Seven Year Itch

You know that irresistible urge to scratch an itchy spot that ought to be left alone? For ages this column has managed to ignore journalists being unspeakably patronizing about genre fiction readers, but one recent outbreak from The Celebrity Channel/Eleven (who?) is a classic of our time: "Eleven have never attended a sci-fi convention (honest), but if we ever did, we'd imagine it to be a rather tame affair. / You know – lots of geeks dressed as Wookies and Dr. Who, mingling around quietly with one hand on their inhaler and the other in their Mum or Dad's palm." Oh, thanks.

More of the g-word at Comic-Con: "It's the Cannes of geekdom, where everyone's a critic but nobody needs to see more than a minute of new footage to cast their verdict. They're the type of people who'd queue for a month just to smell one of Han Solo's socks, but their judgment now dictates the flow of billions of dollars.' (Guardian.) I promise that I have never, not even through my inhaler, smelt Han Solo's socks.

Even worse is the fashion stigma of tie-dye socks, or anything else tie-dyed. Because: "It's Terry Pratchett books and Games Workshop. It's the implication that elsewhere in your wardrobe there may lurk a T-shirt that says 'SMEG HEAD' and that, on occasion, when someone asks what you're having in the pub, you smirkingly ask for a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster." (Guardian.)

Yes, games fans are no better: "If you go to a games convention in the UK, you're generally surrounded by fat, smelly people with no social skills." (Financial Times.) All male, all unmarried: "Two science fiction films are up for Oscars, much to the delight of single men with a penchant for multi-sided dice.' (Guardian Sport.)

The official Guardian style guide even explains how to annoy the terminally sad: "Trekkers ... how to refer to Star Trek fans unless you want to make fun of them, in which case they are Trekkies."

Maybe the problem with us geeks is the company we keep: "Like paedophiles and science fiction fans, the far right were quick to wise up to the internet ..." (Guardian.)

When it came to mockery of Alastair Reynolds's million-pound Gollancz deal, you could detect a whiff of sour grapes in the Bookseller gossip blog: "Twitterers also tell me that the Al Reynolds mega book deal has been misreported too – that doesn't surprise me as no one would give a science fiction writer a million pounds for 10 books. I mean how many anoraks does a geek need? My spy tells me that it was actually an advance of £10 for a million books and not vice versa." Ho ho, jolly satirical.

Once in a blue moon, though, someone sees the other side – like Jason Solomons of the much-cited-above Guardian, after agreeing to talk about Avatar at what he thought was a technical conference but proved to be "a weekend-long gathering of slavering sci-fi fans [...] something beyond my worst nightmare." He bit the bullet, though, and on the day found those strange people with blue skinpaint, stripes, tails, etc. "were all very pleasant and went round hugging each other. And me. Embrace your nightmare, is today's lesson." Then Solomons moved on to watch Arsenal vs West Ham, surrounded by hordes of slavering footie enthusiasts of whom many were weirdly dressed or perhaps even face-painted, and had his epiphany: "I realized these two worlds were really just the same." Which is rather a commonplace insight in SF circles, but rare indeed for journalists. I wonder why?

David Langford is now feeling almost mellow, even about Grauniad hacks.