It’s time to talk about fan culture and writing

Speaking as a prodigal, and somewhat skeptical, recently-returned nerd, I can tell you that much of fandom makes my skin crawl. My theory is that because nerd culture had been historically very accepting (One of us! One of us!) in terms of who can and can’t join in, the open-door policy has led to a refuge for people whose ideologies (as opposed to predilections) have marginalized them from mainstream society. Couple this with the North American obsession with using celebrity as a replacement for a weak-assed myth system predicated on individual accomplishment and gluttonous consumption, and sadly, this morphs nerd culture into fan culture: a sandbox for misogynists, racists, homophobes, and their allied tradespeople.

It used to be that nerd culture was a haven for those who didn’t feel included in, or felt threatened by, mainstream culture, but now, as happens with all secret societies, that threat has infected the group itself so that the most dangerous aspects of it come from within. Anonymity and a total hatred for anything outside your own narrow window of desire has bred a strange, fantasy-worthy race of Supertroll Babies.

Imagine being a person who was drawn to our culture by the promise of acceptance and fun only to find the place riddled with toxic manboys (let’s face it, it’s nearly 100% men who are like this) ready to parse, discredit, dismiss, and ridicule your every move. Gross.

Anyway, beside the Star Wars/GoT racism/misogyny of last the last 20 years, there’s a strange little corner of toxic fan culture that revolves around making demands of the very artists who fuel it. Remember the absolute stupidity of petition to change the ending of Game of Thrones? Or those who are constantly berating authors like George Martin and Patrick Rothfuss who take upwards of 10 to 15 years to get around to a book. (We can’t all be Brandon Sanderson.) They know you’re waiting. They’re working on it. It’s art, not a fucking Pizza Pocket. Who the fuck do you think you are that you get to demand an artist redo or speed up their work because it didn’t turn out the way you wanted or your obsessive mind can’t hold its proverbial horses? How privileged do you have to be to believe that you own a franchise simply because you like it? (I’d love for the next Star Wars movie to start with a pan across space to a planet that is just Kelly Tran’s head looking out at the audience and saying, “You’re all shit”)

Also, Goodreads is a cesspool.

But I digress (as I am wont to do) and ramble off-the-cuff (as I try not to do). Here’s an article from Bookriot about this very thing: Authors don’t owe you shit (profanity mine).

Cover painting for one of Sanderson’s books by Michael Whelan… If you’ve ever held a sword, you know how fucking difficult it must have been on the shoulders and forearms to hold it out like that… Fantasy isn’t just about dragons!

The access to our favorite creators that the internet affords us has instilled an expectation of said access—a truly awful feedback loop of entitlement and agitation. Such agitation is borne of when our favorite creators don’t perform to our standards. Content creators, including authors, have to in some way commodify their humanity in order to reach and satisfy their audience.

Everyone on the internet, from famous and successful artists to your weird uncle on Facebook, makes content of their personalities in this way. We are each performing a version of our personalities whenever we post something. You do it when you share pieces of your day on your Instagram story. Your weird uncle does it in his colorful rants about cancel culture. I’m doing it right now, in the form of this post on BookRiot.com.

No matter how smart and compartmentalized you believe your relationship is with the media you consume, there is no escaping the fact that the core essence of our digital and social media is predicated on this idea of access, and wherever there is access, so too will you find entitlement. Maybe someone who usually posts memes suddenly has a political take you disagree with. Maybe the comedy songwriter posts their serious music and you feel weird even giving it a chance. Maybe the fantasy author whose books you adore is spending what you think is too much time on Twitch playing Minecraft.

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