Science fiction fandom

Science fiction fandom or SF fandom is a community or fandom of people interested in science fiction in contact with one another based upon that interest. SF fandom has a life of its own, but not much in the way of formal organization (although clubs such as the Futurians (1937–1945) are a recognized example of organized fandom).

Most often called simply "fandom" within the community, it can be viewed as a distinct subculture,[1] with its own literature and jargon; marriages and other relationships among fans are common, as are multi-generational fan families.

Origins and history

Audience waiting for the Hugo Award ceremony at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland in 2017

Science fiction fandom started through the letter column of Hugo Gernsback's fiction magazines. Not only did fans write comments about the stories—they sent their addresses, and Gernsback published them. Soon, fans were writing letters directly to each other, and meeting in person when they lived close together, or when one of them could manage a trip. In New York City, David Lasser, Gernsback's managing editor, nurtured the birth of a small local club called the Scienceers, which held its first meeting in a Harlem apartment on December 11, 1929. Almost all the members were adolescent boys.[2] Around this time a few other small local groups began to spring up in metropolitan areas around the United States, many of them connecting with fellow enthusiasts via the Science Correspondence Club. In May 1930 the first science-fiction fan magazine, The Comet, was produced by the Chicago branch of the Science Correspondence Club under the editorship of Raymond A. Palmer (later a noted, and notorious, sf magazine editor) and Walter Dennis.[3] In January 1932, the New York City circle, which by then included future comic-book editors Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, brought out the first issue of their own publication, The Time Traveller, with Forrest J Ackerman of the embryonic Los Angeles group as a contributing editor.

In 1934, Gernsback established a correspondence club for fans called the Science Fiction League, the first fannish organization. Local groups across the nation could join by filling out an application. A number of clubs came into being around this time. LASFS (the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society) was founded at this time as a local branch of the SFL, while several competing local branches sprang up in New York City and immediately began feuding among themselves.

In 1935, PSFS (the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, 1935–present) was formed. The next year, half a dozen fans from NYC came to Philadelphia to meet with the PSFS members, as the first Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference, which some claim as the world's first science fiction convention.

Soon after the fans started to communicate directly with each other came the creation of science fiction fanzines. These amateur publications might or might not discuss science fiction and were generally traded rather than sold. They ranged from the utilitarian or inept to professional-quality printing and editing. In recent years, Usenet newsgroups such as rec.arts.sf.fandom,[4] websites and blogs have somewhat supplanted printed fanzines as an outlet for expression in fandom, though many popular fanzines continue to be published. Science-fiction fans have been among the first users of computers, email, personal computers and the Internet.

Many professional science fiction authors started their interest in science fiction as fans, and some still publish their own fanzines or contribute to those published by others.

A widely regarded (though by no means error-free) history of fandom in the 1930s can be found in Sam Moskowitz's The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom Hyperion Press 1988 ISBN 0-88355-131-4 (original edition The Atlanta Science Fiction Organization Press, Atlanta, Georgia 1954). Moskowitz was himself involved in some of the incidents chronicled and has his own point of view, which has often been criticized.

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