Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fan Involvement in the Creative Process

I'm going to tread over thinly veiled ice in what's to follow so if you choose to keep reading, walk softly. There's a growing trend of author interaction with their fans that seems to be the new way of things in publishing. It's good, and for the most part, free marketing. On the whole I don't have a problem with it. Until it comes to fan interaction with an author.

To what degree do writer's need to listen to the voice of their fans? Readers are entitled to their opinions, and they often list all the things they want to see included in a writer's next story. They dictate what they see as a writer's strengths and weaknesses and what they should focus on in their writing. I personally don't think there is any obligation on the writer's part to listen to what is said and there should be no expectation from reader's that their opinions are being given any consideration.

This seems to be crossing a line to me. A writer is entitled to writer whatever story they want. Sometimes they get lucky and other people like it, sometimes not. I can only hope author's take these fan suggestions with a boulder-sized grain of salt, because I don't want to read published fan fiction crafted by the pen of, "Author X."

Fan service is just that. It does not need to be bound and published by Simon and Schuster. Writers, and to expand on the definition of the word, "artist" don't do their work for their fans. Does anyone really think that John Irvine cared if people read or liked Until I Find you? Sure, his feelings may have been hurt if it got crappy reviews and the book bombed at retail, but it was a book that he--as the creator--had to get off his chest and he did so to satisfy himself. The same is true for Beethoven or Michangelo or any other, 'artist' of your choosing.

I once read a book by my favorite author and hated it. From start to finish, I didn't have anything positive to say. It was because of what I deemed a bad book from a writer that I thought so highly of and expected so much from that led me to think, "I can do better than this," and start writing myself.

Input is one thing, and well made suggestions/criticisms are always appreciated, but to see some of the commentary today on author websites, "You betrayed me!" and so on is nauseating. I don't think fans can be betrayed; let down, sure but that's the extent of it. No writer is obligated to write works that will please fans of their previous efforts. (Don't even get me started on pseudonyms.) It's not as if there aren't a few thousand other books published in a year that you might enjoy, times the thousands of other books for all the previous years that publishing has been around.

It seems I've adopted my 'rant' voice. Perhaps that what is to come in the internet age: an endless cycle of complaints in varying degrees of expression.

Shaking hands and signing books at a reading is all well and good, but I don't think that any creative process is collaborative, and so I do get a little bit nervous when see running commentary from a writer to their fans. It seems to me if you don't want to read a story that's written there's plenty of other material out there that may be of interest to you. And if we lived in a different age, a time long out of human memory know as, 'twenty years ago', complainers wouldn't even have had a vehicle to voice their disgust.

Oh, wait a minute… I guess that last bit goes for me too.

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