The Internet and other forms of communication (such as cell phones) have helped bring people from different geographical locations together. We have online virtual communities in the form of chat rooms, forums, “MySpace”, gaming groups and website memberships.
In case you are new to Internet discussion groups, please visit two highly active forums that include discussions of science fiction, along with TV, media and other related topics. These are moderated groups in that there is enforcement of the board rules. Highly prominent discussion groups require policing to maintain order and provide a pleasant, safe environment to visit. (There are some discussion groups out there that may hurt your head to read or cause you to spew your drink into your computer — just a fair warning.)
How does one grow and maintain a science fiction club with the growth of other ways to form groups? With a forum, one can visit at any time one has an Internet connection to view and discuss topics. For entertainment, there are links to audio clips, video clips, images, humor, news articles and upcoming events. If you are looking for reviews of new products, movies and tv shows, you can get views from all over the world. If you have questions about culture-specific points in a show you watch, you can find someone in that country who would know best. For example, if you are an American tuning into Doctor Who for the first time, you will encounter language unfamiliar to you. Part of the fun of exploring any new interest is learning things to help you understand and then appreciate it.
A club offers a few advantages that an online forum does not. Many activities are best when done as a group. Viewing a comedy, for example, is most entertaining when you have a large group to share the experience. Try watching your favorite comedy at home alone. Other group activities include gaming nights, murder mysteries, talent shows, skits/sketches, catered luncheons, guest lectures and potlucks. Clubs provide creative outlets, such as newsletters, fanzines, costume contests, fan video productions and sci-fi prop construction projects. Clubs offer a healthier social outlet for one’s “couch-potato” interests. Lastly, clubs provide a unified front to support a program or the entire genre in the event of threats to either its existence or its quality. In the face of many classic SF and other classic TV programs being either remade or converted to either TV or movie format, where are the clubs to critically review these projects? Is this movement hurting or helping science fiction and our classic media foundation?
Unless a forum is backed by a stable business organization (such as BadAstronomy or JREF), there is really no power in the online, virtual community to influence those who decide what we see on TV or at the cinema. For me, that is the main reason to have a science fiction club (or any other genre-specific club). If we truly enjoy this genre and cherish both the classics and the best of what’s new, then we will do all that we can to protect the past while supporting efforts to produce high-quality, intelligent programs. Do you want programs that are fan-driven or driven by the forces in Hollywood?
One of the major downsides I have seen with clubs like this is that people who are not accustomed to working in groups are finding that they have to adapt to a group environment. Our club is highly structured with elected officers, bylaws and one business meeting every month. We have this for club stability and accountabilty. After 18 years of our club’s existence, we have passed many obstacles and difficult times and have settled down to a regular, loyal group of people who respect each other and tolerate any “quirks” that one is likely to encounter in any social arrangement. We are business-like, but we also do not take ourselves or our interests too seriously. I guess one can say that “jocularity” is par for the course with our club. It is a comfortable medium between being “stodgy” one one side and “disorganized” on the other.
CALL TO ACTION
Let this club know what you want in a science fiction club. What does it mean to you? What sorts of activities will get you to come on a regular basis? Do you prefer to participate in events (such as ChicagoTardis, picnics, movies, Ren Faire, bowling, etc.)? What are your specific interests? Old stuff? New stuff? Rare stuff? Do you have something to bring? Any talents, skills, knowledge or SF-related objects to share?
If you are “closet” SF or Doctor Who fan, it’s time to “come out” and help us support Doctor Who and other quailty programs so they’ll keep making more.