I’ve written many times about toxic fan groups, and one of my oldest friends in fandom wrote me a letter about it. Printed with permission and light edits to remove personal information.

Yesterday I got into a twitter-spat with a friend from many years ago.

It was really kind of terrifying, but it gave me the opportunity to reflect on one of the things I am most thankful for.:

Having known you.

That fellow and I were once quite tight. What’s scary is that looking back I was well on my way to ending up like he has.

The man I spoke to yesterday was once just like me and is now sustained only by resentments and finds his self worth only in vitriolic hatred masquerading as righteousness.

Knowing you when I did helped to blow fresh air on the dying embers of my self awareness. It inspired me to get the hell out of the emotional tar pit my social circle often was, and, as a wise person once said, stop “muddling through life with delusions of adequacy”.

The seeds of sloth, cowardice and hate are within us all. A lack of self reflection and malignant associations are the water and soil needed to grow those weeds. Knowing you helped me catch myself, and be on guard against the self destructive aspects of my nature.

For that I am forever thankful.

I once had it out with this friend, and a few other friends, that the fan circle was dragging them down and keeping them in a place where they could never be outstanding in any way. The entire group were the biggest bunch of crabs in a barrel I’ve ever encountered.

I could be pretty harsh, telling someone they were “muddling through life with delusions of adequacy,” which wasn’t a very nice thing to say. But it drove me crazy how often these talented, smart folks would settle for less, or worse yet, let their fan circle of “friends” deliberately drag them down and belittle them until they stopped trying for better.

They were the sort of people who were always there to buy an alcoholic another drink, which is not a metaphor.

You need serious emotional backbone to get away from that dreck.

The worst fan art and fan fic were given golden trophies for participation, but by God, if you went pro or accomplished something in the real world, they’d piss on it.

If you were one of the few pros in that circle, you’d better stay low enough not to rise higher than their egos. I recall one writer whom I’d known for years who became inflamed with jealousy when I started working with J Michael Straczynski! The jealous writer (you’ve no doubt never heard of him, he doesn’t write fiction) sent me furious emails about how my life would soon be ruined by all the hi-flying people with whom I was keeping company.

Obviously, I was undeserving, and these people were just messing with me.

As of 2004, he was still advising me to get out of comics as he’d done for years, since that comics gig was going nowhere!

Whew, sure glad I didn’t listen to this dude!

My response to the letter.

I want you to know once more how much this meant to me.

I realized a long time ago that many of my early friends in fandom and prodom were incredibly toxic people. They don’t like to see you change or get better at anything. They just want everything to remain as it was in 1987.

I think I finally cut ties with all of these people and my life has changed for the better. I’m glad I didn’t steer you wrong.

I can’t believe how angry, resentful, and full of self pity some of these people are, and so ready to drag other people down over the dumbest things. I think they were always like that, I just didn’t see it.

Anyway, thanks again

I haven’t spoken to that ass of a writer in well over ten years. Or any of the rest of these people.

Good riddance.