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Science Fiction and Fan Culture


Fan comics (doujinshi in Japanese) and fan art ... Comics and visual art lack the technical limitations of film, allowing for ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Science Fiction and Fan Culture

Science Fiction and Fan Culture
  • Or, Do Professors Dream of Electric Sheep (and
    Hitchhikers and Players of Games)?

A Brief History of Fan Culture
  • Traditions of rewriting or writing back to
    literature/mythology/history, etc.
  • SF fandom began with the letter columns in
    Amazing Stories
  • The Science Fiction League, started by Hugo
    Gernsback in 1934, was the first SF fan club
  • First SF conventions in the 1930s
  • Term fanfiction first used c. 1965
  • SF mailing lists began in the 1970s, in the
    infancy of the Internet
  • Films about fandom in the 1990s-2000s e.g.
    Trekkies and Trekkies II Free Enterprise
    Fanboys Gibsons No Maps For These Territories

  • Some subcultures within SF fandom, based on their
    following of particular works
  • Trekkies/Trekkers (Star Trek)
  • Whovians (Doctor Who)
  • X-Philes (The X-Files)
  • Browncoats (Firefly/Serenity)
  • and many others before and since
  • Contributions to the popular image of SF fans
  • Contributions to the academic study of SF

Some Characteristics of SF Fan Culture
  • Fanfiction writing new stories about existing
    characters/works/settings, etc.
  • Fan comics (doujinshi in Japanese) and fan art
  • Fan edits remixed and/or redubbed versions of
    films (most notably the second Star Wars series
    also fan-made anime/manga translations, etc.)
  • Fanzines self-published, small-press, or online
    newsletters - e.g. The Banksoniain (about Banks),
    Mostly Harmless (Adams fan-club newsletter)
  • Listservs, messageboards, newsgroups, etc.
  • Conventions - combine academic, or semi-academic,
    conferences with more carnivalesque elements

Fan Culture as Reader Response
  • Interpretive community (Stanley Fish) meaning
    is determined/influenced by the community of
    readers who share similar approaches to the text
  • John Fiske A text cannot be distanced from its
    uses and users
  • Responses of authors/artists/producers to
  • Popular/mass culture scale what is provided
    for the people (mass culture) vs. what is used by
    the people (popular culture)

  • Douglas Lanier What makes popular culture
    popular is how it is used, not necessarily the
    size of its audience, its mass reproduction, or
    its commerciality
  • Even if the people dont directly create what is
    popular, they help to decide what is popular
  • Reinterpretation of works to suit the audiences
  • Canon formation what is considered official?
    Can fan-produced works be considered official?
    Can works by the original author be considered
  • Textual fundamentalism (Brenda Weber)
    adherence to only one version of the text (e.g.
    print at the expense of films first in a series
    at the expense of sequels, etc.)

  • Fanboy/fangirl (otaku in Japanese)
    stereotypical image of the SF fan
  • Attention to details often hyper-critical
  • William Gibsons description the passionate
    obsessive, the information age's embodiment of
    the connoisseur, more concerned with the
    accumulation of data than of objects (he
    popularized the term otaku in Idoru)

SF and Fanfiction
  • The earliest organizations of fanfiction
    (including many commonly used terms) arose in the
    Star Trek fan community
  • e.g. slashing (single-gender pairings of
    characters) Mary Sue (idealized authorial
    self-insertion author avatar is the
    non-derogatory term)
  • Derivative works by authors other than the
    original can they be called fanfiction too?
    (e.g. K.W. Jeters sequels to Do Androids Dream?
    Eoin Colfers And Another Thing)

  • Douglas Lanier on fanfiction Writers of
    fanfiction take the characters, settings,
    plotlines, and motifs from established genres and
    imagine otherwise forbidden relationships between
    characters, encounters between different
    characters or fictional worlds...or plot
    possibilities never explored in the originals

Some Purposes of Fanfiction
  • Modern continuation of oral tradition/adaptation
    stories get told and retold, and can change in
    those retellings
  • Retellings to suit the purposes of the new teller
    and his/her audience
  • Fans provide for themselves what the original
    author cant, or wont, provide for them
  • Bricolage taking pieces of established entities
    and making them your own
  • Fanfiction as written and/or drawn forms of
    readers dreams?

Why Fan Culture?
  • Community-building venture, from Gernsbacks
    letter columns to present-day Internet groups
  • Fandom as new religion, with its own rituals and
    even belief systems?
  • Allows fans to feel a connection with the work
    and/or its creators
  • Fandom Is A Way Of Life

  • Alexander von Thorn Science fiction fandom is
    the community of the literature of ideas...the
    culture in which new ideas emerge and grow before
    being released into society at large.

Other Influences of SF Fan Culture
  • Early users and popularizers of new technology,
    especially computers and the Internet
  • Influenced the development of other appreciation
    societies and even support or activist groups
  • The Hugo Awards are presented at the World
    Science Fiction Convention, one of the largest in
    North America
  • Portrayal of fans and fan culture in SF itself
  • Fans becoming professional writers in their own
    right, and inspiring their own fan communities
  • Subject of academic studies e.g. Henry Jenkins,
    Textual Poachers Sam Moskowitz, The Immortal
  • Academia as fan culture fan culture as academia
    - how similar are they?

