Archive for April, 2012

SF Fans: The Best and the Worst

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Science fiction fandom is an incredibly interesting phenomenon. No other genre of entertainment inspires the same rabid passion that the likes of “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” and I think that’s because science fiction universes allow fans to utilize their imaginations. Where there certainly exists a solid fan base for sitcoms or romantic comedies or serialized dramas like Law and Order none of these forms of entertainment rely on the viewer or entertained to exercise their imagination.

When a cop fires his gun in Law and Order the viewer knows what a gun is and is easily able to accept how and why it works because of its existence in reality. When Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader ignite their lightsabers the viewer either has to accept the technology and suspend their disbelief, an action that becomes harder and harder to do in the more cynical world today, or they let their minds wander and think about how something like a lightsaber comes into existence. The same actions are taken every time the U.S.S. Enterprise goes into warp speed or any time a Vulcan shows up on screen. Whether viewers suspend their disbelief or jump further down the rabbit hole of science fiction and fantasy they are, at least for a moment, thinking outside of the constraints of the day to day world, which can be extremely liberating.

Science fiction fandom isn’t all good, however. It seems as though every time a group of science fiction or fantasy fans get together to discuss any book, movie, television show or video game it quickly turns into a pretentious, conceded competition. Many fans see themselves as the ultimate fan and wield obscure knowledge about even obscurer science fiction narratives like a weapon to cut down any other fans. Science fiction fans look down on each other for their opinions on a particular franchise, like enjoying the “Star War” prequels, or for not having heard of a certain science fiction franchise, like “Babylon 5.” When fans put each other down like this it’s hard to feel bad for many of the misunderstandings and misconceptions concerning science fiction fandom in mainstream culture and media.

In recent years these same misconceptions have been applied to video games and gamers. With many video games like “Call of Duty” or “Mass Effect” turning into multi-million dollar franchises it’s hard to ignore the gaming industries increasing prominence, however, fans of games and fans of science fiction are drastically different. More often than not when I’ve assumed a friend of mine who is heavily into gaming is also heavily into science fiction I’ve been proven wrong. Some people play video games because they like puzzles, some because they like to shoot things, some because they think “Grand Theft Auto” is ridiculous. While gamers and science fiction fans do overlap from time to time, they are by no means synonymous.

Science fiction fandom is flawed and obnoxious, but it’s also liberating and incredibly interesting. While fans can be irritating they can also foster a community of people that aren’t afraid to think outside of the box.

-Joshua Lawson

The Fan.

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I would like to say I am a fan of science fiction, and I have enjoyed everything I have read/watched in the SF genre, but I don’t know if I would be considered a fan. I say this because I don’t think I have been exposed to enough material or know as many characters, series or shows.

To me, being a fan is knowing more about that topic than the average person.  A person can be a SF fan because once you know more about the world of SF than most other people do, and of course enjoy it fully, you are a fan. I could say I am a fan of more individual things like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, because I probably know too much about each. I think that I could call myself a quasi-fan because I have just skimmed the top of science fiction and I most likely only  more than the average person does about science fiction. Once I’ve exposed myself to more, I can call myself a fan.

Being a fan of something can really connect you to people too. I know that whenever I meet someone who is a fan of the same things I am, it’s almost like insta-best friends because you have that connection of loving that same things. One of my friends hasn’t read the Harry Potter series, and I constantly tell her to read it because I want to be able to share an amazing world with her.

To go to fandoms is a different story. In my research on Wikipedia it says the SF fandom is a more active participation of being a fan. For example going to conventions, dressing for the conventions, and being involved in certain clubs. I don’t know why anyone would make fun of this, because it means that you are passionate about something and feel connected with people also in that fandom.

Gamers are a whole different kind of fan/fandom, because in games you are the main character, and you make decisions for them and guide them through quests and missions to reach your ultimate goal. It is a constantly active fan, which is addicting. But just like any other fan, they are passionate about something and thrive when they are engaging in a video game. My roommate is a huge gamer, and keeps up with upcoming games, buys most game systems (even though his relatively new Nintendo 3DS is just sitting in his car), and would definitely rather stay in and play some Starcraft than go out. Some see it as a waste of time, but when you are doing something you enjoy, is it a waste of time? I would say I’m a huge fan of TV, and many people would view watching television as a waste of time, but I have never thought of my time watching a show as a waste, not even once.

Being a fan of something is kind of a commitment, but it comes easily, you don’t really realize it, and it is fun. If someone isn’t a fan of at least one thing, they should be.

