My ‘Toxic Fan’ quiz got some love yesterday, making me realize something: the scifi community is looking for help, toxic fan resources. The reason they were talking about toxic fans yesterday (Revan … like, whatever) is just like the reason I originally posted the toxic fan quiz (James Gunn). The reasons for toxicity come and go, but the poison remains. It’s real, it’s dangerous, and it will kill us if we don’t kill it first. More than ever, scifi must defeat the tribalism, gatekeeping, and racism eating away at our foundations like mad termites.
But where do you start? I’ve been writing about this piecemeal, but now I think it’s time to give the science fiction community help by creating a single page of toxic fan resources. I’m no authority on the subject, but I’ve been watching this phenomena for over twenty years. The experience has taught me one thing: we don’t stop toxicity by ‘destroying’ toxic fans. Rather, we should work to identify them, reach out, and heal them. My hope is that this virtual toolbox can be of help to you.
So let’s break it down. Below are a group of posts / resources I’ve found on the topic of toxic fans. Feel free to browse and use what works for you.
What Is a Toxic Fan / Why Does It Matter?
The basis for toxic fans comes from a bad social habit we started many years ago – being professional consumers instead of creators. Yes, of course we need consumers of science fiction (I’m a writer, after all) but the act of consuming slowly became a sort of creativity unto itself. As a result, people who didn’t feel confident in being the next George Lucas started trying to be the next Comic Book Guy, and it’s turned them into dark caricatures of themselves. You know who they are, and so do I (Looking at you, Harry Knowles and other neckbeards). The problem isn’t whether those people exist, the problem is: what is the scifi community going to do about it?
If people can ignore things like climate change, they can ignore me, too. But make no mistake: Refusing to answer that question has serious consequences. As I pointed out in this blog post, toxic fans and other bad actors can take out entire franchises if left to their own devices. What’s the point of contributing if it means some dork in another part of the world can waltz in and use IP laws to steal what you tried to give away for free? What recourse do we have when one person, anywhere in the world, can end your life’s work with the touch of a button?
So yes, toxic fans exist and yes, they matter. If the scifi community wants to continue to have new scifi coming in, it will have to reckon with this problem. So how can we identify toxic fans, and what do we do about it?
How Do I Know If I’m a Toxic Fan / What Do I Do About It?
Sooner or later, history will allow us to look back on our time now with some candor and insight. Who do we want to be when we get there? How do we want to remember ourselves? How do we want the elder generation who entrusted this community and genre to us to feel? How do we want the younger generation to see us? To help answer those important questions, I decided to start by answering:
This ten question quiz can help you find out, and at the bottom are some resources to help you do some work if you’ve identified opportunities to improve. Here are a few of them:
- 7 Ways I Used To Be A Toxic Person — And How I Changed My Behavior
- Are You Toxic To Deal With? How To Tell, and How To Change
- I Stopped Being A Toxic Person: Here’s How
But assuming that you’re like Play-Doh, 100% non-toxic, what do we do about the toxic fans around us? Must we band together to destroy them, murder them with words? The answer is, no.
How Do We Get Rid of Toxic Fans?
The answer to toxic fans is really quite simple, and it comes from Abraham Lincoln: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” No one is suggesting that we banish toxic fans to the Phantom Zone; only Superman could do that! Rather, the scifi community should come together to reach out, check in, and approach with kindness. In fact, approaching with kindness is one of the six ways we can defeat scifi’s toxic tribalism.
So don’t be afraid to speak up, and reach out. Our goal is not to reject those who may have spent a lifetime being rejected elsewhere. We want our friends and fans back, happy and healthy! Once our friends are feeling better, we can take that energy back into scifi to make it even better. Were they angry about a character? Their points can make that character better! Did they have valid concerns about a specific fandom or franchise? Those concerns can and should be addressed!
The point at the end of the day is that energy cannot be destroyed, but it can be redirected. My goal is a world where there no toxic fans, just fans. That’s a dream we can call get behind.
So as I’ve said in the past, my hope is for the scifi community to get to a period of greater understanding, creativity, and connection. As the pandemic proved, we need each other now. Please join us, on the Light Side of the Force. We’re weird, we’re damaged, but like a single broken egg, we can be delicious when we’re mixed together! Like you, everyone wants the best for themselves – let’s combine our forces to become the Voltron-like power we all want to be.
The future can be a beautiful place. Let’s build it together.