Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Looking Forward, by Looking Back

Here I am, back from Supanova (Brisbane and Melbourne). To say it was heaps of fun and totally exhausting would be accurate. Here's a picture of Marianne and I working hard at the coal-face (bookshop).

Here's someone climbing out of the Delorean from Back to the Future. I was chatting with someone today about the number of people who came to Supanova (26,000 in Brisbane, not sure of Melbourne). When I went to Melbourne way back when I was a teenager, I met the SF fans and found people who talked about the kinds of things that interested me. But we were a minority that the mainstream didn't understand and actively mocked.

When Starwars came out in the late 1970s and it was so incredibly popular, I can remember SF fans saying Soon we won't be marginalised any more. We'll be mainstream. It took a bit longer and a lot more successful movies and TV shows, but the day has come.

The basic concepts of SF stories are understood by the average person and the staple devices of SF are everyday accessories. A communicator that takes pictures, connects with a knowledge base and reminds you of where you should be? Sure!

It's funny to sit at the bookshop stall and see Doctor Who walk by, Manga characters, computer game characters and more, and know that many caught public transport to get there. I'm sure there are similar events in the US and the UK.

I'd like to raise a glass of cyber champagne to all those fans who kept the dreams of SF and F alive for so many years when they were marginalised. What are your memories of discovering the genre and getting involved in fandom? And where do you see our genre going from here?


MataPam said...

I discovered Andre Norton when I was twelve or thirteen.

And while I must have met some people with similar interests, I really don't remember any until college. Even then it was just a few people, not a group I'd call fans. In fact most of the SF readers I know read SF after I practically twisted their arms and made them read my favorites.

My husband is a notable exception--one of the few people I'd met with as many books as I had. It was a bit strange, because we had so little overlap in the authors we followed.

I didn't meet any organized fans until I got online and discovered Baen's Bar, thirteen years ago. ChiCon 2000 was the first con I ever went to, and I've been to maybe seven or eight since. I really do need to socialize. (Help! Eek! No, not that!)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I grew up in Brisbane, think deep south of US in a sweet, quaint way. It wasn't until I arrive din Melbourne when I was 18 that I discovered fandom. It was coheasive and organised. They produced fanzines organised conventions (I'd just missed the first Aussiecon) and had all the in-group rivalries of a normal social grouping. Not that I was aware of this because I was blissfully ignorant. LOL

It was such a relief to meet people who could talk intelligently on a range of subjects. I know that sounds awful but I must have been moving in the wrong circles in Brisbane.

Jim McCoy said...

My first experience with SF goes back to Star Trek. My dad was a HUGE fan and we watched it together. I remember what an unbelievable rush it was when my dad talked my mom into letting me stay up late to watch all of Encounter at Farpoint which was the first episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation.It was also a two hour made for TV movie. We even made popcorn. I was a little tired in school the next day, but I'd do it all over again if I could.

As far as reading SF, that happened by accident. I grew up reading mainly detective type stuff. At one time, I had quite an extensive collection of Hardy Boys novels, but then it happened. I walked into (uhh...can I say this on a website hosted by authors) the uhh....>gulp< libray and pulled a copy of RAH's Citizen of the Galaxy off of the shelf. I loved it! The only bad part about the experience is that I could never remember the title of the book or who wrote it and it took me twenty years plus before I could find a copy to call my own.

Fantasy was a little different. The first fantasy novels I remember reading were the LOTR saga. I saw a bit of the old Hobbit movie and found out that it was based on a book. I enjoyed the novels, but wasn't really a fan per se until I was loaned a book by a friend (Oh God, I admitted to borrowing books for them library and my friends, I'm going to be exiled!)

The name of the book was Dragons of Autumn Twilight and it was written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It took me awhile to get my own copy of that one as well, but I now have both the box set and the annotated edition. Good books all, and probably one of my most important influences as a person who writes. I think I would have been a writer anyway, but those books (it was part of the Dragonlance Chronicles), and the Dragonlance Legends are probably the reason I write mainly fantasy and not something else.

As far as organized fandom goes, my introduction was Baen's Bar about three or four years ago. I had started reading David Weber and then got some John Ringo. There were advertisements in the backs of the books for the Bar and I just sort of wandered in one day. I'm happy to say that I've found other fan sites since, but that was the first.

I have my first trip to a con planned for two weeks from this coming Friday. I can't wait to go, especially since it's something I've wanted to do since the old Star Trek conventions started happening locally in the late 80s.

I think SF/F is definitely on an upward swing. Everyone knows the language and it's a huge part of culture now. Think about how big Avatar hit. I shouldn't have to remind any SF/F readers or writers about the size of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Everywhere you look there are spaceship, vampires and werewolves (although I have yet to see any spaceships crewed by Vampires and Werewolves)and it's terrific.

Now if we could just get those pesky gatekeepers to let something optimistic through...

Chris L said...

Hi Rowena,

I think some aspects are mainstream, like movies and perhaps some books, but there's still a lot that raises eyebrows.

Dressing up for instance - you don't see that everywhere, in fact the general fanaticism of fandom surprises me still.

The last Trek movie was a definite shift toward mainstream, as with Avatar and of course, all the urban stuff. Perhaps my kids won't even think about the odd elements because by then, odd will be normal.

Chris McMahon said...

It's funny - even though SF and spec fic have penetrated the mainstream to a large extent - many people do not recongise it as such.

If you ask people 'who don't like SF&F' what their top 5 movies are, inevitabley one of these will be a sepc fic film or contain signficant genre elements. Will they read a SFF book? Unlikely.

I think the penetration will continue, but mainly in mainstream media.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I agree, Jim. SF have become very dystopic, which is why I think, fantasy has grown in popularity. You were lucky to have a father who loved the genre you loved.

I used to have a bookstore, so I totally love books!

Hope you have a wonderful time at the Con.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, it has come so far in the last 30 years. You wouldn't believe how isolated the fans used to feel.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Good point, Chris McMahon.

The movies and TV series are just the tip of the iceberg of story ideas in the books.

In fact, the majority of the stories they mine for movies date back to the 50s- 70s, which shows how far behind the current crop of book ideas, these more mainstream aspects of the media are.