Fandom and Its Discontents

It’s been said that you can’t pick your family, but that you CAN pick your friends – unless they're Fellow Fans – in which case you’re usually stuck with whoever shows up. This is why the cliques and factions within any given fandom are inevitable. What is NOT inevitable is the sense of rivalry or competition between said factions.

When Babylon 5 first debuted, it received an astounding amount of vitriol and derision from the Trekkie camp. Some Trekkie hacker even went so far as to email a virus directly to J. Michael Straczyinski’s home computer. Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were both competing for viewer-ship at the time, so it’s understandable that a friendly “rivalry” might develop between the two fan bases. But the rivalry was far from friendly. People took sides. It was Us against Them.

Which is completely stupid when you stop to think about it. Where is it written that you can’t be fans of both shows at the same time!? Television shows are NOT sports teams! There are no winners and losers in Sci-Fi fandom - only good shows and bad shows. Good shows are good. Bad shows are bad. Period. Just because we don’t agree on which shows are which doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends. 

One of my current roommates, for instance, is a rabid Stargate: SG-1 fan. He knows every single episode backwards and forwards. I dare say he’s seen all nine seasons of SG-1 at least 10 times over. If you show him a five minute clip from any given episode, he could probably tell you the name of the episode, which episodes came before and after, and what Michael Shanks had for lunch during the location shoot. Now, I’ve been involved in a few fandoms of my own over the years, but I mean, this guy is obsessed. So I sit through the Stargate shows while I’m waiting for BSG to come on. I do enjoy the Stargate shows, and much to my pleasant surprise, they do keep getting better with each successive season. It really helps that the writers of the show don’t take themselves too seriously. I watch SG-1 because it makes me laugh, not because I’m really concerned about what will happen to the characters on the show. But that’s just me.

I like BSG, Mark likes SG-1 better, and THAT’S OK! Like I said, it’s NOT a sporting event! We’re not rooting for rival sports teams to “win,” we’re simply hoping that each of our own favorite shows does well. Your first clue that any particular segment of Sci-Fi fandom has failed to make this distinction between genuine fandom and sports rivalry is when they start dissing the fans of “rival” shows. Within Stargate fandom itself, there are factions who love Stargate: Atlantis but hate SG-1. There are factions which love the original Stargate movie but hate both of the television spin-offs. Which is fine, but there’s no good reason why that contempt should be allowed to spill over onto the fans of said shows.

Another friend of mine (whom I’ll call Steve, since that’s his name) is a Trekkie Tosser who actually thought “Enterprise” was a great idea for a TV show. On this particular point, I couldn’t have disagreed with Steve more, but this is also the guy who got me hooked on “24,” a show I would never have given a chance if Steve hadn’t recommended it to me (and more importantly, allowed me to borrow his boxed set DVDs). Long story short: Not everyone can possesses the same degree of impeccable taste and refinement that you do, but that’s just life. If you shut yourself off to the possibility that fans of other shows you dislike have nothing else to bring to the table, the only person missing out on life is you. In which case you really are a “loser” in sports-related sense of the term.

Don’t be that way.

The Limitations of Tolerance

Americans tend to pride themselves on being a tolerant lot, American Sci-Fi fans doubly so. And yet how is it that Trekkies who are fixated on a fictional future where humanity is able to embrace diverse alien races and cultures aren’t necessarily able to tolerate anyone who fails to share their enthusiasm for a particular episode, costume, ship design, plot development, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. It’s easy to pick on Trekkies because of all the blather they’ve lavished on themselves for promoting racial and gender “tolerance” over the years. But have the temerity to suggest that Janeway was a lousy captain, and viola! – you’re accused of being a sexist pig! Go ahead, try posting on any Star Trek forum online about why you think the “Prime Directive” might be a silly, unworkable idea – I dare you. You see what you get!

There’s only so much internal dissent any fandom can tolerate, and BSG Fandom is no exception. Shortly after the first “Pegasus” episode aired, the hosts of a prominent BSG Tosser forum published an online manifesto disavowing TNS and went so far as to address it directly to Ronald D. Moore. In the meantime, some TNS fans have openly denigrated TOS as if it were a pox upon humanity, all the while ignoring the salient fact that if it weren’t for TOS, there would be no “re-imagined” series for them to dote on. 

