Among the public and private responses to my July 25, 2012 post about our new publication The Missing Conversation, I was accused of being pretentious, elitist and of taking away from other’s approach to having fun with their hobby.
Comments like these presuppose that this is a monolithic hobby with only one way to enjoy it. Further, it seems that now the only purpose behind this hobby is to have fun with fun being interpreted as some form of escapist recreation. My response is, what is fun?
In his editorial in the August issue, Joe Fugate, Publisher of Model Railroad Hobbyist wondered out loud whether prototype modelers with their more serious approach were spoiling the fun of the hobby for everyone else. He feels among other things, that our emphasis on accuracy in regard to individual details on both the model and the scene as a whole is too intimidating and daunting for casual hobbyists or novices to the hobby. He also feels we look down on other modelers who prefer a simpler approach. Model railroading would be much better off if we just lightened up and had fun like everyone else.
Hmm! Who gets to define what fun is in this hobby? A magazine (any magazine) or the individual modeler? While I can’t and won’t deny that his assertions have some validity, because among modelers of all ranks and experience levels, there is no shortage of people who find a smug satisfaction in putting others down as immature as that behavior is.
I’m not at all certain what he thought to accomplish with the tone of his editorial other than fuel the very fire of criticism he finds so offensive. Mr. Fugate and I likely agree that this is a hobby of personal choice, in that you get to practice it as you see fit. Others don’t have to agree with your tastes and you don’t have to agree with approaches that hold little or no interest for you. The final decision in all cases lies with the person. Can we agree that’s enough?
My problem with these types of editorials is the implied one size fits all aspect behind the word “should.” We should be having fun doing it this way or we should be doing it that way. My nonnegotiable position is this: Other people don’t get to make those choices for me any more than they want me making their choices. Is that fair enough for everyone?
While I have many times been equally guilty of poorly chosen words, there is simply no room for imposing a monolithic, only-one-way-to-do-the-hobby mindset on anyone, novice, veteran, freelancer or prototype modeler. The practice of model railroading is as individual as the person engaging in it. If I prefer a more serious and disciplined approach, how does that in any way hinder someone who doesn’t and vice versa? All the freelancers and other casual hobbyists in the world aren’t going to stop me from modeling a scene down to the last piece of flaking paint if that is how I want to spend my time and talents. Am I not having fun as I’ve defined it for myself? In the view of many these days, apparently not. I respectfully disagree however, because I’m having a blast.
In this vein, our new publication The Missing Conversation is specifically written for modelers who enjoy the hobby as a way to practice a craft, develop skills and push their own personal limits to see what they can achieve. If this describes you, the inaugural issue will be on sale this Wednesday, August 1. We welcome you to come and join us on the journey.