Third Row Fandom

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Third Row Fandom or The Third Row is a name first applied to and later adopted by a group of (at the time) young British fans at Concourse, the 2004 Eastercon.

A Friday panel on 'The future of fandom' was expected to be quiet, not least because of its 11pm start. Panellists Claire Brialey, Fran Dowd and Greg Pickersgill were surprised to see several unfamiliar young fans sitting in the third row of the audience, coincidentally alongside Peter Mabey who was then 78.

It is thought that the term 'Third Row Fandom' was coined by Fran Dowd.

Greg Pickersgill later wrote in Ansible #202 supplement:

Fortunately perhaps the only other thing is something about the Future of Fandom, which co-panellist Claire Brialey and myself rather hoped was being held so late at night that no-one will show up, because pretty much the last thing we care about really is the future of fandom, having both decided long since that it is going its own evolutionary way and no amount of hot air from either of us will divert it from its course. To our genuine horror an audience actually arrived, much of it settled down in the third row, and fixed us with steely and sceptical gaze. It also looked quite young, even to Claire, who is but a child almost herself. Thus was born Third Row Fandom, into whose serious little faces we will look and see the future. They were back again, for the Fannish Feuds panel, which we cleverly transmuted into something entirely other, a history of the Fannish, no less, and made them laugh occasionally.

On Saturday morning Niall Harrison, one of those third row occupants, wrote on Live Journal:

And lo, third row fandom was born. And there was no-one could say whether 'twas a dream...or a nightmare.

The third issue of the convention newsletter quoted from 'an anonymous note left in the newsletter room':

The Future Of Fandom Dear Old Fogies, You'll never take us alive! Love and kisses, the third row.

Issue 4 on Sunday had a response:

To The Third Row: Resistance is useless. – The Old Farts.

Writing online in March 2005, Tom Anderson elaborated:

The Third Row is the group of us who do real fanac, like going to cons, London Circle /BSFA meetings, writing fanzines, etc. The Third Row in its widest sense includes ...  several of the Oxford crowd. Plus, by historical accident and purely in a technical sense, a couple of teenyfilkers we ran into at Eastercon. In a narrower sense, requiring significant levels of fanac, it includes Niall and Gene, possibly Andrew and Liz, probably not me (I don't read fanzines, follow other channels of fannish communication - except the Ansible, of course - pay attention to awards or go to fannish gatherings much) and perhaps a few of the Oxford crowd.

Niall Harrison was a guest of honour at Conversation, the 2023 Eastercon, where he appeared on a panel discussing the origins and history of the Third Row. A video is available on YouTube.

Third Row panel at Eastercon 2023 (YouTube)

Original members include:

Later members include:

Group 2004
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