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<   No. 1752   2007-11-13   >

Comic #1752

1 Ophelia: So you're not happy with what Rowling did in Deathly Hallows?
2 Will: She's betrayed the fans by revising what went before.
3 Ophelia: Hmmm. I didn't think anything in the book contradicted anything she wrote in the previous six books.
4 Will: She's completely ignored all the fan-fiction continuity!

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Betraying the fans.

This phrase really annoys me. I see it as a manifestation of unrealistic expectations on the part of people who enjoy some form of entertainment. No artist or entertainer can realistically be expected to keep on producing material that produces the same (or greater) pleasure as their earlier works, ad infinitum. At some point it's inevitable that the next thing they do will be of lesser quality, or will conflict with what went before, or will change the context of what went before to the point that it no longer seems as good as it used to.

So what? People are only human. They produce bad work now and then. They make mistakes every so often. They do boneheaded things sometimes. It's extremely rare that they are actively trying to annoy and alienate the people who most appreciate what they do.

And how, exactly, is making a mistake now "betraying" what they did before? Nothing anyone does can invalidate the pleasure you got out of enjoying some work of fiction or art in the past. You enjoyed it - you can't un-enjoy it.

The obvious example - the one most of you are probably thinking of already - is Star Wars. George Lucas did some really stupid things with the special editions and the prequels. But how is that a betrayal of anything? Suddenly people don't remember that Han shot first? The Empire Strikes Back now sucks all of a sudden? You realise you didn't actually enjoy those movies for 15 years before they got modified?

Remember the good stuff. Don't dwell on how someone "betrayed" you and gave you something that wasn't as good as what they gave you before. Because they didn't. They didn't take away the enjoyment you already had. They just gave you something that didn't live up to your hopes. If you let that ruin your recollection of how good things were, you've betrayed yourself by painting your pleasant memories with bitterness.

I see a similar thing when publishers release new editions of things like games - roleplaying games and Magic: the Gathering cards are examples that come to my mind. Bunches of people complain that suddenly their old editions are now "worthless" or "useless". As if it's now impossible to even use the previous edition when a newer edition exists. Well, you know, it's still possible to run a first edition game of Dungeons & Dragons today. That simple fact seems to elude some people.

These are all symptoms of what I see as a tendency to live in the present, and consider the past as something not worth remembering. In this day of immediacy and instant global connectivity, people tend to flit from activity to activity, garnering joy and fun where they find it, and always seeking new and more exciting stuff to do now. Which is fine in itself, but not at the cost of savouring the good times you've already experienced.

Nobody can ever take away the sense of wonder and amazement I felt when, as a child, I sat entranced by Star Wars in the cinema. Nothing George Lucas can do can betray that memory. He could come to my place and axe his way through the door and burn me in my sleep - that would be betraying me as a fellow human being - but he can't betray me as a fan, no matter how many crappy prequels he makes or how much he mangles the original movies. Because that memory is mine, and I won't let anything spoil it for me.

Why do people let things ruin the enjoyment they've previously had? You don't have to let it. Preserve your memories. Relive the joy you've felt during the good times. Remember the good things. Life is more rewarding that way.

2018-06-30 Rerun commentary: I did in fact run a First Edition Dungeons & Dragons (i.e. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) game not long ago, after Fifth Edition had been released. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, although I wanted to move on to Fifth Edition, I hadn't run D&D for several years - most of my recent gaming had been using GURPS - and I wanted to try running a rules set I was more familiar with first. (I skipped running games in all of Second through Fourth Editions, although I did buy some of the source books.)

Secondly, the adventure I wanted to run was the classic First Edition adventure Ravenloft. Although an adaptation of this adventure to Fifth Edition, titled Curse of Strahd has since been published, it wasn't available at the time, and besides, I wanted to replicate the full First Edition experience for my players.

As it happens, they didn't enjoy the game as much as subsequent Fifth Edition adventures I've run. This is because the D&D publishers have in fact improved the rules over the years, making them more streamlined, easier to use, and more balanced in gameplay. Also possibly perhaps because I was a little rusty in my game mastering skills.

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