battlin' fandoms

The roughly mid-90's and earlier (generally pre-Toonami, pre-anime boom) era of anime & manga fandom: early cons, clubs, tape trading, Nth Generation VHS fansubs, old magazines & fanzines, fandubs, ancient merchandise, rec.arts.anime, and more!
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davemerrill
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battlin' fandoms

Post by davemerrill » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:38 am

We were having a conversation about LDs that veered into discussing the SF conventions of the 80s and how their attendance has stagnated or fallen compared to anime conventions, and I figured I might splinter that conversation off into its own thing.

If you're like me you spent a lot of time in the 80s going to any science fiction, fantasy, comics, Star Trek or whatever type convention in town, above and beyond any interest in the material, because these spaces were one of the few sources for Japanese anime merchandise at the time. And if you're like me, once you started talking about anime to the people at these shows, you might find 25% or 30% of the fans were receptive or interested in anime, maybe 30% didn't care, and a vocal percentage that were outraged that Japan would be making animation, and that honest god-fearing Americans would be interested in such a thing.

I can recall one show in which our anime club had set up a fan table in the hall with a TV and a VCR showing anime and telling fans about our club. Meanwhile the local Marvel Comics rep was across the hall loudly complaining about anime - while screening the then-new X-Men animated series pilot, which of course was animated in Japan (we "borrowed" that VHS tape and made lots of copies of it before returning).

The experience of filling video rooms and event halls with anime screenings at these conventions convinced us that Japanese anime fandom could be its own thing, but actually getting the space and time and equipment to host these screenings from convention organizers was like pulling teeth. We were providing a free event that entertained rooms full of attendees, but the organizers begrudged us every TV, every minute of time, every extension cord, and I could never figure out why. At one show the con chair actually came into the room and took our TV in the middle of a screening (I think we were running "Totoro") because a guest wanted it for some reason.

Thankfully we started our own conventions, and most of these comic-Sf-fantasy conventions vanished. The ones that stuck around are still doing the same 1200 attendees every year, still presenting the same programming to the same graying, Rascal-scooter-riding audience. And that's not to say that we ourselves aren't getting older, but at least anime fandom seems to be getting regular infusions of new blood every once in a while.

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mbanu
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Re: battlin' fandoms

Post by mbanu » Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:02 pm

Sometimes it seems like people will quit fandoms when they really just want to quit particular people in their local fandom. I think the best alternative is when they start a competing club, but that doesn't always happen.

If something shuts down that cycle of new members, it can cause a generation gap even if the original issue is worked out. It then becomes harder just because it's always easier to make new fans out of your peers than when there is a significant age difference. This seemed to be what happened to a lot of the old community-based anime clubs that didn't have the natural churn built in that the college clubs had.

One thing that puzzles me a bit is why when both anime fandom and literary science fiction fandom had the same problems, anime fandom was able to struggle through them somehow to reach where it is today -- there seem to be a lot of parallels. Both had community clubs, both originally had a gateway (sci-fi mags at newsstands vs. anime on TV) that could draw in unrelated people that eventually went away, both have conventions that focus on getting attendees closer to the source material by inviting the people who make the stuff... Is literary sci-fi fandom anime fandom's inevitable future, or is there some key difference that caused these different outcomes other than one fandom being started earlier than the other?

The only thing I can think of is that in looking for stability for the community clubs, it seems like the literary science fiction focused on raising money to buy a clubhouse like the even older social clubs, while anime focused on getting into the colleges, which acted as their permanent meeting spaces. I don't know if that's actually so, though -- were college-based literary sci-fi clubs more common in the past and simply died out similar to how the college-based anime clubs are dying out today, or were they never a thing to begin with?
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Fireminer
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Re: battlin' fandoms

Post by Fireminer » Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:55 am

Wasn't Fred Patten a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society? I suppose that there were other sci-fi fanclubs in different colleges back then, right?

In this interview with Walter Amos and Robert Fenelon, they talked about how some sci-fi conventions became smaller and attended mostly by older fans, who had taken over the conventions' leadership and shifted their focus. Maybe that is the case?

But is it really the end of the ""single-show anime fans/fanclubs" in this day and age? Because of how readily available anime is? I suppose it is also why there are always new people coming into the anime fandom in general.

