On Not Being A Fan
Lots of people who take an interest in science fiction self-identify as fans and consider themselves members of a communal fandom. This is a bit problematic if you are the sort of person who thinks you should have outgrown fan clubs in your pre-teens.
Dan Hartland has a post about this and the fact that being a fan means setting aside some critical faculties. It does so with some rather shaky analogies:
A Manchester United fan may gripe about team selection, but he will probably never abandon his team. If you’re going to talk seriously about books, you need to be able to abandon the ones that are bad.
I’m guessing that about half way through his analogy Hartland knew it was broken but decided to press on anyway. The objects of the fandom in the two cases are science fiction and Manchester United so critising bad books is exactly like barracking bad players, both activites that I have never seen fans shirk from. Not to mention that if your club does fuck you about badly enough you do abandon it in favour of something closer your original love.
It is interesting that I am one of the people who has inspired this post because I am not a fan and I am not a fan for the same reasons Hartland isn’t a fan. I do agree that fandom produces an unhealthy Us versus Them division and an instictive rush to special pleading. The reason Hartland hangs it on me is that really what he is upset about is the response to his review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. He gives us a rule of thumb:
reaction to a review will always hone in on the point most applicable to the community that reads science fiction, rather than anything which might relate to science fiction itself.
Here is a slightly different rule of thumb:
reaction to a review will always hone in on slightly dubious generalisations rather than engage substantively with a text that most people won’t have read.
I understand his frustration – it is always instructive to compare the nuber of comments on the film and television reviews on Strange Horizons to the number on the book reviews – but it has only lead him to produce further slightly dubious generalisations.