I, like most young writers, did the natural thing when I joined social media: I followed authors of books I loved. Some were great, like Patrick Rothfuss and Neil Gaiman that speak about respecting others, making great art, and sometimes the struggles of life. They do what they can to help those in need and encourage others to do so. They share their love of books, words, artwork, and comics. And it’s a wonderful corner of the social medias. Even when I disagree with them sometimes (because it’s very hard to find someone you agree with 100% of the time) I never feel like they are talking down to me, or feel that I am less of a person because I disagree with them.
Then there are other authors I had to stop following. One I wrote about before, others said some really awful things that made me hate going to twitter, and after a while I just had to stop following them in order to have any semblance of a happy life. I wanted to talk about things that concerned me in the world, even take action when appropriate. I didn’t want to feel like the sky was falling every time I opened my phone. I couldn’t live like that, so I stopped following them.
Today I saw one of those authors have a small rant on twitter and blame everyone except for himself for his failure. You see, he was fired from his job. He even admits they said they fired him for his vulgarity and confrontational behavior on twitter. He said it was something different: it’s the right wingers! They did it! They caused him to get fired by constantly harassing him because of LGBTQ characters in his stories.
So I was curious and went to look at his book. 39% of the reviews are one star. I started reading through them and review after review after review mentioned poor writing, short sentences, and boring characters. Only three of the reviews I read mentioned feminism or LGBTQ. Even the reviews that mentioned the “social justice” angle mentioned the poor writing. Then I found this lovely review:
No! Surely it isn’t that bad, it can’t be possible. So I read the first two chapters and…it’s worse!
I have no doubt that someone loves this type of writing. I have read parts of other books that try to break from the mold and make something different. Tree of Codes was made by cutting away words from another book to make a new story. The Lovers Dictionary is poetry made entirely from dictionary entries. There are many books out there, especially in literary circles, that have unusual, or intricate stylistic qualities to them.
You won’t find them in the latest Sookie Stackhouse, or Magic the Gathering franchise novel. You won’t find these unusual turn of phrases inside a Nora Roberts novel. What you’ll find inside each of their stories is consistency across the brand, from how characters are described, to common phrases and sentence construction.
To take a beloved franchise of hundreds of books and then turn it into a literary exposition….well I can’t say that I’m surprised that it wasn’t received well. The author blamed a lot of the bad reviews on the poor reception of the last movie, and how “toxic” the fans were. I wrote my own review of the latest movie in this franchise and this particular author would have called my review toxic, too. It doesn’t matter that I had legitimate things I didn’t like about it. I dared to speak against it so I’m part of the problem.
And that’s where I guess my opinions sour on certain authors, artists, or people in general. Just because someone criticizes your work that doesn’t mean they are criticizing you. Just because they didn’t like your work it doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad, in some cases (like this one) it probably was just presented to the wrong audience. Someone would have liked it, but not the fans of this particular franchise.
Right now I do want to make a point. I am criticizing the author, himself, directly. Blaming others for the fact that you got on twitter after poor sales and bad reviews and lambasted everyone who hated your work as trolls, and vulgar names, is down right terrible behavior. “Poor sportsmanship” would be a nice way of putting it. I have no doubt that there were some awful horrible people out there that said some nasty things to him. I’ve had those people in my chat, or stream, as well. I used the block button, or more often the mute button, and I stopped seeing their nasty comments. Then I went about having a happy life, which is the best revenge to any negative people out there. And sometimes I’ll even laugh and make a joke back and get them talking to me as a person instead of being an asshole.
I do know that sometimes it gets out of hand and people can do things offline instead of just through a keyboard. In those situations it’s important to keep your family safe. But in the vast majority of online interactions the easiest way to de-escalate a situation is just not to engage with the idiots online. Because they’re just that, idiots. If you stoop to their level then what does that make you?
And lets be clear, it wasn’t the LGBTQ angle. There are plenty of LGBTQ characters in many franchise books that are doing well. Here, choose a book from thousands of books that have LGBTQ lead characters in any genre out there. Most of them have really good reviews unless they have bad writing, or bad story. That’s how reviews work. Even when there are trolls making bad reviews it won’t be a large percentage of them.
Anyway, that’s my rant. And this is why new authors are told not to read their reviews. Don’t do it if you can’t handle the negative ones. And if someone says “your writing is bad” either listen, or put your writing to use where it will be appreciated. You don’t kill the characters in romance, and you don’t write literary fiction in a scifi space opera story. It never works out.