Our author this week is Jay Requard, a Sword & Sorcery author, with a “penchant for thrilling action, grand heroes, and high-adventure” according to his biography on Amazon. He hosts the well-reviewed Sword & Sorcery blog, “Sit. Write. Bleed.” and is the current head organizer of the Charlotte Writers.
In the last decade since I fully acknowledged my geekdom, I have seen a change come over the world of science fiction, fantasy, gaming, comics, television, and movies. Boosted by the internet, there has never been a better time for people of like-minded interests to get together and celebrate their brown coats, their collections of vintage comics, or their irrational hate of one Mr. Binks, which is thoroughly deserved. However, with the rise of the internet and the door being open for so many people to join us in our geekdom, there has also been an examination of our tastes and what they mean on a social level, in terms of our identity, and more importantly, who they appeal to.
While these conversations are important to the soul of the genres and mediums we love, along with this new focus have come two things: a level of viciousness from both sides that is far too characteristic of today’s general discourse, and, the idea that our communities have divided themselves into two ideologically-opposing sides. Whether it is on Reddit or a chat on Facebook spurned by a status update by one of our favorite authors/artists/celebrity/etc., this polarization among fans and even among the facilitators of the industry has started to make our geekdom seem toxic to the outside world.
Sadly, I have seen this happen before.
While I am a gigantic fantasy fan, I am equally a heavy metal fan, and heavy metal has suffered for years because of fans who feel isolated from larger society because larger society does not understand their views and tastes, and inversely those outside of the heavy metal community often are made to feel like they are somehow deficient because of this, and therefore nobody participates. And before anyone goes and says “well, that’s just metal,” all I have to say is the word “hipsters” and the drama is the same.
This phenomenon is as true in science fiction and fantasy as it is in music, and that is a real shame. It’s even worse that there is a segment of the population that is finally speaking up for themselves and wants equal representation, and that greater message is being lost in the venom both sides are spitting at each other. It doesn’t matter if it is Feminist Frequency chalking everything up as being a result of patriarchy or Tony Harris blasting cosplayers for not being “real fans,” the discussion has disintegrated into a shouting match.
And it needs to stop.
What drew me to geekdom in the first place wasn’t exclusivity. I remember a time when being a geek was not something you could be publicly proud of, and a lot of people banded together because they were deemed social misfits just because they loved something more than sports and terrible fashion-trends. It wasn’t cool to like Star Trek or Star Wars, or enjoy anime, or even be really into theater. Having the term “geek” applied to you was somewhat of a social sentence to be mocked and ridiculed, so you can imagine the horror I experience when I see fans doing the same to each other, or worse yet, people who could be fans. It goes against what I thought we were trying to disprove—that the things we love are any less valid than trends that are “popular.”
For me, geekdom or fandom has always seemed like one big tent, a place where everyone can gather and enjoy their loves and possibly share them with the world. I want this tent to be bigger, to allow people of all races, creeds, genders, and orientations to come in and enjoy our genres. And for some that is going to be really hard to do.
Having a big tent means welcoming all tastes, save ones that harm others, and that means we have to welcome in fans of anything related to sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comics, etc. Yes, even Twilight fans. We have to be willing to let them come into the tent and be exposed to the things we love, because the more fans we attract, the better it is for the things we love.
Let’s pack them into that tent.
For more information about Jay Requard, find him on Facebook or check out his blog at www.sitwritebleed.blogspot.com.