Thoughts from Outland

This is not a review of the new ABC show Outland. It’s only aired a third of the episodes at my time of writing, and I’m enjoying them so far, but I’m not reviewing it here. I think it’s good – if you have some similar tastes as me, you might like to try it (check out the episodes so far on iView). But this is not a review. Instead, Outland has inspired me to think a bit about fandom.

According to some people in the Australian spec fic community, I’m not a fan. I’m not quite sure what that means, exactly. I’ve liked fantasy (and to a lesser extent, science fiction and other related genres) books and movies since I was a kid. I became hardcore about my preferred reading genre when I was about nineteen, and for many years, read exclusively in spec fic. I did assignments at university on Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Raymond E Feist, Seaquest DSV and Terminator 2. I helped start a small press magazine ten years ago, devoted to furthering the prominence of the genre in Australia and overseas and to providing a market for writers and artists who might not otherwise have an outlet for their work (I didn’t get paid for the thousands of hours of work I put into the magazine. Volunteering for passion = fan?). I started my own indie press and have worked with others in the same field in many ways, for the same reason. I have been reviewing and judging for almost as long as I’ve been publishing. I’ve helped run a convention. I’ve spoken on panels and dressed up for book launches. I’ve become addicted to writers, tv shows and film franchises. If that’s not what being a fan is, well…

Artwork by osmosis8 on Deviant Art

And I think that brings me to my point; the point of this post. You want to know what the coolest thing about fandom is? I think it’s the same as the coolest thing about humanity. Diversity. I’ve seen some criticism by people in fandom saying that Outland is not representative of fandom. Or it’s poking fun at fandom. Or is too generic about fandom. I find that position so very odd, because fandom, like humanity, infinitely diverse. We are all people, and hence we are all completely different. We might have points of commonality. I might love Doctor Who, but my love of the show manifests differently from your love. I might write DW fanfic. I might not. I might cosplay DW characters. I might not. I might create DW fanart. I might not. I might write reviews of DW episodes to spread the love. I might not. But what’s cool about my love of Doctor Who is that even though it might be different from yours, it still makes both of us fans.

Fandom is made up of hundreds, probably thousands, different points of commonality. You might be an SF film fan, or an anime fan, or a podcasting fan, or a Twilight fan, or a big fat fantasy fan, or a comic fan, or a Whedon fan, or a Fringe fan, or any one of, or combination of, so many different individual fandoms. You might be an extrovert fan or an introvert fan, a cosplayer, a fanfic writer, a fan film maker, a volunteering-type fan or an academic-type fan. We’re all different, but our points of commonality (even that one very central point that we all are mad about something geeky!) are what make us a community. Which is why it makes me sad that people within this community are sometimes not willing to accept that just because others don’t fit their own personal view on fandom, doesn’t make them any less fans.

Picture from Qwertee

The characters in Outland may or may not be over the top (personally, I have met fans in real life who are a lot like each of them – there’s very probably a little bit of each of them in me!). They are fictional creations, written by people who are fans themselves (and who thus actually have experienced fandom in all its glory), and they are not MEANT to be representative of every fan. However, I think that what they do well is represent some ASPECTS of fandom. Again, not all, because you can’t possibly do that in a six episode show (or probably in six THOUSAND episodes!), but some. The creators of Outland have made a show with science fiction fans at the heart of it, which I think is pretty cool, and I’m glad that it’s out there, showing even a small part of what fandom is to those who have never experienced it. You don’t have to love it, just like you don’t have to love every part of every fandom. But being accepting is nice. It’s okay for us all to be different, and for us all to like different things. That’s what makes us human.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Thoughts from Outland

  1. I find myself shaking my head every time I come across Someone On The Internet denouncing Outland as mocking fandom. I find it hard to fathom how a show that owes at least half its humour to in-jokes and references that will fly over the heads of anyone who is NOT a fan, can be seen to be making fun of fans.

    See. I’m shaking my head again just thinking about it.

  2. Point me to these idiots and I will exteminate, exterminate ecterm…ehem.

    I think that Outland is perhaps one of the most sophisticated, multi layered shows I have watched in recent years. In joke upon in joke. eg Daleks can’t climb stairs, then Max’s apartment being upstairs – how did Rae get up them?

    Shots that reference movies and TV shows ie Close Encounters potato mountain, the farewell scene between Sarah Jane and Tom Baker.

    Agree with everything you’ve said.

  3. My favourite kinds of fictional characters are obsessive people. They don’t have to be obsessive about things I actually care about. I just find the nature of overwhelmingly LOVING something and being fascinated by it an inherently interesting thing. So I enjoyed Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity despite not getting a single one of the obscure musical jokes, just as much as I enjoyed Fever Pitch, which is about the football club we both adore.

    Sadly one of the side effects of fandom is that thing where even the thing we love is never good enough. Like, having an Australian sitcom about SF fannishness isn’t enough, if it doesn’t exactly mirror your experience?

    I’m loving the show, and knowing the behind the scenes gossip (like that every SF toy shown belongs either to the writer, John Richards, or his co-creator & actor Adam Richard) makes it all the richer. I don’t know anyone exactly like those characters, but I don’t know anyone EXACTLY like the characters from AbFab either. Fictional characters: they are wittier than real people!

    The familiarity of the jokes and the themes and the characters, though, makes me feel cuddly happy. The exciting thing is that it’s a good enough show that people who are neither gay nor science fiction fans are enjoying it! It feels respectful to me, not demeaning or mocking. But also, funny. How cool is it to have a new show in Australia that’s not about lawyers or cops?

    There should be a Dalek in everyone’s sugar bowl!

  4. This is a timely post for me. I am involved with something and a lot of the other are involved in cosplay, flash mobs, games and so much more, which just isn’t me. I was contemplating stepping back but had just decided over the weekend that even though I don’t do that other stuff I should hopefully have something to bring to the table.

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