Underground Diaries, Part 10
I wrote a couple pieces on SF Fandom for Underground. Here’s the first:
Something like twelve gazillion souls travel to Anaheim, Calif., every year to enter a world of wonder and walk among people clad in furry costumes and pirate regalia. That I was doing the same would have been unremarkable—had I been at Disneyland. But I wasn’t, I was in a parallel magic kingdom created by pink monkeys.
The attractions of this parallel kingdom—which had appeared out of nowhere in the shadow of Disneyland—were decidedly DIY in comparison. Here were homemade fabric star gates and plywood lunar modules, seminar screenings of Dr. Who and panels entitled “Paranormal Romances” and “I Was Promised Flying Cars!”
I was inside the world of the 64th Annual World Science Fiction Convention (AKA: L.A. Con IV), a fleeting construct of SF Fandom, a long-suffering subculture so inured to oddball status that at least one member compared Trekkies like herself to pink monkeys. I felt like I’d come home. I’m a lifelong SF fan.
SF Fandom, or just plain Fandom as the community often refers to itself, has been around something like six Jovian years (around 70 Earth years). Fandom is both a subculture in its own right and a constellation in which a galaxy of mutant subcultures cluster. Fandom includes fans of fantasy, mythology, science fiction, science fantasy, hard science fiction and I imagine several categories beyond my human comprehension.
There are costumers of all kinds—pirates, furries, even the odd CosPlayer (anime costumer). There are Trekkies and Tolkien devotees, filkers and gamers—many of whom play actual board games.
WorldCons hark back to an earlier SF era, when fandom factions instinctively gravitated toward one another, before the big-fandom boom when such groups grew large enough to rate cons of their own. Despite the explosion of nichier cons in recent decades—there are now dragon cons, costume cons, fur cons and on and on—it was clear from the variety of fans at L.A. Con IV that this mother ship continues to hold a hallowed place in the con-theon.
L.A. Con IV radiated SF history, from its Space Cadet theme to its fandom wall plastered in covers of SF pulps from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, pulps like Amazing Stories that paid measly sums for stories by young SF legends-to-be including Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury (who was in attendance). There were actually many elder SF buffs in attendance, fans who probably pored over the same pulps when they were first published.
Star Trek’s 40th anniversary was celebrated. And SF’s annual Hugo Awards were awarded (as they’ve always been at WorldCons—the 2006 Best Novel Hugo went to Robert Charles Wilson for Spin). The con fairly reeked of fandom tradition.
And a big part of that tradition is participation. WorldCons are created by fans, not faceless corporations. When SF fans went to Anaheim, they went to masquerade as aliens and otherkin (vampyres, werewolves, and the like), not to watch theme park thespians mincing in Mouseketeer ears. They went for role-playing games, not thrill rides; went to sing and play folky filk tunes, not to be assaulted by perky pre-recorded pop; they went to take part in panels on Harry Potter; to have “fantiques” appraised; to get tips on SF prose (from SF pros); to search for rare books and build their own ‘bots.
OK, a lot of them probably went to Disneyland, too. But mostly, they went to Anaheim to be deliriously fannish… and to construct a parallel magic kingdom of their own.
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