Friday, 5 January 2018

The Myth of Fan Power

So first off happy New Year!

Now recently it seems there's been a glut of stories about outraged fandom condemning/defending the creative decisions of those in charge of various franchises. I'm not going to discuss the rights and wrongs of the reactions, my question is should these be getting the attention the media are lavishing on them and, more importantly from a writer's perspective, should their reaction influence the creative process?

I am taking here about the kind of people who fit the profile of the true 'fanatic', those who don't simply enjoy a particular work, but have developed a sense of ownership over it. one of the earliest and best know examples of this has to be Sherlock Holmes. When he went over Reichenbach Falls with Moriarty the fans were horrified and demanded his resurrection. In the end Holmes did return, a victory for the fans! Thing is though it wasn't the endless pleas from fans that changed Conan-Doyle's mind, it was financial desperation and the sales of 'Hound of the Baskervilles' that persuaded him to go back to a character he was frankly tired of. It's a fairly safe bet that if Conan-Doyle had been financially secure then Holmes tales would have ended in death at the hands of his nemesis(BTW there is a great science fiction story about this topic called 'You See But Do Not Observe' by Robert J. Sawyer that I wholeheartedly recommend.)

The Conan-Doyle template can be applied to a lot of modern fan 'victories'. The ability of a fan campaign to change the minds of creators and corporations has a great deal more to do with cold hard cash than zealous passion. The problem is that the true fanatics don't see it that way, they are convinced they are possessed of influence that goes beyond the contents of their bank accounts. There's also the problem that as anyone who has posted work online knows the ratio of views to reactions is generally terrible, even if people like something they can rarely be bothered to give it a rating let alone actually comment. The truth is that for most people being a fan of an author simply means they will read your next book. They read or watch for relaxation, it's not going to become an all consuming obsession.

At the end of the day you can't let some self-declared fandom control your creative process, follow the road you want to take and accept not everyone will be happy when you try something different.

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