My name is Charlie, but if your looking for my work, I go by C. E. Dorsett. I write scifi, fantasy, and a touch of horror. I like to play with gothic, steampunk, decopunk, epic fantasy, and wuxia. I love to tell stories and talk about books, movies, series, and music.
The Fan Spectrum
February last year, I posted for the first time about the Three Types of SF Fans. Reactions were mixed. I have thought about it a lot, and I have realized that their are not really three types of SF fans, these are actually parts of a spectrum.
Fans of the Spectacle
Fans who are interested in action and special effects, typically of Space Opera, Disaster/Monster/Action Movies, usually watches movies, some series, rarely reads the books.
These fans are on the coldest end of the spectrum. They are only interested in being entertained, and simply do not think too much about what they are watching. Think about your friends who thought the Matrix was just a great action movie with cool special effects. You know the ones who didn't see all the questions about the nature of reality and how we perceive it. They are fans of spectacle.
The studios have geared their films more towards this type of fan because there are more of them and they are easier to please.
Admit it though, we all started here. We may have been young, but each and every one of us first got into Speculative Fiction be we enjoyed the spectacle. For me, it was dragons and vampires.
This is the first stage of development of every fan. Our job is to move more people into the second and third phase.
Fans of the Specifics
Fans who are interested in the nitty-gritty details and their accuracy or consistency.Typically of Hard Scifi, Military Scifi, and High Fantasy, usually reads the books, watches the series, and nit-picks the movies
For many Scifi fans, this shift happened with Star Trek or Star Wars. For Fantasy Fans, it is usually Lord of the Rings, and for Horror Fans it was either The Vampire Chronicles or Mayfair Witches by Anne Rice or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Many fan bases stagnate here and die off. The Studios have started blaming continuity and consistency for their financial short comings, thus the spate of remakes, reboots, and the dread re-imaginings that crop up every year.
Yes, it is easier to write a story when you don't have to worry about consistency or continuity, but they are not better stories. They are just different.
To move a fan from Spectacle to Specifics, find something in a setting or character they like, and talk to them about it. Encourage them to grow in their fascination, and soon they will delve into the setting more fully, and the spectral shift will happen.
Fans of the Story
Fans who are interested in the story, the characters, and Typically Soft Scifi and Sociological Fantasy, usually reads or watches the series, and watches the movies.
For Fans of the Specifics, the changes George Lucas made to the original Star Wars Trilogy and the prequels went too far. Fans of the Story were able to see how these changes improved and tightened the narrative.
Fans of the Story are few in numbers, but they are the heart blood of fandom. They write/perform the filk, the fan fiction, and fanfilms. They make the fan art, run the conventions, and strive to keep SF on the straight and narrow.
It isn't easy to move from being a fan of Specifics to a fan of Story. For this shift to happen, the fan has to see the complete series as a seamless whole. They have to learn how to see past the trees to the forest. There is no easy way to happen or to bring this about.
When it does happen, it is like magic. Most of us have had this shift happen for at least one franchise. Think about the one series that is closest to your heart. The one you seek out every little tidbit of information about. For that story, you are a fan of the Story.
It is not easy to ask people to make these shifts, or to help other move through the spectrum, but it is vital if fan culture has any chance of surviving. So for the next thirty days:
- Introduce your friends to filk.
- Have a movie night at your house and show a fanfilm.
- Start a role playing group and uses your favorite setting.
- Start having friends over to watch your favorite shows.
- Help just one person find a new series, book, or movie that they will fall head or heels in love with.
If we all do our part, fandom has a long and beautifyl future.
What makes a fan a fan?
In August last year had a bit of back and forth over the definition of a Fan with Eoghann Irving from Solar Flare:
Eoghann Irving has posted an interesting rebuttal to my post, Fandom v The Scifi Channel, where he tackles the question What makes a fan? The critique of my position is an interesting one, and I have to say, I agree with his assertion that it sounds like I am trying to say that fans define themselves by their interest in SF.
While there are some who have adopted the fan culture for themselves, cultural adoption is not a requirement to be a fan.
What is a Fan?
We are fans.
We love music, stories, characters, settings, and images. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.
Fans are special. We are more than just enthusiasts who enjoy a piece of work, fans connect with the work. We feel it.
Fans share a bond with the works they love and with one another. Fans' passion is infectious, spreading the the works they love to others.
The love of a fan is a blessing to a responsible creator, but it is a curse to the reckless.
- Farscape fans kept the series alive despite the many attempts by the network to cancel it.
- Star Trek fans helped kept the series alive until the death of Gene Roddenberry when studio pushed the franchise away from its heart.
- Heroes and X-files fans fell in love with disparate aspects of their respective franchises, but when the series lost their way through a lack of focus on the part of the studios.
If a fan's love is scorned or goes unappreciated, the fan reacts in the same way a jilted lover would. If a fan's heart turns cold, it is almost impossible to rekindle it.
Fans know things about the things they love and enthusiasts don’t.
