The World Best Fans: Introducing New Zealand fandom.

In this series, we introduce some key players in New Zealand’s fan community, beginning with Lynelle Howell!

Lynelle, when did you get involved in science fiction and fantasy fandom?

I went to my first convention in 1993 – Defcon, with my then-boyfriend (now husband) John Howell. Since then I think I’ve only missed two NZ conventions.

Describe your involvement. In the past. Currently. Does that involvement spill over into your everyday life?

Wow? Where to start? I have chaired two conventions (Cond’Or in 2000 and Icon in 2005) been on the Phoenix Science Fiction club committee since about 2002, and produced the Phoenixine since 2005. I have been involved with SFFANZ since its inception, and administrator of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards since 2003. I guess you could say that with all that, it’s spilled into my everyday life

What do you love about the New Zealand fandom scene?

I stay involved in fandom because the membership is like a family – some of us have been in fandom for more than 20 years, and going to conventions is like having a family holiday. You have your crazy uncles, your dotty aunts and your closest cousins all in one place.

Have you been involved in fandom outside New Zealand?

I’ve attended the 1999 Worldcon, but haven’t specifically been to other conventions. I am, however, going to Continuum 13 in Melbourne next month.

Conventions in the age of the internet: the need still exists – yes or no? 

Absolutely. If only for the existing group of fans who still enjoy getting together. Of course, I want to see an encouragement of new blood (and I’m doing my bit by raising two new fen). If we look at the success of Armageddon, we can see there’s clearly a cult following of all things fannish, we just need to find a way to encourage more people to explore fandom and its benefits.

What’s your favourite fandom/trope?

Hmmmm…..

Tell us your favourite fandom activity other than standing at the bar!

Filking, provided my voice can hold out. Or perhaps, modellanary? It’s actually hard to pin that down now. I spend so much time “working” at cons (with awards and SFFANZ) that sometimes it’s hard to remember how to have fun!

You’re on a spaceship bound for a new life on one of Neptune’s moons. What book/game/film/graphic novel/artwork will you pack to take with you? Space is limited.

Babylon 5 series DVD.

The word speculative: do you love it or hate it?

HATE it.

In your view what are the biggest barriers facing our genre community today? 

Ah, you’ve given me a soapbox. Dangerous that. The biggest barriers to fandom are age and the internet. As a fan group we’re not getting any younger, but we’re struggling to get the youth of today to show up at conventions. That’s because we’re not able to compete with the likes of the pulp culture expos or the internet – people want to be entertained, they don’t necessarily want to have to think about things. The joy of conventions is discussing in detail your favourite book, show, author. At an expo there’s no room for that – people can see things and be entertained without thinking. So we have to find a way to co-exist with the expos. We have to find a way to draw a younger crowd. There are also issues of fractions. Back in the good old days we used to have role-players, larpers, gamers, media fen, lit fen all turn up at conventions. Now there are different events throughout the country for each individual group. As such, fans are spreading themselves thin, and science fiction conventions are being squeezed down. If we could find a way to co-exist together, ensuring events weren’t on the same weekend ‒ that would go a long way to helping all groups.

What was your most memorable moment in fandom? 

Well, that’s the most difficult question. I have had so many I’m not sure where to start….

Any parting thoughts? 

Again, you give me leading questions. I could write dissertations. Perhaps if you give me a lifetime I could write all the parting thoughts in my head….

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