I’ll be honest, I was more than happy to just write off Bring Back Legends as a mostly annoying but ultimately ineffectual movement. That all changed this past weekend when Bring Back Legends/Continue Legends or whatever they’re calling themselves took it upon themselves to turn Dragon Con 2015 into a platform for their fanboy entitlement. Not unlike how Gamer Gate thinks they own gaming, or Sad Puppies thinks they own science fiction, BBL is acting like they own Star Wars fandom and will do whatever it takes to make their voices heard.
Things began to look curious midnight on Force Friday, when in short order the Amazon page for Aftermath began to be flooded with one-star reviews of the book. There were three primary complaints: the inclusion of LGBT characters, the prose style, and griping about Legends. As for the prose style complaints, it’s odd that so many people had seemingly read the book in less than an hour, especially considering that Del Rey sent out perhaps less than 20 advance review copies. Certainly, some stores broke street dates, but not enough to account for the massive influx of reviews that seemed to complain about the exact same thing (as Chuck Wendig, Michael Patrick Hicks, and Jim C. Hines noted). At absolute best, it’s a bizarre coincidence. At worst, it’s an organized campaign designed to, as Wendig so brilliant put it, weaponize nostalgia for Legends and hurt folks as a result.
Okay, quite a bit more than annoying, but the negative reviews actually help the Amazon algorithms prioritize Aftermath, so I guess it’s more amusing in a dark way than anything else. Once again I’m ready to shrug off Bring Back Legends and the one-star Amazon review campaign.
Then the rest of Dragon Con happened.
I might have been the first person targeted during the convention following the big The Force Awakens panel at the Hilton. After the panel had wrapped, I was doing the usual answering one-off questions from folks walking up to the stage. As I was getting ready to leave (because I needed to be on another panel in a different room and had to navigate through the crush of Dragon Con attendees), someone walked up to me carrying a box of flyers and introduced himself as being from an offshoot of the Bring Back Legends movement.
He forced a flyer on me and then began talking at me for about five minutes. I tried to excuse myself several times, but he wouldn’t let me go. Eventually Nanci had to grab me and help extricate me from the situation. It was extremely uncomfortable, for no other reason than I’m more than aware the vitriol this movement has directed at numerous social media touchpoints. The entire time I’ve got this little seedling of terror in the back of my head that this conversation is going to get thoroughly unpleasant if I don’t capitulate, so I’m forced to tell this person repeatedly that I’ll check their Facebook page out after I finish up my next panel. He insists I look at it right then and there.
From that moment on something repeated itself almost every panel I was on or at. Someone from Bring Back Legends would corner a panelist. Someone else would hijack the audience microphone during Q/A time to complain about Disney or Del Rey. At one point, they even questioned authors of Legends books and implied that they were involved in Disney’s “casual disregard” of the Expanded Universe.
It wasn’t just me this happened to, either. One panelist and moderator was stalked to a restroom by someone from Bring Back Legends. Another panelist was halted in the Marriott atrium and, again, was talked at and had a set of flyers pushed off on them even though the panelist said they didn’t want one. The Bring Back Legends folks at Dragon Con had become general nuisances, but more than once it went beyond that. I spoke with several fans and panelists who confided that they were made extremely uncomfortable by the advances of the individuals from Bring Back Legends. Others corroborated my story, that they were cornered after panels and had a difficult time escaping their speeches and questioning. The combination of forced interaction and awareness of what the general behavior of these people online proved to be an unsettling experience every time we were approached. We knew they weren’t interested in talking to us, they wanted to talk at us and recruit us to their cause.
(Ironically, the one panel they didn’t show up to was the “New Canon” panel on Sunday morning.)
A number of us would meet at the Hilton bar after panels for the day had wound down, and inevitably there were more stories of being harassed by Bring Back Legends people. I’m not going to mention any names of people who talked to me, because I’d rather not subject them to additional abuse. One person told me that earlier in the day after a panel, someone tried to coerce them into handing out flyers around Dragon Con. Another said that a panel they were at was hijacked several times by BBL folks asking completely unrelated Legends questions (or most times, just word vomiting at the microphone). You can hear this happening numerous times on the panel recordings we uploaded from the convention. Other BBL folks tried to recruit other audience members in the middle of completely unrelated panels, making the experience uncomfortable for all attendees.
By the end of the convention, even the authors on panels appeared to have grown weary of their schtick. The Bring Back Legends folks would inevitably ask about getting more Legends, despite the authors explaining numerous times throughout the con that this was not something they could control and that they were also fine with the de-canonization of the old novels.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a discussion with a panelist after a panel. Where things got scary for us was that these were not two-way conversations. We were being talked at, we were being recruited, and in many cases we were being coerced into taking material we didn’t want or doing work for them we didn’t want to do.
Sunday night a number of us were back at the Hilton. At that point it was clear, the Bring Back Legends folks had only managed to accomplish one thing: making us wary and even distrustful of them. There were no positive experiences or interactions, none. At best the interactions were awkward. At worst, and this happened too often, we were made to feel uncomfortable and at times unsafe if we didn’t capitulate.
The picture started to get worse post-convention when I reached out to get stories from others who had been bothered by Bring Back Legends. Among the interactions (and again, I have redacted names so these individuals aren’t harassed further):
- A fan at the Rebels panel was accosted by a member of Bring Back Legends. The BBL member repeatedly insisted that they did not care about Rebels and tried numerous times to disrupt the panel by talking to this fan about the books. This is despite the fan insisting numerous times that they wanted to be left alone so they could pay attention to the panel. An additional account of this behavior can be found here.
- A moderator spent several minutes trying to regain control of a panel when a BBL member used audience Q/A time to derail the conversation by talking about Bring Back Legends instead of the panel topic.
- One fan traveling through the Marriott to get to a panel was stopped and forcibly given a BBL flyer.
- Multiple BBL members attempted to corner track volunteers and the track director in an effort to get a Bring Back Legends panel on the schedule for either this Dragon Con or next year’s.
- Another fansite reached out to me and showed me this image of a message they received from a BBL group earlier this year.
(Note: I’m still getting messages from folks who were harassed by BBL at Dragon Con and other conventions/places. I will update the above list as I get more)
This is what Bring Back Legends has come to. The people who are just interested in seeing more Legends material have been perhaps permanently drowned out by more extreme members who have taken it upon themselves to harass editors at Del Rey on social media, to harass authors on their blogs and Amazon reviews, and to (I still have a hard time wrapping my head around all of this actually happening) harass panelists and fellow fans in person at a convention.
I’m not particularly interested in entertaining the inevitable “Not ALL Legends fans” diatribe. Yes, I know. Not all of you are harassing panelists, or harassing authors, or harassing editors, or posting homophobic reviews on Amazon. Heck, we at Tosche Station would love to see the continuation of certain Legends stories. They’re some of our favorite books. But enough BBL folks have done these deplorable things that the movement has become tainted. Irreparably tainted unless you look at your own people and tell them, in unison, to get out. If you don’t do that, all you are doing is profiting on their harassment and hatred to give yourself legitimacy.
Frankly, whatever sympathy I had for Bring Back Legends is gone now. Those elements exist in your community and you continue to do nothing to get rid of it. I’m done ignoring it. Call them out. Clean up your community and stop profiting from the behavior of these individuals or shut down your movement.