taken from a timebinders mailing list conversation

Subject: "Community"

for some unknown reason, in a message dated 95-10-31 01:47:38 EST, Garth Spencer wrote:

>Another thing occurs to me. Maybe We don't want to misrepresent
>contemporary fandom as a community, to any sources of potential

to which rich brown had the following response:

To what extent do you think it would it be a misrepresentation?
The community that it once was is still there, albeit surrounded on all sides by a megalopolis. The megalopolis has influenced it, and vice versa of course, but it still maintains it own identity, despite forces both from within and without which keep saying or implying that this cannot possibly be so, or even if it could it should not. Fortunately, no one in fandom is actually paying attention to this nonsense.

click here for the rest of rich's message

And, naturally, Garth replied:

Dear Dr. Gafia,

I was kind of hoping to spark a little discussion with my dry little coda. Living here in Vancouver, I get the sensation that the fandom I was looking for, and had a brief taste of, was a short-lived *event* and it isn't going on here, currently.

I take your point about trufandom being like a municipality in one of these major poopulation concentrations, where one official city merges imperceptibly into another; in fact Vancouver (aka the Lower Mainland) is a case in point, being comprised of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, and apparently Maple Ridge and Port Moody as well. Little intervening blank space.

Yet. The one time that John (Seattle) Berry was a GoH at V-Con, Fran Skene noticed he seemed a little harassed and tired; apparently the kind of fanboys attending V-Con generally didn't know John from Adam. That is the reality of fandom here. And, unfortunately, I find what I must call trufandom, a community of friends, pretty inaccessible here. It's either fanboys or oldpharts, here.

Either that or I just don't relate to people too well.


At which point, I stuck my nose into things by writing:

I believe you said:

>Dear Dr. Gafia,
>I was kind of hoping to spark a little discussion with my dry little 
>coda. Living here in Vancouver, I get the sensation that the fandom I was 
>looking for, and had a brief taste of, was a short-lived *event* and it 
>isn't going on here, currently. 

Well, I finally noticed that I had quite a bit of skimmed-but-not-read TB messages taking up harddrive space and decided to do something about it. Hope you haven't lost that spark you mentioned, or that you can find it again....

>Yet. The one time that John (Seattle) Berry was a GoH at V-Con, Fran 
>Skene noticed he seemed a little harassed and tired; apparently the kind 
>of fanboys attending V-Con generally didn't know John from Adam. That is 
>the reality of fandom here. And, unfortunately, I find what I must call 
>trufandom, a community of friends, pretty inaccessible here. It's either 
>fanboys or oldpharts, here.
>Either that or I just don't relate to people too well.

While I have no idea what Gafia said to prompt this from you, I think I get the general drift. Having been born into the fannish community, and active in it on and off my whole life, I can definitely say that that trufandom community you spoke of is a mere ghost of its former self.

Because we humans have evolved into such a mobile and far flung society, the "basic family" of yesteryear is just that, a thing of the past. We have "extended" families now. When I was a little kid, before the divorce wave struck our clan and various old skeletons were dug up and flung about, holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving were major events where one almost felt the need to wear name tags because of all the unmet cousins that were floating about. This year, like the past 5 years or more, I find myself being torn between Thanksgiving at Dads, Thanksgiving with Mom, or with the grandparents down in San Diego, or with my aunt in the next town... or, god forbid, Thanksgiving at my house. It's bad enough that I will have to "pick" one over the others... but it's even worse knowing that wherever I do end up, the others will all be offended at not being chosen.

So it is with fandom. (Frankly, my favorite Thanksgivings have all been the ones where my friends and I sat around in some hotel lobby munching consuite goodies and inviting other stray fans to join us as they wandered past.) Like children grow up and leave the nest, communities and groups of people also grow - and expand - and move out of state - and get jobs too busy to spare a weekend off - and lose touch, etc. The child gets married and has children of his/her own, increasing the size of the family, but in the process also moves out of the house - thereby fragmenting the family.

When the fandom community was young and first forming it was, understandably, small. Actually, if you think about it, there had to be a point where "fandom" consisted of few enough people that everybody in it knew everybody in it. Fortunately and unfortunately, fandom grew. And it's alot harder to be "close/intimate" with a hundred people, or a thousand people, than it is in a group of a dozen or so. The more people who were drawn into fandom, the harder and harder it became to maintain that sense of familiarity.

I consider myself lucky because I think my childhood caught the very tail end of the "fandom means family" era. I can remember a time when there were no "strangers" in fandom; even if the person was someone you had never met before, it was a pretty safe bet that they knew someone who you knew... they could be "vouched" for. You just can't say that anymore, at least not in large, metropolitan fan areas.

We've all heard someone somewhere complain about how "it's not safe to walk down the streets anymore" or "we didn't used to have to lock the front door at night" and other such regrets. And it's not that the people now are inherently more evil than they were "back then," but there are so MANY people that the odds eventually win out. It broke my heart to hear about major thefts occurring at a convention... to think that one fan would steal from another. I would never steal from my roommates, or my cousins, or my brother.... But, we aren't brothers anymore. We're ninth cousins twice removed on grandpa Berts side of the family...

But I don't believe that family community is entirely gone, either. Just because my best friend moved to Washington doesn't mean she isn't my best friend anymore, it just means that we can be best friends "together" anymore. I think that the TimeBinders is a fine example of the remnants of that family. Though I have never met most of the people on this list (or, rather, never been formally and memorably introduced), I still feel a certain fondness for all its members... Because we have found a way to remain "close" even though we are geographically diverse. There is, after all, something very personal about eavesdropping... which, in many ways, is what many of us do with this list. We sit back and "listen" to the conversation, even if we don't take part in it... and it's okay when rich leans over and whispers something in Gary's ear, because we know that if it was something relevant to the conversation/group at large that they wouldn't be whispering.

