Confessions of a Fringe Fan
by Lesley Reece
After all my complaining about the lack of a Fannish Rule Book, I've discovered one exists after all. Well, sort of. Andy was nice enough to loan me his copy of the guide book for Minicon 26. There, running along the margins (without attribution, unfortunately), is The Neofan's Guide to Science Fiction, by Bob Tucker.
Having this a year ago certainly would have saved me from alienating my fannish friends with constant wails of "But what does that mean?" Still, reading it has solved many of the leftover riddles, like "What's the deal with all those propeller beanies?", as well as the always-puzzling "Who the hell is Degler?" Now I'll be able to laugh along with the rest of the Apparatchiki when that name comes up -- unlike Randy, I didn't have the cojones to pretend I got the joke.
The Neofan's Guide has also helped me with another important dilemma. In "The President's Address" in Apak 71, Randy wrote that a fan is "someone who started out as a fan of SF, then got involved in fanzine fandom and slowly shifted allegiance and attention from SF itself to fandom and to what is written by and about fans." By that definition, I'm not really a fan. I've always been willing to read SF, ever since I discovered Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 some twenty-five years ago, but my reading habits are extremely eclectic. I've never been able to claim SF, or any other category of literature, as a favorite.
Nor do I strictly fit Randy's definition of a fringe fan: "Someone on the margins of fans; that is, someone who enjoys the social environs of fandom but whose primary reason for involvement in fandom is still an interest in SF itself." It's true I enjoy socializing with the fans I've met, but it was really the chance to write that drew me toward the Apparatchiki. I'm interested in SF, of course, but no more or less than I ever have been in the past.
I admit that not caring whether I belong has been one of my affectations since junior high, when I discovered my social ineptitude. Back then, I figured I could either be at the bottom of someone else's hierarchy or at the top of my own. Like Milton's Satan, I chose the latter, and I've continued to follow that path. But for an introspective person, the lure of self-definition is irresistible.
That's why, when I first encountered fandom, I was defensive about my "being allowed to play." I wanted to know exactly what made a person a fan before I wrote a single word for anybody. I was ready to leave the whole thing behind in a second if I didn't fit within the accepted parameters. Andy and Victor tried to help by loaning me D. West's "Performance." Reading that did explain a great deal about fandom, but all West's references to "rules" scared me away. What were these rules, and what if I broke a whole bunch of them without knowing?
Finally, I just held my breath and started writing anyway. I thought my initial uncertainty had disappeared altogether, but my lack of conformity to either of Randy's definitions brought it flooding back. I know he wasn't attempting to alienate or discourage me, but still I was left wondering, "What am I doing here?"
I wasn't expecting The Neofan's Guide to assist me with any of this neurotic waffling, but it did. The first definition I looked at was "Fringe Fan," because I thought that one would be the most likely to apply to me. It reads in part: "The chap who is content to remain on the outside, looking in and only rarely taking part in some activity; also, fans who are interested in a field only marginally related to SF." Oh great, I thought, this doesn't really describe me, either.
On a whim, I went back to the beginning of the list and looked at the first definition. "Fan," it said. "A follower, a devotee, or an admirer of any sport or diversion. In this instance the diversion is science, fantasy, and weird tales in book and magazine form, in the theatre, or on radio or TV. We assume that you are interested in some facet of it, although you need not prove it -- fandom absorbs all kinds."
Even though I sensed that from the beginning, I feel much better now. Good enough, in fact, to go back to my pose. Am I a fan? Don't ask me that. Labels suck, man.
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