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mygif

If somebody asks me something about some aspect of Pizarri culture I will cheerfully make it up on the spot if need be, and HEY PRESTO it’s canon until I decide otherwise.

Dear God, please don’t do that. It’s a sign of contempt for your fans and, frankly, for your universe.

If someone is asking you a detailed question about your setting, it means they love your setting and have been drawn into it and want to know more about it. If they’re asking you about something you haven’t come up with yet? Fair enough. Some people have a giant series bible and some do not.

But please don’t just make something up off the top of your head and pass it off as part of your world. Whoever was asking you that question takes your setting seriously enough to have sought you out and ask you about it. Don’t just make up some bullshit that you don’t consider at all, may not remember ten minutes later, and have no intention of regarding as dispositive.

Just tell them you haven’t considered that yet.

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mygif

“But please don’t just make something up off the top of your head and pass it off as part of your world.”

I disagree. The writer can do whatever he wants with his story, his “universe,”* and his characters. No justification, no excuses needed.

If someone puts the writer on the spot with an abstruse tangential question about something you haven’t addressed to his satisfaction in the publicly-available story, well, bullshit away, writer! Sometimes great ideas come out of that kind of off-kilter imaginative stimulus. Sometimes it just lets you get rid of someone who thinks they can ask you about stuff that isn’t in the books because… I don’t even know why people do that.

It’s not a sign of contempt for your own effing story, writer. Believe me, the writer has more invested in this than any of the readers. It’s a sign of contempt to expect the writer to cough up a detail for you out of nowhere. Sure, if the writer has made it known that he loves these kinds of questions, go ahead, ask! But don’t put too much faith in the answer.

Moreover, as Our Charming Host has pointed out, a close reader can extract or extrapolate a great deal from the material presented. This is a hallmark of good writing in any genre, and in reading this kind of material (fantasy), a reader practiced in the protocols will do this without a second thought, picking up the cues and building the world in his mind’s eye. The writer is entitled to rely on the readers doing so and to expect not to be called upon for more.

A story as well-written, well-characterized, and well-drawn as this owes nothin’ to nobody, and the readers owe the writer their thanks. And a few bucks in the tip jar.

*”universe”—When did this become so commonly used for any imagined world?

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mygif

I disagree. The writer can do whatever he wants with his story, his “universe,”* and his characters. No justification, no excuses needed.

In a technical sense, you are of course correct. In a more practical sense, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you should do it, or that doing it doesn’t make you kind of a dick.

I’m reminded of Aaron Sorkin, who used his various television shows as excused to go after fans he thought were insufficiently respectful, and to harangue his ex-girlfriend. Could he do this? He absolutely could, and did. Was it a proper use of his platform and art? It was not. It was also a dick move and demonstrated a fair amount of contempt.

If someone puts the writer on the spot with an abstruse tangential question about something you haven’t addressed to his satisfaction in the publicly-available story, well, bullshit away, writer!

… why? Why not just tell them ‘Sorry, I haven’t really considered that.’ If somebody asks me a question I don’t know the answer to, I tell them ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t hurriedly construct an answer.

Sometimes it just lets you get rid of someone who thinks they can ask you about stuff that isn’t in the books because… I don’t even know why people do that.

… you can’t conceive of a situation in which someone likes a setting enough to seek out more information about it from the person most likely to have an answer?

You must have a very limited imagination.

Believe me, the writer has more invested in this than any of the readers.

Demonstrably not always true. The writer has more absolute control over their work and an absolute right to develop it in any way they see fit. They are not necessarily always more invested in it than any of their readers, especially if they’re producing commercial work or work-for-hire.

It’s a sign of contempt to expect the writer to cough up a detail for you out of nowhere.

This would only apply if someone is asking them a question they KNOW a writer doesn’t have the answer for. I can’t think of any reason why someone would do that.

For all the questioner knows, the writer has a giant setting gazetteer they created before setting pen to paper. Some people do that.

A story as well-written, well-characterized, and well-drawn as this owes nothin’ to nobody, and the readers owe the writer their thanks.

This would seem to suggest that stories that don’t meet some arbitrary standard of quality do owe something to somebody.

*”universe”—When did this become so commonly used for any imagined world?

