The “Hyper-Online Fan” Is Here To Stay

Social media has brought authors and fans closer in positive ways more than ever before, but it has also created a conduit for possibly angry “opinionating” directly at the author unlike any that readily existed previously. For example, in an interview with Britain’s Independent newspaper, Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin contends he has run into an internet buzzsaw of sorts. (Perhaps, uh, swords? LOL!) In a series of highlight tweets from the Indy about the interview, we are given the gist of Martin’s bafflement:

To be clear, I have no agenda here. I have never read any of Martin’s books. Nor have I seen even five minutes of the Game of Thrones HBO series adapted from those books.

I was merely intrigued by this subject when I saw the Indy’s tweets. I had read also of how dissatisfied – even ANGRY – so many were about the ending to that Game of Thrones screen adaptation. So I thought this was worth a blog post:

I am not so sure it is more “toxic” now than previously. We just see more of it. Twitter, in particular, is at times – let’s be honest – much like a high school bathroom wall on which students graffiti all sorts of garbage… that potentially the entire world might see.

Clearly, lots of fans believed themselves *really* shortchanged by the last Game of Thrones HBO series. That is simply stating a fact as we see it expressed on social media. It is how they feel about it.

You can go to Twitter to read more if you wish, of course, but I think you get the point. Martin’s assertions are indeed essentially upheld by many replies even to those tweets. (If you visit Martin’s blog, note he does not allow comments.) Here are just three tweets (from among the small horde I waded through) in reply to him decrying the viciousness and toxicity he sees out there:

Those above also demonstrate how social media has in many respects changed entertainment in ways that we have not yet been able fully to grasp. Pre-internet, authors wrote books out of sight of readers, and if post-publication those books were also adapted for the screen the author was still largely a background figure; if a reader or a viewer did not like something their only recourse was a letter to the publisher or film studio. The author only rarely had to deal with “in your face” abuse from the reading public.

That is now history. An author on Twitter – no matter who they are – may well be abused sometimes even by fans. After all, no longer are fans restricted to writing an angry letter to a publisher or broadcaster; they can now in seconds fire off a nasty tweet at the author personally… and – unlike a “complaint” letter to a publisher or broadcaster – there is a good chance the author will see it.

What we are also learning now more than ever due to social media and all of the visible “opinionating” out there is how “invested” some fans become in stories. Regarding Martin’s: Weren’t there even parents actually naming daughters after “Daenerys” and others among his characters? That is a SERIOUS commitment.

[Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com]

And for years – even before the HBO series – Martin knew that naming was going on. Yet somehow he is stunned that given he took “Daenerys” overnight (in the final HBO series – again, I have not read the book) from admirable (who you’d name a daughter after) to unspeakably evil, many fans were infuriated by that abrupt change in her and are willing to say so? True, it is not his problem, but knowing as he did that the naming after her was going on, what did he actually think would happen when he placed people in this position?:

As one Twitter user put it… to name a child after Dany is “basically like naming your child Joseph Stalin at this point.”

Unlike in a single volume tale, in a series the author has much more freedom and importantly space to develop and evolve the characters. The downside to that, naturally, is not every reader is going to like what they read among such “changes” over that “long haul.” However, spring a MAJOR and UNEXPECTED and INEXPLICABLE character change on readers – meaning, essentially, toy with readers – and with the likes of Twitter now readers can make their dissatisfaction and even anger easily plain to the author. In short, if you are perceived as having “conned” readers into naming a daughter after a character you then turn into a war criminal, well don’t be surprised when readers respond by dropping online “atomic bombs” on you.

Yet even negative passion over your creation should be, in its way, rewarding. It shows that readers at least care enough to be upset. As a writer (although granted one not nearly as read as is Martin – at least not yet 😉 ) I feel that given a reader devotes their valuable time to and money on your tale that they do have a right to their opinion (even a bitter one) and you as the author must NEVER forget that…

[Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com]

…and you cannot wholly avoid those opinions on social media unless you choose maybe to retreat to a cabin in upcountry Vermont, cease interacting with readers/fans online, and stay off the internet.

Hope you’re having a good day, wherever you are reading this… internet “opinionating” from me. LOL!

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