David Axler

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Burt Feintuch, Carlton Jackson, Jim Miller


Original degree program was Intercultural and Folk Studies.

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


A science fiction (“sf”) fan is an individual whose interest in this literary genre has extended past reading into involvement in such things as local science fiction clubs, fan magazines (“fanzines”), and sf conventions (“cons”). Science fiction fandom is the loosely-structured, geographically-dispersed organization of these fans. Drawing on both written sources and field interviews with eight informants, the history, composition and structure of sf fandom is examined from a folkloristic viewpoint. The forms of folklore which serve to bind the individual fan to the larger social entity of fandom are detailed.

Despite its literary orientation, fandom is primarily a social organization. The primary motivation of individuals for becoming involved in fandom proves to be a desire to communicate and meet with others who share interests. Through participation in fandom, the individual fan may gain social acceptance, peer recognition, opportunities for self-expression and creativity and aid in becoming a professional creator of science fiction.

Fanzines provide the geographically-dispersed body of fandom with a mass of indirect communication. These magazines – written, illustrated, edited and published by fans on a non-profit basis – provide their readers with information and commentary on both science fiction and fandom. Participation in this communication network is shown to fulfill individual psychological needs, with the amount of fulfillment achieved being related to the amount of participation.

The sf conventions provide an arena in which fans may directly interact with each other. The relationship of these conventions to the local groups which sponsor them is explored and the organization, membership and financing of such events are discussed. The formal and informal behaviors found at cons are described and compared with activities at South American religious fiestas and academic conventions. The concepts of convention as a period of license and as a form of folk festival are discussed.

The linkages between the fans and the professional creators of science fiction – many of whom once were fans – are examined. The relationships and contrasts between sf fandom and groups such as Star Trek fans and mystery fans are presented. Filksinging – the singing of songs with a science-fictional theme – is discussed and texts of three songs are presented in an Appendix. A Glossary of the esoteric terminology, acronyms and neologisms of fandom is provided.


Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Folklore | Leisure Studies | Modern Literature | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology | Sociology of Culture