Highs and Lows of Fandoms by Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater

I’ve actually never really been apart of a fandom per se.  There are a lot of books, movies, TV shows that I love and care about.  Despite my love for Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Magnus Bane, Katniss Everdeen and more, I’ve never signed up to any message boards or read fan fictions.  I may have time to time read other fans blogs and theories about why a certain character did this or what they think will happen next but never really participated in it personally.  Once upon a time, I was very involved in a i guess you could call a  fandom for tennis player, Andy Roddick.  Do athletes have fandoms?  I started posting on a fan site called Roddickrocks.com.  Soon, I was a board moderator and then I started writing recaps of Andy’s matches and got more involved from there.  I spent a lot of time on Roddickrocks.  It was the first site I checked in the morning and the last before I went to bed.  It was almost a job, keeping up with the demands.  After a year though, the site splintered.  I have forgotten the exact details but some of us wanted to take the site in one direction and others wanted to keep as is.  Feelings were hurt and relationships severed.  A few of us started a new fan site but it didn’t last very long.  I think the official reason in most of our minds was that we all got too busy. Most of us were in school or had real jobs and that started to take priority but really, as much as we tried, we could never recreate what we used to have.

Now that I think about it, this might be why I’m not much of a joiner online but really just a lurker.  It’s not how I want to spend majority of my time online, these days but also it can get rather negative pretty quickly.  I follow many authors on twitter and tumblr and there I get the gist of what is going on in the fandoms they created.  I can see the other creative things my fellow readers are making and read thoughts and theories without have to truly have to participate.  I’m not sure what that says about me but I do think it has lessens some of my online stress . Fandoms are great at uniting  people from all over the world with like interests but it can also be toxic.  I don’t regret the time I spent on Roddickrocks because it introduced me to some of the best people in the world that I still am friends with but I definitely do miss the negativity that surrounded the ending.

So why am I bringing this up?  An author I follow, Cassandra Clare, decided to take a break from social media after the fandom she inspired sort of turned on her.  Her books, The Mortal Instruments have been turned into a movie and now is being turned into a show.  There was apparently a rift between fans who loved the old cast and fans who love the new cast.  Clare decided not to take sides and was threatened by fans for it.  Recently, she with another favorite author of mine, Maggie Stiefvater did an interview about the good and bad of fandoms and it’s a great read.  They talk about how fandoms have changed.  How twitter and tumblr help and hamper them.  How they both want to accessible to fans but being too assessable comes with a price.  How they are now treated by fans.  They also talk about how that women in general are treated.  It’s a well thought out discussion that I think is very valuable to read.

So please read it here and leave comment below about what you think?  What are experiences in being apart of a fandom?  Are like me and just lurk on the outside or do you actively participate?  Sound off below.

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6 thoughts on “Highs and Lows of Fandoms by Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater

  1. The article was very insightful as was your blog post, Beth. I think there are a lot of different issues in play here. There is the tendancy for online forums, fan blogs, and social media to foster a negative atmosphere in the form of snark and sarcasm. Then, there is the escalation of it all where the comments / posts vere towards hateful derogatory language directed towards other fans or towards the author / creator of the book, show, or media. Then, there is a situation that the authors mentioned in the article about female authors dealing with the expectation that they should be “people-pleasing.” There’s enough there to turn off fans or even writers from engaging online because there’s little anyone could do to prevent what people will say.

    I know Stephen King’s official forum on his website, which I haven’t posted in for a while, is run very strictly. He rarely participates in it himself, but he’s hired an official moderator who reads every single post and every post is subject to her approval. It’s not instantaneous where you post a comment or create a new post subject and it appears. Depending on her schedule it could take a day or two for your post / comment to appear. If he has a message to communicate to the forum readers, he does it through the moderator. He obviously pays for this service, but it is very effective in terms of an author creating a space for fans to discuss the work freely. Anything that crosses the line in terms of being perceived as a threat or an insult either to the author or to other fans obviously never gets posted. It might be something for authors to consider if they find that their work has gone beyond the point of having readers to having a “fandom.”

