Fans aren’t the problem.
Let me repeat that. Fans aren’t the problem.
Fans are never the problem.
If you hear a pro (like me) grumbling about some odd incident, or some stalker, or someone coming out of the blue claiming they created our stuff, or whatever, you may hear us refer to a crazy fan. But that’s not true.
Fans don’t do these things. Aspiring pros do. Frustrated pros do. Angry ambitious creators do.
But fans? Never.
I have never in my entire life had a serious problem with ANY fan. Never a serious harsh word, never a grope or grab, never an inappropriate attempt to force a relationship. Every single serious problem I have ever had in my entire career has come from someone trying to get in the business, social climb, cement their position, or play power games with the position they already have.
But fans? Never.
Fans want to watch the movie, listen to the music, look at the pretty pictures, read the story. They are not looking to assimilate, they are not looking for power. Fans who are looking for power in fandom, are looking for status. They are not true fans.
*True Fans enjoy. True Fans experience.
But some people out there aren’t satisfied with that, or are not very happy that they can’t be a central part of the world they admire. It’s not even that these people are truly creators themselves. They simply want the cache of appearing to be creators. They want to have been creators more than they want to create. Which is why they latch on to creators for dear life, and conflate the attachment for all it’s worth.
A fan who actually wants to write for pleasure, and create fanfic, will happily do that without spending all their time running around accusing people of plagiarizing their stuff, or stealing their thunder. Or trying to cozy up to pros to steal their thunder or credit, or get power via proximity. A fan seeking power and status doesn’t necessarily have to produce very much, but they often have complaints about how someone has taken the glory to which they are entitled.
When I mention a bad experience, it’s not about you. I’m not worried you are going to do something. I’ve a very short list of bad experiences in my career. 90% of my problems have come from a tiny fraction of a percentage of the people I’ve met. They were aspiring pros or pros. But never fans.
I am a lot better about establishing boundaries and sensing the avarice and desperation from an aspiring pro that means trouble. So, I don’t have the troubles I used to so much anymore.
But fans? You have never, ever been a problem.
I just wanted you to know that, and to know I appreciate you.
ADDENDUM: A reader on twitter (paquito) wanted me to clarify that this post is not to mean fans who have the purest of motives and never want to be pros are the only REAL fans.
You can be a fan. You can be an aspiring pro. You can be a fan AND a pro, which is why I am now re-watching all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in chronological order. You can be an aspiring pro who never does any of the things I put in this post. Most of you are.
You should pursue your dreams. You should absolutely, positively want to make money on your work.
What this post is about is pros tend to recognize behaviors of a certain type of person who is angry, frustrated, insecure, looking to move up, or looking to dig in. And this is far more likely to be a pro than a fan.
It’s not about hampering your dreams.
There are reasons why many pros won’t look at manuscripts, or read fanfic, or why they are reluctant to look at portfolios.
It doesn’t mean that every pro or aspiring pro behaves like this. Not even close. It means the very, very small percentage that do causes almost all of the problems you will ever have. And that is why many pros tread lightly around people they don’t know well.
It’s not about how fans have universally pure motives. Wanting to make a living from your art is not an impure motive. Almost everything on my blog is dedicated to helping aspiring creators. Look at the sidebar. And I’ve hired people I knew in fandom over and over again. Wow, what an elitist!
It’s silly to interpret this as, “Oh, she’s afraid of losing her job! So she’s trying to discourage aspiring pros,” which is how one person read this. You’ve gotta be kidding me.
You can’t take my job, I own my own work. What you can do is sue me, stalk me, or simply claim you do all the creative work for me, after I hired you to pack and ship books in my warehouse. I spent over $24,000 defending myself from the bizarre legal campaign of a stalker, a published writer, who demanded over and over that I hire him. I just don’t get that kind of treatment from someone who simply wants an autograph.
That’s why, when I post something about this, I want fans to know, “I am not afraid of you. This is not about you.”
Aspiring pros. This is not about you either, wanting to get into the biz. This is about extreme behaviors. Read the links. They tell the story.
The people most likely to give you a hard time, either looking for a personal or a professional relationship, have issues. From an interview with J Michael Straczynski:
And I still have to be fairly ruthless in enforcing the no-story-ideas thing, because it’s just too dangerous to do otherwise. Marion Zimmer Bradley had to abandon one of her books because a fanfic writer thought it was based on that work, I almost scuttled one of my own scripts after someone posted a similar idea online and I was afraid I might get sued, and others have had similar experiences. People think “Well, it’s just me, why can’t you read my idea/story/script, why are you being such a dick about it?” Because it’s not “just you,” it’s the ten thousand other guys standing behind you asking the same thing, many of whom are prepared to launch lawyers if I ever do a story similar to that in future. Ain’t worth it.
We live in a world where people sue at the drop of a hat, and reading fanfic in 1994 means being sued over it in 2013. It’s sad and frustrating. It is about the tiny little percentage of people out there who do some not very nice things, or jockey for position and power in fandom or prodom.
I hate that many fans feel that pros have to keep their distance because they’re worried that writer or artist or actor thinks they’re being “that guy”.
Fans are never “that guy”.
Pros are rarely “that guy”.
But if you ever meet “that guy”, in my experience, he’s an angry, frustrated creator. And as my friend the art director Val Trullinger once said to me, there is no more destructive force on Earth than the thwarted ambition of a creator. They can get pretty creative about it.
And my school of hard knocks tuition was $24,000 in legal bills.
*Glossary: TRUFAN or TRUE FAN is an old, complimentary SF fandom term. No, it does not mean spiritual purity for pursuit of only fannish activities, any more than FEELTHY PRO means a paid writer is a filthy sell out.
A TRUFAN is simply someone who is well-regarded for their activities in fandom. That’s all.