Dunno. It’s been in use for awhile, at least. Are you asking out of philological curiosity, or because you think the term isn’t appropriate?

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mygif

Annnnnd I fucked up my tags.

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mygif
EndOfTheWorld said on January 22nd, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Hear hear!

Stories can be bad for a million different reasons, but every bit of interminable sci-fi/fantasy I’ve come across always leans far too heavily on “world building.” I open the book, and already the author wants to tell me about how on the magical world of Whogivzashit there are five kingdoms and seventeen international guilds and there is an extensive caste system based on who’s great grandmother was blessed by which unicorn and did I mention there were magic crystals and a race of pointy eared forest dwellers called “Sylvanshdie” that are totally different from all those other elves you read about because they have heavy plasma artillery and and and and

It’s a lot like listening to a friend go on about his RPG character or the dream he had last night. It’s all VERY, VERY interesting to him because it’s his baby, but you don’t care because you just don’t have his emotional investment.

So the trick, it seems to me, is to start with interesting characters and a good plot and let the world grow organically out from that.

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mygif

Agreed.

It’s one of the big problems with fantasy writing, in my opinion; people put way too much emphasis on the worldbuilding, and the story is just this vestigial thing tacked on to drag the reader from place to place. More then once I’ve had another amateur fantasy writer ask me about my opinions of their setting. These settings are often incredibly elaborate, but all I can think is “how much of this will be in the story?” Sadly, the answer I frequently get is that the writer in question has no story, just the setting, a situation they find deeply frustrating.

I bet.

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mygif

The amount of background stuff for my fantasy novel that I made up on the fly would stagger the mind, if I ever admitted to it.

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mygif

So… what are the Pizarri feelings about software piracy and reality TV? ;-p

To actually add to the discussion, I’d say an author could always frame their response to obtuse inquiry with “I suppose…”, thereby getting to exercise their imaginative muscle without inflaming zealots of canon.

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mygif

@Murc: “I’m reminded of Aaron Sorkin, who used his various television shows as excused to go after fans he thought were insufficiently respectful, and to harangue his ex-girlfriend. Could he do this? He absolutely could, and did. Was it a proper use of his platform and art? It was not. It was also a dick move and demonstrated a fair amount of contempt.”

Well maybe the problem here is that you’re equating “making some bit of unimportant worldbuilding up off the top of your head” with “demonstrating open contempt for your fans and/or ex-girlfriends.” Perhaps if you stopped doing that it wouldn’t be as much of a problem anymore.

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mygif

You will hear all sorts of stuff from many, many people about how their characters “surprise them” and how they interact with the world. And let me be clear: I’ve got nothing against the idea of writing a character consistently. That’s just basic sense. But writing is not like DMing a roleplaying game: you determine what your characters do. If something is out of character, well, change the character.

That’s easily said and done inside a single book. No one knows who your character is before they flip the first page, so you can turn the character from lovable bumbling do-gooder to axe-murdering anti-hero and who will ever notice?

But that all goes out the window once your first book hits the shelf. Now your character has boundaries, and you’ll have to – at the very least – write your way around them.

I should also say that the DMing analogy isn’t entirely fair either. In an RPG, you’ve got multiple writers who are each other’s primary (often sole collective) audience. So a lot of the “Don’t kill my favorite NPC, you dick! I throw myself in front of the bullet with ‘Mega-Dash!’” situations you find yourself in is more an example of instant reader feedback with kick rather than co-authors bickering.

Once the audience gets involved, the game changes. Because (unless you are just writing purely as a hobby) the whole purpose of being an author is to entertain others. And a sign of success is a large audience. You can’t just pull things out of your ass when you’ve built a certain level of expectation. You can’t drop plot threads when you’ve set out a certain degree of foreshadowing. Or, at least, you can’t if you want anyone to keep reading your material.

At a certain point, unless you’re a complete hermit, your audience does step in and start leaning on you in one direction or another. “Give me more of this guy. Feel free to kill off that guy. Maybe a few more action scenes wouldn’t kill you.”

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mygif

Well maybe the problem here is that you’re equating “making some bit of unimportant worldbuilding up off the top of your head” with “demonstrating open contempt for your fans and/or ex-girlfriends.” Perhaps if you stopped doing that it wouldn’t be as much of a problem anymore.

