The most current example that comes to mind is Lin-Manuel Miranda, who simply loved and could relate to Ron Chernow’s Bio of the founding father. His being a fanboy is what inspired him to write the show, and now that book will be cited as repositioning Hamilton’s legacy. It had sold fine before, but has gone on to huge sales volumes.
I suspect we’ve done a few of these threads, but it seems like it could lead to good stories. What are other examples?
I don’t know he would fall into the category of “fan,” but Carl Van Doren starting championing an obscure 19th century failed novelist (long out of print) in 1917. His article on the subject, and his encouragement of Raymond Weaver to write a biography, led to the appreciation of Herman Melville as a major American novelist.
Tom Hoskins fanatically worked to track down a forgotten 1920s blues musician, Mississippi John Hurt. Due to his efforts, Hurt, who was working as a sharecropper, got a recording contract and was the hit of the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.
According to the Woodward-Armstrong book on the 1970s Supreme Court “The Brethren”, the initial vote was 5-3 to uphold Muhammad Ali’s conviction for draft evasion. Justice John Marshall Harlan was assigned to write the majority opinion. A law clerk advised Justice Harlan to read the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Harlan did and decided that Ali’s religion exempted its followers from fighting in unjust wars. The policy had been that a conscientious objector must oppose all wars. Harlan decided that Ali fit this description and changed his vote. More important, he persuaded the other justices to change their votes since a 4-4 decision would have upheld Ali’s conviction, which was done citing a government error (a suggestion by Justice Potter Stewart).
I just finished reading Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, after seeing the movie Genius with Colin Firth. (The movie is not very good, and IMHO misses the best parts of the book.)
Perkins was the editor for F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway and Thomas Wolfe. While he did a lot to further the careers of Fitzgerald and Hemmingway, he was probably entirely responsible for Wolfe’s career. He liked Wolfe’s disjointed, ridiculously overlong manuscript enough to work with him to turn it into Look Homeward, Angel.
But my favorite story is about Marjorie Rawling. He liked her stories about people living in the backwoods swamps of Florida so much that he told her to write a book about a young boy coming of age in that setting. He said it should be like *Treasure Island *or Tom Sawyer. She was annoyed that he was basically asking her to write a classic, but she gave it a shot, and wrote The Yearling.
I’ve written before about the love and respect I have for Minutemen. To this day I feel that Mike Watt and George Hurley were the greatest rhythm section that have ever existed in rock and roll.
Mike Watt has since put together countless projects and one-offs, gone on to play with The Stooges, and had a fascinating and productive career. But it almost didn’t happen. After D.'s death, Mike Watt was crushed by not just the loss of a bandmate, but also his best friend since they were 13 years old. These guys grew up together, learned to play their instruments together, to write songs… everything they ever did was tied to the other one in a joyously creative partnership: their music, their life philosophies, everything. Mike was ready to pretty much toss in the towel as far as life in general was concerned, until one persistent fan changed everything:[
I can’t remember the woman’s name off the top of my head, but she orchestrated a letter writing campaign to get NBC to renew the original Star Trek for a third season. Without that third season it likely would not have had enough episodes to go into rerun syndication and would have just become one of those “favorite shows that nobody else remembers”.
Donna Halper, of WMMS out of Cleveland, noticed a song on an indie record out of Canada in 1974. She thought ‘Working Man’ would go over well with Cleveland’s blue collar culture. That got Rush their first US supporting tour and a major label deal. The next 40+ years is history.
There have been many comic book fans who became creators in the medium, but I’d say the one who mattered most was Roy Thomas, who pretty much single-handedly created a modern interest in the Golden Age characters at both Marvel and DC.