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…
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.
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.