I in no way, shape, or form did this.

E. made a blanket statement that a writer can do whatever he wants with his characters and universe and never needs to justify or excuse himself.

That’s absolutely untrue, and I pointed to a real-life situation which demonstrates that it is untrue.

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mygif
JohnStargazer said on January 22nd, 2013 at 10:48 pm
If somebody asks me something about some aspect of Pizarri culture I will cheerfully make it up on the spot if need be, and HEY PRESTO it’s canon until I decide otherwise.

Dear God, please don’t do that. It’s a sign of contempt for your fans and, frankly, for your universe.

Perhaps not what you intended, but it does appear to have that meaning.

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mygif

“E. made a blanket statement that a writer can do whatever he wants with his characters and universe and never needs to justify or excuse himself.”

And E. is absolutely correct. You aren’t entitled to shit from a creator unless you’ve paid him money up-front for something. A writer’s characters and universe belong to them, so they can, in fact, do whatever they want with them and don’t need to justify themselves to anyone.

Now, if you decide to use your characters to go on a self-insert rant about your horrible bitch of an ex-girlfriend I hope she rots in hell with her new fiance, DO YOU HEAR ME JENNIFER I NEVER LOVED YOU ANYWAY, people are perfectly entitled to think you are an enormous douchey asshole and they are probably correct about that, and it may carry undesired consequences (like your audience checking out) as a result. But they don’t have to justify using the shit they came up with to do anything. That you feel slighted by the idea that a creator might just make shit up on the spot rather than giving it the DEEP, MEANINGFUL CONSIDERATION you apparently feel is appropriate is irrelevant.

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mygif

@Kai

But they don’t have to justify using the shit they came up with to do anything.

Why the hell not?

If I do something that seems like a dick move to people in person, society will generally speaking expect me to justify myself. If I can’t justify myself, I am going to be subject to opprobrium. Why is using a creative medium going to have a different rule here?

That you feel slighted by the idea that a creator might just make shit up on the spot rather than giving it the DEEP, MEANINGFUL CONSIDERATION you apparently feel is appropriate is irrelevant.

Why should a question I ask a creator be subject to different standards than any question I might ask any other person?

If I ask someone for the time, assuming that it’s in an appropriate context and I am polite about it, I feel I am reasonably entitled to one of two answers: an approximation of the correct time, or an admission of ignorance or inability. That’s considered basic politeness, is it not?

In the context of querying an author about the substance of their work, again assuming appropriate context and a polite query, why should standard rules of politeness not apply? If someone goes to the trouble of asking a serious question, in a context where questions are appropriate, I feel they’re entitled to a serious answer, whether they’re asking about made-up customs in a made-up world or asking if you know direction to the nearest bathroom.

If I ask someone for the time and they just make up a number off the top of their head, I’m going to feel like I’ve been treated with contempt. Similarly, if I query someone about the content of their work, and they simply make something up they then immediately forget about, I am also going to feel like I’ve been treated with contempt. More, I’m going to feel like the setting itself is, especially if its work being sold for profit. If I am to be expected, nay, invited to buy something, I expect the people involved in selling it to me to take it somewhat seriously.

People keep telling me this is somehow an unreasonable expectation on my part, but I can’t for the life of me see why. I’ve seen a lot of bare assertions that creators don’t owe nothing to nobody, ever, but if there’s been an actual philosophical framework undergirding that elaborated on here I freely admit to having missed it.

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mygif

“Why the hell not?”

Because it’s not your fucking stuff, it’s theirs. They came up with it, and death of the author doesn’t mean that every creator’s work is held in some sort of public trust. That means they can do what they want with it and if you don’t like it too fucking bad. You can say “George Lucas inventing midichloians to explain the Force is stupid,” but George Lucas inventing midichlorians isn’t “showing contempt for his fans” unless those fans have somehow misunderstood the relationship between a creator and the people who consume that creator’s work, which to be fair a lot of fans do all the time, so it’s not tremendously surprising that MGK saying “Hey, I may decide to make some shit up about the setting I’m co-creator of off the top of my head as it pleases me” is met with “Ugh, that just shows CONTEMPT TO YOUR FANS and ALSO TO YOUR OWN SETTING, have you no shame.”

