On fan battles, audience interaction, what’s real, and who’s stronger, the Thing or the Hulk?
Patrick Nielsen Hayden makes a comment on Tor.com that really deserves wider dissemination:
"SF fans in general tend to be discursive sorts…"
Which is another way of saying that SF readers tend to get invested in not just the story, but the argument.
And once you care about the argument, you care about the people pursuing it.
There are dozens of ways to make this dynamic seem trivial or pathetic, but really, it’s just people caring about what’s real.
Speaking just as a reader, forget about as a professional, the plain fact is that in a world of limited time and options-that-exclude, given the choice between a new Charles Stross novel and a new Greg Egan novel, I’m going to read the Stross, because I know that if I want to talk about it afterwards, Stross is available for conversation and Egan isn’t.
There are dozens of ways to frame this as evidence of Egan being a hero of artistic independence, but you know something, I don’t care. I’m just a reader trying to have an non-boring life. Stross goes out of his way, via extra levels of interaction and availability, to make the whole business of novels and art non-boring. Egan doesn’t. Life is short.
It’s true. And in a field where the arguments are even more passionate (see above picture) the fan base can be even more intense, and it carries over to the field.
And the Internet makes it even more intense. Think about it: who constantly tops the lists of favorite comics writers? Neil Gaiman, Brain Bendis, Peter David, Mark Evanier, Warren Ellis, JMS… even if they don’t have a series running at the moment, they have a dedicated fan base because they immerse themselves in the arguments, in the culture. And yes, every one of the people listed have a blog. That’s where fans are nowadays. You’re here, aren’t you?
Mark Waid, the pre-eminent fanboy-turned-pro-turned-recent-blogger, has a great example this week where he talks about the six traits that a hero should possess, and then provokes a fight by asking people to try and convince him why Indiana Jones should be considered a hero– which makes a few readers ask him why, by his criteria, Spider-Man should be considered a hero. (And since he wrote what’s going to be the best selling issue of Spider-Man this year, if not this decade, he should probably have an answer.) The argument was compelling enough that I took an hour to formulate an argument and contribute when I should have been finishing this blog post. And that’s the point.
What about you? Do you think there’s such a thing as an anti-social comics fan, even if his social interaction is limited to arguing who’s stronger, Benjy or Bruce? And would you enjoy comics as much if you couldn’t argue them with somebody else, or is the solitary enjoyment of pleasure enough for you?
Oh, and that image reminds me of this neat Hulk vs. Thing art gallery I found. Enjoy.