Fandom In a Coma

Just a few days ago I learned of a group of gamers and sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts at UCLA. I joined their mailing list with both hope and trepidation. Hope, because I’m sick of normal people and I’m in need of camaraderie. I haven’t so much as watched Farscape with a kindred spirit since Benjamin Franklin was president. I’m jonesin’ so bad I could almost LARP. 

Trepidation I feel for two reasons. First, because I am not entirely sure that the group isn’t strictly for UCLA students—which I’m not—and I have no intention of being the “creepy old guy.” Second, because fandom in Los Angeles generally blows. 

Maybe my years in Seattle spoiled me, what with all the reading and role-playing and conventions and geeky folderol that goes on in that lovely, moist and caffeinated city. Here in Los Angeles, though, it’s a different story. 

I’ve never been entirely sure what’s to blame for the lack of nerdgasms in the 310 area code. Maybe it’s the fact that you can find yoga classes for your pet gazelle far more easily than spot a used bookstore. And in Santa Monica, where I work, you’re almost more likely to run into Joss Whedon at Starbucks than you are to meet a Browncoat. Maybe good ole “cooped up in a basement with rulebooks and Mountain Dew” geekery just doesn’t grow in a town full of bikinis.

I’ve searched LA for something resembling the fan-friendly atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest but to little avail. The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, though historic and famous, is an absolute deadly bore. The motto of LASFS is “De Profundis Ad Astra” which I believe is one of Voldemort’s unforgivable curses, used to rip your soul from your body and affix it eternally to Burbank. 

Their primary thrust—if that isn’t too exciting a word—is less to discuss and enjoy sci-fi and fantasy than to preserve the history of their own group. It’s been around a long time. It was founded, as I recall, by Ashurbanipal, Copernicus and Hugo Gernsback, and the clubhouse smells like they never left. The big fun of LASFS meetings is reading the minutes from their last meeting. No kidding. They’re not so much sci-fi fans as fantiques.

Despite all that, I was so desperate for a fix that I attended their meetings for damn near a year, which is just long enough for a few of them to notice I existed. Eventually, I gave up on the whole sorry affair and exiled myself from the Bog of Eternal Stench altogether.  
Loscon, the annual convention here in LA, is run by LASFS and has all the whimsy of a colonoscopy. In their defense I should say that they do get some big names to show up, some really quality guests. Well done there. But as for…you know…fun? Con-fun? No way. I don’t just mean sharing fan art in which you’ve painted Admiral Adama as a cat with dragon wings, or bragging about how you totally ate all the Skittles in the hospitality suite. I’m talking about the kind of fun where hotel security wakes you up at noon and you don’t know how you ended up in the lobby aquarium or where the slowly leaking blow-up Dalek came from, but the empty bottle of Absinthe in your bloody fist looks familiar and you suspect you owe a few semiconscious furries an apology before they regain their wits and call a lawyer. Yeah, fun! 

You’re not going to find anything of that sort at Loscon. Though I hear the Scientologists put on a pretty fancy ice cream social in the party wing. Sprinkles and everything. (Party wing, indeed. Hmph! You know nothing of party wings, Yawn-Con! A tube of Pringles and an open door does not make a party.)

Needless to say, I will not be attending Loscon this year. I’d rather eat spicy light bulbs until I bleed internally. I’ll gladly fly to Seattle every year for Norwescon. I wouldn’t dream of missing it. But I will not even take a bus to LAX to go to Loscon again.

So, what is a Los Angeloser like me to do? 

I mean, damn, there are MILLIONS of people in LA. Surely some of them must know their ass from a bag of holding. But how do I find them? If this UCLA group doesn’t work out, what should I do? Shall I go begging door to door for social engagement in my Soylent Green t-shirt, clutching a copy of Astro City like an old family Bible, wishing that some secret enclave of cool nerds will take pity on me, bring me in from the cold and sit me down by the fire with a blanket and a plate of nachos? Dare I dream that they will, in great kindness, play Settlers of Catan with me and quote Mystery Science Theater 3000 until the pain stops? What do you think, sirs?

Any advice? Commiseration? Any LASFS members spoilin’ for a rumble? Help me, Tor.com, you’re my only hope.

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