Science fiction seems to provide fertile subject matter for communities; in fact, these communities sometimes outlive and outshine the science fiction worlds that inspired their creation.
So where does it all start? Like Tomorrow People fan tiylaya, many of you thought you were alone in your enthusiasm for a long time. When you discovered you weren't, you were overjoyed.
"For many years I thought I was the only person to remember what seemed like a short-lived children's drama of the 1990s [The Tomorrow People]. It was only after I found the internet that I realised that there was a seventies series as well I now have many friends in the online Tomorrow People community, and we share common ideals which we saw echoed in the show." tiylaya.For many, when we happen across that show, book, or film that really connects with us, the primary drive is to find people to share it with. Going by your comments, it's a compulsion that's characteristic of the genre - other pastimes rarely prompt us to reach out in a similar fashion. With science fiction, we're curious about viewpoints others might be able to offer, and there's also the sheer pleasure and release in talking to those who just 'get it'.
Above and beyond that, in the case of tiylaya and many others, science fiction indicates a way we should live our lives, and it's exciting to discover folk who subscribe to those same notions. In short, it's about meeting like-minded people. Making friends.
"[Babylon 5's] had a huge influence on my life, I met my Wife at a B5 fan club - in fact it was responsible for three marriages." cgarvieuk
"So I started to post to Babylon 5 discussion forums," says BobSteele, "and [met some of the] contributors [...] Suffice to say those people are still amongst my best friends." You see? "Blake's 7 has meant making new friends from across the country," reports KallyUS, while TheDoctorAlt8 reveals: "I met my boyfriend at my first science fiction convention".
"At 14, it seemed that no one really understood where I was coming from. And then The Tripods came. Here was a programme which suggested that the populace at large preferred to simply accept things as they are. Questioning the system in which they lived was not an option [Years later I discovered I] have borderline Asperger syndrome, and published my autobiography The Feeling's Unmutual. Amazingly, [The Tripods author] John Christopher agreed to endorse it!" Will-Hadcroft.Adrian Andrews was one of the people for whom the BBC series The Tripods had a huge impact on their life and relationships. "I was totally inspired by it from the off [...] and later was granted "official" status by series Producer Richard Bates to run the fan club." he recalled. "From that point on I made great strides towards changing many aspects of my life. Due to my friendship with the cast I became a Buddhist, accepted my sexuality which I had battled with for a considerable amount of time and fulfilled a boyhood dream and trained as an actor."
Science fiction can uncover different views on the world, and this can be profound, particularly when we embrace the culture surrounding the genre. The same show helped Will-Hadcroft discover his place within the ordinary world, and inspired him on to his own creative achievements.
"I was a diehard Star Trek fan. What totally drew me over [to Babylon 5] was a convention attended by Jason Carter (Marcus [in the show]). While the Star Trek guests in the signing queue were very, "Next. Name? Here. Next!" Jason annoyed the organisers by personalising stuff [...] and generally treating the fans as human beings." lionEntilzha.
It's clear from your recollections that science fiction fans positively seek out SF communities, sometimes even changing 'allegiances' on the discovery of a vibrant, welcoming fellowship.
To find the fanbase before the show may seem back to front, but why not? As we're already seen, the community that surrounds SF actively reflects the fiction at its core.
Want an obvious example? Let's take a jump to the left...
"The Rocky Horror picture show should be seen by any science fiction fan, it's a lot of fun to attend. There is no other performance like it where people not only know the words, but add new lines to make jokes out of the next lines uttered by the actors. Its a riot." frogpondgirl.It’s clear the people responding to the humour and camp craziness of the Rocky Horror Picture Show possess, at the very least, a modicum of those qualities themselves - in much the same way Doctor Who fans are often drawn from a similar, pleasingly eccentric stock as the time-traveller, or devotees of Orwell's 1984 are oft prone to soberly scrutinising the doublethink of modern day life.
At their very best, SF communities are also creative."[Iain] Banks basically reinvigorated 'My Science Fiction Life'. Now I write for fanzines (including an online Banks fanzine), go to SF conventions, and occasionally meet the man himself." edorm69. Floating around out there in fanzines or on the web are millions and millions of words, written in love and enthusiasm about SF. Inspired by the genre, and - even more importantly - their science fiction peers, people like edorm69 are creating bodies of work which can turn into whole fan-constructed worlds, often eclipsing the material that kick-started their creation.
The fans take control
And it's not a one-way process. Some have been lucky enough to see the science fiction creators who first fired their imagination become a part of their projects. We’ve already heard about Will-Hadcroft and his encounter with John Christopher. But there are many other examples.
"I started reading Christopher Priest in the early 80s and met him at the World SF Convention in 1987. We became firm friends [and] I was honoured when he agreed to write the foreword to my own book, 100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels." StephenEAndrews.Others, meanwhile, have managed to have a direct influence straight back into the work that got them started.
jjarold, for instance, "loved [Iain Banks'] brio and wit. Within one year I was his paperback publisher, and two years later I published the hardback of Use of Weapons (still my favourite of his SF novels) as editorial director of Orbit."
The influence of science fiction on the communities it spawns, and the way that can echo back into the genre itself, is an integral part of its appeal. It's a process that's peculiar to science fiction, a place where the terms "professional fandom" and "semi-pro" were coined. It's importance mustn't be underestimated. Just look at the roster of shows - including Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Farscape - which lasted a lot longer than they would have without fan campaigns.
From friendships to philosophy; life to loves; no-Star Trek to Star Trek - the communities encompass the lot.
And all because science fiction fans just love talking.
"I kept a scrap book of cuttings from magazines when I was a kid which I always kept hidden away thinking no one else remembered [The Tomorrow People]. When the internet began, I discovered an on-line community of people to share my memories with. I now organise fan functions, run the largest UK web site and write DVD extras." miraculousAngeriana