Speaking as fan of TNS who also thinks TOS is completely worthy of one’s time and respect, all the hubbub over which is the better show seems a little overwrought. Defending a show you love and admire is one thing. Spewing hate and vitriol at anyone and everyone who doesn’t share your point of view is an altogether different thing. Keeping the Haters at bay can be grueling and exhausting work, but the battle has to be fought if you wish to maintain a viable fan base. This is why, regardless of whatever fandom it purports to represent, any given internet bulletin board is only as good as the moderating team governing the board.

Moderators Are Our Friends

The Official Sci-Fi Channel bulletin board (otherwise known the “Sciffy” board) for Battlestar Galactica is poorly moderated, to say the least. That’s why I’ve long since abandoned all hope of ever carrying on an intelligent conversation over there. The board is poorly organized and has no topical subfolder divisions, leaving the casual browser to weed through pages and pages of gobbledygook before finding anything worthy of note. To top it all off, the Skiffy board moderators are largely absent, and when they do try to clean up other people’s messes, the posting guidelines often seem to be arbitrarily enforced. 

There was one weekend in particular when the Sciffy board was hacked (i.e. Left-wing nut jobs attacked the site by injecting long lines of dashes into all the headers, making the board unreadable – and why is it always the Left-wing loonies who refuse to broker dissent? Isn’t that what Right-wing fascists are for?). That was the day I accepted the invitation to jump ship to a privately moderated board - and I have been a much happier BSG camper ever since!

Thank CylonGod (and Blade Runner and Phantom Dennis, just to name a few!) that there was a forum for me to retreat to after the Skiffy hacking fiasco. If it wasn’t for the fine folks battening down the hatches at the Ragnar Anchorage forum, I might have slipped through the fingers of BSG Fandom, never to return! The nay-sayers can complain all they like about how privately run fan forums are too “cliquish” or censorious, but I’ll take a tightly moderated BBoard over an un-moderated BBoard any day!

It helps if you treat your Forum Mods with respect, no matter what board you’re posting on. They’re taking the time and effort - often with little or no pay - to make your BBoard a worthwhile place to visit. I’ve known Mods to abandon their forums and unceremoniously allow the web-domain to expire, I’ve even known BBoards to up and disappear behind my back (Galactica Actual comes to mind). But since I have absolutely no desire or ambition to moderate my own BBoard, I’m willing to roll with the punches. I think there’s also some cliché about knowing “when to fold ‘em” or “when to walk away” that may apply in this instance. 

Never forget that Forum Mods are just regular folks not unlike yourself, although unlike you, they’re willing to do the dirty work of maintaining the forum so you don’t have to. So if you’re going to post on their board, is it really too much to ask that you play by their rules? Long story short: why not be a good sport – a “team player,” if you will? If you can’t abide by the rules of the game, if you really believe that the referees are the true enemies of freedom and goodness, then take a time out and go warm the bench – the grownups are trying to have a conversation over here!

Being Good Sports (Fans)

Earlier on I made an unfavorable comparison between Sports Fandom and Sci-Fi Fandom. But to be fair, there are both Good Sports and Sore Losers within the realm of Sports Fandom as well. I mean, if you stop to think about it, what really matters to any given sports fan more: that their best buddies root for the same team that they do? – OR - simply that their best buds happen to love the same sports that they do? 

Perhaps Sci-Fi Fandom could learn a thing or two from the Good Sports. If we can accept up front that we aren’t always going to get along, can’t we at least agree to try being Good Sports to one another? How would we do we do that, you ask? Well, allow me to humbly suggest that we learn to accept the following facts of life:

1. You can be a Sports fan and still cheer for different teams.
2. You can be a Sci-Fi fan and still cheer for different shows.
3. You can be a Battlestar Galactica fan and still cheer for different reasons.

There. That wasn’t so hard, now was it?

P.S. Skiffy Board Moderators, if you’re reading this:


Joel "Mr. Hook" Hoekstra a.k.a. Son of Joxer - Aug 22, 2006