i-5dbf69d004cb67cf0be89e295aeb0d9c-Charles Stross 19 June 2011.jpg

Spent four hours at the EuroCon 2011 science fiction convention Sunday afternoon. That’s about enough for me. Though I love sf, and I’ve made a few appearances as speaker and panelist at cons, I’ve never really been part of sf fandom. It has always struck me as a strangely rearward-looking kind of futurism as Swedish sf fandom’s oft-recalled glory days occurred in the 70s. But there certainly is life in the movement still: this con was the biggest one ever in this country, with ~800 international participants.

I came mainly to hear Charles Stross do a reading. iPad in hand, he gave us an excerpt from his forthcoming novel The Apocalypse Codex (July 2012). It will be the fourth of his “Laundry” series of Lovecraftian spy novels. This time Modesty Blaise gets the treatment. Here she parachuted onto the roof of the Schloss Neuschwanstein, broke in and was menaced by a finely described Hound of Tindalos. Then I enjoyed an interview with the fan Guest of Honour John-Henri Holmberg, and Guest of Honour Elizabeth Bear’s speech (another writer of fine Lovecraft homages) and humorous Q&A.

Holmberg said something that confirmed an old suspicion of mine. 40s, 50s and 60s sf fandom mainly consisted of young boys and men of various ages. Looking at pictures from gatherings of that era (suits, ties, brylcreem), I’ve been thinking “woah, that looks at least latently homoerotic”. And Holmberg said it was indeed so: a considerable number of the adult men, including the most famous of all US sf fans at the time, were very fond indeed of the fresh-faced younger fans, though Holmberg himself (father of five, thank you very much) did not partake.

Comments

  1. #1 Birger Johansson
    June 20, 2011

    Elizabeth Bear briefly showed up in a Swedish culture TV program. Apart from that, not much coverage. I suspect TV journalists still think current SF is like the books they (maybe) read in the sixties and seventies, or (worse) that SF films are representative of the written media.

    P Z Myers is a fan of Charles Stross, they met in Glasgow recently at a meeting for “gnu atheists” (the one where islamic fundies tried to argue that the koran gives a correct description of embryology- but that is another matter).

    “rearward-looking kind of futurism” -I read that the technology to build a scramjet rocketplane is finally within reach, a 1960s version of the 1990s in 2011. :)

    “parachuted onto the roof of the Schloss Neuschwanstein”
    -A conspiracy theorist might argue that such a castle does not exist (photos are obvious forgeries). What are the odds of anyone crazy enough to invest the money to build a gothic dream castle during the 19th century? Wake up, sheeple!

  2. #2 John Massey
    June 20, 2011

    Myers and Stross both have beards and big tummies.

    I’m just saying.

    Never trust a man with a beard and a big tummy. Like Santa Claus, for example.

  3. #3 Martin R
    June 20, 2011

    Well, let’s be charitable — at least neither man is a Hound of Tindalos.

  4. #4 Jonathan Jarrett
    June 20, 2011

    Agh, where’s his hair gone? I met Stross some years ago in a pub in Edinburgh, with no idea who he was. We spoke of Mary Gentle and Caledonian ales. But mainly, back then he had lots of hair. I do not recognise this man! He looks like a member of a Deep South stoner band now.

  5. #5 Birger Johansson
    June 20, 2011

    Not quite Neuschwanstein, but ancient:
    “UC research uncovers ancient Mycenaean fortress” http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-uc-uncovers-ancient-mycenaean-fortress.html
    When I read Philip José Farmer’s SF novels about “The Nine”* I loved the vision of them inhabiting feudal castles built on top of much older structures with man-made tunnels going back to the paleolithic (since The Nine were essentially immortal, they had lived through the dawn of history, and gradually retrofitted their many boltholes with all the high-tech weapons you would expect from a Bond film).

    *Novels: “A Feast Unknown”, “Lord of Trees” and “The Mad Goblin”.

  6. #6 kevin
    June 20, 2011

    Very interesting correlation there, haven’t seen it made elsewhere. I’m not a sf fan myself but have often noted the appeal of escapism to people otherwise marginalized in society, gays being one such group during that era.

    I also posit a connection between the outsize imaginations required to appreciate sf and the ability to imagine other realities, specifically sexual ones, than the one most of us grew up in. Even you, Martin: for most het guys the homoerotic overtones of the pics you reference simply wouldn’t register at a conscious level.

  7. #7 mike shupp
    June 21, 2011

    I’d be real skeptical of this notion of gay fandom in the 1940-60’s. If there’s much to it, I think I’d have heard more about it when I was a active fan. (Yes, there must have been some gay SF fans way back when, and there certainly were a batch of neurotic ones, but if someone tells you “a funny story about Joe Black back in the 40s” twenty years afterwards, should we always interpret that as proof of Joe Black’s closeted homophobia, or just blame it on Asperger’s Syndrome? I do remember a case of erotic asphyxiation back about 1975; it shook up people I’d have thought were pretty blase.)

    Point 1: up till the 1960’s most sf fans in the US (a) were indeed males but (b) didn’t meet each other all that often. A handful of cities like LA and Philadelphia had clubs which met once a month or once a week, but most people identifying themselves as fans simply read the stuff in the magazines, occasionally wrote a letter to the mags, published or wrote for or read fanzines, and exhanged mail with other fanzine readers. (It was a long time ago, and by current standards we were pretty much isolated in small communities back then.)

    2. Convention-going, which now seems the heart of fandom, wasn’t all that common — the general attitude of the folks I dealt with in the National Fantasy Fan Federation back in the early 1960’s was that “convention fans are a whole different set of people.” We N3Fers had mail to deal with, lots of mail, and fanzines; socializing didn’t get in the way our OUR fan activity!

    3. Mid to late 1960’s things changed. More women (okay, girls) got into fandom, particularly at the big city clubs, which brought in more guys, and thus more girls, and thus … Also the cities got bigger, and more and more people got into fandom through college SF clubs, which had regular meetings and started conventions of their own. Fandom was still pretty geeky, let’s say, but demographically it was getting closer to general college educated characteristics. Openly gay fans were pretty rare till the 1970s as I recall — matching general trends in the US population.

    Been a while. I used to be active in the LA area as a club attendee and convention goer, but it’s been twenty years. Where does the time go?

  8. #8 Birger Johansson
    June 21, 2011

    Charles Stross has the infernal power to infect the nightmares of fellow Sciencebloggers -see comment 54 :-)
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/06/episode_ccxvi_800_of_pure_krak.php

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