I started off 2015 with a thought piece on the ecosystem of comics and our place, as consumers and fans, in that ecosystem.
This year, I want to talk about the end of the world. ^_^ Not of the Earth, although that’s certainly something we could and should talk about, but about the end of the world as you know it. The end of your fandom as you know it.
The February 2016 issue of Smithsonian Magazine discusses when phonographs were new in the early 20th century. Pundits warned of “‘gramomania’, a growing obsession with buying and collecting records that would lead one to ignore one’s family.” Sound familiar?
The reality of human existence is that we crave and loathe technological advance in equal measure. We disparage any technology we do not ourselves use, art we do not ourselves like, political ideologies we do not ourselves agree with, for whatever reason.
This is true with representation in fandom. We fight, tooth and nail against changes to “our” series. Series that we didn’t write, produce and may never have supported in any way, but with which we identify. George Lucas rails against the changes in Star Wars, even as the changes make it more accessible to people who are not white men. (I, for one, loved the diversity, not just in the leads, but the background, where people on the planet and in the air were notably of many ethnic backgrounds. For me, that was the best part of The Force Awakens.)
So let’s go back to the pundits of the early 20th century for a moment, railing against this isolating new technology – the phonograph. Pundits rail against every new technology in this same way. It will isolate us, it will destroy society and families. Comics, games, science fiction….everything we as a culture of fans embrace and love – it’s all stuff pundits have and continue to tell us is bad for us, bad for society, bad, bad, bad. Which of course implies a moral superiority for eschewing this new stuff. Whatever it is.
In competition with this, we get the techno pundits, screaming “game changer!” with every new toy made. They imply a moral superiority for having the newest, the best, and staying on top, which is the only place possible, otherwise you are a sheeple.
The reality for most of us is that adoption of new technology is asymmetrical, sporadic and putters out as we either can’t afford or are not interested in whatever new thing just debuted.
So, what’s my point? My point is that fandom as you knew it is dead. It died a while ago and you didn’t notice. And it was reborn and died several times since then. Every generation of fans recreates all the slang, the in-crowdness, the exclusion, the inclusion. But now that fandom isn’t just an old school scifi convention, those waves come faster, and they look different. Remember, it was only a few decades ago when scifi fans hated anime and all those new weird people who came to *their* conventions. That’s a good thing. There wasn’t moral superiority in keeping women or people of color out of fandom, any more than there is in virulently hating Microsoft. Or anime. Or Twilight.
And as we start this new year, I am reminded that there is nothing *wrong* with any of us, things are not getting worse, and that pundits have basically been recycling the only article they have between the lot of them for hundreds of years.
Human society is complex. Anxiety is part of human nature. Fear of things changing is part of human society and so is fandom.
Embrace the stuff you like. Enjoy it to the fullest any way you can. Create derivative works, share them. Just remind yourself, the next time you offhandedly begin to dismiss the new wave of fans, or the most recent hot new thing that isn’t interesting to you personally, that it’s not the end of the world. Anime didn’t destroy fandom, it expanded it. Twilight didn’t destroy fandom, it expanded it. Phonographs didn’t destroy the world, neither did comics, or computer games.
Fandom is fine.
As we head into a new year, remember to have fun the way you want to – and let other people have fun the way they want to. There’s room for all of us and by that I mean all of us.
Here’s looking forward to a fabulous 2016 for all of us.
Happy New Year!