I’m Not A Hater, I’m A Fangirl!!

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Science fiction is my favorite genre. I have seen every episode of Doctor Who, all of Star Trek (both the original and next generation, and am most of the way through DS9 and Voyager. I am definitely a geek over Firefly, Star Wars, and almost any other science fiction story.

My brother and I have had a few discussions on the quantum possibilities behind the technology of Star Trek. I have noticed that in these arguments, our voices get raised when our opinions differ. We get passionate about warp drive and parallel universes, neither of which are real. I know that it does not seem important, but to us it is.

Fans across the world are the same way. As Linus says in the 2009 movie Fanboys, “I care [about Star Wars]!!” We all care about these fictional worlds because they give us a release from our own lives. Fans watch science fiction stories, and pretend that they are a part of them. I have met Star Trek fans that dress up in uniform and give themselves ranks as if they were actually members of Starfleet. My brother and I used to have conversations in Klingon about anything we didn’t want our parents knowing about, and we learned it from a fan-written book that translated English to Klingon. When we were kids, it was a way for us to imagine being in a world full of adventure and excitement. As we grew older, and our lives grew harder, it was an escape into a world where we were the heroes. In our own (pretend) starship, I was Lieutenant Commander Mary (we used first names because we shared a last name), in charge of engineering. My eldest brother was the Captain, and my second-eldest brother was Chief of Security. Together, we fought Romulans, negotiated a peace treaty with the Klingons, and gave the Cardassians what-for. Those were the days…

But I digress. The point is, fans are fanatics to imagine themselves as the heroes of the action. Believing adds excitement to an otherwise humdrum life. It is not only true for Star Trek fans; Fanboys, the movie I mentioned above, is about hardcore Star Wars fans. Most of my friends are hardcore fans of Firefly, and, also as mentioned above, I have seen every episode of Doctor Who. Every science fiction story has its die hard fans, and I only have one thing to say to them all:

Live long, and prosper.”

Journal 9-10: Fans? No one here but Chickens?

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I would call myself a fan of science fiction, inasmuch as I find myself a fan of any given genre.  It is strange to note how similar fans of various genres or mediums will be–there’s a strange overlap between fans of science fiction, fantasy, anime, comics, and so on–they often tend to act about the same when placed within the context of a spectrum of behavior.  It isn’t even a level of obsession or perhaps dedication to the fandom that causes the extreme behavior that fandoms seem infamous for and often lampooned for–the fanboys and fangirls that are generally reviled by those who are not among their number.

However, I don’t see any reason why one would need to be ashamed of one’s interests.  Perhaps they are not always to be advertised–for a long time (and the attitude still exists) being a fan of anime, for example, was inextricably linked to sexuality and violence.  Science fiction, in a similar way, is often linked with immaturity or a lack of literary value (although that attitude, too, is becoming less common).  However, there is no need for shame amongst the fan community.  As long as one doesn’t commit acts one is morally opposed to in the name of fandom, it is just the same as any other interest–if dressing up like a Star Trek character is what you do on a weekend, is it any worse or more embarrassing than some of the things that some people do at wild parties?  All people will have interests of their own, and they all spend their free time in their own ways.  Society has somehow labeled some of these interests as more socially acceptable, such as sports, or fashion, but in the end, it is about as practically applicable and interesting to the outsider when one is able to quote a favorite baseball player’s batting average as when I can cite the top speed of a TIE Fighter (omitted because, as I said, it’s not very interesting to most people).  There is no reason to be any more ashamed of such knowledge or interest–it’s part of one’s identity.

–Clemon Yueh

Journal 9-10

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I would definitely consider myself to be a Science Fiction fan, and feel no need to die to avoid being labeled as such. The title of Science Fiction fan, much like that of any other cultural group, encompasses a wide spectrum of fans of varying degrees of “fan-ness”. This of course can range from a person who enjoys the Science Fiction film genre to those who live their very lives in costume day to day.

I would have to attribute the start of my fandom to my father, who has been an avid Science Fiction fan throughout his whole life, keeping up with books, movies, and games alike. So from a very early age I was engaged in such forms of Science Fiction media, especially movies and video games. I believe due to my love of Science Fiction, and most video games having to do with Science Fiction (especially first person shooters), that my love and fandom of gaming evolved. While I love Science Fiction movie and eventually loved to read the genre, games have always been my passion. I think that if I had the opportunity to either go to a Science Fiction convention or BlizzCon, it would definitely have to be BlizzCon. In fact, going to BlizzCon is on my bucket list, and if I go, I am most likely going to make a costume for it as well, just to get a taste of true, full fandom from the opposite end of the spectrum.