Anyone can quote Star Trek or Star Wars because many of the aphorisms have gone mainstream, but a Star Wars Fan knows who Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun are. They have become such an important part of the Saga. They know the Chewbacca died on Sernpidal during the Yuuzhan Vong war trying to save Han Solo's youngest son.
Fandom is not defined by obscure knowledge. On the contrary, a fans love for a franchise causes them to seek out everything they can from that franchise. We read the books and watch the OVAs. A fan remembers the details and more often than not knows the minutia.
Fans create and enjoy filk, fanfiction, fan films, fan art, costumes and conventions. We often play role playing games, video games and MMOs in the settings we love.
Fan participation is the most commonly mocked aspects of SF fandom. No one mocks a music fan's attendance of a concert or a sport fan attending a game. They don't even mock the wearing of band shirts or sports jerseys, or fantasy football or rock and roll camp. These are not different from conventions, or filk, or role playing, or cosplay.
Fans support what we love. We buy the books, DVDs, and games.
This is where modern fandom is in the most trouble. The studios and publishers have not offered fans the options they want for media they consume. DRM (digital rights management) and region codes restrict how and where media can me viewed.
International fans often have few options for obtaining media other than piracy.
Media companies have to listen to the fans and make media available in as many ways as possible to they do not drive money away. They also must learn that they are not owners of their franchises, they are caretakers and conservators. The tighter they hold on to outdated and outmoded concepts of ownership, the smaller market they will have and the most desperate they will become.
What we love supports us.
Fans often gather insight and inspiration from the franchises they love. In moments of fear, I have found myself reciting the Bene Geseret prayer from Dune. It is also not uncommon for fans to quote dialogue to make a point.
These franchises are not just shows or books we like. More than we realize they are the myths that help us:
- talk about the aspects of life that are impossible to discuss straight on.
- see the connections between our lives and the transcendent mysteries.
- develop a pattern of living with honor, integrity, and purpose.
- react the trial, tribulations, and joyful moments of life.
This is why fans embraced the movie Galaxy Quest. It is a love letter to fandom, showing at its most extreme, but also showing it for what it is. A culture that gives hope and inspiration to millions.
Are you a fan?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself. The more times you answer yes, the better the likelihood you are a fan.
- Have you ever connected with a work on a deep level?
- Have you ever enjoyed something so much you rushed to tell someone?
- Have you ever played a game, watched an OVA, or read a book that is part of the extended universe of a franchise you love?
- Have you ever debated or conversed with someone about an aspect of a franchise's setting or the minutia of a setting?
- Have you ever dressed up as one of your favorite characters?
- Have you ever attended an SF convention?
- Have you ever bought a boxset?
- Have you ever quoted SF to make a point?
The Defining Attribute of a Fan
Eoghann Irving has posted an interesting rebuttal to my post, Fandom v The Scifi Channel, where he tackles the question What makes a fan? The critique of my position is an interesting one, and I have to say, I agree with his assertion that it sounds like I am trying to say that a fans define themselves by their interest in SF.
While there are some who have adopted the fan culture for themselves, cultural adoption is not a requirement to be a fan.
There is one hard and fast rule that separates Fans from Enthusiasts:
Fans Know Stuff
That is it. Fans know things about the things they love and enthusiasts don’t.
Anyone can quote Star Trek or Star Wars because many of the aphorisms have gone mainstream, but a Star Wars Fan knows who Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun are. They have become such an important part of the Saga. They recognized Asajj Ventris when she first came on the screen in the new Clone Wars film.
I am not saying that fandom is defined by obscure knowledge, but rather, a fan remembers the details and more often than not knows the minutia.
A good analogy is to look at music fandom. Many people may like that one song, but a fan knows the lyrics, the band members, and the albums by that artist.
A fan is someone who has fallen in love with a piece of art, and seeks out more on that subject. What I was trying to say in my last post is that a fan not only craves more, but seeks it out.
Who is a fan?
In the end then this definition works to the extent that it refutes the notion of a splintering fandom by simply stating that they were never really part of fandom in the first place. It’s a reductionist argument which simply eliminates that which doesn’t fit instead of seeking a way to acknowledge it.
And there’s something very defensive about that approach that I don’t like. It almost has the smell of “but we’re better than them” and oh I do so detest cliques (Solar Flare).
What I am talking about is not about cliques or any sense of superiority, I believe many people consider themselves fans when they truly are not.
Eoghann Irving is a fan because, like me he cares enough about this topic to post about it and event to rebut my challenge of his original premise. That is a clear demonstration of the passion I talked about in my last post.
Since he mentioned Cliques, I have to say, every culture and subculture has its own cliques, that is as true of fandom as it is with the mainstream culture. These do exist within fandom, but I don’t believe that they define it.
Kiss Thinks Star Wars is Hotter than Hell
So who's scarier under the mask, Darth Vader or Gene Simmons?
Good question! Gene can be very scary, but I'd have to say he's still one up on Darth Vader.
In that case... lightsaber to your head: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Oh, no! Well, I have been a fan of Star Trek longer so I'm going to have to choose that over Star Wars.
You have chosen... poorly.
Now, I have to ask Bruce a bunch of Star Trek questions.
For the whole interview: