Gatekeeping in Fandom: Young People Read Old SFF


When I was invited to participate in the Young People Read Old SFF project, I jumped at the chance. The premise of the project is to test if old science fiction stories could be a good introduction for young people (in this case 20-somethings) to get into reading speculative fiction.

For me, I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for as long as I can remember, and I was already participating (although mostly lurking) in SFF fandom. Despite this, I haven’t read much of the so-called classics, and was willing to give them a try. I’ve also been reviewing old Doctor Who episodes on The Web of Queer for a couple years now, so I thought it would be interesting to do a similar project in a different format.

I’ve approached the reviews the same way I do Classic Doctor Who. I hold them to the same standards that I do modern stories. Especially because of the point of YPROSFF, I feel that I should be responding them to them as a modern reader. Unfortunately, the reaction I have received from SFF fandom has been drastically different from Doctor Who fandom.

I have been reading the comments (I know, I know) on James’s LiveJournal and on Facebook and I have found them extremely frustrating. The overwhelming response has been that I am a grouch and hate everything, and that I’m reacting to the stories “wrong.”

I’m starting to get the message. SFF fandom, or at least the part of it that’s reading and commenting on these reviews, doesn’t want my voice. They say they want to see how younger readers react to these reviews, but in reality they want to be able to tell me that I’m just wrong and irrationally hate things because I expect these stories to be better than they are. I get it, I’m a spoiled millennial who expects female characters to actually be people, and perhaps for the occasional queer character to appear on the page.

I entered SF fandom with Wheel of Time being nominated for a Hugo, and read through thinkpieces about how the Wheel of Time was bad and wrong and so were all the people who were voting for it. My experience with SF fandom has been the people who are supposedly the progressives telling me to shut up and go away.

I wonder why I bother trying to stay. At least Doctor Who fandom likes me.