I feel video games help bring in great Science Fiction stories in a much different light and means of delivery. First, fans would get imagine the worlds and possibly them residing within them, then with film they were able to visualize and “see” the events play out as if they were current events, but finally with video games, the gamer gets to actually live the story. The story; be it a new arc of which sequel games would arise, but also possibly books, games and even movies, or one that came from preexisting novels or movies, would allow for Science Fiction fans to finally be more a part of their favorite worlds than ever before.

So, from a very early age I have been playing the games most of all. I had beat the original Doom and Quake games at age 6, something I now look back at and am surprised I was allowed to play. This sort of engrained the first person shooter gametype in my head, where the only SciFi I would encounter was in FPS. I began to explore other games such as Real Time Strategy and Hack’n’Slash as other means of getting a SciFi story out of gameplay. This is where my devotion to Blizzard began, and I would continue to play all of the games in their three most profitable story lines, Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. While these are three separate game lines, they each have such  rich and deep story lines, with endless lore and canon, books and games not of the video persuasion.

I would definitely say that being a gamer can be very much like being a SciFi fan in many ways, as well as a Fantasy fan. If there is enough of a back story, then video games can be as enthralling as a movie or book, often as previously mentioned getting made into movies or books.

WarCraft, Diablo, StarCraft

Journal 9-10: Fandom

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

In general, whenever I think of “fans,” I think of “fangirls.”  Without fail, the stereotypical, obsessed, sobbing, “squeeing” mass of teenage girls comes to mind.  Especially when it comes to Twilight, which is in my mind, the ultimate culmination of fangirls.  In a stereotypical sense, I would characterize fangirls as girls ages 12-17, who love:

a. Anime guys (more specifically Edward Elric, Spike, Sebastian, that masked guy from Sailor Moon)

b. Vampires (Angel, Spike, Edward Cullen)

The pattern?  Either really hot, supernatural men, or really hot, animated guys.  These stereotypical fangirls love the boys, the bad boys, the tortured ones, and the romantic men.

Again, these are stereotypes that I in my limited experience with fandom have come across.  We have TwiHards, Trekkies, and the list goes on.  However, I don’t know how I would characterize myself in terms of fandom.  When it comes to science fiction, I don’t love all scifi, but there are specific works that I would call myself a fan of.  First, I characterize “being a fan” for me as being willing to read or watch the work multiple times.  It is also a work that I am willing to at least Wikipedia to find out more about.  I’m a total trivia junkie, so when I get invested in a book or a movie, I want to learn about it more and more.  I want to know the reasons behind choices and why certain issues were explored.  Some examples of scifi works I am a “fan” of are:

  • The Giver, Lois Lowry
  • Anthem, Ayn Rand
  • Smallville (sorry guys)
  • Any dystopian literature

I actually tend to lean more towards fantasy films though.  For example, I love animated movies.  Specifically Don Bluth or Disney movies, but because Disney movies tend to follow the same pattern, I find the Bluth movies much more interesting.  One of his films that I am an avid fan of is “Secret of NIMH.”  This movie, made in the 1980s, is definitely dark.  But Don Bluth has said that children can handle anything as long as there is a happy ending.  I definitely agree with this because I think that children’s films nowadays don’t give kids enough credit…it’s an insult to their intelligence.  And Bluth just makes that so clear in each of his films.

Insert fangirl squee here.

But back to fandom.  I think there is a fine line sometimes between fandom and addiction.  For example, gaming may gain fans, but does the extent of your fandom depend on how much you play the game or how much you know about it?  Does it matter?

