Being There in Science Fiction Fandom

Science fiction fandom is becoming more mainstream these days. I’m not sure I fully agree with how the transformation is happening because it seems to be driven mostly by commercial interests. For example, we’ve had King of the Nerds and Beauty and the Geek as reality TV shows, both of which have made references to science fiction and/or fantasy topics; and now we have Heroes of Cosplay, which is all about the drama behind the costumes.

Frankly, I don’t mind Heroes of Cosplay but it’s probably not the show for me. I love Cosplay and all the hard work that goes in to making the costumes, the skits, and even the masquerades and shows. I’m just not a costuming kind of guy.

Some of my favorite Cosplayers no longer seem to be active on the Internet (Cosplay Angel, Inglaterra, and others) so it’s hard to be a “fan” of a Cosplay star if the star decides to move on with his or her life.

But it seems like all the big conventions are getting larger. ComicCon, DragonCon, GenCon, et. al. — they’re all growing to be so massive you can’t take in everything. They are like black holes of science fiction convention fandom, sucking in every celebrity, would-be celebrity, and SMOF that they can attract into their spheres of influence.

On the one hand, it’s great that we get to see tons of cool videos on YouTube from these conventions. On the other hand, who has time to watch them all? I’m so snowed under with work these days people probably think I’ve dropped out of fandom, too.

Which is not really the case — I just had to cut back on my participation and support. I still operate the SF Fandom science fiction and fantasy forums with help from a few friends. We fight the link spammers, share our thoughts on things that keep us interested, approve new registrations, etc. but I admit that things have slowed down through the years.

On the other hand, I will be attending Dragon*Con this year and have been scheduled to appear on a panel for the Tolkien and Middle-earth track (you can see me on the “Middle-earth and Hogwarts” panel at 4PM on Saturday). And in addition to being a guest pro I’ll also just be a fan, spending two hours at the Legend of the Seeker fan table. There is also a LOTS meetup on Friday at 4PM.

You can read about the Legend of the Seeker fans’ Dragon*Con 2013 plans at the Confessor and Seeker Society forum. I am also posting a few updates on the SaveTheSeeker.wordpress.com blog over the next few days.

As for my other Tolkien activities, I’m in discussion with my editor (Matt Tinaglia) about bringing out a new book, probably through Amazon’s Kindle platform. I’ll keep people posted about that when there is something firm to share. I had to stop writing articles for the Middle-earth blog at Xenite earlier this year because of my work schedule.

And I’m not the only person who has cut back. A number of good, old-fashioned podcasts have quietly died or been put on hiatus. My friend Hawke Robinson has been trying to revive Middle-earth Talk by recording Google+ Hangouts. I’m not a fan of Google+. In fact, you could say I am a Google+ UNfan. I hate the service. But for Hawke’s sake I have joined in a couple of hangouts and will be there for him in the future.

If I had the time (and the income to support it) I would be doing oh-so-many more fannish things. I miss being part of convention boards. I miss being a guest at conventions (even when they boldly announce to all attendees that I am forever permanently banned from participating in Tolkien trivia contests). I miss the excitement of being a fan and a mover and shaker.

But most of all I miss the great entertainment that made me a fan in the first place. Sure, we have cool movies and all. I see most of them (I even love “John Carter” and “Battleship” — get over it). It’s not that we don’t have great science fiction entertainment — if anything, it’s better now than it was 30 years ago. I guess it just doesn’t feel quite as new and crisp and special to me as it did when I was younger.

I sometimes feel like Elrond, whose memory stretched back to the end of the First Age, and he could recall seeing all the armies of Valinor and Beleriand in their splendor. He had missed so much and yet saw so much. That’s me. I was born into the middle of the Science Fiction Era of the 20th century but I was already an old fan when the 21st century started. I was there for Dark Angel, experienced and used to seeing shows die after 2 seasons. I was there for Alias, accustomed to seeing shows just turn themselves around and go off into bizarre directions. I was there for Farscape, prepared to see it cut off by SciFi (now SyFy) because of their cheapness, but still disappointed when it happen.

Stargate, Roswell, Warehouse 13, Once Upon a Time, and many more shows can claim me as a “fan”. I saw “Avatar” in 3-D and loved it (but hate all the 3-D versions of movies that have come out since then). I am, perhaps, the only person on Earth who recognizes the absolute genius in “Star Wars, Chapter 1: The Phantom Menace” (although, as Robert Trebor said to me once, “It was a two-hour podrace”). Yes, “Phantom Menace” is a podrace, but we NEEDED that podrace. Without it, fandom would have given up hope of ever seeing Star Wars again.

Of course, many people are now saying, “Be careful what you ask for ….”

There is no real point to this post, except to say to my fellow fans, “I grok you”. I grok you in all your glory, all your tired, weary pleas for support, all your enthusiasm for the things you love in almost single-minded passion. Like many other “old-timers” I never left fandom. As Sirius Black said to Harry Potter in the last movie, “We’re here, you see” (pointing at your heart). We’ll never leave, even if our voices fall silent.

Maybe Peter Sellers was on to something after all. He grokked fandom, too. He left us but he is still here — in our hearts.

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