Why am I a Fan?

I was asked to contribute to the fourth issue of Idle Minds, which also commemorated the first year of its publication (and, at the time of writing, is also the most recent issue to be published). The theme was ‘Why am I a fan?’, and so that’s what I wrote about.

A Sony Walkman, seen through a cassette.
A Sony walkman, seen through a cassette.

Why am I a Fan? (July 2009)
Published in Idle Minds #4 (ed. the Vegrants), p27; available on eFanzines.com

Why am I a fan? It’s something I get asked regularly by my friends, people at school or uni who have never really come across the concept of conventions, or fanzines, or any of those words which to me seem so normal and commonplace.

There are several ways to answer the question, because the question itself can be asking any one of a multitude of things, and I’ll try to answer in three or four ways (concisely, since I’m already behind the deadline that was behind the first deadline, so I need to pull the finger out!). In chronological order then, I will answer “why do you like science fiction?”, “how did you become a member of fandom?”, and “why are you still a fan?”.

The answer to the first one is perhaps a slightly odd one. Rather than being lured to science through the wonders of science fiction, I was lured to science fiction through the beauty of science (or, more accurately, the beauty of astronomy). Throughout my life, the stars and galaxies above our heads have fascinated and enthralled me, and from a very early age I desired to find out as much as I could about that strange world. Through that desire, at the age of twelve I watched a BBC TV programme called ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ whilst at a friend’s house one evening, expecting it to be a documentary. I was instantly hooked, and that Christmas I received the radio plays on cassette. Never had my Walkman known such extensive use! That was in 2001, and so sadly, I was not a fan of the Guide until after its creator’s passing.

This discovery of science fiction beyond Star Trek and Star Wars was also my route into fandom, as I became more and more caught up with the Guide and joined ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the official Hitchhiker’s Guide appreciation society (no article on my route into fandom is complete without a plug for zz9.org). I went to my first ZZ9 event at the age of fourteen. Through ZZ9 I met fans: initially on LiveJournal, but, as I got older and more able to travel to the events, I met people in Real Life as well. Through those fans, I got into fanzine-editing, and convention-going (in that order).

The last question is the easiest to answer, since I’m preaching to the converted. Why am I still a fan? I get to go to weekend-long gatherings of people who are interested in the same things I want to talk about but still have disagreements of opinion that will let me think about things in a new and exciting way. I get to publish and read zines in which people write about things that I want to read about. I even get to commission articles from friends if I want to read about something that nobody’s written about yet. I get to expect people I meet at cons to have

Why am I a fan? I enjoy being part of such a vibrant and interesting community of people. Being a fan is a part of my life without which I would be half the man I am today, and I don’t want to let that go.