Journal 9 & 10: SF/fantasy fandom

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I do consider myself a SF fan, but more now than I have been over the past few years. I began as a horror fan, which I am still entirely true to, and then became a fantasy fan in high school (thank you Tolkien), but I found it very hard to get into the science fiction realm. However, I have always appreciated the SF genre.
An avid science fiction fan has a completely different “fandom” than that of romance or western fans, and sometimes it’s close relations horror and fantasy. A lot has to be understood about the SF genre in order to appreciate it. Some of the particulars of SF themes are not accepted by everyone, like “first contact” and especially evolution. Working at a library, I know SF is considered to be low on the genre pole, based on the number of SF books I see checked in an out. I’ve even had a discussion with my boss before about how only a handful of individuals (the same individuals) usually come in and check out the SF paperbacks. The “newness” of the physicality of the books themselves, is a little disappointing.
For example, a true SF fan, checks out these books religiously, taking on the challenge of reading all thirty books in one series. Much like mystery and fantasy readers, readers of the genres may live in these worlds to remove themselves from the reality of daily life, or just for entertainment, whether it is with others or alone.
Although it seems like one must be a dedicated follower of SF to understand the genre, that notion seems to be branching out, especially over the past twenty or so years. The movie industry has caused an uproar in producing SF and fantasy movies, especially geared toward the young adult generation. Something else I have picked up working in the library is realizing how many young adult novels are solely based on science fiction, fantasy, and horror themes. “Twilight” seemed to be the foundation for this, while “The Hunger Games” follows right behind it.
As for being embarrassed for declaring that I am a SF fan – there is none. I have always associated myself with the genre, as well as horror and fantasy, and nothing else (other than classics, but that is limited as well).  I’m pleased I took the class, and am very happy I learned how to appreciate the SF genre even more.

Journal 9-10: On Fandom

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I’m not the biggest or most obsessive fan of any particular science fiction author/series/book/film/etc. I’ve never cosplayed, written fan fiction, or created a sci fi website. I don’t regularly keep up with the latest news and books on/of the genre. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t thoroughly enjoy some science fiction, because I certainly do.

Whenever I’m at a used bookstore I always comb the shelves looking for books by Philip K. Dick. Sure there are reprints of many of his books, but the new versions have cheesy updated covers. I prefer the cheesy old covers. I’ve read five of Dick’s novels and a few of his short stories. I have a few more of his books waiting on my ‘to read’ shelf, but they aren’t at the top of list right now. One of the most obsessive fan-like things I’ve done is look through all the covers of A Scanner Darkly on Dick’s website to see if mine was the most awesome, it is. I have tried to write stories that turned out to be pretty much rip-offs of Dick’s style. One was about a new trend among teenagers called “shocking,” basically people would hook themselves up to a machine that would electrically stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. So, if I’m a fan of any sci-fi, I’d say I’m a Philip K. Dick fan, although I’ve never seen Blade Runner (which dick was really excited about) I have read the book it’s based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I am a fan of the sci fi cartoon show Futurama, I’ve watched it since it first aired in 1999 and have continued to enjoy it through its cancellation and rebirth. I love the future the series creates. Even though it’s set 1000 years in the future with all kinds of new technologies, it still shows that the universe will never be perfect.

The type of media I’m most obsessive about is music. I own an absurd number of CDs, records, and tapes (yes even tapes) and spend hours finding rare recordings of fringe musicians. I have a lot of favorites in a lot of different genres and am constantly finding new favorites on top of that. I’m not even going to get into how my music is organized on my computer. Sometimes my obsession with music overlaps with science fiction. For example, the progressive metal band Voivod presents a dystopian critique of North American society through their music. Another example is the Nashville Sputnik compilation album, which gathers space-inspired country recordings produced by Jack Blanchard. These songs aren’t as complex as Voivod’s analysis of society, but they are more fun to listen to. One more example is the Black Sabbath song, “Into the Void” from the album Masters of Reality (of which I own four physical copies for some stupid reason). “Into the Void” tells the story of a group of space colonists searching for a new planet because Earth has been wrecked by humanity.

Now, why does sci fi in particular create such passionate and obsessive responses? I think it stems largely from the genre’s emphasis on creating new worlds and realities. Fictional worlds allow the reader to escape from the constraints of this world and engage in the infinite possibilities of new worlds. I think this aspect of sci fi really lets fans exercise their imaginations in an immersive way, thereby creating intense mental investment. Fictional worlds also offer a form of escapism from the dystopia of modern life and allow readers to imagine a different world (which can be better or worse, depending on where the work falls on the utopia-dystopia spectrum.)


