David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines
hradzka

on guns as a fandom

Every once in a while, when the arguments on comics and comics fandom's attitude towards women come up, I think about guns. Not because I think about guns anyway -- although, y'know, I do -- but because it gets me thinking about guns as a fandom.

I know it sounds weird, but think about it. Gun nuts are enthusiasts who are devoted to the current developments, practice, and history of their object of enthusiasm. They get together online to discuss the subject of their enthusiasm, argue the virtues of favored pairings 9 mm vs. .45ACP, make motivational posters spoofing their hobby, and split regularly into various camps, which then argue with each other. They even organize local and national gatherings for the benefit of practicing or shopping to support their hobby. And there's even stuff that could be considered gun fanfic out there -- not huge amounts, and a lot of it is pretty bad, but some of it is downright amazing.

(Curiously, there isn't much community dedicated to gun fic, probably because most of the authors who write it go to the expense to self-publish and then sell the book (online or at gun shows). A lot of it actually makes it into print as "freedom novels," small-press, libertarian-to-conservative stories that display the author's ideology in action. Many of these are SHTF ("shit hits the fan") epics, detailing the reaction of people to dire sets of circumstances, such as a Hurricane Katrina scenario or a country-wide economic collapse, but others just postulate on cultural issues. (I have thought about writing an analysis of freedom novels sometime, but I would hate to injure anybody. Seriously, the books' politics would make my flist's collective heads *explode.*)

Of my two fandoms, guns seems to be doing better at outreach than comics. Like comics fandom, gun fandom is still largely populated by white males. *But gun nuts know that it can't stay that way.*

The reason for that is that the fandom is actively threatened. Without getting too political, when you're a gun nut you have to pay a lot of attention to the law, so you know what you can do and what you can't. And a whole lot of people would like our fandom to be outlawed. If we want to keep that from happening, we need all the friends we can get. That's why there are groups like Second Amendment Sisters, focused on women getting other women shooting, and Pink Pistols, a queer-friendly shooting group. And the hidebound conservative gun nuts are glad they're around, because they don't have to agree on everything -- as long as they get more people liking guns. The more people there are who like guns, the less likely politicians will be able to get votes campaigning against them. That's not to say there aren't problems, but the community tries to deal with/discourage them, because they want new shooters of all stripes to feel welcome and have a positive view of the community.

The positive community presentation is important because a gun is a fair outlay of cash, and people are understandably reluctant to lay out a few hundred dollars from a position of ignorance. So there are two ways people get interested in guns. Either somebody they know takes them shooting, or they get interested on their own and do research. And these days, research on buying something is done online. Which leads you to where? ...*dingdingding.* The online firearms community. They want to present a positive image, because they want to win you over to the shooting sports. Whether you join an online gun forum or not.

Gun nuts don't necessarily want to make other gun nuts. But you bet your ass they want to make *shooters.*

Comics fandom is in a very different situation. Comic books aren't under legal threat nowadays, in part because -- to put it perfectly bluntly -- they don't sell well enough to be threatening to anybody. As a threat to concerned parents eager to protect their youths' precious bodily fluids, comics pale in comparison to the force of rap music, internet porn, and Paris Hilton. The threat comics faces is economic: they run the risk of disappearing altogether, or at least as we know them. So you'd think comics fans would see outreach as a major concern. And in some ways, it is; as fans age, they want to find comics for their kids to read, and get annoyed when there aren't any (or are too few). Or female fans want to pimp books out to friends, but then see the cover for Heroes for Hire #13 and think, "Why am I setting them up for something that'll make them uncomfortable or angry?" But I think that fannish outreach is different from gun nut outreach.

Remember how I said that gun nuts don't necessarily want new shooters to become gun nuts? Well, fans, by contrast, generally want to make... other fans. Fans are more wedded to what their community is than are gun nuts. This is one reason outreach is lacking: if you like what your community is, you don't want it to change. Whether you're a comics geek or a slash fan, you will get highly defensive if your community is questioned. There is somewhat less of this in gun fandom, because of 1) the primacy of the canon (if you will) and 2) less overlap; the major commonality between, say, benchresters and cowboy action shooters is that they want guns to be legal and available and sufficiently unrestricted that they can practice their hobby without worrying about running afoul of the law. You don't see benchresters going into cowboy action forums and saying, "Geez, why the heck do you guys wear such stupid outfits?").

Comics has to deal with this more than the gun business does. One gun-blogger has an extremely insightful essay on why gun companies aren't as responsive to gun nuts as they might be: *most people who buy guns aren't gun nuts.*

Well, most people who buy comics are comics fans.

And for comics, that's a problem.

Comics needs to grow the fandom. They do need to appeal to a broader audience. Most of the criticism they're hearing is from people *who are fans already* -- every once in a while, something breaks out, but it's not especially surprising they're not very motivated to do things differently. The entire comics business model is predicated on appealing to the existing fandom. Massive crossovers that run for a whole year, books that require you to follow several issues or years worth of continuity to know what's going on, one epic struggle followed by another, to the point that it requires a substantial investment of time and patience to read the major books. And if the fans recruit new people, they won't be occasional buyers: they'll be new serious fans.

So why should comics change?

And that's why gun fans are doing better at outreach than comics fans, and why the gun business is in better shape than the comics business. Even though you don't have to have a special license from the government to sell comics.

IMHO, anyway.
Tags: fandom, guns
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