Wednesday, September 5, 2018

An update on the gentrification of fandom

Neil Gaiman shared this, making it one of my most popular tweets:
In 1960, you could buy 10 comic books or three 35 cent paperback books for about $1, the minimum wage. Today, an hour's work at minimum wage, $7.25, will buy two comics or one paperback.
When a few people noted that it's hard to find a paperback under $7.95, I added:
To be precise, an hour's work at minimum wage will buy you a paperback for children, but not for adults or young adults: "School Library Journal: The list of average book prices for 2016 and 2017 to date."
I also recently shared Who Reads Science Fiction? - SFWA:
The Bowker Review says about sixty-five percent of book buyers make more than $50,000. My survey indicates science fiction readers are wealthier: seventy-two percent make more than $50,000. A majority of Sci Fi readers make more than $80,000.
That didn't generate much attention, probably because fans tend to be wealthy enough now that it doesn't surprise them. I suspect, like people who go to Disneyland, that they just take that for granted.

But fandom was more accessible to the working class back in the day, and not just because books were cheaper when compared to the minimum wage. I would love to know the cost of a Worldcon membership over the years—I do know it's usually been too expensive for me. My bet is that when compared to the minimum wage, it's far more expensive now.

That cost of admission affects everything about fandom. I've talked about gentrification of the genre before, so I googled to see if I'd said anything relevant now and found Simon Penner's Social Gentrification | Status 451, which begins:
Earlier this week a friend of mine was talking about nerd culture, and was surprised when I mentioned that I don’t like it. I avoid nerd culture and, despite being the exact target demographic, find it uncomfortable and unwelcoming. My friend found this puzzling and asked why. 
“It got gentrified,” was my reply.
I recommend reading the whole thing. Penner has smart observations about fandom and gentrification, both the good and the bad.

I also stumbled on a fair summary of my position at A response to George R. R. Martin from the author who started Sad Puppies | Monster Hunter Nation. Keranih commented:
People have said “I’m going to try to read more written by women.” They’ve said “I’m going to try to read more translated works” or “I’m going to try to read more by minorities.” (As Will Shetterly pointed out, they hardly never say “I’m going to read more by low income writers.”)