Sorry to say this is not a new chapter, though one is in the works!

There have been some unpleasant exchanges between authors and reviewers on this site lately, and I felt compelled to address the issue. This is something I have never done before, so please forgive me if this editorial is not of interest to you. For anyone who chooses to read it, feel free to review or PM me with thoughts or concerns.

An Open Letter From One Fan Fiction Writer to Readers

As a base statement I think I can speak for most fan fiction authors when I say that feedback, in the form of reviews or private messages or any variety of reaction, is the life blood of why we write. If we have no audience we have no mandate, and without some confirmation of engagement and trust we are most certainly left bereft of purpose. No author ever wants to feel that their work is not needed or appreciated, so I feel this topic deserves further examination.

This is bound to be a controversial subject, I suppose, because not all readers will love your work and on occasion this can become a source of strife. I am directly familiar with some recent instances of negative feedback in Longmire fandom as concerns fan fiction— we are a small community, and I am sure most writers and readers know of what I speak.

I suppose my hope in writing this is to explain and confirm what a fan writer actually does and what we consider to be our role in fandom at large.

First and foremost, a fan writer has respect for the 'canon' material provided by the creators. In the case of Longmire fandom that would include both Mr. Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire novels, and the producers and writers of the televised version of that universe. There are a lot of ways to interpret what that 'respect' entails.

In my personal opinion, this includes courtesies such as acknowledging thoughtfulness on the part of the show writers in terms of their characterizations and plot decisions. It also assumes a reasonable degree of imaginative leeway, such as one might afford to a friend who tells an embellished story. Suspension of disbelief has been an essential element in filmed entertainment since the silent era, which produced tales far wilder and more outlandish than anything we've been served by the writers and creators of Longmire.

Respecting something doesn't mean that we have to like it. Respecting something doesn't mean we have to agree with it. However, respecting something does very much mean that we need to consider the hours of thought and work that went into creation of the thing in question. This is why fan writers choose not to 'ignore' parts of the story that they may not favor.

The challenge of writing fan fiction is to take what is given to you and make something out of it without compromising the characters, the setting, the essential elements of how the story is told. There are literally dozens of ways to do this. You can take away the plot and make a story with just the characters. You can take away the characters and do it with just the setting. You can erase or alter the characters or setting to the point where everything is entirely unrecognizable… but what is the point in that? Why would you want to take the thing you loved and deconstruct it to the point where it no longer provides any sense of connection?

Ask any fan fiction writer, and they will tell you the same. Our intention is not to alter or override the story or the characters. We want to take the story to new levels. We want to entertain. We want to examine what we are given by the creators and speculate what could happen next or 'fix' those elements that we view as broken— always with hope that these matters will eventually resolve on our screens.

Fan fiction is at the heart a labor of love, a love that has many means of expression. The people who create and consume it are just that— people. People as diverse and delicate, as formidable and as fragile as those that you encounter in the real world every day. Some writers are terrified of sharing their work and deserve acknowledgement for their bravery. On the other side, more readers than you could ever guess are intimidated by the review process and spend untold reserves of courage just to let an author know that their work has been enjoyed or to provide criticism where warranted. There is a symbiotic beauty to this process, in the formation of a relationship between reader and writer which benefits and gratifies both and encourages the continuation of that exchange.

What I fail to understand is how anyone could believe that bullying and browbeating have any place here. Writers of fan fiction are unpaid enthusiasts who spend an inordinate amount of free time contemplating, theorizing, constructing, and finding new ways to understand and empathize with the characters. The people who read fan fiction generally respect and appreciate this, though they may not always be fully aware of how vital their support and interest can be in terms of motivating and validating the authors.

We don't write this stuff because our egos are just so huge that we think we know better than the show writers. We don't write it as some complicated form of subversion, set out to delegitimize the carefully wrought stories that have inspired us. If that's what you want us to do, I promise that you will be sorely disappointed. We write because we love the show and the characters and we feel we have something to contribute, whether that be stories in the same vein or something a bit different. We are fans, and many of us are very dedicated shippers. Shipping is a thing that can be very primal and visceral, gut-twisting and close to the heart. We write because those emotions compel us, and cause us to react.

