Coming out as a Fan

Scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey

It’s time for me to come out as a member of sci-fi fandom. I love science fiction and fantasy. I’ve read the books, watched the shows, and seen the movies. I’ve attended Cons. And yes, I have worn Vulcan ears.

It’s time, because my novel, The Speed of Clouds, which is coming out soon from New Door Books, is about a sci-fi fan who lives a good part of her life in the world of sci-fi fandom. She edits a fanzine, is undyingly passionate about her beloved show’s universe and characters, and learns life lessons through her fan-world relationships.

I want to come clean, because if anyone wrote a book about fandom without being a fan herself, it would be creepy. Fans have to deal with enough condescension and poking fun as it is.

Looking back, I realize that it started early. As a kid, I fell into A Wrinkle in Time, The Martian Chronicles, and The Lord of the Rings. I watched the original Star Trek when it came out. Later, I married a sci-fi fan who introduced me to Dune, Ringworld, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Our son watched it with us, and I decided to take him to a local convention. And then another, and another.

I think Ethan enjoyed going to these Cons, but for me they were a revelation. I’m talking about the fans themselves — some declaring their loyalties on T-shirts, but others wearing Federation uniforms, and some even in full costume and makeup as various aliens, androids and cyborgs. I admired the purity of their devotion, allowing them to undertake these transformations into someone out of this space and time. This was the heart of fandom, where you could congregate and become part of the fictional world you loved. You might attract stares and giggles in the lobby, but inside you were safe. Your masquerade might be more or less prime-time worthy, but it meant something.

Then there was the other part — seeing the stars and supporting players, testing out the uncanny space between their own real-life selves and their galaxy-traveling, beaming-aboard characters. That space was thick with the fairy dust of glamour. I believe that in some part of a fan’s brain, seeing those working actors is the same as being in a room with the beings they play. And I say that as a fan.

In these two ways — the cosplay and the communion with the inner world of the show — you had to be there. Physically. These two pillars of Con experience made it real, in a way that watching or reading couldn’t. They were modern-day rituals of connectivity, bridging the gap between fiction and the non-fictional stuff (dispiriting, difficult or overwhelming) we deal with every day.

I’m not the best fan. I don’t write fan fiction, although I’ve read it. I haven’t watched every single episode of every single show, and I can’t parse subtleties of canonical history. But I’ve been touched by what I’ve seen — intrigued, annoyed sometimes, inspired — and I’ve wanted to talk about this with other fans. In the end, being a sci-fi fan means acknowledging that our lives on Earth are also situated against the vastness of space, and in the vastness of imagined possibilities that may or may not play out in the future. Stepping into the fan world means you embrace the bigger and wilder perspectives that may help you deal with what’s in front of you. The Speed of Clouds is my homage to that world and to the people in it.

The Speed of Clouds

The Speed of Clouds, New Door Books, April 2018

Originally published at Miriam Seidel.