Fandom in 2014?

So I participate in a couple APAs. One of them is not relevant to this story. The other is.

You see, the next issue of eAPA will be its sixtieth. Since it’s a once a month APA, the sixtieth edition means that it has been going for five years. In celebration of this milestone, we’ve been asked to project what fandom might look like five years down the road. It’s an interesting question at the moment, as people I follow have been nattering about the future of Worldcon, among other things.

So here’s the question. Aside from me accepting my first Hugo at the possibly-European Worldcon of 2014, what do you think fandom will look like in five years?

(Okay, so I’m kidding on the Hugo thing, but ever since I got into science fiction enough to understand just what a Hugo was, I’ve always wanted one of them rocket thingys. Although 2014 might be a bit soon…)

Anyway, I’d really like the comments to be on my blog, so I’m funneling LJ comments over here. Also, feel free to pass this URL onto anybody who might care to comment, as this is the sort of thought I’d like to get from anybody who’s got an opinion on the matter. While this is mainly concerned with science fiction fandom (and all its various components), I’d love to hear from folks who are into anime or comics or media or games, because I suspect those fields tie into the general fandom.

Also, since Chuck, our esteemed editor, would kill me if I failed to mention this, eAPA is always looking for new members. It’s all digital, as we do it in PDF. If you’d like to hang out and wait for the open issue next month, that’s cool, but if you want to get involved in this, Chuck’s address is on the eAPA page at efanzines, which I’ve linked to above.

17 thoughts on “Fandom in 2014?

  1. V47 March 2, 2009 at 11:07

    My admittedly limited experience has led me to see *fandoms* rather than a single unified fandom…yes, there are nodes that connect them…and it isn’t just geographical either.

    Perhaps it will splinter more?

    I dunno. Musing.

  2. Twilight2000 March 2, 2009 at 11:17

    5 years is a short time in terms of change – but I suspect we have a couple of choices here.

    Do nothing – and we become older, fatter and grayer.
    Make some outreach to the next generation and find out what would drive them to come to our cons and make some changes – and the future looks brighter ;>.

    How we do that is the biggest question – there aren’t many who’s preference is to do nothing – there are a LOT of us whose question is “what will work?” or “which idea is the best one?”

    My take? I’d love to see lots of bigger regional cons each try something different to see what works – the more options we try, the more we learn – but change is scary, so it’s gonna be interesting to see what we do next…

  3. Laura HC March 2, 2009 at 12:55

    Seems I’ve been hearing about “the greying of fandom” ever since I got involved when I was in college in the mid-’80s. As part of Gen X, I see myself, and my generation, as a bridge between the first waves of fandom, and the high school and college kids today who play RPGs and video games and read Harry Potter but have no idea what a science fiction convention is, or why they should care.

    In five years, if we do nothing, as Twilight 2000 points out, we’ll all simply be older, fatter, and grayer, and still sitting around talking about the greying of fandom and what to do about it.

    In my opinion, we have to become more welcoming and inclusive, not exclusive. Science fiction is more mainstream now that it ever was before, and you no longer have to know the secret code phrase “Fans are slans” to be admitted into the ranks of people who read Vernor Vinge and John Kessel and J.R.R. Tolkien and the like.

    A quick google search will turn up hundreds of meetup groups and local science fiction clubs; conventions are happening almost every weekend somewhere in the US; Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and George Lucas *are* the nerdy kids who probably got picked on when they were growing up–and they’re laughing all the way to the bank now, as are a lot of other geeks. It’s never been a better, or easier, time to be a geek/nerd.

    It’s not something that has to be hidden, and when the world is beating a wide path to your slan shack, you can either hunker down and add more padlocks, or you can throw the doors wide open and let them in.

    I wrote a longer piece on this for my own zine (Get off my lawn!) called “Between the Candle and the Star.” Guy Lillian has reprinted it in his wonderful ‘zine, Challenger, and if folks are interested, it’s here:

    However, I suspect that people simply like forming “tribes,” and in five years, my feeling is that things will be much as they ever were. A lot of people seem to feel that without a “them,” there can’t be an “us.”