The family, the community, is still "there" - it's just that "there" no longer has any kind of spatial relevance -- and there's a lot more background noise than 50 years ago.
Wow, my roommate just came in and asked me what the hell I was doing... scrolling back, it seems I've been rambling a bit. I hope my drivel didn't spill on your shoes... :-) I just happen to feel very strongly about the fan family. I regret what it has become, to be sure, because I can't share that wonderful feeling of what fandom *was* with someone who never had a chance to see it in all its glory. I feel sorry for the ones who are *alone* in fandom... the ones who don't get that wonderful sense of coming home when they walk into a convention or club meeting...

See, I'm doing it again. Sorry. I've even forgotten what specific thing it was I wanted to say in the first place. Sigh.

And Garth promptly wrote back:

Dear Roc,

Thanks for responding! I think you pretty well hit the nail on the head; over the past several issues of my fanzine, I've been taking far longer to describe and define what it is with fandom I've been struggling with.

Really, I know fandom is like a smorgasbord the size of the WinterPalace now, and only certain parts of it are right for me. I guess what I lament is the lack of a map or index that lets me know where to find what I'm looking for.

I am currently in the process of putting together one fanzine while finishing a previous edition. Would you permit me to put your last post into /Sercon Popcult Litcrit Fanmag/ 6? (Mind you I'm making no promises as to when it comes out ...)

Garth Spencer

Just to keep things flowing, I added:

Wow... that was kind of odd, actually. I first put thoughts like those down on paper about 8 years ago when someone asked me exactly what it was that made me keep going to conventions even though "the magic" wasn't really there anymore. I didn't have an answer at the time, but I thought about it later - and I always think better on paper. I found it to be a rather... interesting(?) experience, trying to convey in words what can only be felt.

The first "edition" of that ended up being about two dozen pages of sad ramblings with very little coherent flow. At one point, when I went back to LASFS after not attending a meeting for two years, the change in attitudes -- in the new people and the old -- set me off again. That night was the one and only time I have ever not felt at home while in the presence of fans. This really pissed me off.

I decided that I would write a letter for APA-L, that I would lecture them all about love and loyalty and trust and dedication and faith and so on. I would climb up on my best soap box and remind them that we were all here for the same reason. That fear and alienation are self perpetuating, and the fastest way to destroy something truly wonderful.

As always, though, I could not seem to convey my thoughts in a manner which I felt was clear enough to not be glossed over and ignored. I never did submit anything to APA-L.

Over the years, I've probably tried to write an "essay" Fandom is Family, dozens of times. Sometimes, writing is the only way to get rid of the melancholy. And last night, I'm sure I rambled more than usual. And I was sure you would think I was some kind of nut, or an overly emotional something er other.

I know others who have felt this change/absence... but never anyone who seemed to *care* about it. Never anyone else who could or would mourn for the fandom that once was. Maybe - now that I know I'm not talking to the clouds - I'll be able to put together something more coherent, something with a conclusion. If so, I will mail you a copy... what you do with it is up to you.

It is for and because of that fan family that I've volunteered for so many fan related projects both on the net and elsewhere. Maybe part of what went "wrong" was the fact fandom gave to fans - and the fans needed it - for so long that something was drained, like a vampire victim. Maybe what it's going to take to get that back is for more of us who benefitted from fandom tried to do something to benefit fandom back - time for the vampire to become blood donors.

A hopeless dream, no doubt... but one must try. I certainly can't give up. I owe fandom too large a debt, too much of my soul. I can't stop hoping that some kid down the generational line will someday enjoy the magic and wonder and awe that I enjoyed. Growing up in the shadows of giants. Not just believing in the future, but *knowing* in my heart that tomorrow held only endless wonder.

== Heck. I better stop now, or I'll end up in front of the computer all day today, too. What is this, Saturday? I haven't been to sleep since Thursday night, and I think my eyeballs are about to pop out of my head.

Bye for now,

Garth's turn again:

Dear Roc,

I'm glad to know I've been the responsive listener when you needed one; God knows I have done without for years.

Of course I put my own construction on the something-is-off-but-I-can't-quite-identify-it. I got technical about it. I now put the construction on my last twenty years as a search for a place where I would belong and be accepted, since I evidently iddn't have a real family or real friends. So far I have gone through student theatre, newspaper and political clubs, Esperantism, SCA, and fandom. Fandom was the one that didn't sort of dry up and blow away on me.

By now I realize I am a bit self-absorbed, reticent, and shy; the white society I know is a rejecting society; being white, I have run out of alternatives. Time, perhaps, to learn to make a community and be a part of it. This may not be possible, of course.

To a great extent fandom was and is largely a white middle-class leisure interest group, and Andy Hooper among others has pointed out why the pressure are no longer there to make it much more to the neofans now coming in.

Because I live in Canada, which is (let's face it) the fringe of settlement in many ways, I see not only demographic but also regional patterns emerging in our fanhistory. The result, and this explains some of what is off about modern ersatz "fandom", is that "community" is largely defined by =communication=. And if the communciation of a common humour, a common set of references, and the sharing of common interests and goals is not there, the community is not there. Of course it is a factor that the whole issue of what makes a community, a society, a culture and a nation is much in our minds here; has been for a couple of generations, at least.