Chapter I of Kissing in the Rain premieres in 3 days! We’ll be posting a new question each day leading up to the premiere because we like knowing things.
What wisdom/miscellaneous reflections on your previous experiences with webseries/transmedia/fandom would you like to share with the creators of Shipwrecked? (Solicited advice, give it to us!)
Don’t forget to check out the Kissing in the Rain Fan-Canon Experiment, which launches on the same day as the premiere!
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This morning, the wisdom I offered on twitter was, “Let the fans be fans and do fannish things w/o engaging or commenting on those fannish acts” and you asked me to expand on that.
I don’t mean all engagement is bad, at all. It’s a connection that is lacking in traditional media consumption in most cases, and sometimes, that’s a shame. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of what the internet offers? When I think of great engagement, I think of Rob Thomas and his transparency and emails about the Veronica Mars movie. I think of social media offering glimpses at behind the scenes happenings, photos and shenanigans. I think of panels at ComicCon or AMAs at Reddit or in-character tweets/replies from the characters. Those humanize the people working on canon + the fans to each other and offer a structured window in on the creative process, and that sort of engagement is totally cool. But I’ll expand on the type of engaging I think has the potential to hurt both sides.
I get nervous when creators start engaging with specifically creative fannish acts (fics, vids, meta), in unstructured ways, because I’ve seen that crash a few times. Creators and fans both love the source, but they come at them from different angles. Fans like to fill in gaps, give depth to characters or situations it’s necessary to gloss over, debate motivations and meanings, ponder what is coming, play with what-ifs and complain about things they don’t like. In my experience, that can make creators defensive, or very proprietary if they see fans taking things in unexpected directions.
Years and years ago, the creators of Lois and Clark saw the fans on the then-new internet message boards and starting engaging and batting around ideas and giving fans power in storylines. It didn’t work out well. For one thing, the obvious issue of too many cooks in the kitchen. Fans had different views of what they wanted from the show and not all fan groups agreed – perfectly awesome in fandom, where you can try all sorts of things, even contradictory things, at the same time, but less so in canon. Trying to please everyone meant no one was pleased. Or, look at Glee – fan response may have gotten Brittany and Santana together, but when Ryan Murphy didn’t like what the fans were saying a few years later, he broke them up. I also remember the big kerfuffle in Lizzie Bennet Diaries when a staff member felt that fans were being disrespectful because of how they reacted to certain storyline aspects, and wrote posts on it. It blew over in a week, but soured a lot of fannish enthusiasm.
I worry that Bernie Su is dealing with the same L&C challenges now when he starts to defend his storytelling choices, asks for input and is presented with a 30 page document of everything a few fans think he is doing wrong. Those fans aren’t the voice of the fandom, but they’ve been given that power. People are going to like your stuff without liking everything about your stuff. They should feel free to explore that without feeling guilty. That’s the nature of creation and the arts. I feel like the structured window needs to be there – sharing is cool, but boundaries protect both canon and fanon, and the people on both sides.
Choosing to engage with fans also means, often, choosing to engage with certain fans. Louder fans, fans who are creative in certain ways, the fans who want to engage with creators. It creates an artificial hierarchy within the fandom, which can have a very negative impact and limit participation. The more conscious a group is of being observed, and the more conscious one group is that another has more power, the less open and creative it is. The more engagement with creators/actors, the more constrained fans feel. People get self-conscious when they think they might be judged by someone with more power, be it a creator or someone they perceive to have the ear of the creator. There’s less risk taking. There’s less depth. It hampers discussions. It promotes in-fighting and policing, which leads to fear and even less creativity.
Traditional fandom has generally been a playground, separate from canon, where we can do things show runners won’t agree with – twist things, reimagine things, criticize things, interpret something in a way that wasn’t authorial intention, etc. It becomes our story in that way, and to be best, stands alone, away from creator influence. It’s not that engagement is bad, or learning what fans think is bad, or considering that there are people putting labors of love for us to enjoy are bad. But when creators and fans share the exact same space, rather than adjacent ones, I think there’s generally less creativity, less organic growth and frankly, more stress on both sides.
And thus ends my novel. ;) It’s just my perspective, but I’ve been in fandom for (dear God) nearly 20 years, and I’ve seen the shifts of engagement first hand – both what has worked and what has not. Despite this, and this is probably hard to believe after all that, I really am super excited for Kissing in the Rain, and I love exploring new levels of fan interaction. I don’t think it’s impossible for shared spaces to work in some situations, really, with the right expectations and boundaries. I think the Fan-Canon idea is cool (though not without potential pitfalls, many of which are outlined above) and I’m excited to explore it. I think it does have structure and boundaries and expectations which could help it succeed. I also hope, though, that a more traditional and separate fandom pops up, away from your eyes, because sometimes the magic comes from something wild and crazy and not at all even potentially canon compliant, but still awesome. What if.
Super interesting from a creators’ perspective, reblogging to collect more thoughts on this end. And yes, I do think the hope is that one day our fandom will expand to a point that we can no longer easily find everything on the Tumblr tags in one scroll-through. :) Thanks again for voicing your thoughts!
Yes, bad things can happen when creators and fans interact directly. I don’t agree with the view, voiced by some during the LBD kerfuffle referred to above, that for a creator to “invade fannish spaces” is inherently a bad thing. Creators are people. Fans are people. Sometimes when people interact with each other one side or the other (or both) make mistakes. That doesn’t mean all future interactions should be outlawed, though I’ve seen that argument made (not by the original responder above; I’m talking about much more strident assertions that I’ve seen made by other people).
The great innovation of the Internet is that its dumb-in-the-middle design allows for any endpoint to connect to any other endpoint without a gatekeeper in the middle. That creates the potential for fans and creators to interact directly. It also means that those arguing that such interactions should not happen have no real way to enforce their preference. They can assert that a norm should exist that fannish spaces be free from creator participation, and they can explain why they believe that, but that’s all they can do. If people don’t choose to follow the norm, interactions will keep happening.
I’m glad the LBD creators invaded my fannish space. It sometimes created problems, but it also created a lot of coolness. I think the problems have been exaggerated by some who make the “no invasions of fannish spaces” argument. Personally, I thought the negative reaction by a few fans to the “invasions” were more off-putting than the invasions themselves.
Yes, some creators have made what were, with the benefit of hindsight, mistakes when interacting with fans outside traditional limited channels. It’s valid to talk about those mistakes. There’s a risk to those interactions. But there’s always risk when people interact with each other. Power disparities, as between creators and fans, can heighten those risks, but that doesn’t mean the interactions should never happen.
Reposted from http://ift.tt/1cDffZw.