November 16, 2010 1 Comment
One of the hardest parts of being a creative person is the time when you hand your work over to the public for their enjoyment (or otherwise!). However, at this point you inevitably gear yourself up for a mixed bag of reactions, understanding that you can’t please everybody all the time, but also all too aware that you will NEVER please some people EVER! There are far too many ‘fans’ who relish in attacking, deconstructing and destroying. Many have blamed this on the internet, for opening up the world to the ability to comment and criticise. But it has gone on for a long time, in magazines and newspapers, letters columns and the angry ‘green ink’ letter from Tunbridge Wells!
What is a particular problem at the moment is that genre fans don’t seem to know that they’ve never had it so good. We are in a time of genre dominance, in movies, TV and books (not so much radio!). Take Doctor Who for instance…it’s not so many years gone that DW was dead and buried on TV, that the only DW lights burning were Big Finish and DWM. DW fans would relish and be grateful for any new DW release. But now…since DW’s rebirth, and the BBC’s realisation that they have a massive hit that they can get big audiences from and make a profit on to help repay the cost of production, fans have been getting more and more DW than ever before. And what is the reaction? Well, of late it seems to be getting more and more negative, nit-picking and aggressive. One of my audio releases recently (on which I only produced the narration, not the final audio) has been referred to by many as a pointless release, with lazy decisions and only of use to young kids. Well, I’m very sorry you don’t like it, but if we would have turned out such a product 7 or 8 years ago, looking at, say, the 8th Doctor’s reign, you would have been swinging from the rafters with joy. Don’t get me wrong, any and all constructive criticism is joyfully received and listened to. But more and more ‘fan’ reaction is simply negative…”It’s not good enough”, “It’s not what I would do”, “I don’t like the writer so I’m going to write a negative review regardless of the content” (we all know who THAT one is!).
Fans today, especially DW fans, are swimming in a sea of new and exciting content. That doesn’t mean we should drop our standards as producers or creatives, but fans DO need to realise that this won’t last forever. AT some point the audios and magazines and toys WILL stop. The BBC, or other broadcasters will move on to new series and other priorities.
It is good to critique, it is good to request more and better content. But remember that every product was made by people who genuinely care about what they are making, who lavish time and energy and creative soul on it, who aim to entertain you. When you respond as a fan, or as a paid reviewer (with no experience of making said productions/books/etc… yourself) bear in mind that [a] no-one has forced you to buy/illegally download this item [b] there are several people who worked damn hard to make it for you [c] you have the right to constructively critique, you do not have the right to deconstructively destroy! Enjoy the goodies that are here now, for one day they will be a thing of the past. Not everything will be to your liking, but not everything in life ever is. Just because something related to your favourite show/character/book has ‘let you down’, don’t go on a rampage of hate, rather look for something else…or, shock horror, have a try at creating something yourself. For until YOU have experienced the difficulties of creativity, the nightmare of budgetary constraints, the reality of long hours and hard work…only then will you have the right to dole out the soul-destroying and depression-inducing vitriol of hatred and bile that some ‘fans’ and reviewers spew forth far too often.
And do you know what? Those of us that DO make these things, rarely if ever offer up such heartless and immature feedback to our peers, because we know the level of work and passion that has gone in to the piece. So we discuss and debate, we CONSTRUCTIVELY CRITIQUE, we offer support and suggestions. And then, we congratulate and thank each other for the work done. Because, in genre production, those behind the scenes are even more passionate about the series/characters/stories than many of the ‘fans’…it’s true!
Please continue to be fans, continue to push us for more, continue to feedback and offer criticism (that can be good as well as bad, you know?). Just think long and hard about what it would feel like if we were to come to your work and do the same to you. Or if we were to comment harshly and without compassion at something you have created (your child, your garden, your private collection of never before seen art or poetry). There are humans behind your favourite shows, and nobody is perfect. But you’ve never had it so good, so please take a deep breath and remember that this is people’s art and craft and soul and passion you are commenting on, NOT just a piece of your favourite genre series.
N.B. These are MY opinions and DO NOT necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd, the BBC, AudioGo, or any other business, company or individual.
Neil Gardner is the owner/MD of Ladbroke Productions, the UK’s oldest independent radio production company. He has written and produced many genre/SF radio dramas, readings and series. He is also a producer of Doctor Who audiobooks, and the co-creator of The Brightonmicon Audio Series. He regularly discusses SF and genre on the podcasts Sci-Five and The Big Pair. In 2010 he published his first book, The Bumper Book of FICTS, with cult author Robert Rankin.