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There’s No Such Thing as Science Fiction Fandom

Okay that’s a sweeping simplification. It would be more accurate to claim that there’s no such thing as a single unifying science fiction fandom.

I think there’s a strong case to be made that historically there used to be one. The one that formed around the pulp magazines, that essentially created WorldCon and the Hugos. Members of that fandom were at one time a pretty good example of the average science fiction fan.

But just like everything else in life, fandom has changed. For a star science fiction is a much broader umbrella than it ever used to be. Prose, graphic novels, movies, television all offer their own forms of science fiction with its own culture and following.

Splintering Fandom

But there are far more fan groups than just that. You have Star Wars fans, Star Trek fans, Hard SF fans, Soft SF fans, Harry Potter fans and on and on and on.

With every year we get new fan groups that focus on their particular interests, splintering up fandom even further. And the ever advancing technology of the internet allows us to find people with exactly the same interests we have more easily than ever before.

In many ways that’s a wonderful thing. Growing up in the 70s and 80s I had a grand total of about 5 people who had similar interests in fantasy and science fiction, never mind liking specific authors. That can be a little isolating.

The downside is that if it’s easy to find people who like exactly the same things you do, then there’s really no need to spend time talking to people who like similar things to you.

Different Forms of Interaction

And there’s another way that different fandoms have sprung up. Are you a convention goer? Do you interact almost exclusively on the internet? Or perhaps you’re a member of a longer sci-fi group?

All of these are forms of fandom, but they are significantly different forms that engage in different conversations and may get different enjoyment out of their fandom.

Fandoms Overlap

But I’ve been presenting a very black and white picture. Of course many of the fans in these multiple fandoms overlap. There are Star Trek fans who like Babylon 5. There are Cyberpunk fans who like space opera.

And in most cases online groups haven’t become so specialized that they only discuss one topic and no other science fiction. So I’m overstating my case a little.

Popularity Means Variety Means…

But the scale of the genre now is such that you really can’t assume that another science fiction fan will like or even be interested in what you are interested in. The sheer number of fandoms within the science fiction fan community results in a huge diversity of opinions and tastes.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing really. Generally speaking, variety of good. But it does make it very hard to talk about Science Fiction Fandom as though there is such a generic whole. And it makes it less than informative because no one can really say what a science fiction fan actually is any more. And that may well be one of the reasons it’s so hard to define the science fiction genre in the first place.

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Eoghann Irving is amongst other things the creator and Editor of Solar Flare. He has a life long interest in all forms of science fiction and fantasy and a pressing need to share this interest with anyone who will listen. Find out more at his personal website

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