  4. Anne KG Murphy March 2, 2009 at 14:03

    Well, let’s see, by then I hope to have one or two new wee fen in tow… That’s on a micro scale, but certainly the full emergence of my (gen-xers) generation into either parenthood or established non-parenthood is a somewhat distinctive trait that should be fairly established by the time I’m 40, as I will be in 5 years.

    By that time it should also be clear that 40 is the new middle age and with luck we might have learned enough about living habits, food, hormones, etc, to support that concept.

    Every year fandom will have more people in it who have traveled off their own continent/out of a space that speaks their native language.

    I don’t know if we will have gotten better at translation or started to truly cross language barriers to merge fandom on a global scale or not. But I have some hopes in that direction.

  5. Petréa Mitchell March 2, 2009 at 14:36

    Ditto on the graying of fandom. I’ve been involved with fandom in one way or another nearly all my life, and people have been worried about where all the teens and twentysomethings are for as long as I’ve been paying attention. They’re busy trying to make ends meet and find a job that gives them enough leisure time and budget to go travelling to cons. They’ll be along once they’ve sorted that out. All you need to worry about is that they know general fandom is still out there.

    As for the shape of fandom in 2014: pretty much the same, just slightly more British because the 2014 bid site have been narrowed down to Glasgow and London.

  6. Tom Kunsman March 2, 2009 at 16:52

    I am not sure if five years is a long enough time period or to short of one. Considering how fast the internet changes, maybe five years is just right.

    The one thing that has happened is that there is now a con for any and every type of group out there, and that has hurt not only the Worldcon, but I am sure other regional sci-fi cons.

    But, what will fandom look like in five years? Tough to say.

    Maybe by then we will really see a “virtual” con, as we now have almost all of the pieces in place.

    I also expect more “factions” within fandom, as whatever the “buzz worthy” TV show/movie/anime will produce yet even more diverse fans looking for their own place to hang out or con to attend.

  7. Steven March 2, 2009 at 18:49

    I could tell you, but then you wouldn’t have anything to look forward to about reading my submission to eAPA.

  8. Mishalak March 2, 2009 at 23:21

    In five years a few more large regional conventions that no one thought would ever die will have faded into irrelevance or exploded for reasons that seem very personal and particular. But it will be part of the ongoing meeting space difficulty for all groups and conventions.

    There will be more and different kinds of contact, particularly online ones, but the old style of conventions and club meetings are going to continue to fade with the average age of starting to attend continuing to rise until it is like Rose Societies. I’m told that with Rose fanciers when someone joins at age 55 or 60 she (or he) is a young turk.

    But more people than ever will be reading and watching science fiction just as people planting Roses are still around.

  9. aporia March 3, 2009 at 05:50

    I like Petrèa’s point . . .
    They’re busy trying to make ends meet and find a job that gives them enough leisure time and budget to go travelling to cons.

    Bingo. The same forces that are pressuring family life and volunteerism as well as the fabric of society as a whole affect fandom, particularly anywhere that potential fans have to take out leviathan loans to get an education, or where childcare is expensive and difficult to get, or the work culture requires long hours and unreasonable flexibility at the beck and call of the boss.

    What you’ll see is a hammock-shaped curve of involvement–lots of adolescents and students and lots of folks who are retired. Although the students may trend older because more folks are going to graduate and certificate programs, in general when you’re working a job, possibly an internship at the same time, and taking classes at night, you don’t have much time for cons, and when you’re living on borrowed money you don’t have the financial wherewithal either. SF and media fandom may splinter further, with the adolescents and students going to massive probably for-profit media conventions and the older folks going to smaller and smaller literary conventions. Aside from at Costume Con, due to the facilities crunch Masquerades will probably become endangered and hall costumes will be the rule of the day and mostly show up as cosplay.

