Saturday, August 15, 2015

PNW Fandom

So, in case you didn’t know, I’m headed off to Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) next week (If you’re going to be there, let me know. We’ll have coffee, maybe?). So I’ve been poring over the schedule and the guests and everything, as is my usual M.O. right before I go to a big convention. And of course, with the size of Sasquan, there are a lot of panels there that actually sound interesting, which is fairly abnormal in my experience. Normally, I discount a lot of the panels at cons I go to. Same people, same topics, all that jazz. But this time? The panels on diversity I talked about before are just the tip of the iceberg.

But one of the panels I’m really looking forward to is the Northwest All-Stars. It’s on a topic I’ve noticed quite a lot, before – here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a lot of SF/F authors. And not just small fries. Orson Scott Card, Patricia Briggs, Vonda Mcintyre, Irene Radford, Seanan McGuire. They all have ties to the PNW.

In point of fact, there are a lot of writers here, regardless of genre, plus we have Amazon’s headquarters over in Seattle.

I’ve never really considered why this happened. There’s something to be said for the Seattle area’s love of art, and something to be said for Seattle housing the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. I think the general love of art has a lot more to do with it than anything else. I mean it. If you’ve never been to Seattle and you like art—any art—I recommend you make a visit. It’s a challenge to visit Seattle without seeing some kind of art. Street performers and buskers, murals, statues. Whatever it is.

But sci-fi and fantasy in particular? I think there are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the strong science and technology background in this state. Boeing, Microsoft, Nintendo. You can find them all in Washington State, in one form or another. People like science and ideas here, and more than any other genres, SF/F deal with ideas. Big, sweeping ideas, ideas that are thoroughly separated from our own world and view of things.

A part of it comes from the diversity of cultures and the acceptance of different types of people. We’ve got a big port with Seattle, and a lot of immigrants who came in with all of their own cultures. That’s on top of the strong Native American cultures we have here (Salish, Yakama, Sinkiuse, etc). But what common ground do we all have in spite of any cultural differences?

We don’t know how many alien lifeforms might be out there. We don’t know what could be in some other world. What binds us together are all the things that we, as humans, don’t know. Not the only thing that binds us together, of course, but it is common ground. I like to think that the search for common ground brought the local fandom together, at least a little bit.

Of course, in the end, who really knows? As far as I’ve seen, there aren’t any sort of studies on this, and they couldn’t be conclusive, I wouldn’t imagine. But if I find answers, or stronger theories, I’ll swing back in and let y’all know after that panel. So if you want to learn what I did there, make sure you’re subscribed.

Voss

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