Well, this is really dandy. Hat tip Robot 6.
Archive for ‘Fandom’
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.
So, almost every day I get letters from people asking me to expose some evil-doer, or tell the whole story about some whack job fan cult or whatever, like my word has magic power, and bad things will stop happening if I sprinkle the holy water of my blog on it.
Not only is there only so much I can do, but when it comes to fandom, some people really like drinking the Kool-Aid.
Sure it’s poison to you, me and every other rational person on the planet, but everyone else isn’t rational. For example, a friend of mine directed me to a bizarre online thread for “Supernatural” fandom which consisted of over 9000 comments, all about how the stars of the show were secretly gay and how horrible it was that they had fake marriages and were actually having children just to keep their love in the closet. There was much awesome crazy in that thing, reams of misogyny directed at the women in the actor’s lives, and it is a perfect example of how cultish some fandoms can be. It’s sad to think how much life energy – not to mention how many hours of electrical energy – went into something so ridiculous, disrespectful of the real people involved, and unproductive. (EDIT: No, I don’t care if you ship your favorite characters. Yes, anyone should care if you attack actors and their families for not living up to your fantasies.)
You are never going to be able to convince some people that not only is what they’re doing nuts, but it’s self destructive. And frankly, some people come from such bad places, any affirmation or familial group is going to seem like an improvement to them, no matter how abusive it is.
This setting is a communal living situation in Southern California when a bunch of working professionals in their late 20s realize they need to find a new roommate after losing one to marriage. After an apparently rigorous screening process (over 500 inquiries, 150 applications and 17 interviews – did I mention rent was $500 a month including utilities?) they ended up with “Sarah,” a 27-year-old programmer whose only real blips seemed to be a boyfriend (who was out of town) and a few legal name changes. Naturally, it wasn’t until after she started getting a little weird that they discovered she a) was actually the head of a cult that believes they are reincarnations of characters from Suikoden, b) funded her living expenses by extracting donations from said cult members, and c) had legally changed her name to match that of her “soulbonded” character. That’s a twist you won’t find on The Real World.
Sure they’re “spiritual”, but so were Jim Jones and L Ron Hubbard.
That publisher/convention is awful and weird, you say? Getting noticed by a Real Publisher, no matter how penny ante or unprofessional the outfit is, is as good as it is ever going to get for some people.
I can’t spend my life cleaning out other people’s oubliettes. I have to pick my battles. And I can’t always fight yours. We are not all reasonable people here, and I guarantee you, people who think they can bond with cartoon characters and take spiritual guidance from same, are not rational, no matter how much they try to conflate the experience with whatever they read by Joseph Campbell. I don’t have the energy to deal with that level of crazy.
If you’re stuck in one of these bizarre groups or fandoms, the best thing you can do for yourself is just walk away. Yes, they will trash the hell out of you. Yes, some of them are stalkerish and destructive. Once you are not Of the Body, you become a Bad Person. That’s hard. I know from personal experience.
Accept that in this imperfect world, you will never have a perfect reputation. Accept that you can’t right every ship. Accept that any attempt to clean up the mess will bring a shitstorm on you. The miscreant will move on to other targets. Other people in fandom will happily send other victims in that direction. No matter how crazy, how abusive, and how deeply dishonest the abusers are, they will deny, obfuscate, and abuse further, all while wearing the friendly mask of whatever book, or comic, or movie you like best.
Hell, they’ll even sign petitions and boycott conventions which have bad reputations, while concealing their own long and sordid history of treating underage girls at conventions like their personal harem.
If there are criminal matters involved, if you don’t go to the police, I can’t do it for you. I am not a party to the action, and have no standing in the matter. Fandom needs to clean up its own mess. And most of the time, fandom does not want to clean up its own mess. They’ll spend time preaching about abuses in the Catholic church, while treating a con committee like the Holy See. Fandom will turn on anyone, no matter how right you are, rather than make fandom look bad.
It’s only been in the last few years that this has started to change.
If you are a witness to a crime, or you are involved in something that is ugly and abusive, then you are the one who must take action. Either you go to the authorities for help, or you get out of that fan group as quickly as your little legs will carry you.
If you can’t make what is happening to others stop, you can stop it happening to you. There are a lot of fandoms out there which are friendly, supportive, and operating with one foot firmly planted in the real world. Find one. You are not alone in having a bad experience in fandom, you are not betraying anyone if a group is uncomfortable for you and you leave. You have the right to leave any situation, for any reason, at any time.
Other people have the right to pick and choose their friends, and so do you.
You deserve better friends.