    I’ve particapted in several forums / fan sites over the years for everything ranging from Star Trek to the Mets to James Bond and my expereience has been mostly positive, but I don’t have the experience of actually running a forum site to the extent that you have unless you count my little blog which doesn’t get very many comments. I imagine that the reasons for discontinuing have more to do with life and work getting busy rather than becoming disinterested or disengaged in the subject. Sometimes, that happens too. I haven’t thought or posted about Star Trek or Stephen King in a while because I’ve been busy with other things so there’s always that. I’ve had a few negative experiences but the best thing to do is not feed trolls and they generally disappear.

    I think the larger troublesome issue is the subject that the authors spoke about concerning how women are treated in fandom communities whether they are fans or female authors / creators themselves. I think there needs to be more awareness concerning this issue since the authors are right in saying that it’s easier for male authors to be rude or dismissive of fans. I imagine if it’s that way for the authors that it’s probably similar for female fans engaging other fans in their respective fandome communities. I’m not sure how to change this but I think generating more awareness about this as a problem would be a good a thing.

    Great post, Beth and there’s definitely alot here to consider,

    • I can see how having a moderator would help but not every author is Stephen King and can afford to pay for a moderator. That also doesn’t solve the problem of fan fights on tumblr and twitter and other sites off his official page but definitely a solution.
      I do have to say that I have had mostly positive experiences online but as both Cassie and Maggie point out, you could be almost all positive and one negative but it’s the negative you’ll remember. I do agree that like offline, women have it a lot harder then men. Again, as they say, we are taught to please people. To make sure everyone is happy and it’s hard to get over that instinct after it’s been drilled into us our entire lives. Men can be as rude or straight forward as they want to be because they don’t have to worry about being labeled a bitch or possibly alienating fans. I think for right now the best thing is to talk about it and bring attention to it. And hope that the more people see it happen will want to do something to change how we treat each other on and off line.

      • I agree that not every author could / should pay for a moderator to monitor their official forums, but I think the more successful ones should at least consider it. Stephen King can definitely afford it and not every author can or would want to do it, but at least it’s an open space for fans to discuss the work that’s theirs to control as they want and they can set whatever rules for it they please. On King’s site, the moderator isn’t there to censor valid criticism. She’s only there to weed out inappropriate, derogatory, threatening, or spam posts / comments. You could still say that you dislike or even loathe a book, charatcter ,or story as long as you state your reasons without crossing the line into inflammatory / inappropriate / threatening language and as long as you’re respectful to other fans.

        As for twitter / social media, that’s something that will always be free range and authors should engage at their own risks and to whatever extent they feel comfortable with. J.K. Rowling seems to be comfortable engaging both fans and detractors on twitter and I think what’s she’s done with it has been great. Twitter / social media has that instant gratification value of comments and feedback being made in real time potentially reaching a great number of people at once. The downside is that when people have that kind of access they don’t always say the most considerate, intelligent, or thoughtful things. In fact the tendancy generally strays towards snark and sarcasm, which the article touches upon when the authors express how it’s “uncool” to express genuine enthusiasm. That’s something that is unfortunately a part of our culture today. People tend to think that they can’t be a fan of something without putting it down in some way. It’s a 1st world problem I suppose, but I think the perception is that it’s cool to tear down your idols.

        It’s hard not to think of this in the context of Star Wars and George Lucas. There’s even a documentary about it. I’m more of a Trekkie than a Star Wars fan but it’s hard to go on any Star Wars forum / fan site / social media thread without encountering some kind of unflattering remarks about Lucas. The thing with Lucas is that he has so much money and Star Wars is such a commodity that fan backlashes against him no matter how massive they are hardly impact his bottom line. Now, the authors in the piece you mentioned are dealing with backlashes from fans similar in nature to what Lucas is dealing with ( for different reasons of course). The difference is 1) They are not as successful as Lucas and therefore any loss of fans from said backlash could actually have an impact on them and 2) They are women and must deal with societal expectations of their work and how they choose to interact and engage with fans. There’s the unfair expecation that they must be “people-pleasing” because society might label them as a “bitch” or worse if they aren’t sufficiently humble.