“If I ask someone for the time, assuming that it’s in an appropriate context and I am polite about it, I feel I am reasonably entitled to one of two answers: an approximation of the correct time, or an admission of ignorance or inability. That’s considered basic politeness, is it not?

In the context of querying an author about the substance of their work, again assuming appropriate context and a polite query, why should standard rules of politeness not apply?”

A creator giving you an off-the-cuff answer to a world-building question isn’t being rude to you. It isn’t super-secret creator code for “fuck off you stupid nerdlinger.” That may be what you read into it, but that’s your hangup and not theirs.

“If I ask someone for the time and they just make up a number off the top of their head, I’m going to feel like I’ve been treated with contempt. Similarly, if I query someone about the content of their work, and they simply make something up they then immediately forget about, I am also going to feel like I’ve been treated with contempt. More, I’m going to feel like the setting itself is, especially if its work being sold for profit. If I am to be expected, nay, invited to buy something, I expect the people involved in selling it to me to take it somewhat seriously.”

A creator giving you an off-the-cuff answer to a world-building question isn’t that creator not taking their work seriously. Again, see above.

“People keep telling me this is somehow an unreasonable expectation on my part, but I can’t for the life of me see why.”

Because it displays both an overly-developed sense of entitlement and a bizarrely directed sense of persecution and/or outrage.

“I’ve seen a lot of bare assertions that creators don’t owe nothing to nobody, ever, but if there’s been an actual philosophical framework undergirding that elaborated on here I freely admit to having missed it.”

The philosophical framework is that the work isn’t yours, it’s theirs, and they can do what they want with it however they want to by virtue of that fact. That you claim that MGK’s suggestion that he might make up an off-the-cuff answer to a query and then later change that to something else he thinks works better shows his fans “contempt” suggests that you feel like you’re owed something here when, quite frankly, you aren’t.

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mygif

Murc, it would seem you see creative works as product thus have the expectations of a client consumer.
Zifnab25 has the same perception, made clear by stating:
“the whole purpose of being an author is to entertain others. And a sign of success is a large audience.” I don’t have the spoon inventory right now to unpack this particular entitlement culture nonsense.
It’s the never ending problem of art vrs product. There is a difference between fine/high art, folk art and pop culture. All come with their own unique expectations but only one of them is a for profit driven enterprise. Audiences can’t seem to tell the difference anymore and conflate them constantly.

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mygif
Ian Austin said on January 23rd, 2013 at 2:44 am

Look, I was let down b the ending of Lost as much as anyone… but it’s THEIR canon. As a fledging writer myself, I respect that it’s the ending they wanted. Fans aren’t entitled to like an ending, but they are entitled to understand that, past a certain point, they aren’t driving the bus and also aren’t allowed to question where the bus is going or why it’s going there.

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mygif

“the whole purpose of being an author is to entertain others. And a sign of success is a large audience.”

Like, I’ll start the unpacking process here by saying that stating that the WHOLE purpose of being an author is to entertain others is incorrect. That’s definitely ONE purpose of being an author, but it’s not the only one and a slavish devotion to entertaining others above all else can result in that author’s work suffering. That doesn’t mean that an author shouldn’t try to make an entertaining work IF that’s their goal, but one person’t “trying to make one’s work entertaining” is another person’s “THIS SHOWED CONTEMPT FOR ME,” so there’s a point where a creator has to say “Y’know what, I have to be doing this for MYSELF as well as for other people.”

And having a large audience is definitely ONE sign of success, but it also isn’t the only one.

This whole thing puts me in mind of the George RR Martin kerwhatsit where the latest volume in his long, meandering fantasy series was taking forever to come out and people were yelling at each other about it. It was one of those instances where people on BOTH sides of the argument managed to be insufferable. Like, on the one hand, I’d say it’s pretty well apparent by this point that GRRM wants people reading and buying his books, that is almost certainly one of his goals as an author, and so it probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to him when the latest volume in his cliffhangery story that he wants people eagerly hooked on being yonks and yonks late makes those people clamor for the next one. Like, congratulations, this is an inevitable consequence of getting people psyched for something and then not delivering on it, what did you expect would happen? You WANTED this…maybe not the nerdrage part, but you wanted people eagerly awaiting your stuff so you can make a living.

