What Do Fans Want?

A Psychological Mystery

Star Wars fans, Tumblr

It is a bigger mystery that has puzzled creators, corporations, publishers, and other fans.

In fact, it is a mystery bigger than what women want. A mystery not even Sherlock Holmes or Ms. Marple could solve.

What do fans want? What does fandom want? Really, what do we want?

Because we fans (I am including myself) are bipolar. We say one thing and do another; we request one thing and complaint when we get it. We are hard to please.

For instance, we demand more gender, queer, racial, neurodiverse, and class representation and then don’t support those books.

We say we want more challenging literature and don’t support it.

We demand adaptations of beloved stories in other media and get enraged when we get it.

image: SciFi Fans, Canada Day 2010

Truly, what do we want? Do we even know?

Psychologists say we are bad at predicting what would make us happy. No shit! I don’t need a degree in psychology to tell you that.

The problem is deeper.

We identify with certain properties, books, movies, and authors. We form tribes around them. Indeed, they become a part of our personality and identity.

We derived meaning from being fans. But do we even know ourselves?

Self-awareness and reflection can help us understand what do we like the things we like, and why do we consume the media we consume. What resonates with us.

And yet, our actions do not always align with what we say. We can be… Unpredictable.

Irrational Demands

Doctor Who fans goofing around. Photo: Tolga Akmen

Perhaps is the internet with its ‘always online’ culture or social media’s illusion of immediacy, and how both produce an echo chamber, but today’s fans are too demanding.

From casting choices to plot changes, or from demanding too much from authors and novels, we can be fastidious at times.

Mind you, Hollywood and sports stars don’t have any easier with their fans either.

Granted, fans are created, and the fan/star relationship must be nurtured. And there is no such thing as a”star” without fans. It is impossible.

The big names are big names because they have lots of loyal fans.

If you think that agents, movie studios, record companies, the Big Five publishers, and sports leagues are not paying attention to followers and fan bases, you are deluded.

These are businesses and fans give them profits.

Nonetheless, if we need books and movie properties to reflect our worldviews and opinions, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We don’t grow when we become close-minded.

Unrealistic Expectations

anime fans at Youmacon

The problem starts when we project our needs and expectations into our relationships with stars. We forget they are people too.

Specifically, with science fiction and fantasy authors, we make irrational demands and unrealistic expectations.

For example, no, even if you think you wrote the next Murderbot, Martha Wells is not going to edit your manuscript and mentor you.

The most approachable and friendly author does not want to be your friend or date you. They are busy people with private lives. Act professionally.

You want to come off as a fan, not a stalker or an annoying fanboy.

Also, authors switch genres and try new things. They like to stretch themselves and grow as writers. They don’t want to be pigeonhole.

Thus, giving bad reviews and negative critiques when they decide to write something else or end a series is a big no-no.

In effect, if we have nothing positive to say, stay quiet. It is classier.

What Can Fandom Realistically Expect?

fans meeting Aquaman actor Jason Momoa at Fan Expo Denver

The relationship between stars and fans is asymmetrical. Even if we meet them in person at cons, share a drink, and shake hands, the star remains a star, and the fan remains a fan.

We are there to see them, not the other way around.

Conversely, fans should be respected and acknowledged. Nothing enrages fans more than when a movie studio gives a press conference and says something such as “this movie is not for the fans of the property.”

Really? Why would you insult the very people more likely to support you on opening night and be an ambassador to others?

Remember, if fans are vocal is because they care. When they stop caring is when Hollywood should worry. Because apathy means zero profit.

Image: Fan Expo Boston

Moreover, what should fans realistically expect from their idols?

  • Be approachable. We understand you cannot always sign an autograph or take a photo, but at least smile and decline politely.
  • Be genuine. So many in social media put on an act. Those who are genuine and even vulnerable get a loyal fanbase.
  • Don’t be so opposed to fan art and fan fiction. We do it because we care. As long as we care, you have a job.
  • Give back to the community. Don’t remember us only when you are marketing a product.
  • Don’t be a jerk. We don’t expect you to be a role model or a saint, but don’t go around hurting people, be a misogynist, a homophobe, a racist jerk, or an anti-vaxxer.
  • Finally, don’t take us for granted.

Supernatural fandom at con

Some authors such as Seanan Maguire and Brandon Sanderson, have thousands of loyal fans. And they earned every single one of them.

However, we fans need to grow up and be more open-minded and kind. Writing a book, producing a film, making anime, music, any creative endeavor is not easy.

Let us show appreciation.

In conclusion, let us collectively stop being fools. If we want quality and entertainment, we must ask nicely. Furthermore, let us support with our money the projects we demand.

Reader, as a fan, do you what you want? And what do you expect when you meet an author in person?


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March 2023