Intergenerational Fandom From an essay by Robert
Runte and a presentation by Robert Runte and
Douglas Barbour
  • Many members of the first wave of fandom (c.
    1925-1965) regarded the new influx in the 1960s
    and 1970s as unwelcome intrusions others
    embraced the mainstream acceptance of SF/fantasy
  • Each generation of fandom has different
    approaches to similar material
  • The growth of the SF canon brought diversity to
    the fandom, but also reduced the shared
    literature aspects
  • The paradoxes of fandom as SF and its fandom
    grow, the world of fan culture becomes
    splintered simultaneous acceptance and suspicion
    of new technology, new practices, etc.
  • Ambivalence over trends in SF publication more
    and/or better?

(No Transcript)
Science Fiction in Other Media A Brief History
and Overview
Early Developments
  • c. 1895-1903 experimentation with special
    effects, often of a fantastic nature
  • A Trip to the Moon (1903) by Georges Méliès - the
    first recognizable SF film, and first adaptation
    of SF literature into film
  • Based in part on Jules Vernes From the Earth to
    the Moon and H.G. Wells The First Men in the Moon

  • Metropolis (1926) by Fritz Lang - early ancestor
    of cyberpunk (influenced Dick and Scott)
  • Exemplified the social-commentary nature of early
    European SF films

  • Just Imagine (1930) first American SF film to be
    distributed by a major studio
  • A musical, set in a future dystopia

  • SF serial films of the 1930s Flash Gordon and
    Buck Rogers
  • Influenced much of the popular image of SF on
  • Early examples of adaptations of comic strips and
    radio plays to film and vice versa

SF in Comic Books
  • Especially popular in the golden age of comics
    (1930s-1950s) but has continued to the present
  • Comics and visual art lack the technical
    limitations of film, allowing for greater freedom
    of visual representation
  • Superhero comics can be considered borderline SF
    too, esp. in explanations of the heroes powers
  • Digital art in comics, beginning in the 1990s

The Golden Age of SF Film
  • Destination Moon (1950) by George Pal first SF
    film made in colour
  • SF of the 1950s was characterized by advances in
    special effects, but still often of relatively
    low quality
  • Influenced by the advances in military science
    and space exploration
  • Ranged from optimistic to apocalyptic - themes
    that still continue

SF on Television The Early Years
  • First SF TV series was Captain Video (1949)
  • Many early series were adventure programs meant
    for younger audiences
  • Anthology series of the early 1960s, e.g. The
    Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, etc.
  • Star Trek began in 1966

Some Related Subgenres
  • SF/horror dates back to Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll
    and Mr. Hyde, etc. themes include mad
    scientists, experiments gone awry, alien
    invasions, etc.
  • SF/disaster films can be technological,
    biological, environmental, or extraterrestrial
  • SF/mystery/suspense crimefighting technology,
    forensics investigations of the alien or
    paranormal - cf. Sawyer, Gibson, Murakami
  • SF/comedy humorous treatments of SF themes - cf.
    Adams, Stephenson
  • Superhero narratives
  • SF/romance/adventure space opera most common
    subgenre of SF film

SF Films of the 1960s and 1970s
  • Most influential was 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • Films of this time were more sophisticated in
    plot and design

  • Star Wars A New Hope and Close Encounters of the
    Third Kind both released in 1977
  • Beginning of the blockbuster era big, flashy
    adventures emphasizing visual imagery
  • Two main directions of films of the 1980s and
    afterward idealistic and optimistic vs. dark and
  • CGI imagery first used in early 1980s e.g. Tron,
    The Last Starfighter

More Developments in SF on Television
  • Various Star Trek spinoffs began in 1987
  • Prevalence of animation, for audiences of all
    ages use of CGI in live-action series
  • Connections between TV and film, with series
    being adapted from one to another
  • The Sci-Fi Channel (US) began in 1992 its
    Canadian equivalent, the Space channel, began in

SF and Games
  • Tabletop RPGs e.g. Space Opera, GURPS, etc.
  • Computer games beginning with early examples
    e.g. Space Invaders, Asteroids present-day
    interactive fiction influenced by developments
    in SF on film
  • Adaptations between films and games, or between
    literature and games (Dick, Adams, and Gibson all
    had games based on their writings, as did
  • Influence of gamer culture on SF e.g. Gibson,
    Banks, Stephenson

SF on Radio
  • Mainly anthology series or specials, most
    famously Orson Welles 1938 adaptation of H.G.
    Wells War of the Worlds (a Halloween special)
  • Adams radio plays are probably the best-known
    contemporary example
  • Lem and Gibson have also had radio plays based on
    their works

SF Literature and Other Media
  • Have been closely related from the beginning
  • Verne and Wells are probably the most frequently
    adapted SF authors
  • Literature adapted from other media
    novelizations, spinoffs, sequels, etc.

The CompLit 342 Reading List and Other Media
  • Of the writers on our reading list, Dick has been
    the most frequently adapted Adams has had the
    most adaptations of a single work
  • Dick, Adams, and Gibson have the most diverse
    adaptations (film/TV, radio/ audiobooks, computer
    games, graphic novels)
  • Indirect adaptations Stephenson, Murakami
  • Non-SF adaptations Murakami, Banks