AT THE SAME TIME though, GRRM doesn’t owe his fans shit. They aren’t his patrons in the classic patronage sense, they didn’t give him a bunch of money up-front and say “this is for the sequel” and he defaulted on a contract, he writes the books and people are welcome to buy them or not as they see fit (and his publisher takes their cut). That is the only arrangement he has with his fans that matters, period. His fans aren’t entitled to him being polite or respectful or even NICE to them. They aren’t entitled to the next book when they want it, they aren’t entitled to have their world-building questions answered in a serious and respectful manner, they are not ENTITLED to anything.

Now, if GRRM DOES act like a cock…and I don’t know if he does or not, nor am I interested in finding out as these are all hypothetical examples…then that may cost him sales which could cost him his relationship with his publisher which could mean that he has a harder time making a living selling his fantasy books, so it is perhaps in GRRM’s best interests to not act like a raging douchehole to the people who buy his stuff. That much I do not disagree with. Actions have consequences. BUT, and there is a BUT here, that does NOT make his fans any more ENTITLED to ANYTHING from him. The relationship between GRRM and his fans goes as far as “here is a book I have written, please buy it” and “oh, this is a book I like, I shall buy it” and THAT’S IT. If he decides one day “Man, I’m sick of Game of Thrones, I’m cashing out all my money and flying to Bermuda to live out the rest of my days in obscurity and seclusion to never write another word again, peace out” then that’s tough shit ’cause he doesn’t owe you anything. He may owe his PUBLISHER something, but that’s because they have a contract. You don’t…you may THINK you have some kind of unspoken implicit invisible social contract but, nope, you don’t, sorry.

And at any rate, arguing that MGK saying “I may make some shit up if asked for it” is him showing contempt for his readers, equating it with lying about the time or going on a diatribe about his fans, requires either a fairly radical interpretation of the text or a healthy persecution complex. Like, I’m pretty sure based on MGKs critiques of Rob Ford that if he wanted to show you some contempt that it would be made a hell of a lot clearer than that. Someone who comes away from that thinking “I have been shown disrespect!” needs to adjust their sense of perspective.

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mygif

Nobody owes anybody anything.

Does the author have the right to make shit up as they go along without being confined by the fans’ expectations or whatever they themselves have previously said or even written? They sure do.

Do the fans have the right to call the author an inconsistent hack, and his work – poorly stringed together illogical bullshit? They sure do.

Author may not owe the audience the product that pleases the audience but the audience doesn’t owe the author the reaction and critical reception that pleases the author.

And everybody is happy. Or, you know, nobody is.

Regarding the original topic though… I won’t say it is nesessarily a disastrous way to approach things, but I’ve seen at least one author follow it religiously and the results were not pretty. The less thought-out the setting is, the bigger is the plothole potential and the potential for glaring inconsistensies of the ‘these two things cannot both exist in the same socio-politico-cultural-religious frame’ kind.

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mygif

“Nobody owes anybody anything.

Does the author have the right to make shit up as they go along without being confined by the fans’ expectations or whatever they themselves have previously said or even written? They sure do.

Do the fans have the right to call the author an inconsistent hack, and his work – poorly stringed together illogical bullshit? They sure do.

Author may not owe the audience the product that pleases the audience but the audience doesn’t owe the author the reaction and critical reception that pleases the author.

And everybody is happy. Or, you know, nobody is.”

Going “YOU BETTER NOT DISRESPECT ME, MR. AUTHOR, OR I WILL STOP LIKING YOUR STUFF” works as an effective ultimatum (some of the time) right up to the point where your expectations for “respect” become unreasonable. “I asked you a question about your made-up fantasy world and you MADE SOMETHING UP in a way I do not approve of, you have disrespected me sirrah” is not, I would posit, a reasonable expectation for a creator to pay heed to, and if not living up to that expectation means that the people who hold it decide to no longer be fans of that author’s work for that reason, well, I can’t help but feel that’s not exactly an undesirable outcome.