        J.K. Rowling is probably the only female author / creator I could think of that has reached the extraordinary level of monetary, critical, and commercial success that George Lucas reached with Star Wars. The Harry Potter film franchise has surpassed the box office success of the James Bond franchise. As has been evident, she’s not afraid to engage some of her detractors but she does it in a way that emboldens and engenders her fans. I don’t think she’s had anywhere near the kind of backlash that Lucas had because she hasn’t come into much conflict with fans with the way she protects and controls her brand as least not that I’m aware of. The Lucas backlash had more to do with how he re-tooled his original product as well as the critical failure of the prequel trilogy. Generally, no matter how good your brand is, you put out a bad product and there will be a backlash. Rowling to my knowledge hasn’t put out a bad Harry Potter book (I still haven’t read them but I intend to). It remains to be seen whether or not there would be a backlash against her if she decided to resume writing books in the Harry Potter universe. There is the prospect of the new Fantastic Beasts film set to be released in 2016 that ties into the universe, but I’m sure everyone involved is working hard to make sure the film resonates positively with the fans. The problem is not every female author is going to reach the level of success of a J.K. Rowling to be back-lash proof. Authors shouldn’t be afraid to take sides and declare whatever they want about their work and engage fans in anyway that pleases them regardless of gender. It’s just that we live in a society where there are different expectations for women when it comes to how they engage people both online and offline.

  2. I agree with what you say. I know on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr you can block people from your post and you can also report them for harrassment and such but I’m not sure how effective that is and how many people actually take advantage of it. And let’s be honest, you can block someone all you want, it doesn’t mean their comments will stop and you can suspend or ban people from using services but it’s pretty easy to get around that. Use a new computer, set up a new email and such. I think it’s something that as a society we have to say this is a problem and we are going to change that. Sadly, I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.

    I totally agree with you abou King, Lucas and Rowling. They are all incredibly successful at what they do. King can pay a full time person to moderate his site to create a safe space for fans to praise and criticise but not all authors have that kind of money or klout to do so. Also, unless he does something truly awful losing a fan here or there because their posts keep being denied is not going to hurt him, like Lucas. The same with Rowling. She is in a position that most authors Men or Women will never ever reach. She’s fantastic on twitter how she handles trolls. It’s truly inspiring. The casual vacancy received a lot of backlash when it came out because it wasn’t Harry Potter but after all the hoopla died down, people discovered it wasn’t so bad. As for not writing a bad Harry Potter book, the last one was pretty uneven but the ended well, so I think forgiven. We will have to wait and see how the new movie turns out since she is not only the producer but screenwriter. Even if it’s bad, she has amassed such a fanbase that I don’t think it is really going to hurt her bottom line that much either to lose fans. (How could you not have read Harry Potter? You know, Tommy will be the right age in a couple of years for you two to read it together)

    The biggest issue of all of this is definitely the inequality of what we expect men and women to act off and online. I read an article recently about tennis players and twitter and how they handle the trolls online. One very interesting point was brought up that I think our valid. Top players have agents and pr firms who help run their social media pages. So Federer, Nadal, Serena, etc. may post themselves from time to time but they are not all the time. They are also not going through their pages and at mentions by themselves either. They pay someone else to maintain and keep it updated. Lower ranked players don’t have that luxury and run their pages themselves. They could be sitting at dinner, when they phone will alert them to a new message and you don’t know if it’s positive or negative until after you read it. The big names are mostly spared of all the negativity online but the lower rank players aren’t. What are they supposed to do? Leave twitter? So many endorsements, these days almost require to have some kind of online presence and if you are a player lucky to get endorsements leaving twitter really isn’t an option. With the publishing industry is such trouble, Authors are just as responsible or more so to promote their own books and it’s almost impossible to do that these days with social media. It’s like they really have no option but to deal with it but shouldn’t have too. No one should.

    • I definitely think it would be great to introduce Tommy to the Harry Potter books in a couple of years. We tried watching the 1st movie but only got as far as the quidditch game.

      I imagine that in sprts there would be a similar situation where the lower ranked / up and coming players don’t have the resources to have PR firms run their twitter / social media feeds. While they have the ability to block users, it doesn’t negate getting that initial message especially if it’s threatening. At the same time it’s in their best interest to have a social media presence since that leads to endorsements and more opportunties for them to estanblish a brand and market themselves. It’s a bit of a conundrum and I don’t know that there will ever be a solution. The best thing is to create more awareness of the problem and hope that as awareness increases the problem will improve even if it doesn’t go away entirely.

  3. Pingback: HBook Podcast 1.8 – Guest Author Mackenzi Lee — The Horn Book

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