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Will Fantasy-Faction Shut Down?

What do Ranting Dragon, A Dribble Of InkStaffer’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.

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Will Fantasy-Faction Shut Down?, 9.8 out of 10 based on 46 ratings
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28 Comments

  1. This site is a fantastic achievement for which I hope you are thanked on a regular basis. I’m very glad to hear that Fantasy-Faction will endure, and I’m sure all your friends (I’m proud to call myself one) and visitors will hope you maintain the level of participation that best suits you.

  2. Promthanius says:

    I’ll do it lol

  3. Steven Kelliher says:

    You’re built something to be proud of, and moreso than the content and copy, it’s the community you’ve helped foster that is the enduring legacy of Fantasy-Faction.

    Will support the site as long as it’s here.

  4. Phil Norris says:

    Marc what you created is awesome and personally feel the friendliest group on Facebook and forum anywhere. And I agree, I’ve met a lot of people through the group (not in person but someday) and am online friends with them. All the best for your future plans and don’t be a stranger.

  5. Steven Poore says:

    I empathise completely with you, Marc. It would be a shame to lose yet another vital island in the “archipelago of SFF”, but you need to do what’s right for your health. (Sidenote: that’s why there weren’t any SFSF Socials in 2016 as well)

    I’ve been told that delegation is a key. If you *can’t*, delegate to people who *can*. It won’t stop being your baby. 🙂

  6. Marc, I totally get what you are saying but please know that you are an inspiration. You have the kindest heart and it’s an honour to have been part of it all. I’d like to think we’re friends for life and I know we’d probably never have met without the incredible work you and the team have done. Look after yourself and your family, that is what life is all about. Hugs x

  7. Brett Swanson says:

    This site is one of my absolute favorites on the web. Between FF and the Facebook group, I’ve discovered more books and authors than I will probably ever get to in this lifetime, and the conversations with other fans are always so fun and engaging. Thanks for everything, Marc! To echo others’ sentiments, make sure your health comes first. We’ll understand if you have to take some time away to take care of you. Keep being awesome!

  8. ScarletBea says:

    Marc, thanks from the bottom of my heart for Fantasy-Faction: this site, and mainly the forum, is more than a simple site, it’s been the source of real friends and a rock during my hard times.
    Not everyone “keeps wanting more”: maintain what you have until you’re ready, and only do more if you want.
    *big hugs*

  9. Aidan Moher says:

    Glad to hear you’re taking steps to put your health and happiness first, Marc! All the best, and thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into FF over the years.

  10. David Zampa says:

    Everyone gets tilted sometimes. It can’t be helped. You’re doing the right thing in delegating. That way no one can run out of gas at the same time.

    I’m glad that’s what you’re most proud of. The community is the reason I love the site so much. It has a life of its own, and hopefully won’t be nearly as much of an energy drain as the constant need to post content.

  11. Jennette says:

    You have done amazing work here. I love the community you have created. I hope the best for you and your family and peace as you walk through this.

  12. Patrick says:

    Hey Marc,

    I’m glad that Fantasy-Faction will go on. =)

    Having gone through the same thing, I can relate about how you feel. Like me, you should just cut down and devote whatever amount of time works for you to this website. I realized that as soon as it feels like a real job, blogging loses its appeal. As you know, I came close to hanging it up a few years back. Then I decided to simply stop worrying about what people would think and I elected to do what I could.

    Looking back, even though I did cut down on a lot of content, especially interviews and related articles, surprisingly my traffic didn’t really go down that much. Unlike me, you have a team of passionate SFF aficionados to help you shoulder the load.

    So just take a step back, pursue this passion with whatever time you can spare, and I’m sure you’ll stay on board for years!

    Cheers,

    Patrick

  13. Anindita says:

    Touching.
    Happy that you are sharing your troubles and helping yourself feel better by taking the necessary steps.
    Association with this group has changed my life in ways I won’t explain. But without FF I wouldn’t have been in the happy place I am now. So thank you for these wonderful months, the new friends and many many books, and for the renewed love I feel for fantasy.
    Hope you have a relaxed and satisfied life from now.

