Bryan Cogman and the Problem of Fan Interaction

Poor Bryan Cogman has had a bad week.

Cogman is a writer/story editor on Game of Thrones, and is widely known as one of the staff’s biggest Song of Ice and Fire fans. As a confirmed George R. R. Martin groupie, Cogman is allegedly responsible for most of the show’s continuity/backstory bible, having painstakingly pieced it together for the reference of just about anyone else on the show who doesn’t want to have to do all of the pesky research themselves.

Until yesterday, the writer also made himself widely available to fans via Twitter, responding to their questions, concerns and comments. Unfortunately, Cogman appears to be new to the internet and was surprised, angry and hurt when the fans turned on him for not better ensuring that the show not deviate from the books — at all. Bryan started out trying to come up with reasonable defenses, but when the fan criticism became too much, Cogman quit Twitter and then issued the following statement:

Hi all,

In light of a few messages I’ve received, I feel the need to explain my Twitter defection. Will try to keep this brief, as there are a lot more important things happening in the world that need our attention.

The hashtag was immature. I’m sorry I put it that way. It was an emotional reaction after a long day. I don’t regret leaving Twitter, but I should have been more respectful, since that’s what I was asking of fans. Apologies for that.

It was not an easy thing for me to do, as I really enjoy Twitter and interacting with fans of the show, some of whom have become friends. And I absolutely recognize that the majority of you have been nothing but positive and supportive. So if my leaving Twitter has disappointed you, I’m sorry. Of course, it’s important to remember I’m not dead. I’ll still engage with the fan community, I’ll still check the message boards from time to time, do interviews, etc… I just won’t be on Twitter. Really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. You’re not gonna miss that much — the majority of my tweets were promoting the show (which needs no help from me) or talking about the weirdos that hang out in my coffee shop. But I truly appreciate the notes of support I’ve received.

I also want to make clear that this isn’t a reaction to people who’ve asked me questions or expressed concerns in a kind and/or respectful way. I wish I could have made people understand that I’m not in a position to answer questions about why certain characters were absent this season or why we changed a particular storyline… but many of you asked those questions with good intentions, so please know this isn’t directed at you.

Which brings me to the reason I’ve decided to leave. Some people weren’t so nice. They’d either rant at me about what they didn’t like or, at their worst, insult me and my bosses. I realized today I was spending too much time weighing on how/if I should respond and being frustrated by the negativity. And I felt like I was being punished for opening myself up to viewers. I concluded it was just distracting me too much, taking up too much of my time and energy and running the risk of affecting my work. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and a few choice tweets from some disgruntled fans just pushed me over the edge — hence the hasty farewell tweet.

Everyone’s entitled to express themselves on Twitter and if I have a public Twitter feed, I’m opening myself up to both the good and the bad. So, no more public Twitter feed. I’m going to follow the practice of my fellow GoT writers and just concentrate on doing a good show. Please know, from the bottom of my heart, I hope you all enjoy these next two episodes of our adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire and all the episodes to follow. And if you don’t, that’s okay too, really it is… I’d just rather not hear about it anymore.

Thanks, and all the best,

B

In case it wasn’t clear from the last article, social media is great and all, but it really does seem to be destroying a necessary distance between fans and writers. And since crazy fans will always be crazy fans, it is up to writers to make sure they don’t get dragged into these endless, circular debates and arguments. It’s a television show. You can’t include everything, and honestly if Game of Thrones was exactly the same as the books (which, let’s be real, aren’t that great), it would be extremely boring for those of us who’ve already read them.

This show has done a good job of maintaining faithfulness to the books while also throwing in some completely new material to keep everyone on their toes. You would think that Glee would have served as enough of a cautionary tale for what happens when you let fan reaction dictate your every move; you wind up with an overblown mess that doesn’t satisfy anyone.

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4 thoughts on “Bryan Cogman and the Problem of Fan Interaction

  1. I’m glad he was able to realize how much that negativity was affecting him. Writers tend to forget about themselves and work too much for the contentment of others. Sometimes, you just have to let it go.

    • Yeah, that’s my feeling — when you’re talking about internet fandoms you will never, ever satisfy everyone. And what a lot of not-so-techno-savvy writers and showrunners don’t get is that often internet fandoms are not representative of the audience as a whole. So you satisfy this small, vocal faction at the expense of the majority.

      Cogman seems like a sweetheart and all, but he’s better off maintaining a distance since he can’t seem to keep from responding if he leaves a line of communication open.

  2. I feel bad for the guy. He seems to realize these few rude idiots aren’t representative of fandom as a whole, but you learn quick that on the internet, people all of a sudden get brass balls to be complete a-holes because they have a reasonable amount of anonymity and can’t get their well deserved punch in the face. 😦

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