The Curse of Fandom, or: Three Stages of Addiction: Fan, Faan, and Fantiquarian

My name is R. Graeme Cameron and I’m a SFoholic.

Like all diseases, SFoholism can be divided into various stages by symptoms. Stages ARBITRARILY defined, I may add, as there are as many schools of thought on what constitutes a genuine symptom as there are fen. No consensus has ever been achieved.

Currently I am content to ignore all distinctions and describe myself simply as a SFoholic.

And yet, having lived a SFoholic life, three general phases (however overlapping) tend to stand out.

As luck would have it, I possess photographic evidence of my continuing mutation along the downward spiral into the abyss of my SFoholism:

RG Cameron Nov 29 Stage 1 'Fan'

ONE: FAN

Photograph one: Myself as a young ‘Fan’ attending VCON 1 in 1971. Note that I am adopting a classic Stage One pose of pseudo-intellectual bemusement – stroking my moustache (I am NOT picking my nose!) – as I contemplate the orgy of fanac (fan activity) going on all around me. Being very shy, I am restraining my ‘Gosh-Wow-Boy-Oh-Boy’ enthusiasm in an effort to drift about unnoticed like an invisible voyeur, but my blue Stanfield turtleneck T-shirt is a dead giveaway how much I have been influenced by the Star Trek TV series in terms of personal habit and attitude. Spock and I are one.

Definition: Fancyclopedia One (1944) states (in part): “A real fan… buys and reads most of the professional fantasy magazines… collects them, and writes the editors. He subscribes to at least one fan magazine. He corresponds with other fans. S-f fandom is his ruling passion…”

Oddly enough, the original definition of SF fan seems to resemble the later ‘Faan’ more than it does the past and current popular concept of a ‘Fan’ (of anything). Perhaps for this reason there were attempts back in the day to substitute ‘Imaginist’ or ‘Stefnist’ (Scientifictionist) for ‘Fan.’ Thankfully neither caught on.

To quote a T-shirt often seen at VCON: “I’m not a fan. I just like the stuff.” By that the wearer of course means “I’m not a Faan. I just enjoy SF. I’m only a fan.”

You see how simple, clear, and precise fannish terms are? That’s one of the joys of fandom; endless circular arguments over what these simple, clear and precise terms actually mean. Great fun.

Symptoms: You can’t wait till the next giganto-budget 3-D SF movie arrives at the theatres. You read movie reviews online. You collect DVDs and Blurays of both SF films and SF TV. You can’t make up your mind which of the many current SF TV shows is your favourite. You do your own podcasts. Your links to SF blogs fill the screen. You collect battle miniatures on SF themes. You play SF games online. You love Superheroes. You download SF books. You have friends who share your interests. You dream of losing your virginity at a SF-themed party.

Symptoms back in my day: You can’t wait till the next minimalist-budget B&W SF B-movie arrives at the theatres. You read movie reviews in newspapers. You collect 4-minute-long 8mm versions of SF movies you’ve never seen. The only SF TV show available is your favourite. You make 4-minute-long 8mm stop-motion films showing plasticine Martians invading a HO scale train set. You keep lists of favourite films and books. You collect toy soldiers. You make up your own SF board games. You’ve heard of Batman and Superman. You collect SF pocketbooks. None of your friends share your interests. You dream of losing your virginity, somewhere, somehow.

In short, SF is your hobby interest which you pursue because of the pleasure you derive from it.

RG Cameron Nov 29 Stage 2 'Faan'STAGE TWO: FAAN

Photograph Two: Myself as a middle-aged ‘Faan’ attending a British Columbia SF Association meeting sometime in the 1990s. Apparently I have overcome my habitual shyness. I regret that my outfit, dapper though it be, is sadly conservative compared to most of the other fen present. I’m wearing a straw hat with cloth neck protector, a T-shirt extolling the virtues of a Canadian Forces fighter-jet squadron, a belted towel ‘kilt’, and running shoes without socks. Going for that ‘relaxed intellectual’ look.

Definition: Fancyclopedia 3 (ongoing) declares:This is a complicated term with two opposite meanings: 1) It is often used in a pejorative way to indicate someone who is “more fannish than thou” or who has become convinced that FIAWOL (Fandom Is A Way Of Life) is a viable philosophy of life. Basically, someone who has lost it… and 2) ‘faan’ is also used to indicate a fan who is interested more in fans and fandom than in SF. Perhaps the best example of this meaning is the FAAN Awards given out by Corflu. While this is a very narrow form of fandom, it is meant to be complementary.”

