Date of Award

8-3-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Resa Crane Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Karen Hellekson, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study reveals science fiction fan culture as it was observed during a science fiction convention in southern California in 2009. Conventions, although social gatherings, are also places where learning takes place, and the culture is shared. The researcher, a fan herself, collected demographic data through an anonymous survey, then interviewed several fans to develop information about their educational history, cultural attitudes, and interactions with text. The evidence presented shows this group identifies itself as a subculture with its own language, arts, values, and traditions. Fandom also exhibits many characteristics of an affinity group as described by Gee (2003), in that its members are united by a common cause, and hold similar attitudes toward knowledge acquisition and information sharing. After describing who science fiction fans are, this study explores the many types of texts with which fans interact, and the types of literacy they demonstrate by doing so. In addition to being proficient readers of traditional text, fans demonstrate strong visual, computer, and genre literacy skills. Fans use these skills to interact with multiple forms of media including books, movies, television, art, blogs, fan fiction, and video games, to name a few. Furthermore, fan interests are shown to span a variety of text types including mainstream literature and nonfiction, as well as other genres. Finally, the study discusses the implications some of its findings may have for education. Importantly, it appears that a free reading program (especially as described by Krashen in 1993), which encourages students to read what they choose, would be an efficacious method of motivating students to practice higher order thinking skills. Furthermore, students should be encouraged to interact with multiple types of texts across a variety of genre including, but not limited to, science fiction. This implies that students need access to a variety of reading material including classics, genre literature, comic books, and graphic novels.

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