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mygif

«“I asked you a question about your made-up fantasy world and you MADE SOMETHING UP in a way I do not approve of, you have disrespected me sirrah” is not, I would posit, a reasonable expectation for a creator to pay heed to»
Is that what we’re discussing here?
Or is it more like “I will cheerfully make it up on the spot if need be, and HEY PRESTO it’s canon until I decide otherwise”?
Because if the author gives an answer, and then ‘decides otherwise”?
Yeah, I’d feel disrespected. Lied to, maybe not, bullshited – most certainly. I may not write about it in all-caps, but that’s because I’m not the kind of a person that does so. Because: dude, why did you have to do that? I approached you in good faith and this is what I get? If you can’t give me what I want, just say so, and you know that something subject to change ‘on the spot’ is not something I want. Well, fuck you. I may not be saying it out loud, but fuck you.

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mygif

“Or is it more like “I will cheerfully make it up on the spot if need be, and HEY PRESTO it’s canon until I decide otherwise”?
Because if the author gives an answer, and then ‘decides otherwise”?
Yeah, I’d feel disrespected.”

Why? Did you think that reading their work, or even buying it, meant you’re some sort of shareholder or something, entitled to an accounting for everything the creator does? Because it didn’t and you aren’t. It’s their work. Seriously, it belongs to them. Why is this so hard to get?

“I will cheerfully make it up on the spot if need be, and HEY PRESTO it’s canon until I decide otherwise” is a perfectly acceptable way for a creator to go about addressing questions about their work, or even the creative process thereof, and I cannot even begin to fathom why people think that somebody who does so is showing them disrespect. If a guy who, presumably, spends a lot of time being creative decides to give someone a creative answer to a question…like creative people have a tendency to do…and then later decides to change it because that answer he gave no longer fits/works better for the story/got superseded by something else then he, what, owes that guy an apology or something? “Yeah, sorry for being inappropriately creative, fan who feels I personally went out of my way to bullshit them, I solemnly swear to never let it happen again.” Give me a break.

“Because: dude, why did you have to do that? I approached you in good faith and this is what I get? If you can’t give me what I want, just say so, and you know that something subject to change ‘on the spot’ is not something I want. Well, fuck you. I may not be saying it out loud, but fuck you.”

Oh yeah, this sounds like the textbook definition of approaching someone in good faith to me. “You’d better not tell me something about your world when I ask and then have the temerity to change your mind later, Mr. Creator, or FUCK YOU TOO, BUDDY.” This is why creators should avoid engaging with their fans whenever possible, there is no upside to doing so that isn’t outweighed by the sheer volume of irrational entitlement that goes on when people suddenly decide that a creator “owes” them anything.

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mygif

“You’d better not tell me something about your world when I ask and then have the temerity to change your mind later, Mr. Creator, or FUCK YOU TOO, BUDDY.”

Yeah, you’d better not.
What exactly is wrong with saying ‘haven’t thought about it yet’ or ‘that’d be revealed later, wait and see’?

You draw an interesting picture: an author, who is so much of a people-pleaser, that they have no guts to say ‘I am not answering this question’, and yet at the same time such an independent individual, that his fans opinions and desires mean nothing to them.

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mygif

“Yeah, you’d better not.
What exactly is wrong with saying ‘haven’t thought about it yet’ or ‘that’d be revealed later, wait and see’?”

Nothing, same thing that’s wrong with “Here’s an answer that just now came to me, as is wont to happen with creative people who create things, that I reserve the right to change later if I feel the need to.”

“You draw an interesting picture: an author, who is so much of a people-pleaser, that they have no guts to say ‘I am not answering this question’, and yet at the same time such an independent individual, that his fans opinions and desires mean nothing to them.”

I like that you point out that the hypothetical creator who answers a fan’s question about some worldbuilding detail off the cuff is probably doing it to please them, because I agree that’s likely why that creator would do such a thing…because he’s trying to do something neat for a person who’s a fan of their stuff rather than give some “I don’t know” or “wait and see” answer. And I like how the responses to that, to a creator trying to do something nice for a fan rather than giving them the equivalent of a boilerplate “no comment”, are “Man, what a fucking asshole!” That just reinforces my opinion that creators should spend as little time engaging with their fans as possible, because fans prove themselves time and again to be irrational, overly-entitled, and hugely unpleasant people who will find a way to take offense at everything you do, even if you were trying to do something nice for them.

