Neil Gaiman made some great points in his blog post from May 12 entitled Entitlement Issues. In it, Gaiman responds to two questions posited by a fan regarding the relationship between authors and their fans in our highly-networked online world. His points and his reasoning are spot-on and easily paraphrased: The Author is not your bitch.
I won’t repeat Gaiman’s points here…follow the link and enjoy them for yourself. However, I do have a couple of more points to add.
You’ve heard over and over again how we live in a world of “instant gratification” and “intense social networking”. In this environment, I think a lot of us fans…and notice I’m including myself here…expect “fan service”. Increasingly it seems that emphasis needs to be placed on the term expect.
Our authors are instantly accessible now. We can tweet them, email them, follow their blogs/tweets, or “friend” them on social networking sites. We interact with authors and artists we love in a much more direct manner than we have ever been able to before. We actually develop an online relationship with the creators of the content we love. As a result, I think a lot of us develop a bigger sense of ownership of the materials than ever before.
But here’s the rub…and the point that Gaiman makes so well: The actual relationship that we have with these artists, the actual compact that we have entered into with them, has not changed. They produce as they see fit and we consume as we see fit. They do not work for us: they work for themselves and/or for their publishers.
When we fans love, we do so with all our heart. In our hearts we own the material. It is part of us. The new information landscape allows us to interact with the source of our love in unprecedented ways. But nothing has changed. Whether we write the author a letter, email her, tweet her, or comment on her blog…they are not beholden to us or our needs. In fact, we run the danger of no longer appreciating their work and their efforts because we come to expect them. And like all other relationships, when appreciation becomes expectation, the joy that fuels the relationship dies.