What It Means to Be a Fan
There’s been a backlash of sorts on some authors’ blogs around the internet due to the exposing of Cassie Edwards’ borrowing. I’ll be posting on Tuesday about some thoughts about the definition of plagiarism as it could be defined in the romance writing and read community, but today, in lieu of a ebook post, I thought I would ruminate a bit on the meaning of a fan. Here’s what I thought the fan/fangirl definitions were:
Fan – someone who appreciates, enjoys, and is positive about either an author and/or her work. Within the fan definition, there are varying degrees of fandom.
Fangirl – zealots, irrational in their devotion to an author. A person who has so personalized his or her relationship with the author that s/he becomes one with the author and presents herself/himself as the author’s voice throughout the internet.
Now it appears that fangirl is being used as a weapon, not against people who are fetishizing a particular author, but for those of us who take personally what we see dismissals of issues importance to the reputation of romance.
One of the barbs being shot out is by author Deborah Smith who used her Amazon blog to post a diatribe against Nora Roberts for standing up against plagiarism. In the post, she stated that she wondered whether she should post publicly “because the last thing I want is to be eviscerated by Nora Roberts’ avid fangirls.”
I’m not really going to go into what I think of Smith’s post. I posted my thoughts at Karen Scott’s blog. What I am exploring is the meaning of “fangirl.” I don’t know what that means anymore. I thought I did. A couple summers ago, I wrote a tongue in cheek post about traits of a fangirl, but I think its being expanded to encompass anyone who agrees with someone else. I.e., if I agree with a stance of Nora Roberts, then I must be her fangirl. Anyone who paid attention to the costume controversy of 2007 would know that I disagreed with Roberts on her stance on the issue.
Robin and I agree on many a things but I swear we almost came to blows during a telephone conversation regarding the construct of Happily Ever After in romance. I might have even called her a name or two. I wasn’t at my best in that discussion. (I’m very passionate about my devotion to the HEA).
I’m sure, though, that there are some that would peg me as a Nora Roberts or even a Robin/Janet fangirl. But I can’t be if, by definition, that means that I agree with every proclamation that flows forth from their fingers or mouth.
I wonder, too, if there are authors who perceive true fans to be that way. In Jennifer Crusie’s comments on the SBTB subject, she mentions two “non fans” of hers.
I just figured that was being covered elsewhere and what struck me was this perfect storm of Hillary Clinton, Cassie Edwards, and a couple of my non-fans taking another shot at me in the comments of the other site about that letter blog I did awhile back. They all converged together and I had a Thought. So I expressed it.
I am fairly sure that she was referring to Robin and I since we were the ones questioning her comment at SBTB “Did Cassie Edwards run over your dog” and we were about the only ones who questioned her posting a reader’s email and mocking it.
Robin penned a B+ review of Agnes and the Hitman and I have repeatedly said that Welcome to Temptation is one of my favorite contemporary romances written. Does that make us two ‘non fans’? I like to think of myself as a fan of Crusie’s writing. I’ve bought all her books, even the hard to find and expensive Sizzle. I’ve even undertaken the cost to buy the ebook versions of her Harlequins when they were re-released. There are certain aspects of Crusie’s persona that I am also a fan of and some that I am not. Does that make me a fan or a non fan? Fan girl or hater?
To be a good fan, do I have to support everything that an author does to be considered a “true” fan or a “real” fan? If I stand up in support of an author, am I automatically a fangirl? Does it get stripped away once I disagree with an author? If I am considered a fangirl, does my opinion have no value? If I am not a fangirl, does my opinion have no value? Can I be a fan and still be critical? Are we fans of the writing or the person and if it is the person, what do we really know about the author that makes it possible for us to be a fan?
I believe that we as a romance community would be better if we moved away from the fan culture, the personalization of the author/reader relationship because the relationship that we readers have is truly with the book. The only real connection the author has with a reader is through the words and so it seems that we readers are projecting our feelings of the writing onto the author, both positive and negative.
If we are just “fans” of the work and not the “person” why would what we know about a person affect our feelings toward their work? Deborah Smith is one of my favorite authors and by that I mean, I love her writing. I’ve always thought she had the GIFT. But now I feel battered and disillusioned so my feelings for her work must be inextricably tied up in my feelings for her public persona else why would I feel like I can’t read her anymore?
Maybe we think that because the writing resonates so strongly that we think if we met the author of writing that we loved, we would be BFF. Conversely, if someone’s writing doesn’t connect, we assume we could never have anything in common. So when met with the evidence that the author isn’t anything we thought we knew, we feel betrayed in some way, disappointed. And that sometimes the disappointment can become so sharp that the emotional string that connected the writing and the reader frays to the point that it breaks.
I know I am not making much sense but that is primarily because I haven’t worked it out for myself. What do you all think about the meaning of the word “fan” and how it plays within our community versus how it should play. Can you be a “true” fan and still disagree and make that disagreement known? Does the “I got your back” apply to authors as well as authors’ works? At what point should we (as opposed to do we) allow an author’s online persona affect our reading?