In my time on Goodreads and other book related websites, I have seen many a post on What Not to Do As an Author, but virtually none on what not to do as a fan. As many of you know (whether by experience or watching from the sidelines) there are always those fans that ruin it for everyone else.
What fans are you talking about? I hear you ask.
You know the ones. The ones that take negative reviews of their favourite books too far, those who harass and bully reviewers because they "did not get" the book or "didn't understand it" or, my favourite, "why did you read it if you hate it?"
Well, let me tell you a little somethin' somethin'. A person cannot tell if they like a book or not if they don't read it. This is a very simple concept, yet it's one that OTT fans do not understand. In fact, I don't think they would understand even if you were to nail it into their thick heads with Thor's hammer.
Before I continue, I would like to say that this is not for the normal fans. By normal fans, I mean those who participate in fandoms but do not harass/bully/threat reviewers or non-fans. This is for those who are so OTT, so obsessed with their fandom that would go against all TOS, human laws etc. to hurt, whether it be psychologically or physically, another person.
I'm a hardcore fan of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and, many, many years ago, even of Twilight. My fanatics extended as far as to write fanfiction, buy collectables (especially for LOTR and HP), go to signings, freak out at the mere mention of the book/actors/music/whatever. However, I never dreamt of attacking someone for saying, "I didn't like it/hated it." Why? Because everyone has a right to an opinion. Of course, if I said to a friend, "I love Harry Potter!" and s/he'd reply, "Ugh, no!" My response would be: "WHY?" But I would never, ever dream of saying they're demented, unworthy, sick, stupid or dumb for not liking it. I, for one, really do not like Star Trek or Star Wars. I tolerate it for my friends, I voice the fact that they're not my favourites, and they respect that, just like I respect the fact that they don't like playing World of Warcraft or think Harry Potter is 'ew'.
What shocks me is that a lot of these crazy fans take part in one or more of the following fandoms:
- The Fault in Our Stars
- Fifty Shades of Grey
Lately, a lot of the madness has come from "The Fault in Our Stars". Why? Because not everyone is going to see it as 'the best love story of our time', not everyone is going to see the characters as likeable or relate-able, not everyone is going to enjoy the pretentious dialogues or even the exaggerated metaphors. I, for one, did not enjoy it at all and that enjoyment was largely ruined by the fans that went a little mad when I wrote a nice 1* review (there are some raging ones out there, trust me) explaining the whys and hows I did not like it. With the movie in cinemas, the fans have gotten even more fuelled and with John Green sitting idly by, twiddling his thumbs, they see this as encouragement.
In more than one occasion, I have witnessed authors telling their fans NOT to act a certain way, and it really is appreciated by us reviewers who get mauled by them. But if an author sits by, watches and says nothing, those fans are going to see it as their behaviour being okay and agreeable.
NO. It's not.
So, in light of this, I have decided to compile a list of things a fan shouldn't do. From one fan to another. A public service if you will.
- Do not attack reviewers/non-fans. That's a big no-no people. Negative reviewers wouldn't come on your positive review and say your opinions are wrong, would they? Negative reviewers wouldn't insult you for having an opinion, would they? They wouldn't send you threats and harassing messages because you liked the book, would they? Then why do you? What makes your opinion that much better that you like to force it down someone's throat, even if it means beating their face with a shovel while you do so? Many an OTT fan likes to go into fandoms, get all their other OTT friends riled up and then attack a reviewer. I have seen this happen more times than I can count. It's not okay. By doing so, not only are you giving yourself a bad name, but you're giving a bad name to the book, the author, the fandom. You are literally ruining the fan experience for everyone else.
- Do not threat/harass/bully reviewers and non-fans. Why? Because they wouldn't do it to you. Everyone has a right to an opinion, freedom of speech, and they are free to say what they want about a book without fearing for their lives. Of course, there are consequences for expressing your opinion, but it shouldn't be receiving threats and blackmail and people should not be bullied for it. It's like being in high school all over again!
- Do not coerce other fans into doing the wrong thing. If you're planning a bit "hate parade" (as I like to call them) please do it on your own. Or don't do it at all. Many a time have I been attacked by a bunch of rabid fans, only to have a large number of them express their apologies by stating I was forced to do it. First of all, that's not a bloody excuse. No one's forcing you to do anything. Second of all, what's the point in rallying a big group of people? And more importantly, why? What is it about this book that pushes you, an OTT fan, to react in such a weird way? If someone doesn't agree with you, it's not the end of the world. But if you really want to create havoc, please do so on your own. It's much easier for us to flag one of you, not thirty.
- Apologise. If suddenly you come to your senses and realise, "Crap! What am I doing?!" The best thing for you to do is reach out that reviewer/non-fan/whoever and apologise profusely for your behaviour. Just because they might not forgive you, it shouldn't stop you from saying those two important words: I'm sorry. In fact, sometimes it does a whole world of good. Trust me, an apology can do wonders. Not only will you feel better about your actions, but the other person can no breathe in peace.
- If you're a rabid fan who can't help themselves, do not, under any circumstance, find personal information and spread it on the internet. This should go unsaid but, sadly, it's happened far too many times. A fan, so angry at a reviewer/non-fan, will find personal information like a home address, a phone number, whatever, and stalk their 'victim'. It's sad and pathetic. The internet is full of lies, too, so what makes you think that spreading something you found on the internet is a good idea? What compels you to do such a thing? Not only that, but it's also illegal. In the UK, if found, even if you're 11 years old (and shouldn't be on the internet anyway) you will be prosecuted. Stalking is a big no-no.
- You're giving everyone a bad name. Well done, now you've ruined it for everyone else. That's just it, though. By taking things too far, you are literally ruining it for everyone else. By saying, for example, "I'm a Nerdfighter!" people might get anxious around you. They might be thinking, "Is s/he going to accuse me of being a cold hearted bitch? Is she going to rally her minions?" Because a select few have ruined that fandom's name, just by doing things a normal human being wouldn't do.
- Can't take it? Don't hash it. How many OTT fans have cried about how mean some reviewers/non-fans are? How many OTT fans have reported/flagged other uses because, finally, someone's decided to stand up to them? Well, if you've been wrecking havoc for ages, and someone decides to put you back in your place, well done to them. Seriously, I applaud these people. Because you don't rule the internet. What you say/think means absolutely nothing and if you can't take the backlash, you shouldn't be attacking in the first place.
Those are only a select few things that fans shouldn't do. As I said, from one fan to another, there are those normal fans out there that make joining a fandom an absolute pleasure. Wherever you turn, though, and wherever you go, there will always be those mad fans that can't physically understand why someone wouldn't like their favourite book.
It's not rocket science, people. It is literally impossible for everyone to like the same thing. Impossible. I LOVE spending my weekends playing World of Warcraft but others don't see the point. I LOVE spending hours and hours reading/watching Lord of the Rings whilst others don't. I would never force someone to like something they don't, and I expect the same in return. If I don't like your favourite book, respect that opinion. Again, it's not that hard to do. Just walk away. Forget about me. Forget those negative reviews, because the positives always outweigh the negatives.