The hope, of course, is for readers to share those feelings with us, or perhaps to find new ways of processing and expressing reactions of their own. This can include disagreements and debates just as much as praise and encouragement, and those conversations serve to keep the cycle of creativity moving. On the other hand, tearing people's work apart while providing no useful form of criticism is both pointless and mean-spirited. Using the feedback engine as a forum for grievances entirely out of the fic author's control is disingenuous at best and at worst will have one ultimate result— a group of writers who are left feeling uninspired, unappreciated, and unwilling or unable to continue sharing what they've created to an audience who responds with nothing but vitriol and antipathy.

I, for one, wish no part in a process that descends onto that level. I've got a real problem with bullying and harassment, and possess no desire to spend what little time I have available to dedicate to fan fiction engaged in defending my work or that of others against attacks formed from a source of bitterness that I can neither understand nor afford any measure of respect. What I do feel compelled to do, however, is to stand up and speak for those authors who may not realize that they are being paid such a disservice or might not know how to react in the face of the irrational contempt being thrown their way.

So, know this.

Authors: You are appreciated, far more than you realize. For every review you receive, there are probably five silent readers who enjoyed your story without engaging in the feedback process. Some readers are shy, some don't know what to say in a review, but those people are out there and they look to you as a valued source of entertainment in the gap between seasons/novels or just for a dose of spice in their fandom life. I have spoken with many fans who consume fan fiction with great relish even if they never take the time to make that fact known. What you write matters to people, and your updates and stories have brightened many a day. We've had some tough times in Longmire fandom in the past couple years, and fan fiction has always been a light shining into the dark places to provide illumination and bolster morale. Your work has value, and that can never be taken away by the hurtful words of a petty minority.

Readers: You also are appreciated more than you could ever know. Fic authors may self-motivate to a degree, or formulate plots and scenarios for their own satisfaction, but ultimately the stories here are written to be read. We thrive on feedback, and the review process is very important to us. Some authors painstakingly reply to each review, while others may not have time or inclination to reply to any, but every single thought you share has impact and value. Whether you use that review box to provide praise or to point out typos you are heard, and the time you've taken to communicate your thoughts is gratefully acknowledged. Constructive criticism is rarely provided, but also taken to heart. On occasion that criticism steps over the line into abuse, and that is where a line must be drawn.

To those who feel the need to load their reviews with pervasive negativity and irrelevant commentary, let me say this. When you type words into that little white box, take a minute to think about what you're trying to accomplish. There is a person, an author, who is going to receive the message that you convey. And yes, it will be seen by others as well. If your grievance is personal, perhaps try a private message. If your complaint is with the show runners or script writers, go bitch about it on Facebook or Tweet it to Tony Tost.

Fan authors did not create season 4 of Longmire, but we are determined to function within the world it creates. If what you're looking for is a fic that rejects season 4 and makes no attempt to speculate or theorize based on how fan fiction authors have chosen to interpret it, write one yourself. Fresh voices in fic are always welcome, and there you will have the freedom to create whatever you wish. This is a far better alternative than making authors feel like shit by ridiculing their carefully thought out stories and plot lines because they're not in line with whatever pessimistic, defeatist, cynical, and unsubstantiated garbage theories you've concocted in your spiteful and petulant mind.

Not nice, is it? This is what those reviews feel like to an author. Would you want to keep writing after that? You don't have to like everything, but there are appropriate ways to convey criticism or disagreement which do not veer into the territory of diatribes and borderline harassment. Think before you review, and if you can't do it without spewing malice or positing unwelcome doom and gloom scenarios, maybe take a step back and choose not to comment.

Reviews, as mentioned at the top of this document, are the life blood of fan fiction. Poison can come in many forms, and when it works its way into the blood it can create a sickness. Readers and writers deserve a healthy environment to share and consume stories here, and we all play a part in maintaining that. These words are intended to clarify, to heal, and to remind those who choose to be involved with fan fiction that we all depend upon each other for this magical and interactive form of entertainment to reach its full potential.

So please, let's support each other and be kind. We all get upset sometimes, but there are appropriate venues for the expression of displeasure and it should not be directed at the undeserving. Everyone: keep writing, keep reviewing, talk to each other, encourage, ship, build and shape new stories and unique universes. And if all else fails? Don't let the haters get you down.