Common Ground: Can a Mutual Love of Genre Tear Down Political Walls?

C’mon now. We may laugh, but the idea of a Space Force is hella cool.

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Art by Timothy Lim

I loved “Flash Gordon” as a kid. I used to sit with my dad and brothers, glued to our television, watching marathons of the old Buster Crabbe serials in much the same fashion many of us watch and enjoy streaming series today.

The serials inspired me to one day become an astronaut and journey to the planet Mongo, or the moon, whichever was closer.

The second “Flash Gordon” serial, and my favorite of the posters

Life, however, had other plans. Somewhere down the road I developed acute claustrophobia. Neither flying nor the New York subway system bothered me; but elevators?

Forget about it.

I have an idea how that started, but it’s of no matter here. Needless to say, my aspirations of being the next Neil Armstrong were to be put on hold. Permanently.

“Terror Talk” and My Buddy Chris

Decades later …

I’m producing a new episode of “Terror Talk,” an upcoming roundtable talk show devoted to horror media and its relation to contemporary social issues, for fledgling subscription service “Terror TV.” One of my co-producers, Chris McLennan (credit where it’s due), and I are discussing politics. She says to me, “I realized something. You get a bunch of horror personalities and fans in a room together for an hour, regardless of personal politics, and at the end of that hour they’re friends who agree to disagree.”

I found the statement provocative. I considered my own personal experiences in the genre, and whether or not for me those words held weight. They did, save for one thing: at least on the surface, horror fandom and science fiction fandom appeared to be two separate beasts.

Toxic Fandom

Why is it — and this intended as neither an accusation nor an insult, simply an observation — that horror fandom appears to be, by and large, a peaceful lot, while science fiction, gaming, and fantasy fans appear to consistently and vocally stand on political principle? Again, I stress, this is only an observation. I rarely go a week without seeing an article about a science fiction convention where panelists, fans and/or organizers fight, sometimes physically, over various “rights” or political issues, or where “The Last Jedi” is not excoriated as history’s least favorite film.

Rian Johnson is the Antichrist, you know. (The ferocity of fans who dislike “The Last Jedi,” a film I unapologetically adore, is stunning. Two years later, they continue to publicly shred any mention of the film, Disney, Rian, Kathleen Kennedy … it doesn’t end.)

Science fiction cons are sometimes minefields, populated by so-called “social justice warriors” and their Sith-like counterparts — who walk among the fans with no agenda — whereas horror gatherings seem to be the more vivre et laisser vivre (live and let live) of the two.

Right?

If this perception is at all measurable, and true, it’s fascinating that those who enjoy slicing, dicing and sucking blood for either a living or a hobby are some of the calmest and warmest people I’ve met.

To Chris’ Contention

I agree with her as I’ve seen it myself time and again. Horror fans of any political stripe, of any belief system or sexuality, will sooner turn a conversation from politics to the finer points of Tom Savini’s makeup from “Dawn of the Dead” (the ’78 version, of course).

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“Dawn of the Dead”

This is not to say that we’re not an opinionated lot. We certainly are. “Terror Talk” exploits exactly that. But we consume the poison of others with a clear glass.

To those involved in SF and fantasy fandom, of which I am as well … look. Donald Trump’s Space Force — as much as I cannot abide the man — is fun to ponder. How many of our conversations will turn, in time, to the latest and greatest space war over climate control, interplanetary drug distribution, and international gangs claiming their territories?

Who will become the first President of the Universe?

Alas, most of us will not be around for the spoils. Still, once an active Space Force is ensconced in our global culture, future generations may well get tired of endlessly debating it.

Perhaps by then they’ll return to bygone eras and reminisce about the “ancient times” of their ancestors, gathered over pizza and beer and discussing the great relics of the past.

Relics that may include “Flash Gordon” or, better yet, an original 1977 something that began in the midst of a fictional war and ended with hope.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …

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Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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