Meanwhile at Goodreads and other Shrillness

 

A quick update from last week’s post about the author/blogger relationship. Bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch (whose Peter Grant series is absolutely brilliant) last week Tweeted that he reserves the right to comment on any review or discussion of his work in any open blog or forum, … well, now he’s out. Entirely:

I hereby resign from SFF fandom, or whatever its called. From now on I shall no longer particpate or even take any notice of fan discussions about my work or, indeed, SFF in general. Once my current commitments have expired I will cease to part in general panels at conventions except to discuss the art and craft of writing or to answer questions about projects I’m related to.
I liked being a fan, I liked taking part in forums and conventions, I liked discussing issues and writing and the things I felt passionately about but I just can’t be bothered to put up this shit.

 

This. Sucks. Big. Time. I’ve read his comments on Twitter and over on this Book Smuggler’s blog  post. I think he’s been courteous, respectful and polite. I don’t think he should have commented on the review, though.  Anyway, I love the guy’s books – hate the way the discussion went full-throttle flaming monkey poo.

Meanwhile over at Goodreads, more shrill monkey pooness. The social media site last Friday decided to do something (or be seen to be doing something) about reviews that go after authors as opposed to just plain ol’ reviews of an author’s books. They’ve got a hand-dandy new set of policies and an unknown percentage of the Goodreads community is losing its collective shit over the move. The word censorship is being used in pretty much 90% of the comments and even if the new policy is boneheady, it ain’t censorship. Goodreads/Amazon/Skynet own the infrastructure for people to post reviews. They can do what they want, when they want, as often as they want and without even telling members … if they want.  Sort of how like moderators of web forums can freeze your access or blog owners can delete your comments if they wish. It is, as they say, what it is.

Will people move over to Librarything or another book reviewing social media site? Some will, but I’m pretty sure Goodreads is going to be around for a while.

Me? I’m still hoping Planet Earth experiences a solar flare that will destroy the Internet/the electrical grid, smartphones and anything with a microprocessor. (It will save publishing, too. Just sayin’)  People living in the 1860’s didn’t have the time to live out the drama associated with book reviewing/social networking/author-blogger angst.

Anywhoo … too bad about Aaronovitch. I’m going to start the next Peter Grant book tonight.

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8 thoughts on “Meanwhile at Goodreads and other Shrillness

  1. thank you! posting to Goodreads is a privilege given to everyone by the owners of the site. You do not have a right to post there. monkey poo throwing self centered… monkeys! If you don’t like the rules GO HOME and take all your toys with you because I don’t want to play with monkey poo.

  2. Yep. Good observation, Sharon. I’m trying to figure out just precisely the moment in time when authors and bloggers and Goodreads members started becoming antagonistic with each other. My hunch is that it can be time with the advent of self publishing on a galactic scale.

  3. yup, before you had authors who worked through publishers, agents and the system. They were told/taught how to behave and understood about etiquette. There was professional respect (professionalism is what we have lost) between writers and reviewers. Since goodreads/self pub/anybody with an opinion can have a blog, there is no more professionalism. Just egos who like to make things personal.

    Everyone needs a good belt beating and realize they aren’t the center of the world and you don’t have a right to say anything you want in someone else’s sandbox. I could go on for days about this

  4. Hi, I found my way to your blog trying to figure out what was going on after seeing Mr. Aaronovitch’s post on GR. I looked at the comment threads and while they seemed a little confrontational, I still don’t see what that rather dramatic post was reacting to. All I saw was Mr. Aaronovitch commenting/attempting to correct the blogger interpretation, a brief and perhaps somewhat too confrontational discussion of the role of authorial intent, and that was it. I didn’t see any of epithets mentioned in Aaronovitch’s blog post and I’m frankly confused as to how that led to Mr. Aaronovitch “renouncing the fandom.”
    Am I missing something here?

    I’m quite sad over the whole thing; I didn’t see him as a meltdown candidate, and given the GR drama, it can’t have happened at a worse time. The part I find most problematic, actually, is the rather passive-aggressive blog post that sent me looking around the internet for the cause.

    I actually think that this sort of author/fan blowup has always been a problem–it was simply that the meltdowns were not on the public stage. Think of Charlotte Bronte’s oh-so-tasteful criticisms of Jane Austen, or Mark Twain’s earnest desire to scalp all of his critics.

    It seems rather inevitable to me. Authors create worlds of the imagination in which they plan, predict, and control the outcomes to their characters’ actions. I suspect it can be hard to readjust to the entropic chaos of the real world, where minds are opaque and reactions uncontrollable.

  5. There will always be critics of an author’s work – but I think the quality of literary criticism has declined dramatically with the advent of social media. What’s troubling about all this drama is that readers and authors want the same thing: a viable book industry with new books every month to read. There’s a tang of self-righteousness on the part of certain bloggers out there – I think Aaronovitch ran head first into a wall of the stuff. That’s why it’s always best never to comment on a review other than to say “thanks for reading my book”.

  6. Well, first I must admit I didn’t read the whole thread–I just skimmed the part where he seemed to be posting–so I may have missed the worst parts of the drama. However, I think that there was a lack of understanding of the contexts of both sides. There’s a long history of groups delegitimizing the concerns and perspectives of underrepresented minorities. To take the example of women, there’s a proud history of men announcing to women that this or that is not sexist, then dismissing any perspectives or concerns that women bring up as overreaction or “hysteria”. This is currently a hot issue in the blogosphere; a woman voicing any such concerns is sure to be slammed with the now derogatory slur of “feminist” or “feminazi,” and any such review is guaranteed to garner such comments. The sense that someone outside a group is dictating how members of the group should feel, and delegitimizing any perspectives that members bring up–especially when this person is seen as belonging to the traditionally authoritative majority–tends to lead to a visceral reaction. I think that this baggage explains why the (female) bloggers reacted so strongly to what they saw as a man once again dismissing their perspectives and informing them of what “sexism” meant.
    And, of course, Mr. Aaronovitch saw the post as promulgating inaccuracies about his work, and I understand how infuriating that must be, and how deep the urge to correct such damaging and hurtful misconceptions would be. I think in all these discussions, it’s important to keep in mind that we all have implicit biases, and that this is okay, but it should also be okay to discuss the generalisations that these biases can lead to. I suspect I’m seeing this from the perspective of one of the self-righteous reviewers who perceives books more in terms of consumer goods than high art and can’t see past my own perspective as a reader.

    In terms of the “lowered tone,” maybe it’s because I read genre books not traditionally within the purview of professional reviewers, but I actually feel my ability to access high-quality reviews has greatly increased. I think that rather than dismissing the blogosphere as lowering the the tone, it’s important to remember that bloggers often target the “long tail” never even covered by traditional bloggers. I think it’s also worth remember that, just as crowdsourced reviewing may have decreased the average quality of reviews, the advent of indie ebook publishing has had similar effects on the “average” book–and on the reviewer’s patience and adulation of authors.

    But yeah, speaking of invasion of spaces, eh? I appreciate your time and patience, and for your thorough coverage of all this. I also very much enjoyed your post on the 12 steps of author meltdown. Thank you again–and thanks for reading and taking the time to reply to my post.

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