Shady Thoughts: Terrans Will Be Terrans

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Title: Shady Thoughts: Terrans Will Be Terrans
Creator: Jean Danielsen
Date(s): Summer 1981
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Wars
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Shady Thoughts: Terrans Will Be Terrans is a 1981 essay by Jean Danielsen.

It is a response to the editorial by Mary Jean Holmes in Shadowstar #2, that of fannish in-fighting, fannish politics, gatekeeping, and exclusion.

It was printed in Shadowstar #3 and is part of the Shady Thoughts essay series.

From the Essay

In regards to the more somber section of "Shady Thoughts" in Shadowstar 2, I must commend you on the idealism you show in believing that the politics of fandom are very much misplaced. I, too, hold that ideal, but being also realistic, we must remember that SF/F fen are Terran humans before, during, and after the con, regardless of how they may have appeared on a masquerade platform.

Terrans will be Terrans.

Especially here in the United States, we are raised from youngsters to thrive on competition. High grades, nicer clothes, be prettier, be smarter, be more athletic, etc. Our society and our media constantly try to persuade us that Conformity is the best way of Life, and that to be just a notch "above" the norm is even better. Being prettier, cheerier, shapelier, more studious, more attentive, more active, more ambitious, more talented, more prolific, more productive, etc. ad infinitum, than the average will bring for us (or so we are meant to believe) that elusive spice of life known as Popularity.

Since Popularity is almost always connected with warm, pleasant, loving feelings, it's not difficult to see why it becomes a goal for almost everyone in one manner or another.

MEDIA POPULARITY: This is a real biggie. When you have this, your name is often in print, a photo or more is circulated, if not of yourself, then of some thing you've accomplished. Perhaps there's television, films... in other words, a great number of persons you don't even know about, much less know at all, do know of you. They hold pleasant opinions about you, your lifestyle, your works, whatever.

At some point, someone determined that the more people you have who know you, the better a person you yourself must be. Illogical reasoning, if one would stop to think about it, but how many people stop? Media Popularity is probably the most desired position for Americans in general. Popularity itself represents friends, activities, recognition, love; so Media Popluarity represents all of this in greater quantity. But persons don't stop to think, unfortunately. They fail to see that all the adoring millions are really observing a media-formed image rather than the "real you," but that doesn't seem to stop them from setting this as a goal.

Whenever two or more are gathered together, there is bound to be competition, friendly or otherwise when hundreds are gathered, there are more competitors seeking the same few "spotlights" and the competition becomes a bit rough. When thousands or more gather, the competition can get very nasty. Jealousies erupt, feelings are hurt, friendships shattered. All of this because society has taught us to judge other persons, their speech, their clothing, their habits, their productivity, their income, their possessions, even their body! Woe be to those who somehow fall short of the "proper" standards; slender, active, loving, kind, generous, polite, sympathetic, helpful, intelligent, talented, industrious, ETCETERA.

Let us bring this all back to fandom. We've already established that the politics of Popularity has no place In society in general. How much less, then, does it belong in fandom?!

SF/F fandom, more than any other organized or unorganized group of thought represents some of the highest ideals in the galaxy! To see our Terra reach the highest realm of interacting acceptance of others as typified in Star Trek and Star Wars is every fan's dream. This series and movie show us that disappointments, suffering, yes, even the "bad guys" will continue, but they also show us universes in which the greatest evil had been conquered! Consider the highly unhumanoid aliens we met In Star Trek, such as the Horta. How we came to love her in spite of the fact that, in our present age, she would be considered repulsive (not to mention that her possible sapience would never have even been considered). She would have been destroyed without question in today's world, but Star Wars offered the possibility that we had grown beyond such petty judgements of appearance.

The Star Wars cantina sequence showed us the most diverse gathering ever of alien life-forms. We may have giggled at first, but did we think any of those beings were Inferior just because they looked so different from ourselves? Did you notice that the one being in that scene who really looked out of place was our good-as-Mom's-apple-pie-boy-next-door-image LUKE!

The answer is simple, but it hurts a little going down. We still have it because today's fen are still today's people. They may have more glittery ideals, but they still live in today's world, with today's customs and petty judgements and comparisons, with some illogical sociological standards.

Disgusting, isn't it? But as soon as one person is singled out for something — recognition in the form of an award, a printed article, a verbal mention — there are others who start turning a jaded sort of green, vying for that same position. The back-stabbing begins, followed by teeth, claws, insults. It exists, but it doesn't have to get us down. It doesn't have to squash our goals. It doesn't have to defeat us when we've barely a foot in the door! I refuse to let it conquer me or spoil my enjoyment of the shinier side of fandom.

We can't change it, but we can carry on the change that is in progress right now. Look around, and you'll see the shifting attitudes. Women are still thought of as second-class, but it's not a bad second-class anymore. The word "nigger" is almost never heard anymore. Once known as "fat and sloppy," heavier folks are now known as "big and beautiful." Homosexuals, single parents, handicappers, etc.... all the minorities that were once judged as "below standard" ARE coming into their own. It'll take time, but the change is occurring. We may not see it completed in our lifetime, but we can hold the ideals within our own lives.

Let us learn to accept with understanding the differences that make us the individuals that we are. Let us learn to live the Vulcan philosophy of supporting Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, We can do that NOW, you and I. And then someone else is going to do it, and (I can't resist this) they'll tell two friends, then they'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on.