When Fans Turn Scary

Reading & Writing, The Arts

Is Will Self God?

Er, no. But, like the Bible, I find his books a struggle to get through. And the real God smote down his house earlier this week. But Self does have a book club of Self cargo cultists who think he’s a god, apparently.

Here’s a quote from the Sovereign Grand Quiddity Inspector General of the Will Self Club, as reported in the Daily Beast. “We make sure there are lots of images of Will. I think it’s important to infuse his consciousness into our consciousness and evoke his energy.’

There are fifteen of these founder members named after works by Self attempting to reach a higher state of consciousness by evoking ‘the energy and the time of the author’, despite the fact that Self himself has made fun of such followers. Why do writers attract acolytes? I understand why, say, Scarlett Johansson (or even Kristen Stewart – steady now) would have a fan club, but why writers?

Apparently Self immerses the reader in his consciousness. To be fair, his club members are smart people having a bit of fun, but you can see it getting out of hand. Like many authors, I have a good relationship with readers who collect my books (although you get warnings – one guy I met approached with his signing stack and unwrapped what I thought was a foil sandwich bag to reveal his phone, which be believed was being hacked into by the government.)

And the dangers of upsetting extreme fans are real. An actor I know told his biggest fan to stop calling and she tried to kill herself. Another, a writer/editor, ended up having to go to the police after his denied fan started a hate campaign on Facebook.

I was always a huge fan of JG Ballard and wrote to him several times – he always took the time ago reply with grace and thoughtfulness, and that was quite enough for me. And anyway, these days I can’t help feeling that as writers we should be damned grateful that we still have fans at all!

5 comments on “When Fans Turn Scary”

  1. Amy says:

    There can be a fine line between a regular supporter or enthusiast and an extreme fan. I am a huge fan of Walter Mosley. I have never written him a letter, been to a book-signing, formed or joined a fan club, etc. Yet, if he writes a book, I’ll read it simply because his name is attached to it and I’m rarely disappointed. It feels more like having faith in a person – not religious faith, just a basic confidence in the quality and integrity of the work.

    I think writers have fans because they do very brave and personal work. They say things people are afraid to say and think of things from a fresh perspective, ideally. It allows escapism in a way that a movie or a painting can’t. It can be cathartic, a healing experience.

    Extremes in fans rarely have anything to do with the artist. There’s some emotional and/or psychological breakdown happening and, for whatever reason, that artist or entertainer was in the person’s crosshairs. So, I think when fans get “out of hand” it needs to be dealt with like any other abnormal and potentially dangerous behavior.

    It’s an odd balancing act because, on the ond hand, a writer should feel free to express his characters’ thoughts and actions without censorship, in fiction. Otherwise, what’s the point? That authenticity is where passionate fans come from. On the other hand, I do feel that, in some small way, a writer has to consider how the work he or she creates affects the world.

    In other words, I don’t know anything. lol It’s an interesting dilemma.

  2. Vickie says:

    I find that with long-time reading of an author’s work, I begin to feel a vague kinship. I have directly written a few authors to report my enjoyment of their work, with occasionally surprisingly gracious responses (Jincy Willett, Craig Johnson and Michael Koryta come to mind). I’ve met the latter two at book conventions, and it was nice to actually meet them, but I certainly don’t feel a need to pursue them endlessly (other than buying their books ASAP after release, same as I do the Bryant & May tomes).

    I am just grateful for intelligent authors “out there” sharing their most interesting and entertaining thoughts despite the pathetic monetary returns.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    As with many things in my life, I have usually put off writing to authors I’ve appreciated. I end up planning the letter about the time the death notice appears in the paper. Don’t worry, Chris, I haven’t even started to plan a letter to you yet.

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    It is a huge and necessary business protecting celebrities and people in the public eye from their fans and their “haters”. Corporations also can require protecting, and, certainly doctors, dentists and other “helpful” people, whom a client might become enamoured of.
    Ordinary people, also, if you include the women and men, who are objectified by friends, or strangers, and then discomforted or endangered. (It isn’t just a Steve King novel.)
    For a needy “fan” or other person, the slightest perceived kindness given, or not given, can set off a false mental construct that creates an unreal relationship, but one which the admirer believes is “startlingly real”. This can lead to dangerous “acting out.”
    My father had this happen to him once in his work and it was not enjoyable for him or his family. Unwanted attention makes for a rough period and is scary for everyone.
    I wonder if the internet increases the risk of such events. Frequent stories in the news suggest there might be something to this. Trolls no longer live only under bridges. Burrr.

  5. stephen groves says:

    Hi Chris,

    I think that if Mrs STALKY ever finds out just how many Christopher Fowler books I have collected over 25 years she will help me achive a state of unconsciousness, and I fear some kind of ”hacking” will also be involved!

    all best

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