  14. Jonathan says:

    Don’t really post here but often visit. Really enjoy the articles and often reference them for my own writing. So, thanks! Hope everything works out for you going forward.

  15. Jo says:

    *hugs* Running a site of this size and complexity is hard work, and if you feel the need to delegate then do it! And if you need someone to talk to about running big SF projects, or MH issues, or dogs 😉 then you know where I am and I’m always up for coffee and a chat if you need a sympathetic ear. Don’t try and do it all on your own – there’s absolutely no shame in asking for help xxx

  16. What you’ve achieved with Fantasy Faction is amazing, Marc, it’s a wonderful resource and a place where so many of us feel truly at home. As you say, it’s more than just a website, it’s a source of friendship and support. I suspect a lot of us here can understand the kind of issues you talk about (god knows, I can): the friendship and enthusiasm on this site can genuinely help us get through a bad day.

    Very glad the site’s not going anywhere! But also very glad you’re focusing more on yourself and your family, and not driving yourself too hard.

    Thank you, Marc.

  17. hari says:

    Nice to hear that you are staying and evolving stronger.

  18. christophe says:

    I can only say ‘Thank you and have fun with everything you wish to do.

  19. Sam Plunkett says:

    What you’ve created here is a genuine joy to be a part of, here and the Facebook community. For those of us who seek escapism through fantasy you’ve given us a way to do so without the ridicule from those who don’t understand. Finding other like minded people, when I’ve been told forever that I was an outcast for what I enjoy, is amazing. To feel that I’m not the only one out there obsessing over the genre is great. Thank you dearly for what you have done here!

  20. Marc, it is a huge achievement that you have put together such a great resource for the genre and that you’ve been an untiring and steady hand at the pumps all this time. Fantasy Faction is just the kind of online forum that needs to survive: it keeps one informed and is supportive of both authors and readers. Courage mon brave!

  21. Toby Frost says:

    I think it’s an excellent site and has kept up a good balance of news, reviews and articles. Long may it continue. I hope you’re feeling better in the future and that Fantasy Faction continues to be great.

  22. Stephan says:

    Marc, I fondly remember back in 2010, when I had just launched The Ranting Dragon and you sent me an email. We had just embarked on similar journeys. I continue to be amazed at the things you’ve done with Fantasy Faction.

    This website is fantastic, and the team you’ve gathered around you is amazing. It’s a testament to your hard work that you are now capable of taking steps to maintain your own health while entrusting your site to capable people.

    I understand entirely how you feel. Reviewing for me started as a hobby, but my website grew into a day job. There was a point where it simply burned me out. I stopped reading for several years, because I simply didn’t enjoy it anymore. It had become a thing I *had* to do, rather than enjoyed to do. As I’m currently in the process of rebooting my website and just published my first review in years, I am more aware of the problems that maintaining a website like this can bring than ever.

    I’m really proud of you for all you’ve accomplished, and even more for putting your own health first. I continue to learn from your example. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do!

  23. Mike Robinson says:

    Marc, you’ve done a fantastic job over the years and I can say without a doubt that this is one of my favourite websites! Please continue to do what you can and take a break when needed. You’ve done so much for so many people. Well done!

  24. Joe Martin says:

    Running your own business is a slog through the mire sometimes. Don’t I know it. Hang in there, Marc. You’ve built something amazing. Revivify yourself, man. Success doesn’t lead to happiness, happiness leads to success. You got this.

  25. Justin Heard says:

    You go Mark! Do what’s best for you, and we’re here to support you. I’m glad you’re finding ways for this amazing community to continue to flourish.

  26. Sorry to hear about your struggles – I know myself from experience how tough it is. However, if you ever find you can’t keep FF online, please do let me know and I’d be happy to keep it alive.

    I’ve stepped in to save a number of websites over the years, many of them charities. IMO it’s a shame and a waste when useful websites disappear.

  27. IM says:

    Thank you for your tremendous efforts on this site.

  28. David says:

    Take care of yourself. You have built a truly wonderful site that I visit everyday. The quality and variety of articles is something that I enjoy. I wish you and this site the best, it is the site we deserve and it because of you. All the best, happiness, and health.

    Sweet water and light laughter.

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