Serious Constructive

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(Did you mean a convention named Sercon?)

Today, Serious Constructive, commonly portmanteaued as sercon (the latter a coinage of insurgent Canadian fan Boyd Raeburn), usually refers to the pursuits of fen more interested in serious study and criticism of sf than in fanac for fanac’s sake. However, it has historically had other meanings.

1) Fan Self-Importance[edit]

The term was originally a jibe at fans who took themselves, science fiction and the role of fandom too seriously.

Serious constructive arose in the early 1950s as a put-down of overly earnest fans, who tended to take not only science fiction but themselves and their involvement in fandom far too self-importantly – they valued making lists over genuine critical insight, would rather pontificate than tell a joke, looked askance at those whose approach was more lighthearted than their own and saw it as their scientifictionally patriotic duty to "promote" science fiction to the place where it belonged in mundane considerations, i.e., surely at the top of the pile of all Literature.

Sf fandom was founded by serious fans who wrote letters to prozines to comment on and criticize the stories, and serious sf criticism has always been a staple in the microcosm, but by the mid-1940s, enough stuffed shirts had attached themselves to fandom that some faans with a more humorous bent were beginning to poke fun at them. "Sercon" and "fannish" were regarded as polar opposites, the former being identified with the philosophy of FIAWOL and the latter with the philosophy of FIJAGH.

However, beginning in some fan quarters as early as the 1960s, and certainly by the time of the early 1970s, however, the term had lost much of its derisive clout, as neofen misapplied it to straightforward works of serious and at least somewhat constructive criticism, and even some fans aware of the former pejorative implications nonetheless felt the descriptive usage filled a necessary fanspeak niche. Some still use it as a put-down, of course, but you'll have to judge by context.

The City of Serious Constructivism[edit]

In The Enchanted Duplicator, Jophan finds himself in a beautiful City on a broad thoroughfare of towering, shining, marble skyscrapers. There he meets Dedwood, one of the City Planners, a Serious Construction Engineer, who offers to show him around the gleaming edifices. However, Jophan discovers the imposing structures aren’t at all what they appear, but ramshackle facades, “a few inches thick and obviously unstable.”

Dedwood admits awkwardly: “It’s to impress the Public. They wouldn’t be impressed by Trufandom, so some of us thought we’d erect this city of Serious Constructivism to give them a better idea of our importance.”

From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959
There's a bit of serious constructiveness in every good little fan, but it's a label of questionable honor because of the nature of the beast. A do gooder or self-appointed censor, sometimes; he often believes that he has a Mission in Fandom, and labors for some Lofty Purpose or Worthy Line of Endeavor. He may be the fannish equivalent of the Rotarian or Chamber of Commerce booster; he likes to think fandom or science fiction will be the better for his work. And sometimes he is the organizer or builder who accomplishes an enduring work despite the scoffing of Voldesfen. Walt Willis represents his type of fans as Serious Constructive Insurgents, apparently indicating thereby adoption of the constructive features of the Insurgent Movement.
From Fancyclopedia 2 Supplement, ca. 1960
The contraction sercon should be laid at the door of the Derelict Insurgents, of Toronto. And Willis explains the correct interpretation of the Serious Constructive Insurgent phrase: the idea is that, since we are in fandom and devoting time to it, we should at least pretend that it is worthwhile, as a premise to our actions concerning it.

2) A Euphemism[edit]

In the late 1980s, "getting sercon" became a euphemism for getting stoned.

See also: DF2.

This is a fanspeak page. Please extend it by adding information about when and by whom it was coined, whether it’s still in use, etc.