Sunday, June 01, 2008

More on Class

I followed a link to a site titled Education and Class and found it very interesting.

There was a test to measure privilege, which I took. It was about the way you grew up: books in the house, art museums, educated parents and relatives, enough money in the family to pay for college... I answered 'yes' to almost every question. Patrick, if he took the test, would have answered 'no.' But it seems to me we have ended up in about the same place, making the same kind of money, having the same interests. We both learned our skills through years of working jobs that I would describe as working class, Pat as a tech in a hospital, me as a clerk in an office, and have now scrambled into jobs that are more or less professional.

I guess I should point out that I was writing and becoming a moderately well known science fiction writer, while I worked as a clerk. Patrick was reading and thinking and learning about American society and culture.

I just lost part of this post while editing it and need to recreate it...

When you go to a science fiction convention, you see a lot of people in tee shirts and blue jeans, who are carrying around stacks of books and talking intensely to each other. Some people wear exotic costumes, as if at a costume ball; and there are a few people in casual business garb, academics or publishing professionals.

What do they do for a living? It varies. I've met technical workers, clerical workers, retail clerks, a janitor, a cab driver, college profs, a lot of librarians...

What ties these people together is their love of science fiction, which came out of the 30s and 40s pulp magazines, read -- I have always thought -- by kids and working people. This was not an elite fiction. Reading it was not the road to social success. It was going to rot your mind, the same as reading comic books and Mad Magazine.

Plenty of different kinds of people read and love SF now. But the core fandom still remains a bit outside normal American social structures, or so I am arguing right now. People come to fandom from different social backgrounds and often from mixed social backgrounds. What they have in common -- often -- is a sense of alienation.

If you fit neatly into your social environment, SF is likely to be a lot less appealing. If you think you have ended on the wrong planet, and ask yourself, "who are these people, and why are they behaving this way?" Then you may be a science fiction fan.

Outside the convention, people may fit back into the social hierarchy of their job, neighborhood and family. But at the con, you cannot use the same social signals.

I assume this is true of many hobbies. Within the hobby, what matters is your hobby status.

In this kind of environment, it is not always easy to talk about class. You can't look down on Fred. He makes the best crystal sets of anyone, even though he's a janitor.


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