There was recently a release of outraged articles when George R. R. Martin called some of his own fans “internet assholes”. Further back, there were angry trekkies when William Shatner announced that he would no longer sign autographs outside of paid convention signings. During his baseball career, Barry Bonds was famously hostile to his fans.
Fans, short for fanatics, are a strange community. Many creative people are good at creating, but bad at navigating the increasingly difficult interactions with fan communities. The RPG designer Kevin Crawford avoids social media, writing:
“As a general rule, I shun social media. I only appear on Reddit or forums or such to provide technical help for my games, or sometimes to give suggestions about small publisher best practices. If it were possible to live in a world where I was nothing but a name on a book spine to the public, it’d be bliss, but life’s never quite that simple.”Kevin Crawford
I read an article years ago about a young man in the mid 1900’s who was obsessed with celebrity. He was able to meet, interact with, and become friends with all sorts of famous people up to, and including, President Nixon after his resignation. Apparently this changed when John Lennon was shot and killed by a fan in 1980 and famous people became more cautious of their fans.
I certainly don’t have anyone who I’d consider a fan of my fiction (although I’ve gotten a 5 star rating from one reader on Goodreads, so maybe I have at least one fan!). In the past, when I used to write for a Canadian personal finance blog I had tons of regular readers and commenters, some of whom might have considered themselves fans. I also wrote things many people disagreed with, some very passionately, but usually any vitriol was directed at the ideas, not me personally.
My co-blogger once wrote a post comparing paying your mortgage monthly or bi-weekly and concluded that there wasn’t a big difference between the two approaches. He got an e-mail from a reader who wrote “How is it any of your business how I pay my mortgage? Fuck you, you fat fucking pig!”
Most YouTubers will occasionally post a video with all the nasty comments they receive. People are mean online, it’s true, but these days creators bring out an especially nasty side of people. Paul Graham wrote an interesting essay about haters. Most popular creators will have a group of such haters, people who are obsessed with them, follow everything they do, and loathe them. It’s strange to me that people with such disdain would keep consuming that creator’s content, but they do!
Cancel culture has become a prominent issue. My take on it is that someone gets cancelled when they have a group of haters who work hard to prevent them from earning a living. Beyond cancelling, haters have doxed celebrities, revealing personal information about them that they try to keep private.
It was a tough issue for me deciding whether or not I wanted to use a pen name when I started writing. I’m happy to take responsibility for my ideas and my writing, which is why I eventually decided to use my real name. However, fans and haters can be challenging groups of people to deal with. Giving them the extra ammo of my personal information is something I may regret in the future.