Patrick Richardson’s post “Not a real fan” at the Otherwhere Gazette is getting a lot of eyeballs today because fans love the thrill of terror they feel whenever there’s a fresh reason to believe anyone thinks they don’t really belong in fandom. Richardson believes he has found two and, in a bitter riff on all the sf he’s read and watched, he punctuates every example from kindergarten thru today with the refrain, “So I’m not a real fan.”
The first reason for this self-contradicting rap is:
You see, according to the Anti crowd I can’t be a real fan because I don’t go to cons. I’ve only been to one you see, not out of lack of desire, but lack of funds.
So I’m not a Real Fan.
Is his failure to attend conventions enough to disqualify Patrick as a Real Fan? For an in-depth analysis I turned the question over to File 770’s consultants on fannish purity. Here is their response.
- Fanzine editor: All those examples and he never mentions the importance of reading fanzines? Not a fan.
- Club member: What club does he belong to? How can you be in fandom if you don’t join a club?
- Collector: What Star Wars action figures does he own? He doesn’t say. A real fan would say.
- Filker: Has he ever been in a Bardic Circle? His failure to mention filk strikes a false note to me.
- Costumer: He doesn’t say anything about cosplay. A lot of people think they’re fans who don’t do any more than put on clothes in the morning.
As you see, con attendance is not the only area the panel believes Patrick’s fannish credentials are sadly deficient.
Seriously, though, the fear of not really belonging afflicts fans everywhere on the culture war spectrum, not just the part Patrick complains about in his second reason for saying he’s not a Real Fan.
See, to be a Real Fan, you have to agree with the liberal orthodoxy. You have to believe that SF is all about teaching us lessons, not about having fun. You also, apparently, have to go to cons and beat your breast about “privilege” and “diversity” and apparently apologize for having testicles.
Completely ridiculous stuff, on the other hand, I guarantee at this very moment there’s a liberal taking Patrick’s criticism in a personal, literal way and letting it tap into their own fears of Not Being Allowed To Belong. It’s common for humans to fear being excluded.
And I can’t fix a fundamental human fear with the comments I’m about to make — if I could, I’d start by fixing it in myself. How embarrassing to admit I have written whiny posts of my own. But I’m going to say these things because it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
- You are a fan in proportion to the effort you make to attach yourself to fandom.
A friend of mine, now deceased, used to attend every Worldcon business meeting, sit in a particular front row seat, and drive people nuts with his idiocyncratic contributions. When he passed he was missed primarily because people recognized he shared their extraordinary passion to be part of this community.
- You don’t need someone’s permission to be here.
Who are you looking to for permission anyway? There will always be somebody whose own brokenness requires that they try to be the gatekeeper, and the only way a gatekeeper can advertise their power is by excluding someone. If you’re on the wrong side of their gate, that says more about them than about you.
Naturally we want to be in a community with others who value us for who we really are, however, we’re never going to be a perfect fit with everyone. Don’t go out of your way to give someone else the power to deny your beliefs and aspirations. And if you’re trying to exercise that power, ask yourself why?