Don’t Forget To Drop Dead

You remember that scene in Independence Day when the President asks “What do you want from us?” and the alien with a tentacle wrapped around the scientist’s throat, to animate his voice, answers, “To die!”

Because when Madeline Ashby rolled out her favorite line – “It’s okay, because someday they’ll all be dead” – leading into a post about the Worldcon, that’s the image that popped into my head.

You know who “they” are.

So does Chris Garcia. In a guest post for SF Signal he says —

There are the people who believe that the explosion in blogs and their popularity means that they should be the focus of the fan awards (the “You fossils are standing in the way of progress!” crowd) and those that want to see fanzines as a focus in fandom (the “You Punks have no respect for 70 years of tradition!” crowd). Of course, both are 100% correct in their opinions, which means we basically have to live with what we’ve got and wait for one side to die out (and I think we are aware which it will be) and then we’ll see the change be permanent.

In the first place, if Twitter hasn’t already kicked blogging in the head, something will soon, then, as an employee of a computer museum, Chris will be perfectly positioned to show people how it used to be when bloggers ruled the earth.

More importantly, as the Earth’s present population of 35-year-olds ages, do we really expect them, unlike every preceding generation, to defer to the cultural tastes of teenagers and happily discard the familiar shape of their lives to suit the demands of the young?

Well, Chris probably will. In the unlikely event there’s a 2075 Worldcon I expect him to be teaching all the teenagers the latest dance. All the rest of today’s younger fans will grow into crotchety antiques. That’s human nature. It’s reassuring to know by then Madeline Ashby will be yelling at kids to get off the grass — because by 2075 I’ll be under it.

I think this unfortunate bitterness between the ages  has arisen because the baby boomer generation was the first that never had to give up its toys. We kept buying rock-n-roll for decades. Or in the arena of fandom, we got interested in conrunning, loved it and as time rolled on saw no reason to quit filling those committee jobs.

As a byproduct, even back in the 1990s, interested newcomers didn’t get co-opted the way the baby boomers had. You may not realize that the boomers came along when paperbacks and Star Trek triggered a fannish population explosion. Cons were proliferating — boomers started their share — and if we didn’t do the work, they couldn’t get off the ground. It was rarely a case of anybody getting pushed aside. But by the 90s newcomers were competing for leadership jobs. I remember feeling frustrated about one talented newcomer, and that nothing I could say would change my friends’ minds about appreciating his contribution, let alone giving him greater responsibility. He managed to do it anyway, and has a great track record with anime cons, but I always think of his example when people wonder why Worldcons in the U.S. tend to be staffed by older fans. Not everyone is as resilient as he proved to be.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Forget To Drop Dead

  1. As a newcomer to a very traditional east coast fan group, I haven’t felt pushed aside or unappreciated. Indeed, my contributions and ideas actually seem to be valued by the majority of the membership. There may be a few folks who look a bit askance at my presence (“Someone under 30!!! We can’t have THAT!”) but for the most part, people just seem glad that someone is interested and helping out.

  2. I think most everyone is happy to have newcomers come in and help out, and then rise to positions of responsibility, often very quickly. What they don’t want is for newcomers to march in and demand to take over, change everything, and cast out all the traditions and customs right now. What this is all over again is Seventh Fandom.
    Fandom has had inter-generational and inter-group stresses before – New Fandom vs. Futurians in the 30s, sercon vs. fannish in the 50s, conservatives vs. hippies in the 60s – and it’s survived because the insurgents did a combination of working their way in to the existing institutions and creating their own, and made a permanent impact that way. In none of these cases did the old group go away or die off.

  3. DB says “In none of these cases did the old group go away or die off.”

    Not entirely true. Organizations have disbanded; ESFA seems to be an example. Conventions have stopped occurring.

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