My niece is quickly becoming a huge Doctor Who fan. She started watching the show when it came back in 2005 and has grown up on it. She has a notebook in which she jots down everything she learns about the show. She has the name of every actor to play the Doctor in there and when she learns about a companion she hasn't heard of she notes them in her book of knowledge.
I have started to slowly wean her onto the classic show. I started her with The Time Warrior as it contained lots of elements she had seen in the modern show (Sarah Jane, UNIT, Sontarans) and this Christmas I gave her Robot. I always look forward to hearing what she thinks of these old shows. I love that I get to share a show I loved as a child with someone who is a similar age as I was when I started watching.
The reason I bring this up is that I worry. She has watched the show and formed her own ideas on what she likes, independent of the world of internet opinion. As she gets older she may wish to explore the world of online fandom and I worry about what she will find when she does. There are online communities out there that can be very hostile to people whose opinions do not conform to their own and the idea that she might receive a hostile reception both concerns and angers me.
The next generation of geeks are going to have a different take on the things that we hold dear and it might not be one that we like. They will have different expectations, as they have been raised on a different kind of entertainment to us. As these new genre lovers become internet users we may find the things we love challenged (and maybe more heinously things we hate loved) and we need to be ready to respond gracefully.
There are going to be people for whom The Phantom Menace was the film that made them fall in love with the Star Wars franchise. As much as some of us would love to unleash a Tim Bisley-style tirade at them, is that really fair? When they watched it they would have been oblivious to the history of the franchise. They would have no idea how disappointed we all were after all the hype. If they enjoyed a film with laser swords and a funny frog man that made them laugh, who are we to tell them they should hate it? My nephew enjoys Star Wars. If, hypothetically, he states on a forum that he loves Attack of the Clones, it concerns me that he could be lambasted as a Lucas apologist by adults who wish Lucas had given up after 1983.
We need to remember that it is a good thing that the next generation are consuming genre entertainment. We are enjoying a purple patch in sci-fi and fantasy media and the only way that is going to continue is if it is watched and enjoyed. We are at a tipping point in genre popularity where it can potentially transcend the perception of being a niche market that can only be enjoyed by “anoraks”. If we shout down the younger generation for not toeing some imaginary party line, we risk turning them away from the genre and alienating ourselves. I'd hate to think that 30 years down the line geek forums are only going to filled with bitter pensioners still arguing over whether or not the Ewoks are shit.
If my niece tells me that Adric is the best Doctor Who companion I don't deny that I'll be a little dismayed, but I will listen to why she thinks that. Her fresh perspective may cause me to see things in a new light. She probably won't change my opinion but then that isn't the point. What matters is two generations uniting in a shared love of something, even if they don't agree on the fiddly details. That is what the geek community as a whole should be striving for. We need to grow and evolve as a community or risk festering like some sort of gestalt Miss Havisham punishing the next generation for our own bitter disappointments.
And I for one look ridiculous in a wedding dress.