Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Are Sci-Fi Fans The Best Fans?

A blogger for The Guardian seems to think so.

Read it, absorb it, and let me know what you think.

I only managed to attend one small "con" so I can't be an accurate judge, but I did meet a comic book store clerk who bore an eerie resemblance to Vampirella.

So leave your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Not really. The dislike between Star Trek and Star Wars and Harry Potter and LoTR fans is pretty funny and intense. And it means that they form (in the US at least) mutually exclusive groups.

    Hardcore fandom did not make Serenity popular. Or give Joss Whedon his Spike TV movie. Or any number of things such as the failure of the Babylon 5 franchise to go beyond that series. It's a very niche market.

    What Sci-Fi/Fantasy fandoms do is allow "R&D" of particular creative concepts by more visionary creators, often working "fast, cheap, and out of control" ala Errol Morris and his documentary of Russ Meyer and AIP.

    Concepts proven to be successful can then be redone as a major film or TV series. This is similar to software engineering where a proof of concept will then be refined into a production ready product. Examples would include the Spawn comic book, Hellboy, X-Men, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, and so on.

    The problem is that not much new work is being done cheaply where risks aren't much and people can afford to experiment and fail. New writers can't break into comics, which are a boutique not pulp enterprise, appealing to 40 year old men not 12 year old boys.

    Moreover, "hard" Sci-Fi like say, Babylon 5, with serious looks at the interplay of technology and culture, are completely at odds with "soft" Sci-Fi (Star Trek, Star Wars) and totally at odds with Fantasy (mostly oriented towards women). Semi-Erotic fantasy novels or other projects aimed at women will turn off the young men who like dashing heroes who undergo trial and get the girl.

    Anything aimed at women will turn off men. And vice-versa.

    Look at all the media/fanboy frenzy over Serenity. You'd think it made lots of money instead of just flopping in two mediums (film, TV). Duh. It tried to bridge the male-female divide in Sci-Fi and Fantasy fandom and ended up appealing to no one but a few fanatics.

    Last time I looked, most entertainment was a mass medium.

  2. I agree with Anonymous above, to a point. It's true that intense fandoms are often disconnected from mainstream taste (hence, the failure of the "Hitchhiker's Guide" movie, among others). But think about the notable overlaps: Star Wars, LOTR, Spider Man, the Indiana Jones movies, Harry Potter, Transformers, etc.

    It seems to work the other way too, where megahits develop small, super-dedicated fanbases. The intensity of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Jaws" cultists match and probably surpass any of Joss Whedon's work.

    The trouble comes from assuming casual viewers respond the same ways as fanboys and fangirls. I forsee a point (2011 or so?) when the market will be so saturated with "the geek factor" that the Average Bored Teenager (or ABT) will seek other entertainment sources. The ABT has been Hollywood's primary customer since Drive-Ins appeared, and although his/her interests have fluctuated, the ABT has kept the industry alive through the coming of TV, videotape, cable, video games, and the Internet.

    But if the "smart" executives decide: "Geek is selling right now. So, everybody wants geek!", and make the most obscure comic book and videogame movies imaginable, the ABT is gonna get bored. The ABT didn't see LOTR because of Tolkien's degree of world creation; the ABT just thought it was freakin' cool, man.

    To summarize: the ABT factor is more important than the fandom factor. American movies haven't full-heartedly served adult interests since around 1976. But if you can get the exact pulse of the ABT, then you're the next Spielberg. Guarenteed.

  3. Both of the above are right.

    I tell my fellow fanboys and fangirls that we're only a small part of the crowd buying tickets, watching the shows, and reading the books. It's really the kids and Joe Sixpack who determine the success of things. Which means whatever it is has to have a high entertainment factor and "mainstream" appeal. It's funny to see Serenity/Firefly fans I know who keep thinking its big break is right around the corner but the general public rejected both the t.v. show and movie. The fans at first hoped it was going to be the next Star Wars, now they hope it will be the next Star Trek (since Trek took years to build up to its pop culture phenomenon status).

  4. Don't forget "geek" can mean experimental stuff to work out story concepts, characters, and so on in a low-cost manner.

    What concerns me (I'm Anon #1) is the decline of low-cost experimentation for geek stuff. Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It just costs too much to do things that might or probably won't pan out.

    The original Star Wars after all was fairly low budget. But it let Lucas work out a whole host of innovative approaches to film-making, particularly an furious opening, followed by a more languorous first act, with a few minutes of nothing more than a close up of Hamill's face looking into the twin sunset. Believe me people have been copying that pacing in a lot of films, many not even sci-fi.