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Focus on Fandom
Strange New Worlds  Issue 13 - April/May 1994

2nd Anniversary issue
Is It Advertising or Is it Art?
Japanese monster models
Godzilla Movies list
A Fan by Any Other Name
TV Science Fiction for Kids
Science Fiction Book Reviews
Ye Olde Collectibles


SNW Issue 14
SNW Issue 13
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SNW Issue 11
SNW Issue 10
SNW Issue 09
SNW Issue 08
SNW Issue 04




A Fan by Any Other Name : Fannish Slang and Nomenclature
by Karen Ann Yost

Let me assure you: this column is not about political correctness (PC) in fandom. I had originally intended PC to be the subject, until a fan pointed out that the term political correctness is used by folks who don’t want to confront a real issue, so . . . this column is now about labeling in science fiction, also called sci-fi, SF, and other terms that irritate people.

According to Roberta Rogow, author of Futurespeak: A Fan's Guide to the Language of Science Fiction, science fiction is a type of fantasy based on scientific credibility, often dealing with possible future developments on Earth or on other worlds. Hugo Gernsback coined the term in 1929 when describing the type of stories he published in his magazine Amazing Science Fiction.

Sci-Fi is an abbreviation for science fiction, first used by Forrest Ackerman in the 1930s. Many fans prefer the abbreviation SF. I witnessed one discussion concerning these terms at the 1993 New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival. A representative from the Sci-Fi Channel was at the convention. He was giving away merchandise to promote this relatively new cable channel. While picking up my Sci-Fi Channel plastic cup, I was privy to a conversation between a fan and the cable representative. It went something like this:

FAN: No self-respecting SF fan will ever watch your channel because they’re offended by the term sci-fi.

REPRESENTATIVE: But we’re trying to target all audiences, not just science fiction fans. No one else but fans would ever know what was on if we called it the SF Channel.

Valid point, and I think most fans would agree — at least from a business or marketing point of view. But one thing fans do not agree on is the correct term for a Star Trek fan.

The Great Debate: Trekkies or Trekkers?

NBC broadcast Star Trek from 1966-1969. At the height of Star Trek's popularity, the media called the show’s young, enthusiastic fans Trekkies. Because of the mass letter-writing campaign taken on to save the series from cancellation, fans started banding together and forming clubs. These original fans took offense at the "Trekkie" label and decided on the "universally-accepted" term Trekker.

But I’ve come to find out that Trekker is not so universally-accepted as I thought. Let’s face it, some fans are more active in fandom than others. The more dedicated fans run conventions, publish mediazines, write stories, and create fantastic artwork. Many of these Star Trek fans prefer the term Trekfan (singular) or Trekfen (plural). But not all.

Angela Reese, a fan I "met" through the Internet, insists that the terms Trekker and Trekfan are too dull to describe her and other Star Trek fans she knows. She likes the term Trekkie because it implies that she has been an avid, active fan from the very beginning: from the fandom’s inception in the '60s, to Star Trek: The Next Generation of the '80s, all the way to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine of the '90s.

That brings me to the next area of contention: what do you call the Star Trek series from the 1960s? I've learned the hard way: never call it the "old show." Ouch! Apparently the fans who enjoyed the show in the ’60s are feeling their age. [Editor's note: We are not!]

The preferred term is "the original show" or Trek Classic (similar to Coke Classic, I’m told). Other labels I’ve run across: most Dr. Who fans prefer being called "Whovians" rather then "Who-ites;" most Blakes 7 fans are amused when called "Flakey Blakeys;" and some Alien Nation fans are "Alienated." Still others: a trufan is a committed fan (or a should-be-committed fan) involved in various fandom activities; a neofan is someone new to science fiction or fandom; and, finally, a mundane is someone who doesn’t know or care about anything remotely associated with science fiction or fandom.

From what I’ve seen and heard, though some SF fans are easily offended by labeling, they still insist upon placing labels on themselves and others. When I posted this statement to fans on the Internet, I received one particularly astute response. Arin Komis, a fan / academic / anthropologist, said, "Remember that many of us banded together in fandom for a sense of community. That community is breaking down because of outsiders who are alongside us, but who don’t really want anything to do with the social aspects of fandom. Labeling is a way to keep a sense of community about fandom. Fans are only offended when these labels are taken by outsiders and corrupted to insult or humiliate."

I, too, think of fandom as a subculture, separate and unique from other groups; its members often thought of as being "a little out there" by other people. We have our own customs, like costuming and filking (SF music/songs). We also have our own language, like fanfic (amateur fan fiction) and blorch (minor illnesses that strike convention goers).

Personally I don't care whether I'm called a Trekker or Trekkie or Flakey Blakey or just plain weird, just so long as I'm called when there's a convention in town or a new zine coming out! l


Focus on Fandom articles
by Karen Ann Yost:

bulletIn a Fine Filk
bulletSF-Lovers at
bulletSaul Jaffe of SF-Lovers
bulletThe Comics - Science Fiction Connection
bulletScience Fiction Fans and Charity
bulletA Fan by Any Other Name - Fannish Slang and Nomenclature
bulletAcademia Explores the Final Frontier - Fandom Theses and Dissertations

Karen Ann Yost wrote a regular column about media fandom in Strange New Worlds from 1992 through 1994. Ms. Yost has been active in fandom for decades and has been a frequent panelist at MediaWest and Vidcon.


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