    Also, in places where conventions can’t get arts funding and aren’t necessarily viewed as having anything to do with existing arts communities, competition for space (as Mishalak argued But it will be part of the ongoing meeting space difficulty for all groups and conventions) will be the dealbreaker, since cons won’t have any cultural legitimacy to protect them. And even perceived cultural merit won’t necessarily save them, if you look at the US where newspapers’ book sections are being canned because they don’t sell enough advertising. As businesses continue to consolidate and the world economy continues to tremble, the big gorillas will provide more of facilities’ take and they’ll be less willing to put up with fannish special needs for a proportionally lower cost with none of the resultant good (e.g. “look, we help charities, ignore the rest of our businesses practices!”) publicity which could make up for loss in profits.

    Folks–especially the sort of driven folks who become SMOFs–may also be more willing to expend their energy volunteering for causes which cause some sort of perceptible social change and which are more generally socially accepted, like assisting with political campaigns or tutoring kids . . . .

    One has to consider that larger social stresses change fandom just as they change our lives.

    The state of fandom may vary internationally, with fandoms which did not previously have much of a connection making more visible connections to the current Anglophone/European dominated scene–Brazil and India come to mind.

    As air travel becomes more expensive as oil prices rise, however, international connections between fans may become dependent on the internet.

  10. katster March 3, 2009 at 08:17

    First off, I wanted to thank everybody who has replied so far, and especially to Cheryl and Kevin, who linked to this post.

    Of course I go and ask the question when I knew I was mostly tied up with work for the next few days, but here’s a few thoughts on what you’ve said before I get back down to work.

    V47: I agree that the splitting of the fandoms is a problem, and that folks that are, say, interested in Harry Potter either don’t know or don’t care about general sf fandom. (Of course, some of that might be that we don’t exactly make it clear that we’re into fantasy as well. I’ll have to think about that.) But a splitting of the interests is maybe something we’ll have to contend with. It’s something to think about.

    Twilight: Of course, five years can also be an eternity. Look at the difference between, say 2004 and now. I think whether five years is not enough or too much really depends on trends. Of course, this is whyscience fiction generally fails miserably at predicting the short-term future — too many variables. I like the idea of trying different ideas at different regional cons to see what will work, but I think regional committees can be just as hidebound as the Worldcon committee, even if the local cons have a little more flexibility budget-wise. I also agree that outreach is good, but of course, then the question becomes where to start?

    Laura: I find that interesting, being right roughly at the tail of the end of Gen X. (Full disclosure: I turned thirty last November.) I think we’re getting to the point where you don’t have to know the secret codes to get in, but I think there’s something there — maybe a jargon problem. Or not really being able to tell the players without a scorecard. I’m not expressing myself well here, but it’s something else I’m mulling. (Also, thanks for the link to your article. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I will.)

    Anne: That’s the way I’m hoping fandom becomes. I’ve made friends with a few Dutch fans by participating in a Dutch APA (that’s the other APA I speak of), although I couldn’t speak a lick of the language if my life depended on it. The fact the APA is in English helps a lot, although I’m hoping that by 2014, I’ll have picked up a few words. I think this is an optimistic view, but I’d love to see it happen. Also, yay for the extension of fandom across generations!

    Petréa: I agree with this point as well. I didn’t know much about fandom during my first tour of duty through Berkeley, but by 2002 (when I went back to Berkeley for my master’s), I was aware enough to know Worldcon was happening in San Jose. I thought of making it to Toronto or Boston, but there was never enough time or money. Of course, the difference is that the Internet grew and changed a lot since my freshman year of college (1996-1997). By 2002, I had a livejournal and was experimenting with the new social media coming out. Which may explain how I knew more. But I didn’t really get involved with cons until 2007, and last summer’s Worldcon in Denver was my first.

    This comment has gotten plenty long, and I need to go do some work for the day, so I’ll do more responding later. Thank you again to everybody who’s participated so far, and also to those who may participate as today progresses.


  11. Aris Merquoni March 4, 2009 at 02:16

    Well, I was never really involved in proper SFF fandom the way you have been. I mean, I went to Baycon a few times, and I just got back from Gallifrey One, but you know, all my contact with true-blue fandom is hanging out at the edges and reading Niven’s recollections. I’ve never been to a panel, ferchrissake.

    And it seems like there’s a bit of an attitude among enclaves of fandom that there was this special thing, fandom, this amazing and beautiful subculture, that protected you from all Those Assholes Out There. And conventions were the lifeblood of that, because they were the only place you could meet people.

