December 27th, 2007

hat

On Fandom

As The Orphan's Tales tour winds down and people have been finishing In the Cities of Coin and Spice, the question of fandom has come up a lot.

This came up after the first book, too, and I had the same feelings about it--so I should probably share those feelings, especially since they bear heavily on the larger discussion of fandom taking place across the internet.

I think when an author was a fan first, they often have skewed ideas about their own work--skewed with respect to conventional wisdom. For us, the existence of a fandom for one's books is a direct indicator of success, not something to be fought and hissed at from dark corners. Of course, ktempest's recent point is well-taken: for most authors, sticky points of copyright with regards to fan activity will never be the smallest issue. I often wonder why we aren't talking about how to inspire fandom instead of how to thwart it.

As far as Orphan's Tales fandom, I have been asked since the first book came out, and repeatedly, about fan communities, fiction, vids, etc. And my answer has always been the same: you have more than my blessing, but there is no community as things stand now, and I won't start one.

And this brings me to How I Feel About Fandom.

I love it. I love how a book or a movie can bring people together, I love the satellite activity that can spin off from a world, how it adds to the simple act of reading, how it is such an intimate interaction with a story. And for a book like mine, which had modest success but was no Eragon, it's not as though there were corporate forums a year before the book came out to give fans a place to gather. And I just can't bring myself to provide them on my own. Fanfic, wikis, vids, communities--these things are fan activity. It is the country of fandom, it belongs to you, and it should be your space. My space is between the covers of those books. Fan activity flourishes in the absence of the author's eye, and to set my sigil on a site is to imply that I am always watching it, that even that activity belongs to me, that it is somehow a performance for my benefit, and I think that taints whatever baby fandom might arise.

And the thing is, I signed off on this world a long time ago. Signed off on the idea that it is no longer mine, or at least not mine alone. It belongs to my editor, and Random House, and Michael Kaluta, Jon Foster and Michael Komarck, to copyeditors whose handwriting I know but not their names, and most of all it belongs to everyone who reads it. As long as it doesn't keep me from feeding myself on it, and little fan activity actually does, even less for an author at my level, any and all fan action is beloved and encouraged by me, in perpetuity. You can bookmark this page and in twenty years I'll still stand by it. This place, these tales, belong to you as surely as to me, and when I signed that contract three years ago, I gave them to you, with both hands and gladly.

But it is not my place to begin a fandom, or to moderate it, or to direct it in any way--because I am not a fan of The Orphan's Tales. I cannot be, by definition. Fandom is sacred space, and it is a reindeer game the author ought not to play, even if she might like to.

So, if you wish to make it so, you, in plural, in totality, have my permission, blessing, and encouragement to create whatever discussion-hub or fiction or vid or artifact you like--if you want a fandom, you have to be the fandom. Nothing would delight me more--but it is and can only be your space, your undiscovered country. I will smile on the sidelines, but call no plays.

All these worlds are yours.

Except, you know, my house. Attempt no landing there.
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