Revised by Ruth R. Davidson
Adapted from the original by Milton A. Rothman – written soon after WWII.
If you weren’t meant to be a Fan, you’ve thrown this handbook away by now. But, if you possess that particular, off-trail, interesting frame of mind that attracts you to the activities of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans, then you’re not only with us, but possibly ahead of us to boot.
You’ve just been looking at a brief history of Fandom, seen the ups and downs of organization (and maybe the lack thereof in some cases). You’ve seen all the different activities, the fan publications, conventions, the great hodge-podge of lots of people doing lots of things for the sheer pleasure of doing them.
You’re probably wondering: What am I going to do in all this? With all these veteran and active Fans running the show, what do I have to do get some fun out of this? Where do I fit in?
In the first place, there are not many hobbies in which new enthusiasts can obtain recognition so quickly. One can name any number of Fans who, after only a few months of activity, have become known and liked all over the country, and maybe even in other countries!
Now you’re probably wondering: What does a person have to do in order to achieve this position?
We assume that you started somewhere. Maybe you read a prozines (slang for a professional magazine), saw the reader’s column where you heard of other Fans. Maybe you started corresponding with them and heard of the NFFF (or the NFFF heard of you), and you arrived at this point. Maybe you saw a flier or ad at a convention, maybe you have a friend or family member who’s a Fan and infected you with the it. Maybe you visited website, clicked a link and found us. There so many starting points these days, it’s amazing, but whatever the case, you’re here.
In olden days the exchange of letters between Science Fiction readers was the life of Fandom. There were only a few Fanzines then. Even now, personal correspondence between Fans is still basic, though now it’s must faster with email, and message boards. The essential part of being a Fan is to get to know other Fans. That is traditionally accomplished by correspondence. You join a message board, write a letter, send an email, and mention that you are an SF Fan and would like to become acquainted. He or she will always reply. That’s all there is.
So you get to know Fans through some form of correspondence. If you live near some Fans you inevitably meet them. Perhaps there’s a local club to join, or an online community. You hear about fanzines, you write for copies. You like them and subscribe to them. You start finding out all sorts of nifty going-ons with Fannish activities.
You discover the joys of collecting and of watching your collection of books, magazines, manga/comics and DVD’s/VHS’s grow. You haunt the second-hand book stores to fill in the gaps of your collection, and your letters are full of enthusiastic collector’s talk.
Suddenly you notice how the mail has been flowing through your door, and/or the influx of email in your inbox, from people all over and you realize how many new people you’ve met, and you say to yourself, “I’m in! I’m a Science Fiction Fan!”
Don’t kid yourself. You’ve just started. You’ve just done the easy part. Of course, you can stay where you are. Many Fans have gone no further than this stage of being an interested spectator. But the real dyed-in-the-wool Fans are never satisfied with just watching. They have to jump in the middle of things, and start something themselves.
So, if you have the demon inside you, it’s not long before you get an itching on the tips of your fingers, right where they hit the keyboard. You read so many fan magazines (fanzines) you can’t stand it any longer. The inevitable result – you start writing for them yourself.
And when you have reached that stage then you really are in! You have reached the ultimate goal of a hobby: creation and self expression.
It’s not easy. It’s not like a few decades ago. Most of the obvious topics for Fan writing have been rehashed time and again. Quality is expected to by high now. You have to sweat some. A person never did anything worthwhile without some sweat. So if you’re sweating a little, that’s a good sign.
So, you’ve hit the peak. You’ve found your place. The rest is icing on the cake. You continue to write. You acquire a style, a pen name by which you are known. You spread out your friendships. You join the NFFF. You get on a project. You become part of a committee. You run for office. There’s plenty of jobs to do, all of which are fun and worth the effort.
Then you become really ambitious. You put out your own Fanzine! These days it’s easy to do with the age of computers, copy machines, printers, and electronic files. Before you had to spend oodles on a hekto or mimeo or find someone who was willing to share theirs. Now it’s easy. If you don’t have your own computer you can use one at the library or an internet café. Copy centers are just around the corner. There are various editing programs out there, and all sorts of various ways and formats to put out a Fanzine.
Unless you have really big ideas, you’ll start out modestly, and perhaps confine your publication to an Amateur Press Association. (One being the N3F’s very own Neffer Amateur Press Association – N’APA.) That alone is completely soul-satisfying, and many of the best Fans go no further.
You discover conventions! Unlike the days of old, conventions are everywhere. You can almost always find one close enough to home to be able to go to one. There you meet authors and editors.
Sooner or later your itching fingers turn out a story which you think is too good for a Fanzine. You send it to a Prozine (another word for Promag) and it bounces so fast your head spins. Undaunted, you try again. A long time later you get an acceptance, and from then on nobody can live with you. You’ve crashed the Pros!
That seems like a lot for a person to do for a hobby. Towards the end the story becomes fantastic, even. Travelling hundreds of miles to a convention – having stories published – incredible!
But so many Fans have done all of those things!
You don’t have to go all the way. You can please your own pocketbook and timetable. If you’re continually broke, like we all are at some point in our lives, you can be plenty active using a friends computer or library. Now it’s easy to send in Letters of Comment (LoCs) with the age of computers and email. It negates the need for postage. You can also borrow a friend’s copier (many printers these days also act as copy machines). If you can save a few bucks here and there you can start thinking of going independent (having your own computer and printer).
If you’re such a quiet person that the thought of activity and notoriety makes you turn pale, then you can remain happily in the background, carrying on correspondence and sending letters/email to the Voice of the Imagination.
Each person fits his or her personality into Fandom according to his or her own style and soon becomes known by that personality; and having become known, he or she becomes welcome where ever there are Fans.
That’s really something you know. Just think about this: Wherever you might go in this country you will know people and will be known by them. That, in itself, is sufficient excuse for the existence of Fandom.
It is hardly necessary to speak of such benefits from Fan activity as acquiring the ability to write, the copious amount of education obtained from the continuous discussions, the freedom of mind resulting from association with other free minds. The chances are that you are already most of that – that you became a Fan because you had the writing urge, the free mind, the omnivorous interests. Being a part of Fandom gives you a chance to exercise your abilities. It gives you a place where you can unleash that desire to create from your mind and to express yourself in writing and art.
May you relish in the joys of active Fandom. The world holds no higher pursuits! ✵