been a nascent culture was now under attack by the copyright holders. Viewership dwindled, and the corporate media assumed there was something wrong with the shows and not with the alienation of their fanbases. So they started changing to shows. Retool, remake, reboot, and reimage became common terms used by the corporate media to try to garner attention.
Their final assault was on the conventions themselves. Corporate conventions started signing exclusive deals with celebrities changing the convention from a gathering of fans into little more than a weekend shopping spree with the sole purpose of milking as much money from the attendants as possible.
It is time to take fandom back for the fans. I grew up in the vibrant fan culture the once was, and now that it has been lulled to sleep, and not destroyed.
Like I said in Speculative Fiction: The Lost Art of “What if?”, it is time for us to dream again, but more than that, it is time for us to organize again.
It is incumbent upon us to:
- defend fandom from those who would abuse it.
- promote the culture to those new to the scene.
- spread the franchises we love that treat us with dignity.
- organize a revitalized fan culture, filled with conventions, fan works, and filk.
- seek out solutions to the problems that still plague fandom.
Seeing the problem is the first step to finding a solution. Together, we can take fandom back!