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labsenpai
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Re: battlin' fandoms

Post by labsenpai » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:32 pm

davemerrill wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:38 am
Thankfully we started our own conventions, and most of these comic-Sf-fantasy conventions vanished. The ones that stuck around are still doing the same 1200 attendees every year, still presenting the same programming to the same graying, Rascal-scooter-riding audience. And that's not to say that we ourselves aren't getting older, but at least anime fandom seems to be getting regular infusions of new blood every once in a while.
I would pay to see Bill Shatner on an Enterprise-Rascal go head to head with Christopher Lloyd on a Bird of Prey-Rascal.

I remember the local cons being desperate for anything to fill hotel space. It took all the comic, pulp, and fantasy game merchants just to make a decent Vendor Hall. Anime was welcome in the viewing areas because it was new and (clubs with tapes) could provide shows for the whole day. I miss the variety that these "no-brand" events had - where you could buy a random issue of Animage, a Middle Earth calendar, and a Cylon toy all at the same show. Although, I wouldn't miss the incursions by furries or disjunctive cosplayers.

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DKop
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Re: battlin' fandoms

Post by DKop » Fri Apr 19, 2019 3:31 pm

labsenpai wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:32 pm
Although, I wouldn't miss the incursions by furries or disjunctive cosplayers.
Pretty sure you'll get that at anime cons anywhere, because I see them at about any anime/fan con I attend. It's just the nature of the best of fandom.

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Drew_Sutton
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Re: battlin' fandoms

Post by Drew_Sutton » Fri May 10, 2019 10:11 am

davemerrill wrote:The experience of filling video rooms and event halls with anime screenings at these conventions convinced us that Japanese anime fandom could be its own thing, but actually getting the space and time and equipment to host these screenings from convention organizers was like pulling teeth. We were providing a free event that entertained rooms full of attendees, but the organizers begrudged us every TV, every minute of time, every extension cord, and I could never figure out why. At one show the con chair actually came into the room and took our TV in the middle of a screening (I think we were running "Totoro") because a guest wanted it for some reason.

Thankfully we started our own conventions, and most of these comic-Sf-fantasy conventions vanished. The ones that stuck around are still doing the same 1200 attendees every year, still presenting the same programming to the same graying, Rascal-scooter-riding audience. And that's not to say that we ourselves aren't getting older, but at least anime fandom seems to be getting regular infusions of new blood every once in a while.
Part of this history is why I've likened anime fandom (and conventions in particular) as a big tent and big campground analogy. I think the traditional SF fandom experience is part of what shaped anime fan culture to be more accepting, or at least open, to new ideas and shifts and changes in the media. Didn't a lot of old timer literary SF bigwigs begrudge the Star Trek (and SF television media in general) fans because television was the 'idiot box'? That sort of negativity can just suck all of the fun out of something that isn't the livelihood of 99% of people in the fandom. Not to say there wasn't a similar vocal minority within anime fandom that strongly carried a "Japanese Cartoons Or Fuck Off" opinion. But I think looking at the vast majority of anime conventions out there, clearly, the fandom rejected it as a whole and that minority is a whole lot less vocal.

But some of this might just be the age group we're working with, too. Having recently really gotten back into scale models (and building more than just GunPla and anime-tie in products), I've been looking for some nearby IPMS shows to attend but the stuff I see about the contests on facebook and reddit and the like - it seems nobody is happy: too many paint types, too many tools, kits are too engineered, "rivet counters", back in my good ol' days, etc. Not wanting to spend my free time with that sort of thing, I haven't been looking for those IPMS shows very hard.
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davemerrill
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Re: battlin' fandoms

Post by davemerrill » Mon May 13, 2019 7:47 am

I'm very much a "big tent" kind of thinker now, but when we started AWA in 1995 we had to be very direct about our Japanese animation mission statement when presenting the convention to the wider fandom world. There was an expectation at the time that every fan convention was going to have similar events and programming - every convention was going to have card gaming, a midnight Rocky Horror screening, Klingons in the Next Generation makeup wandering around hollering at people, and people playing the Vampire LARP. When we simply refused to host these events, we came in for our share of negative feedback (which we ignored).

But that was 1995: the world of general media fandom conventions contracted and has since expanded again. At one point our market was pretty much just Dragoncon and AWA, but now Atlanta has two Dr Who/British media conventions, a steampunk show, two other anime cons, a furry convention, a monster/horror convention, a spy/adventure media convention, two or three comic book shows, and who knows what else. Every group seems to have its own niche convention, and people who like everything can fill every minute with a convention or a gathering of some kind, and people with specific interests can stick with their crowd. It's a win/win in my opinion.

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