    But that’s changed now. I’m in what is vaguely termed “Livejournal-based Media Fandom”, and it’s an entirely different animal. Oh, we have cons, but they’re totally secondary to the stuff we actually do in realtime online. And it’s a different kind of community, honestly. Like, aporia commented about Masquerades dying and hall costumes being the only thing out there. And my initial reaction has always been, “Why ‘save it’ for Masquerade? Why don’t you want to share your costume with everyone all day?” It’s just a different way of coming to these sacred traditions. We don’t need dealers’ rooms, as cool as they are, because we can buy it all on the internet. And yeah, there are for-profit media cons, but there are also things like VVC, which are totally fan-run fan-content beasts.

    I mean, people like me don’t want to memorize forty years of fandom history. We don’t want to be told that if we weren’t there when, we don’t count. We certainly don’t want to be told that in order to truly be fans, we have to kowtow to a fannish authority. There’s a new organizational structure out there, and it’s about what you’re creating and how you’re interacting with the text now.

    And I know that something we’re doing is pissing off a lot of the old guard, because we keep getting in shouting matches with them. Whatever the trigger for these arguments, I think a huge cause is that classic fandom doesn’t really grok media fandom. I think there will always be a place for conventions and organizations in the classic sense, but I think they’re going to have to tailor themselves toward things that you have to do in meatspace rather than acting as a chaotic, noisy proto-WWW.

  12. Laura HC March 4, 2009 at 10:09

    Not to keep harping on it, but this is the kind of generational divide that I’m talking about in “Between the Candle and the Star,” and it seems that some compromises are going to be required from both sides–we need to be building bridges here, not moats.

    I too see that a lot of the “old guard” is suspicious of things like LiveJournal; they are going to need to recognize that a lot of the young fans hang out there.

    I also see that a lot of the new fans automatically shut down when the talk turns to fannish history; they’re going to have to recognize that while they may not need to memorize 40 years of it, it *is* sometimes nice to see where fandom’s been.

    The sad fact is that outside of our protected little bubble, the world at large doesn’t care whether we’re media fans, or fanzine fans or literary fans or costume fans or anime fans–to them, we ALL look like the kids from the Saturday Night Live skit to whom William Shatner famously shouted, “Get a life!”

    We should be reaching out to each other, not deepening the divisions between us.

  13. zillah975 March 4, 2009 at 11:51

    It’s serendipitous, I think, that this comes up now. What I’d like to see in five years is for fandom — all segments of it — to be a more welcoming and safe place for fans of color and for women. I’d like it to be a place where white isn’t the default and neither is male (though in fairness, I think it’s less male-dominated than it was when I was a kid, and there were definitely women fully engaged even then), where fans of color and women fans can attend cons without feeling out of place or ignored or harassed, where writers and artists of color and women writers and artists get as much respect and consideration and air time as writers and artists who are white and male.

    I would like it to be a place where fans of color are not attacked — especially not with racially charged slurs and accusations of stupidity or of not being able to think critically or of “just looking for something to be offended about” — when they address issues of racism in SF/F and SF/F fandom, and that if they are, the response from fandom as a whole is to support them and defend them from these attacks.

    We absolutely should be reaching out to each other. Oh, my, yes. We definitely should. We should be reaching across age gaps and across fandom gaps, and across gender, and across cultural lines, and across lines of ethnicity. Not just giving lip service to the idea that we’re welcoming to everyone, but actually taking steps to be sure that it’s true.

    That’s what I’d like to see. What I expect to see, well, I’m not sure. But this is what I’m going to be working towards.

  14. Mal March 4, 2009 at 12:26

    I’ve been involved with fandom in one way or another nearly all my life, and people have been worried about where all the teens and twentysomethings are for as long as I’ve been paying attention. They’re busy trying to make ends meet and find a job that gives them enough leisure time and budget to go travelling to cons.

    Some of the teens and twentysomethings may be saving up to travel to cons, sure, but there are lots of people in that age group going to cons. The thing is, they aren’t our cons.

