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When Fandom Turns Sour

April 15, 2011
Filed as a Fandom entry


If you haven’t read it yet, let me recommend “Just Write It”, an article in the New Yorker about George R. R. Martin and the sometimes unruly fan community that has been attracted to A Song of Ice and Fire over the years. It was particularly interesting to me, as somebody who has been reading the series for literally half my life (since I picked up A Game of Thrones in the local bookstore in 1996) and who knows most of the people quoted from years on the ASOIAF message board. But it’s also worth reading to get a glimpse of the ugly, sad directions that fandom can take.

Before I was anything else, I was a Trekkie. I remember as a kid staying home from church (a rare treat, at the time) to watch the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And so I remember people online who seemed to watch Star Trek solely to nurse their resentment of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. I’ve run across a tiny portion of the Babylon 5 fandom dedicated in equal measure to sappy fan-videos about the Sheridan/Delenn OTP and recounting various personal grievances against creator J. Michael Straczynski, his every moment of impatience painstakingly recalled. Response to The Phantom Menace introduced the world to the phrase “raped my childhood.” (If you find yourself wanting to employ this phrase, may I kindly suggest punching yourself in the face instead and saving humanity the trouble?)

Now, despite what the article implies, there’s no real “schism” here. I’d never heard of the “GRRuMbler” sites until I read about them in the New Yorker, and the general response from other fans is the same. But I was there for every blog post reading “Nope, not done yet” (yes, it was frustrating), and it’s not the first time that I’ve seen somebody react to the delay with childish outbursts like the folks quoted in the article: “Since we all know GRRM can’t write unless he is in his special place with his special writing booties on and the temperature at exactly 69 degrees and the sun aligned with Aquarius, I take this as another sign that the big guy hasn’t typed a word of ADWD today.” Since the dawn of time, fans have imagined a personal connection to creators that doesn’t really exist. When I’m with other fans, we call him “George” and refer to the series as “George’s books.” This kind of reaction just takes that fan logic another step further: because I have a (wholly imaginary) personal connection to this guy, and because he did something that I don’t like, therefore he did it to me.

What strikes me now is how sad the whole thing is. I have all the love in the world for fandom. I’ve read the books more times than I can count; I can name the Hand of King Jaeherys the Conciliator, the First of His Name off the top of my head; I’ve watched every goddamn promo video that HBO has put on YouTube since the series was announced; so clearly, I’m a little obsessive myself, and I love it when I meet somebody who gets a little obsessive about something that they really enjoy. But for some fans, the obsession stays long after the enjoyment goes. Instead of doing what most people would do and walking away from the franchise in favor of something else, they stew in it and nurse their impotent rage. And that’s just too bad.

Image courtesy of HBO.


July 12, 2011, 3:50 a.m.

Bravo, fantasy