My evolution into the world of Fandom
Science fiction and fantasy novels are among the most popular genre selections in today’s market. More people hear about conventions related to sf/’fantasy than any other genre, and it’s created an entirely new world called “fandom.” What is fandom and how did it come about?
Fandom is made up of people who all love the books, movies, games and graphic novels inspired by the authors and their imaginations. We’re fans, and we love to gather together at conventions- be it ComicCon, WorldCon– hosted by a different sf/fantasy club/city every year -Arisia, World Fantasy Convention, Boskone or ShevaCon, where my friends from Baen traditionally spend 1 day at the shooting range. Many of us know each other from online groups, such as the Lois McMaster Bujold Mailing List or Baen’s Bar– a multiplicity of forums where each author has their own forum as well as a Feelings group, where we can discuss things that hurt us, excited over some situation as well as Baen Appetite, for those of us who love to cook. Many times, we meet each other at the conventions, often making lifelong friends by connecting in the ConSuite. Members dress up as their favorite characters, winning costume awards while wandering the halls, and kaffeeklasches & literary beers allow fans to spend time with their favorite authors.
When I was growing up in the late 1970’s & ’80’s, Dungeons & Dragons became very popular- I remember a lot of the boys in my school getting together at lunchtime to roleplay instead of talking over lunch or playing on the playground. I never understood the lure of gaming for myself, but I know that a lot of people live, breathe & thrive either playing D&D, Dominion or Agricola, etc. My fellow NESFAns come in every Wednesday night, where Dominion eventually comes up, and games can be fast or slow, depending on which rules they decide upon, using the many game expansions NESFA gets as they come out.
Of course, the most important part of fandom are- for most of us -the books we read, allowing us to be transported across the universe of our minds where anything can happen- from here on Earth all the way to other galaxies depending on the book you’re reading. My introduction to sf/fantasy was Anne McCaffrey‘s “Dragonsinger,” a wonderful story about a girl who didn’t fit in her Hold, and escaped, Impressing 9 fire lizards. I felt for Menolly, mainly because I was an outcast, but, after reading Dragonsinger, I was hooked on sf/fantasy! Getting my first computer, reading Lois’ books, then making friends with everyone on Mailing list, which led me to Baen’s Bar and conventions. I loved Baen’s Free Library, courtesy of Eric Flint, because he was tired of the e-piracy argument- he went to authors published by Baen, whose books were in ereader format and asked them if they minded his putting those books into a Free Library. Not a problem for the authors, and being able to meet the authors of my favorite books, and having conversations with them was awesome, and I was finally in my element! I met Tamora Pierce at Balticon in 2004- where I told her my sister & I had been reading her books since I was in fifth grade. Tammy’s reaction? “Thank you for not telling me what year that was!”
Baen’s Bar is a wonderful collection of fans and authors who actually take the word Fandom & turn it into Famdon because we take care of each other, and if one person needs help, we help them. I have personal reasons to be thankful for this, as the Barfly Battalion mobilized to help me move from Western Mass to Boston, including money to get to job interviews and look at apartments. When Jim Baen had a stroke & ending up in a coma, we all got together, sent goodies to Baen’s offices in North Carolina, as well as put money together so Toni Weisskopf, then Editor-in-Chief of Baen, now Publisher-in-Chief, and Jim’s daughter Jessica could go to restaurants near the hospital. Baen also contributes entire libraries to carriers & military bases all over the world. The Battalion also mobilized when fellow ‘flies were stationed in the Middle East needed care packages, so Operation Baen Bulk went into action, getting disposable razors, wet wipes, goodies, etc. to not only our ‘flies, but their entire platoons.
To me, sf/fantasy isn’t just a genre, it’s a family, and my friends online and those met at conventions have brought a whole new dimension to my life. It’s led me from books, to new friends and a whole new way of looking at the world. It’s also led me into different friends via Facebook, especially the MasterKoda.com group, where we’re friends, help each other with our writing, networking and turning Berger Proofreading & Copyediting to a whole new level, where I’m learning more than I thought I could ever imagine. Fandom started me with just sf/fantasy, but it’s also led me into other friendships and helping me grow as a professional proofreader & copyeditor. Most of that credit goes to Tasha Turner & Kim Mutch Emerson, and they’ve become awesome friends, and I know I still have more to learn, and see where Fandom is going to lead me in the future.