Friday, February 27, 2015
Commentary: Another FANifesto
At the request of Brad Torgersen, I hereby present my FANifesto:
I was born to be a fan. Indeed, I was born on the tenth anniversary of the moon landing. If that wasn't a significant omen, I don't know what is.
I entered this world the daughter of a table-top gamer and science fiction fan who used the money he earned at the Naval Academy to amass a trunk full of books. Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle -- he bought and read them all. And when I was old enough, he started giving those books to me.
I was carefully trained: trained to imagine what it'd be like to live on Mars or to farm on Ganymede; trained to be curious about the wild universe "out there" beyond our modest planet; trained to value human achievement and technological progress. And the training began early; when I was a mere toddler, Dad's choice for bedtime reading was Scientific American. He used to set me on his knee and coo that quarks were even smaller than the end of my nose.
And Mom? Mom's tastes ran more toward horror and the paranormal, but that certainly didn't mean she was mundane.
When we were young children, my brother and I created and acted out elaborate tales about a futuristic family who lived in a climate-controlled dome in Antarctica. Back then, we didn't know this was called science fiction, but we still knew it was fun.
Years passed; the grooming continued. Consequently, when I discovered Star Trek in 1993 after the premiere of DS9, I was ready to welcome it with open arms. And when Babylon 5 aired for the first time shortly thereafter, I embraced that series as well.
In high school, I started going to conventions -- and even spoke on a few panels. At a discussion covering "strong female characters" in Star Trek, I - an upstart kid who'd dressed as a Bajoran - broke with the prevailing opinion and declared that Captain Janeway didn't hold a candle to Major Kira. This is a memory that still amuses my father to this day.
In college, at my father's urging, I convinced one professor to let me write a term paper on the evolution of science fiction as seen through an analysis of Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and Ender's Game -- and got an A.
In my early adulthood, I picked up a few other fandoms, including Farscape, Stargate, and the new Battlestar Galactica. I also got involved with Dragon Con; Dragon Con 2015 will be my 12th -- and my 9th as a volunteer with the Science Fiction Literature programming track, for which I've spoken on topics ranging from the writings of C.S. Lewis to the worlds of Larry Niven. Through Dragon Con, I became acquainted with Baen, Tor, Ace, Pyr and a whole slew of micro-publishers and independents. I also learned to describe what I really wanted in a work of fantastic literature - inspiration - and came to dislike those within fandom who seek to turn fantasy and science fiction into instruments of social engineering -- and to exclude fen who commit Badthink and have Wrongfun.
Let me hereby declare that if you consume science fiction and/or fantasy on a regular basis, you are a fan and are welcome in my tent -- even if what you enjoy does not come stamped with an elite seal of approval. You don't have to attend conventions or pass any other tests to "prove" your fannish bona fides. I know some of you are shy or are in financial straits and would never assume you share the privileges - for example, an understanding boss - that I enjoy.
And let me also declare my firm belief that fandom is not a zero sum game -- that this little universe is big enough for all of us and that there is no need to pull anyone down so that others may be lifted up. We don't all have to agree. Lockstep agreement, in fact, is poisonous for any field of endeavor and is especially poisonous for fiction, which hinges on the ability to render characters who are complete and sensible human beings. In order to build a functioning and open-minded fandom, we must instead allow genuine conversations with predictable rules that apply to everyone equally. "Punching up" is merely a rationalization for hatred and vengeance; there should be no punching period. "Othering" is not arguing in good faith -- even if your target is the "white, straight cis male."
By all means, let us have Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations so long as diversity of thought is also respected and revered. There is literally nothing stopping us now; the guards have left the gates unlocked. What a shame it would be if we did not take advantage of the opportunity. What a shame it would be if we stayed in the prison yard, too occupied with purging the impure to realize we can all run free, the wind blowing through our hair.