I'm a believer in big-picture, long-term planning. If you don't know where you're going, you can't be surprised when you never get there. It's good to be frank with yourself about what it is you really, truly want.
And so I've been talking to various of my friends the last few months about where I'm going with all of this. With the blogging and speaking, the marketing work, A Creator's Guide, with Felicity and Shiva's Mother and Other Stories.
Five years ago, I reached a pivotal moment in my career when I left Mind Candy -- almost exactly five years ago, in fact. I've been very honest about how hard a time I had finding jobs or projects after that. (The summary: Yeah, it was hard and it sucked.) Nobody knew my work... and if they did, they didn't know I'd been a part of it. Certainly nobody was banging down my door.
That gave me the goal I've been chasing ever since: to build a professional reputation; to become somebody that potential clients seek out. Somebody they've heard of before. To find a way to make a living doing this weird stuff that might be alternate reality games or interactive stories or, as we say now, transmedia. "As god is my witness, I will never be obscure again."
Is it obnoxious to say that I think I've done this? I think I've done this. My mortgage lender is very pleased.
That means it's time to set a new big picture goal, and tick-tock just conveniently when the old one's five years are about up. So what is it I want now? It really isn't my own TV show or an eight-figure budget, though those would be amazing and I'd certainly not turn them down. It's not to work with any particular colleague or director or writer or artist. It certainly isn't to start a booming business as a transmedia pundit, ongoing punditry notwithstanding. What do I want out of all of this? What is the moon I am shooting for?
What I want is fans like Joss Whedon has.
Suddenly, this all winds up being very topical. A Guardian article some days ago talked about the "age of the social artist," to which Chuck Wendig and Harry Connolly have both responded. On Twitter yesterday, I discussed the topic of fans with those two gentlemen and with Stephen Blackmoore at some length.
Talking about having or wanting or cultivating fans is a mind-bending business. It feels a little crass to say "Yes, I want fans." It's one of those things an artist isn't supposed to talk about or think about, right along with stuff like whether there's a market for their art. But, look, this is the thing that I want, and I don't see the point in pretending otherwise.
Fans. It's fans I want. As many as possible. Fans who will pony down cash money, absolutely. But money is just a pleasant side effect of the thing that I want, which is for people to love the things I make.
So why do I say "fans like Joss" in specific? It's because the Joss Whedon fandom has these hallmarks:
1. It's not really about Joss. The Joss Whedon fandom is fundamentally about his work, and not about him as a human being or even as a persona. For comparison, think about the fandom of Justin Bieber, the Beatles, Stephen Colbert. Certainly there is a lot of fan love for Joss-the-man, but that's a carryover from the work; people love the work first, and Joss himself only by association. This is ideal for me and my Complicated Ecosystem of Neuroses™.
2. Critical love. This is a fandom that thinks independently. On the one hand, this means that they scour the depths of his body of work looking for nuance and hidden depth. No subtlety is overlooked, whether he meant to put it there or not. And at the same time, when something just isn't working, the community isn't afraid to talk about it. "This is kind of racist, right here." "This was not his best work, because X, Y, Z." That kind of thoughtful, critical feedback is more valuable than jewels. It makes it easier for you to get better faster.
3. A stake in his career. This community feels a personal stake in seeing Joss succeed. Nobody's calling Joss a sellout for making Avengers; instead, the zeitgeist is "Great! Now he'll have more capital in Hollywood to make more and better stuff!"
So there we have it. This is what I'm shooting for. And the only way to do this is to start making and releasing work I've done on my own: so Shiva's Mother and Other Stories. Felicity. Other surprises in store. Because if I'm after fans, I need to make it easy to be my fan. And if you have to kind of be a transmedia wonk to even know I'm out there or what I've done... yeah, that's not going to work real well, is it?