"How I learned to stop worrying, and love the fandoms"

A year and some months ago, in December of 2012, I got a job teaching at a small college. I had spent most of the past few years before that cooling my heels in Montana, and in 2012, I was starting to get really desperate to move on to my life. So when I got a "position", I was happy, I felt I was starting a new life. Thanks to the miracle of daylogging, I can read what I felt at the time, and I actually used that phrase: I was starting a new life. I imagined that I was on the way to becoming a professional adult, that I would meet new people, make new contacts, and put myself in the good habits leading to a productive, mature lifestyle.

It didn't happen that way. I made no new friends in my new town, professional or otherwise, and my job turned out to not have enough work for me. After two terms and two weeks of summer term, I returned to Montana. Behind that, there were other things going wrong: 2013 was an almost-comedically ridiculous series of disasters. At one point, within 48 hours, I had to teach the last class of my term, move out of my apartment, and travel 100 miles for a root canal. But I am not here to talk about 2013, which I am trying my best to forget. Instead, I want to tell you about Homestuck.

During my first two weeks in that city, I was stuck in an extended stay motel, and with no connections or friends, I found something on the internet, a webcomic that I had heard of after playing EarthBound. At first I thought it was internet wackiness for the sake of wackiness, yet another foray into the ethos of random. But with enough time, and enough other burdens to be blotted out, I grew attached to this seemingly frivolous story. Instead of going to dinner parties with my fellow faculty where we sipped wine, looked out on the ocean, and discussed the latest in belles lettres, I pretty much spent my time online, discussing the ins and outs of a gnostic fairy tale. I even took to viewing and later using internet media that I had previously disdained, such as tumblr.

This was not all about Homestuck. This was about all the things that fall under the category of "fandom", which to me means people, strangers, who are tied together and connected over discussing the fine points of works of fiction. This might seem childish, and at times it is, but there is a kind of devotion and seriousness that comes from treating fiction as an important thing. In fact, I have come to believe that those who can not treat fiction seriously can never really take reality seriously, either.

Part of the reason that I find more affinity for the youth is that I am impressed by how much critical thinking they bring to the world. Although their are jokes about social justice warriors and their nitpicking of seemingly irrelevant matters, I haven't found much hysteria on tumblr. I've instead found a rather serious pursuit of thinking about the world and trying to make it better. This contrasts to what I have seen on the whole from the boomer media, which is an attitude of cynical credulity, combined with the smugness of people who think they are experts for repeating truisms. I wrote an essay about "STEM" education, something that is a good exemplar of cynical credulity. There are people who will have an interaction with a young person who is bad at math and decide that an entire generation is uneducated (credulity), and that the reason for this is grasping teachers unions (cynicism), and that the cure for this is "standards based education" (credulity) which is backed up with "EVIDENCE" (more credulity). And then they will repeat something about how the US has to improve education to compete with the global workforce blah blah blah and they will say this as if they discovered a cure for cancer (truisms, smugness, more smugness). Against this wave of pretend problems and false solutions, I find more energy from the generation that is developing, a generation that hasn't really been described yet. Although I perhaps haven't thought of all the reasons and consequences of this, and I dread being a "cool English teacher", I just find something undeniably vital in the culture that is just now forming, which might be the culture of the 21st century.

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