Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Connecting with Authors in 2018

Social media allows readers to get closer than ever to their favorite authors and works. But one should do so responsibly.  ♦ 
These days, it's so easy for fans to continue to interact with a book and its characters long after the last page has been turned. One can take to Google to quickly have access to countless works of fan art, fan fiction, fan theories, and even entire blogs dedicated to a book or its characters. To many of these content creators and distributors, certain books tell such a compelling story that they seem real. Devoted readers will spend hours crafting works of fan fiction, often several chapters long, that, while not canon, continue telling the stories of the book’s characters. Other creators will make fan art through a variety of mediums and, like the fan fiction writers, distribute their work through sites like DeviantArt and Tumblr. Still others will distribute original work, popularize it, and make it available to the far corners of the internet.
    Social media sites such as Tumblr and Twitter have provided a platform for people to connect with each other and the people that they idolize. It isn’t all that uncommon for me to open up my Twitter feed to see threads of Kim Kardashian’s super fans reaching out to her on the site, begging to be acknowledged. On any given day I’ll see posts that feature a fan messaging a celebrity like Justin Bieber, asking him to go to prom with them for a certain number of retweets. Authors, like most other technology users of this day and age, also use social media for both personal and promotional reasons. Gone are the days when fans could only connect with their favorite authors through fan mail or meet-and-greets. As with traditional celebrities of pop culture, authors make themselves available to communicate with fans via the internet. If I wanted to let Sabaa Tahir know how excited I am for her latest installation in the Ember in the Ashes series, I would just tag her in a tweet and let her know myself. (I’ve done this, and have gotten a favorite in reply!)
    Most interactions with a book or its author are all very positive. For every five positive posts, however, there is one negative one. I am firmly for the notion that fans have every right to voice their opinions on how the author has told their story. Unfortunately, there are certain series that I feel have deteriorated in quality as subsequent books came out. Sometimes authors write characters’ actions out of character and ignore glaring plot holes. During times like this, I’ll often write a Tumblr post, giving my opinions. My mutual followers respond in a variety of ways, some agreeing and others not. In my opinion, as long as posts are polite and not crass or insulting to authors or their work, they are fine to be shared with the internet. However, from my years as a Tumblr user, I’ve seen my fair share of negative, destructive posts. Online disagreements often pop-up, arguing anything from legitimacies of fan theories to readers that disagree with the direction an author has taken a series. In some instances, readers will act inappropriately, lashing out at authors and at fans that disagree with them. Levels of obsession for a series can be taken way too far. (In one case, a popular author was receiving death threats for certain plot choices!)
    Being able to interact with an author and her work on social media is a privilege. Sites like Tumblr are a great place to meet fellow fans and discuss opinions and theories, but a reader’s opinion is merely that—an opinion. Authors are under no obligation to acknowledge, much less listen to, a reader’s opinions. An author and her publisher have full creative liberty over the story and while certain plot choices could be made to increase a book’s marketability, readers have no right to attack an author’s decisions that she has made in her own book regarding the characters she's created. Authors do not owe readers plot choices or certain “ships” becoming endgame. These decisions are made at the author’s own discretion. If a reader disagrees with a plot choice or where the author has taken a series, he can stop reading at any time. In fact, one my own favorite series took a turn that I wholeheartedly disagreed with. A good portion of Tumblr users agreed and posted their dissent on the site. The series had introduced and condoned what was arguably an abusive relationship. Like other readers, I voiced my concern at this choice. However, for every well thought-out, polite post I saw tackling this issue, I also saw an alarming amount of inappropriate and unnecessary posts with “anti” hashtags and personal attacks against the author.
    At the end of the day, an author’s goal is to tell their story well. In doing so, she will have her fair share of critics. I’d imagine that it would be tiring to take to social media and see your book be picked apart by the world (even if, to an extent, this is just part of an author’s job). That being said, authors should not be bullied online, and readers should not forget that the characters they have grown to love are not real people . . . but the authors who created them are.
  • About the Author
    Maria Pannapara is a junior Finance major and a Creative Writing minor at Miami University. In her free time she enjoys reading YA, writing, and rewatching her favorite episodes of New Girl. After gradation, she hopes to work in corporate America as a financial analyst but also wants to devote time to her passion for writing.

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