I know… it’s been a very long time since I’ve poked my nose in here and updated. I also am doing it using a different log-in this time. For that, I apologize. My life was hectic for awhile there and this blog fell to the side. I will be writing from this log-in more than the lilalexei one, due to the fact that I use this one more. Now that those things have settled and I’ve had the chance to noodle a little more… I’m back!
In the process of the crazy that’s been my reality; I’ve had the chance to reflect on a major change in a huge aspect of my life. It should come to no surprise, considering the theme of this blog, that this aspect is fandom. This change is in how the ‘fannish’ vs, ‘mundane’ worlds interact with one another. It has been a pretty gradual change over the course of my involvement in fandom, but the last couple years have brought it into stark focus for me.
To give a little background, I’m far from one of the grand-dames of fandom. I’m not one of the original pioneers of the convention scene or community organization out of the 40s and 50s. I’ve been a fan of science fiction, fantasy and role-playing games since the real late 70s. Some of my earliest memories are of Tom Baker’s Dr. Who, Star Trek re-runs, original Battlestar Galactica, and most of all; this odd man named Gary who lived down the street, played make-believe games with us kids and gave me the funny shaped dice I kept in my box of treasures. My involvement in organized fandom (clubs, conventions, organized play) began in the late 1980s. I joined or formed clubs to be with people like myself. I went to conventions to have weekends where I was the norm.
Fandom has become a lot less the exclusive domain of geeks and nerds over the years. As time has passed, traditionally geeky or nerdy interests like science fiction, fantasy, esoteric horror, comics, gaming, and computers have become part of pop or popular culture. I have gone from being a part of a marginalized and niche world to being a part of accepted every day culture. There are both good and bad things that come with this. I want to discuss some of the major impact that I’ve noticed along with their duel pros and cons.
1. It is no longer weird to see someone in public wearing ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ clothing; t-shirts, costuming, props etc.
THE GOOD: My interests are no longer a primary source for worry over verbal or physical abuse. Children no longer have to go through the gauntlet of bullying just for being into the things I was picked on, abused or ostracized for as a child. Many people, even my own friends, had no idea how hurtful their words were. I was good at putting on a tough face as a child, but spent a lot of time at home crying. I like the fact that children can now play with their action figures and lightsabers without wondering if someone would pick on them for it.
THE BAD: Seeing someone wearing ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ clothing is no longer an automatic bond of community. I used to be able to walk up to perfect strangers, comment positively on their beautiful dorkiness and make an instant, possibly lifelong, friend. Now if I do that, I’ve firmly placed myself in that person’s ‘creeper’ category. This is especially true of younger people. Middle aged and older fans, like myself, seem to creep them out more than another young person commenting on their cool Cthulhu shirt.
2. We can get products tied to our passions easily and in great numbers.
THE GOOD: I no longer have to spend months hunting garage/yard sales, second hand stores, and toddler-pee scented toy stores for even one item related to my fandom. Now, I can walk into any convenience store or turn on my computer and be inundated with a bonanza of cool things affiliated with all of my fandoms… even the most esoteric ones. They also come in all price ranges, so even the poorest fan can have a neat item or two.
THE BAD: This bonanza was exciting at first, but it has since become rather mundane experience to run across fandom related items. Add this blah effect to the fact that my purchases are no longer accidental collectibles. I can’t buy an action figure now and discover that I can pay for college with it years later. Everything is either mass marketed to death or actively marketed as a collectible and sold in such controlled numbers that they are financially out of reach of everyone but the absolutely most dedicated collectors.
3. The Internet.
THE GOOD: We can reach out to people like ourselves all over the world. A nice, crafty lady in Winnemucca can make a Tom Baker scarf for a teen in Harper’s Ferry; everything processed easily through PayPal and social media. We can eBay our collections to one another and debate the minutiae of Death Star ship schematics with the other ‘experts’ in our fields. When we’re struggling, there is this box full of people who completely understand what we’re talking about. You can also Google anything. If you don't know an answer, you can find it.
THE BAD: We really don’t have a reason to leave our homes to socialize or shop. This can be made even worse when you have a work from home job. We can also get buried in the minutiae and forget the big picture; wallowing in silliness like the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. (I hung out with Chewbacca while dressed like a Klingon, so I am not taking sides on that one.) With the increase of social media and other internet access points, our conventions are no longer serving as our primary social outlet. They have become merely places to get things (dealers and art rooms), see things (panels and famous people) and show off things (costuming and collectibles). The internet has actually made fandom less about people and more about things. You can Google anything. Everyone's an 'expert' now.
4. Most conventions have either specialized to an insane degree or become DragonCon/ComicCon clones.
THE GOOD: I can spend an entire weekend doing nothing but role-playing at a gaming con or chasing red shirts around swearing at them in Klingon at a Trek con or admittedly ogling the cute cosplay girls at an Anime con, without missing out on the entire rest of the convention. Focused events let us focus. DragonCon/ComicCons are spectacles in their own right. 50-100,000 fans all in one place, taking over an entire city for a weekend is cool. Every restaurant, bus, train, street has someone in costume. Fandom becomes the normal.
THE BAD: We don’t intermingle and socialize with one another anymore. Either we are at our specialty niche event or we are just another body in an absolute sea of humanity. Specialization breeds rivalry. The Whovians, Trekkies, gamers, otaku and Jedi no longer have to work together to put on a communal event, so they end up no longer cooperating in other arenas. Cross fandom sniping is on the rise. We’re no longer one big community. Too many fans see other fandoms as ‘them’ and no longer as a part of ‘us.’
I am quite sure I’ve missed a lot of things in this, but it should give you an idea of my mixed feelings about the mainstreaming of fandom. I'm excited that this gives bullies one less thing to attack others with. The accessibility and acceptance of fandom is something I'd wished for. The problem is, almost everyone claims to be a fan anymore. We've lost our exclusivity. In the process of becoming more accepted, we've also become extremely diluted. There is this little kernel of me that misses the days of propeller beanies (I still wear mine), SMOFs, games of 'freaking the mundanes' and the sacred space of our special, secret little world.