Fan (plural: "fans" or "fen") doesn't mean what you think it does.
In mundania, the term fan, short for fanatic, means a follower, devotee, or admirer of any sport or diversion. That is not what fan means here, anymore than it means a blower of hot air. You'll find both in the sf community, but fans in fandom have a more restricted meaning in mind, drawing a distinction between those who merely enjoy sf on the page or — nowadays most of the general public — and fans, who actively participate in the sf microcosm.
While a devotion to science fiction brings us together, those whom we designate as fen in fandom do fanac: We maintain regular interaction with other fans via face-to-face meetings, correspondence and online activity. We may publish or write for a fanzine — or several of them. We might attend local club meetings, and, finances permitting, conventions. We also, at least to some degree, take an interest in one another and in the foundations and well-being of fandom.
One outstanding characteristic of fans is their participation in the fannish gift economy. Fans do their thing — conventions, fanzines, clubs, blogs, whatever — for free as a gift to fandom and never for personal profit.
At Ditto 14, Leah Smith interviewed four founders of fandom — Tucker, Speer, Ackerman, and Widner — asking just who it was who named the microcosm and stuck its members with the troublesome title fans. None of them knew, so it seems no one ever will.
"From the suggestions for reprints that are coming in, these 'fans' seem to have a hobby all their own of hunting up scientifiction stories, not only in English, but in many other languages.... Some of these fans are constantly visiting the book stores with the express purpose of buying new or old scientifiction tales, and they even go to the trouble of advertising for some volumes that have long ago gone out of print." This passage is also notable as the first public use of "fan" as the name for the person who likes science fiction too much to be content with merely reading it occasionally. The reference to "fans" quite possibly settled the general name for the hobbyists, and prevented us from acquiring as distinctive a term as the hams of amateur radio or the buffs of Civil War lore.
Dislike of the common connotations of the word fan led to the suggestion of various substitutes for it, such as "stefnist" and "imaginist." In "How the GRINCH Stole Worldcon," Bill "The Galactic" Fesselmeyer came up with "thusiast." However, none of these alternatives caught on, and we are stuck with a slippery term that is widely misinterpreted.
Types of Fen
Depending on the extent to which a given fan indulges, he or she may be distinguished as an actifan. The comparative emphasis a fan puts on the different kinds of activities determines whether he/she becomes known as a fanzine fan, a club fan or a convention fan; most fans do some of each, but only a few do enough to avoid being labeled as one subspecies or another. A fan who engages in crifanac, especially one who participates in more than one kind of fanac, may be said to be a trufan.
What Makes a Fan?
Introspectives like fans naturally do much speculating on what and why fans are. Earl Kemp's fanzine symposium Why Is a Fan? (1961) collected several dozen prominent opinions on the matter. There have been various theories: Gernsback's idea of developing potential scientific genius in his readers; the idea that fans are a separate species, slans or whatever you want to call them, which Degler made ridiculous; that stfanaticism is sublimated sex drive; and that fans are youngsters in blind alleys of life, seeking escape from "the humdrum, workaday world."
A theory well received was Norm Stanley's "sense of fantasy," a taste for the imaginative analogous to the sense of humor. Probably a complex of characteristics goes into the fan type. We do, however, show some significant variations from the average in intelligence, recreation preferences, introversion, social skills, size and suchlike factors.
|From Fancyclopedia 2 ca 1959|
|A follower, devotee, or admirer of any sport or diversion. In our case the diversion is fantasy in book and magazine form, on film, and on the airwaves. The fan buys, sell, trades, collects, and discusses this stuff. Some of them even read it. Professional editors, like Palmer of old, call all people who read their magazines pretty regularly fans; and indeed the term is so used by the stfnists who merely write letters to the editor and collect prozines, but the fen of fandom have a more restricted meaning in mind.