    Nan Desu Kan in Denver (yay hometown pride!) is the main anime/manga convention for the Rocky Mountain region. It’s in the top 15-20 conventions in North America, pulling around five to six thousand people annually. Almost every single person who goes is within the 13-25 age bracket. It’s at the point where for the most part the oldest attendees are either con staff or parents dragged along by their kids.

    So there’s where they all are. How we get them from there to here is another question entirely.

  15. Aris Merquoni March 4, 2009 at 15:00

    zillah: EXACTLY. I think we’re making some progress in some parts of EllJayBasedMediaFandom, but it seems to keep coming ’round, doesn’t it?

    I mean, we’re science fiction fans. You would think we could discuss society and technology without turning into jerkfaces. *laugh*

    Mal: Greying comics fandom is having the same problem, y’know? “Where are all the young fans?” Well, they’re reading manga, because mainstream American comics haven’t done anything new in thirty years. And it’s a shame, because there’s good stuff out there, but for a lot of people I know “comics” means “Oh, yeah, I read Sandman and I thought it was cool.”

    The answer, I think, is always going to be to listen to the people who are doing new things and incorporate that. Once you start being hostile to new ideas you start to stagnate.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz March 5, 2009 at 07:44

    Hi– I’m here from Making Light.

    I find your take on fandom surprising. I got into convention fandom in the early 70s, having been reading the stuff for ten years or so at that time.

    I never got into fanzines, though I’ve read a few, including enough basic background material to know a moderate amount of the slang.

    I’ve been a dedicated con-goer, a huckster, an apahack, a habitue of rasfwritten and fandom on usenet, and now I’m spending a lot of time on livejournal as nancylebov.

    I’ve never needed my knowledge of fanzines to fit in. There are so few fanzine fans that they don’t seem to have much social influence.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen convention fans be uncomfortable about the invasion of filking, gaming, media, costumes, and goths– and then they complain about the graying of fandom.

    If you’ve been hassled about your lack of knowledge of fanzines and fanzine history, I’ll take your word for it, but my evidence is that the problem is somewhere else, probably convention fans who don’t want to see their sub-culture change. That subculture is conventions, not necessarily fanzines.

    Speaking of being a huckster, I sell buttons/badges with funny sayings. This isn’t just an ad, this is relevant because my choice of slogans is substantially driven by my customers, and I don’t have fanzine slogans. I don’t even have much about print science fiction. I have somewhat about movies and tv sf. I have a lot about book addiction, and a lot about cats and computers and chocolate and caffeine. And puns.

    As for the future of fandom, a lot of it is going to be shaped by the economy. Conventions are highly dependent on the ability to afford travel and hotel rooms. For a while, I thought there was going to be a flowering of convention fandom as boomers retired. This is looking rather less certain. :/

    Fandom for my generation and earlier was shaped by what we loved being publicly despised. Someone upthread got it right about that. Since then, science fiction (if not fandom) has become more and more respectable. I was pleased and astonished when Gordon Dickson (a second rank science fiction author) got a good eulogy on NPR.

    This means that conventions aren’t as socially necessary as they used to be. And because of the net, it’s easier for people to meet up locally if they want in person contact, and hang out together online if they don’t.

    I assume that fandoms will be more online, and more divided by interest. Sometime in the 80s, it became just about impossible to keep up with print sf. Star Trek fandom was originally built out of something like 75 hours of tv show. That was all they had for years. I get the impression that there’s 75 hours every week or two (every month?) of new tv and movie sf.

    The thing is, if the whole group of people can keep up with a field, then there’s a shared vocabulary of references, not just to the acknowledged classics and favorites, but to the second and third rank stuff, too. I try to not assume that someone twenty years younger than I am has read the good stuff (and there’s a lot of it) from the 50s. There’s nothing wrong with them for not having read it (and they might not like it anyway), it’s just impossible to keep up.

    I’m not sure how much longer media sf fans will have little enough material to have a relatively unified culture.

    As for race and gender, I think fandom will bend rather than break. The process isn’t pretty, but I think it will turn out to be useful.

Got something to say? Say it here!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.