All this hullabaloo about Fake Geek Girls infecting our fandoms with their icky, sticky sexuality, their skin tight costumes, their quivering posteriors, and their evil hoodoo power over poor, hapless geeks, helpless to resist the allure of Teh Hotness! According to some, girls at conventions are really just a bunch of invaders/fakers/freeloaders looking to loot Nerdom.
Gosharootie, what drama, hunh?
But wait: all this ire, it’s not about cosplay girls (even though it is about cosplay girls, dudes, you said so way before you backtracked). Real men like real chick fans. When they actually find one.
Rare like red diamonds, I know.
Still, this whole fake geek argument goes back to the dawn of time since I got into fandom (1980-something). Long before scores of women were actually at conventions. Or even long before ten women at a time were actually at conventions. So, um…yeah.
But I digress! This argument has never been about real fans! No, the men folk didn’t mean that! Not all girls are paragons of potential whoredom! Oh, no, all you in internet land.
We guys totally fucked up and said out loud what we usually say to all our drunk friends at the Hyatt Bar at San Diego Comic Con after we’ve had a few too many shooters. That’s all just a misunderstanding on your lady parts because you are emotional females who can’t take a joke, hahaha!
It’s really all about EVIL BOOTH BABES! Wicked hotties for hire who don’t wear very much and are only at the convention for the money and the attention, the only currency in fandom you can’t buy, except with your firm, tremulous, tempting flesh.
Booth Babes! Yes, that’s it. Everything guys say and do toward women at conventions…it’s all the EVIL BOOTH BABES’ fault.
It’s so hard to tell the real fans from the parade of prostitutes who are only there to advance their lousy careers, delude themselves that they’re actually pretty, meet a producer, and get a runway gig. God, what a bunch of users!
You women should totally hate them too, since they make all of you look bad. Sure, the dudes would all be perfect gentleman if every woman who attended a convention dressed on the outside like it was 1830, and under her pinafore, wrapped herself in a silver layer of sacred Mormon underwear.
Do the Geek Guys have to wear this as well?
But hey, let’s not be sexist about where we apply our nerd rage! Men can be big, fat black holes of sucking userness, too!
Flash back to the horror that was: Jonathan Frakes: Booth Babe User Extraordinaire!
Don’t be fooled. Behind that noble Captain America shield beats the cold, cold heart of a NINO: A Nerd In Name Only.
Wait, you may ask, that Jonathan Frakes? The guy who went on to play Commander Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation?
Why, yes, indeed, my fellow geeks.
Well played, Mr Frakes. Well played.
There he was, at comic book conventions and shopping malls all across America. Hired by Marvel Comics to dress in a disturbingly well-cut costume, all sleek lines and clinginess, striding across the convention floor, his manly thews flexing with the swish-swish-swish of spandex against spandex. It’s not like I was looking really closely or anything, but you could tell his religion, know what I mean?
Hell, honey, with that in the room, who’s going to buy any comic books? And, uh, Toots? Put down the shield, you’re spoiling the view.
Won’t someone think of the cartoonists? Won’t someone even look at the cartoonists? They want to get laid, too!
Consider the generations of innocent fans of stunted emotional development, their geek purity corrupted by the sight of wantonly displayed washboard abs, globular grapefruits of glutes, and pounding perky pecs.
Do you think Fake Frakes cares about you? Do you think he’d ever go out with you? Do you think he knows diddly squat about Captain America and how he became Nomad?
Do you think we could ever convince him to wear the Nomad costume with the wide slash down the front? Do you think Frakes waxes?
Listen, my friends, and listen well; he doesn’t care about you! He’s not one of you!
He was just using you to get to Gene Roddenberry.
Now, see how stupid it sounds?
Say kids, I’ve been in this comics business for over 20 years, and I was accused of being a fake geek by men and some very insecure women more times than I can remember, and recently, too.
There were those jerks who picked on me relentlessly during my early years in SF fandom, because I had the temerity to be a blonde girl, therefore I must be intensely stupid and talentless.
There was the envious cosplay queen who threw a fit over my Galadriel costume, because she insisted all the men were voting for me, not because I had a nice costume, but because I was sixteen and…you know. And oh yeah, she cried, “That’s my elf!”
Actually, it’s Tolkien’s elf, but whatever.
The pro who called me a virgin slut for looking wholesome and cute, but she could tell just by looking I was really a tramp. Because hey, girls who complain about sexism are whiny little snots who just need to accept things as they are and get over it. Shut up and be one of the boys!
There was the time I went to the Oscars, and my glam garnered me some hate mail from people who wrote to let me know I should just get out of comics because I obviously want to be in Hollywood anyway.
