Sunday, April 01, 2007

Slap Fight

So briefly I went to the Emerald City Comics Convention today, even though, according to the Seattle Weekly, I should have been barred from the doors, coming from the SF and F side of the brainbow. But I had a good time anyway.

The Weekly, in honor of the celebration of comics geekery has exhumed the conflict between local boy publishers Fantagraphics and venerable terrible SF Master Harlan Ellison. The dust-up is major to the players and interesting to those deeply invested to one side or the other, but boils down to a nasty court case over who's calling who a shmo.

And the Weekly comes down pretty much on the side of Gary Groth and Fantagraphics. Yeah, well they're local. I note that they neatly skim over the fact that in the 90s this august company dedicated to grown-up sequential storytelling survived primarily on the sales of its smut books (Its Eros line, which I hope is still selling OK, since I know of couple of the people who worked on the books). Similarly, the article doesn't complicate matters with Ellison's own quirks - supporting the ERA, but last year grabbing the ... hmm ... upper casements ... of an award-winning female SF Author.

But what cheesed me off was not the sandlot argument between two talented creatives, but rather by the assumption that if you follow science fiction, you cannot engage with comics. To which I can only say - Huh? I can go two ways on this statement - pointing out I and many others enjoy both, living in that middle zone where not all our petty cash is eaten up by one genre or the other.

At the same time, I can also look at modern fandom as being impossibly subdivided to the point that the individual genres are merely places to hang one's hat. At Emerald City alone, there were the various media fans, a sprinkling of anime and gaming, the ground-level enthusiasts, the long-underwear superhero readers, and the online comics folk (including some of the nice folk who work are mentioned on the sidebar here), each of which can be considered its own niche within the larger dorkworks of the hobby. Trust me, every person at that convention could look at one part of the room and say, "Well, that's not REALLY comics".

Ditto SF. Star Wars and Star Trek dragged the form fully into new media and did irreparable damage to it. The rising popularity of the genre both destroyed its clubby atmosphere and broke it into fragments, such that one may claim to be a hard-core SF fan without actually having to READ the stuff. And don't get me started on the rifts between SF and Fantasy, between Hard SF and New Wave, and between Traditional Western Fantasy and American Dark Fantasy. Suffice to say that demanding that the various fandoms pull together on this dustup will leave most of us milling in the center, unsure even of the players, much less the causes.

However, no armed guards greeted me at the door, no purity inspectors quizzed me on the Scarlet Witch's family tree, and many of the vendors I saw were equally versed in the broad spectrum of wondrous nerdity. Including many things that I would say "Well, that's not REALLY the genre." I loaded up on various parts of Lovecraftian stuff I had not previously gotten, and picked up the new Peanuts collection from the Fantagraphics booth. While far from harmonious, I would say that fandom in general has not picked up that they are supposed to be embroiled in a civil war.

And those who say otherwise, there is a Wookiee and a couple Imperial stormtroopers that would like to have a few words with you.

More later,