(This is mostly just a few opening remarks on a subject nicely addressed on at The Figure in Question blog this week.)
Science Fiction and Fantasy, including the Super Hero genre, are for young people. No, I’m not saying that to be denigrating. I’m saying it because they are. They’re for people who keep their minds open, their hearts pure, their souls ever thirsting for something better, something that improves the human condition. They seek peace, justice, adventure, prosperity, triumph. You have to be young (at least at heart) to believe in those things. Old people, middle-aged people, adults (ick!)… their minds have set, atrophied, become rigid.
Mixed metaphor, I know. To be clear, I’ll restate a point I’ve made before: Science Fiction fans don’t get old. Not in our minds. Oh, there are some sad, miserable creatures stinking up our conventions and our online communities who call themselves “fans,” who have gotten old, mentally and spiritually. They are fans only by reflex and tradition. To be a true fan of the genre(s), you must not let yourself mentally age.
But why should you believe me? Listen to the Dean of Science Fiction:
This genre is not a sub-genre of adventure fiction (even though many of thetales in it are adventurous)… This field is concerned with new ideas, new possibilities, new ways of looking at things… which is precisely why it is so attractive to young people and so little read by older people, i.e., read only by those who have kept their minds young. Now if a story does not take the cultural framework we live in, stretch it, twist it, turn it upside down and examine it for leaks, rearrange the parts and see how they would relate in a new arrangement–in short, explore the possibilities and play games with ideas–it is not really a story of this genre at all but merely a western translated into the wider open spaces of the stars.
If you don’t know who the Dean of Science Fiction is, you’ll have to read the footnote, won’t you? Consider it penance. You should know. (And yes, there are at least three, but this is the generally accepted one. It’s not an official title. Comment if you wish to discuss the contenders. I’d be interested.)
But he nails it pretty well. The genre is for the young of mind. (I spoke poetically in saying “young at heart.” Some people with very weak hearts have young minds.) He also points out that there’s a lot of chaff, Westerns pretending to be something more, in the field. So there’s a lot of chaff among the fans themselves.
This is a game for the young, the idealistic, the principled, the honorable. If you’re something other than those things, I don’t care how awesome you think our recent movies are, well, you’re (I’ll use the phrase again) stinking the joint up. One of the hallmarks of being this kind of fan, this kind of person, is that you don’t descend to pettiness. You know the genre is geared toward the young. You respect, love, and cherish it for that. And you let it first and foremost reach out to the young.
So you don’t dick young fans out of things they want, or prey on their interests to make a quick buck. Not if you want to wear the title of a real fan of SF, Fantasy and heroic fiction. You don’t run a crooked con, you don’t sell phony autographs, and, dammit, you don’t scalp collectibles.
Not and call yourself a fan.
If you do, you’re not only not a fan, you’re a despicable human being. I’ve met a lot of you. You’re repulsive to me, physically, spiritually, personally and ethically.
Which is why I’m directing my readers this week to another site. My son Ethan, on his excellent action figure review blog, talks about his experience with scalpers this week. It’s an account from a just-turned-adult fan who grew up in this crazy world of ours, and it’s well worth reading.
For real fans.
The rest of you… out of my bomb shelter.
 Robert A. Heinlein, letter to Ruth Robinson, 3/12/1955, as quoted in Robert A. Heinlein – In Dialogue with His Century – Volume 2: 1948-1988 – The Man Who Learned Better, by William H. Patterson, Jr.