Whew, that’s what I get for wearing a dress!
There was that bizarre stalking problem, where I was repeatedly accused of not being nice and accepting of Mr Stalker, no matter how grotesque or dangerous his behavior was, because it is the duty of women in fandom to be an emotional touchstone and nurturer to everyone who demands it of us. Oh yeah, and to put out.
There was all that controversy back in the day over at The Warren Ellis Forum, where women and men who really ought to know better thought nothing of slut shaming, liberal use of the term “nerdbaiting”, and hurling the lovely phrase “attention whore” at women on the forum who did not dress and act as others thought they should.
There is nothing behind this Fake Geek Girl nonsense that doesn’t boil down to bullying. Nothing. What people wear, how they behave, whether or not they are true fans, whether or not they are supportive enough of whatever is in your portfolio: all of that is a red herring. It’s bullying.
You think you’re high? We’ll bring you low.
It’s gatekeeper behavior.
Here’s what it boils down to.
If you are a girl, you owe me.
If you are a girl, you threaten me.
If you are visible in any way, you owe me.
If you are visible in any way, you threaten me.
The real criterion for geek status is not shared interests, but whether or not you got your head slammed into a locker in high school. Fandom as misery contest: only the picked-on may proceed.
We will decide whether you get in the club. We may/may not accept that woman/girl over there, but we get to be judges of you. And the more threatening you are to whatever in us that desires/ fears/ feels that the pie isn’t big enough for everyone to get a slice, then the harder we will push to drive you out.
As if one actually ever wanted to be in a club, as opposed to say, wanting to pass through a convention one paid to get into without being denounced as a whore. As if the judge is in any position to judge anyone else’s looks, behavior, or unspoken intentions.
This is the emotional economics of scarcity.
Listen up, Geek Girl! Your love of Star Wars diminishes theirs. Your comic diverts eyeballs from theirs. Your costume is totally killing someone’s Only Woman in the Room buzz. Your Power Girl t-shirt shamelessly tempts hapless males who know you won’t give them any. Your small stack of books makes their big stack smaller. A pretty geek filmed for the SyFy Channel means a true worthy missed a big chance to be on Firefly.
There just isn’t enough good feeling to go around. If too many people claim to love Star Trek, that diminishes the love of a true geek. It diminishes their importance.
The excuse of the bully fan or pro is that the normals/ muggles/ mundanes bullied and shamed them.
The reaction is to bully and shame. Hostility almost always directed at girls.
Bullies who can’t even admit they’re bullies. Bullies entitled to mete out a little social justice to those oh, so deserving, awful dilettantes. Complain about the lack of diversity in geekdom, then follow it up with an act of cognitive disconnect: tweet dreams of a day when real geeks just stand up and scream at the fakers until all the meanies who get too much attention for being pretty/young/blonde/pretend smart/mediocre talent/whatever just get out of our fandom! Because, you know, they don’t live it, like we do.
Geek girls are scapegoats for every girl who didn’t go out with them, didn’t sit at the lunch table with them, didn’t invite them to the prom, didn’t vote for them for senior superlative. Privileged girls. Why, you can tell just by looking at them that they don’t know what pain is.
So, they get schooled.
Folks, I’m sorry some people had a rough time, but that doesn’t give you a free pass to take it out on other people. Moreover, you really can’t tell whether or not someone else has had a hard life because they are too pretty/young/talented/successful/together/happy/whatever-the-hell-it-is that makes you think you get to harass someone for breathing your space. Just because other people don’t wear it like a flag, that doesn’t mean they don’t have problems, too.
And even if they don’t, you still don’t get to throw creep behavior at them.
Those of you who try to convince me that I am somehow diminished when other women get attention I’m not entitled to in the first place, NO, I will not join you on your crusade to drive the dilettantes from our midst. I am not diminished by their presence in any way. A girl cosplayer getting a photo op doesn’t take from me a thing. GAZE does not make me a better person, or a better artist. When someone else gets GAZE for whatever reason, even if it’s because they wore a really tight-fitting costume, I lose nothing. I have no claim to that attention.
I’m pretty secure with my work as a cartoonist, thanks. I wouldn’t have put up with half the shit from some of you people all these years if I weren’t.
But hey, when you throw this argument my way, at least you’re not claiming I’m a Fake Geek Girl. Thanks for that!
None of this will be solved with cute PSA’s, but the dialogue will continue.
In the past, if you said boo about this stuff, you’d get shouted down or ignored.
So, it’s not pretty, but here it is.
Fandom is having growing pains.
And that’s good.