When The Shit Hits The Fan

The Black Dog Podcast’s Lee Medcalf has one major bugbear when it comes to fandom; all of it. From his chair on GeekPlanetOnline’s front porch he likes to shake his walking stick and yell at the kids to get off his damned lawn; we’ve tried asking him to stop, but he has a nasty bite when riled…

So, here we are, standing on the other side of another awards season. Frocks have been dissected in great detail by hollow-eyed journos in gossip magazines, golden gongs clearly made from some Terry’s All Gold wrappers have been doled out to over enthusiastic recipients, while Ricky Gervais continues to try and find a safehouse in Hollywood, prior to his escape overseas.

But all this shallow self-congratulatory navel-gazing isn’t just limited to the glitzy world of Hollywood high-life; sci-fi has its own selection of awards ceremonies from the more traditional affairs like the Hugos, the Saturns, the Nebulae and the Arthur C Clarke awards to name a few. Now while these awards are all much of a muchness reviewing a year of SF, some awards for SF magazines and websites are much more interesting from a fan perspective, revealing, in many cases, the fickle nature of SF fans.

Take for example, the SFX Readers Awards.

Every year the magazine opens the doors for the readers to send in votes for all manner of categories and in turn generating the final nominees for other readers to vote on. All pretty straight forward stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, until you realise that potentially with the exception of year specific categories, any show, actor or film from any year could end up in the running.

Which starts me wondering; where are all the Trek votes, the Galactica votes, hell, even the Buffy, Firefly and X-files votes? Did everyone just stop liking them? When did that happen? Why did I not get the memo!?

See, for me if you’re a fan of something from Babylon 5 to Captain Zep (look it up) you’ll never truly stop being a fan of it. But readers vote awards with open year categories, suddenly have me wondering if anyone is actually a true fan of SF or just likes belonging to a group and moves with the consensus view.

Sure, Doctor Who is a great series but is it really better than any of the previous winners in the same category? Or is it just the most popular thing in fandom at the moment?

I recall a similar feeling when I saw Matt Smith beat Leonardo DiCaprio in a fan nominated acting award. I mean really!? Matt Smith! A better actor than DiCaprio! Really!? I understand as fans we like things unconditionally at times but surely reality has to creep in to play now and again.

Now before you think I’m having a go at the SFX awards specifically, I’m not. The thing I’m wondering about here is the entirely transient nature of fans and while it’s good that we celebrate all that is good and new and great in the world of science fiction. You have to wonder, what kind of actual fans of the genre we are if one year we can proclaim Firefly, for example, the greatest SF TV show of all time, with it sweeping the boards in every fan selected category and then with a couple of years behind us, its on to the next best and latest thing out with nary a nod to Captain Reynolds at all.

Which brings me back to my point, are we actually fans of these shows or fans of being fans in a big group? After all, look at any mainstream award ceremony and sure you’ll get a year when something clearly is head and shoulders above the competition and sweeps the board, but it’s not a regular thing and rarely a foregone conclusion. However, take an SF fan based awards and guaranteed you’ll get one unanimous winner across the categories regardless of the competition, every single year.

And ultimately, does that devalue the awards or those that put any stock in the result of something so obviously a flavour of the month list?



This week Lee Medcalf is still waiting for his invite to any award ceremony that will give him an excuse to wear a suit.