Fannish Roots (1991 essay)
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Fannish Roots is a 1991 essay by Joyce Yasner.
It was published in the 1991 Mos Eastly Con program book.
"Mostly Eastly Con: Release 4.X is the fourth in a series of media science-fiction conventions by fans, for fans. If this is the first Mostly Eastly Con you've attended, or, perhaps, your first fannish con, a word here about our philosophy might give you some idea what you're in for."
Some Topics Discussed
- the first Star Trek conventions
- the take-over of big, for-profit companies of fan conventions, specifically Creation Con, alluded to was Al Schuster's cons
- the differences between not-for-profit, fan-driven cons and for-profit cons done as a business
- passive and active fans, and fannish participation
- MediaWest*Con and its predecessors
- Mostly Eastly Con
From the Essay
... The fan-run, fan-driven con is the original item. Ii began back when there was no media science-fiction, or what there was was so bad no one could watch it without feeling profoundly embarrassed. With Star Trek, fans who enjoyed book SF and attended book SF cons found a new interest, and the first, media SF con, The International Star Trek Convention, was held in 1972 to find out who else was interested. Many people were.
What were the first Star Trek Conventions like? They drew their format from the book SF cons which inspired them. Panel discussions, a film program, masquerade, and guest speeches, as well as a dealers' room and art show, were de rigueur. There were filk sings and even, occasionally, awards banquets. The watchword was participation. Fans were expected to take issue with panel members, guests, each other. Chances were the panel members, even if professionally published authors, had once been fans themselves, and as often as not still were. Rarely did anyone visibly worship at an author's feet, or, if he did, he wouldn't for long if he expected to be considered fannish.
And there were parties — room parties in the hotels where the convention membership stayed — and they went on for hours, sometimes days. Nor were the original cons walk-in affairs, as a rule. You had to join in advance, and there was a certain feeling of community associated with being enough in the know to receive word that a con was in the offing.
With 3,200 members, the first International Star Trek Convention was the largest SF con ever held, and marked the beginning of media SF fandom. Devra Michele Langsam and Joyce Yasner were both members of that first Star Trek convention committee.
As the popularity of the Star Trek Convention grew — in 1974, 12,000 people attended — professional groups got into running media SF cons as well. The original fan-run Star Trek Conventions had guests, but initially they showed up for free or were compensated with free transportation, room and board . This was the practice in book SF fandom. Later, the guests were paid appearance fees as the demand on their time generated competition among ihe fan-run convention and groups running conventions professionally. If a convention wanted a guest, it had to pay him or her.
The latest manifestation of the professionally run media SF convention is Creation. From the traditional convention described above. Creation pared the format down to a dealers' room and guest speakers. Gone was the give-and-take of fan-participation panel discussions, the lifeblood of fandom. Instead, fans were expected to listen to experts for whom the television shows and movies they loved were a job. The ideas, and the passion those ideas inspired, suffered in consequence.
Trufans (an obvious bit ol fannish vocabulary that scarce needs translation) reacted to the impersonal, professionally run conventions. The original Star Trek Convention committee had quit: the fun was gone out of it. It was a job, putting on "shows," as they are called today.
The small, fan-run con reappeared in 1977 with the first SEKwester*Con, which has since evolved into Mediawest*Con. One hundred and twenty-five people trekked out to that first convention —held m Kalamazoo, Michigan, in March, if memory serves me correctly. There was an effort at panel discussions; they quickly degenerated into free-for-alls as everyone just threw in his two cents from the floor. Who cared? There were no guests; there was only us, fandom, and we could yell at each other to our hearts' content.
In 1980, Mediawest*Con lent Mostly Eastly Con its weekend, and the small, fan-run con came East. By then, Star Wars had come on the scene, and a new fannish passion was born. That weekend, most of Mos*Eastly Con's 225-person membership bused out to Long Island — in costume, of course —for the opening of The Empire Strikes Back. We crawled home at 3 a.m., and were up the next morning for a 9 a.m. debate. Fandom had come full circle.Mostly Eastly Con Release 4.X, then, comes to you from a long tradition, one we'd like to share with you. There are no guests; you don't really need them if you bring your ideas, your passion with you. There is a dealers' room, where you may buy a fanzine or two, a photo, a T-shirt. There is an art show, where you may display your work or see and perhaps buy what other people have done. And we'll be having a great party in the con suite. Come by and see us.
- And a generous bar tab!