Geek Chic

Geek is pretty chic right now. I’ve been reading some of the Comic-Con coverage and marveling (no pun intended) at how interest has spiked in people and characters I could never get people to talk to me about before. Joss Whedon’s been my master since 1997, and back then there was no empire of Whedon fans. It was pretty much just me as far as I could tell. Now the man’s a force known across the world. Does that make my love of his work any less mine? Does it make my fan-boyness any cooler or more valid because I was on the bandwagon first?

 

In the Comic Con news, I think the announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy has affected me most so far. I used to (before my mom sold most of them) own every appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy and every issue of their eponymous series. This was before the franchise reboot of a few years ago. Stakar and Major Vance Astro were mine alone, and the rich and engaging sci-fi universe that Jim Valentino developed in those first few seasons of Guardians still influences my writing and dreaming today. What will become of the Guardians when the rest of the world gets their hands on them? Does the interest create something vulgar out of my own private dream world, or is it a direct line of life support brining my heroes out of obscurity and into the limelight?

 

It’s a hard question to answer. I think sometimes it depends on what side of the line you are as a fan-boy or -girl and what they do with the characters. For example, I’ve long since gone back and listened to the old The Shadow radio series and read some of the old tales. But I first learned of The Shadow from the abysmal 1990s film. So to me, the film was a boon, because it introduced a nearly forgotten character to me and gained him a new fan. But what would I have felt like if I’d been a fan of The Shadow and then saw that abomination of a film? Would I have felt hurt and betrayed? How about you? Maybe you’d feel relieved that an attempt to reinvent your icon was thwarted by being so badly done that the icon returns to belonging to just you and a handful of others.

 

When done right, I like a good sell-out. I’m so proud of the Doctor and what he’s become. I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since I was practically a toddler back in the early 80s. And the BBC has not only revived him, they’ve done it with dignity, respect, and love of the character and turned him into a much more well-known character outside of the UK. I think that’s great news for the Doctor. But would I have been so happy if they’d done to him what they did to The Shadow? Even if it got people watching the old shows again? I have a feeling not.

 

So is all this conversion into the mainstream good for sci-fi/fantasy? Or does it portend ill omens when men in suits with no imagination turn their full attention to positioning a product of unchecked imagination as a sellable commodity?

To Whom Does a Fantasy World Belong?

To whom does a fantasy world belong? I was thinking about this recently when reading about the (now seemingly abandoned) possibility that there could be a Buffy movie without Joss Whedon.

 

At first blush, this idea seems ludicrous. How could you separate the Buffy-verse from Joss? But then I thought about all those characters and fantasy universes that have both found success surviving past their original creators’ contributions and also fallen flat when left in the hands of creators who have long since moved past creating them in a way that pleases the fans.

 

Marvel’s a clear example that comes to mind for me of the first idea. Stan Lee created the X-Men and Spider-man–but some of the most iconic characters and story lines associated with those fantasy franchises weren’t his. Wolverine, Emma Frost, Black Cat, Venom were all created by other talents who took over the fantasy world Lee gave us. And what would those franchises be without those characters?

 

Star Wars seems like a good example of the second concept. Before the original trilogy had ended, thousands of fans were already creating fan fiction and participating in a shared experience of that galaxy far far away. When Lucas returned to the galaxy more than a decade after leaving it, he rewrote and reimagined many key concepts and pieces that really rubbed many of the fans who had taken ownership the wrong way. Didn’t Han shoot first?

 

Can the creation be separated from the creator? Though we may think the author of a work of SF&F has the definitive authority over what is and isn’t part of that world or story, isn’t it true that sometimes ownership does and should pass to the fans and writers who follow him or her?