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mygif

“Nothing, same thing that’s wrong with “Here’s an answer that just now came to me, as is wont to happen with creative people who create things, that I reserve the right to change later if I feel the need to.””

So, are you telling me that if someone asks me whether I’m about to do something they have an emotional investment in, the ‘I dont’t know’ is just the same as giving an answer and then arbitrarily changing my mind?
That’s an actual eye-opener. I’mean, previous to that everyone, from my boss to all the guys who’d ever asked me out seemed to have a different opinion. Thanks for the life tip!

“And I like how the responses to that, to a creator trying to do something nice for a fan rather than giving them the equivalent of a boilerplate “no comment”, are “Man, what a fucking asshole!””

Something nice as in giving that fan a bit of information that is ‘real canon’ and not subject to change?
Yeah, they don’t do that.
Giving something that totally looks like what the fan wants, but actually isn’t, only the fan won’t realize it until later is more like it. The fan still doesn’t get what they want, only now they have emotionaly invested in something that turned out to be fake. The author has his cake and eats it to – gets both the pleasant experience of an interaction with a grateful and a freedom from their own words at the expence of the fan being strung along. For some reason fans dare to dislike that, go figure.

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mygif

“So, are you telling me that if someone asks me whether I’m about to do something they have an emotional investment in, the ‘I dont’t know’ is just the same as giving an answer and then arbitrarily changing my mind?
That’s an actual eye-opener. I’mean, previous to that everyone, from my boss to all the guys who’d ever asked me out seemed to have a different opinion. Thanks for the life tip!”

“Being told something by a creator I have virtually no real meaningful connection with except the one I’ve created in my head and then having him change his mind is EXACTLY THE SAME as me doing the same to my employer or people who want to ask me out!” Yes, congratulations, you’ve solved figured it out, those things are exactly the same and not a false equivalency at all. Seriously, I love it when people make my point for me but you don’t have to go to this much effort.

“Something nice as in giving that fan a bit of information that is ‘real canon’ and not subject to change?
Yeah, they don’t do that.”

Everything a creator says is canon until it isn’t anymore. That’s what being the creator means. You don’t like it, maybe you should stop investing yourself so much in fantasy worlds that when the creator changes something that you thought was a SACRED TRUST between you that it causes you to feel personally slighted, just a thought.

“Giving something that totally looks like what the fan wants, but actually isn’t, only the fan won’t realize it until later is more like it. The fan still doesn’t get what they want, only now they have emotionaly invested in something that turned out to be fake. The author has his cake and eats it to – gets both the pleasant experience of an interaction with a grateful and a freedom from their own words at the expence of the fan being strung along. For some reason fans dare to dislike that, go figure.”

The moral of the story is do not give fans anything, ever.

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mygif

“Yes, congratulations, you’ve solved figured it out, those things are exactly the same and not a false equivalency at all.”

Hey, if we’re taking metaphors literally, I’m game.
I’ll give you my employee, but… are you telling me I owe something to the guy that wants to ask me out? As in, really owe something, and the fact that such a guy has virtually no real meaningful connection with except the one he has created in his head is not truth?

“when the creator changes something that you thought was a SACRED TRUST between you that it causes you to feel personally slighted”

Because that is totally exactly what I’ve said! that is what I’m being here an irrational, overly-entitled, and hugely unpleasant person who will find a way to take offense at everything the author does that I am.
No contempt for the fans here, nope, none at all.

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mygif

“Hey, if we’re taking metaphors literally, I’m game.
I’ll give you my employee, but… are you telling me I owe something to the guy that wants to ask me out? As in, really owe something, and the fact that such a guy has virtually no real meaningful connection with except the one he has created in his head is not truth?”

I guess you’ll have to take my word that it isn’t snark or a dig at you when I say that I’m having a bit of trouble parsing this bit. I think what you’re asking me is whether you owe someone who asks you out anything, and generally the answer to that is “it depends on the person asking you out, but probably at least a little more than a fantasy writer owes it to you not to change their minds about canon,” but if I’m wrong about that than I apologize and I guess the next few paragraphs are a bust.

