I’m fascinated by the extent to which fandom has become a source of identity categories, whether it’s people including the franchises that they’re attached to in their social media biographies, suggesting that loving Doctor Who, for example, is as important a thing for people to know about them as their place or category of work, or their status as a parent or spouse. But it’s clear that sometimes those attachments can become unproductive in their intensity, as Charlaine Harris, whose Southern Vampire novels became the basis for HBO’s series True Blood, found out when she decided it was time for her to focus on a new set of characters:
Many of her fans, however, aren’t close to satiated. Thousands of readers have written her and begged her to keep the story going. Some have taken to taunting Ms. Harris in emails and online forums, saying she’ll regret her decision. One fan threatened to commit suicide if the ending doesn’t meet her expectations.
“I’m very fortunate that people are so invested in the series,” Ms. Harris says. “At the same time, it can be a source of some anxiety to get emails that say, ‘If Sookie doesn’t end up with Eric, I’m going to kill myself.’ ”
The prickly dynamic between Ms. Harris and some of her followers highlights how hard it can be to kill a successful series. For the first time in years, Ms. Harris isn’t touring to promote the book. She doesn’t want to be berated by readers who hate the ending or want vampire spinoffs.
I’m fascinated by this sense of obligation, or by the sense that it’s appropriate to lobby creators not for substantive things like more diverse casting or more diverse writing staffs, but for certain plot points, like the development of romantic relationships between certain characters. As a critic, I’m always comfortable saying that I think one choice or another might be more effective. But the idea that someone owes something to me, whether it’s a certain event, or simply more of whatever it is that they’re producing, is very strange. It makes me wonder how fans relate in different ways to products and to the people who create them, as if the latter serves some sort of kind of grand design that governs the former, rather than being the deity of the particular universe they’ve created.