What this meaning is is difficult to say. (If the Greeks had a word for it, they never used that word in public.) Generally one whom we designate as a fan in fandom maintains a correspondence with other fans, and visits them when located in the same area. He may publish or write for a fanzine -- or several of them. He often attends local club meetings, and, finances permitting, conferences or national conventions. This is a matter of degree, and depending on the extent to which a given fan indulges in anything more than local club activity he may be distinguished as an actifan (as opposed to passifen); stress on crifanac rather than congoing, among actifans, is the chief extensional distinction between trufans and confans.
Introspectives like fans naturally do much speculating on what and why fans are. Medhurst surveys the following theories: Gernsback's idea of developing potential scientific genius in his readers; the idea that fans are a separate species, slans or whatever you want to call them, which Degler made ridiculous; that stfanaticism is sublimated sex drive; and that fans are young men in blind alleys of life, seeking escape from "the humdrum, workaday world". A theory well received is Norm Stanley's "sense of fantasy", a taste for the imaginative analogous to the sense of humor. Probably a complex of characteristics goes into the fan type. We do, however, show some significant variations from the average in geographical distribution, national extraction, age, sex distribution, intelligence, introversion, and suchlike factors.
Dislike of the common connotations of the word "fan" had led to the suggestion of various substitutes for it, such as stefnist and "imaginist".
from Fancyclopedia 2 Supplement ca. 1960: This word could as easily come from fancier as fanatic -- in which case the word the Greeks had for it would be philetor.
|From Fancyclopedia 1 ca 1944|
|Short for "fanatic", Wiggins says, but he probably just consulted the mundane dictionary. Professional editors like Palmer call all people who buy their magazines pretty regularly, fans; and indeed the term is so used by the scientifictionists who merely write letters to the editor and collect pro mags, but the fen of fandom have a more restricted meaning in mind.
With introspects such as fans are, it's natural that there should be a lot of speculation on what and why fans are. Medhurst surveys the following theories: Gernsback's idea of developing potential scientific genius in his readers; the idea that fans are a separate species, perhaps Star-Begotten (or Slans); that stfanaticism is the result of frustrated sex impulse; and that fans are young men in blind alleys of life, "seeking escape from the humdrum, workaday world". Widner said he thinks the essential thing about fans is that they have an ideal of a better way of life and want to change things; but this hardly sets them apart from millions of non-fans. A theory well received is Norman Stanley's "sense of fantasy", a taste for the imaginative analogous to the "sense of" humor. Probably a complex of characteristics goes into the fan type. We show some significant variations from average in geografical distribution, national extraction, age, sex distribution, intelligence, introversion, and suchlike factors. The IPO made no attempt to isolate an essential characteristic whichby all fans mite be distinguished, but said that "A real fan fulfills practically all the following requirements: He buys and reads most of the professional fantasy magazines / this was when there were less than half a dozen /, collects them, and writes the editors. He subscribers to at least one fan magazine. He corresponds with other fans. S-f fandom is his ruling passion. He has probably tried his hand at writing, either for fan or pro magazines or both".
Dislike of the common connotations of the word "fan" has led to the suggestion of various substitutes for it, such as "stefnist" and "imaginist".
Also involved: - "Chaunticleer" Michael Smith - 1 Face - 1948 Fantasy Annual - 1950 Fan Directory - 1953 Worldcon Site Selection - 1954 Worldcon Site Selection - 1959 Worldcon Site Selection - 1967 Hugos - 1968 Hugo Ceremony Transcript - 1982 Hugos - 1983 FFANZ Race - 1983 TAFF Race - 1984 GUFF Race - 1984 TAFF Race - 1987 TAFF Race - 2001 GUFF Race - 2001 TAFF Race - 2017 GUFF Race - 2018 GUFF Race - 2020 DUFF Race - 2020 GUFF Race - 2BeContinued - 7th Fandom - A Warning - A. J. Barker - A. J. Brockway - A. Langley Searles - AFSF - AJ - AJAY - ANZAPACon - APA - APA-45 - APA-L - ASFO - ASIF - Abraham Oshinsky - Ack-Ack - Ackermanese - Ada Charles - Ada Palmer - Adam-Troy Castro - Addie Huddleston - Adrienne Fein - Adrienne Losin - Advertising - Agents - Agnes Rundle - Ah! 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