Do you owe anything to someone who asks you out? I’d say basic human decency and social propriety indicates that you shouldn’t go out of your way to set up a date with someone and then stand them up at the last minute for kicks or that you shouldn’t punch them in the face for looking at you funny at the minimum, because it turns out that asking someone out on a date isn’t really the same thing as asking a fantasy writer “Hey, is the land of Booga primarily a coniferous or deciduous region?” and having him change his mind later when it turns out that having Booga be deciduous rather than coniferous is a better fit for the story he’s writing. I certainly wouldn’t conflate those two personally, but maybe I’ve been talking to the wrong fantasy writers.

That’s the crux of the issue, here. People are treating “a fantasy writer told me one thing and did another” with the same sort of gravity that they might, I dunno, a guy you thought you could trust who purposefully lied to you about the time so you’ll miss your bus and be late for work, but a fantasy writer isn’t your friend, they aren’t a person coming up and asking you out, your co-worker or your boss or anybody but a person who makes a thing you happen to enjoy. A person who promises you they’ll get their work turned in and then doesn’t could compromise your business and cost you money or maybe even your job. A person who asks you out and then calls you up as you arrive at the restaurant to say “Nah sorry, changed my mind, see ya’.” has gone to some effort to single you out and toy with your emotions. A creator who gives an off-the-cuff answer to a fan’s question about their imaginary world that they then decide to change later has…what? What have they done? Betrayed their trust? Violated social decency conventions?

The problem with a lot of people in a lot of fandoms is they seem to feel like whatever fan/creator connection exists is way stronger than it is in reality, so when a creator does a thing that upsets them it winds up coming across not just as “this thing that [CREATOR] did that I thought was dumb or annoying” but “this thing that [CREATOR] did was a personal affront to me.” A creator changing his mind about something, even after he told a fan something earlier, isn’t equivalent to, say, inviting someone out on a date and then standing them up for a laugh.

Then when you suggest that the issue lies less with creators being disrespectful towards their fans or their own bodies or work and more with fans developing these inappropriate senses of entitlement or emotional investment, well, it turns out that fans don’t like that very much for some reason, but that doesn’t make it any less the truth. The crux of this issue is fans feeling a greater magnitude of personal grievance when a creator does something like this than is really warranted.

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mygif

Man, of all the things I’ve written, this was not high on my “I bet this starts a flamewar” list at all.

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mygif

All comment-warring aside, I thought of the two most successful world-building fantasies of modern times:

The Bas-Lag novels by China Mieville
The Fourlands saga by Steph Swainston

Both populated by fascinating, complex and believable characters. Also with a very well thought-out worlds.

I know for Steph Swainston, the characters and the drama of their relationships was the impetus for the world-building. And I think Mr. Mieville began with the world itself.

I guess in the end it just really comes down to the individual author. But you have to have both in some way shape or form.

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mygif

Hmmm. I think some of the problem here comes from some people thinking that anything an author says is canon, when in fact canon is whatever gets written in the goddamn books and nothing else. Seriously, JK Rowling doesn’t get credit for writing a gay character when you’d only know that Dumbledore was meant to be gay from looking up six months of interviews, and you don’t get to magically know extra canon because an author decided to tell you some random detail about a setting. There are good reasons for this, too–the process of writing itself involves tons and tons of changing things halfway through. Hell, my own characters tend to change race and gender several times before I settle on anything. You can’t really insist that an author be held to every goddamn thing he or she says when somebody asks him or her about it, because it may need to be changed later.

Regarding MGK’s main point, though, I think that there are a few things it might be better to flesh out beforehand, even (and sometimes especially) if it’s not something that needs to go on-screen at some point. If your setting has a magic (or high tech) system, for example, it’ll probably improve the story if you know at least the broad strokes of how it all works together, even if the characters themselves never need to know that. And while your villains may not need any sort of elaborate backstory or motivations, it would likely be better to at least consider whether they do. Things like that.

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POwerfulPRotection said on January 27th, 2013 at 11:47 am

Reading people define stories as products and the audience as passive consumers depresses me. It’s sad to see how far capitalism has encroached on our lives when people use the logic of late capitalism to define the the subject/object relationship.

MGK; that whole thing about the author dictating canon, I disagree- the text does! That is to say canon is conferred by what is written in the text, author’s intent be damned.

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