28 April, 2007
Losing my Religion
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight, I'm
Losing my religion
My name is Paul and I'm a former science fiction fan. It's been four years since my last science fiction convention.
I'm not a science fiction fan. I don't do science fiction fandom.
That's a rather contrary statement for someone who has run the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club for more years than I care to think about. How can I possibly not consider myself a fan, not think of myself as involved in fandom...?
I helped to start Doctor Who fandom in this country, back in the 1980s. I created a fanzine, built up a healthy readership and then passed it on to a fledgling fan club to develop even further. Then a few years later they handed it back and I ran with it.
In those few years at the tail end of the 1980s while the fanzine was out of my hands, I took the opportunity to broaden my horizons beyond the safe, comfortable confines of Doctor Who and sampled what the community had to offer.
I went along to my first science fiction convention, in Auckland at Easter 1989. I found myself in the company of like-minded individuals. I made new friends. I met a published science fiction author for the first time. I had a flirtation with a girl. I drank a lot at the bar. I danced the night away. I went to all-night room parties and slept in a hotel corridor.
What lingers strongest in my memory of that weird and wonderful weekend at Abby's Hotel half my lifetime ago is the long bus ride home afterwards. I was so exhausted, exhilarated, and despondent that I actually wept. After so long growing up feeling as if I was on the outside of everything I finally found somewhere that I felt like I truly belonged. Coming away from that convention was like coming down off an enormous high, and I couldn't wait to get my next fix.
Science fiction fandom was intoxicating. I sought it out, I had to have more. I joined a science fiction club and went to every one of its regular monthly meetings. I went to every convention I could, anywhere in the country, and took every opportunity I could to get involved.
By the following year's Easter convention I was editing the convention booklet, performing in the opening ceremony, and dating one of the convention organisers. (We ended up getting married and I think the science fiction fans at our wedding outnumbered the other guests.)
I attended more conventions than I can count. I volunteered to be on panels, gave talks, organised quizzes, ran auctions. Call it a drug, call it a religion. For me, science fiction fandom was all of that and more.
Perhaps I did too much, too soon, too often. Maybe I burned out. Seven years after getting involved I was on the retreat, finding myself starting to avoid fans and fandom. I didn't feel like I belonged any longer. My marriage crumbled and slowly dissolved. My ex-wife stayed in science fiction fandom; I didn't.
Science fiction fandom is full of good, decent, well-meaning people, but I moved on, no longer felt any connection to them. Many perhaps inevitably paired up, got married, had children. They started taking those children to conventions, dressing them in science fiction costumes, parading them around as the next generation of fandom.
I went to a funeral of a fan and the science fiction fans were all dressed in Star Trek uniforms. Not just Star Trek costumes but the formal dress uniforms that the crew of the Enterprise would wear at such a sombre occasion. They sang Amazing Grace - because that's what was played at Spock's funeral. If you're a science fiction fan, that might make perfect sense. For me it was a wake-up call that I no longer belonged.
For several years after that 'wake-up call', I kept going to the Auckland science fiction conventions. The last time was in 2003. I found myself in the company of people I used to hang out with, used to count as my friends. It felt like a school reunion in that it was socially awkward and felt like dredging up the ghosts of the past.
I felt compelled to be there because I'd agreed to give a couple of presentations. I prepared material and waited to run these, only to find out afterwards that they'd been cancelled, shunted off the schedule to make way for something else. No one bothered to tell me. I felt disconnected and unwelcome. I resolved then and there that it would be my last science fiction convention. I wouldn't be back.
Every year since, in the months leading up to the annual science fiction convention, various people ask if I will be going this year. Every year I search my soul and see if I still feel the same way as I did in 2003. One year I happened to be visiting Rotorua the same weekend that the convention took place there. I considered going simply because it was close by. But even with the convenience of close proximity I still didn't feel the spark of enthusiasm, couldn't bring myself to take that step.
This year's convention takes place in Wellington five weeks from now. But I don't think I'll be there. I just don't do science fiction fandom any more.
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough