One of the coolest things about becoming a published author is the fans.
Having fans is, by far, the greatest thing in the world. They devour your worlds, they have their own favorite characters, and they simply “get it”. There is nothing more awesome (awesomer?) than overhearing two fans of your series arguing about who was cooler, Character A or Character B. It’s almost like a giant neon sign emerges above your head proclaiming that you’ve “Made It”. It’s liberating. It’s even justification for all those wasted hours when you sat staring at the monitor, willing the book to come forth (and eventually finding your way over to YouTube because someone posted a clip of a kitten discovering iguanas) and fighting the urge to put your fist through the screen (or is that only me?). It gets even better when they form a fan club, and begin to cosplay different characters from your series (which helps promote your book around cons as well, a big bonus). There is something awesome when that happens.
The downside (and yes, there is always a downside) to all this? Occasionally you get a fan (or fans) who are a little… uh… robust. And trust me, they are out there. They are the die-hards, the ones who will literally defend your characters with their lives while making an utter ass of themselves and forcing you to awkwardly stand there as they alternate between singing your praises and telling everyone else that they don’t understand your greatness.
You know, like mom did in the second grade when she insisted that you were a “good boy” even after you got in trouble for the tenth time in a month.
A lot of crap comes down on Trekkies, since they were the first true “fan club” of the digital and media age (I’m ignoring the howls of protest for all those fans of Sherlock Holmes and the Marquis de Sade because, well, they were before computers and really, you’re a fan of de Sade? Really??). Some of it is unfair, and some of it is well earned. Trekkies have a reputation of being “robust” in their beliefs, and they are even more militant when it comes to their uniforms. Not as bad as other unnamed fan organizations out there, but they have strict guidelines that, if a fan is going to dress up in something similar to Kirk, then it better damn well have been in a movie.
Again, this is understandable. Licensing and marketing agreements aside, people who pour their hard earned money into costumes for the enjoyment of others. At the same time, however, it is supposed to be fun. When you’re apologizing for the behavior of someone in your fan club, then it’s time to take a closer look at some things. Is it the club, or is it the individual? Do you want your club to be associated with this individual? Do you want this club to be associated with you?
Difficult questions to be sure, ones that you really don’t want, nor need, to find yourself answering as a writer.
So how does one begin to even think about dealing with issues like these? There are a few ways one can go about it everyone has a good time and both the fans and the author come away satisfied.
The first way is what I’ll call the Correia Way. That’s where it’s all-inclusive, boisterous, “who gives a rat’s ass we’re having fun because we love these books” fan club. It’s disorganized as hell but there is a sense of camaraderie that they will triumph over all. There is no “one rule to guide them all” and, outside of stealing the author’s work and stuff like that, it’s pretty much a laid back organization.
Then there’s the Roddenberry Way, which involves lawyers, committees to determine what uniform is legit, rules about starting chapters, so on and so forth. This way prevents legal matters, ensures that everyone is treated well, rewards the most loyal of the fans and has strict guidelines about, well, everything. It can be fun, but it is for the fans who are very, very serious about the series.
The number one rule of all fan clubs should be “Have fun.” The second rule, which should be just as important, is “Don’t be a dick.” If those two rules are followed, then the author doesn’t feel embarassed by what has spawned from their creations and everyone has a good time.
And that’s what we want, right? To have a good time?
If you really want to get strict about uniforms, rules and so on, the US Army is recruiting. They enjoy people who crave perfection. For the rest of us, there’s fan clubs.
Try to have fun. I know it’s difficult to remember, but try. It’s the best advice I can give.