Journal 9-10

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I am not what one would call a “good” science fiction fan. At my best, I am what you might call an “okay” or “sub-par” science fiction fan. You will not see my bookshelves lined with books like Dune or The Dispossessed. But hey, you might find my Netflix history filled with Buffy or Doctor Who! I outgrew my love of science fiction books and comics in elementary school and moved onto books that I enjoyed more, which was (and is) typically fiction. And while I myself am not the most dedicated of fans, I would not be ashamed to be one. In fact, I took this class to discover if I was secretly a member of the sf fandom, but alas, no. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t understand why one might be ashamed of being one. It is no secret that people who are passionate about science fiction tend to be a bit… odd. Admit it, who do you think of when you picture someone who is very, very into science fiction? Not Angeline Jolie, I’m betting. Probably the person you are imagining is a bit of an outsider, someone who can recite every line of Lord of the Rings without pause and will avidly (and angrily) explain to you the difference between Star Wars and Start Trek when you accidently say the wrong one.
But who’s to say this is a bad thing? To me, this seems a lot more like someone who has found their passion and has embraced it instead of trying to be what they are not. Maybe science fiction is something that they grew up with, or it gives them sort of escape from our own boring reality, or engages their imagination… the list goes on. Perhaps they are just attracted to the “type” of fandom that the genre of science fiction usually has anyway, and identify with the people. But for a moment, I want to examine this “escape from reality” idea a little more closely. What could possibly make a person or world feel smaller and more irrelevant than stories about the universe? When you are unsatisfied or depressed about life, I feel like it would help to belittle it by imagining that you, and all the people and things you hate, don’t matter. Maybe you want to replace our world with the relief of another. Maybe you identify with the hero in your story, and feel his (or her) losses and gains just as much as you do your own, which gives you hope. Or you know, maybe you think that space and aliens are just cool (which is valid too). It’s hard to conclude in a few sentences why science fiction creates such loyalty and enthusiasm, but if I had to think of one blanket explanation it would be that science fiction is “different” and “different” people tend to embrace it whole-heartedly because of that.
But who is a science fiction fan? That’s hard to define as well. As I said earlier, there might be a set picture in your head of what this person looks like, but it could really be anyone. Who knows? Maybe Angie really does look forward to curling up with the next Dune book at the end of the day. I think that ultimately, you just have to love, or at least enjoy, the genre- the books, movies, shows, games and/or comics. You don’t have to count down all year to Comicon or spend twenty hours a day talking about it. Just like it, and be semi-knowledgeable about it. In the end though, there is no denying that science fiction is, and most likely will always be, a popular genre- due in large part to its dedicated fans, whoever they might end up being.

Extra Credit: The Hunger Games

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Hunger Games is a captivating book series written by hit author Suzanne Collins. This spellbinding series has won Collins acclaim, not only in her very large and growing fan base but also, in the science fiction community as a whole. This intense series is base on an interesting plot line filled with suspense and lots of brutal violence. In the first book of the popular trilogy, a dystopian society, made up of twelve districts must hold to tradition and partake in the annual “Hunger Games.” The rules state that one male and one female child, ranging from ages 12-18, must be selected from each area to represent their district in brutal fight to the death. Only one survivor will come out of the battle royal alive and he/she earns a large supply of food for their district. The story begins with the introduction of the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, and continues as she progresses through the dangerous challenge to come out on top. Though I do not wish to spoil too much of this truly mesmerizing story I will tell you that in the end there are two tributes come out alive, leaving the story open and ready for the next film in the series.

Unlike many of my fellow Hunger Games moviegoers, I went to the film without preciously reading any of the books. Other than a bit of background information provided to me by my good friend and intense Hunger Games fan, Tiffany, I had no prior knowledge of the book or what the storyline entailed. I feel that going into the film blindly allowed me to really focus on the plot and how the film portrayed the characters. Having said this, I must admit that the film was actually pretty good. The special effects were on point and I found the plot to be quite interesting.

Though the overall movie was quite interesting, I must note that it was very violent. Characters die by spears, have their necks broken, or even burned alive, though, thanks to good editing, the most gruesome shots do not last very long. Despite the high body count, The Hunger Games makes a great critique of reality TV, totalitarian government, and even screen violence as a sign of entertainment. However, I would say that the part that I found to be the most interesting was the entire concept of the Carnival-esque Society. The film really brought this element to life through the depiction of Effie and her whimsical, hot-pink style choices. Also the main city, Capitol, where the actual games takes place, is portrayed as a harlequinade society. This is apparent in the fashion choices of its residence and even the modern carnival inspired architecture, which incorporates lots of sharp points and sleek edges.

Over all, I would say that I really enjoyed the movie and the fact that it is still on top at the box office certainly shows that it is a great movie. I would recommend that those who read the books definitely go see it but also that anyone who enjoys science fiction as well. I do feel, however, that this film is not intended for young eyes, the violence and blood is too much for little minds to comprehend. However, those who do see the movie and are of sufficient age will certainly enjoy it. I know that I did and I have even made a plan to read the books over the summer.