I’ll go with the second meaning. In general a ‘Faan’ is someone who has gone beyond being a fan of SF and has become a fan of fandom itself, or at least takes an active role in the process of fandom.

Symptoms: You help organize SF/Cosplay/Anime/Comics/etc. conventions. You tweet and blog on behalf of the fan clubs you’ve joined. You do electronic things I’ve never heard of. You go to club meetings to celebrate your club’s specific focus which is also something I’ve never heard of. You party hearty.

Symptoms back in my day: You help organize SF conventions. You write for a club newsletter printed on a gestetner, or multilith, or tray of jelly, or something. You trade your personal zine for other people’s personal zines. You go to club meetings to socialize. You party hearty.

To sum up, you’ve plunged into an exciting whirl of like-minded fen and enjoy sharing your fannish enthusiasm with your new friends. Your social life and hobby interests have been combined and greatly expanded.

RG Cameron Nov 29 Stage 3 'Fantiquarian'STAGE THREE: FANTIQUARIAN

Photograph Three: Myself as a crazed ‘Fantiquarian’ old fart at a recent VCON. I no longer give a damn what I look like. My shirt fit me when I originally bought it. I am proudly wearing my Aurora Nominee pin, but unfortunately left my pocket protector at home. A badge declaring me editor of ‘Space Cadet’ is placed higher than my name badge. You can tell I cut my own hair.

Definition: My Canfancyclopedia (ongoing) states: “A Fantiquarian is a fan historian (or fhistorian) who specializes in minute details of fan history as opposed to the broader scheme of things. By way of example, a fhistorian might describe the sweeping evolution of fannish eras and their significance, whereas a fantiquarian would research the zines brought to a particular club meeting and which of them provoked a fist fight and why.”

My definition is, of course, profoundly accurate and requires no comment.

Symptoms (past and present): You’ve become a curmudgeon. You’ve abandoned most of your friends and all of your social life because such minor matters are irrelevant compared to the intoxicating joy of figuring out which tile caused Sam Moskowitz to trip while entering the washroom at Worldcon One in 1939. You know what ‘blog’ originally meant and where and when it was invented. You’ve even drunk some of it. You know what ‘withering’ means in the fannish sense. In fact, you are intensely, unbelievably and irritatingly smug in your belief that you, and only you, know what any fannish term means. Just as well, since you’re the only one who cares. You research incredibly minute minutia nobody is interested in and publish zines (even books) on the topic which no one will ever read. And yet you are deliriously happy.

Why? Because you have found the perfect retirement hobby: An open-ended quest studded with numerous discoveries, acquisitions and accomplishments.

TO CONCLUDE:

The two most important aspects of SFoholism are: 1) it is rarely cured, and 2) each degenerative stage in the disease is equally wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable.

P.S. Don’t send me any rants about my misuse of fannish terms. I use them as they apply to me. Your experience may not even remotely resemble mine. In which case, tough.

< — >

And now for something hesitatingly different:

YOUR WEEKLY CORUSCATING CONUNDRUM

Ms. S.C. of Eckville, Alberta, asks:

RECENTLY SCIENTISTS PROVED DARK ENERGY IS ACCELERATING THE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE. WHAT IS DARK ENERGY AND WHY IS IT DOING THIS?

MR. GUESS-IT-ALL:Dark energy is rogue energy or energy gone bad. It willfully refuses to be utilized for useful purposes. It is pushing against the fabric of the universe because it is trying to get away from us. Dark energy is nasty stuff. We are well rid of it.

And now for something hesitatingly different:

YOUR WEEKLY CORUSCATING CONUNDRUM

Ms. S.C. of Eckville, Alberta, asks:

RECENTLY SCIENTISTS PROVED DARK ENERGY IS ACCELERATING THE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE. WHAT IS DARK ENERGY AND WHY IS IT DOING THIS?

MR. GUESS-IT-ALL:Dark energy is rogue energy or energy gone bad. It willfully refuses to be utilized for useful purposes. It is pushing against the fabric of the universe because it is trying to get away from us. Dark energy is nasty stuff. We are well rid of it.

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3 thoughts on "The Curse of Fandom, or: Three Stages of Addiction: Fan, Faan, and Fantiquarian"

  1. Really enjoyable piece, Graeme – I forwarded it to a couple of my most-fannish friends 😉

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