Science fiction fandom

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Science fiction fandom is the community of people actively interested in science fiction and in contact with one another based upon that interest. Fandom has a life of its own, but not much in the way of formal organization. Fandom is large enough that it may be viewed as forming a subculture; relationships and even marriages within fandom have been a fixture for decades.

Contents

Origins and history

Science fiction fandom started through the letter column of Hugo Gernsback's magazines. Not only did fans write comments about the stories — they sent their addresses, and Gernsback published them. Soon, fans were writing letters directly to each other, and meeting in person when they lived close together, or when one of them could manage a trip (travel was harder in the 1930s than it is today).

Soon after the fans started to communicate directly with each other came the creation of fanzines (see also science fiction fanzines). These amateur publications might or might not discuss science fiction, and were generally traded rather than sold. They ranged from the utilitarian and/or inept to professional-quality printing and editing. In recent years, Usenet newsgroups such as rec.arts.sf.fandom, websites and blogs have somewhat supplanted printed fanzines as an outlet for expression in fandom, though many popular fanzines continue to be published.

Many professional science fiction authors started their interest in science fiction as fans, and some still publish their own fanzines or contribute to those published by others.

SF 'Cons'

One of the things that science fiction fandom does is organize science fiction conventions, non-profit gatherings where the fans (some of whom are also professionals in the field) meet to discuss SF and generally enjoy themselves. (A few fannish couples have held their weddings at conventions.) They vary from the minimalist ("relaxacons") to heavily programmed events with four to six or more simultaneous tracks of programming, such as WisCon. The largest of these are the annual World Science Fiction Conventions or Worldcons. Worldcon has been the premier convention in fandom for over half a century; it is at this convention the Hugo Awards are bestowed, and attendance can approach 8,000 or more. (Commercial shows dealing with SF-related fields are sometimes mis-labelled 'science fiction conventions pooooo,' but are operated as for-profit ventures, with an orientation towards passive spectators, rather than actively involved fans, and a tendency to neglect or ignore written SF in favor of television, film, comics, video games, etc.)

SF fandom facets

Fandom is responsible for a number of innovations, notably filk and the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Fandom includes sub-sets of fans that are principally interested in a single writer or genre: for example, one could talk of 'Star Trek fandom' as an entity. (So much so, that they are better known as "Trekkers" (or "Trekkies") by the rest of fandom).

Science fiction fandom often overlaps with other similar interests, such as fantasy role playing games, comic books and the Society for Creative Anachronism.

There is a semi-jocular theory among fans themselves that fan's distinctive characteristics match many of those associated with Asperger's syndrome, and that many of fandom's peculiar habits and institutions may be explained as having been developed by a subculture comprised in part of people with mild Asperger's.

Some non-Anglophone cultures have also developed their own SF fandoms, based partially on local literature/media, with cons and all other elements resembling those of English-speaking fandom. Most notable include: Polish, Japanese, Swedish...

Notable figures in the history of fandom

See also

External links

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