History of Fandom

By | Thursday, March 16, 2006 Leave a Comment

I mentioned earlier that I was reading Harry Warner, Jr.'s All Our Yesterdays -- a history of science fiction fandom -- in the hopes that it would give some insights about comic book fandom. I amazed at he parallels between this book and Ron Frantz's Fandom: Confidential which covers a good portion of comic book fandom in the late sixties up through the 1980s.

There's definitely a lot of interesting and historical material in both books, but I can't help but see an over-indulgence on the part of both authors to focus on some of the petty squabbles among fans. Neither of the authors speak only to those feuds, mind you, and there is quite a lot of good material in both books. But there are significant portions that are just dreadfully dull, as they talk about what have turned out to be entirely inconsequential disagreements. The names are largely meaningless since most of the players in those little dramas went on to do nothing of consequence for their respective fandoms. Both books, I believe, inadvertently leave the reader with something of a distaste for the notion of fandom.

To be sure, the history of something as vaguely defined as fandom -- whether it be science fiction or comic books or whatever -- is hard to clarify and organize into a cohesive, logical format. Very little was actually recorded, and little of that has survived. Memories become hazy, and the view of fandom changes radically depending on one's role in it. Bill Schelly did an excellent job with his Golden Age of Comics Fandom book, but it sadly only covers up through the 1960s. Henry Jenkins has also written some excellent pieces on science fiction fandom, but their focus is generally on the psychology of fans in general.

All of these authors are well worth reading, in my opinion. But what I'd like to see is a historical view of fandom that indeed covers the whole history of fandom. If I had the time to do a great deal more research, I'd be tempted to write it myself. But with my decidedly -- and not entirely intentional -- isolated view of comics fandom, I'm not even sure I'm the guy to do it.
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