Fandom Guilt: Don’t Do It!
So I had an interesting encounter here on Ye Olde Internet today, and as usual, I decided to share it with all of you. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been involved in fandoms since before I knew what “fandoms” were (Teen Titans and Naruto were early faves, fight me), and until recently I’ve been writing fanfiction of various types for around ten years (!!!). As of today I had three unfinished fanfics up on a popular website, which I’m not going to name, along with several other completed oneshots (short stories, for the uninitiated) and/or completed works. Yesterday, I made a post on my three unfinished works, which had “last update” dates ranging from around eight months ago to way back in 2015. This post was tweaked slightly for each work, but basically I apologized for not updating and explained that I wasn’t going to be completing the works, because I had gone through a lot of stuff in the past few years (which I’ve gone into in other blog posts), I had written a book that I’m publishing, and in two cases I was no longer really involved with the fandoms in question. Solicitation isn’t allowed on the website in question, but I posted links to my Kickstarter campaign for STITCHES as well as the Amazon pre-order link and my socials because I knew I was going to take the incomplete fics down after people had a chance to see what I had to say.
This is where it gets interesting.
Most people were incredibly supportive, and while they expressed sadness that the fic and/or series in question wasn’t going to be finished, they understood that I had moved on to other things. Some were excited by the prospect of my book, and others weren’t, and I expected that.
What I didn’t expect was the level of vitriol I got from one commenter in particular on a fic I haven’t updated in about two years. I kept a screenshot of the comment for reference because I took the fic down today, but I’m not going to share the entire text here because a.) I’m not an asshole, and b.) I don’t want to give this person more attention that absolutely necessary to get my point across (I swear, I do have one!). It should be noted that this person had never previously commented on any of my work (to my knowledge, unless they did it anonymously), and I don’t know them.
Essentially, they told me they were “glad I got to write my book” and they “hope it does well” but they wouldn’t be reading it. They said they were going to tell me how much they enjoyed the two chapters I wrote but since I “decided to drop it like a hot coal” and “forget about the people who actually took the time to read it” they had no interest in “committing” to my work. They went on to say that while they “commit” to the person writing the work they read, they “can’t stand it” when someone posts a story on [insert website here] and then decides they don’t want to continue it. In closing, they said “a good writer expects loyalty from their readers, and they, in turn, should give the same to the people who follow them. If this is how you are with posting you first [insert fandom here] story, sorry but I will skip your other writing. Can’t trust the work will be finished or worth the time.”
Let’s break this down! I decided to write the fic in question because I liked the movie(s) that drove the fandom, and I wrote two chapters with the possibility of a third and fourth. The website in question lets you alert a reader as to whether or not your work is complete, and this fic was very clearly listed as “incomplete”, with the “last update” date visible in the listing. This person chose to read that incomplete work, just as I chose to write it; this person chose to write this criticism (which in my opinion veers toward personal toward the end) when they could’ve stayed silent or simply said they were disappointed.
And for the record, I don’t think writers expect “loyalty” from their readers - they want them to enjoy their work, not salute it like a flag. If you don’t like what I write, that’s fine! If you want to tell me you don’t like my work or me, that’s your right to do so... but why? I had just explained that I was out of a very dark place I had been in when the first two chapters of that fic was written, and you decide the thing to do is critique my work ethic and the quality of my writing as a whole? Over two chapters of a fanfic? And you’re going to tell me my work might not be finished when I just said I wrote a whole goddamn book?
Please, please, PLEASE don’t do this to creators - writers, artists, cosplayers, anyone who makes anything. If someone decides a project doesn’t make them feel that creative spark anymore - for whatever reason - that’s up to them, not you, especially when the thing that they’re creating isn’t something you’re paying for. People have lives outside of what they make, and if that life is riddled with problems already, how is a comment like this going to make them feel? Be disappointed, be angry or resentful if you must, but please don’t do this to people. If I was in the headspace I was a few years ago, this would’ve been extremely damaging.
I didn’t write this post as a call-out, or to get sympathy, because to be honest I couldn’t care less what that commenter thinks. It doesn’t matter to me because I’m not the person I was when I wrote that fic - but others might be. Please think before you post, and if you’re a creator, take what people say with a grain of salt, because they probably have problems just like you do. Stay safe out there, kiddos.