Author Topic: Definitions of fantasy, the British issue and the future of the BFS  (Read 2645 times)

C.R. Barker

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There have been some very interesting comments regarding the name of the BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY and these sparked two trains of thought in my mind.

Judging by genre reference books, the term 'fantasy' is almost always linked with science fiction and fantasy. John Clute's reference books invariably refer to 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' for example. In contrast, E.F. Bleiler refers to 'supernatural horror', a term which covers both 'horror' and 'ghost' stories. I can therefore understand why some horror fans might flock to other societies which have horror or ghost in the society name, perhaps deterred by the probably insufficient catch-all word 'fantasy', just as I can see why some fantasy fans would, after joining the BFS, be scratching their heads at the apparent bias shown towards supernatural horror.

I have little doubt that the general public would, if asked to free-associate with the word fantasy, would mention things like Excalibur, Lord Of The Rings, C.S. Lewis etc etc. I can't see very many mentioning horror or ghostly words. So yes, one could argue that technically the word fantasy is meant to be an umbrella-term which provides for both sci-fi fantasy and supernatural horror, but in reality, I think it is stretching the word too far. For that reason, the name BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY is perhaps something of a misnomer.

On the one hand I like the idea of there being a society dedicated to British genre fiction, on the other, it worries me slightly. However, the name BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY is much less of a misnomer than WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION or INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD, because both of those organisations are more or less dedicated to American artists, with a smattering of UK representation. The notion that they cater for the non-English speaking world is plainly untrue. However, Americans have often view the world through their eyes only, whether it be via Hollywood film or baseball (the "World Series" baseball championship being a case in point). So given the bias of American-based orgs to homegrown talent, it would appear to make sense for us to have a British society of a similar nature. (Though whether or not it should be called a Fantasy Society or a Fantasy & Horror Society remains a moot point.) However, this poses us with a dilemma: should we not act in accordance with our nation's political aims, and strive to create a European Society, since our non-English speaking neighbours with whom we share much in the way of culture are poorly represented by so-called 'World' bodies.

I can see the merits to expansion. Membership numbers might escalate and the Society could double, triple, even quadruple in size. And with the internet, it could all be done online. On the other hand, it couldn't be acheived without representatives in countries like France, Holland, Germany and Italy joining the Society and taking a regular active part. Of course English should be the primary language used in journals and websites; this would prove attractive to many European-looking Americans.

One could argue that to just sit back and remain stubbornly just the BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY is safer and easier and at least preserves the status quo, but is that really good enough for the society's long term survival? As things stand, the Society could even defragment into Horror and Fantasy splinter groups, which would surely weaken the power of UK artists, publishers and writers. By replacing the existing name with one that would appeal to a far wider number of people - for example, THE BRITISH SOCIETY OF FANTASY AND HORROR - would surely pay dividends quickly, both in terms of appealing to potential new customers and in ameliorating the concerns of some already in the society. And if European expansion might bring about a resurgence in the Society's fortunes, perhaps creating a new super-society that would rival anything currently in America, then the name would again have to carefully chosen so as to appeal to our regional neighbours (perhaps something like THE EUROPEAN SOCIETY OF FANTASY AND HORROR).

I've sat back and watched how people discuss issues relating to the management of the BFS for several months now, and the thing that has struck me most is that although the volunteers do a sterling job, the focus has almost always been on the minor issues. How much will beer cost at the convention, for example. In contrast, there is very little debate about the bigger picture. Indeed, this is why I deem Ramsey Campbell a less than successful leader. Clearly there IS a perception problem about the whole fantasy / horror issue, just as there is a pressing need for the Society to consider how it can expand, yet where one would normally look to the leader of an organisation for guidance, there would appear to be none. Undoubtedly RC must have talents in other fields, but I'm afraid that he doesn't in my opinion cut the grade as a dynamic business leader. We don't just need a writer as a figurehead, we need someone who can help push through improvements.

Anyway, this is just my opinion, but I'd be very interested to see what others might think.


PS. It's a salutory thought, but when you search for 'BFS' on Google, the British Fertility Society has a higher ranking than us. 



Offline mightyjoeyoung

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Re: Definitions of fantasy, the British issue and the future of the BFS
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2011, 12:33:08 pm »
Today I began trawling through forum material from the dark recesses of the threads and came across this. Although I don't agree with parts of it there's some food for thought here, and it's showing that my recent thoughts aren't so new after all.

Oddly enough it got absolutely no replies, which I would prefer to think was more political than just out of ignorance.

Worth a discussion perhaps?