Will Fantasy-Faction Shut Down?
What do Ranting Dragon, A Dribble Of Ink, Staffer’s Book Review, SF Signal and Fantasy Review Barn have in common? They were all fantastic SFF blogs that have shut down over the course of the past few years… and I understand why.
When you start a blog, you dream of the day you get a reader, then 10 readers, then 100 readers, then 1000 readers then 5000 readers and so on. However, as the number of visitors increase, so does your personal profile, your workload and the responsibility you feel.
Inevitably, this means that your hobby has become something else… blogging, even reading, is no longer something you choose to do when you want to engage with it, but something you ‘need’ to do in order to keep people you feel answerable to happy and engaged.
As someone with anxiety, I’ve always found this part of things difficult. It’s like having a job where your boss has told you, ‘every second you are not being productive, you’re a step closer to getting fired’. The trouble is, your office is your home. As such, I have this voice in my head that doesn’t let me relax. If I’m sat doing nothing then I need to read or write for someone or something because otherwise I’m wasting time and that’s going to end up with me letting people down.
People often laugh when I tell them I sleep, typically, between 12midnight and 4/5am, suggesting it’s amazing I can go with so little sleep. The truth is, I’m not sure how much sleep I need: the second I wake up – I’m awake. There’s stuff to do.
Having been a ‘blogger’ now for about 7 years, I’ve written around 1000 posts and interacted with thousands upon thousands of people. There are people who don’t have a high opinion of me, because my reviews have not supported their favourite authors or they’ve taken my words about a particular subject matter to be offensive. I find this side of things very difficult too. I think I’ve only had it about three or four times, but when you truly offend someone in a well-meaning comment, post or review – that genuinely contained no malice – it’s awful. You’ve poured your heart into something, spent hours trying to polish it and someone picks it up, gathers their friends around and says, ‘lets smash this to pieces, right in front of his face’.
It’s bloody awful and it’s one of the reasons I’ve never been a fan of posting negative reviews – I’ve always tried to keep Fantasy-Faction as somewhere that promotes the genre, great authors and fantastic books because I want to create a buzz and excitement around Fantasy, I don’t want to warn people away from certain works or become a critic. I can relate to authors who create something they are proud of and then are punished with a 1* review.
The final part of Fantasy-Faction I struggle with, hugely, is the pressure to ‘do more’. We’ve held events and done anthologies, but you always have people asking when is the next or ‘why don’t you do this?’. I’m often too keen to please, so throw myself at most things. However, when you branch out into t-shirts, anthologies, conventions, etc you take your blog into small business territory. You end up with customers rather than fans and having to research and negotiate with other businesses in order to keep the quality high and your project breaking even. Unlike most businesses, the pay off isn’t cash: it’s people saying ‘thank you’ or seeing smiles once an event is done. When you make a mistake and get frowns or lose friends, it’s the equivalent of losing money – so you do start to ask yourself ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘should I do this again?’.
2016 was a tough year. I realise that it was for everyone, but personally it was the hardest year I’ve ever had. I suffered a pretty bad PCS (post-concussion syndrome) and dealing with that in addition to my job and Fantasy-Faction meant my mental health suffered to the extent I was signed off work and ended up needing help from professionals. At the time, I wasn’t keen to talk about it, fearing people would abandon the blog, but I realise now that was a pretty huge mistake.
Fantasy-Faction hasn’t been the site you guys deserve for around 18 months now. That is entirely my fault and as such I’ve been thinking about whether this is the end of Fantasy-Faction. I thought about the aforementioned blogs and wondered whether this is the same thing the editors of those blogs went through. I imagine waking up in the mornings without the numerous concerns that a blog growing into a non-profit organisation brings with it.
My feeling is that Fantasy-Faction has a lot more to accomplish, but I’m not in the same position I was when I started the blog. I have a family now (a long-term partner and two dogs) and a more time consuming job – which is required to pay for this awful thing called a mortgage and the many, many bills it brings with it. I’ve taken on a number of charity projects, that I feel I need to keep working for too – that was part of my mental health recovery (the smiles that I feel I need to deliver), in addition to being for causes I truly believe in supporting.
In order to keep this site going then, I need to hand parts of the ‘Editor’ role to people who are as passionate about Fantasy as I am. Jennie already does an incredible job with many aspects of the site, but I will be delegating many of the jobs I’ve been failing at to other people who will breathe new life into the site and take it in the direction I envisioned. We will be able to go back to a new article a day, quality to match a professional magazine and keeping readers up-to-date with all the latest reviews.
And, before I leave you, my friends, I should point out that although the focus of this article has been addressing whether this is the end of Fantasy-Faction and why that could even be a question, I’d like to address what we’ve achieved. We’ve published thousands of articles and have had over 1,000,000 views to them, we’ve published an anthology and we’ve even held four events with famous authors and hundreds of fans attending each. You know what I’m most proud of though? People have met over Fantasy-Faction and struck up real friendships. Some have gone as far as flying between the UK, Holland, Germany, Brazil and America just to meet with people they’ve met through Fantasy-Faction. Isn’t that crazy? We’ve created friendships. Strong and everlasting ones. I always tell people that I founded Fantasy-Faction to create conversation and bring people with a shared interest together, but the strength of the friendships I witness on the Facebook page and Forums every single day exceed even my wildest expectations.
Thank you for bearing with us during 2016 and I promise you that over the next few months you will once again have the Fantasy-Faction you deserve.